Co. opposes project; narrowly missed out on buying same land
By Ray Carbone
WARNER – Since it was announced in March, plans to build a $1.4-million shooting range and gun store have been strongly opposed by Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech, Inc. At public hearings and in private conversations, the high-tech company’s leader has expressed concerns about possible safety issues that could result from locating the firearms facility adjacent to MadgeTech’s plant on Warner Road. He’s even said that if the project moves forward, he will move his plant, where 60 people are now employed.
But there’s some irony to Carlson’s pronouncement.
State officials said that the 2.9-acre lot where Eric Miller of Sutton wants to build his shooting range and store would not be available if MadgeTech’s boss hadn’t inadvertently indicated that he had an ownership interest in the land.
Carlson denies that, but admitted that he doesn’t know the whole story.
NH Forests and Lands could have penalized MadgeTech by demanding that the poles be removed and the area restored, but the agency instead worked with Eversource to come up way to work out a solution, rather than close the business (MadgeTech) down.
The story began developing about two years ago after Carlson determined that MadgeTech needed more electrical power. He contracted Eversource and the electric company said it would be able to provide the service if it had a legal right-of-way permission to take down trees in the area to make room for utility poles.
According to Bob Spoerl, a land agent with the NH Division of Forests and Lands, Carlson somehow thought that he owned property and approved the right-of-way.
But the land was actually part of the Davisville State Forest, the land agent explained.
“I don’t believe that’s accurate,” Carlson said of Spoerl’s recollection. “I told Eversource that we needed more power so they said, we’ll bring it in… They chose the location, not me. I know I signed something for the state for the (poles) to be put in there, but I don’t know the whole story. I always knew that I didn’t own that land.”
However the mistake occurred, it presented a problem for the state forestry agency. “We normally try to stay two tree heights back from power lines,” Spoerl explained. “The idea is that if one tree falls, it could fall on another.”
Forests and Lands could have penalized MadgeTech by demanding that the poles be removed and the area restored, but Spoerl said the agency instead worked with Eversource to come up way to work out a solution, “rather than close the business (MadgeTech) down.”
After input from several state officials, the decision was made to sell an oddly shaped 2.9-acre lot that has been separated from the rest of the forestland by the utility poles. Carlson said he offered to buy it for $60,000 but the state wanted $90,000.
Without an agreement, the agency moved to a sealed bid process that’s outlined in state regulations. “We have a minimum bid, which is the (land’s) appraised fair market price, plus $1,100,” Spoerl explained.
In the end, the state received two high bids. One was Carlson’s $57,000 offer. The other, from Richard M. George of Webster, was for $57,100. George, who lives nearby the building site, won the land with a bid that was just $100 higher than Carlson’s.
When Carlson learned about the situation, he contacted George and offered him $5,000 to withdraw his bid.
George refused, but later told Carlson he would sell the company president the lot for $100,000.
“He (Carlson) never got back to me,” George said.
“I should have bought it,” Carlson said recently. “Then I wouldn’t be dealing with a stupid gun range now.”
Now, Carlson has suspicions about the bidding process.
“It’s supposed to be a sealed bid but I do believe somebody told (George) what my bid was,” he said, noting the slight difference between their two offers. “I believe that with all my heart.”
George said he just “picked the number out of thin air” for his bid.
“I had no sense of who was going to bid on it. You bid just above the minimum bid, and you chose an odd number because most people tend to use round numbers.”
Land agent Spoerl said that the problem with the land was the result of a “cascading amount of errors” by various parties but that there was no attempt to deceive MadgeTech’s president.
“We let him know what was going on. I don’t know how we could have made it more fair. We sent him a letter (on Feb. 25, 2016) with the minimum bid information that said, you need to consider this when you’re bidding on it.”
While the situation regarding the gun shop and shooting range is still unresolved in town, the state forestry division has gained something positive from the local dispute.
“Now we’ve got good contact with the electric company,” Spoerl said. “So they now have a GIS (global information system) in all their trucks that identifies all state of New Hampshire property.”
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on May 2, 2017. See whole edition here.