Legal Q & A

Municipal Employee and Municipal Official – Is There a Difference?

Generally, when someone performs work with an expectation of compensation, an employment relationship is created. However, not everyone who “works" for a municipality is an employee. It can be difficult to distinguish between the employees, officials, volunteers and independent contractors who all perform work for a municipality. This article deals with the differences between municipal officials and municipal employees—and there are differences. As a general rule, elected and appointed officials are not employees of the municipality.

Public Safety on the Roadways: Duties and Protections Under the Law

It is easy to take public facilities for granted. Keeping those facilities maintained and in repair is not an easy task, and use of facilities such as highways or the town hall often cannot stop while municipal staff or contractors perform the work. In the recent New Hampshire Supreme Court case of Appeal of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, decided October 28, 2005, the court was faced with the claim of a motorist whose vehicle was damaged by a state snowplow.

After Town Meeting, It’s Time for Municipal Boards to Reorganize

After election ballots have been counted and the town meeting “dust" has settled, the various municipal boards, commissions and committees should reorganize and prepare for another year of activity. New members should be sworn in, a chairperson should be selected and any vacancies should be filled.

Look Before You Leap: Understanding Conditional Use Permits

All New Hampshire municipalities are familiar with land use regulation. Even the smallest towns face questions of growth, development, compatibility of uses, conservation of resources, and the need for infrastructure. Municipalities have a number of well-worn tools at their disposal to address these questions, including the master plan, subdivision and site plan review, special exceptions, and variances, to name a few. One option that local officials may know less about, however, is the “conditional use permit," sometimes called a special use permit.

A Quick Look at a Few New Statutes

In 2005, the New Hampshire legislature enacted two bills that alter public notice requirements for governing body acceptance of unanticipated revenue and sale/acquisition of town-owned land. Another bill changes the appeal period for decisions of the zoning board of adjustment and planning board. Also, legislation was enacted establishing a new revolving fund option, and a new exception was added to RSA 674:41 , which governs building on lots that lack frontage on a Class V or better road.

Vegetation Clearance and the Insufficiency Law: What's the Municipal Responsibility?

Q. Must a municipality clear vegetation from a town or city highway right of way if the vegetation obstructs a motorist’s view of a “stop” sign installed by the State of New Hampshire at the intersection of a state and town highway?

Regulating Salvage Facilities: Balancing Community and Business Interests

Requirements surrounding the location and operation of salvage facilities frequently raise legal questions. When the State Legislature drafted the salvage facility laws, it attempted to balance two interests. First, it recognized that a “clean, wholesome, attractive environment" promotes the health and safety of its citizens. Such an environment is “essential to the maintenance and continued development of the tourist and recreational industry." Second, the Legislature understood that the maintenance of legal salvage facilities is a business and should be encouraged.

Protecting New Hampshire’s Wetlands: Municipal Issues

Q. What are wetlands?

A. In 2004 the state legislature officially defined the term “wetlands," which is found at RSA 482-A:2, X. The definition is:

Regulating Drilling and Blasting Activities: Municipal Issues

According to the United States Geological Survey, a significant portion of the commercial explosives produced annually is used in the construction trades or to mine rock as a valuable product. In New Hampshire, this amounted to over 11,500 tons of explosive detonated in 2003. Many examples of these events are evident in New Hampshire's granite quarries and gravel pits, but increasingly explosives are used to remove rock during the construction of water and sewer lines, widening of highways and installation of new subdivision roads.

Dealing with Burial Costs: Understanding A Municipality's Obligation

Questions sometimes arise regarding a municipality's welfare obligations with respect to burials. Certainly, a municipality has a legal duty to provide assistance to the indigent. The application of this basic legal duty, however, can potentially cause uncertainty when dealing with the cost of burials. The following is a brief overview of a municipality's welfare burial obligations.

Q. By way of background, what is the legal basis for a municipality's general duty to provide welfare?