Congratulations Seabrook Police Chief Brett Walker

The Board of Selectmen ratified the choice of Brett Walker as the new permanent Chief of Police in Seabrook this past week, approving his contract. Chief Walker has had a 16 year career with the Seabrook Police Department, serving as a patrolman, a detective attached to the Attorney General’s Drug Task Force, Lieutenant, Deputy Chief, as well as Acting Chief since the retirement of Chief Michael Gallagher.

From the press release:

“The Town of Seabrook deserves and needs first-rate policing, and with the growth in our community our Police Department faces new challenges,” Manzi said. “Brett Walker, through the depth of his experience, his knowledge of the community, and his commitment to innovation, will bring the leadership necessary to advance the department, and provide Seabrook residents with the very best in police services.”

Congratulations to Chief Brett Walker!!!

Link to media story on Chief Walker’s appointment.

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Seabrook Christmas Tree Lighting 2019

It was a bit chilly but there was a nice crowd on hand for the Seabrook Tree Lighting last night. Our thanks to Charlie Mabardy, who donated the tree for the event. Thanks to the Seabrook Lions Club for all of their hard work, to DPW for all of the help on putting up the tree, to Seabrook Police and Fire for all of their work, and to the Board of Selectmen for all of their support for this event. A big thank you to Trinity United Church for the use of their hall.

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Methuen Completes Rail Trail

I was delighted to be able to attend the ribbon cutting for the Methuen Rail Trail, which occurred last week. The completion of this trail comes after the City secured a $1.95 million Gateway Cities Parks Grant, which is such a great indication of the first rate Legislative delegation that represents Methuen. State Senator Diana DiZoglio, State Representatives Linda Dean Campbell, State Representative Frank Moran, and State Representative Christine Minicucci all worked very hard to bring that grant to Methuen. Congrats to Mayor Jajuga for all of his hard work on this as well. Economic Development Director William Buckley and his first rate team really did an outstanding job in managing this process and keeping everyone on the right path. This entire project is a testament to the tenacity, hard work, and dedication of the Methuen Rail Trail volunteers, who have worked so hard over so many years. Check out their website.

A neat part of this project is the participation of the Greycourt Poets, who have added the “poets wall” with some wonderful works on display. My former Chief of Staff Matt Kraunelis, who worked diligently on this project during my Administration, has continued to contribute through the Greycourt Poets.

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Seabrook 2019 Tax Rate is Set

The Board of Selectmen today announced the Seabrook Tax Rate for 2019. That rate is $15.75, a 50 cent decline from last years $16.25. This rate decrease is in fact a tax decrease for the taxpayers of Seabrook, as the total dollars raised through property taxation will decline from 2018, a truly remarkable figure. (Property tax collection will decline by $445,693.)

The property tax decrease is driven by a 43 cent decrease in the Town rate. This decline is largely attributable to the policy decision made by the Board of Selectmen on water and sewer rates. Management identified a $2 million dollar subsidy going from taxpayers to ratepayers, and Selectmen voted to end that subsidy, beginning in 2019. In setting this rate the Board recognized approximately $1.7 million in additional local revenue.

The Board of Selectmen have additionally held the rate of discretionary spending to 2% or less for several cycles. This has also had a positive impact on the relative tax burden in Seabrook. The overall percentage of the tax levy paid by NextEra continues to decline. In FY 2019, with this rate, NextEra will be approximately 29% of the total tax levy, down from 42% in 2014. The Board of Selectmen have had to manage this decline while continuing to maintain services and keep the tax rate stable. NextEra is currently under a three year tax agreement with Seabrook covering 2018, 2019, and 2020 that is worth $36 million over the term of the agreement.

The Board of Selectmen have made a policy decision to build fund balance, which has been a principal way the “NextEra Shift” has been managed. There will be another post examining the history of fund balance in Seabrook for the past six years.

Great job by Assessor Angie Silva, Finance Manager Carrie Fowler, Deputy Town Manager Kelly O’Connor, and the entire staff in doing the work needed to get this rate approved by the New Hampshire DRA.

I have attached the reports I provided to the Board covering the water and sewer subsidy for FY 2018.

Press Release – 2019 Tax Rate-prelim

Water Report 2018 Draft

Sewer Report 2018 Draft

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Harpooning a Sacred Cow- “Strategic Plans Are Rarely Strategic-Or Effective”

Professor Wyatt Wells recently offered a column in the Wall Street Journal titled “Strategic Plans Are Rarely Strategic-Or Effective.” Professor Wells is most certainly articulating a point of view that has entered many a mind when sitting through an interminable “strategic planning” session that will produce a set of what the good professor calls “bromides.” Does he have a point? While there is no question that he is painting with a broad brush there can be no doubt that much of the criticism is valid.

Professor Wells, at Auburn University (Montgomery,) has just gone through this exercise, which likely prompted the commentary.The University recently commissioned and completed its Strategic Plan, which gets harpooned thoroughly. For those familiar with these types of efforts the work product sounds very familiar.

In its statement of principles, AUM’s plan asserts that the university seeks to “provide quality and diverse educational opportunities,” offering a “student-centered experience” with “excellence as our standard.” These are more specific than Google’s old mantra, “Don’t be evil,” but not much. Presumably every institution of higher learning shares these goals—none would boast that “adequacy is our standard.”

Professor Wells moves to business, pointing out that many business strategic plans suffer from the same problems he identifies in the Auburn plan.

Likewise, companies seek to “enhance consumers’ experience” as well as “enhance morale among employees,” as if most of their competitors believe that aggravating customers and frustrating staffers is the key to success. The word “enhance” appears over and over because it allows planners to avoid specifics and ignore where their institution stands. A company with a good reputation and another that customers are deserting in droves can both “enhance consumers’ experience,” but their needs are very different. Such statements connote no more than a desire to do better, providing neither standards nor priorities.

Professor Wells has identified the problem inherent in many such efforts, which is a desire to stick to the most general items, not address core issues facing the enterprise, and most importantly not to offer solutions that do not have 100% backing, which leads us to bromide land. While it can be said that such efforts may be team building exercises masquerading as strategic planning serious people with real work waiting tend to get frustrated at the results, and the time burn that produced those results.

Professor Wells has had a little bit of fun, and likely a little vengeance for the time burn, on the University effort. Unfortunately this type of effort is all too common in strategic planning. Avoiding difficult choices, refusing to frame enterprise problems while identifying specific solutions to those problems, will bring strong internal support for the effort, and a plan that will accumulate a healthy coating of dust as it sits unread on a shelf. Enterprises are not enhanced by these exercises, but many consultants derive some great fees for boiler plate product.

Forward planning is vitally critical for both business and government. Whether it be problem specific, or a more general outlook (financial forecasting)good planning requires specifics issues to be identified, and potential solutions devised and discussed. Professor Wells has identified the wrong way to do strategic planning, but doing it correctly has never been more important. Let us ensure that our strategic planning avoids the serious problem of “orotund verbiage.” Thank you Professor Wells.

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Methuen Mayoral Results Unofficial

Kannan 2666

Perry 6386

Congratulations and best wishes to new Mayor Neil Perry.

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Seabrook Harbor Dredge Information

The U.S. Army Corps has provided the attached information on the Seabrook/Hampton Harbor Dredge, ongoing now. The Flyer is below the picture.

Hampton Harbor Dredging – Flyer

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