Warner budget committee member wants new purchase planning group for town

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – When voters gather for this year’s annual town meeting next month, they’ll be asked to consider a proposal to establish a new Procurement Committee that would evaluate all proposed town expenditures greater than $25,000.

The board of selectmen has decided not to recommend the idea to voters, but Alfred Hanson, who started the petition warrant article, said the new three-member group could assist the selectmen.

‘I’d just like to see some other minds get involved a little bit (in a way) that won’t cost us any money and maybe open up horizons for us in a whole different manner.’

-Alfred Hanson

 

“I’ve lived in this town all my life and I’ve seen the changes, especially in the last five or six years,” he explained. “And this is one of the things I think the town could really gain from… I’ve put a year’s worth of thought into this.”

The new committee would independently review all major proposed town costs looking at bids and any projected financial impact to the town, the petition state. The group would then submit a report with its findings and recommendations to the selectmen at a public meeting.

Hanson, who has served on the budget committee for the last nine years, said the goal of the committee would be to provide the town leaders with additional data.

“I think you need as much information as you can possibly get,” he said. “I know that’s the way I run my business. The better you feel about what is taking place, or what’s going to take place, the better off you are. So, what better way than this (idea)?”

Hanson said he’s not interesting in starting a group that will start “micromanaging” town leaders. “I’m not saying the town is making the wrong decisions here and there,” he explained. “I think the board of selectmen and the others, they do their job. I’d just like to see some other minds get involved a little bit (in a way) that won’t cost us any money and maybe open up horizons for us in a whole different manner.

“What I don’t want to see with the government is it growing,” he noted. “We start seeing departments hiring an assistant this or that… Maybe we don’t have to pay for that information. Maybe we can find citizens to study this stuff.”

“I believe that there are some savings being missed,” he added.

At a recent meeting, the selectmen voted unanimously not to recommend Hanson’s article to voters. Jim Bingham, the town administrator, said the three-member board had concerns about how a procurement committee would work and whether it would add a step in the town’s processes that would slow things down, he said.

“And (the members) said that they already have several avenues for public input,” Bingham noted. “For instance, before the board itself (at its regular meetings) or, if there’s any proposed withdrawal from a highway or road construction capital reserve fund, that needs to be preceded by a public input meeting.”

The town meeting will take place is scheduled to take palce on Saturday, March 17, beginning at 9 a.m., in the town hall.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, February 20, 2018. 

 

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Warner budgeters sharpen pencils to reduce fire station bond costs

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – Town leaders concerned that voters might reject a proposed new fire station because of its costs are making last-minute budget adjustments to lower the price of the bonding project.

Last Tuesday, Alfred Hanson, a member of the budget committee, suggested at his group’s annual public hearing on the proposed 2018 town budget that the $2.8-million price tag could be too high for some residents. He concurred with town officials that the structure is needed but said that town leaders should find a way to lower the bottom line about $300,000, to $2.5-million.

The idea (involves) cutting some department budgets and warrant articles that would earmark money to go into capital reserve funds.

The idea spurred a flurry of ideas and the budget group voted to support Hanson’s idea, reported Kimberly Edelmann, a member of the select board. Before the meeting adjourned, the selectmen decided to schedule an additional meeting of their own for the following Friday, she noted.

Late Friday afternoon, Hanson gathered with the selectmen, some other budget committee members, a few other residents and Jim Bingham, the town’s administrator, at the town hall to address the issue.

Hanson outlined the basics of his idea, which involved cutting some department budgets and warrant articles that would earmark money to go into capital reserve funds. He suggested that a proposal to add $190,000 to a capital reserve fund for future roadwork could be trimmed by $50,000. “I’ve talked to Tim (Allen, the town’s public works director) and he said he’s not going to start that work (on Pumpkin Hill Road) until 2019, and that’s a full year away,” Hanson said.

Selectman Clyde Carson said that he hoped that the fire station bond could be funded without adding to residents’ property tax bills. He suggested that the selectmen could trim the annual operating budget and still keep its cost increase to 2-percent or lower.

Carson noted that the proposed budget included about $20,000 to deal with possible legal fees associated with the long-running gun range proposal; since that issue now appears to be resolved, that line item could be reduced to its more typical annual $1,000 amount. The selectmen’s annual legal expenditure budget could also be reduced, he added.

Brown said that the addition of the town’s new solar energy panels at the transfer station was projected to produce a savings of about $1,700, which could also be available for the fire station project.

With Bingham’s help, the selectmen decided that by using money in the current fire station capital reserve fund, as well as some in the town’s unassigned fund balance, the bond could be set at $2.5-million. They approved the proposed changes to the annual budget, which reduced its bottom line from $3,153,115 to $3,131,033.

The budget committee scheduled its final meeting in advance of the annual town meeting for Monday, Feb. 12, with the selectmen slated to meet the following night, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 6 p.m. at town hall. The annual town meeting is set for Saturday, March 17, at 9 a.m., at the town hall.

A final public hearing on the fire station bond is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m., Brown reported. She noted that if town meeting voters approve the project, construction could begin as early as April 1, with a tentative completion date of December 1.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

 

Gun range project could land in Concord or another NH town

By Ray Carbone

SUTTON – Since his efforts to build a retail gun store/indoor shooting range in Warner were defeated last month, resident Eric Miller says he’s heard from numerous local communities that are anxious to see if his new business can be established in their towns.

Speaking by phone from his home here late last week, the owner of Dragonfly Ranges said that he’s seriously considering several potential locations, including two in Concord. “There are two (spaces there), and one is large enough for indoor skeet/trap shooting,” Miller explained. “So, I’m seriously considering doing two ranges. One for skeet/trap shooting and the other the more traditional range,” like the was proposed in Warner, he explained.

The two locations are “within four or five miles of each other,” Miller noted.

‘What I’m looking at right now is speed-to-market. It took a year for this to play out in Warner and I’m not spending another six months (delayed).’

  • Eric Miller, owner of Dragonfly Ranges

 

Miller said he’s decided against appealing the Warner zoning board of adjustment’s recent decision to deny a variance that would have allowed his $1.4-million firearms facility to be constructed on Warner Road, despite the urgings of his attorney. “My lawyer has said in no uncertain terms that the zoning board violated state law (by rejecting the variance request), and he has written me a very detailed analysis, even though I’ve told him I’m not looking to appeal this,” the business owner said.

“What it comes down to, quite simply, is that if I appeal then the judge would likely send (the case) back to the another zoning hearing,” Miller said. “And since its their (members) intend to violate state law, the only thing I could expect is that they would try to conceal their preconceived opinions and hide their real biases better than they did this go-around… It’s not a good investment of time.”

“What I’m looking at right now is speed-to-market,” he said. “It took a year for this to play out in Warner and I’m not spending another six months (delayed).”

Planning officials in Concord have assured Miller that there are numerous locations around the city – including some on Main Street – where he would have no problem opening up his retail gun store/shooting range operations. “We’d need no more than a building permit,” he said.

In Warner, Miller was unable to convince the five-member ZBA that his proposal was allowable under the town’s legal definition of a “permitted use” for a zoning variance. During the last year, a significant number of area residents said that they did not feel the facility was a good addition to the community because of concerns about noise, pollution and safety. Last month, the ZBA voted 3-2 to turn aside Dragonfly’s variance request.

Miller said that since the group’s decision, he’s received invitations from officials or private citizens in Hillsboro, Newport, Grantham, Springfield and Hopkinton, as well as City of Concord and his Sutton hometown, offering to discuss the possibility of locating his facility in their towns. Some involved procuring land and constructing a new building, something he’s not interested in at this time. Miller wants to rent space in an industrial-style building to speed his opening, he explained.

The business owner said he hasn’t yet developed any plans for the 2.9-acre Warner property he bought last year in hopes of constructing his facility.

“So far I’ve had three offers (to buy it),” he said. “One of them, of course, being from Norm (Carlson).”

Carlson is the founder and president of MadgeTech, Inc., the high-tech firm located adjacent to Miller’s property. He led the legal fight to defeat the firearms facility proposal, so the Miller admitted to having some reservations about his offer. “I’m not the emotional type but, it (selling to Carlson) certainly wouldn’t be my first choice.”

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

 

Warner high-tech firm buys two smaller Newport companies

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The local company that’s been embroiled in efforts to stop the construction of an indoor shooting range in town is expanding its business by purchasing two Newport companies

MadgeTech, Inc., an industry-leading manufacturer of high-tech data loggers, has bought Matrix Air/Pollution Research and New England Solar Concepts, both located on Sunapee Street. The deal was announced in a recent press release issued by MadgeTech earlier this month.

The new, expanded business wants the deal to allow it to manufacture high-quality products in growing fields including HVAC and alternative energy.

 

Matrix has been manufacturing a variety of air filtration and purification systems for businesses and homes since 1983, according to the company website. “For decades, New England Solar Concepts has been helping home and business owners,” according to the press release, “(by) specializing in the installation of photovoltaic electric and thermal solar panels.”

Financial details of the purchase were not disclosed to the public.

Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech, said that his company has been negotiating with the owners of the Newport firms for months. “The recent acquisition was the perfect opportunity to support local businesses while complementing our commitment to providing the necessary resources needed to ensure safety and quality across influential industries worldwide,” he commented.

The new, expanded business wants the deal to allow it to grow and manufacture high-quality products in growing fields including HVAC, alternative energy, food processing and life sciences, according to the press release.

Carlson started MadgeTech more than 20 years ago. Today, the company employs about 60 people at its plant and its data loggers are used around the world for security and safety.

Carlson opposed a project proposed by Dragonfly Ranges to build a 16-lane firing range and gun retail store next to his plant’s Warner Road facility. The Warner business owner threatened to move MadgeTech out of town if the firearms facility was built, because his employees had safety concerns about its proximity. But the zoning board of adjustment rejected Dragonfly’s request for a zoning variance last week, effectively killing the proposal.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on January 16, 2018.

Gun firing range proposal shot down by Warner ZBA

(Zoning Board Chair Janice Loz, center-left, discusses a proposal to grant a variance that would allow a local business to construct an indoor gun range. – Photo: RC)

 

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – It was close at the end, but Warner’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) voted 3-2 to deny a zoning variance application submitted by Dragonfly Ranges.

The variance would have allowed the Sutton-based company to build a $1.4-million modern indoor gun range and retail store on Warner Road.

At its town hall meeting last Wednesday, Jan. 10, the board ruled that the application failed to meet several criteria required under Warner’s zoning regulations. Among the most significant was that the project would not negatively impact the “health, morals and welfare” of the area and adjoining neighborhoods, and that the project was “essential or desirable to the public convenience and welfare.”

(Board member Sam) Bower pointed out that more than 80-percent of the public input that ZBA had received was against the proposed firing range.

After the meeting, Eric Miller of Dragonfly said that he would be talking with some of the project’s supporters soon about possibly developing the firearms facility as a private club rather than a retail facility. A private club, which is not open to the public, would face less stringent legal limitations.

Miler also has the option of appealing the ZBA’s decision, asking the group to reconsider its decision, before Feb. 10.

Dragonfly’s defeat is a victory for Norman Carlson, the founder and president of Madgetech, Inc., the high-tech firm that is located next to the 2.9–acre lot where Miller hoped to build. Carlson inadvertently created the lot when, according to state officials, he mistakenly okayed an easement for a timber cut on the property even though it was still part of the Davisville State Forest at the time. When state officials discovered the problem, they decided to cut the oddly shaped 2.9.-acre track out from the forest and sell it. Carlson tried to purchase it but lost out in a bid process to a Webster resident, who later sold it to Dragonfly.

After Dragonfly’s plans became public, Carlson funded a lengthy legal battle against the effort. He said that he would move his 60-employee plant out of Warner if the facility were built because his employees were nervous about being next to a shooting range.

Dragonfly first applied to the ZBA for its variance almost one year ago, in February 2017. The board initially approved the variance request but Carlson appealed the decision to Merrimack County Superior Court, claiming that the town had not properly notified several abutters about the proposed building plan. While the town’s planning board okayed the project, the court ruled against the ZBA, tossing it back to the town.

In the ensuing months, the ZBA has worked to make sure that anyone who had an interest in Miller’s proposal was notified and heard. As a result, the board heard from scores of area residents and received more than 100 written comments, including a letter from the Hopkinton school board saying that its educational community opposed the facility.

Throughout the process, Miller maintained that the Dragonfly range would be safe, with high-tech lead abatement and noise suppression systems, a trained staff and plenty of safety measures. He said that shooting ranges typically attract people who are serious gun owners and that the Warner building would primarily be an “educational facility.”

Before last week’s vote, ZBA member Sam Bower said that he “struggled with” seeing how the project could met the zoning regulations requirement that a business is “essential or desirable,” and beneficial to the “public convenience or welfare.”

Bower pointed out that more than 80-percent of the public input that ZBA had received was against the proposed firing range, which seemed to indicate that it wasn’t desirable.

Chairman Janice Loz said that the ZBA’s decision was not supposed to be a popularity contest, but Bower said the reactions should be considered. “How do you measure ‘desirability,’ except from public input,” he asked rhetorically.

Bower also noted that the Warner Fish & Game Club provides outdoor options for local firearms enthusiasts and that indoor shooting is available within 30 minutes in numerous directions from town.

ZBA member Beverly Howe said she was most concerned about the possibility of noise that the shooting range would produce. “A gun range brings a specific type of sound,” she told her fellow members. “A combustive, unpredictable type of sound.”

Miller had even admitted to the group that, despite his plans for a high-tech noise suppressant system, he could not predict how much noise would be audible at the edge of his property, she added.

Later, Bower said that the shooting range would likely have a negative impact on local property values.

Loz pointed out that Miller had disputed that idea in his testimony but Bower explained that a representative of the Brown Family Realty company in town confirmed his position.

In the end, Bower voted with Howe and board member Elizabeth Labbe to reject Dragonfly’s application, while Loz and Howard Kirchner stood in opposition.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper of Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, January 16, 2018.

 

 

Warner gun range case still unsettled

Above – Attorney Paul Alfano, representing Norman Carlson of Warner, testifies before the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment  in the Christmas-themed Town Hall last week. – RC

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – For the third time this year, the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment voted last week to continue its public hearing on a special exception that would allow a Sutton man to build a $1.4-million indoor gun firing range and retail store on Warner Road nearby exit 7 off I-89.

At its regular town hall monthly meeting Wednesday night, the board primarily heard from attorney Mark Puffer of Concord, who is representing Eric Miller and his company, Dragonfly Ranges of Sutton. The lawyer responded to comments made at the November meeting by Paul Alfano, the Concord lawyer who represents Norman Carlson. Carlson, who is the founder and president of Madgetech, a 60-employee high-tech firm that sits next to the 2.9-acre lot where the proposed firearms facility would be built, has said he may move his operations out of Warner if Dragonfly’s range is constructed adjacent to his plant.

Early in the meeting, Alfano reviewed Carlson’s objections to the gun range site. He said a town zoning regulation that would allow “recreational and other amusements” in the zone where Dragonfly wants to build wouldn’t apply to its plans. “If you look at a common sense reading (of those terms),” he said, “it does not include this.”

Alfano also said that the gun facility would not meet a requirement that it be “desirable” in the neighborhood, based on the large number of area residents who have voice opposition to the project. And there are still unanswered questions related to its possible impact on nearby property values, ambient noise, and environmental issues, the attorney added.

‘This is not a referendum on firearms, and it’s not a popularity contest. This is a zoning case.’

– Attorney Mark Puffer, representing Dragonfly Ranges

 

“If you vote against this, it doesn’t mean your anti-gun,” Alfano told the board. “It means the application didn’t meet the special exception criteria.”

But Puffer said that Alfano was being somewhat disingenuous about the gun-rights issue. “Remember at the (original) October hearing, the very first thing he said was that ‘Eric Miller did not talk about the elephant in the room, which was that guns kill people,” he recalled, classifying the statement as “incendiary.”

“This is not a referendum on firearms, and it’s not a popularity contest,” Puffer said. “This is a zoning case.”

He noted that proposed Walmart stores are frequently opposed by various members of a community, but the company is allowed to build because its stores meet the zoning requirements.

Puffer also argued that the firing range is allowed as a “recreational” special exception under the town’s zoning regulations. “It’s akin to an indoor tennis facility, a roller-skating rink or an ice skating facility,” he said.

The attorney then disputed Alfano’s claim that noise, pollution and property values issues had not be refuted, stating that Miller had responded to each in paperwork that submitted to the board. And he said that while Miller was at all public hearings, several experts who had filed reports in favor of Carlson’s objections were not. “None of them came here to be questioned,” Puffer told the board.

The ZBA will continue the gun range hearing at its next meeting on Wednesday, January 10 at 7 p.m. in the town hall.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. 

 

 

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