Per order of the NH Department of Transportation, the Phillips Road Bridge is now CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Please seek alternate routes.
During a particularly pleasant kayak excursion this morning on Lily Pond*, I actually saw and conversed with the Department of Transportation fellows inspecting the bridge. One intrepid man donned rubber waders practically up to his neck. Holding a hammer, he walked down the steep embankment, through the thick growth at the shore, into the woody shrubs at the water’s edge, and finally into the Exeter River. There, he walked carefully over slippery rocks and climbed over the beaver dam that nearly didn’t hold him to the underside of the bridge. Then he began banging on the metal parts.
It seemed a primitive procedure, but an effective one. He drew a tape measure out of his chest pocket and pressed it from the outside edge of the metal to the spot where he left his hammer. Then again from his chest pocket, he fished out a digital camera and took photos of his hammer and other areas of interest.
Even to a casual observer from the comfort of a kayak, the bridge looks in need of repair. The metal forming the arch is extensively rusted where it meets a strong concrete foundation. The rocks and earth the metal supports seem to be seeping out at the sides. The road surface, however, is in very good shape especially in contrast with Fremont Road in that area.
A few Deliberative sessions ago (was it 2013?) a bridge engineer attended our meeting to explain the structural issues with that bridge. It’s not all that old (though old is relative to planned life expectancy) but many bridges of that design were constructed in New Hampshire around the same time, I recall him saying, and they are all in various stages of decline (unless remediated).
Who knew bridge design has fads – not unlike education?
*An earlier version of this post said Phillips Pond when I was obviously on Lily Pond. The two ponds do connect but that takes more effort than I have.
As of 3 p.m. today, Judge Schulman had not released a decision in Sandown and Danville v. TRSD.
The court provides decisions, when they become available, for a modest photocopying fee. Unfortunately, decisions are not published online, which means one has to physically go to the courthouse to obtain a copy.
A trial transcript is expensive and is of most use for lawyers when appealing. You can order a CD for considerably less. Both can be obtained here. I am content to wait for the judge to discuss the arguments in his decision and will publish the decision on this blog when I obtain it.
Docket number in Rockingham Superior Court: 15-CV-706
The injunctive relief hearing is scheduled for Friday, July 24th at 9:00 am at the Rockingham Superior Courthouse.
All cases before judges each morning are scheduled for 9 a,m. so the case may or may not be heard promptly. I have been notified by the school board chairman that, “The hearing will consist of argument of counsel only, no testimony is expected.”
The courthouse is a large, modern complex on Route 125 in Brentwood. Parking is easy and free.
Observers to the court are welcome. By informal convention, people usually sit on the side of the courtroom behind the party they support. If you support the defendant, for instance, you would sit on the side behind the defendant’s table (which is on different sides in different courtrooms).
Let’s set the record straight on the budget committee’s role in the Sandown North playground funding and the sprinklers.
The Tri-Town Times of July 9, reporting on the cancellation of the $90,000 Sandown North playground project, concluded misleadingly with the following unattributed words:
Up until the budget committee’s final meeting prior to the public hearing, the above funds were included in the proposed operating budget, but they were removed by the budget committee in a 5-4 vote, with both Sandown representative, Arthur Green and Cathy Gorman, voting against.
This is not the first time my voting at that meeting has been brought to public attention. At the June 4 School Board meeting, Supt. Metzler reminisced over the votes Cathy Gorman and I cast against the $265,000 sprinkler system proposed for Sandown North.
Events have shown that the votes against these items cast by me and Ms. Gorman were absolutely correct.
Contrary to the report in the Tri-Town, the expanded playground was a last-minute addition, and was never before the budget committee prior to the final Dec 23, 2014 meeting. The same is true of the sprinkler system for Sandown North.
Some choice video clips concerning these two projects will surprise you.
Here’s the budget committee being assured on Dec. 11, 2014 that the $744,000 savings from Sandown Central take account of all offsetting costs of the consolidation. Less than 24 hours later the sprinklers and playground project are added to the budget for the first time.
Here is Dr. Metzler assuring the budget committee on Dec. 23, 2014 that $265,000 is a “conservative number” and will “confidently” pay for the sprinklers with water. (The number is mentioned earlier in the meeting but is clearly stated later and captured in the clips below.) We find out in June that the number is really $521,000.
Now you can hear my statement at the Dec. 23 meeting as to why I was voting against the sprinkler system. Here Dr. Metzler tells the committee that a sprinkler could still be installed out of surplus regardless of the budget committee’s vote:
Listen to Supt. Metzler’s explanation at the June 4 School Board meeting why the sprinkler system cost estimate had gone from $265,000 to $521,000 (because the original estimate didn’t include “water”).
Here Supt. Metzler muses that if Green and Gorman hadn’t stripped $250,000 from the budget for Sandown North sprinklers, he could have combined that money with the money voted at Deliberative for sprinklers at Danville to almost completely fund sprinklers at Sandown North.
The following letter from me and Cathy Gorman corrects the record and was run in the July 16 Tri-Town:
Contrary to the claim in “North School Not Likely To Get Expanded Playground This Year” (July 9 Tri-Town), the expanded playground was a last-minute addition to the proposed budget, and was never before the budget committee prior to the final Dec 23, 2014 meeting.
Sandown and district residents should also be aware that:
The playground expansion was NOT part of the facilities improvement budget proposed in November. The same is true of the sprinkler system for Sandown North.
It was NOT in the facilities improvement 3 year or 5 year plan. The same is true of the sprinkler system for Sandown North.
At the Dec. 11 budget committee meeting, when defunding Sandown Central was first put before the committee, the administration repeatedly assured the committee that the stated $744,000 saving included all offsetting costs. But, less than 24 hours after that meeting, the administration posted a new budget draft which suddenly included an additional $90,000 for playground expansion and $260,000 for a sprinkler system.
When these items were deliberated at the next (and final) budget committee meeting Dec. 23, the administration assured the committee that these improvements were NOT required for the consolidation. No documentation or details were provided beyond the simple dollar amount on the draft budget.
The Tri-Town appears to have been misinformed when it reported that “Up until the budget committee’s final meeting … the above funds were included in the proposed operating budget”.
We have learned over recent months that:
$260,000 for a sprinkler system was a gross underestimate. A more accurate figure is over $500,000.
The playground project as proposed requires only $65,000.
We continue to stand behind the votes we cast on these ill-considered, last-minute budget increases. We have consistently recommended that the consolidation requires a thorough and public process, which has not yet taken place.
Arthur Green Past Member, Timberlane Budget Committee
Cathy Gorman Member, Timberlane Budget Committee
Prophesy comes in strange places. The December 18, 2014 school board meeting was prophetic. I would encourage everyone now upset with the Sandown schools consolidation to watch this meeting, specifically starting at one hour and thirty minutes. You will see everything that has come back to haunt us mentioned in this meeting and dismissed with reassurances, some of them shockingly blithe in the wisdom of hindsight.
Given that I was today once again denied entry into a Sandown school, I was surprised to find this very issue raised heatedly by me way back in in December. Here is a short clip of just that exchange.
Today I simply asked to be included on a tour of the building organized by the Sandown minority committee.
For those who are curious about the applicable school board policy, please scroll down to the blog posting, “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?” Mrs. Steenson did, in fact, make up her own rules just for me. Later on in the December meeting Dr. Metzler says school board members should wait to be invited to a school. Let me just say, been there, done that, still didn’t gain me access.
Some meetings later when the full-time kindergarten program was being discussed, Mrs. Steenson and Mrs. Delfino boasted about what a lovely time they both had visiting the kindergarten classes and taking part in the lessons. My gosh, how could they disrupt education in such an irresponsible fashion? I didn’t even request to go in a classroom.
Please don’t think this is a personality issue between me and Mrs. Steenson and the administration. What you are seeing over and over is an outright abuse of power and I can assure you it is not reserved for me.
Here are the latest public filings in the Sandown and Danville suit against the Timberlane School District.
These documents are date-stamped July 17, 2015 by the court and are the district’s more detailed response.
Thank you to the Sandown Board of Selectmen for making these documents available to the public by convenient email and to a kind Danville citizen for forwarding them to me before I asked my own town hall to do so.
Today, July 20, there is a scheduled tour of Sandown North being given by the principal, Mrs. Georgian, for the members of Sandown’s minority committee. As I have an active interest in this issue as well as being a contributor to a working group of the committee (though not an official committee member), I asked to be included in the tour.
The school principal, Mrs. Georgian, denied my request because she needs Dr. Metzler’s permission. Dr. Metzler is out of the office until July 27.
I actually feel quite bad for the principals in our district who fear returning a call from me and who cannot give me permission to enter their school on their own authority. I’ve been previously prohibited from visiting any school during operational hours despite the fact that other school board members visit schools without permission from the superintendent. Clearly I am in Dr. Metzler’s own words, “a select individual.”
A representative of Sandown on the school board, and an active volunteer to the minority committee, has been denied a tour of a Sandown school for no other reason than political vengeance. This is quite palpably hindering Sandown’s representation and can only fuel indignation among Sandown voters against the school district.
School Board Policy BHC (in relevant part)
Visits to School
Individual Board members interested in visiting schools or classrooms will inform the Superintendent of such visits and make arrangements for visitations through the principals of the various schools. Such visits shall be regarded as informal expressions of interest in school affairs and not as “inspections” or visits for supervisory or administrative purposes. Official visits by Board members will be carried on only under Board authorization and with the full knowledge of the Superintendent and principals.
Danville’s representative to the Timberlane Regional School Board wrote this on the Support Timberlane Facebook page on July 10, 2015 and which I discovered yesterday:
All I know is on all the other Boards I was on over the years I always felt I could call someone and discuss an issue. No one went home and wrote on a blog name calling, making things up and distorting the truth. When we had questions we either called each other or the Superintendent and they were always cleared up, Donna doesn’t do that. She takes her interpretation and writes it on her blog, whether or not it is true, and then others read it and take it as truth and then get mad about it.
Who has time to unravel the mess she creates? It would be great if people had questions and they asked. Instead we get emails accusing us of things we haven’t done, statements that don’t make sense and conclusions drawn from those.
We are parents, most of us work full time jobs. We are trying to do what’s best for our kids, our neighbors kids and our community. There’s no grand scheme or devious plan against anyone. Our goal is to do our civic duty and strive to make Timberlane number one. Constantly being attacked by people who have no interest in the truth does not help with, what I hope is, our mutual goal.
Respecting differing views and voting in favor of them are two very different things. If I don’t agree with someone’s view why would I vote for it?
I always told my children that people see the world through their own glasses and Mr. Colilins’ screed is a perfect example.
“No one went home and wrote on a blog name calling, making things up and distorting the truth.” Oddly enough,Mr. Collins is doing exactly what he is protesting. He has said over and over that my blog is incorrect yet he has consistently failed to point out anything material that has not been immediately corrected with a note to that effect. Mr. Collins thinks that by simply asserting that my blog is inaccurate that it therefore is inaccurate. He is calling it inaccurate it only to discredit it without having to actually muster an argument against a factual statement or claim I have made.
“Constantly being attacked by people who have no interest in the truth does not help with, what I hope is, our mutual goal.” Now let’s see, who has been “constantly attacked,” Mr. Collins?
Dec 2013: Mr. Collins swoops into a Budget Committee meeting to support (if not instigate) a motion of censure against me for the ridiculous crime of having the temerity to speak without authorization before the Sandown Board of Selectmen about the school district budget. The censure motion failed by one vote. He had better luck next time.
March 2014: My first school board meeting after the election. Before I even got a word out, Mr. Collins presented the repellent “School Board Rules” which were so highly unconstitutional in their repression of free speech (aimed at me, of course) that the New Hampshire ACLU threatened to sue us if they were not withdrawn in part.
July 2014: The school board calls a special summer meeting to address issues I brought up in my blog. The SAU withheld a lawyer’s letter from me on the issue of a public hearing requirement for our acceptance of the LGC HealthTrust refurn of surplus. That letter was presented at the meeting which in fact proved the board should have held a public hearing, but because I was not acquainted with the argument before the meeting, I failed to realize it at the time. The meeting ended with Mr. Collins putting forward a motion of censure against me which this time did pass.
Later in July 2014: I am the target of a groundless criminal complaint accusing me of “harassing” Mrs. Belcher, while simultaneously the district withholds the security video that did ultimately exonerate me. I finally obtained the video by hiring the services of a criminal lawyer.
July 2015: The school board sends me a letter from their lawyer telling me to play nice in the sandbox with the other board members, once again using the bald assertion that my blog is inaccurate without giving me any evidence.
So, just who is attacking, making things up and distorting the truth?
Mr. Collins posts on Support Timberlane, which blocks me and many others from posting comments or responses. My blog is open to everyone but Bustmore Gas. I don’t need to hide behind a protected, censored page, and when I accuse someone else of an inaccuracy I give evidence for my claim – not bald assertions whose intention is only to discredit a person and not to advance the truth.
Please don’t think I consider myself a victim. On the contrary, the support of the voters of Sandown demonstrates otherwise. What I am, however, is someone who is standing to give argument – not someone lashing out and then ducking behind a censored wall.