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Bristol Looks At Regionalization

By Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — Town officials have invited representatives of the Newfound Area School District and its member towns to a discussion on regionalization, to take place on Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Old Town Hall.

Town Administrator Nik Coates said the idea for the meeting originated with Selectman Rick Alpers, who had attended a conference in which Laconia City Manager Scott Myers and Belmont Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudoin discussed their experience with a shared fire chief. The discussion prompted Alpers to suggest looking into what would work in the Newfound Area.

Coates said the open discussion will look for ways that communities can cooperate to save taxpayer money, from small things to bigger efforts. He gave examples ranging from looking into expanding the community newsletter to include other towns’ announcements to investigating whether the school district could share information technology services and security.

The possibility of sharing highway equipment between towns is another area of potential regionalized cooperation, as is a shared health officer and a regional television station.

To get the conversation going, Alfred “Butch” Burbank, town administrator for Lincoln, will talk about what his town is doing for regional services.

At another upcoming meeting, on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. at the Minot-Sleeper Library, the Bristol building committee will hold a public informational session on options to address the space needs of the Bristol town offices and police department.

The committee has been looking at space needs for all departments, but especially for those housed in the Bristol Municipal Building, and exploring options that include the recently purchased Smith property adjacent to the town offices and other properties that may be suitable for use by the town.

Meanwhile, ads have been placed with the NH Municipal Association, Primex, the NH Fire Academy, and the Salmon Press newspapers, seeking candidates for fire chief. Bristol’s former chief, Steven Yannuzzi, had resigned, effective July 25.

Coates said the town had received four applications in the first week since the ad appeared on the NHMA website. He hopes to have five to seven candidates for the first round of interviews, which will include an oral board and a practical session in which the candidates will respond to various scenarios.

While the town will be formalizing the selection process this week, Coates said finalists will interview with the Bristol Board of Selectmen and make the case for supporting a fictional request, such as arguing why updated codes are necessary, or why the town needs a new piece of equipment.

In developing the qualifications for a new chief, fire department staff had opportunities to meet with town officials and complete a survey on what they see as desirable traits and abilities.

“Staff gave good feedback,” Coates said, adding that anyone from the community is welcome to stop by his office with their own contributions to the discussion.

At their Sept. 1 meeting, the selectmen also discussed the intern program in the fire department, which for several years has offered stipends to two students with an interest in fire service. In the past, the town has given them a stipend and provided Workers’ Compensation insurance, but in reviewing the contract, the town learned only employees qualify for Workers’ Comp.

The options were to make the students employees of the town, or continue with internships without offering the insurance for injuries.

Selectmen voted to continue the internships, which offer stipends of $1,750 per semester, but to offer to cover injuries on a case-by-case basis under the town’s liability insurance. The new contract for interns eliminated a dorm fee that the town had charged the students.

Coates explained that interns are not front-line firefighters, but they go to fire scenes to support those who are, so there is a slight chance of injury. The internships qualify for community college credit.

13 September 2016

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