Grafton Candidate Forum

Mill Brook Christian Church, Grafton, NH October 22, 2014
Grafton County Representatives for Districts 9 and 17 Candidate Forum

Liz Tentarelli, co-president of the New Hampshire League of Women Voters opened the evening’s event at 7:10 with thanks to the candidates and public that came out on such a rainy evening. The low public turnout, 21 in the audience was disappointing but not unexpected given the lack of public outreach done to inform the public of the event. She first announced that although Jeff Shackett had committed to be there, he had a business emergency that required him to fly out to Florida that morning. It was noted privately before the meeting that some had seen him at another event on Saturday and he had told them he didn’t intend to participate in this event despite his agreeing to. Ms. Tentarelli then announced that neither Jeremy Olson or Bob Hull responded to any invitations. She then introduced Paul Simard and Kelly Monahan and asked them to each stand up and address the room regarding their campaigns.

Paul Simard is running for Grafton County Commissioner against incumbent Martha Richards. He’s interested in the financial end of things and wants to look at all the county agencies and work toward bipartisan ways to reduce costs to our aging

Kelly Monahan is the incumbent County Clerk running for reelection. She said in her next term she’d like to give libraries and historical societies free web access to county records.

The candidates on stage were then introduced and allowed to give their opening statements. Steve Darrow, running against incumbent Catherine Mulholland in Grafton’s floterial district 17, said he’s running because he feels he can make a difference in Concord. The theme of his campaign has been “working to build communities” through community service. The Iberdrola wind “farm” really brought the community together and while he’s not against green energy in general, he is when it’s illogical and fiscally unfeasible without tax subsidies. He also believes we need to restore the New Hampshire advantage so we can keep young people here to work and live. He has a pro-business platform, wants to reduce regulations and support small businesses. He’ll stand up for the interests of the people in the district, not special interests. He supports local sustainability and local communities need to have a say in what affects them. He’d also like to find ways to reduce energy costs so people don’t have to choose between eating or heating. Another of his concerns is Current Use and it’s cost to low and fixed income taxpayers. He pledged to continue to listen to and be available to his constituents. For 8 years he has been a director of the Mascoma Health Initiative, where he’s served more than just the town of Grafton or the Mascoma Valley School District, and feels this is a very important cause. He’s committed to education and having students prepared to today’ jobs. He supported the renovation of the Mascoma Valley High School and still does, but also supports charter and home schools as options to best serve our students.

Judy Wallick is running for one of the 2 available seats in Grafton District 9 where Jeff “no-show” Shackett is the only incumbent as Skip Reilly elected not to run again. She started her introduction by telling us she had a privileged upbringing and then worked in a venture-capital firm in New York. She moved to Vermont in 1991 with her 3 kids after a divorce. Ms. Wallick admitted getting a phone call from Jennie Tuthill, an Alexandria resident and staunch democratic, who schooled her on the hot topics and what her position should be on them. She’s been on the board of Headrest, a substance abuse treatment center and was also an organizer for Barack Obama’s campaign. Another organization she’s associated with is No Labels, an effort to stop the gridlock in Washington, D.C. through bipartisanship. She lives with her fiance in Grafton and raises free range chickens. She’s opposed to drastic government spending cuts, wants to serve the people, and believes solving their problems must come before special interest. She’s against industrial wind and believes the state budget needs to be a priority.

Catherine Mulholland has served 4 terms in the house and said, “We struggle to pay for the government we have, we need to try to raise needed revenue without putting more burden on property taxes.” She became a citizen of the United States in 1994 because she wanted to be included, be able to vote and participate. She feels the last two years have been “amazing” because they restored a lot of the cuts made prior to that. She talked about the healthcare clinic recently opened in Bristol and the one being proposed for Canaan that’s dependent on enrollment numbers to be realized. Ms. Mulholland said we need to return the democrats to Concord to keep Medicaid expansion in place. This, she stated is the most important concern right now. There was also mention of title loan outfits being a terrible thing and that people should join credit unions and build better credit ratings so they could avoid them.

Tentarelli then opened the floor to questions from the audience. Deb Clough (Grafton) asked the candidates where they stood on gambling. Wallick replied that with no sales or income tax it’s the only a to increase the broad income. She is concerned, however, with Millenium (to build a casino); she’d rather see sales and meals taxes used to increase revenue. Mulholland is “strongly” opposed to gambling as it’s an addiction that hits those with the lowest income the most. Then she said that she would be ok with a casino in the north country so long as there are no slot machines. Darrow also opposes gambling as it will affect the lower income people. He’s also against there being a gambling monopoly or duopoly in New Hampshire. There’s also a saturation of casinos in the Northeast and some casinos are closing down in New Jersey.

Bob Piehler (Alexandria) asked if there was a distinction between small farms and corporate land in Darrow’s current use issue. Mulholland stated that she thinks current use is good and she couldn’t pay her taxes without it and it’s not beneficial to chop up the land. Darrow said our small towns have a revenue problem, and he doesn’t want it wiped out completely but would like to look at tweaking it to make it more fair. Wallick echoed Mulholland’s sentiment that “our land would be unaffordable without current use” but she understands there is a revenue problem in NH.

Sandi Pierson (Orange) asked how much time and energy does it take to be a state rep.? The question was given to Catherine Mulholland to answer as she’s the only one with experience. She said from January to June they’re in Concord, and depending on which committee you’re on and how man bills there are, you can expect 1-2 days a week plus commute time. She’s usually working 3 days a week from 8-5 for $100/year + mileage.

Lori Lerner (Bridgewater) asked Catherine how she voted on HB581, the moratorium on new energy projects. Mulholland responded that “the wind issue is moot at this time.” Wind power is most appropriate on flat plains and off-shore, and she thinks it depends on whether or not you like the look of them and how you feel about alternative energy. Darrow would have voted for it, continuing that our rush to green has flawed the process. Wallick stated that industrial wind has no place in our region & we need to strengthen local control, adding that the SEC needs work.

Ken Cushing (Grafton) – Asked if the candidates are for or against extending commuter rail to Manchester. Darrow said we need to look at our carbon footprint, and if it’s fiscally feasible he’d be in favor of. Judy stated that the Burlington to Shelburn rail in VT is underutilized. Mulholland is not against public transportation but the popluation density makes it unfeasible here.

Cindy Kudlik (Grafton) asked how the candidates would react if the majority of their constituents reached out to them with different opinions on things like industrial wind or commuter rail than they’ve expressed tonight and what level of responsiveness they’d give them. Mulholland is too busy to respond to everyone and prefers phone calls to email or us mail. Darrow explained that he now upholds decisions of the (Grafton select) board, always responds to constituents and if his opinion differs from most he will do the will of the people.

Bob Piehler (Alexandria) – Do you think it’d be good to make NH a home rule state? Catherine said she’s been puzzled by what home rule means, she thinks it means you can do what you want if not already outlawed and is ok with it if it’s a consensus. Steve said it’s important that we have control over our own destiny and if you don’t have home rule, you’re controlled by Dillon’s rule. He would support it. Wallick agrees with Darrow.

Paul Simard (Bristol) Asked if they support Northern Pass. Darrow’s a no, Judy and Catherine are ok with it if buried.

Ms. Tentarelli then went into “rapid fire questions” asking about:

Death penalty repeal? All 3 no
Charter Schools? All 3 yes
Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana? Judy – no, Darrow and Mulholland yes
Raise the minimum wage? Mulholland and Warrick no, Darrow yes.
Stand your ground in your own home? Judy confused by what it means, when explained to her, no. Darrow, yes. Mulholland, “I don’t know, I don’t have a gun.”
ACA? Darrow has problems with it, the republicans were shut out, but everyone has a right to healthcare. Judy – it’s a good first step. Catherine is for it.

?? not sure who asked this, man was sitting next to Judy’s sig. other – Do you support expanded Medicaid? Judy-yes. Darrow yes, but not sure on sunsetting it, he’s looking forward to collaborating with others in Concord for a solution. (Mulholland previously stated support for it so didn’t respond)

?? not sure who asked this one – Would you favor having the Vermont GMO labeling law in NH? Catherine responded in the affirmative as she is “violently” opposed to Monsanto but the (previous NH) legislation as it was proposed was poor and she didn’t support it. Darrow has concern for labeling everything because some things wouldn’t sell. Judy Wallick would favor that.

Ken Cushing asked if the candidates support an increase in state aid for school buildings? Darrow said yes, because we need to help communities maintain their schools. Judy Wallick replied, “I agree with Steve.” Mulholland also supports it.

(Not sure who asked this one, it might have come from Liz) And with that, what about roads and bridges funding? Judy Wallick feels there’s limited revenue but a lot of potholes; maybe toll roads &/or privatizing would help. Steve Darrow again admitted not having a solution and would look forward to learning more once he’s in Concord. He feels that the most recent gas tax increase should have gone there. Mulholland stated that the gas tax is a microscopic part of the cost of gasoline.

Lori Lerner then asked which committee the candidates would like to serve on. Mulholland, Finance; Wallick, Ways & Means; Darrow, can’t decide between 3, the Science, Technology and Energy, Education or Fish & Game as he’s an avid outdoorsman and hiker.

guy next to Lori asks if they want to maintain having no income or sales tax? Darrow is opposed to either one. Judy says we need tax reform but neither of those choices is popular and a value added tax drives businesses out. Mulholland said it’s not viable.

Kelly Monahan asked how the candidates feel about the militarization of our police and taser use. Judy Wallick said she doesn’t know. Steve Darrow said the taser use is out of hand, and the police need training as well as using more restraint. Catherine Mulholland stated tasers are too dangerous to be effective.

Debbie Black asked the final question, she wanted to go back to the current use issue and asked, “why should the rest of us subsidize you and your big plots of land; why keep it (current use)? Catherine said, “to keep us in our home.” Judy said, “to keep the land open.” Steve reiterated that this is an area we need to find a compromise for.

Closing statements:

Catherine Mulholland – We need to be creative and open-minded, we are to serve but there will always be people who disagree. She thinks we did well this biennium.

Judy Wallick – Gave us 3 reasons to vote for her; good common sense; she will always be transparent; bipartisanship is important to her. She talked to Skip Reilly about guns, was a single mom of 3 for nearly 20 years and found balance while being fiscally conservative.

Steve Darrow – Is highly qualified to serve, has a reputation of serving, and is a consensus builder. He worked for 27 years at UPS in management; 9 years operations supervisor, 9 in engineering developing and implementing new processes and the last 9 in sales where he was selling service not product, which is much harder.


Grafton Ambulance Service – Lost Licenses and Revised Minutes

Revised MinutesEarlier this year two members of our Ambulance crew, including its Captain, April Dugan and her husband, one of Grafton’s Selectman, Sean Frost, received certified letters from the state saying their NH EMS Provider Licenses were revoked due to providing “fraudulent information in documentation” of education requirements on their NREMT application. Apparently hours submitted were greater than the class’s defined credit hours. There was evidence of altered documents, they were under investigation since April 30th, and they each were found guilty of two separate fraud charges in July.  A scan of the letter to Sean Frost is included below.

Only members with EMT certification can be elected as officers.  It would have been moral and professional for Captain April Dugan, to step down until the matter was resolved. The letter from the state makes it clear that the matter could be resolved in a few months if the appropriate training hours were obtained. So, after a brief stint as a non-officer and obtaining necessary training, things could get back to normal.

But April Dugan retained the position.  She called meetings, canceled meetings, and ultimately we are now a month out from the time she could get her license back. At last night’s meeting with a majority vote (Dugan, Dugan, and Dugan) action was deferred to next month. At August’s meeting, which April and Sean missed, it was decided to replace April as Captain. Last night that decision, with a majority vote (Dugan, Dugan, and Dugan), was rescinded. It should be noted that April Dugan has been absent from most of the Ambulance Service meetings this year.

As I understand it, the deficiency is being downplayed as the hours short were only a few. But a deficiency it is. Sometimes the rules need to take precedence and in this case, for the Grafton Ambulance Service, for those who are helping the injured and saving lives, that training is clearly important.

I would hope that any of our town employees and volunteers would be professional, and follow the rules, so as not to damage the town. Stepping down as captain for a while would not have been the end of the world.

In addition to the issue of revoked licenses last night, the minutes for the August meeting were apparently revised by people who were not present at the August meeting. Those revisions were approved, again by a majority (Dugan, Dugan, Dugan, and Frost). I know that this action is improper.  It may be illegal. Roberts Rules of Order are clearly not in effect. The “unapproved”, unrevised minutes are included here.

As the Grafton ambulance crew tried to hash things out last night there were personal attacks, expressions of hurt feelings, and more. Sean Frost, Grafton selectman, resigned from the ambulance service.  Videos of the meeting are below.

I hope that this important department of our town can get it’s act together. Proper training, licensing, and following standard business practices like Roberts Rules seem very straightforward.

Sean Frost NH EMS Provider License revocation letter.
Click on the image to see the entire letter.
Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.34.10 AM

August 2014 Grafton Ambulance Draft Minutes
Click on the image to see the entire document.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.37.08 AM


Fire House Drama Part 2

Last night’s meeting was big enough to have to relocate to the fire station. How appropriate!

After some initial business Steve Darrow mentioned the “Fire Brews”mailing and made a statement which is included below. Sean, who called in for the meeting, had a colorful response which will be available as soon as I get access to the video to transcribe the comments. i.e. Fire House Drama Part 3!

The bottom line at this point is the town cancelled Joe Brown’s contract, which will have some financial consequences. No work will happen this year. And a new warrant article will go to the voters next year. John Babiarz is sure the “voters will do the right thing again”. I think we’re all better educated now about fire station heating improvements and suspect that the town will be more cautious when discussing and voting on it next year. And people seemed to agree that an independent engineer, with no ties to those involved, should be hired to review and sign off on the specs for the work.

Steve Darrow’s statement:

Recently we all found some “spin” in our mailboxes. There is a different series of events that happened according to many folks who attended the meetings and who took the time to look at the minutes from the meetings, read over the original insufficient RFP submitted by John Babiarz, the following documents prepared by Steve Darrow in preparation for the project and in conjunction with the Town Counsel, rather than one of the competing bidders (Partridge) on the project.

First and foremost – John Babiarz nor Sean Frost ever mentioned that Partridge heating was involved with the design and plan for installation of heating system. Had John Babiarz disclosed this information, Partridge heating would have had to withdraw from the bidding procedure due to a major conflict of interest. The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued decisions regarding showing favoritism. This smacks of favoritism. (for those who need verification on this, go to the Supreme Court or to your legal counsel)

Many residents were deeply concerned with the process of John Babiarz (claiming that he alone designed the system) would specify what type of system would be installed rather than an engineer, someone more qualified. The cost of the heating system was exorbitant and included solar panels that were considered to have such a poor return on investment.

Many in town have stated they feel it is inappropriate to tear up the existing floor as Babiarz and apparently Partridge had decided in their spec plans. That it would be more appropriate to wait and see if the system does indeed fail. John Babiarz’ response to that is “I like to be pro-active” and his response to one concerned resident about the solar panels? “The problem is that no one in this town thinks”

Regardless of many concerns raised, Sean Frost stubbornly insisted that Partridge receive the contract as is. During the process (and many witnessed this) Sean Frost berated the opposing bidder, Smith River, and even questioned his intelligence several times claiming that he knew more about contracts and heating systems than Smith River. His demeanor has remained as it has at most meetings, overbearing, finger wagging and threatening. He made a motion to accept the bid of Partridge, John Babiarz friend and apparently we now find out co-creator of the original RFP. Jennie Joyce seconded but said she felt the solar panels were completely out of line. Steve Darrow voted against, stating that he felt the RFP was inadequate as specified and that the solar panels were a great expense and poor return on investment.

Once Partridge was accepted, Steve Darrow said he would submit the proposal of Partridge to Town counsel. Town counsel came back saying the proposal was completely inadequate and would need to be rewritten. (see attached correspondence) It was rewritten and submitted to Partridge for review. Sean refused to allow Partridge to post a bond and said a “letter of credit” would do. He again stated he was an authority on this. Just this afternoon, our Town Counsel said absolutely wrong and New Hampshire law requires the bond, not a letter of credit.

At this time, Partridge decided his schedule had filled up and declined to take the job. We will never know if he simply did not care for a legal contract that properly protected the town from liability.

At the Selectman meeting where Partridge letter declining contract, was received, selectman agreed (see minutes) to revise the RFP so that it contained the language to allow for more flexibility for the heating contractors to determine what would be necessary to adequately heat the fire department. Again, concerned citizens spoke about the lack of professional planning for such a huge project. Sean Frost stated that “usually you people don’t want to spend money but now you want to spend money on an engineer” According to him it was an expense to be avoided as he had all of the knowledge needed.

At this same meeting Steve Darrow brought up that he thought it would be a good idea to spend some time reaching out to more heating contractors for the second round of bidding. Although it had been posted properly, only two bids were received, one by town resident Joe Brown of Smith River and one by John Babiarz’ friend and apparent co-designer of system, Partridge heating. Steve Darrow suggested sending out the RFP’s requesting bids rather than just posting and also he made another suggestion. Why not reach out to the heating contractor that did the church? During previous conversation with John Babiarz, John mentioned that “someone” had done a “fine job” down at the church. But for some reason, John Babiarz never brought nor asked the office to bring the RFP to that gentleman and invite for a bid on the project. For that matter, Sean Frost lives across the street from Brian Rogers who wondered why he wasn’t contacted. In the meantime, Steve Darrow and Sue started looking for and sending out invitations to bid on the RFP, including one to Kevin McCullough the church contractor. At least one of the contractors sent back a correspondence explaining that he could not bid on such an inadequate set of specs (see attached correspondence).

The bids were due in the office on Monday the 12th. Sean however, chose to personally receive the bid of Kevin McCullough on his person and pulled it out of his back pocket at the Selectman meeting on the 14th.

Sean Frost, without reviewing Smith River bid, made a motion to accept Kevin McCullough’s bid and no one seconded his motion. At that time, Jennie and Steve were looking over Smith River’s proposal, which was much more detailed and had many more options than Kevin McCullough’s one page proposal. Joe Brown was asked several questions concerning the bid. After more discussion and a break for a nonpublic session, Steve Darrow motioned to accept Smith River’s proposal and Jennie Joyce seconded.

As the RFP clearly states, the contract would include the Town Counsel contract along with the proposal as a legal addendum. That construction meetings would occur regularly and include John Babiarz, Contractor and a Selectman.

Sean called both Jennie Joyce and Steve Darrow to report his concerns. A response (see attached) was immediately sent to him, to John Babiarz and the first construction meeting scheduled for Smith River to sign contract. Smith River also sent a correspondence (see attached) addressing concerns. Smith River needed a 7:00 am meeting Monday morning to get one of his subcontractors in right away. The meeting was coordinated by Sue, with John Babiarz and Steve Darrow.

What ensued was unethical and hostile. Rather than requesting a meeting, disclosing an agenda, Sean Frost along with his family and friends decided to crash this meeting. Sean came in before 7:00, chatted with everyone, hid in a back room when Steve Darrow and Joe Smith entered the building at 7:00. Steve Darrow was accosted by the crowd, who had not come to meetings and may not have read the documents prepared that reassured all State and Federal regulations had to be met. That Babiarz could have worked with Smith River to have this project move forward this year.


Fire House Drama

The heating system upgrades to the fire station have taken a new turn. The select board awarded the contract to Grafton resident and heating system expert Joe Brown. Sean Frost, volunteer fire fighter, voted nay while Steve Darrow and Jenny Joyce voted aye. Sean wouldn’t sign the contract but Steve and Jenny did. And then uproar began.

During the meetings about the fire station heating upgrades this reporter, when voicing concerns about expensive solar, was told that there were many meetings and decisions had been made, and the comments were too late for consideration. Well, apparently when the decision goes the other way the same rules do not apply.

Overheard at the fire station, when walking in on the “meeting” mentioned in the attached mailing, John Babiarz telling Selectman Darrow that he would revoke the occupancy permit on the fire station if he doesn’t get the improvements done the way he wants.

This mailing is intriguing in a few ways. It was whipped out in a hurry after the select board decision. It’s looooong. And it says that Babiarz worked with Partridge on the proposal. Hmmmm.

Tomorrow night’s select board meeting should be a doozy. Bring the popcorn!

Fire Brews 1

Fire Brews 2


Slab City Dirt Portion A Dream to Drive On

The dirt portion of Slab City got a facelift a couple of weeks ago.  It is smooth and rut free!  A dream to drive upon this Grafton resident is very grateful. Thanks to Bobby Bassett and his crew!

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