Regional Protectors or Watermelons?

by Tom

NRPC Logo

NRPC Executive Committee Meeting 07-18-12

I, along with about 6 other people, attended the July, 2012 Executive Committee meeting of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission (NRPC), in an attempt to gain a better understanding of how this “advisory” Regional Planning entity operates.

The 9 RPCs in New Hampshire were created as “political subdivisions” in approximately 1969, and operate under RSA 36 (45-53).

The public portion of the meeting lasted about 33 minutes (see video), and was followed by a non-public session, where the visitors from the public had to leave, as the committee discussed sensitive issues relating to personnel, hiring, firing, promotion, salaries, etc. of public employees.

You can imagine my surprise when the non-public portion of the meeting lasted nearly 90 minutes (with me waiting in the lobby).  I have been on a school board before, and I never experienced a non-public session that lasted any more than 20 minutes, except when dealing with a very complicated lawsuit against the school district.

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To be sure that the committee members knew that I was waiting outside to rejoin the meeting after non-public portion ended, I left my camera tripod and power cord in the room.

At about 8pm, someone opened the doors and told me that the non-public portion had ended.  I reentered the room, and the committee took a vote to adjourn.

As I understand it, per RSA 91-A:3-I-b, the committee is supposed to specifically identify the issue(s) or “exemptions” that cause them to go into a non-public session, with enough detail to identify the general nature of the issue but not enough to give away any sensitive details.  They are also supposed to take a roll call vote, querying each member of the committee, which they did not do (see final 10 seconds of the video for this).

The video, and the meeting, is relatively uneventful (sausage making), but it stands as a record of the proceedings, and evidence that non-public proceedings were not properly conducted.

One of the key topics of the meeting was the draft budget update, in preparation for the annual audit.  I have provided a summary of this 2011-2012 budget, and highlight some of the notable facts:

Income: $1,471,710.19 (*Note: The total of the receipts listed below do not match the total income shown on the NRPC spreadsheet – we are looking further into why that is the case.  The numbers reported here come directly from the NRPC spreadsheet…)

The NRPC received $270,872.50 (18%) of its income from “Federal Contracts”, mainly from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) “Sustainable Communities” Regional Planning grants (more on the Sustainable Communities Initiative in the coming weeks).

The NRPC received $162,581.29 (11%) from “Local Dues”, paid by the 13 member towns of Amherst, Brookline, Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield, Lyndeborough, Mason, Merrimack, Milford, Mont Vernon, Nashua, Pelham, and Wilton.

The NRPC received $219,902.59 from “Grants”.  These are a mix of what look to be mostly state grants, including “Safe Route to School” (SRTS), Broadband, SWD, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Ventures,  NH Charitable Foundation (NHCF), and some others.

The NRPC received $778,741.24 (53%) from “State Contracts”.  These included Office of Energy and Planning (OEP) stimulus funding, DOT Highway Planning, Souhegan Valley Transportation Collaborative (SVTC), DES, and OEM.

The NRPC received $125,178.68 (8.5%) from “Local Planning Contracts”.

Expenses: $1,443,048.72

The NRPC spent $9,750 on their annual audit.

The NRPC spent $8173.07 on Dues and Subscriptions.

The NRPC spent $11,006 on Insurance.

The NRPC spent $414,859.09 (29%) on “Professional Services”, sub-contracting work.

The NRPC spent $643,696.31 (approx. 45%) on Employee Salaries (12 paid staff members).

The NRPC spent $205,411.08 (approx. 15%) on Employee Benefits.

The NRPC spent $11,862.92 on Utilities.

The NRPC spent $78,477.12 on Rent (that is approx. $6540 per month).

Income/(Loss): $28,661.47

I will spend some time in the coming months, digging further into the activities of the NRPC, highlighting the good, and the bad, that they do with our tax dollars, trying to understand how an “advisory board” gets to manage this much money, and why 58% (actually, 57.69%) of the budget goes to employee salaries and benefits (remember that there are 9 of these RPCs).

I can guarantee, from research already done, that the “bad” that is involved will shock and concern you, if you value your individual liberties, and personal, private property rights.

Stay tuned.

Watermelon

PS – A “Watermelon” is Green on the outside, Red on the inside.

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