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MASON

Clerk calls out board’s emails

Town employee questions what she’s calling a lack of civility

  • The Mason select board held a meeting filled with controversy on June 10.
  • The Mason select board held a meeting filled with controversy on June 10.
  • The Mason select board held a meeting filled with controversy on June 10.

MASON — At the Select Board meeting Tuesday, board members were given grief, both from a town employee and from a couple displeased with a recent Zoning Board of Adjustment ruling.

Personnel controversy

Town Clerk Debra Morrison expressed her concern about the town recently losing three key employees — Administrative Assistant Barbara Milkovitz, Milkovitz’s assistant Martha Ward and Road Agent Fred Greenwood.

“The volume of experience within the town offices is dwindling,” said Morrison.

Morrison said she believes that friction within the town offices led to the departure of the longtime employees.

“I’m seeking a new way to relate to the people who work in this building. Public officials can’t be attacking each other. I’d rather see things fixed than see people disposed of,” said Morrison, who referenced “nasty emails, phone calls and notes” written by the Select Board to town employees.

Milkovitz, who has been with the town for more than 20 years, plans to retire in November. Greenwood resigned on May 10, and Ward retired upon Milkovitz’s return from medical leave in April.

Selectman Bernard O’Grady said the questions Morrison raised were too broad for the board to answer.

“Both Fred and Martha left without speaking to us,” said O’Grady. “They had a chance to come and talk to us.”

Select Board members said they have the best interest of the town in mind and that they completely agree with Morrison’s wish to act with civility.

“We are a young board, but we have a good mix of strengths and we are committed to working together,” said first-year member Louise Lavoie.

“I’m glad to hear that,” replied Morrison.

When asked if she had specific examples of nasty emails and notes, Morrison stated that she did but that she didn’t think it was something the board would want to discuss publicly.

Ledger-Transcript attempts to review the documents in question were unsuccessful by press time Wednesday.

ZBA ruling on a woodshed

Mark and Mary McDonald came before the board to present an update on their controversial woodshed. The shed, located on the right side of their Merriam Hill driveway, is 6 feet by 12 feet and sits approximately 15 feet from the road. The residence is in the Historic Village Residential District, and would require a variance from side and front setback requirements of 35 feet.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment denied a variance request on June 2.

“The variance was denied based on a lack of evidence — for reasonably using our property it was declined,” Mary McDonald said at Tuesday’s meeting. “The variance was declined for pure appearance purposes.”

The Zoning Board’s written decision, posted June 4, states that a variance would be contrary to the public interest because the shed is too close to the road and lot line, and could be placed elsewhere.

The McDonalds have one month to appeal that ruling to the ZBA, or they can go directly to court.

“We feel the [Zoning] Board was not objective,” McDonald said. “We have not made a decision on what we are going to do next.”

Select Board Chair Charlie Moser suggested that the McDonalds file a motion for a rehearing. O’Grady asked the McDonalds if they had a place on their property that met the setback requirements to which Mark McDonald replied, “No.”

The couple stopped construction on the shed in November 2013 when asked by the town to do so, and McDonald said she and her husband are now planning to sell the partially built shed.

“We disagree with the ruling and need time to finish staining and trim work because we cannot sell it in the condition it is in,” she said.

Board members asked how long the McDonalds need to complete construction, to which Mary answered, “Probably months due to summer vacation.”

The Select Board voted to allow the McDonalds 60 days before the town would take action to enforce the Zoning Board ruling. The board ruled that if the shed is not sold after 60 days, the McDonalds must move it to another spot on their property.

Inventory forms

The Select Board voted Tuesday to stop mailing town inventory forms to residents. The forms, which are permitted under RSA 74:1, were sent annually by mail with the goal of gathering data of all the real estate to be taxed in town.

Board members said the town spends approximately $450 on postage in order to mail forms and, once the forms were returned, the town pays employees to sift through the replies.

By law, residents who fail to return the forms by the deadline or fill out the forms incorrectly are charged $50. Last year, the town brought in $7,800 in revenue through this fine alone.

Moser said that of the 221 towns in New Hampshire, only 31 still mail the inventory forms. Moser said that he felt the town was “nickel-and-diming the residents,” adding that the tax is a “gotcha tax.”

Lavoie echoed Moser’s comments, stating, “The inventories have outlived their usefulness.”

A motion to opt out of sending inventory forms next year was made, seconded and carried.

Dylan Fisher can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235, or dfisher@ledgertranscript.com.

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