Town of Sutton Selectmen Meeting Minutes

Pillsbury Memorial Town Hall
93 Main Street Sutton Mills, NH
Sutton Mills, NH  03221

Board of Selectman

March 12, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.


The meeting was called to order at 4:20 p.m. by Robert Wright, Jr., Chair. Present at the meeting was: Robert Wright, Jr., Chair; William I. Curless, Selectman; Dane Headley, Selectman; Derek Lick, Moderator; Linda Ford, Town Clerk/Tax Collector; Stephen Bagley, Road Agent; Robert DeFelice, Budget Committee Chair; Gail Guertin, Steven Hamilton, Andy Palmer, Sutton Budget Committee Members; Pete Thompson, Sutton Road Committee; Winfried Feneberg, KRSD School Superintendent; Emilio Cancio-Bello, Sutton KRSD School Board Representative; Stacey Fogwill, STA (KRSD Student Transportation) Marne Thompson; Tom Schamberg, Jordan Ciavola and Elly Phillips, Town Administrator.

The Board, having completed their regular items of business, recessed from 4:30-5:00 p.m.

At 5:00 p.m. Derek Lick, Moderator and Linda Ford, Town Clerk/Tax Collector met with the Board in preparation for the 2018 Town Meeting. Mr. Lick will coordinate ballot clerks and follow up on any questions concerning the voting process and possible ramifications of SB 438. Ms. Ford will arrange for setting up the Town Hall for voting. Mr. Lick discussed the rules of procedure that he would be following which will be made available at Town Meeting and will be included in future annual reports. The Select Board, Moderator, and Town Clerk reviewed the Warrant and suggested officials/staff to move forward and address questions regarding the Warrant Articles.

Linda Ford, Town Clerk/Tax Collector, provided the Board with a working deed list for 2016 Tax Liens.

At 5:30 p.m. the Board met with Stephen Bagley, Road Agent, Robert DeFelice, Budget Committee Chair; Gail Guertin, Stephen Hamilton and Andy Palmer, Budget Committee Members, Emilio Cancio-Bello, KRSD School Board Representative; Winfried Feneberg, KRSD School Superintendent; and Stacey Fogwill, STA (KRSD Student Transportation) to discuss school bus transportation concerns expressed regarding Sutton Roads.

Selectman Wright reviewed the rules of conduct for the meeting. Selectman Wright advised that the session was open to the public. However, public comment was limited to 2 minutes prior to the start of the session. Tom Schamberg, Wilmot Selectman, requested that if there was an agreement between the School District and the Road Agents, could a copy of that agreement be sent to the Towns’ Select Boards for review? In addition, Mr. Schamberg asked that at the beginning of the school year, could the district send out a notice to Road Agents as a reminder of the procedure?

Selectman Wright summarized the issue before them which was concerning public safety and roads within the Town of Sutton. Selectman Wright asked Mr. Cancio-Bello to address the subject noting that the minutes from the District’s recent Transportation Committee Meeting had been provided to the Board.

Mr. Cancio-Bello stated that there was an incident on Meadowbrook Road where a bus slid off the road. Subsequently, Mr. Cancio-Bello asked Road Agent Bagley if there was a problem in Sutton with the ability to maintain the town’s roads so that the buses could travel safely. Mr. Cancio-Bello advised that during a conversation with Ms. Fogwill, STA, she relayed the concern expressed by several bus drivers that the roads in Sutton were not maintained as well as some of the other roads within the district and that there were some issues that consistently came up.

Mr. Cancio-Bello said that since that time, he has received conflicting reports about that and that he had been advised by a local service driver that most of the time Sutton does a superior job maintaining the roads. Mr. Cancio-Bello opined that within the last couple of years Sutton roads were more difficult for bus drivers to drive. Mr. Cancio-Bello expressed his concern for KRSD students and asked if there was something that the Town could do to maintain their roads better whether it is more equipment, materials . . . Mr. Cancio-Bello added that several residents have asked that their roads be paved and the Board had received correspondence requesting that the roads be paved in Rowell Hill.

Selectman Wright read into the record a report provided by Valerie Crone, Sutton Police Sergeant, detailing the incidents that the Police Department has been called to respond to involving buses on Sutton roads. The report dated back to 2008. There were seven incidents requiring a police response, only one of which was an accident (no fault of the bus driver.) The remainder of the reported incidents was of buses sliding or stuck due to weather conditions. The most recent reported incident involved two buses sliding off Meadowbrook Road. Ms. Fogwill replied that those were the ones that were reported to the police, adding there are many incidents that don’t need to be reported.

Selectman Curless asked Ms. Fogwell whether the tread on the rear wheels of the buses was the same tread in the winter that is used during the summer. Ms. Fogwill responded in the affirmative. Ms. Fogwill advised that the tires are all-season with a tread depth of four 32nds minimum, noting that the tires are changed out frequently due to the roads. Selectman Curless asked if it would make sense to put snow tires on the (Rowell Hill) buses for the winter, or chains? There was a general discussion regarding whether or not the chains would hurt the tires. Road Agent Bagley clarified that the “onspots” don’t hurt the tires. Selectman Curless compared the estimated cost of over $1,000,000 for road upgrades and paving (referring to Rowell Hill), to “a couple thousand dollars for tires you are going to use for the winter, remove, and use in subsequent winters” indicating that would be a more practical approach. Selectman Curless added that UPS drivers in the area use snow tires.

Ms. Fogwill was unsure of the mechanical “specs” and would need to refer that question to her mechanic to determine whether snows were available for that size. Selectman Curless asked Road Agent Bagley whether he knew if snow tires were available for buses. Mr. Bagley confirmed with Ms. Fogwill that the buses had 11-22.5 tires on the buses, which is the same size that is run on the rear tires of the town’s dump/plow trucks. Mr. Bagley discussed the different tire treads that are available for heavy equipment such as dump/plow trucks and buses.

Selectman Curless suggested that the bus company consider using snow tires for 2 or 3 problematic bus routes to determine the potential benefit, emphasizing the cost differential to correct the problem. Ms. Fogwill indicated that the cost didn’t matter. The primary concern was the safety of children. Ms. Fogwill assured those present that “we, as a company, will do whatever we need to do to make sure that children get to and from school safely, but the bigger picture is that you have teenage drivers driving those roads as well…” Ms. Fogwill expressed concern for the teenagers whose schedules did not conform to the bus schedules, and therefore needed to drive themselves to activities etc.” Selectman Curless said that it makes logical sense that “if you’re sliding off the road, you should get snow tires.”

Ms. Fogwill advised that approximately 1/3 of the roads traveled on were dirt roads, and the problems bus drivers experienced were predominately on dirt roads. Mr. Cancio-Bello provided the feedback that it wasn’t just buses that were sliding off the road. Mr. Bagley addressed the recent bus incident that occurred on Rowell Hill noting that the bus traveled over 2,000 feet on glare ice to get to the Sutton section. Mr. Bagley advised Sutton only sands a short section of Meadowbrook Road. The section that the bus slid on was Sutton’s section.

Mr. Bagley stated that on that day, he began driving the roads at 3:45 a.m. Mr. Bagley began checking road conditions on Baker Road, on to Cotton Road, drove Pound Road North, Birch Hill Road, North Road, checked a couple roads in South Sutton and then checked the Rowell Hill area, arriving at approximately 6 a.m., at which time he observed icing conditions. Prior to that there was no icing observed on Sutton roadways. Mr. Bagley discussed the rapidly changing weather conditions on that day. Mr. Bagley dispatched the Sutton driver for that area to begin sanding. The driver began sanding. The tar was doing fine at that time. Sutton’s truck ran out of sand and returned to the facility to get more. Sutton requested that the New London driver in the area apply some sand for Sutton which New London did.

Mr. Cancio-Bello asked if there was anything that could be modified to make the area safer. Mr. Bagley discussed the topography of Rowell Hill Road which includes both hills and swamp areas as well as constraints associated with winter maintenance of dirt roads. Mr. Bagley advised that New London experiences challenges in that area as well. Mr. Bagley advised that Sutton has approximately 40 miles of dirt roads to maintain.

Superintendent Feneberg discussed the District’s procedure for checking road conditions. The superintendent begins reviewing road status at 4:00 a.m. He pointed out that Mr. Bagley is the only road agent who consistently reports road conditions to dispatch. He expressed appreciation for the input that Mr. Bagley provided and indicated that the school would also like to facilitate better communications with District road agents. The Districts’ goal is to get together on annual basis to receive feedback from the Road Agents. The District needs to make a decision about whether or not to have school by 4:30 a.m. based on the information that he is provided by road agents.

Selectman Wright stated for the record that “the Board of Selectmen (in every town) is ultimately responsible for the roads. The road agent is an agent on behalf of the Selectmen. The Selectmen operate on the doctrine of reliance which is referring to the expertise of the Road Agent. However, the buck stops with the Board both in the function of the job and the budget for the job.”

Selectman Wright asked that Robert DeFelice, Budget Chair, report on the highway department budget. Mr. DeFelice provided a handout comparing the highway budget between 2011 and 2018 as there had been a reference to highway department budget cuts during that timeframe. Mr. DeFelice’s handout depicted the 2011 actual in comparison with the 2018 budget. This comparison demonstrated where savings were achieved by the highway department. The reports indicated that the difference between those years is only about $25,000. Mr. DeFelice acknowledged that gravel has been reduced by $12,000 and also that when comparing 2011 amount budgeted to 2018 amount budgeted there was a difference of $100,000.

Mr. DeFelice asked Mr. Bagley to identify specific budget cuts and asked what would be needed to bring the roads up to standard? Mr. Bagley discussed rising costs noting that the salt and sand budget used to be $80,000. At that time, the cost for salt was $42.47 now it is $54.00 per ton. In 2011, it was $9.00/yd. for sand. Currently it is $11.00/yd. for sand. Mr. Bagley said that he attempts to stay within the budget but he has to make expenditures based on need. Mr. Bagley also emphasized that many of the costs for the highway department were fixed and that in the past there was some leeway in the budget. Past and present budget process was discussed in detail.

Selectman Wright discussed the responsibility of the Select Board which was to provide the Highway Department with the necessary tools to do the job. In addition it was the Board’s responsibility to balance the “economy of scale.” Selectman Wright stressed the economic, socio and safety factors and asked for input from Ms. Fogwill. Ms. Fogwill discussed student safety at length. She stated that “Sutton roads are not atrocious, but they are atrocious and that you could tell the difference, not only by the marker, where Kearsarge Valley Road was Wilmot and Sutton by the condition of road.” There was an exchange of differing opinions between Phillips and Fogwill regarding that assertion.

Superintendent Feneberg observed that we are sitting in Sutton and that there are six other towns in the District. Superintendent Feneberg encouraged the Sutton Selectmen to do what they could to keep the roads safe. Mr. Feneberg advised that if one town calls in to dispatch that it is unsafe to travel the whole District is shut down. If the buses slide more in Sutton, he appealed to the town to address that.

Mr. Cancio-Bello stated that he heard there was an issue and asked the road agent: “Was there anything that he could do to make these roads safer? Can we make those roads in such a way so that this isn’t a continuous problem and easier for the Town to handle in a more consistent way? Is there a modification that we can do that we can address so that this isn’t a consistent problem?”

Ms. Fogwill wondered which town took care of Rowell Hill and wanted to know who to call for an issue. Ms. Fogwill indicated that it is confusing where buses cross over and asked about clarification of maintenance responsibility at town lines. Mr. Bagley stated that the Road Agents make agreements regarding maintenance and that he would provide that information to STA.

Mr. Cancio-Bello repeated his questions regarding what the road agent recommended to make that area safer. Selectman Wright responded that there was not an immediate answer to that question and that the matter would require some study. Mr. Wright raised the question regarding the road committee. Mr. DeFelice advised that Pete Thompson, Road Committee Member, was present and that the matter could be referred to them. Selectman Wright observed that this was not a matter that will be solved tonight but that by bringing the issue before the Board and Budget Committee, the question of areas of improvement could be addressed.

Mr. Cancio-Bello brought up potential assistance from CNHRPC through participation in the Road Surface Management System. He was advised that the Town has already participated in collecting data, but the Planning Commission has acquired new software and that the base information will need to be re-collected. The Town of Sutton is already in the queue for that project. Mr. Cancio-Bello said that he would follow up on that.

Ms. Fogwill opined that “Sutton should have the best roads, and not just in the winter, because of the three schools and that is a daunting task – seven towns coming to two schools.” Further, she declared that “We all should work together to ensure that the Sutton roads were the best that they could be summer, spring, winter and fall.” Ms. Fogwill asked whether the town of Sutton received monetary help from the other six towns. Selectman Wright responded, no. Ms Fogwill asked why not.

Ms. Fogwill was advised by Selectman Wright that the school system is its own entity and that the towns voted to have a regional school district. One of the requirements was that the assessment would be based on student population as well as town assessed valuation for the school budget only. Each town maintains responsibility for its road maintenance. He recollected that when the middle school was built, the district widened a portion of Gile Pond Road (and added striping) to allow for a turning lane into the school as part of the planning process.

Selectman Wright speculated that taxpayers from other towns would be reluctant to pay taxes for the Sutton road system even though the schools are here. Mr. Cancio-Bello observed that the 3,500 miles of road a day that are driven to transport KRSD students and a lot of those miles are in the Sutton and felt it was worth discussing. Selectman Curless felt such a discussion should start with the District.

Charlie Forsberg asked about the status of the Road Committee which hasn’t met in years. Selectman Wright said that could be explored.

The minutes from February 26, 2018 were approved as written. The Board reviewed and approved the following manifests:

A Building Permit for Crown Atlantic Co. (Crown Castle), 08-369-498A, 155 Summit Road, for equipment swapping was approved.

A Veterans Exemption Application for Map Julio Hall, Map/Lot 09-238-299 was denied. The applicant did not meet primary residency requirements.

The Board instructed Phillips to post a link to a publication from the New Hampshire Municipal Association entitled “Minutes 101” in response to citizen concerns expressed regarding content and right-to-know requirements and posting of draft minutes.

The Board issued correspondence to the Conservation Commission regarding the public information session that was conducted on February 21, 2018. The Board noted correspondence from Diane Sullivan regarding the information session and instructed the Town Administrator to issue a response thanking her bringing her concerns to the Board’s attention.

Selectman Headley made a motion to ratify that Sutton roads were posted for weight limits on February 20, 2018 due to weather conditions. Selectman Wright seconded the motion which passed by a vote of 2-0.

The Board NHMA Meeting Minutes 101 regarding requirements for taking/posting meeting minutes.

SELECTMEN’S COMMENTS: Selectman Wright recommended that the Board study the concept of commercial zoning. It was also suggested that a committee be established to work on the CIP program comprised of membership from the Board of Selectmen, Budget Committee, Planning Board, staff as well as citizen representation.

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 6:38 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Elly Phillips
Town Administrator