[00:00:00] Hey everyone, this is your town manager, Alex Torpey here with your October update. The first update is that fall has come and gone. I think New England would literally be perfect if fall just lasted for a tiny bit longer. As I'm recording this, I think there is actually snow outside.
[00:00:17] But anyway, October was a busy month in town and in this October recap, we're going to cover a few different topics. We're going to cover topics from the October 9 and 16th Select Board meetings, the October 18 Select Board goal setting workshop, and my monthly report. So this is going to include updates on a proclamation we issued for a former employee, some updates on next year's budget, including updates on the new Capital Improvement Program Committee, ARPA funds, and a couple other things. A bigger update on the Minkbrook Community Workforce housing project, several parking updates, changes to our Sustainability Director job position, a handful of other business items including some donations and my report, which includes updates on some human resources and staffing and are now finishing up retention and recruitment study. Two employee recognitions, one at Hanover Police and one at Hanover Fire, the town's new instagram page. Some upcoming events on Allen Street and downtown Hanover. So let's jump right in. We issued a proclamation for an employee in our Public Works Department who passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago. Wayne Pikarsky started working in Hanover in 2006 in the Facilities Division, and he takes care of a lot of our town buildings and not only did a great job doing that, but Wayne just had a really great personality that uplifted a lot of the other staff. And so we were all incredibly sad to hear about his passing and wanted to make sure to memorialize his 17 years of service and achievements with the Public Works Department.
[00:02:16] And so we all thank Wayne for that. So we just had a brief conversation. We have a much bigger budget check in on November 6 in the Select Board meeting. So we're going to get into a little bit more detail there. But we kind of updated everybody on the timeline that we had talked about previously, the Capital Improvement Program Committee and some of the forecasting that we'll be doing on November 6, making sure that we're preparing the right pieces of data that the Select Board wanted to review on November 6. We'll be talking about ARPA funds, we'll be talking about the Capital Improvement Program Committee, and we'll be talking about setting some tax rate target guidance for the upcoming budget year. So that is sort of a big line in the sand on November 6 because that's also a discussion of the Select Board goals, which I'll come back to. And then basically the operating and capital budget request process with our department heads begins next week and so you'll certainly be hearing more about that over the next couple of months. And of course, as per usual, we'll be tracking towards presenting the budget in February, finalizing it in March for the May town meeting.
[00:03:31] We did have our first Select Board goal setting workshop on October 18. And so this is something that I think is really important to do in any organization and something that we had talked about among the board and agreed to do this year that instead of basically inheriting the budget from last year that the Select Board would meet, set priorities, discuss amongst themselves and provide myself, basically a set of priorities for the next fiscal year. And I can use that to then guide department requests on the operating side and on the capital side. Otherwise we're sort of guessing. And so we're trying to formalize a lot of these processes and make sure that plans are connected and nested properly. And so the Select Board, for example, reviewed a lot of the documentation that's been produced about the new Master Plan. And some of the contributions that they made in that workshop on the 18th were based off of what they pulled out from what was included in the Master Plan. And of course, that document, which is not fully done yet, included thousands of touch points with community members over the last couple of years. So we're kind of tying a lot of pieces together in the budget process this year that we hadn't done before.
[00:04:46] The workshop took a few hours. We met at the RWB. It's always nice to kind of get out of the room that you're normally in to think a little bit more long term. Select board members, filled out some forms ahead of time that I sent them. And then we spent a couple hours going through fleshing out the kind of long term vision for the community. What important components were included in that vision and then what sort of dependencies we could imagine next year needing to do to start to get us moving towards that ten year vision. And one of the really nice things I'll say about this, just at this point, is that there's a lot of alignment on our Board, between our Boards, and between our Boards and our staff. There's not huge, obviously there's certainly some disagreements and different ideas about how to approach things, but there's a lot of alignment about what the high priority items are. So we're going to be reviewing and the Select Board will be voting on those priorities on November 6 as well. And again, those goals for fiscal year 24 25 will help inform how we put together our budget requests that will go back to the Select Board. So, new process this year, but really happy to be kind of moving in this direction.
[00:05:54] Many of you probably aware that on October 16 Select Board meeting, we had a large discussion about the Mink Brook Community Workforce housing Project. There were a couple of different pieces to that, and I won't do great justice to it here. And so there are a bunch of links that I include in the Show Notes, so you can review the video of the meeting or the presentations that were given during the meeting. And so there were basically three different components to what we talked about on the 16th regarding Minkbrook Community Workforce housing project. One was a bit of a project history and overview that was given by Rob Houseman, our planning, zoning and Codes Director.
[00:06:33] And the other was an overview from Rob, who also staffs the Conservation Commission. The Conservation Commission oversees the open space component to that land. And so they developed through a very public process two years ago, a very comprehensive forest management plan, including all the attachments and appendices. I think it's over 400 pages. So what I wanted to do and what Rob and I wanted to do is distill down some of that history and then some of the Conservation Commission's scope of the Forest management plan to distill that down and make sure the Select Board and the public could see that summary. So all those documents and the video are linked in the Show Notes, if you want to go into a little bit more detail there. But it's really important for the Select Board, who has the jurisdiction over the housing component of the project, to understand how the decisions that they might be making impact the conservation component of the rest of the land. The third piece of the meeting was a listening session, which was to solicit feedback from the community about the terms the Select Board is negotiating with Twin Pines. So, of course, now we've received basically two approvals from town meeting to move this project forward. The approval this year was a requirement that the Select Board move forward with this project, negotiate terms with Twin Pines or attempt to negotiate terms with Twin Pines.
[00:08:07] And what we wanted to do before finalizing any of that was give the community an opportunity to share what some of their priorities are so that those could be included in the terms that are being negotiated, which could range from architectural style to impact on the land, things like that. And so it's kind of a wide range of stuff that would be part of that that is part of that negotiation. Of course, like any negotiation between two entities that is happening in non public. Otherwise there wouldn't really be a negotiation and our position would be weakened. So that's a standard practice. But again, we wanted to add that additional public layer to make sure to solicit feedback from people so that the Select Board had that information going into our conversations with our attorney and the subsequent negotiations with Twin Pines. So we got some good feedback that night, heard from a lot of community members, really interesting comments from people that, again, I don't think I can do justice even attempting to summarize all of the points that people made. There were definitely some folks that expressed some concerns about the project and many folks who expressed a lot of support for the project as well. And if you want to get a sense of what people were talking about, I would just encourage you to go watch the video that is also linked in the show notes. And so if you want to see what people in town were saying and what their concerns were or what their ideas were, you could do that by going to that. And I'll put the timestamp in there so you can zip right over to the public comments. But it was a good conversation. And between the survey that we put online to solicit feedback, which about twelve or 15 community members filled out, and then the people that were at the meeting, we got some really good feedback from the community to incorporate into those additional conversations.
[00:09:57] We also had some. And so the next steps there is that we will go back with an update. Basically, attorneys between Town and Twin Pines are talking right now and we'll be back in public with an update about that project in the next one or two select board meetings. So next we're going to shoot over to some parking updates. We had a couple of different changes that we wanted to make with parking, all meant to try and start to play around with, reorganizing some of the parking in the downtown, trying to create spaces, basically without creating spaces, if that makes sense. And what that means, for example, is moving longer term Parkers out to the periphery on the edges of town, not to be parking in meter spaces or directly in the downtown.
[00:10:45] And so there were three different things that we talked about that we agreed to move forward with. We've talked about this on a few different meetings. And so one is making the parking garage free on Saturdays, so it's currently free on Sundays. There's a small revenue loss to making it free on Saturdays, but not a lot. And in fact, if we can actually eliminate hours in the budget or a position that has to be there to staff that, we actually might save some money in the long run. And of course, the goal with having free parking in the garage is making it more compelling for people to park in the garage, especially if they're staying longer term, which frees up the meter spaces. And the more short term parking that you want, higher turnover because it's closer to the businesses. We also wanted to convert lot seven from 2 hours to 10 hours and also convert the bank of America Fleet Deck back to 10 hours from the current 3 hours. So both of those are similar in that, again, trying to create some movement of people from the high turnover spaces to move slightly further out a little bit over the last month that that's been in place. We have noticed, and our parking division has noticed that they basically know everybody's car kind of by hand at this point because they see them every day. And that a solid ten to 15 cars have now moved from the two or three hour spots closer to Main Street to the ten hour lots, which is exactly what we want people to do. So we'll keep an eye on that over the next couple of months and we basically put a couple of month kind of timeline on that to look at whether that worked or not. And so we will review that at the end of the year or the beginning of next year. We're also updating our Sustainability Director job position and so we've made some changes there to better align with what our needs are going forward.
[00:12:40] A lot of this was focused on standing up the Community Power Coalition and a lot of that, even on a statewide level, a lot of that was on the shoulders of Hanover. But Cpcnh, the state organization, has a CEO now who's great and we can not have to have the same burden on Hanover and Hanover taxpayer funded staff resources to do so much. And there's other sustainability priorities that we want to bring in as well. So that position is going from part time to full time and going from fully remote to in person with some flexibility allowed and it's about the same salary range as it is currently. So we're excited about that. We had a conversation about the title of the position director or coordinator and the Select Board's feedback was that they would prefer to see the title being coordinator. We're doing a huge amount of readjusting of titles and positions right now or over the next couple of months as we finish up our retention and recruitment study. And so we're going to get a chance to sort of reorganize how a lot of different positions are titled in the town because it's not super consistent currently between different departments. So be excited to move forward with all of that.
[00:14:02] We had a couple other business items that I'll pull up here. We had some donations.
[00:14:07] So we want to thank the New Hampshire Humanities Council and Jerry and Pat Balcom who donated to the Aetna Library.
[00:14:18] And also we want to thank Whitcomb property Services, still north books and Supreme Mechanical for donating to Hanover parks and rec. And I believe there is one more from the October 16 meeting and that was a donation from Lynn Howard to the Aetna Library. So thank you everybody for all of that.
[00:14:43] We also had a couple of different state report filings that needed to be done. We reviewed both of these on the October 16 meeting. These are reports that we have to file that go to the state. One is called the Ms 535 and the other is called the Ms 424.
[00:15:03] The 535 requires the Select Board's Review and Signature before heading off to the state.
[00:15:11] The 424 does not. And actually there was an issue that was created last year, not with the staff that are here currently, where the 424, which is basically updating revenue projections for this current budget year. And part of the challenge in New Hampshire is that there's three different years that overlap in kind of challenging ways. There's the tax year, which starts in April, there's the fiscal year that starts in July, and of course there's the calendar year that starts in January. And so it's a little confusing how those three different years all interplay. But the short story is that we have to do this at this time of the year, the revenue updates, so that the state can set our tax rate going forward in the past. And for some reason that form not only doesn't require select board signature, it doesn't require anybody's review or signature. So last year it was submitted by one person without review by anybody else and there were some actual changes that had been made to that and so none of us were aware of that. One of the things that Ellen, our new finance director, and myself are really committed to doing is we have a lot of financial controls that we need to put in place in the town government. And a lot of that is going to be bringing more documents in front of the select board and the public to make sure that everybody is on the same page about what we're doing and going forward and making sure there's other eyes on things. And so you'll probably hear a little bit more about that as we go through the budget process this year. As we propose new reporting structures, this is one of them. So there's no state requirement to take this to the select board, but we would like to do so anyway going forward to make sure that the town manager sees it and the select board sees it before it is sent off to the state. So we went through all of that if you want to read a little bit more about either of those reports. Not the most exciting thing in the world, but certainly important. And so you can check that out in our Friday mailing, which has memos from Ellen, our finance director about those. We also had listed on the agenda approval of amended bridge bond loan documents. And so in 2021, Town Meeting approved $950,000 for the purpose of repairs and renovations to a bunch of bridges throughout the town.
[00:17:37] And so that was executed for the full amount, but for a couple of different reasons. The town did not draw the full amount by the time the note expired one year later at the end of 2022. And so now basically what we need to do is approve that remainder amount to draw that out. Of course, the interest rates were considerably lower then and we have gotten a deal from our bank that the interest rates will still be relatively low. I believe it's about three and a half percent. And so we need to do that now, otherwise if not, that interest amount will go up considerably and will actually cost us quite a bit more money throughout the life of the loan. So this was a bit of an administrative kind of miscommunication about that not getting closed out properly. But it's one of a number of areas that we've been talking about for months that we're trying to tighten up on the finance side.
[00:18:39] Okay, so we are going to move on a little bit too. So we're going to move on to my report.
[00:18:46] And in my report I gave updates in a couple different areas. One is that the town of Hanover is now on Instagram.
[00:18:54] So if you are on Instagram, check out it's all one word, Hanover, New Hampshire.
[00:19:01] We've got lots of different Instagrams and Facebooks and different kind of social properties in different departments, but this is a new one for the town.
[00:19:09] Just going to be a mix of showing off how beautiful our community is.
[00:19:14] Different events that are happening.
[00:19:17] Probably we'll post the podcast episodes there and of course updates and sort of alerts about meetings or other important things that people need to know about in town. Decision making wise about things that we're working on.
[00:19:29] So that's on there just a reminder that if you have a question or anything we can't do back and forth on messages on Instagram so you can just send those to myself or another staff person by email. That's because of the state right to know laws. RSA 91 a next is some upcoming events. This is now in the past slightly, but we had a great Halloween event, a trick or treat Friday night on Allen Street. That was that kind of freakishly warm day. So it was perfect, especially considering how cold it was yesterday.
[00:20:05] And if you head over to our Instagram or our LinkedIn page, you can find a couple pictures that I took from my drone of the event. I mean, just great turnout, people are having a ton of fun. It's just such great use of Allen Street. So that was a really nice event and thanks to Hanover Parks and Rec for putting that together.
[00:20:24] Okay, moving on to Human Resources and staffing updates. So in the last two months we have had five employees start employment and two employees leave. And so we are happy to welcome Kevin Brayton at DPW, kelly Sunut and Avery Brooks at Howe, tracy Walsh in clerk and admin services and Avery Karate in human resources. So welcome to all of those new staff.
[00:20:53] Our retention and recruitment study, you've probably heard me talk about this a bunch before.
[00:20:58] We are getting actually towards the end of that project now. So we've been meeting with our staff multiple times throughout the month for six months.
[00:21:08] And our last month's topic was how to sustain employee engagement in being involved in the workplace going forward. And so we have a two hour non public session Monday night on November 6 to talk about some of the changes that we've begun to talk about with department heads. And once we get past that and how that sets up some of our collective bargaining strategy going forward, we'll then start bringing those into the public as well. So it's huge changes that we are proposing that are really responsive to a lot of the feedback that we got from staff, and also responsive and aligned with a lot of the changes that organizations are making to try and make multi generational workplaces work better for everybody based on what their goals are. So we've got a lot of work to do there, but I think we're going in the right direction. So we had two great employee recognitions as well in our meeting. One was Hanover police. Corporal Mike Altoricio.
[00:22:10] And so this was a community policing award, and this was largely because of the Book Patrol program.
[00:22:24] And so this is a program that, that officer started in June of 2022 at the Race school. And it's a way to help build relationships between the police and young people. And they take times to basically read books together and talk about them. And a lot of the books are including topics around things that are important pillars of the Hanover Police mission statement, honesty, fairness, respect, things like that. And so that's really great, and the students really enjoy that and we really love seeing our staff and our police officers get out into the community and build those relationships. The other was a unit citation to the Hanover Fire Department.
[00:23:07] And this is from the New Hampshire Fire and Emergency Medical Services merit award ceremony. And so our crew, along with Eleven and Hartford crew, received this unit citation and I'm going to read out the call just because it's kind of interesting to hear. So the Hanover Fire Department, along with Lebanon and Hartford Fire Departments, were dispatched the evening of January 23 for a motor vehicle accident, a car in the Connecticut River in Plainfield. It was a cold, windy, snowy night, and the car had gone off the road down a 30 foot embankment and into the river. The vehicle floated for about 100ft down the river before getting stuck on some rocks in the Swiftwater. The driver was able to get out of the car and basically was sitting on the roof of the car in the middle of the river with the car stuck on this rock. Hanover firefighters donned Swiftwater rescue suits and deployed our small inflatable boat up the river, paddled down to the car, and the current was really strong. And so Lebanon and Hartford Fire Department set up a rope system that basically lowered the Hanover crew into the water and onto the car. They pulled the victim out, put him in a life jacket, put him in the boat, and they pulled him back up to safety. And so that is pretty great. And we congratulate the Hanover fire Department for that, especially to former fire Chief Marty McMillan, deputy Chief and acting Chief Mike Gilbert, captain, linehan and firefighters Adams and Cahan. So just really appreciate all the work that they do, especially in those sorts of conditions.
[00:24:46] A couple other downtown Hanover updates.
[00:24:51] We are continuing our monthly meetings, working on some new projects, and figuring out a way really how to sustain our group. It's been sort of informal and scrappy, but we've done a lot of really great stuff in the downtown over the last year since we began meeting, but we want to formalize that a little bit and so we're talking about ways to do that. We also worked with the Upper Valley Business Alliance, one of our key partners, to secure a $5,000 grant that helps pay for the tourism website that we have recently set [email protected]
and to help us do other marketing programs. So we thank the Uvba for participating in that with us.
[00:25:30] So those are our big updates from the month of October. We've got a lot of stuff that will be happening over the next couple months as we get into budget season and as we start to talk about some of the changes from our retention and recruitment study. So, as always, you can find all this information [email protected]
. I'll include a bunch of links to some different documents, especially about the Minkbrook Community Workforce housing project and as always, appreciate you engaging and learning about what's happening in town.