PJ Cyr: Opposed to changing the Town Manager form of government

To the editor:

On March 14, Gorham voters will be presented with a ballot vote on Article No. 2 “Do you favor the continuation of the Town Manager plan as now in force in this town?'' As administrative heads in the Town of Gorham, we have seen many selectmen as they come and go, and realize the one position that should remain consistent is the Town Manager. To cast a competent vote on Article No. 2, one must read NH RSA 37; in short, it defines the authority, powers, and duties of the Town Manager. After taking the time to consider the law, one will immediately realize the Town Manager’s position can be easily described as “the glue” of town affairs. If the Town Manager form of government is rescinded, on April 12, the Board of Selectmen will assume the statutory authority, powers and duties once held by the Town Manager.

The Town of Gorham has operated under the Town Manager form of government for decades. How does the change affect our current Board of Selectmen and their understanding of the responsibilities of their elected positions? During a time with significant capital infrastructure projects and emergency service studies on the horizon, we feel this is a critical time to have a Town Manager in place to organize town affairs for the Board of Selectmen, so they can effectively govern the Town of Gorham.

At the 1990 Gorham Town Meeting, voters elected to change the Town Manager form of government only to rescind their decision the very next year. At the 2008 Gorham Town Meeting, voters faced Article No. 2, “"Do you favor the continuation of the Town Manager plan as now in force in this town?'' The article gained majority vote (Yes-450/No-167) to keep the Town Manager form of government. We feel the revocation of the Town Manager form of government and the change of authority, power and duties will have a detrimental effect on the administration of the Town. We go on record as opposed to the change in the Town Manager form of government as it does not serve the best interests of the Town or its residents. Please vote “Yes” to Article No. 2 on March 14.

PJ Cyr, Chief of Police
Austin Holmes, Director of Public Works
Denise Vallee, Director of Finance and Administration

Michelle Lutz: Town manager position important for local government

To the editor:

Once again a petition has been submitted to try to do away with the Town Manager form of government in Gorham. This same article appeared in 2008 and back even further in 1990. If this article passes, in effect what happens is that on the second Tuesday in April, the current (as of Election Day) board of selectmen become responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Town. They can hire a Town Administrator if they choose, which could take time, or they can choose not to. Depending on the outcome of the elections, the board could consist of two junior selectmen (Patrick LeFebvre was only elected in 2016) and one senior member, Terry Oliver. Are we confident that two junior selectmen would be in a position to run this town on a day-to-day basis? There are a lot of projects on the table that will take time for any new selectman to get up to speed on. All during this transition, the Town may not have someone in the “driver’s seat” who knows what is going on.
In 1990, when the Town was faced with the same question, the Town passed the article and the very next year a new article appeared on the warrant to go back to the Town Manager form of government. Why do you suppose that was??? Maybe because it wasn’t about the Town Manager form of government or maybe it was because running the everyday operations of the Town isn’t something that can, or should, be done part time or without knowledge of local, state and federal codes and laws.
In 2008, when this same question was on the ballot by petition, I remember reading a letter to the editor that detailed the issues faced by the board of selectmen in 1990 and how difficult it was for them to accomplish anything because of the enormous amount of time the day-to-day needs of the community required. That hasn’t changed! The only difference is the person sitting in the Town Manager’s seat and the members of the Selectboard.
There are a lot of projects in this Town that aren’t something you can work on part-time or that can be put off any longer! Roads that have had nothing done to them in many years are finally being looked into. Yes this could be costly, but we cannot turn a blind eye to it any longer and watch as our infrastructure crumbles around us. We are also facing a potential study to see if it would be viable to contract with the City of Berlin for Police & Dispatch services. This is not something that should be taken lightly and will need somebody watching over this process very closely to ensure that the Gorham residents are protected.
As we look toward our statistical update in values this fall, there is concern about the tax rate. Luckily, Robin Frost and the selectboard have successfully negotiated with the utilities and the mill to arrive at agreements that will stabilize those values well into the future. The rumor that these settlements were going to swing the tax rate by $4.00 per thousand turned out to be nothing more than rumor.
This article is not about what is best for Gorham! It wasn’t good in 1990, it wasn’t good in 2008 and it sure as heck isn’t good now! For the sake of our Town, when you go to the polls to vote, please vote yes on the article (which appears on the back side of the ballot) to keep the Town Manager plan now in force. Let’s not repeat bad history! We need to have someone in the “driver’s seat” every day who knows what they are doing!
Michelle Lutz

Robert Kruszyna: Government is not the solution to our problems

To the editor:
Back in 1981, the sainted Ronald Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.” Well, the Trumpsters and their Republican enablers have finally made it come true.

Robert Kruszyna

John Gralenski: More people die from legal drugs

To the editor:
With all the publicity about the problems with illegal drugs killing users, it is easy to forget that probably more people die from legal drugs prescribed by doctors.
My very best friend was almost killed by Abilify. She was on it for over a year, during which time she gradually degenerated, physically and mentally. It was so gradual that nobody noticed it happening. By Feb. of 2016 she became a resident of a nursing home. She continued to slide, and by November, it required two attendants and an electric lift to get her out of bed to the bathroom. She could not carry on a conversation, I think you could have pulled her fingernails out without much objection. Other residents were betting she wouldn't make it to Christmas. Something had to be done.
One of her doctors finally agreed to take her off Abilify—it didn't seem to be doing any good anyhow. That was on Nov. 17. By Thanksgiving, she was able to sit up in her wheelchair and was even transported out of the nursing home for Thanksgiving dinner with the family.She wasn't that good, but the change was truly dramatic. By Christmas, she was out again in her wheelchair for a family dinner. By then, she had improved enough so she was eating, smiling, gabbing and truly enjoying herself. It is no exaggeration to say she was back from the dead!
This is a terrible problem. I don't know what can be done about it, but it certainly points out what an awesome responsibility and power is in the hands of the medical people.
John Gralenski

Patrick Lefebvre: Clearing up misinformation before town meeting

To the editor:

It is time for us to clear up the misinformation that is being spread before Town Meeting. First the Recreation Revolving Fund, the Board of Selectmen voted to leave this fund as is. Since the Budget Committee did not agree with this, the Chair asked the Finance Director to help him write a warrant article to change the fund to what the Budget Committee wanted it to be. TM Frost offered to help as well. Waddell gave Frost the changes he wanted to see and she produced a draft warrant article for review. It was concurrently sent to Town Counsel for review. The attorney did not assist in writing the article, contrary to what Waddell has insisted. At subsequent meetings, it was reported that Frost had yet to hear from Town Counsel. The opinion letter was received around 4 p.m. on that day of the Public Hearing on the budget. At the public hearing, the attorney’s letter was dismissed as “just one opinion.” Further, and again contrary to the information that is being shared, the Board of Selectmen voted down the request to purchase a new plow truck for $38k and has since, by a 2-1 vote with Lefebvre voting against, said that the Rec Director could look at purchasing the truck that the Water and Sewer Department will be replacing for a sum up to $10k.
With regard to the operating budget, Oliver and Lefebvre stand behind their concern about there not being enough money in the budget for administration if Frost is no longer at Town Hall this spring, LaPierre voted for the budget as presented by the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee Chair threw out a number, unsubstantiated, of $30k and that was disputed by Lefebvre, who said that the number would be closer to $100,000. The committee then said $40k, which will cover the severance package for Frost, but not anything going forward, like recruitment and salary for an interim administrator. Since there is no method for the Board to vote a different amount, the only alternative to express their concern was to vote to not recommend the entire article. Depending on the outcome of the question on the ballot, Oliver and/or Lefebvre will attempt to adjust this figure on the Town Meeting floor.
As far as the claims that the Town Manager and Selectmen were withholding information from the Budget Committee, there is a written opinion from the very attorney who was chosen by Waddell to answer his questions, that states the Budget Committee should not be asking for certain types of information; that it is out of the scope of their duties. Waddell was told this by the attorney, but chose not to share that information with the rest of the committee. There was more discussion about policy at the Budget Committee meetings than there was about the actual budgets to run the Town.
The other information that is out there is clearly meant to scare the taxpayers and is very misleading. While it is important to note that Waddell’s claim that the full value tax rate could climb during a revaluation is true, it is even more important to note that the full value tax rate is not what your taxes are based on. The full value tax rate takes the equalized valuation into consideration, not our true valuation, which is higher due in no small part to the utility values we have been able to stabilize and secure into future years through tough negotiations. The valuation used for the actual tax rate used in the calculations of your taxes is higher, thereby making the tax rate lower. In any case, the issue is moot as the newest equalization ratio is 97.3, not 110.
Finally, in the great news department, the Board and Town Manager are working cooperatively with Bob Chapman and others to bring sustainable businesses into Gorham. These are already established businesses that will continue to grow their jobs capacity while relocating to Gorham. Where businesses take root, other businesses will also be drawn.
We hope this clears up some of the misinformation that is out there. Additionally, we now have the capability to video record and stream all public meetings in Town Government and these will be available on the Town’s website. This is in an effort to curtail bad information being circulated through town. You can watch for yourselves and get the real picture. Please don’t hesitate to contact us or the Town Manager if you have any questions at all and please get out and vote on March 14!
Gorham Board of Selectmen
Grace LaPierre
Terry Oliver
Patrick Lefebvre