Lobbying, Finger Pointing, and Public Safety

By Ian Aikens | November 22, 2019

A recent letter to the editor in a local paper sparked my interest.  It concerned HB664, which would have mandated that “No insurance company, agent, or adjuster shall knowingly fail to pay a claim to the claimant or repairer (my emphasis) to the extent the claimant’s vehicle is repaired in conformance with applicable manufacturer’s procedures.”  The writer of the letter complained bitterly about the governor’s veto of this particular bill because it undercut support for “your local auto body shop.”  In other words, it is the job of government to “help” businesses and make sure they “survive.”

No, not really.  The last time I checked the federal and state constitutions, there was nothing in there about helping businesses and guaranteeing their survival.  I don’t always agree with the governor’s decisions, but in this case, he was right in butting out of this issue.  Forcing insurance companies to pay for steps in the repairing process that they deem unnecessary is an intrusion and would only increase insurance costs to consumers.  So, who cares if consumers pay more for car insurance?

Certainly not the hordes of repair shop owners and employees and related repair shop associations that made it a point to lobby in Concord earlier this year in support of the bill. In hours of testimony before legislators, they complained in earnest that they were unfairly getting stuck paying for repairs that were necessary for safety that the insurance companies wouldn’t pay. In other words, greedy BIG INSURANCE was squeezing out little repair shops and not reimbursing them for important repair-related steps that manufacturers deemed necessary for safety. Thus, this David vs. Goliath battle waged at the State House all centers on consumer safety.

Or does it? Let’s look at the big legal case cited the most as the basis for the necessity of HB664. It is Seebachan v. John Eagle Collision Center and came out of Texas. In this tragic car crash, a couple was trapped in their 2010 Honda Fit after being hit by another car, and they suffered severe injuries because the roof collapsed. The roof had been repaired earlier from damage due to hail, and the manufacturer’s procedures spelled out that the roof was supposed to be welded back together, but John Eagle Collision Center used adhesive bonding instead. In sworn testimony in court, a John Eagle Collision Center manager implied that it was due to pressure from the insurance company that corners were cut.  In other words, finger pointing.

A good ambulance-chasing lawyer will never waste a good opportunity to go after BIG _______ (fill in the blank: BUSINESS, CORPORATIONS, TECH, OIL, TOBACCO, PHARMA, INSURANCE, SODA, etc.), so after the Seebachan’s won their $31.5 million lawsuit against John Eagle Collision Center, their lawyer wasted no time in filing suit against State Farm on behalf of the plaintiffs. Had there been any merit to John Eagle Collision Center’s allegations against such big pockets, you would have heard about it. As it turned out though, the lawsuit was withdrawn, and both sides agreed to pay their own legal costs. So, in fact the big case cited as “proof” that “There ought to be a law” was an instance where a repair shop that had been I-CAR certified in proper repairs failed miserably in its obligation to its customer (the Seebachan’s). Ironically, it was these same businesses (repair shops) lobbying against BIG INSURANCE that were nevertheless lobbying now for BIG GOVERNMENT. But I guess it’s different when the government will help your business.

The first question that comes to mind is why any insurance company would take a chance on being responsible for sending unsafe cars back on the road when it could be held liable for any damages, deaths, or injuries that might occur. Of course, as the narrative goes, BIG INSURANCE is only out for BIG PROFITS, but where would the profits be if your company has to pay out millions in claims? This doesn’t make sound business sense. In fact, cost cutting to the point of sacrificing safety would make poor economic sense precisely because it would lead to BIG EXPENSES, not profits.

But let’s suppose for argument’s sake that an insurance company behaves foolishly and refuses to pay for repairs the manufacturer recommends that are safety-related. What can and should be done? The bill’s proponents have one simple solution: mandate the repair and make the insurance company pay for it, whether it likes it or not. A better solution of how the free market would (and does) correct the situation actually came from one of the comments I read from a repair shop employee who was very critical of insurance companies. She remarked that when her repair shop informed the car’s owner that their insurance company refused to pay for repairs the shop felt were necessary, the consumer took issue with their insurance company and sometimes changed insurance companies after the incident. Thus, unscrupulous and non-profit minded insurance companies would lose business, and if they do this often enough to their customers, they’d soon run out of customers and go out of business.

This clarifies the proper relationship between the three parties. The consumer pays a premium to his/her insurance company to restore their car back to its former state after an accident, and the insurance company fulfills its obligations by paying for repairs following an accident. The contract is between the consumer and his/her insurance company. The only proper role for the repair shop is to follow generally accepted repair standards and repair the car—not to race to the State House to rally for more laws on the books, which by the way would absolutely guarantee more revenue for repair shops. If the insurance company is unwilling to pay for repairs the shop deems necessary for safety, it should simply refuse to do the job—or at the very least inform the consumer what repairs it recommends and then let the consumer decide how to proceed. As the lady from the repair shop who complained bitterly about the insurance companies noted, consumers when informed are not shy about taking matters in their own hands and don’t need BIG GOVERNMENT to protect them like children.

By the way, a footnote to the vetoed bill says, “The (Insurance) Department is unable to predict the volume of additional queries and complaints, but believes it could be large enough to require an additional staff position.” So, between the vagueness of some of the language in the bill and the eagerness of repair shops to secure as many repairs as possible, that’s a virtual guarantee of yet another useless government bureaucrat with which taxpayers would be forever burdened.

I also checked how Milton’s reps voted on this bill. Sadly, Senator Bradley was a co-sponsor of the bill, but fortunately Abigail Rooney and Peter Hayward voted against it. The next legislative session is just around the corner, and you can be sure we haven’t heard the last of this bill. Pressuring politicians to pass a mandate and guarantee more business in the name of “public safety” never goes of style.

References:

Court Listener. (2018, October 3). In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Sherman Division: Seebachan v. State Farm. Retrieved from https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.txed.178606/gov.uscourts.txed.178606.16.0.pdf

Legiscan. (2019, September 18). NH HB 664. Retrieved from  legiscan.com/NH/bill/HB664/2019

Manchester Union Leader. (2019, August 30). Your Turn, NH – John Elias:  Hijacking consumer protection. Retrieved from https://www.unionleader.com/opinion/columnists/your-turn-nh—john-elias-hijacking-consumer-protection/article_e8580f94-fb5e-5039-8e63-b3f43ead0393.html

NH Governor. (2019, August 15). Governor’s Veto Message Regarding House Bill 664. Retrieved from https://www.governor.nh.gov/news-media/press-2019/documents/hb-664-veto-message.pdf

Repairer Driven News. (2017, August 23). Update:  Couple in $1M Texas body shop lawsuit drop case against State Farm – but only temporarily. Retrieved from https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2017/08/23/seebachans-drop-case-against-state-farm/

Repairer Driven News. (2019, September 5). AASP, ASA, SCRS respond to N.H. insurance commissioner’s op-ed. Retrieved from https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2019/09/05/aasp-asa-scrs-respond-to-n-h-insurance-commissioners-op-ed/

Repairer Driven News. (2019, September 19). N.H. Legislature fails to override Sununu veto of OEM auto repair procedures bill. Retrieved from https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2019/09/19/n-h-legislature-fails-to-override-sununu-veto-of-oem-repair-procedures-bill/

Repairer Driven News. (2019, September 20). Insurers skip required test to help consumers, and other arguments made against N.H. OEM procedures bill. Retrieved from https://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2019/09/20/n-h-veto-supporter-insurers-skip-required-oem-tests-to-save-cars-from-totaling/

Non-Public BOS Session Scheduled (November 18, 2019)

By Muriel Bristol | November 17, 2019

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have posted their agenda for a BOS meeting to be held Monday, November 18. The BOS intend to begin their Public BOS session at 6:00 PM.


The Public portion of the agenda has New Business, Old Business, Other Business, and some housekeeping items.

Under New Business are scheduled four agenda items: 1) Request to Purchase Vehicle (N. Marique), 2) Action on Tax Anticipated Note, 3) School District November 15th, Vote Update, and (at approximately 7:00 PM), and 4) Public Hearing – RSA 31:95-b, To accept and expend unanticipated revenue from the State of NH in the amount of $74,990.03.

Request to Purchase Vehicle (N. Marique). Fire chief Nicholas Marique negotiated the purchase of a fire engine from the Town of Gray, ME, and here will seek authorization from the BOS to complete the purchase.

(One may note with satisfaction the simple mathematical fact that $85,000 < $500,000).

Action on Tax-Anticipated Note. Huh?

School District November 15th, Vote Update, and (at approximately 7:00 PM). The BOS Workshop meeting of October 28, included a School Board Anticipated Revenue Discussion. (“Discussion” usually signifies a spending proposal).

The School District was offered $361,003 in “anticipated” revenue from the State, while the Town was offered $74,990.03 in “unanticipated” revenue. The School District sought ballot authority in a special election to spend their “anticipated” revenue on an air handler system and fire alarm systems. (These systems appear already in their CIP plan).

Evidently, the BOS will be briefed by the School District on the outcome of its authorizing vote taken yesterday, i.e., in the School Board Special Election.

Public Hearing – RSA 31:95-b, To accept and expend unanticipated revenue from the State of NH in the amount of $74,990.03.

31:95-b Appropriation for Funds Made Available During Year. – I. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any town or village district at an annual meeting may adopt an article authorizing, indefinitely until specific rescission of such authority, the board of selectmen or board of commissioners to apply for, accept and expend, without further action by the town or village district meeting, unanticipated money from the state, federal or other governmental unit or a private source which becomes available during the fiscal year.

Such an action requires prior passage of an authorizing warrant article, such as featured in the School Board Special Election. It would seem that Milton taxpayers may have been deluded enough in the past to have granted an indefinite spending authority to the BOS in advance.

Even with prior authority, unanticipated amounts larger than $10,000, as in this case, require that a hearing must be held. You know, the pro forma kind of “hearing” in which the BOS will “hear” what it wants to hear. It invariably favors increased spending for the Town, rather than lower taxes for the townspeople.

Current voters should consider rescinding their perpetual standing authorization at their earliest opportunity. Until that can be accomplished, they should take special note of exactly who votes to spend, rather than return, their “unanticipated” money.


Under Old Business is scheduled but one item: 5) Budget Progression.

Budget Progression. The budget process “progresses.” With apologies to Yeats:

And what rough increase, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Milton to be born?


Other Business That May Come Before the Board has no scheduled items.

There will be the approval of prior minutes (from the BOS Meeting of October 21st, 2019,  the BOS Meeting and Workshop Meeting of October 28th, 2019, the BOS Workshop Meeting of October 30th, 2019, and the BOS Workshop Meeting of November 4th, 2019), the expenditure report, Public Comments “Pertaining to Topics Discussed,” Town Administrator comments, and BOS comments.


The BOS meeting is scheduled to end with a Non-Public session. That agenda has one Non-Public item classed as 91-A3 II (l).

(l) Consideration of legal advice provided by legal counsel, either in writing or orally, to one or more members of the public body, even where legal counsel is not present.

The BOS had a similar item on the agenda of its previous Non-Public meeting. It would seem that the Town faces still – or faces again – litigation by someone who does not agree unanimously.

The NH court filings database contains the following entry: “New Hampshire Supreme Court, Report on Status of Cases, As of September 30, 2019. Case 2019-0278. Three Ponds Resort, LLC v. Town of Milton. 05/15/2019 – Case Filing. 06/04/2019 – Accepted.”


Lastly a look back. The BOS workshop meeting of October 30, 2019, had a Non-Public session that should not go unremarked. If only because that agenda had, for the second time in recent weeks, a Non-Public item classed as 91-A3 II (a).

(a) The dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigation of any charges against him or her, unless the employee affected (1) has a right to a meeting and (2) requests that the meeting be open, in which case the request shall be granted.

Promotion and pay raise would be the safe bet again. The BOS’ budgetary arrow points only one way.


Mr. S.D. Plissken contributed to this article.


References:

State of New Hampshire. (2016, June 21). RSA Chapter 31. Powers and Duties of Towns. Miscellaneous. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/III/31/31-95-b.htm

State of New Hampshire. (2016, June 21). RSA Chapter 91-A. Access to Governmental Records and Meetings. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/VI/91-A/91-A-3.htm

Town of Milton. (2019, November 15). BOS Meeting Agenda, November 18, 2019. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/sites/miltonnh/files/agendas/11.18.19_bos_agenda.pdf

Town of Milton. (2019, November 15). School District Special Election. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CGKIbdDWk8

Youtube. (1965). Cone of Silence. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1eUIK9CihA&feature=youtu.be&t=19

Gray, ME, Voted to Sell Fire Engine to Milton

By S.D. Plissken | November 15, 2019

A correspondent informs us that the Town of Gray, ME, in its Town Council meeting of Tuesday, November 12, 2019, voted to sell one of its fire engines to the Town of Milton, NH, for “$” [$85,000].

1997 Ferrara Spartan 75' Aerial
Another 1997 Ferrara Spartan 75′ Aerial

The relevant correspondence from the Town of Gray website follows:


October 31, 2019 
 
Deborah Cabana, Town Manager, Henry Pennell Municipal Complex, 24 Main Street, Gray, ME 04039
 
Dear Ms. Cabana,
 
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday in reference to your community’s listed tower truck.  I greatly appreciate the time Chief Elkanich, Deputy Chief Hutchins and their staff spent with both my Deputy Chief on Tuesday and myself and our department’s EVT yesterday. I was able to meet with the Milton Board of Selectman and the Milton Town Administrator yesterday afternoon and subsequently received permission to move forward with an offer to purchase the Town of Gray Maine’s 1997 Ferrara 75’ Tower Truck. 
 
As I indicated in your office when we spoke there were a few mechanical concerns and a few items that would need repair before we placed the vehicle in service for our community.  With that being said these are items that would be expect in a vehicle of this age and it is evident the firefighters of your community take good care of their equipment.  In preparing this proposal we reviewed cost estimates of items that need repair and have determined an additional $20,000 will be needed above the purchase price. The following items were noted as deficiencies 

  • Broken rear leaf spring- noted in Ladder testing report.
  • Leaf springs front and rear need replacement –See Figure 1 and 2 attached.
  • Exhaust needs replacement as indicated by several exhaust leaks -See figure 3 and 4 attached
  • Coolant leak was noted in the area of the radiator 
  • Frame corrosion and tunnel corrosion was noted-See figures 5-8
  • A few leaks were noted in the pump including a long-term leak around the pump packing- See figure 9
  • Other hydraulic small hydraulic leaks where noted which present an unknown risk and cost- See Figure 10 and 11

The above list was noted by Milton’s certified Emergency Vehicle Technician and corroborated by the latest ladder test report completed in September.  In preparing a cost analysts based on the useful life of the vehicle, the needed repairs and the budget, which the Town of Milton must work with, we are prepared to offer $75,000 for the Town of Gray Maine’s 1997 Ferrara 75’ Tower Truck.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  
 
Nick Marique 
Fire Chief
Nicholas


From: Nick Hutchins <e-mail omitted>
Sent: Monday, November 4, 2019 7:58 PM
To: Deb Cabana e-mail omitted

Subject: RE: Truck 44

Deb,

Here is the recommendation you requested after reviewing the Town of Milton’s proposal. Some of the noted items were going to be fixed when the new ladder truck went into service, allowing the truck to be stored serviceable and in good shape for resale or use. To fix everything Chief Marique mentioned with parts (not including time) would be in the vicinity of $5,600, providing the town doesn’t purchase or repair the radiator which at this time seems unnecessary. These are reasonably obtainable repairs that are not open ended on how the Town of Gray would want them done, verse how the Town of Milton might expect them done. This point of discussion needs to be at the for front of thoughts when talking about repairs made to a truck this age. Items like rust repair come with a level of expectation from each party on how they would want it to be fixed, which can cause an open-ended price tag that the Town of Gray probably should avoid.

I have attached my answers to the proposal as well in this email. If you need more information on anything that I can help you with, please reach out to me. If it is urgent, I can be reached at phone number omitted.

I hope this helps you out and look forward to hearing back from you on the direction you’d like us to go.

Stay safe.

Deputy Chief Nick Hutchins
Operations and Equipment
GRAY FIRE RESCUE
Phone: phone number omitted

“Protecting Life and property at the Crossroads of Maine since 1880”


From: Deb Cabana
Sent: Tuesday, November 5, 2019 11:08 AM

To: Nick Marique
cc: Kurt Elkanich

Subject: r-w: Truck 44

Attachments: Truck 44 repair.docx; TC Agenda 11122019.doc

Dear Mr. Marique,

Thank you for your interest in the ladder truck and your thoughtful offer. I have had an opportunity to have our mechanic review the associated costs that you have identified for the ladder truck. t have attached his opinion regarding the pictures that you sent, as well. The Town of Gray can fix the leaf springs and exhaust leak with a good wash and grease of the ladder itself. Additionally, we can offer ladders and one length of hard suction, all maintenance records, one set of filters for the first filter change, spare tires for both fronts and one side on rear and grease for the ladder itself. We are also willing to offer training from a department member with your department, if you so desire.

I have placed an item on the Town Council agenda for next Tuesday night (November 12) regarding the potential sale of this vehicle. (Please see Item #65-20 in the copy of the attached agenda.) As I indicated to you earlier, my Council was anticipating a sale price of $100K for this truck. I believe that I could convince my Council to a price of $85,000. If this counteroffer is acceptable, we will need to keep the current truck in service until the new one is fully in service and operational and the repairs agreed upon are done. l am told that we should have the new truck in about a week. Of course, the crew will need to be trained on the new truck.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Deborah Cabana

Town Manager, Town of Gray
24 Main Street, Gray ME 04039 Phone:
phone number omitted Fax: fax number omitted e-mail omitted e-mail omitted


Agenda – Gray Town Council – November 12, 2019

#65-20  To Review and Act Upon a Proposed Sale of the Ladder Truck.  5 MINS.

Proposed motion:

Ordered, the Gray Town Council approves the sale of the ladder truck to the Town of Milton, New Hampshire for a purchase price of $.

This item passed unanimously.


References:

Town of Gray. (2019, November 12). Gray Town Council, Regular Meeting, 11/12/2019, 7:00 PM. Retrieved from graytownme.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=3635

A Rare Split Vote

By S.D. Plissken | October 24, 2019

Last Monday’s Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting featured an interesting and exceedingly rare split vote, or it would have, had it come to a vote.

Correspondents have sent me recently a variety of articles about official projections of New Hampshire’s population over the next decade or so. New Hampshire’s population is both aging and declining.

The total New Hampshire state population is projected to be 1,432,730 in 2040, an increase of 116,260 or 8.8 percent from the 2010 Census population of 1,316,470 (RLS, 2016).

That is a projected net increase of only 116,260 (8.8%) over a period of thirty years, i.e., more than a generation. Most of that net increase will be a result of people moving into the state from elsewhere. New Hampshire’s congressional representation will drop from two US Representatives to only one in or after 2040. Yes, there will be more US Senators from New Hampshire than US Representatives.

How might this affect Milton? Let us step through it logically. The few incoming people will not distribute themselves evenly across the land area of New Hampshire. They will settle in greater numbers in places that have most to offer and, conversely, they will avoid like the plague places with less to offer. And this effect is not limited to newcomers. The existing (or surviving) population will want also to relocate themselves to the most advantageous places.

What are they avoiding? Economics embraces a concept known as “utility.” In this context, utility may be defined as the relative ease of obtaining one’s economic ends. The converse of this concept is “disutility,” in which it is difficult (or even impossible) to achieve one’s ends without undue effort.

Milton is currently in the eighth year of its fourth ten-year plan (the first having been put in place in 1982, and updated at ten-year intervals). Chairman Thibeault put forward the Town’s so-called “Master Plan” in support of his notions in the most recent BOS meeting. Most people associate Master Plans with fictional and cartoon villains, as well they might.

Master plans are hopelessly ineffective because of Hayek’s Knowledge Problem. Briefly, it is impossible for any of us, or any committee of us, to assemble and possess the knowledge necessary to manage an economy. That knowledge resides in the whole of us, but in a distributed fashion. To suppose that one has, or can ever hope to acquire, sufficient knowledge to order the economy is an admission of folly.

Bastiat spoke of the Broken Window Fallacy. His important insight was that there exist possibilities or outcomes that are readily “seen.” But there are also possibilities or outcomes that are “not seen.” One may encourage, or subsidize, or even compel some particular outcome. That result can be readily seen, by which it might be judged a “success.” Of course, there it is, I can see it! But other possible outcomes might have occurred, might have occurred more naturally, and might have occurred in preference to the one forced upon us. Those are the outcomes that are not seen. Those outcomes were displaced by the one forced upon us.

It emerged that the old fire station has been sold. The owner’s representative came to the BOS meeting. Chairman Thibeault wanted to hold the new owner to his preference put forward at some prior meeting (there have been several). That preference would have had the old fire station renovated as a commercial property only. In the interval between preliminary discussions and sale, the new owner envisaged instead a mix of one-bedroom apartments and commercial space. They did not seem to feel that the commercial limitation was either necessary or desired, but had retained it only as an accommodation. Chairman Thibeault dug in his heels – as he is wont to do – and insisted that the new owner restrict themselves to a commercial use only. Because that better satisfied the sacred “Master Plan.” Blessed be the Plan.

The owner’s representative pointed out that the final purchase-and-sales agreement contained no such commercial requirement. Chairman Thibeault turned somewhat petulant. The Planning Board and ZBA might have something to say. (Get ready for another lawsuit).

Now, this was the path taken in the Binker Brothers’ opening, a process bitterly criticized at the time, and rightly so. Someone invests in a property in order to establish a business (or any other use) in a legitimate way. Only after purchasing a Milton property does the hapless owner learn that there are many other requirements above and beyond those set forth in the ever-increasing pages of the zoning regulations. They must pass also the conditional approval of the BOS, the Planning Board, the ZBA, etc. In the case of the Binker Brothers, the Police were also invited to put in their oar.

Vice-Chairwoman Hutchings and Selectman Rawson balked. They pointed out that Milton had already a number of vacant commercial properties. Too many, and vacant for far too long. They could see no reason to compel the new owner to conform to the commercial-only requirement. Chairman Thibeault’s dissatisfaction was manifest. He dislikes being thwarted and we have likely not heard the end of this. (The Chairman experienced some strong disapproval from the audience too).

The dissenters may or may not have penetrated to the root of the problem. The Master Plan is impossible. It lacks the necessary knowledge to be effective. If empirical evidence is required, Milton’s economic activity has declined, rather than increased, over its thirty-eight-year tenure. Its visible results, few as they have been, have no claim over other unseen outcomes that were forced aside.

Will the few incomers of the next twenty years gravitate towards Milton? That seems highly unlikely. We have been led far down the wrong path. We have too much government, too many regulations, poor results, and all at too high a price. And our budgets have been increasing at an unconscionable rate. All these characteristics impose a major “disutility” on its residents, taxpayers, and prospective incomers.

A static or even dwindling population would be left to carry the load. Those able will want to escape. (And a major economic downturn – some say it will be “The Big One” – is expected at any time).

Franz Oppenheimer explained the fundamental difference between the means employed by the free market versus those of government.

There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others … I propose to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means” … while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the “political means.”

Chairman Thibeault has in his time shown a dogged and regrettable preference for achieving his fevered visions through use of the “political means.” He is wrong, of course. Should he not change his approach radically, so as to favor market solutions over compulsory political ones, it would be difficult to recommend his continuation in office.

His colleagues vote with him all too often but, in this case, they favored correctly allowing the freedom of the “economic means” to work.

References:

RLS Demographics. (2016). State of New Hampshire Regional Planning Commissions. County Population Projections, 2016, by Age and Sex. Retrieved from www.nh.gov/osi/data-center/documents/2016-state-county-projections-final-report.pdf

Non-Public BOS Session Scheduled (October 21, 2019)

By Muriel Bristol | October 19, 2019

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have posted their agenda for a BOS meeting to be held Monday, October 21.


The BOS meeting is scheduled to begin with a Non-Public session beginning at 5:45 PM. That agenda has one Non-Public item classed as 91-A3 II (e).

91-A:3 II (e) Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed by or against the public body or any subdivision thereof, or by or against any member thereof because of his or her membership in such public body, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise settled. Any application filed for tax abatement, pursuant to law, with any body or board shall not constitute a threatened or filed litigation against any public body for the purposes of this subparagraph.

The BOS had the same item on the agenda of its previous Non-Public meeting. It would seem that the Town faces still – or faces again – litigation by someone who does not agree unanimously.

Might it be that it is the litigator that is correct and the Town that is in the wrong? So much of what they do is wrong, and this secrecy might have us paying to defend errors and injustices that we might not want to defend if we knew the nature of the issue. Maybe it should be discussed or at least explained to some degree in a Public session. Not the legal strategies, which may remain confidential, but the nature of the suit.

[Added from the court filings database, October 23, 2019: “New Hampshire Supreme Court, Report on Status of Cases, As of September 30, 2019. Case 2019-0278. Three Ponds Resort, LLC v. Town of Milton. 05/15/2019 – Case Filing. 06/04/2019 – Accepted.”]

The BOS intend to adjourn their Non-Public BOS session at approximately (*) 6:00 PM, when they intend to return to Public session.


The Public portion of the agenda has New Business, Old Business, Other Business, and some housekeeping items.

Under New Business are scheduled ten agenda items: 1) Outside Agency Presentation; HAVEN (Debra Altschiller), 2) Economic Development Committee Member Resignation & Appointment (E. Hutchings), 3) Cemetery Trustee Alternate Member Appointment (John Katwick), 4) Silver Street Reconstruction Discussion (David Cormier Jr.), 5) Approval of in Town Trick or Treat Crossing Guard (Jeffery Zajicek), 6) Fire Chief N. Marique a. Approval of Partial Winding Road Renaming b. SCBA Air Pack Discussion, 7) Police Chief R. Krauss a. Phone System Discussion b. Request Finalization of Car2 Replacement c. SRO Warrant Article d. Winter Parking-Town Hall Lot, 8) Library CRF Spending Request (Betsy Baker), 9) Casey Road Committee Discussion of Tax Map 41, Lot 81 (Karen Golab), 10) 460 White Mountain Highway Discussion.

Many items are characterized as “discussions,” which we may take as “proposals to spend money.”

Outside Agency Presentation; HAVEN (Debra Altschiller). Debra Altschiller is Community Liaison for HAVEN, which provides domestic and sexual violence support services. They have a Rochester office at 150 Wakefield Street, Suite 16 (and others in Portsmouth and Epping), with banker’s hours, but also a 24-hour confidential support line at 1-603-994-7233.

Economic Development Committee Member Resignation & Appointment (E. Hutchings). It would seem that someone has developed some sort of scheduling or other conflict, or perhaps has withdrawn their support, and that a replacement is to be [s]elected in their place.

Cemetery Trustee Alternate Member Appointment (John Katwick). Another [s]election.

Silver Street Reconstruction Discussion (David Cormier Jr.). A correspondent has passed along a rather wide-spread rumor that this project has seriously outpaced its cost estimates. Color us surprised.

Approval of In-Town Trick-or-Treat Crossing Guard (Jeffery Zajicek). Per usual.

Fire Chief N. Marique: a. Approval of Partial Winding Road Renaming b. SCBA Air Pack Discussion. One hopes any new name does not “honor” in any way some former tax raiser. That was the initial impulse in Boston, much disputed, before they settled on the “Ted Williams Tunnel.” Most people had favored “The Taxpayers’ Tunnel,” with Ted Williams being merely a better choice than some politician.

Breathers for firemen was much discussed last year. For some reason, a phased replacement of this very expensive equipment was rejected.

Police Chief R. Krauss: a. Phone System Discussion, b. Request Finalization of Car2 Replacement, c. SRO Warrant Article, d. Winter Parking-Town Hall Lot. The chief’s request for a new phone system is carried over from a prior meeting, as is Car 54.

The School Resource Officer (SRO) position was formerly said to be jointly funded by the Police and School budgets. And now that position will feature in some way in its own warrant article.

Winter parking restrictions were never actually resolved, just shuffled around and papered over.

Library CRF Spending Request (Betsy Baker). Presumably, paying for library renovations from the fund put aside for that purpose. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” You put the “Free” in Milton Free Public Library.

Casey Road Committee Discussion of Tax Map 41, Lot 81 (Karen Golab). Something to do with the Casey Road conservation land. When last heard, trees were being displaced for a parking lot.

460 White Mountain Highway Discussion. Otherwise known as the old fire station. Workers have been shingling its roof and making other repairs or renovations. A passer-by might assume that the property had been sold and the new owner was working on it. But there seems to be some need for a discussion.

The Old Business portion of the agenda will be displaced into an after-meeting workshop meeting. That will be followed by another Non-Public session.


Other Business That May Come Before the Board has no scheduled items.


There will be the approval of prior minutes (from the BOS meeting of September 23, 2019) [already scheduled last time], the expenditure report, Public Comments “Pertaining to Topics Discussed,” Town Administrator comments, and BOS comments..


Under Old Business is scheduled but one item: 11) Budget Progression.

Budget Progression. This turn of phrase was perhaps intended to signify a third joint budget meeting. Coincidentally, it is also a rather accurate assessment of the likely outcome: a “progression” or increase over last year’s bottom line, which hardly sounds like “progress.”

The BOS meeting is scheduled to end with another Non-Public session. That agenda has one Non-Public item classed as 91-A3 II (a).

(a) The dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigation of any charges against him or her, unless the employee affected (1) has a right to a meeting and (2) requests that the meeting be open, in which case the request shall be granted.

Promotion and pay raise would be the safe bet. The BOS’ budgetary arrow points only one way.


Mr. S.D. Plissken contributed to this article.


References:

Haven. (2019). Haven. Ending Violence, Changing Lives. Retrieved from havennh.org/

State of New Hampshire. (2016, June 21). RSA Chapter 91-A. Access to Governmental Records and Meetings. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/VI/91-A/91-A-3.htm

Town of Milton. (2019, October 18). BOS Meeting Agenda, October 21, 2019. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/sites/miltonnh/files/agendas/10.21.19_bos_agenda_0.pdf

Youtube. (1965). Cone of Silence. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1eUIK9CihA&feature=youtu.be&t=19

Non-Public BOS Session Scheduled (October 7, 2019)

By Muriel Bristol | October 5, 2019

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have posted their rather lean agenda for a BOS meeting to be held Monday, October 7.


The BOS meeting is scheduled to begin with a Non-Public session beginning at 5:45 PM. That agenda has one Non-Public item classed as 91-A3 II (e).

91-A:3 II (e) Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed by or against the public body or any subdivision thereof, or by or against any member thereof because of his or her membership in such public body, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise settled. Any application filed for tax abatement, pursuant to law, with any body or board shall not constitute a threatened or filed litigation against any public body for the purposes of this subparagraph.

It would seem that the Town faces still – or faces again – litigation by someone who does not agree unanimously.

[Added from the court filings database, October 23, 2019: “New Hampshire Supreme Court, Report on Status of Cases, As of September 30, 2019. Case 2019-0278. Three Ponds Resort, LLC v. Town of Milton. 05/15/2019 – Case Filing. 06/04/2019 – Accepted.”]

The BOS intend to adjourn their Non-Public BOS session at approximately (*) 6:00 PM, when they intend to return to Public session.


The Public portion of the agenda has New Business, Old Business, Other Business, and some housekeeping items.

Under New Business are scheduled two agenda items: 1) Silver Street Reconstruction Discussion (David Cormier Jr.), and 2) Approval of In-Town Trick-or-Treat Crossing Guard (Jeffery Zajicek).

Silver Street Reconstruction Discussion (David Cormier Jr.). Mr. Cormier would like to discuss reconstruction of the Silver Street intersection.

Approval of In-Town Trick-or-Treat Crossing Guard (Jeffery Zajicek). While it is difficult to imagine this not getting approved, it might be a bit of a spoiler to put “approval” right in the title.


Under Old Business is scheduled nothing at all.

“That government is best which governs least.” – Henry D. Thoreau


Other Business That May Come Before the Board has no scheduled items.

“The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects.” – Lao Tze


Finally, there will be the approval of prior minutes (from the BOS meeting of September 23, 2019), the expenditure report, Public Comments “Pertaining to Topics Discussed,” Town Administrator comments, and BOS comments.


Mr. S.D. Plissken contributed to this article.


References:

State of New Hampshire. (2016, June 21). RSA Chapter 91-A. Access to Governmental Records and Meetings. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/VI/91-A/91-A-3.htm

Town of Milton. (2019, October 4). BOS Meeting Agenda, October 7, 2019. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/sites/miltonnh/files/agendas/10.7.19_bos_agenda.pdf

Youtube. (1965). Cone of Silence. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1eUIK9CihA&feature=youtu.be&t=19

Non-Public BOS Session Scheduled (September 9, 2019)

By Muriel Bristol | September 9, 2019

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have this morning posted belatedly their agenda for a BOS meeting to be held tonight, Monday, September 9.

A correspondent points out that the scheduling of this meeting, at such short notice, violates RSA 91:A, to wit:

Except in an emergency or when there is a meeting of a legislative committee, a notice of the time and place of each such meeting, including a nonpublic session, shall be posted in 2 appropriate places one of which may be the public body’s Internet website, if such exists, or shall be printed in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town at least 24 hours, excluding Sundays and legal holidays, prior to such meetings.

That is to say, notifications of Monday evening meetings should be posted no later than Saturday. The prior agenda did state that there might be a BOS meeting on this date (*Next Meeting Scheduled For: September 9th, 2019 (Pending Board of Selectmen Approval)), which hardly satisfies the notification requirement.

Our correspondent might have overlooked the escape clause: except in an emergency. But who decides if this is an emergency? Likely the selectmen themselves. (There are public entities that declare emergencies as a matter of routine, to circumvent union rules).

This might still be a legal meeting, provided the selectmen go so far as to declare an “emergency,” which might be interesting, and telling, in and of itself. How cynical are they, exactly?


The BOS meeting is scheduled to begin with a Non-Public session beginning at 5:45 PM. That agenda has one Non-Public item classed as 91-A3 II (c).

91-A:3 II (c) Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting. This exemption shall extend to any application for assistance or tax abatement or waiver of a fee, fine, or other levy, if based on inability to pay or poverty of the applicant.

The BOS intend to adjourn their Non-Public BOS session at approximately (*) 6:00 PM, when they intend to return to Public session.


The Public portion of the agenda has New Business, Old Business, Other Business, and some housekeeping items.

Under New Business are scheduled four agenda items: 1) Economic Development Committee Member Appointment, 2) Wakefield Pantry Outside Services Presentation (Howie Knight), 3) Employee Appreciation Luncheon, and 4) Library Construction Update (Betsy Baker), 5) Preliminary Update with Avitar Regarding 2019 Reevaluation Update; 6) Police Chief R. Krauss: 6A) Emergency Service Zone Acceptance, 6B) Highway Safety Grant Acceptance, 6C) Computer Replacement, 6D) Accept Rx Dropoff Box Donation, and 6E) Dog Warrant Update; 7) School Board Building Permit for Sign Waiver Request, and 8) Town Building Rental Agreement Preliminary Discussion.

Economic Development Committee Member Appointment. “Selections” are not to be preferred to elections. If there is insufficient citizen support or interest for running for election to Town committees, it might be time to start reducing the number of Town committees.

Wakefield Pantry Outside Services Presentation (Howie Knight). Welcome, Mr. Knight. Let’s hear about it.

Employee Appreciation Luncheon. Because the proposed greater-than-inflation raises and COLA just do not express enough appreciation.

Library Construction Update (Betsy Baker). Hopefully, we will hear that this is on time and under budget.

Preliminary Update with Avitar Regarding 2019 Reevaluation Update. Various commenters have mentioned a very large increase in the land component of their valuation. Some have said theirs have nearly doubled since the 2016 Corcoran fiasco. A near doubling would be ridiculous on its face.

These valuations are grossly inflated and the housing bubble on which they are based is expected to burst quite soon. Will there be one of these magical town-wide button-push revaluations when the bubble bursts?

Police Chief R. Krauss: 6A) Emergency Service Zone Acceptance, 6B) Highway Safety Grant Acceptance, 6C) Computer Replacement, 6D) Accept Rx Dropoff Box Donation, and 6E) Dog Warrant Update. What strings might be attached to those grants? The grantor often wants to redirect Town resources to their own ends. Cheap for them, we still pay the employee benefits for employees redirected to someone else’s end.

School Board Building Permit for Sign Waiver Request. Town entities do not have to go through their own convoluted procedures? If they are not important, how about waiving them for all of us?

Town Building Rental Agreement Preliminary Discussion. Let’s hear it.


Under Old Business is scheduled one item: 9) Milton Mills Flag Pole Discussion Follow-Up.

Milton Mills Flag Pole Discussion Follow-Up (Robert Graham). At the last meeting Mr. Graham sought to tap the Durgin Fund to replace Milton Mills’ flagpole. His estimates varied considerably, but would drain the funds’ disposable interest monies (roughly $13,000) – intended for the benefit of all of Milton’s citizens – by a third to a half. Well might those citizens question the universal benefit of such an expenditure.


Other Business That May Come Before the Board has no scheduled items.


Finally, there will be the approval of prior minutes (from the BOS meeting of August 19, 2019), the expenditure report, Public Comments “Pertaining to Topics Discussed,” Town Administrator comments, and BOS comments.


Mr. S.D. Plissken contributed to this article.


References:

State of New Hampshire. (2016, June 21). RSA Chapter 91-A. Access to Governmental Records and Meetings. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/VI/91-A/91-A-3.htm

Town of Milton. (2019, September 9). BOS Meeting Agenda, September 9, 2019. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/board-selectmen/agenda/board-selectmen-agenda-67

Youtube. (1965). Cone of Silence. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1eUIK9CihA&feature=youtu.be&t=19