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Raymond’s Shared Resources Committee Hears Suggestions for Survey
By Penny Williams    5-16-17

Just five people showed up at the May 11 meeting of the Raymond Shared Resources Committee, but as requested, each of the members brought in suggestions about what to include in a survey the committee hopes to send to residents.

The members of the committee discussed communication issues at length, but left unresolved was the question of whether residents don't get involved and don't attend public hearings because they don't know about them or because they don’t choose to get involved.

School Board member Joe Saulnier and Selectman Jack Barnes, both members of the committee, each noted that despite putting out information regarding public issues, including having done so in a weekly print newspaper that previously reported on Raymond, their boards rarely had anybody from the general public come in to listen or to ask questions.

Nevertheless, Rani Merryman and Dana Hanson said they think the problem lies with the public’s not having information. They said public hearing notices are posted in places without much general public traffic, and suggested posting them at Hannaford Supermarket, local gas stations, Dunkin’ Donuts, Walgreens and the Ray-Fre Senior Center.

The discussion also focused on the Town’s quarterly newsletter, On the Common, with the suggestion that it be sent out monthly. Barnes pointed out the existence of the online newspaper Raymond Area News, and suggested those notices be published at raymondareanews.com as well.

Asked about this after the meeting, Raymond Area News owner-publisher Cheryl Killam said her online news website (raymondareanews.com) has always provided space to towns and school districts to post legal notices and public hearing notices. However, the Town and School District have never utilized that service, which carries a nominal fee just like other news sources charge.

While Merryman said Raymond Area News reports on community “feel good” stories, Killam said her news coverage expanded several months ago and now includes reporting on Raymond Board of Selectmen and Joint Committee meetings, as well as meetings pertaining to The Meadows proposed development.

No decision was reached on how to increase communication within the community.

Before she had to leave, School Board and committee member Jaclyn Sirrine pushed the committee to appoint a facilitator. Two committee members, Doug Vogel and Neva Cole, each offered to act as facilitator, and the committee voted to appoint them as official co-facilitators. Neither was present.

Saulnier will serve as secretary, and the group decided all emails should go to him and he would post them to the Town and School emails so that they would be on a secure server. He also told Barnes that he would put copies of emails into his selectman’s mailbox, as Barnes does not use a computer.

Each of the members, those present and those not present, had put together their ideas of what should be included in the survey. These were read into the record but it was decided that everyone should have copies of all the suggestions to review and narrow down before the next meeting.

Almost everyone listed town infrastructure and maintenance, the two building projects that were defeated at the March election – a new police station and an addition to Lamprey River Elementary School - public works equipment, and water system needs as questions for the survey. Several suggested questions about whether a sewer is needed and where the two entities - school district and town - could share resources.

Sirrine said the focus shouldn't be exclusively financial but should encompass community development, determining what residents consider the most important budgetary needs for the Town as well what improvements should be considered and how residents prioritize projects.

Neva Cole sent a letter that suggested asking whether residents would support voluntary contributions for underfunded projects they are passionate about.

Barnes suggested having quarterly combined School Board and Board of Selectmen meetings specifically to address concerns from the public. He also suggested seeing if people would support doing away with curbside trash pick-up, which he said would result in a $500,000 savings for the Town.

Merryman suggested asking whether residents would support putting collected back taxes into the CIP (Capital Improvement Program) to fund building projects over $2,000,000, and also suggested raising the price of garbage bags.

Merryman raised concerns about tax money going to social service agencies, saying “I’m not a fan of government philanthropy” and noting that when she pays her taxes, she expects the money to go to running the town and fixing roads. “The Board of Selectmen doesn’t get to hand out charity with our tax dollars.”

Sandy Ellis, however, questioned whether the agencies are charities or service providers, and explained they provide services to the people of Raymond. Saulnier added that if the service agencies were not funded, “we would end up paying more money” to provide services to residents.

When Merryman questioned whether the services are duplicated by the town, Selectman Jonathan Wood suggested listening to the agencies when they appear before the selectmen to make their pitch for funding. The service agency requests are also discussed at Deliberative Session.

Another topic she suggested was to remodel the middle school so as to house elementary students and use the elementary school as the Town office building. This precipitated a discussion about class size, and she claimed that increasing elementary class size to 20 or under would release four classrooms and the salaries connected to them, and provide the opportunity to eliminate the trailers. The committee thought a review of class size might be warranted.

Merryman also wanted to make the Police Detail Fund part of the regular Town funds so that how it is used would be more visible and accountable. She claimed that buying a new cruiser every year, with 125,000 miles on it, is too frequent, and instead said new cruisers should be purchased only when they reach 4 years of age. Wood said the town should see how other towns address this is issue.

Contacted after the meeting, Police Chief David Salois responded to the cruiser matter by explaining that police cruisers are one of, if not the most, used and most visible pieces of equipment the town purchases. “We purchase a new cruiser each year and every other year two,” he said. “A portion of the cruiser and equipment are paid directly from the Police Special Detail Fund. Once a cruiser reaches approximately 5 or 6 years old - with 110,000 to 120,000 miles - it is cycled out to another town department (Highway - Code Enforcement) for another couple years. By the time a cruiser reaches 110,000 miles, it's at the end of life for emergency responses.

“Not only are the cruisers driven hard to emergency calls, but they also idle for hours at accident scenes, calls, running radar, etc.,” Salois added. “For each hour they idle, Ford Motor Company advises it is the equivalent of 33 additional miles driven. We have also learned from past repairs that this is also the point in the cruiser’s life when major repairs begin to occur if we continue to drive the cruiser hard.”

Regarding Police Details, Salois explained that the Police Detail Special Revenue Fund was created under the state law allowing revolving fund accounts (31:95-h). “This type of fund, by law, is kept separate from the general fund,” he said. “The fund's additional balance can only be used for the said fund’s purpose. The Finance Director manages the Detail Fund with all of the other finances of the town and reports out on its balance regularly.”

Sandy Ellis suggested that it would be useful to know the age of people responding to the survey and how long respondents have lived in town. She also would like a response from survey takers on whether they were satisfied with the current situation in Raymond and if not, what they would like to see change.

Saulnier would like the survey to ask whether residents would support larger CIP warrant article amounts and wanted respondents to cite one thing that would like to see changed in Raymond.

Wood generalized topics he wanted to see covered by the survey that included infrastructure and maintenance; whether residents would support keeping the tax rate flat; securing the next well sites that will be needed; developing a Master Plan Chapter detailing the needed Town and School buildings; ensuring closer cooperation between the two boards’ pre-budget session; and working to keep the budget within the tax cap.

Copies of all suggestions were distributed and Saulnier said he would send them to members not present so all could review them and be prepared at the next meeting to develop the survey questions.

The committee meets again Thursday, May 25.


Raymond Shared Resources Committee Considers Survey
By Penny Williams  4-24-17

The newly formed Shared Resources Committee, which consists of two Raymond School Board members, two Board of Selectmen members and four members from the community, got off to a somewhat rocky start at its first meeting, held Thursday night, April 20, at Raymond High School.

Selectman chair Jonathan Wood opened the meeting and immediately encountered disagreement concerning who should chair the committee. Selectman Jack Barnes suggested that Wood and School Board member Joe Saulnier be co-chairs, but community representative Doug Vogel asked why there had to be a chairman at all, rather than a facilitator.

Barnes rephrased his suggestion and asked for a facilitator, and Superintendent of Schools Ellen Small stepped in and said she had prepared a charge for the committee that Wood read into the record. Her point was that neither a School Board member nor a Selectman be the chair. She pointed out that the committee is advisory and nothing it decided upon would be binding; it should solicit citizen input and recommendations for the development of reasonable plans for the Town. She also said the committee should report its progress to both the School Board and Board of Selectmen as meetings were held, with a final report delivered by October.

Long-time resident Sally Paradis said a facilitator would be best.

The committee was established after voters defeated both a bond for a new police station and a bond for expansion of the elementary school on the March warrant; voters also turned down a request for two Public Works vehicles.

Community member Rani Merriman asked why, if the committee was seeking citizen input, two volunteers were appointed as alternates. Wood said everyone would be welcome to participate.

Asked to introduce themselves, Police Chief David Salois and Dispatch Supervisor Bill Wyner said they were in attendance to participate and get feedback, and to try to understand why the proposed Police Station article failed in March. Town Manager Craig Wheeler said he was present to see how the Town is to move forward, and Vogel said he wanted to see the School Board and Board of Selectmen act as one body rather than two that work at odds with each other.

Resident Sandy Ellis said she had come to listen, and Eva Cole said she sees contention in the town and with the boards working against each other; she hopes to help solve the communication problem that she said exists. Merriman said her goal is to get and keep taxes as low as possible.

Small said there is a misconception that the School Board and Board of Selectmen don't work collaboratively. "We do work together and we share a lot of resources," she said.

School Board member Saulnier said he wants to see what Raymond residents want, and fellow School Board member Jackie Sirrine said public input is important. Wood said he wants to bring the townspeople together to help solve issues for the Town and wants the residents to be part of the solution. Barnes said the best thing that can happen is for Raymond citizens to come forward and be heard.

The committee decided to review the findings from a previous committee that tried to deal with the same issues, and Wheeler provided a report and then summarized the areas where that committee had documented collaborative efforts undertaken between the school district and the town.

Those areas of current collaboration are:
• Snowplowing
• Trash pick-up
• Water - well #4
• Meeting rooms
• Summer Recreation
• Field maintenance, upgrade, and improvement
• Opening of the Lamprey River Elementary School Eco-Center trail and beach area
• Community events
• Safety training and drills
• Technology
• Financial Directors working with third-party electric firms for reduced costs
• RCTV (Raymond Community Television)
• Bulk purchases

Wheeler said it is critically important that the collaborative accomplishments already achieved not be lost, but rather serve as the starting place for adding others.

Merriman asked whether, when collaboration is decided on, the school district and town use the savings achieved to reduce the budget, or instead release that money for other needs. She never received a clear answer but Sirrine said any final decision on the application of savings would have to be determined by the respective boards.

Wood tried to get the committee back in focus by saying he hoped the committee could express the issues facing the Town and decide whether there were solutions to be had or not. Vogel objected, saying the committee has "no focus."

Barnes asked Vogel what he was looking for and whether he would like to be chairman. Vogel demurred but suggested the two boards’ chairpersons work together. He suggested gathering 30 or 40 residents to work on the issues and solutions, and noted that another issue is that the Town has two Master Plans - one for the town and one for the school district. What he wants is a vision of what the residents want, and noted residents’ desires to remain largely rural as well as to secure industry are not both possible.

Sirrine objected to such a large group, however, saying it would make things more difficult, but said to obtain feedback from that many people would be good.

Paradis said in her opinion what upset the apple cart at the recent election was that taxpayers were asked to support two bond issues – an expansion of the elementary school and a new police station. She said a decision needs to be made about which project is needed first and then to work on that.

It was also noted that Raymond voters are still paying on three bonded debts - two on the school side and one on the town side.

 It was suggested that a survey of what residents want would be a good idea. The survey would ask residents to prioritize what is most important. Discussion followed on how a survey could be organized and distributed, but there was no agreement.

Wood and Vogel said, each in his own way, that this was getting the committee nowhere and they were running out of time. They drifted off into a side discussion of how the town had ended up in its current position, and several made the point that many years of CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) underfunding have catapulted the town into its present situation.

Brought back to the subject of the survey. Wood and Barnes asked the committee if the survey was the way they wanted to go, and while they didn't vote, the consensus was they all favored the survey approach. It was decided that the committee members would each bring five questions they thought should be on the survey to the next meeting. Anyone from the community at that meeting would be able to contribute questions to be considered, and the committee would review the questions and decide on which ones to include, and then decide how to prepare and conduct the survey.

Vogel insisted the first step was determining the meeting schedule, and the group eventually established Thursday, May 11 at the high school for the next meeting. Wood suggested that everyone bring two people as well the five questions, and a semi-confrontational discussion ensued over who then would be voting on which questions to use.

In the end Salois, Wyner and Wheeler all said that because of obvious conflicts they would not participate in the voting, and it was decided that the core committee members would do the voting on the survey questions. The committee will address the issue of facilitator vs chairperson at the May 11 meeting as well.

 

 

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