Bethlehem Board of Selectmen
Bethlehem Selectmen’s Office
September 25, 2017
Present: Chairman Moritz, Selectman Glavac, Selectman Boisseau, Selectman Moore.
Chairman Moritz opened the meeting at 6:30 pm.
Alan Jackson had a “Profile” publication that is put out by the Courier and said it gives comparisons of taxes and breaks it down showing school, county, state and municipal portion. He said our town has the highest school taxes of the towns in the publication. Mr. Jackson said Haverhill has a higher total tax but lower school tax and pointed out they have 4 schools. He suggested people read the information.
Mike Culver said he has heard the Board has asked that department heads cut between 5 – 10%. Chairman Moritz said they were asked to look at possibly a decrease of 5% just as an exercise. Mr. Culver said he did the same thing when he was on the Board but asked for 10% cut because that equated to approx. $1.00 per thousand on the tax rate. He also said the budgets are really tight and the next step is cutting services. Mr. Culver said it will be harder attracting people to town if you cut services too much. He said you need to concentrate on increasing revenue or cut taxes in other areas, not the municipal tax.
Kevin Roy from North Country Environmental Services and Brian Oliver, Vice President of Casella came before the Board. Mr. Oliver said he would be discussing the taxes and the BTLA (Board of Land & Tax Appeals) methodology and why it is used. He said the methodology was from a decision in May of 2007. He went over a handout about the methodology. He explained the goals of the methodology are to project revenue over the life of the landfill based on actual data as of April 1 of the tax year and make adjustments to isolate revenue attributable to ownership of the property; to determine the value of that adjusted revenue as of April 1 which is the fair market value of the property as of April 1 of the tax year. He explained the fair market value is what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the property, not the business. Mr. Oliver then reviewed how to apply the methodology and explained beginning with the 2017 tax year NCES will be using the actual average tip fee as the starting point as the BTLA intended, not what the BTLA projected the tip fee would be back in 2007 escalated for 10 years. He said they looked at this after discussions last year made them realize they have overpaid for years. Mr. Oliver explained in 2007 the formulation was based on actual but every year since was based on projection. Chairman Moritz said there is a procedure to go through if you feel you are overtaxed and said financial documentation would have to be provided to back up that claim. Mr. Oliver said all of that would be provided. Chairman Moritz asked how the forecast could be so wrong and why is it coming out now. Mr. Oliver said people were saying the tip fees were high so they looked at it then and said the town has benefitted from that. Selectman Boisseau said the Town assessor needs to look into it as well, the permittable and permitted. Chairman Moritz said they would be using the original method and will send tax bill based on that and said they could choose to file for abatement at that point. She said after speaking with the attorney that is how they were directed to go forward. Mr. Oliver said he is just providing information now and all documentation will be provided. Chairman Moritz said the projection is way off, more than 50% off from previously provided. She said she wants to see financial info to see where those numbers came from. She also said she doesn’t see how it can be so misconstrued all the years. Selectman Moore said in the agreement it states to use the BTLA methodology. Mr. Oliver said yes and within that there are formulas that change and said the only thing that is off is the tipping fee. Selectman Boisseau asked who sets the tipping fee and was told by Mr. Oliver that it is actual revenue divided by tons. Julie Seely asked what the 2007 base number was and was told it was $55.00 and said it is $46.00 now. Mrs. Seely said she finds it hard to believe it dropped and said John Casella just said their numbers were up 3%. Mrs. Seely also asked what the % is for in state and out of state mix of waste and asked if company is bringing waste to Bethlehem instead of Southbridge. Mr. Oliver said there is a tip and transportation formula that depends on how far they come. Chairman Moritz said she would like to see transportation numbers as well. Selectman Boisseau asked if the same calculations are used in other Casella landfills. Mr. Oliver said this is the only one due to NH rules. Cheryl Jensen asked if the tipping fees were incorrect and was told yes. She also asked if these figures were put out to the town during negotiations. Selectman Glavac said what the town was using last year is still what the town is projecting. Mr. Oliver said the numbers provided were if capacity ran out and if town entered into new agreement. Leslie Dreier said people may have voted on erroneous information and said these numbers could have been foreseen in 2011. Chairman Moritz asked if the numbers in 2011 were elevated as well and Mr. Oliver said they didn’t look that far back but said the tip fee is different. He said they looked back to 2012. Mr. Dreier said the tipping fees are going down but supply is increasing and have to meet more of demands and asked why tipping fees are going down.
Mr. Oliver said significant amount of NH volume and calculation is down from what was forecasted. He said when transporting from other southern towns in NH the tip fee is lower. Selectman Glavac asked where transportation fee is in equation and asked about additional permittable land; where is that and how much volume will that hold. Mr. Roy said they will develop a 2 acre section to fill. Sandy Laleme asked if that would be taking out roadways and structures. Mr. Roy said they would have to construct a new access and explained at the end of landfill capacity you look at ways to fill. Sandy Laleme asked if it will come under the height limit and was told yes. Roger Metras asked for actual numbers on tipping fees for 2016 and was told they didn’t have them with them but could provide that information. Mr. Metras also said Casella revenue went up 4% so is questioning the numbers. Chris McGrath said the total revenue divided by tonnage will be affected by Bethlehem waste and said that is driving down the number because there is no revenue for Bethlehem. He was told that is a very small %. He also said businesses were going to be coming to town if the vote was no but that isn’t happening and said he is scared for the tax rate of Bethlehem. Chairman Moritz asked what % is Bethlehem tonnage and was told that info could be provided. Mr. Culver said now that the Board knows an abatement is coming they need to prepare for that. Jeanne Robillard said the numbers were incorrect and postcards go out once/twice a year of benefits and cost factor. Mr. Oliver said the numbers were based on historical data and hadn’t found that inconsistency before. Selectman Glavac asked what the postcards are based on and Mr. Roy said actual numbers received. Selectman Glavac then asked if the amount they used for tax revenue to the town was actually paid to the town and was told yes. Mrs. Jensen said there were things that were being promised with the projections. Mr. Oliver said the agreement stipulated a minimum for taxes and royalties. Selectman Glavac said the minimum was built into the agreement. Sandy Laleme said the town has benefitted up to now and said the discussion is premature. She said they should come back when they can answer historical questions and told the Board to look at the agreement. Chairman Moritz said she has a hard time believing a company would miss that error and is skeptical.
Mr. Roy said he talked with the Board previously about a renewable project for the town. He said they are close to signing a contract with a company for a gas to energy plant. He said the methane would be captured and stripped of impurities and ends up cleaner than pure natural gas. He said it is high quality and sought after. Mr. Roy said the financials are in place and said they will have to go through Zoning and Site Plan Review. He said the plant would take up 1.2 acres and said NEOgas is the name of the company. Mr. Roy said they will start the permit process in Nov. and Dec. and hopefully up and running by the end of 2018. He explained it has a 15 year life from the gas. Mr. Roy said NCES will maintain the gas to keep compliance and complete control of the gas. Selectman Glavac asked what the capital investment was and Mr. Roy told him 12 to 15 million. There was discussion about RINS from California and RECS (renewable credits) and the molecule being created. Selectman Glavac asked if this doesn’t happen what happens to that molecule and Mr. Roy said they will continue to flare gas and is not a green molecule until it’s gone through the process. Chairman Moritz asked who monitors facilities and was told companies do that with full time employees. Selectman Boisseau asked what the projections are for the financial benefit to the town and asked if there are tax exemptions. Mr. Roy said he will ask NEOgas that and said they will lease them the land and they will have to pay taxes on the business. Selectman Glavac said it is in the Master Plan for commercial development on Trudeau road so need to look at changing the zoning to help that along. Mr. Dreier said the Board should talk with other communities that have a project like this. Mr. Roy talked about geothermal loops they have put in and will hopefully entice another user. He said they produce 1.2 million BTU’s and hour. Mr. Roy said the open house date changed to 10/07/17.
Tim Fleury, Recreation Director, came before the Board to discuss upgrading the tuition system to collect online payments. He explained a user fee can be charged to offset our costs to pay online. Mr. Fleury said there is an option to get parents authorization to automatically charge their card. He explained there is no contract and costs $10.00 a month and has a one-time charge of $97.50. He said it is PCI compliant because we don’t store any credit card numbers. He said it integrates with the software they currently use. Dann asked what taxpayers are forced to pay. Mr. Fleury said the fees pay for afterschool program, summer program and sports program. Selectman Glavac said the taxpayers pay 2/3 of the rec budget which includes the pool. Dann said people should pay for what they use and people who don’t use it shouldn’t have to pay. Selectman Moore said we live in a community that provides services and makes the community desirable. Chairman Moritz moved to approve the purchase of the online pay program. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Carried 4-0.
The Board reviewed the fuel bids. Chairman Moritz read the bid spec sheet.
Selectman Glavac opened a bid from Amerigas for propane – 1.49.
Selectman Moore opened a bid from Irving for #2 fuel – 2.149, propane – 1.766, Diesel – 2.095.
Selectman Boisseau opened a bid from Jesse Lyman for #2 – 2.159, Kerosene – 2.799, Summer Diesel – 2.095, Winter Diesel – 2.395, RNL – 1.925, Propane – 1.599.
Selectman Glavac said he wants supporting documents on why Amerigas is cheaper than the others. The Board calculated the amount of the increase from the following year with an approx. amount of $4900.00. Dann asked if the highway garage uses waste oil to heat their building. There was discussion about Littleton using waste oil. Frank Claffey said Irving has a lot of fees in their contract. He said we have received good service from Jesse Lyman for the past 2-3 years. Chairman Moritz moved to accept bid from Amerigas for Propane at 1.49. Selectman Moore seconded. Carried 4-0. Chairman Moritz moved to accept bid from Jesse Lyman for #2 fuel, K1, Diesel (summer and winter) and RNL. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Carried 4-0.
The Board reviewed the minutes from 09/11/17. Chairman Moritz moved to approve the minutes. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Carried 3-0 (Selectman Moore abstained).
The Board discussed putting the new date of NCES open house on the website and the Board said to put it on.
At 8:33 Chairman Moritz moved to go into non-public session per RSA 91A:3 II for matters of personnel. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to go into non-public session. Dann objected to the non-public session.
The Board discussed personnel
At 8:40 Chairman Moritz moved to come out of non-public session. Selectman Glavac seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to come out of non-public session.
At 8:40 Chairman Moritz moved to go into non-public session per RSA 91A:3 II for matters of legal. Selectman Glavac seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to go into non-public session.
The Board discussed legal advice
At 9:25 Chairman Moritz moved to come out of non-public session. Selectman Moore seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to come out of non-public session.
At 9:25 Selectman Glavac moved to adjourn. Chairman Moritz moved to adjourn. Carried 4-0.