Episode 43

December 07, 2023


Hanover Happenings November 2023 Update

Hosted by

Alex Torpey
Hanover Happenings November 2023 Update
Hanover Happenings
Hanover Happenings November 2023 Update

Dec 07 2023 | 00:36:30


Show Notes

Hi all, this is your Town Manager Alex Torpey here with your November update. We covered a lot of ground in November, and in this episode I'll provide updates from:

11/6 and 11/27 Selectboard meetings:

  • Nonpublic on 11/7 to discuss staffing and compensation potential proposals
  • A number of important budget updates over both meetings:
    • Discussed and set ARPA allocations (and next meeting modification)
    • Results from SB priorities/goal setting workshop
    • 24/25 tax rate guidance
    • Finalized FY 23/24 tax rate and tax bills due
  • Set several public hearings via 41:14a
  • Completed various donations and other business, including recommendations from the advisory board of assessors, (with one outstanding pending an update from the organization), amended bridge loan documents, accepted donations and others
  • Discussed natural burials ordinance proposal

My monthly Town Manager monthly report, with updates on:

  • Upcoming events
  • Human Resources and personnel
  • Budget/finance
  • Housing, redevelopment, and planning
  • Transportation and mobility
  • Downtown Hanover
  • College/Town
  • Other updates
    • Hanover PD CALEA Accreditation award
    • NHMA conference takeaways
    • Town Meeting engagement project

Resources and links:

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] You. Hi Everyone, this is Alex Torpey, your Town manager, here with your November update. We covered a lot of ground in November and this episode I'm going to provide updates from the November 6 and November 27 Select Board meetings, which will include updates on the nonpublic session that we had on November 6 to discuss staffing and compensation. [00:00:20] A number of important budget related updates that we discussed over both meetings. This includes discussing and committing the ARPA funds that we have results from the Select Board Goal Setting Workshop Fiscal Year 24 25 Tax rate guidance from the Select Board and the finalized fiscal year 23 24. That's this year's tax rate and when tax bills are due. We also set several public hearings via RSA 40 114 A, which is a process to transact to do property transactions. These are mostly easements. [00:01:03] We completed a number of other donations and other business, including recommendations from the Advisory Board of Assessors, amending bridge loan documents, accepting donations. I think I already mentioned that and a few other things. We discussed a Natural Burials ordinance proposal as well. [00:01:20] And we'll also discuss my monthly Town manager report and that has updates on some upcoming events, human resources and personnel, budget and finance, housing, redevelopment and planning, transportation and mobility, downtown Hanover College and Town, and some other updates. So let's jump right into everything. So, to start on November 6, we had a two hour non public starting at 05:00 p.m. Before the normal Select Board meeting, and that was to discuss some of the results from our retention and recruitment study that relate to staffing levels and compensation proposals. So this is the six month long staffing study that we've been reporting on every month. The study itself is now done and we are evaluating the results, the market data from our consultants from UMass Boston and starting to work with stakeholders such as our department heads and the Select Board, and shortly, our collective bargaining units to start to iterate some of the new ideas that we have for how employment will work for the Town of Hanover going forward. It's a huge, wide, broad, encompassing study that really identifies a lot of pretty key deficiencies and just areas that we fell a little bit behind on to try and make Hanover a more competitive employer. [00:02:49] So we had a two hour non public to start to discuss many of those details. Of course, a lot of these details are things that will be discussed as part of the negotiation process with our collective bargaining units and with our department heads and staff as well. So over the next couple of months, as we start getting more into the budget, we'll start rolling out and having more updates publicly available, too, about some of the really exciting changes that are coming for working for the town. [00:03:16] We went over a whole bunch of different important budget related updates, and so what I will do is I will start with the ARPA updates. [00:03:26] Okay, so ARPA is the American Rescue Plan act that was signed into law in 2021, and this was direct funding for states, counties, and cities across the country. Hanover was fortunate enough to receive $1.2 million of ARPA money in total. There's a little bit more information in the memo that I wrote up about this with some of the background, but the short story is this is money that we've had since 2021, and there are a number of guidelines from the federal government about how it can be spent, what kind of projects are eligible, and when it must be spent. By now, we actually have legally up until the end of calendar year 2024. So to the end of next calendar year. However, the guidance that we've gotten from the New Hampshire Municipal association and others is to get the money committed, because any uncommitted money means that the federal government can actually claw, that they can take the money back. And that is something, obviously we really don't want to have happen. We have one of the largest uncommitted pots of money in the state, and so our goal is to get as much of that money committed by the end of this year to projects in town as possible. When we talked about this with the select board a few months back, they asked us to flesh out some ideas from department heads based on some of the greatest needs that we've seen in the community. [00:04:47] Last year, we committed $265,000 through our budget process out of the total 1.2 million. So we have $935,000 left to commit towards projects, and committing towards a project means signing a contract with a vendor. [00:05:06] So let me run through the projects that we discussed in November this year. Now, this isn't connected to the budget process, and it doesn't go to town meeting. It's not actually in our budget at all. It's totally outside of that process. [00:05:18] That is how it is set up from the federal level. So I'm going to run through the projects really quick here, but I'm going to go pretty quickly because we've got a lot to cover on this episode. So if you want to read a little bit more about each of these projects, you can go find the link in the show notes to the ARPA memo that I wrote up with it. So the first is road and sidewalk reconstruction for Main Street, Lebanon street, and Allen Street. This is to improve safety and mobility in the downtown, and $530,000 of that 935 was allocated towards that project. This would be doing things like making it safer for bicycles and other non motorized vehicles. This would be making it easier for pedestrians, creating more outdoor space for businesses, all that really great stuff in the downtown. [00:06:06] This is also replacing a lot of sidewalks that, as many of you may have noticed, are in desperate need of repair. We did put off that repair this year because we knew that we were looking at doing this bigger project, which is going to cost much more than $530,000. And that is something that was going to go through the capital budget process into town. Meeting in May next is $30,000 for downtown placemaking. So this is including to continue to invest in the downtown with things that allow us to have events, create public gathering spaces, the fun events we've been doing on Allen street, the new kind of park outside of Town Hall. And we've got a couple of other really cool projects in the works, one or two of which we hope to launch in the summer of next year to just make more public space in the downtown that people can gather at. We also have $25,000 set aside for public WiFi and internet in the downtown. So Spotty Cell phone service is one of the bigger complaints that I've certainly gotten. I think we've all experienced it, and it is really frustrating. It's also a big downer for the business community and for creating more revitalization and vibrancy in the downtown if you can't. And actually, with some surveying of some stakeholders at Dartmouth, for example, turns out that there's a lot of different faculty and staff who don't come to the downtown for meetings because they don't know if they're going to have cell phone service or Internet access. So this would be a public Wi Fi network. We're actually in talks with Dartmouth College about partnering on this project and sharing the costs of rolling out a publicly available WiFi, high speed WiFi network throughout the urban compact zone, or at least in the downtown, the more core downtown district. [00:07:50] The next is $40,000 for more records, digitization, and online services. We put a little bit of money towards this in the last tranche of ARPA money last year, but we need to do a lot more. This is going to take several years. Hanover is a little far behind as far as using a lot of paper records, still requiring people have to come into town hall to do things. And we'd like to give people the option. If you want to come in and speak to somebody, you can do that. But if you want to do it online, you can do that as well. So this is to help digitize records, cut down on paper storage, cut down on paper printing, and make it more easy and efficient for people to do business electronically with the town. The next is $10,000 for home Internet grants. This is basically for folks that are in areas of town, especially on the north end of town, that don't actually still have high speed internet. We are actually working with two different companies and sort of two different parallel tracks. One is with Comcast and the other is with lime fiber in getting high speed internet to the north end of town. So that is something that is in the works, those projects. But this would sort of fill the gap in a little bit and provide grants for families with some sort of economic or income cut off that would allow us to help people purchase a cell phone booster, a home antenna, a home WiFi hotspot, something like that, to get people some higher speed internet access before the WIRED Internet actually happens. The next is $30,000 for new air exchangers and HVAC systems at our dispatch center. So our dispatch center at the Hanover Police Department, if you didn't know this, we have a great episode on the podcast, some episodes back with interviewing a bunch of our 911 dispatchers. We dispatch for over 660 public entities in New Hampshire and Vermont. Over 20 towns do their dispatching services with Hanover. So we are a critical facility in the upper valley. And during COVID it was really challenging with the space keeping the dispatchers safe. So this new HVAC system will help clean the air and purify it, filter it, so that our dispatchers can remain safe while they are doing their work, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365, to keep everybody safe. So if something like COVID happens again, our dispatchers will be more safe and able to work 24 hours a day. On a related note, we allocated $25,000 for a fit test mask machine for our fire department. So this is something we actually really need to buy anyway for our fire department, for their SCBAs, self contained breathing apparatus, which is the equipment the firefighters use when they're fighting a fire to get oxygen. And you have to have those devices fit tested to ensure a really perfect seal. [00:10:41] But the machine that does that can also do that for things like N 95 masks. So our fire department has committed, not only is this valuable because we provide, obviously, fire and EMS services for Hanover, but multiple other towns in the upper valley as well. And we back up a bunch of other towns that also back us up. But this would also be a service the fire department offered to the community, so that if somebody wanted to come down and do a fit test for a mask that they purchased, they would be able to do that with this machine. The next two are similar. [00:11:11] One is $40,000, and the other is $17,000. And the $40,000 is for creating a second Zoom room at the Howe Library. So if you've never been in the Zoom room, the mayor room in the Howe Library, it's a wonderful space, allows for really great hybrid meetings and interactions, and we get so much use out of that that we'd like to create a second room like that at the Howe Library in the Murray Room. This would also allow different town boards to potentially meet over there in the future if we wanted to reallocate space in Town Hall. It creates all sorts of different options that allows the public better use of that space and for people to be able to remote into meetings more easily. The 17,000 piece of that is expanding the Murray Room, buying new furniture that's easier to reorganize so the room can be set up differently. [00:12:03] This is another kind of high priority need that we identified over at the how. The next is $100,000 for new and upgraded portable radios for the police department. So the radios that we currently have for all of our police officers have about a ten year shelf life. They are now in year twelve. The batteries are aging, which is a problem. And there are a handful of buildings that the radios actually don't work inside of because of the age of the building, the thickness of the walls, especially on campus at Dartmouth, but in a couple different locations around town, they have had some trouble. The new radios actually have Wi Fi built in, and so that they will have radio coverage inside of buildings, not just outside. So it really improves the safety of our police officers and allows them to have a more consistent and reliable communication system, which is really important. [00:13:03] So those were the projects that we talked about this year. These are really great. I'm excited about each of these projects. Oh, and sorry, there's actually one more. And that was $80,000. [00:13:13] We did a modification. This came up, actually, in November 27. So we had approved a bunch of ARPA projects first. And then on November 27, we came back to the select board and asked for $80,000 for the Housing Opportunities Program, Second phase grant. So if any of you have participated in any of the housing programs that Rob Houseman and the Planning and zoning office have run in the last year. A lot of that was funded through this grant. It was supposed to be a two phase grant from the state. We got awarded the first phase with the expectation that we would study the issues, have community meetings. If you've seen the missing middle report from Opticos that was produced with this grant money, I mean, it's a wonderful report. You should definitely go online and check it out. And it identifies this really big deficiency in our housing stock and how to help solve that. The second phase of the grant, which the state has decided to not fund, not for Hanover, but for anybody, is to actually convert the lessons learned from the first phase into a rewrite of our zoning ordinance, which is obviously really important to support the changes that were discussed in those conversations and the conversations through the master plan getting rewritten. And so to really take advantage of all that and not lose momentum with the really great direction that we're going in right now in Hanover, to open up housing to different types of housing that are going to help us really address some of the deficiencies in housing. That, of course, Cascades into deficiencies in a whole bunch of other areas like childcare services and employment in the region. This $80,000 will allow us to engage consultants again, rewrite our zoning ordinance with a whole bunch of amazing updates to it. And all those updates are going to be based on the conversations that we've had with the community over the last six months or so through this missing middle. Sorry, through the Housing Opportunities Program first phase grant. So we did come back and ask for that. We thought that we asked to reduce $80,000 from the Main Street Reconstruction project and move that towards this. And so this is going to do things like help prioritize duplexes and triplexes, not just single family homes in certain zoning districts, like in the downtown, and allow increased density in these areas where we want to guide it. This is going to help us identify ways to provide density bonuses for affordable housing, to streamline and simplify the approval process for making changes and renovations to your house. [00:15:57] Whole bunch of different things with ADUs, a whole lot more. So we're really excited about that and really glad for all of these projects that the ARPA funds were able to support. [00:16:09] This is a lot of really good, high value projects for the community, and they align really well with the goals in the master plan and the goals identified in the select board goal setting workshop, which I will jump into next. So we had this goal setting workshop. [00:16:28] The select board filled out a bunch of different kind of questionnaires that I sent to them ahead of time. And then we spent, I think it actually ended up being about 4 hours together at RWB. [00:16:41] And we went through, identified important themes in people's vision, statements about the future of the community. [00:16:51] We identified and basically prioritized a lot of the different projects we did. A couple of things that I want to talk about, so I'm going to just read out the sort of one line, but this is a three or four page document that outlines in a lot more detail what some of the goals are. So I'm just going to be kind of brief here because again, there's a lot to cover in this episode. So the first is we actually decided to call this aspirations, not goals. These are kind of bigger picture ideas that are supposed to guide how I guide department heads to do their budget requests and what we send onto the select board to be sent on to town meeting. [00:17:30] We worked on a long term vision, and in that vision, a couple things were consistent across all the select board member submissions. People wanted the community to be more affordable, more diverse, more accessible, more multigenerational, more sustainable, with a highly informed and engaged public and a strong town government organization and decision making ecosystem. So those are really great. And there were six different high level aspirations, each that have like five or ten sub bullet points which I'm not going to read out. So number one, and the most highest priority based on what people submitted, was continue to enhance investment in the organization and its staff, which I'm really glad to hear. We've talked a lot about that over the last year, that we need to do a little bit better here and Hanover has fallen a little bit behind. [00:18:20] So this idea of investing in our staff and this being such a high priority is really important. That's not only going to allow us to make Hanover a real employer of choice in New Hampshire, which will allow us to retain and attract the best people, but that's what's going to allow us to provide, continue to provide and expand the really high level of services that we already offer. Understanding that we are at this huge Cliff of retirements right now that is facing a lot of towns, and we've got to reorganize a few things if we want to still be able to do what we do. Number two was continue to work on ways to make Hanover more affordable, accessible and resilient for a wider range of people. Number three, continued to expand the ability for people to move in and around the community safely and economically without having to rely on a personal motor vehicle. Number four, reevaluate what and how community services and programs are offered with an eye towards ensuring that anyone from any economic background can access any community service or program. [00:19:19] Number five, create more partnerships to assist in multistakeholder long term planning, budgeting and community engagement. [00:19:27] And number six, continue to add new layers of community engagement, interactivity and transparency. So those are basically the high level aspirations that will guide the budget that we submit next year. Instead of just working off of last year's budget, we wanted to make sure that the select board, based on their understanding of what the community's goals are, they sourced some of that from the master plan, they sourced some of that from a couple of different places and then came in with those goals. We put them all together, all five members talked through them and that's what we came out with. So if you want to read that in more detail, you can click the link in the show notes to find the FY 24 25 select board aspirations I'm really glad that we started doing this goal setting and planning process this year. I think it makes a really big difference and we're going to continue to sort of expand this in future years. Okay, so moving on. We also had a conversation about the fiscal year 24 25, that's next budget year's tax rate. So this is a conversation that we usually have at the early in the budgeting process to give a little bit of guardrails to myself and department heads about what the select board thinks they are able to convince the community to support at town meeting and understanding that we are making up for some lost time in a handful of areas over multiple years, but also understanding that costs are going up not just for the town, but for everybody. And so trying to be sensitive to that, it's a really tough decision to make. I've been an elected official in the past and it's a very hard balancing act between investing the right amount and also ensuring that we're keeping Hanover affordable. One of the key points that we talked about in last year's budget process, and we've talked about a little bit so far this year, is that we cannot rely only on tax increases to pay for the things in the future that we need to pay for. There's only a couple of different ways to bring more money in in the future without overly burdening existing taxpayers. And the big one there is creating new taxpayers through smart redevelopment and building more housing. [00:21:34] So you're going to hear a lot more about that in future budget conversations. All things considered, where the select board landed was guiding me to guide department heads to try and get into a five to 7% increase, if you recall. I'll talk more about this in a minute. About the tax rate for this year. We passed a budget at town meeting with a tax rate of about six and a half percent, and it came in a little less than that again, which I'll say more about in a second. So really appreciate the select board's difficult job of balancing that and really hope to earn the town support on some of the really important areas where we're catching up still a little bit more this year and probably for another year before we start to level out a little bit more. [00:22:17] But all of these things are great medium and long term investments that really set up the community for success. [00:22:22] So we also finalized this year's tax rate. Now, if you follow local government stuff, you may remember that there's a lot of confusing calendar years. There's the calendar year January to December. There is the tax year April to March. [00:22:36] And then there's the fiscal year July to June. So we've got three different years at three different times. And so it's a little weird how that all works. But we finalized from the state sent us our finalized tax rate, and instead of a six and a half percent tax increase from last year, it turned out to be about a 5.8% tax rate increase. So a little bit better. And that was in large part due to additional revenue from the meals and rooms taxed from the state that came back to us, half of which we basically set aside as a cushion for our undesignated fund balance, and half of which goes back to the taxpayers with reducing that six and a half to 5.8%. So again, all of these things that I've just mentioned have long memos with a lot more detail if you want to jump into them. Okay, so moving on. [00:23:24] We also set and started to have several public hearings for 40 114 a. This was an authority that was granted to the select board. There had been in the past, we weren't really doing easement transactions the right way. We did not have the authority from town meeting to do that. So that was granted to the select board. That allows the select board to do property transactions outside of town meeting by following a somewhat onerous set of three public hearings in a row that have to be very carefully spaced out. [00:23:53] So if you want to go, look, these are mostly easements. They're not really big deal. Some of these have been on lists for like five years or more. And we're kind of taking care of all of them right now. If you want to take a look at that. All of those are listed and linked in the show notes. [00:24:07] The next public hearing about that is on December 11. We also did a whole bunch of other business. The one thing that I'll just call out there to try and keep moving a little bit is the advisory board of Assessors, which the select board agreed with their recommendations, except for one, with regard to granting tax exempt status to a bunch of charitable nonprofits. There was a little bit of confusion over the Friends of Hanover crew, and so we've worked with them. Basically, we've provided them the guidance that they need to be able to change their bylaws to bring those in line with our attorney's interpretation of state and federal law about when and why we're allowed to grant tax abatements or tax exemptions. [00:25:02] So the understanding there is that that change will be made and we'll be able to come back and approve that as well. But the rest of those recommendations were also approved. We also accepted a bunch of donations. [00:25:15] And so I will thank, let's see. I think I've got them here, Stephen Rich and Judith Sterndale to the fire department, and I think we had a couple others here to the Aina Library, Murray and Edward Walkter Charitable Foundation, John and Nancy Collier and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation's Headlight Fund. So thank you to all of those for their donations. [00:25:51] We also set the select board schedule for next year and did a bunch of other business. You can find the agendas for both of the meetings in a link to the show notes. All right, so moving on to my monthly town manager report. [00:26:06] So we talked through a couple of upcoming events, most of which have already happened. [00:26:13] I think the only, we had a really wonderful weekend downtown on December 1 and December 2, starting with the UVBAs celebrate the season, the tree lighting, the annual Chili Cook off. We did S'mores and the new snow much fun Fair on Allen street, which was on Saturday. [00:26:29] So lots of really great stuff happening there. On the HR and personnel side, we had four employees leave and two start. So we welcome Avery to HR and Melissa to our community nurse. [00:26:42] I mentioned a little bit about the retention recruitment study. We also had an employee recognition to Lisa Camara, who received the 2023 Dispatcher of the Year award from the North Country Public Safety Foundation. So Lisa has been with the Hanover Police Department in the Dispatch center for more than 30 years as a dispatcher. And if you want to meet Lisa and hear a little bit more about what the amazing work that our dispatchers do. You can head to number episode number 20 of Hanover happening. So we congratulate Lisa. Governor Sununu presented her with the award last month and so congratulations to her. I gave you already some budget and finance updates. Just a reminder, tax bills are due December 20 eigth. If you have any questions about that you can contact Town hall on housing redevelopment and planning the attorneys for the town in Twin Pines have still been in conversation from the feedback that we provided our attorney after the select board public hearing where we got some more feedback from the public about some of their priorities, about what they want to see and make sure that the select board is negotiating in the transaction of the Minkbrook Community Workforce Housing project property to Twin Pines. So the attorneys are talking and I'm going to have an update for the select board, hopefully either a non public or a public update on December 11 or December 18. The rental registration there is a postcard that is being mailed to all property owners in town to move people to start to register their properties. We're still hiring the rental housing inspector position, which is taking a little bit longer than we were hoping, though we do have several candidates right now, but we do want to get the registration process started, so keep an eye out for that in the mail on transportation and mobility we have sent letters to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation for two different things. One is to request a crosswalk in the Dunster Wyeth area and the other is to reduce the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph on Aetna Road. So we did hear back from them and that basically they had received them and we'll know more hopefully soon. [00:28:50] The downtown Hanover hopefully some folks stop downtown on November 25 for small Business Saturday. Just a reminder that if you're thinking about buying gifts for people this holiday season, check out things in the downtown first. We've got a lot of businesses and a lot of ones that have really cool gift ideas. I know I've bought a few gifts for people downtown and I'll take a little walk during lunch from Town hall and walk over and grab something. So it's really nice to think about that and supporting the local businesses. It keeps more money in well paying jobs locally and reduces the environmental footprint of some of the supply chains purchasing from online retailers. [00:29:25] Also, we've got a whole bunch of businesses alongside Dartmouth College with some kind of fun new ways to light up the downtown. So you're going to see a whole bunch of Starry Night stars, which is an idea that we got from another town in New England and just another way to sort of make the downtown feel a little more festive. The Downtown Working group is also continuing conversations with property owners and business owners about finding ways to sustain this incredibly high level of engagement that we've had in the last year since starting these meetings in the downtown. We're going to have more on that for the select board to consider, probably in February next year. [00:30:00] The college in town. We've had a lot of really great conversations recently. The college is doing some really interesting kind of planning work, thinking about how to be a really positive, engaging member of the Upper Valley and Hanover community. If you want to hear a little bit more about that, I did post the episode with my conversation with Sian Biloch. That's a couple episodes back. The new president of Dartmouth College, and also with Emma Wolf, the new vice president for government and community relations. That episode is about a month or so back, and the one with Sion was just a couple weeks ago. So those are both great conversations to hear from two really important leaders. And I think that you'll really appreciate if you haven't heard Sian speak or haven't had the chance to meet her, you'll really appreciate her perspective and attitude about Dartmouth's role in the community and what some of the ideas are that she's bringing to the campus and to the community. [00:30:51] A couple other updates is Hanover Police Department secures a Kalia accreditation so this is a big deal. This has been a two year process of getting accredited. Kalia accredits police departments across the country, perhaps internationally? Not sure actually. Hanover is one of only 22 other police departments in the state of New Hampshire who have achieved the Kalia accreditation. Basically what that does is it's a two year process that includes reviewing policies, practices, personnel, all the Big P's apparently, and making sure that we are meeting the highest standards for integrity, transparency and best practices in law enforcement. So that included more than 30 assessments and meetings on site, and that included interviews with other governments in other towns, Dartmouth College, the school district, residents, business owners. All of that is meant to evaluate not just whether Hanover police has the right policies, but whether they're actually following the policies. The answer to that was yes. And we're really proud and appreciate Chief Charlie Dennis'work and all of the Hanover Police Department staff for their work, not just towards the accreditation, but on a daily basis on behalf of our community. So it's really cool because it helps boost and should boost public confidence in our department. It also helps boost recruitment because we want to hire the kinds of police officers that want to work in a Kalia accredited department because that means that you're going to work in a place with high standards and professionalism. Another benefit is the Kalia accreditation actually reduces our insurance, our liability insurance premiums. So that's kind of cool. Next is the New Hampshire Municipal association annual conference was a couple weeks ago, and this is something that I think is really important. These kinds of things are really important for folks to attend. We brought some more new staff down this year, so this year we had a number of attendees. It was just two of us last year, I believe this year, Norm Bernaysh, our assessing director Jerry Roberts, our field appraiser in the assessing department Tracy Walsh, our senior clerk Ellen Bullion, our finance and admin services director Carrie Osgood, my executive assistant and Katie Williams, who's our human resources director, although she wasn't able to make it down because she was sick that day, but she was planning on going too, and myself. So it was a pretty good turnout of people who went down, went to different workshops, got updates on what's happening legislatively, got to hear and meet with other towns about things they're working on, lots of really good stuff. I think these things are really, really important to do and they're really important as ways to help encourage the professional development of our staff as well. I know I find it impossibly invaluable. [00:33:30] I can't overstate how valuable it is to network and the relationships that I've formed with other town and city managers in New Hampshire and New England. I also was invited to speak this year at NHMA. So I presented alongside Cheryl Lindner, who's the new finance director in Beau, New Hampshire, and Sean Maholland, my counterpart over in the City of Lebanon. And we were talking about, you guessed it, retention, recruitment and succession planning. So this not only was the keynote subject at NHMA, it was the keynote subject at the Municipal Management Conference I was just at last week, and it was the keynote and the main topic at the ICMA conference in Austin, Texas a couple months ago. This is a major, major issue for Local governments right now. Knowledge, transition, succession planning, retention and recruitment is on the front of everybody's minds. The Last update is a project that I'm working on with local officials and stakeholders here in Hanover and a bunch of nonprofits, towns and state agencies and other stakeholders around the state to try and increase engagement and participation at town meeting, as many people know, and we've talked about on the podcast and in different meetings around town, we've seen declining participation not just in Hanover, but in a lot of different communities around the state. And that is really worrisome. This is an issue that is really, really important to me. And so I've been working with a couple different stakeholders, starting with, and I will give Major credit to the state Department of Revenue Administration and the Commissioner, Lindsay Stepp, who has been a big supporter of this idea. And basically, the DRA regulates a bunch of things that happen at town meeting at the local level. The other agencies that are sort of involved here are the secretary of State's office and the Attorney General's office. And this is also in collaboration with the New Hampshire Municipal association and the New Hampshire Municipal Management association and a whole bunch of town managers and local election officials, all trying to create a handbook with some best practices and some easier and more accessible guidance about what we can do to increase turnout, participation, interest and engagement at town meeting. How do we make these as effective as possible? So that is something that is really cool and really important. We're going to try some new stuff out in Hanover next year, and we're going to try and flesh out some best practices that can be done in other parts of the state as well so that we can all ensure that we have really healthy, effective local democracies. Obviously really important. Okay, so that was a big update. A lot of stuff happened in November. I definitely ran through some things quickly. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. And if you want to read any of, about, more about any of the things that I mentioned here. Almost every major issue I mentioned in this episode has a link with a memo associated. So if you want to dive into those details, head to the show notes or head to our [email protected], and thank you again, as always, for listening and engaging with what is happening in your community.

Other Episodes