'Best Drink of Water in New Hampshire' goes dry

ALTON — Four years after NH2O was named the Best Drink of Water in New Hampshire, Deanna O'Shaughnessy and Tim Morgan, the principals of Chamberlain Springs, have shut down their bottled water operation at Sunny Slope Farm.

The company has struggled financially since it began in 2005 as an effort to generate the revenue to secure the future of the 282 acres, which has been farmed since the 18th century and owned by O'Shaughnessy's family since 1937. In 2012, threatened with losing the very property, O'Shaughnessy and Morgan sought to protect, they escaped foreclosure when family and friends raised $53,000 to stave off the bank. A year later the company gained another infusion of capital from an investor in Boston and partnered with Newfound Business Associates.

O'Shaugnessy said yesterday that Arthur Casey of Bristol, a retired businessman who wife Cheryl manages Newfound Business Associates, assessed the company's financial condition and concluded it would have to raise the price of its bottled water to turn a profit. She said that NH2O was already priced near the top of the market, fearing a higher price would be "the kiss of death," particularly since the 32 Hannaford stores distributing the product added 40 percent to the wholesale price.

"We had to try something," O'Shaughnessy said. She said that with the higher price the volume of sales shrunk and Hannafords, the largest seller of NH2O, began taking the product off its shelves.

Meanwhile, O'Shaughnessy said that Chamberlain Springs bottling license was nearing renewal, which would require extensive testing of both the well water and bottled water. "I call it the 'full Monty'," she remarked, estimating the cost of the testing at $5,000. She said that the company had nearly exhausted its stock of plastic and glass bottles, which would require an expenditure of $6,000 to replenish. Finally, although the company restructured its commercial loan from Profile Bank, O'Shaughnessy said that a note will fall due in May. She said that she had had some discussions with the bank, but had no assurance a satisfactory arrangement could be reached.

O'Shaughnessy said that despite closing the business, she intends to renew the "large groundwater extraction permit" granted to Chamberlain Springs by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in 2009. She said the permit represents an investment of four years and $1.1 million. "We put everything we had into that," she remarked, "and we'll keep it as long as I'm alive. Hopefully our children will make something of it."

The permit allows Chamberlain Springs to draw 223,200 gallons of water a day from 585-foot deep well at the farm. O'Shaughnessy that in the five years NH2O was bottled and sold, the company drew 39,000 gallons of water from the well.

O'Shaughnessy expressed her gratitude to all those — family, friends, partners and customers — for their support and patronage.

Franklin & Hill residents welcome at SAU 18 strategic planning sessions - 82

By Thomas P. Caldwell

FRANKLIN — School Administrative Unit 18 is urging residents of Hill and Franklin to get involved in the development of a new strategic plan, with two all-day sessions scheduled, on Friday, Jan. 23, and Saturday, Jan. 24.
The last strategic plan for SAU 18, which serves the Franklin and Hill school districts, was adopted in 2009.
The planning sessions will take place in the SAU office at Franklin High School from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.
For more information, contact Superintendent Robert McKenney at 603-934-3108.

Crowded Paul Smith School forcing Franklin board to consider tough options

by Thomas P. Caldwell

FRANKLIN — Members of the Franklin School Board are considering some drastic measures, including reassigning classes to other locations, to cope with a burgeoning student population at the Paul Smith Elementary School.
After Principal Mike Hoyt told the school board at its October meeting that he has one classroom with 27 students, people have been coming up with possible solutions to rcrowding. Among the suggestions are moving the fourth grade to Franklin Middle School or making arrangements with the Saint Paul Parish to have those students utilize space at the former Saint Mary School.
Moving the fourth grade to the middle school, as suggested by School Board Chair Tamara Feener, would likely require reassigning eighth graders to Franklin High School which at one point served as a junior-senior high school. In order to do that and make room for a new machine shop that the board approved on Jan. 12, Feener suggested moving the School Administrative Unit 18 office out of the high school and into Saint Mary School.
Another of the suggestions, which Feener said were for discussion purposes only, was to move the preschool students and staff out of Franklin Middle School to bring them together with the kindergarten through Grade 3 students at the Paul Smith School.
Franklin's overall population has remained relatively steady but the lower grades have seen unexpected increases this year. Paul Smith School currently has 485 students but Hoyt said it could easily reach 500 students next year. There are 78 fourth graders but 95 students in kindergarten.
Hoyt said transitioning fourth graders to another location would be easier than moving the kindergarten, and he added that such a move could be part of the fourth graders' eventual transition to the middle school.
Another option — which Hoyt said he does not favor but should be considered — is ending full-day kindergarten and offering half-days instead.
Superintendent Robert McKenney, who has been working with Hoyt to come up with a solution to the problem, said other things to consider are double sessions and the use of portable classrooms. He does not favor either solution, and said he had looked into portable classrooms a decade ago when he first served as Franklin's superintendent and he concluded at that time it would be less expensive to build an addition — which the district did.
McKenney said in the next budget cycle he would want to hire an additional teacher at Paul Smith School. He also noted that Hoyt has only a part-time administrator, working 10 hours a week, to help him operate the school and said he wanted to increase that position to half-time next year. He would like get a full-time assistant principal but does not expect to be able do so because of budgetary constraints.
Board members noted that utilizing the Saint Mary School would require renovations to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Vice-Chair Greg Husband moved to table the discussion until other issues, such as Hill's possible withdrawal from its Authorized Regional Enrollment Area agreement with Franklin, is resolved. "There are other things that need to be considered," he said.
McKenney asked board members and administrators to get their ideas to him and suggested returning to the discussion at the school board's April meeting. "By then we could have more information regarding the overcrowding, and we also need to know more about the budget before making some of these decisions," he said.
The superintendent later elaborated by saying he would like to hold a public hearing in April to let Franklin residents take part in the discussion.

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