by Thomas P. Caldwell
ALEXANDRIA — Recognizing that she does not have the votes necessary for the confirmation of her nominees to the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee, Governor Maggie Hassan dropped the item from Wednesday's Executive Council agenda.
Lori Lerner of Bridgewater, president of New Hampshire Wind Watch which has been lobbying for the defeat of the nominations, said the Executive Council has received hundreds of letters from citizens who object to the naming of state Senator Bob Odell, and Representative Amanda Merrill as alternate, to represent "the public" on the committee which reviews energy proposals for the state.
District 1 Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney reported only one constituent being in favor of the governor's choices. "People just don't feel that Odell can represent the public," said Lerner.
There was a similar sentiment among those attending the Alexandria selectmen's meeting on Sept. 30. The consensus was that the governor made a big mistake in thinking a retiring state legislator could reasonably be considered a member of the public.
"It should be someone who is totally neutral," said Alexandria resident Bob Piehler, adding that, as someone who opposes wind energy projects, he would not be right for the job, either.
Many residents connected with N.H. Wind Watch feel Sen. Odell's previous support of a wind project in Lempster proves he would not be an impartial voice on the panel.
Lerner said Gov. Hassan pulled the nomination from the agenda but that she has not changed her mind on her nominees. She simply needs to "work the Executive Council" to convince more members to support her position, Lerner surmised.
Press Secretary William Hinkle on Friday issued a statement saying, "As Governor Hassan works to diversify our energy sources, improve reliability and reduce energy costs, she remains committed to strengthening efforts to ensure that the voices of local communities are heard throughout the siting process ... As well-respected, retiring legislators, Bob Odell and Amanda Merrill have invaluable experience representing the views of the public on the important issues that face the SEC, including their work as members of energy and environment committees. Governor Hassan believes that their experience, temperament, and commitment to fairness will be assets as we pursue an energy strategy that will reduce costs and pollution, create jobs and improve reliability and diversity while protecting the natural resources that define us as a state."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 12:40
BRISTOL — Work at the Old Town Hall is progressing but the building will not be ready in time for November elections, selectmen said at the board's Sept. 25 meeting.
Town Administrator Michael Capone said the roof work is done, chimney repairs have been completed, and the sills and duct work also were completed within the $49,350 bid. Next to be done is the drywall work, for which the town had a bid of $850.
Capone said that, even allowing $200 as a contingency on the drywall work, the town has nearly $6,000 left in its budget for work on the building and he suggested accepting Richard Batchelder's $2,750 bid for exterior work that involves wood trim and clapboard on the southeast corner where the old jail cell is. For another $2,000, he said they could have the clapboard extended all the way to chimney. In separate motions, the selectmen agreed to both.
With the traditional voting place still not ready for occupancy, voting will continue to take place at Marion Hall on West Shore Road. Holding elections there means officials have to move in the voting booths and ballot machines and cover the floors, then remove all of the equipment. The advantage is that there is more parking and easier access than at the Old Town Hall.
Residents are divided on which polling place is better with some complaining of the distance to Marion Hall and the preference for tradition while others welcome the change and hope they will be able to continue casting their votes there.
In other business, selectmen approved the paving of the municipal parking lot next to Union Lodge, with Highway Supervisor Mark Bucklin noting that the Masons' lot was the last paving project on his list.
With that $8,900 expenditure, Town Administrator Michael Capone said $61,000 remained in the paving budget. While that was too little to take on another road project, he said the town could address problems with the parking area at the municipal building where ice buildup was a constant problem during the winter.
Bucklin suggested that the town might get a good price on town office project by combining it with the Masons' lot and he agreed to speak with the contractor about it.
Selectmen granted the town administrator authority to sign an agreement not to exceed $10,000 for paving the town office lot.
The board approved the purchase of new street signs to direct traffic on North Main Street, now a one-way street, back to the main routes. One would be at the corner of North Main and Mayhew streets, directing traffic to Route 104 east; another at the intersection of North Main and Union streets for those going to Route 3-A; and a third at the intersection of Union and Lake streets, showing Route 3-A North and South and directing them to Route 104. The cost is $650 — $700, Capone said.
In discussing the Harriet Drive road project, Bucklin said the development has upgraded the road so it will meet town requirements. All is in place except for surfacing the road as required by the town, Bucklin said.
Chair Rick Alpers questioned whether the town should hold the development accountable to a standard that was not in place when the road project began. After some discussion, the selectmen agreed to put acceptance of the road on the agenda for a future meeting.
Bucklin provided updates on other projects and discussed the bids for winter sand, due Friday, Oct. 3. He also reported on the arrival of a new sidewalk tractor; progress on the installation of new doors and windows at the highway garage, and progress on a road service management program.
Turning to the newly established economic development task force, selectmen agreed to extend the deadline for people to apply for positions on panel. While five people have formally applied to serve on the task force, others have said they just learned of it.
Selectmen awarded a fuel bid to Dead River Company, with Capone noting that he had worked with School Administrative Unit 4 Business Manager Michael Limanni in securing bids for both town and school purchases. While Fred Fuller had submitted a comparable bid, concerns about the company's future led them to shy away from that oil company.
Selectmen agreed to have Capone notify Integrys Energy Services that it will be switching to Public Service of New Hampshire for its electricy. Capone said that October marks the end of the fixed energy price contract and, after that, Integrys' rates could rise to market levels.
The board postponed a decision on whether to accept Norwood Energy's offer of $58 per REC for every renewable energy certificate the Minot-Sleeper Library earns with the solar array on its roof. Capone said the New Jersey-based power company comes highly recommended and, while the town could try to market its RECs itself, it would not be worth it with the 20 credits per year that the library is able to earn. Should the town eventually power all of its municipal buildings with solar energy, the revenues might justify that, he said.
The library intends to use the revenues it receives from its REC sales for maintenance.
On a related note, Capone noted that the town has filed its grant application for a solar array at the wastewater treatment plant. The $1.25 million PUC grant would require a $150,000 match from the water and sewer department.
Bristol had good news from Melanson Heath & Company of Manchester which delivered a positive audit report to the town for the budget year ending Dec. 31, 2013. The accountants gave special recognition to the municipal departments for pulling together all the documentation the accounting firm needed for its review.
While the town's governmental activities balance sheet showed a negative net position, the auditors explained that it was because of the impact of the Central Square project that reconfigured the downtown area while replacing water, sewer, and electric lines beneath the roads.
Revenues above the budgeted amount allowed the town to end the year with a positive fund balance even though the town had used last year's unassigned fund balance to reduce taxation rather than using it for town expenses. Combined with the unexpended funds turned back in by the various departments, the town was able to put back into its fund balance almost all of the money returned to the taxpayers last year.
The auditors also gave the water and sewer department, which operates as an independent entity, good marks, noting that the fluctuations from last year are not significant.
Overall, the accountants liked the progress they were seeing in addressing deficiencies, the most notable of which is the assignment of values to capital assets such as buildings and streets. All communities are going through this change in accounting practice to better reflect their actual value and Bristol is making good progress, the report said.
Another concern is the segregation of duties but the accountants acknowledged the problem of working with a small staff. New accounting software for the town will eliminate the issue, they said.
The firm is researching deficit fund balances over the past 10 years, reconciling them with invoices to make sure everything is properly recorded.
Another recommendation is for the town to do more internal audit functions for better departmental budget oversight. The accountants acknowledged that is not easy to do on top of regular duties, but Bristol is making progress there, too.
An audit of the Central Square project is nearing completion and the accountants said they will be coming back with a "clean opinion" on that, as well.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 12:47
MEREDITH — The Energy Committees of Meredith and Center Harbor will host the Lakes Region Energy Fair on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Inter-Lakes High School.
Ken Colburn, who chairs the Meredith Energy Committee, said that the event has been scheduled to coincide with the advent of colder weather. There is no charge to attend and everyone — home and business owners, as well as anyone interested in reducing the volume, cost and environmental impact of energy consumption.
The fair will feature an array of vendors. In addition there will be more than a dozen sessions on energy efficiency and conservation throughout the day. Chris Johnson of the Center Harbor Energy Committee said the fair will offer "something for everyone," from information about alternative technologies to financing opportunities.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 01:27
LACONIA — The city has applied to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation for a $500,000 matching grant, which would be applied to developing and improving sidewalks and trails leading to schools.
Altogether seven projects with an aggregate cost of approximately $1-million are proposed. Two of the projects — 2,000 feet of the second phase of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail from Veteran's Square to the Belmont town line and 400 feet of the downtown riverwalk from the Perley Canal to the Church Street Bridge — have already been funded by the Downtown Tax Increment (TIF) fund and represent the 50-percent match for the grant.
About 1,000 feet of sidewalk along Opechee Street would be improved at a cost of $50,000 to provide a safe passage between Messer Street and Laconia Middle School. The sidewalks along 600 feet of Stevens Street and 1,200 feet of Winter Street leading to Woodland Heights School would be improved with curbing and sublawns and a speed table to slow traffic would be installed near the school.
The downtown riverwalk would be extended along River Street, south of the Church Street Bridge, to connect with the stretch to built at River's Edge, the apartment building to be constructed by the Laconia Area Community Land Trust on the property formerly occupied by the F.W. Webb Company.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders told the City Council this week that the grant application represents a joint effort of LRGHealthcare, Laconia School District, Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health and the WOW Trail. She said that the program requires a 20-percent match and indicated that providing a 50-match could work to the city's advantage.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 01:20
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