New Warner NH liquor store slated to open next month

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – State officials are expecting the new NH Liquor & Wine Outlet off Route 103 to open earlier than originally predicted.

J. Powers, who provides communication services for the NH Liquor Commission, said late last week that the 10,500-square-foot retail store is expected to open July, but not before the July Fourth weekend.

“Construction is proceeding along well, so we’ll have an announcement later this month,” Powers said. “In terms of a specific opening date, it’s right around the corner. We’re ahead of schedule.”

“With 2,200 wines, 1,400 spirits, (and)  iPad kiosks that will (let people) consider wine-food pairings.”

The new store, which is located in the same shopping center where McDonalds, CircleK/Dunkin Donuts, Aubuchon Hardware and the Market Basket supermarket are currently located. The commission will be leasing the building from the Market Basket company, which is based in Massachusetts.

Selectman Clyde Carson, who worked with the municipal group that helped locate the store, said town leaders are pleased with the result. “The project goes back a few years,” he explained. “The selectmen were aware that the state wanted to put a liquor store at that location. The state had a choice. They could have bought one of the adjoining lots (to the plaza), or they could have worked with Market Basket, to have them build the building to their specifications. And that’s what the town leaders wanted.

“From our perspective, that was the best. Market Basket owning it, that brings tax revenue to the town,” Carson added. “If the state bought its own property, then the lot would be off the tax roles, and the building and the property isn’t taxable.”

Joseph Mollica, chairman of the liquor commission, said the state will also benefit from the new store. “Strategically located in a busy plaza and easily accessible to the traveling public, particularly those visiting the Mount Sunapee region, we expect this store to drive considerable revenue for the state of New Hampshire and support critical services and programs, including education, health and social services, transportation and natural resource protection,” he said at the time of last year’s announcement. “We expect this new store to pay major dividends for New Hampshire.”

State Sen. Dan Feltes, who represents Warner, agreed, adding that the new store should also expand economic opportunities for town residents and increase tourism along the I-89 corridor.

The location, by exit 9 off Interstate 89, will be exposed to 28,500 motorists daily which is expected to result in $5.5 million in annual sales, Powers explained. Customers will be able to choose from a selection of about 2,200 wines and about 1,400 spirits in a state-of-the-art shopping environment that includes sections devoted to premium and ultra-premium spirits, high-end wines and temperature/humidity-controlled wine vaults, and iPad kiosks that will allow customers to review inventory and consider wine-food pairings.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on June 6, 2017.

Hopkinton school officials object to shooting range; planners keep moving application forward

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – Officials with the Hopkinton School District say the construction of a proposed shooting range/retail gun store in this town, and nearby two of their town’s schools, would not be in the best interests of the teachers and students.

“The existence of a gun range in close proximity to Hopkinton Middle School and High School impacts the students’ and faculty’s sense of security,” Superintendent Steven Chamberlain wrote in a recent letter to the Hopkinton board of selectmen. “Members of the school community feeling safe is of paramount concern.”

The letter is part of a package of materials gathered by the Hopkinton selectmen in response to a request from the Warner planning board. The planners are currently considering a $1.4-million shooting facility application for a site on Warner Road, near exit 7 off I-89 and about three miles from the Maple Street location of the two Hopkinton schools. Due to its proximity to Contoocook village, the Warner board invited input from Hopkinton residents and officials, as well as the nonprofit Central New Hampshire Planning Commission.

The Warner planning board members decided to move forward with the suggestion of an environmental study (of the proposed shooting range site).

At the planning board’s meeting held in town hall on Monday, May 15, the members accepted the materials gathered by the Hopkinton selectmen, including approximately 80 messages from various members of the community.

The planners also reviewed a letter from the regional planning commission, according to vice-chairman Barbara Annis. The commission recommended that the applicant, Eric Miller of Sutton, hire a licensed traffic engineer to consider traffic issues around the planned site, off Route 103 near MadgeTech, Inc. The letter also suggested that an independent environmental engineering firm “review and make recommendations on the suitability of the range’s design to prevent nuisance noise impact,” as well as the possibility of toxic materials being released into the environment, Annis explained.

The traffic issue was also mentioned in the Hopkinton school district letter. “(The shooting range/store) will sit on a defined training route for the Hopkinton middle school and high school cross-country, Nordic skiing and track programs,” it reads. “Increased traffic increases risk.”

Late last week, Jim O’Brien, chairmen of the Hopkinton board of selectmen, said that his board mentioned the matter of “lead abatement” related to discharged firearms at the proposed facility in its own letter to the Warner planners. “We’re not lead experts, but we’ve heard a lot of concerns, so we asked them to pay special attention to that,” O’Brien said.

The possibility of pollution problems at the range is something that developer Miller had heard before, from both Warner and Hopkinton residents. On Friday, he said that lead from discharged ammunition at the range would primarily be captured by bullet traps near the target areas. In addition, lead particles released into the air by firearms would be gathered by a up-graded air filtration system, he explained. “The typical HVAC system for a building this size should cost about $25,000,” he said. “Ours will run in excess of $200,000…. The air leaving the building (will be) actually cleaner than the air that enters it.”

At a previous planning board meeting, Chairman Ben Frost explained that his group invited input from the regional planning commission and from Hopkinton officials because the proposed shooting range is close to Hopkinton and could be seen considered to have regional impact.

But neither of the two groups will have any legal standing regarding Miller’s application, he said, which the planning board will decide in a public vote.

The Warner board members decided to move forward with the planning commission’s suggestion of an environmental study at the conclusion of last week’s meeting. They asked Miller to give the town $2,500 to pay for the work. Miller said that he delivered the check the next day.

But the planning board rejected the traffic study proposal from the commission. At a previous meeting, the members indicated that Warner Road would be able to handle any additional traffic generated by the shooting range without any problem.

Annis said the members now have until their next meeting on June 1 to review all the materials that’s been submitted in recent weeks. That includes “multiple letters, both pro and con” on the shooting range project, she said, as well as all the correspondence and 20 pages of information that was provided last Monday night by attorney Paul Alfano of Concord.

Alfano represents Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech, in the resident’s efforts to derail Miller’s application. In March, Carlson announced his intention to move his high-tech company out of Warner if the shooting facility is allowed to move forward on the land adjacent to his plant. Approximately 60 people are currently employed at MadgeTech and Carlson is looking at expanding his operation.

Last month, Alfano asked the Merrimack Superior Court to overturn a ruling by the Warner Zoning Board of Adjustment that granted Miller an acceptable “amusement and recreation service” variance for his firearms project. Alfano’s court action claims that not all abutters to the site – including MadgeTech – were legally notified about the ZBA hearing and, therefore, the variance is invalid. A decision from the court is expected on June 26.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, NH, on May 23, 2017.

 

 

Planning board chairman says ex-official asked to squash gun range

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – At a public hearing regarding the application for a proposed retail gun shop and firing range last week, the chairman of the planning board said that he had recently received a phone call from a former town official who asked if there was a legal way to terminate the firearm operation’s application.

“I paused,” Ben Frost told the group of about 25 people in the Town Hall audience. “Then I told this person that it was an inappropriate question to ask, but it would also be grossly inappropriate for me to answer.”

Frost said it wasn’t proper for anyone to ask how to use the town’s legal process to halt a legally submitted application. “That’s now how this board operates,” he said, “and that’s not how any board should operate.”

The same night last week that Warner’s planning board met, the Hopkinton selectmen voted to join in support of the legal action against the town’s ZBA decision to let the firearms development move ahead.

Frost said that in his role as planning board chairman, as well as his profession as an attorney and as a professional planner, it wouldn’t be proper to discuss how to derail the shooting range plan. “I took an oath to uphold the Constitution for both the state of New Hampshire and the United States,” he continued, adding that he was obliged to always be “fair, objective and honest.”

Frost did not name the official who called him but said that he extolled the virtues of MadgeTech, Inc., the high-tech company that’s been at the forefront of opposition to the facility. The caller addressed how the 20-year-old business has benefited the town and that it employs many local people.

But Frost rejected the caller’s plea to somehow favor MadgeTech over the applicant. “We’ve all taken an oath of office,” the chairman said he told the caller.

After the comments, both Norman Carlson, MadgeTech’s president and founder, and Eric Miller, the applicant for the firearms facility, joined the small crowd in applauding Frost’s remarks.

Frost’s unusual comments reflected tensions that have been building ever since early March when Miller announced his plan to build a $1.4-million modern, environmentally conscious retail gun store and shooting range.

Initially, public support seemed to favor the project. When it was presented to the planning board and the zoning board of adjustment, several people said the area could use an indoor shooting range. They also praised Miller’s plans for mitigating noise and possible pollution issues.

But in recent weeks, opposition has grown. MadgeTech’s president and founder Carlson said that if the shooting facility is built next to his plant, he will move the company out of town. He also complained that neither he nor two other abutters to the 2.9-acre lot on the edge of the Davisville State Forest were properly notified of the recent town hearings. Like others, Carlson has raised concerns about public safety, noise and possible pollution issues. Last month, he requested that the two boards re-schedule their public hearings.

The ZBA turned aside the request and Carlson then appealed that decision to Merrimack Superior Court. A court ruling on the legality of the ZBA decision is expected in late June.

The planning board did consider rescheduling a hearing, especially after some Hopkinton residents complained that the project would be closer to their Contoocook village than to Warner, which made it of regional impact. So the planning group voted to invite representatives of the neighboring town as well as representatives of the Central NH Regional Planning Commission to participate in an upcoming meeting on May 13.

The same night last week that Warner’s planning board met, the Hopkinton selectmen voted to join in support of Carlson’s legal action against the town’s ZBA decision to let the firearms development move ahead.

Recently, the InterTown Record learned contacted the two abutters that Carlson complained were not property notified about the recent hearings. Representatives of both the NH Department of Transportation and the state Division of Forests and Lands indicated that they have no objections to the firearms facility.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on May 9, 2017.

MadgeTech inadvertently created lot where shooting range proposed

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.

 

 

Contoocook, regional planners will have input on Warner shooting range proposal

 

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The town’s planning board has reversed an earlier decision and decided that a tentative plan to build a $1.4-million shooting range and gun store on Warner Road could impact other nearby communities. At a meeting in town hall on April 17, the group voted unanimously to invite representatives of Hopkinton and the Central NH Regional Planning Commission to participate in a review of the building application presented by Eric Miller of Sutton. Chairman Ben Frost noted that neither of the organizations will have a vote on the final decision.

Frost also revealed that Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech, has filed an appeal with the Merrimack Superior Court, asking that a recent ruling by the town’s zoning board of adjustment be overturned. Carlson claims the ZBA acted improperly when it approved a special exemption for the firearms operation because two state agencies that own property next to the proposed site were not legally notified of the original March hearing. At its last meeting in April, the zoning board reviewed Carlson’s request to reconsider its decision but decided to let the exemption stand.

The court appeal also asked the town to forbid the planning board from moving forward with Miller’s application, but the judge rejected that request. A ruling on the legality of the ZBA’s actions will likely come in May.

(Developer) Eric Miller said the range itself would predominately be an educational facility that will offer classes for novices, educational classes and classes about the laws related to firearms.

 

Carlson’s high-tech company is located next to the proposed 2.9-acre site of the firearms operation and he’s said that he will move it out of Warner if the town approves the shooting range. He’s concerned about possible noise and safety issues on the land, especially since MadgeTech is planning to expand on the site.

At last week’s planning board hearing, several people in the crowd of more than 60 also voiced similar concerns, including several who live in the village of Contoocook in Hopkinton. Renee Adams pointed out that Hopkinton Middle High School is located nearby the Warner Road site and that both school athletes and family groups frequently exercise and recreate in the area.

Diane Ricciardelli of Warner said that research indicates that home values in town’s where shooting ranges are located typically drop about 4-percent while resident Faith Minton noted that the Warner’s Master Plan favors supporting existing businesses like Carlson’s, which has been in town for 20 years.

But others supported Miller’s plan, indicating his ambitious plans for noise abatement and lead recovery. Selectman Kimberly Edelmann said an indoor range would be good for the town. “So many of us who shoot guns do it outdoors where we piss off the neighbors, the dogs, scare the cows and leave debris in the woods and on the trails.”

Earlier in the meeting, Miller described his planned facility as an indoor gun range and retail store that would “capture 100-percent of sound in the building.” “All spent ammo will be capture,” he added, noting that even water and air will be treated before being released. “Nothing, and I mean nothing, that contains lead is leaving that building.”

Miller said the range itself would predominately be an educational facility that will offer classes for novices, educational classes and classes about the laws related to firearms.

Later, Miller responded to a rumor that he plans to put a lounge on the property in the future where alcohol could be sold. He said he is considering adding a restaurant or an indoor skeet shooting operation next year but those are not part of the current building proposal.

The planning board will continue considering the shooting range plan at its next meet on May 1.

 This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., on April 25, 2017.

Warner company may move if shooting range approved; MadgeTech wanted land where range now planned

 

Eric Miller submitted the above illustration showing what his proposed gun shop/shooting gallery could look like to Warner planning officials recently.

 

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – A Sutton man’s plan to build a $1.4-million indoor shooting range and retail gun store on Warner Road has won initial approval from town planning officials but it’s opposed by Norman Carlson, the founder and president of MadgeTech Inc., who says he will move his high-tech firm out of town if the project moves forward.

Norman Carlson says MadgeTech, which abuts the proposed project’s land, does $10-million in annual sales but he will move his 60-employee firm from its hometown if Eric Miller’s proposal to construct two buildings (connected by a breezeway) totaling 11,800 square-feet on 2.9 acres for a firearms operation moves forward.

Last year, Carlson tried to buy the same land in a sealed bid process from the NH division of Forests and Land, but his bid fell just $100 short. The winning bid of $57,100 was entered by Richard M. George of Webster and Carlson believes that George was somehow tipped off about his company’s $57,000 bid. George denies the claim.

Miller said he retired at 50 but he soon got bored and began thinking about options. “I began thinking, what is it that’s worth my time, that would be able to draw in enough people for it to be viable,” he recalled. “And I ended up concluding that this (shooting range and store) was a business that I could draw people in from a 30-mile radius and pull in enough people for it to be viable.”

(MadgeTech’s president Norman) Carlson believes that (Richard M.) George was somehow tipped off about his company’s $57,000 bid (on the land). George denies the claim.

The businessman said he deliberately chose the unusually shaped lot nearby Interstate 89’s exit 7.

“I needed (the site) to be commercial zoned and with the least amount of abutters,” he explained. “A gun range is definitely a thing that’s going to go thorough review from (town) zoning, planning and all that… It would have been harder if it were next to a residential area. That would have caused a lot more confusion and panic by the surrounding neighbors.”

Miller said the shooting range would be a 9,400 square-feet structure with 16 lanes; the retail store of 2,400 square feet would connect via a breezeway. The range will be built to double the noise standards required by the Department of Energy. In addition, the Department of Environmental Services’ air quality standards call for an aggressive HVAC system that eliminates any lead produced by firearms from the air before being released to the outdoors.

Miller described his planned range as an “educational facility” that will cater to a growing group of novices interested in shooting.

But that’s one of than issues that most concerns Carlson.

“You’ll have people getting in and out of their vehicles with guns. And he said he’s going to appeal to novices so you’ll have people who don’t know what they’re doing. We have (employee) picnics outside there, not five feet from that property. There’s a residence right there, a couple with two small children. Do we really want that next to a residential home?”

Carlson said he’s for the Second Amendment but he does not want the shooting so close to his growing business. He said employees have already raised concerns and he’s prepared to do anything he can to oppose the project, from exploring legal options to moving out of town.

“Our company is 20 years old,” he explained. “Everything we sell, we make and design right here in Warner. We do about $10-million in annual sales. We have two devices on the International Space Station. Almost every biotech company in the world uses our products. We have an annual growth in Asia of 32 percent, in Europe of 22 percent. Everyone here has health insurance, a 401K, profit sharing and all kinds of benefits. And we’re working on a $3 million addition here for office space and marketing.

“I hope they know what they’re giving up here,” the MadgeTech president said, referring to town leaders. “It’s too bad, because there are other towns I can move to, places that will give me tax breaks. Concord will give me tax credits to move there. I don’t want to do that, but if they want to put a gun range in there, they’re telling me they don’t value this company… I won’t stay around if Warner decides to approve a gun range there.”

In early March, Miller won a special exception from the town’s zoning board of adjustment to operate the shooting range as an approved “amusement and recreation (indoor)” facility. On March 24, the town’s planning board was scheduled to review his building application but it delayed accepting the application because Carlson filed a request for a rehearing. The MadgeTech president said that the town had failed to notify two abutters: the NH Department of Transportation and the division of Forest and Lands. The board voted to notify the two agencies and rescheduled a meeting for Monday, April 17.

Last week, the zoning board met to consider the same proposal from Carlson but the members voted 5-0 to deny the request for a rehearing. Member Corey Giroux, an attorney, said that his research indicated that the town is not required to notify state agencies about planning-related hearings.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record of Sutton, N.H., in the April 18, 2017.

MORE: The Concord Monitor featured an article on this week’s planning board meeting in Tuesday’s edition. Read it here.

 

 

Warner is rockin’ the state (says Hippo)

Here’s a couple of the “best of 2017” awards that went to locals from The Hippo…
* Best Concord-area “Cup of Coffee” – Schoodacs Coffee & Tea, 1 E. Main St , Warner, 456-3400, schoodacs.com
* Best Concord-area Bookstore – Main Street BookEnds of Warner, 16 E. Main St., Warner, 456-2700, mainstreetbookends.com
* Best Concord-area Community Event – “Warner Fall Foliage Festival, held in downtown Warner every fall, is a free, family-friendly event that highlights rural life and colorful foliage. The Festival features live entertainment, parades, a 5K, amusement rides and food. This year’s event goes from Friday, Oct. 6, through Sunday, Oct. 8, wfff.org.”
The whole list is here.
 
Rewarding, but (really) no surprises here… Great folks doing great work for our community.

Sunapee school board picks ex-member; Warner selectman is new to the job

SUNAPEE – The four sitting members of the Sunapee school board voted unanimously to stick with one of their own Wednesday by appointing April Royce to fill a vacant seat on the board.

Royce will serve a one-year term that opened up following the recent resignation of member Heather Furlong. Furlong’s husband was arrested last month for allegedly committing election fraud during his wife’s race for a board seat last year.

Royce had been the overwhelmingly choice of voters to serve a one-year term in 2016, but she finished fifth among five candidates who ran for a full three-year term last month. The board chose her after she and two other interested residents were publicly interviewed at a public meeting before the group’s its regular meeting at Sunapee Middle High School last week.

During her interview, Royce told the sitting board members that she believed her professional and personal experience with financial issues would help them to “reduce costs while managing results and employee satisfaction.” She said she has a good understanding of the board’s financial responsibilities and has the ability to break down fiscal information for other people “in non-financial terms.”

Royce said she places a high value on public school education and that she believes the district’s primary mission is “helping children learn to be contributing members of society.”

Sunapee selectman John Augustine, who finished third in the five-person race for two vacant seats in March, said that the board could benefit from his ‘numbers orientation and analytic mindset.’

 

Community activist Gidget Ducharme told the board that she wanted the district to develop a “clearer picture of (each) student’s strengths and weaknesses.” She promoted a community approach that would involve parents and teachers, as well as guidance councilors and educational advisors.

“I think we do a good job with kids who have challenges, and with the advanced kids,” she said, but students “in the middle of the road” could use more support.

Ducharme also promoted the idea of introducing languages in early education because research indicates that there are multiple educational and social benefits, including greater mental flexibility and higher math scores on standardized tests.

Selectman John Augustine, who finished third in the five-person race for two vacant board seats in March’s elections, said that the board could benefit from his “numbers orientation and analytic mindset.” “I have the mindset of a business owner and entrepreneur,” he explained.

Augustine also said that he’s hired many local students for his business over the years and is concerned that with their general lack of enthusiasm about their futures. “I don’t sense that be-all-you-can be passion and inspiration that I felt a generation ago,” he noted, especially given the advantages Sunapee students have with relative small class sizes and highly compensated teachers.

Board member Jesse Tyler asked Augustine about how he would work in an cooperative fashion since local newspapers have published letters the selectman wrote that were critical of current board members. Tyler said he had to talk to his young child after he was “mischaracterized as being foolish” in one of Augustine’s column.

Augustine said that he had been critical of something Tyler said at a public meeting because he did not think it was helpful to the district. “We’re not here to make ourselves look good,” he added, suggesting that the board needs to face the “reality of the situation” in the district.

Shortly after the board convened its regular meeting, the group unanimously approved Royce for the vacant position. In addition, Royce was voted to become the board’s new vice-chairman.

A March 2018 election will let voters chose who fills out the remainder of Furlong’s term.

Read about the Warner selectmen here.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, Sutton, NH, on April 11, 2017.

Warner approves solar array, fire station plans, budget…

 

Above: The town has purchased this parcel at the corner of Main Street and Split Rock Road hoping to eventually build a new fire station there. (Ray Carbone/photo)

WARNER – It took more than four hours, but more than 300 residents crowded into the town hall Wednesday for the annual town meeting, and voted to accepted virtually every proposal offered by town leaders and fellow citizens.

The group unanimously approved an annual operating budget of $3,070,486, which is an increase of 1.7-percent over last year’s budget, and will result in a projected property tax rate of $9.82. They heartily supported a proposal to advance plans for a new fire station. They accepted the idea of asking the selectman to demolish the historic Odd Fellows building if recent efforts to sell it to a local building contractor don’t work out.

But perhaps most significantly for many, in a 270-44 secret ballot vote, the residents overwhelmingly approved spending $338,530 to construct a solar panel array nearby the transfer station. The project could defray rising costs electricity costs in municipal facilities and eventually allow the town to generate revenue by selling “excess” electrical power back to the New England grid. Last year, a similar plan narrowly fell short of the two-thirds majority needed.

“I’m going to vote for it, but very, very reluctantly. Because I’m not sure a community of this size can support that level of debt.”

Paul Goneau, resident, referrinng to tentaive plans to build a new fire station.

Solar power is popular with Warner homeowners, according to town leaders, and voters at the meeting trusted their selectman’s claim that the array will have no impact on local property taxes. Speaking for the board, member John Dabuliewicz said that $273,595 of the total costs will be financed with a low 2-percent, 12-year loan the town is taking under the state’s Municipal Finance Act, and the payments will, in effect, be paid from the savings the town realizes from solar power. The remaining $64,935 will come back to the town as a refund from the NH Public Utilities Commission for extra electricity the facility puts into the regional electrical grid, Dabuliewicz added.

But not everyone was convinced. “The way this is being packaged is slightly misleading,” resident John Heaton told the crowd. “Eversource is not a charity,” he added, suggesting that the power company will raise its rates to pay for the income it loses to solar power initiatives. “Solar is expensive,” he said.

But George Horrocks of Harmony Energy Works, which is assisting the town with the project, said that recent jumps in energy costs are not related to solar, but rather to over-estimates about the impact of natural gas in the market. “As rates go up, you’re going to save over a half-million dollars (with the solar array),” Horrocks told the voters.

Resident Paul Goneau, a former chief finance operator with the NH Housing and Finance Authority, expressed concerns about cash-flow issues in the proposal, including the lack of funds for operating costs. But town leaders said there are virtually no costs to operating the passive solar array system.

The meeting then moved on to a plan to add $182,000, including $100,000 in new taxes, to a fund earmarked for the construction of a new fire station at the corner of Main Street and Split Rock Road. Town leaders have been working on the project for several years because they maintain the current Main Street station is inadequate for a modern department. The new funds will allow engineering and design work to move forward.

Some people were concerned about the final cost of the station, which town leaders currently estimate to about $2.5 million. Bill Balsam of Waterloo predicted that rising construction costs and debt service on a building loan could eventually jump the final figure for to close to $4-million. “I’m going to vote for it,” he announced, “but very, very reluctantly. Because I’m not sure a community of this size can support that level of debt.”

In a ballot vote, the proposal was approved, 159-48.

Later in the meeting, Rebecca Couser, director of the Warner Historical Society, addressed the warrant article she supported that would have the selectmen begin making plans to demolish the 125-year-old Odd Fellows building and bring a cost proposal to next year’s meeting.

Courser said that since contractor Nate Burrington entered into negotiations with the selectmen to buy the building in recent weeks, she proposed amending the article to give the board several more weeks to complete a purchase-and-sale agreement. If there is no deal, she said, the demolition plan should move forward.

A deadline is necessary, Courser said, because previous efforts to sell the building had languished for months without resolution. “I would just like a plan in place in case this (Burrington) plan does not go through in the next few weeks,” she explained.

The amendment passed, 92-25, and the approved article passed in a voice vote.

In other actions, the voters okayed beginning voting on election days at 7 a.m., one hour earlier than it currently occurs, and the selectman announced that an informal poll before the meeting indicated some support for moving the annual gatherings to Saturday mornings in the future.

Correction: The Odd Fellows building measure  approved by voters does not contain a deadline for negotiating a sale with resident Nate Burrington.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, March 21, 2017.

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