Warner town administrator will address charge of manipulation

By Ray Carbone

WARNER –At the board of selectmen’s meeting scheduled for this Tuesday, Jan. 15, Jim Bingham, the town administrator, is planning to discuss recent public comments aimed at him by members of the budget committee and other residents.

Kimberley Brown Edelmann, the chairman of the selectmen’s board, said that Bingham requested the opportunity to publicly respond to the remarks, especially those made by John Leavitt, a member of the budget committee, at the Dec. 27 committee meeting. The criticisms, which have been aimed at both Bingham’s integrity and abilities, should be aired in a public forum, she said.

he slings and arrows, it takes a toll,” Brown Edelmann said of Bingham. “It needs to be done.”

‘It was brutal.’

– Kimberly Brown Edelmann, selectman, regarding criticism recently aimed Jim Bingham, the town administrator

 

The chairman does not believe the critiques are valid.

In recent weeks, Bingham has been at the center of disapproving comments aimed at the selectmen regarding its adoption of a new wage/compensation plan for town workers, particularly raises for some employees instituted before the end of last year.

In addition, when long-time town clerk, Judy Newman-Rogers, resigned her position in October, she charged that a “hostile, unpleasant and dysfunctional environment” had developed at town hall, and that the selectmen weren’t managing Bingham appropriately.

According to the unapproved minutes the Dec. 27 budget committee meeting, Leavitt said that Bingham was not always transparent when communicating important data about the new wage proposal with either the selectmen or the public.

“All the (relevant) information was going to the administrator (and) he was only telling you what he felt you should know, because he filters out what he thinks you don’t need to know,” Leavitt told John Dabuliewicz, the selectmen’s representative to the budget group. Leavitt later said that there was “plenty of room in here for interpretation and manipulation” of information that Bingham manages for the three-person board of selectmen.

At the next budget committee meeting on Jan. 3, Mike Cutting, the chairman, read an email message from Bingham. In it, the administrator said he wouldn’t attend any more of the group’s meetings until the conversational tone changed. “The history of sarcasm, condescension and personal attacks by some of its members towards myself, the department heads and our professional predecessors, makes the whole experience of attending budget committee meetings demoralizing and extremely unproductive,” the administrator wrote.

Afterwards, Brown Edelmann said Bingham doesn’t need to go to meetings where he’s treated disrespectfully. “It was brutal,” she recalled, referring to some of the comments aimed at Bingham.

Late last week, Leavitt defended his remarks. “I didn’t make any allegations of wrongdoing, just procedures,” he said. “Nothing illegal.”

Leavitt also called Bingham’s email response “ridiculous,” and said that attending budget committee meetings should be considered to be part of his job.

The agenda for this week’s meeting of the selectmen includes this item: Discuss allegations made by John Leavitt at the 12/27 Budget Committee meeting.

Brown Edelmann said the focus would primarily be on Leavitt’s claim of manipulation of data by Bingham.

Bingham was unavailable for comment.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, January 15, 2019.

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Warner mulling costs of employee pay increases and fire safety measures

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – Town leaders are looking at two significant financial items as they prepare for the annual town meeting coming up in March.

According to Jim Bingham, town administrator, the board of selectman will be presenting voters with a long-delayed increases in town employee salaries, and the cost of installing new fire suppression systems in some municipal buildings.

The fire suppression system is the most expensive item. Bingham said recently that he was still researching how much it will cost to complete the safety requirements for the town hall, the public works garage and the transfer station.

Related: Warner wage study ignites war of words

The three-member board is particularly concerned about the public works garage, especially after fires at similar facilities in Henniker and Hopkinton caused major damage in those nearby towns. In at least one of those instances, virtually all the town’s valuable equipment stored in the structure was destroyed, Bingham noted.

In addition, because the public works facility and the transfer stations are located outside the village, they are not on the local municipal water system. “So we have to construct a holding tank, a cistern, there” the administrator said. “That could cost well over $200,000, maybe close to $1 million.”

The selectmen are reviewing those costs, as well as approximately $60,000 that would pay for fire suppression in the town hall, Bingham said.

The salary increases  would total about $50,000 but Bingham said that when the particular of each current employee is factored in, the increase will likely be closer to $30,000.

The pending salary increases are related to a wage and compensation study that an outside consultant completed for the board last year. The members have been reviewing and considering the consultant’s recommendations for some months now, Bingham said, and has decided to move forward with several actions, including changing to a new system of employee steps and grades that are linked to years of service to the town as well as job-related education and training.

“This is not the first time that the town of Warner has done this,” Bingham said. “This is actually the third time we’ve had salary adjustments. The first was in the early 2000s, then we did another in 2009. And, now in 2018. So it seems like every seven to eight years we have to look at our salary structure and our job descriptions, and update them to keep them within the (local) market range.”

The town employs 28 full and part-time employees so when the current compensation package is compared to the newly approved one, the overall salary increases for the year would total about $50,000. But Bingham said that when the particular of each current employee is factored in, the increase will likely be closer to $30,000.

 

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

Small print leading to better cell phone service for small NH town

By Ray Carbone

BRADFORD – When about 50 residents gathered at the elementary school to discuss the town’s future this summer, there was thing that concerned people who were interested in developing the town’s tax base.

“I don’t see how you’re going to get any businesses to come to Bradford, unless we have a cell tower,” said one person, as others nodded in agreement.

Walter Royal, the town’s building inspector and code enforcement officer, knows about the problem.

“There’s no signal in town,” he said last week. “There’s a couple of places where you can get a signal and you can make phone calls, but most people find that you can’t. You may be able to text something but not make a call.”

As a result, many residents still have a landline even though that service may not work for emergency services during a local power outage.

Now town leaders are cautiously optimistic that a long-delayed solution could be near.

Several weeks ago, Walter Royal (Bradford’s building inspector/code enforcement officer) was able to connect with a Verizon employee who promised to look into the delay.

Royal said he’s recently spoken with a representative of Verizon, the telecommunications company, and was told that the company hopes to provide improved cell service to the community before the end of the winter.

A new cell antennae is slated to be attached to a tower that’s located on a hill behind the local office of the local school bus company, Student Transportation of America (Valley Fire Equipment), on Route 114 near the intersection with Route 103, said Karen Hambleton, the town’s administrator.

The cell tower was originally erected five years ago by the Structure Consulting Group, a real estate advisory firm based in Arlington, Mass. that services the telecommunications industry. At the time the consulting firm told town leaders that it was working under a contract with Verizon, and that cell service typically follows within a few months of construction.

“But there’s been no activity,” explained Hambleton last week. Several public safety organizations are already using the tower, she added, which is “one of the reasons we’re cranky.”

In the spring, Verizon submitted its antennae application, but the town heard nothing more from the company in months.

Several weeks ago, Hambleton tried to connect with the consulting firm. When she was unsuccessful, she asked Royal to look into the issue.

Royal said that the original contact number associated with the project was no longer in service, so he reached out to someone at a Verizon facility in Fryburg, Maine.

When that proved unprofitable, he went back and looked at the application and found a contact name and phone number – but in tiny print.

“The plans were shrunk down, so they’d fit on an 8½ ”-by-11” page. So, I had to blow it up, I had to enlarge it,” he said. “And, when I did, there it was!”

Several weeks ago, Royal was able to connect with a Verizon employee who promised to look into the delay.

“He said he’d expedite it to have the base equipment put in this winter and the antennae up (soon afterwards.),” Royal related. “He said he’d told his higher-ups at Verizon that I was really (angry) at them. I think he was getting a little upset, probably because he thought the project was much further along.

“But no one could see his name on the plans.,” the town employee laughed. “Now I know his name… And I know where he lives!”

The above photograph of the Student Transportation of America/Valley Fire Equipment building on Route 114 in Bradford, was taken b y and is the property of Carbone Productions, LLC. This story first appeared in the InterTown Record newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 18. 

Wave of resignations hit small NH town

By Ray Carbone

WILMOT – Selectmen are dealing with resignations from four town hall employees in recent weeks, as well as a charge that they ignored an ongoing bullying problem between two workers.

On Friday, Nick Brodich, the chairman of the board of selectmen, said that Rhonda Gauthier, the departing town clerk/tax collector, claims that Nancy Bates, who recently resigned her position as town administrator, bullied her. Gauthier also says that the selectmen were aware of the situation but did nothing to resolve it, according to Brodich.

“The board of selectmen took serious issue with both of those accusations,” he said. “Especially that we were, to use her words, ‘sweeping things under the rug.’”

Sometime after the meeting, (Nancy) Bates submitted her own letter of resignation. She’s leaving her post as town administrator on December 7.

Brodich said that the selectmen were aware of some ongoing low-level tensions between Gauthier and Bates for the past year or two.

“It never really got to the point where (Gauthier) ever reached out to us, ever expressed any concerns,” he said. “It was not, in any way, brought to our attention.”

On September 5, the selectmen held their regular meeting in the town offices. As it was starting, Gauthier entered the room and handed her resignation letter and a packet of information to the selectmen and others attending the meeting. She then wished the selectmen a pleasant evening and left. Brodich said that he called out to her but the town clerk/tax collector apparently left the building quickly.

Neither the letter nor the packet was available at press time, but Brodich said they included the claims against Bates and the three-member board, and that Gauthier was planning to leave her position on Dec. 31.

“In her letter, she referenced the culture of bullying by (Bates) and then included a reference that the board of selectmen knew about it, that she’d been trying to tell the board of selectmen and that we weren’t hearing it,” Brodich said.

At Gauthier’s departure from the September 5 meeting, Brodich asked her assistant, Kathy LaVallee, the deputy town clerk/tax collector, if she was also planning to leave the town’s employ. LaVallee said she would be handing in her resignation with the same departure date, December 31.

According to the meeting minutes, Brodich then turned to Nikki Arsenault, an administrative and land use assistant for the town. Arsenault had resigned several weeks earlier shortly before a board meeting, effective immediately, and her resignation letter has not been made public.

The chairman asked Arsenault if she wanted to make any comment in light of Gauthier’s sudden departure. Arsenault said she’d hoped that “everyone could sit down and talk about this,” according to the minutes.

Brodich then declined a request to read Arsenault’s resignation letter into the public record. (There may be legal restrictions if it’s considered part of an employee’s personal file.)

Sometime after the meeting, Bates submitted her own letter of resignation. She’s leaving her post as town administrator on December 7, Brodich said.

At the next selectmen’s meeting on September 13, the board read an open letter that they wrote to Gauthier, saying that her actions at the previous meeting “though not lacking drama… lacked substance.”

“The accusations you have leveled against Town Administrator Bates are extremely serious and hurtful,” it reads. “The accusations you have leveled against the board of selectmen being derelict in its duties are likewise grave. To make such accusations in written correspondence and then refuse to meet with the people you have accused is as disrespectful as it is cowardly, and it is completely unbecoming an elected town official.”

Brodich reiterated the board’s willingness to meet with Gauthier and others who may have an interest in the situation.

On Friday, Brodich said he doubted Gauthier’s claim that Bates was a bully. “Anyone who knows Nancy Bates would laugh at loud at the concept of her bullying anyone,” he said. “She’s about a quiet and mild a person as you’ll find.”

Gautier and LaVallee have worked for the town for a decade or more, and Bates has been with the town for more than six years, according to Brodich. Arsenault is a newer employee, Brodich added.

Last week, Bates refused to comment on the situation. Attempts to reach Gauthier and Arsenault were unsuccessful, and LaVallee made no comment.

The town is now looking for a new town administrator and a new town clerk/tax collector.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, November 30, 2018.

Sutton fire department addition delayed

By Ray Carbone

SUTTON – Plans to build an $800,000 addition to the town’s North Road fire station have been put on hold, according to Cory Cochran, chief of the fire department.

Late last week, Cochran said that the board of selectmen has directed the fire department building committee to reach out to an architectural engineering firm to rework the group’s original specifications.

“We put them out for bids (from construction companies) in the spring, and ended up with three proposals,” the chief explained. “We noticed that our bid specs didn’t work, they weren’t detailed enough.”

Proposed construction costs ranged from $1.4-million to $700,000. “We rejected them because of inconsistencies, so it’s back to the drawing table,” the chief said.

During the summer, the selectmen decided to get an architectural-engineering firm involved, Cochran reported. The chief later held a building site visit with Kelly Gale of KLG Architecture of Webster to discuss reworking the architectural/engineering plans.

 Cochran admitted that the delay could prove costly for the town and the department, 

 

The status of the project was scheduled to be addressed at the selectmen’s meeting on Monday, September 10. Cochran admitted that the delay could prove costly for the town and the department,

One town official said it was likely that the addition project, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters at this year’s annual town meeting in March, will likely reappear on the 2019 town meeting warrant.

In public meetings leading up to this year’s meeting, Chief Cochran noted that the town has been considering an addition since 2006. The original building was erected in 1974 and has had limited improvements since that.

Right now, the building doesn’t comply with National Fire Protection Association Standards and doesn’t meet the department’s needs, Cochrane said.

The proposed 30-by-45 square-foot single story addition, which would be constructed on the Route 114 side of the building, would provide needed office space, room for gear storage, an equipment storage bay, an updated kitchen and updated restrooms, the chief explained last week.

“There will be a larger meeting-training room because we’ve outgrown the meeting room that we have now,” he said. “And the bathroom will be with showers, so they’re be more locker-room style.”

The new space will also provide sufficient room for the emergency operations center, according to the chief.

Cochrane said he hopes to have a clearer idea about how to move forward with the addition project some time this month.

This story originally appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

Plans for $42-million senior housing project in small NH town moving forward

By Ray Carbone

NEW LONDON – New London Hospital’s plans to bring a new senior living community to the region are moving forward, the project’s developers told the board of selectmen last week.

At the group’s meeting in town hall on Monday, August 6, Joe F. Hogan, manager with Continuum Health Services/Development, LLC, of Lewiston, Maine, showed the board an artist’s rendering of the projected $42-million project, which would be located on 50-plus acres adjacent to the hospital grounds. The new facility, called New London Place, would combine independent living cottages, one-bedroom independent living apartments, and assisted living quarters, as well as extended care and memory care services, he said.

If everything moves forward in a timely manner, Continuum hopes to break ground on New London Place some time next year with the goal of finishing the initial construction within 18 months.

“Our primary core business is that we take care of elderly people,” Hogan said of Continuum, citing the company’s four current developments in Maine, including Sentry Hill in York Harbor.

Speaking by phone from her Maine office later in the week, Sarah Adams of Continuum said the business “provides housing, healthcare and hospitality services for (over-55) communities that we design, develop, own and manage.”

New London Hospital invited Continuum to come to town, she said. “New London Place is an ongoing project that New London Hospital has wanted to do for 17 years,” she explained.

The hospital does not have a financial stake in the senior housing development, Adams said, both Bruce King, its president and CEO, and Douglas Lyon, chairman of its board of trustees, have been consulting with Continuum’s staff to insure that the design and functionality of New London Place is suitable for the local community.

“New London Hospital is very keen to have additional senior living options for the residents of town because so many of them now leave (for other facilities),” she explained. “And because it’s adjacent to the hospital, you can keep your same physicians.”

The scope of care at new New London Place will allow residents to “age in place,” which research indicates is the best option for aging people, Adams noted.

The first phase of the project will be construction of the four-level central building called The Lodge. Adams said it will be “the size of two football fields” and contain both rental and condominium units; the rental units will include 47 assisted living units, 26 independent living condominium units, 20 units for memory care and five independent living units. The Lodge will also include dining facilities, libraries, a spa, a theater, arts and crafts space, and offices with “lots of amenities that one would expect to find in a premier retirement community,” Adams said.

In addition, the facility will house a medical staff and a working relationship with New London Hospital’s physicians. “We’ll be hiring registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing aides,” she noted. “They’ll be available 24 hours a day for all the residents.”

Once the first phase is completed, plans should move forward for constructing 33 3-bedroom cottage homes on the grounds, each measuring approximately 1,500-1,700 square-feet, Adams said.

Both the independent living apartments and the cottages will be available for sale or rent; construction on the cottages will move forward as the market dictates, she added.

Before any facilities are built, New London Place must be approved by both local and state authorities. Earlier this year, the town zoning board of adjustment approved two requests for minor zoning variances, and the planning board is currently reviewing the proposal.

If everything moves forward in a timely manner, Continuum hopes to break ground on New London Place some time next year with the goal of finishing the initial construction within 18 months.

At the selectmen’s meeting, Hogan indicated that Continuum is planning to open a sales office in the area sometime after the first of the year.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire, on August 14, 2018.

 

 

Vail to take over New Hampshire resort

By Ray Carbone

NEWBURY, N.H. – The public meeting held at the Sunapee Lodge on the Mount Sunapee Resort property last week was much less contentious than a similar one held in the same building last year.

At the earlier gathering, more than 100 people came to the state’s Department of National and Cultural Resources (DNCR) meeting to voice their opposition to the transfer of the resort’s recreational lease to Och-Ziff Real Estate. The multi-national alternative asset management firm had recently paid the federal government $413 million in fines, and supporters of the local resort were concerned that the organization would not manage the local property appropriately.

Things were much different last Wednesday, July 25, when an even larger crowd came together to voice their support to Sarah Stuart, the DNCR’s commissioner, for a proposal to turn Mount Sunapee’s lease and operating agreements over to Vail Resorts, operators of the famous Vail Mountain Resort in Colorado.

‘Candidly, Vail is a dream partner.’

Hessler Gates, Sunapee resident

The deal is part of an $82 million sales agreement that will also add Vermont’s Okemo Mountain resort and the Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado to the Vail, Colorado company. (Vail Resorts also owns/manages Stowe in Vermont; Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area; Wilmot in Wisconsin; After Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia; and Perisher in Australia.)

Tim and Diane Mueller, owners of the companies that have managed the local resort since 1998, told the crowd that if they could have chosen an organization to take over their enterprises, it would be the Vail group.

“Vail is clearly the leading ski operating company in the country, if not the world,” Tim Muerller said. “I’m glad we’re turning it over to them.”

The audience gave the Muellers an appreciative round of applause.

Speaking for the new managers, Pat Campbell, president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division, said her company is excited about its first business foray into New Hampshire and that it remains “incredibly passionate” about creating memorable resort experiences for visitors.

In addition, the company’s Epic Pass, which allows for unlimited skiing at all of its 14 resorts, will be available at Sunapee. (Vail owns and/or operates resorts throughout North America and Australia.)

Addressing concerns that Vail would push for more development at and around the Sunapee resort, Campbell said that her company has been divesting itself of properties that are primarily real estate and that it has no plans to move forward with either the West Bowl Expansion or any other development project in the area.

“Candidly, Vail is a dream partner,” Hessler Gates of Sunapee said in the public commentary portion of the meeting. “For the decision-makers, this should be an easy decision and I urge you to do it promptly.”

The majority of the speakers were in agreement with Gates, urging Commissioner Stuart and others involved in the transfer to approve it as quickly as possible.

Campbell said she’s hoping the transfer will be completed by Labor Day.

But some did express concerns.

A member of the New Hampshire Sierra Club repeated an earlier call for an independent audit of the resort’s finances, and encouraged the Vail team to maintain the four non-skiing trails on Mount Sunapee.

Another speaker asked how the Vail proposal had come forward so quickly and whether there is an appeal process if the state turns down its proposal.

Will Abbott of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests said Vail Resorts could prove its intent to stay focused on recreation, rather than development, by permanently conserving 600 acres of land located in Goshen. The idea was heartily applauded by the audience.

Holly Flanders, a two-time Olympic and three-time World Cup alpine racer who grew up skiing and racing at Sunapee, said that from her current home in Park City, Utah, she’s become familiar with how the Vail company operates.

“Vail is a great ski operator, they invest in improvements,” she told the crowd.

“I tell you want I’ve seen,” she added. “Many local businesses are making more money. Property values are going up. The ski area is more crowded, so the roads are more crowded. And everything is more expensive – the hotels and restaurants.”

 

Photo: Breath -taking view of Lake Sunapee from the Mount Sunapee Resort, by Garrett Evans. Courtesy of Vail Resorts.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record, a weekly newspaper published in Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, July 31, 2018.

Water use limited in Warner village area

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – The state’s current drought conditions have led the Warner Village Water District to institute a temporary ban on outdoor water usage, including watering lawns and washing cars.

On June 25, the water commissioners voted to take the precautionary measure, asking customers to restrict their outdoor usage during daytime hours until further notice (likely at the end of summer).

We have to start trucking in water, it’s a really tough thing. We use an average of 60,000 to 70,000 gallons a day… A truck carries about 6,000 gallons a load so if we need to bring in 10 to 15 loads a day, that’s $800,000 or more pretty quick.’

Ray Martin, admin. asst. for WVWD

“July and August are typically our worst months,” said Ray Martin, administrative assistant for the district.

The commission imposed a $25 fine for first-time violations and $50 for each subsequent violation but, based on past occurrences, Martin doesn’t foresee any enforcement problems. “Compliance will be very high, probably 99-percent,” he predicted.

The district, which is a separate legal municipality from the town, supplies water and sewer services to approximately 185 residences and 30 commercial enterprises. Its service area covers a radius of about a one-half to one-mile from the village center. The three-person elected commission manages is the district.

The commission’s recent decision to restrict water use is based on two factors, according to the website notice.

One is the state’s prolonged drought conditions, which have impacted the productivity of the district’s two wells that draw on the Warner River aquifer. (Officially, central New Hampshire is listed as being under moderate drought conditions.)

The second is that the district’s older well is experiencing a drop in productivity, Martin explained.

The commissioners’ statement says the board is looking at long-term solutions to the problems, including siting a new back-up well and installing more sophisticated well management controls, but the current budget can’t fund such improvements.

Martin said the new restrictions should allow the district to manage this summer, but the commission is prepared if the drought worsens. “Right now, if we have to start trucking in water, it’s a really tough thing,” he explained. “We use an average of 60,000 to 70,000 gallons a day so just add that up. A truck carries about 6,000 gallons a load so if we need to bring in 10 to 15 loads a day, that’s $800,00 or more pretty quick… Years ago, we had to truck in water.”

At around the same time that the Warner commissioners announced their decision, the Portsmouth Water Division asked its city’s residents to voluntarily cut back on their outdoor water use.

Martin said he’s aware of at least one other community that has already or is considering similar measures.

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in North Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, July 10.

NOTE: Shortly after this story was published, the New London-Springfield Water System Precinct announced that, effective immediately, there is a mandatory water ban on all residential outside irrigation between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Warner group looking at ways town can grow

Photo: The view from the front porch at Schoodacs Coffee & Tea on Main Street in Warner can inspire hope for the town’s business growth. (Courtesy of Schoodacs)

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – Things can be tough economically for small New England towns these days.

Municipal costs of both materials and employment regularly increase while property owners consistently complain about rising property tax rates.

But Charlie Albano, chairman of the town’s economic development advisory committee, says his hometown has an advantage over other communities.

“We have a Main Street,” he smiled, looking out onto the street from Schoodacs Coffees & Teas’s front porch one hot day last week. “It’s small and vibrant. And lots of small towns don’t have that, do they?”

The committee is also updating the town website to emphasize economic development and tourism, and working on a new visitor brochure aimed at drawing more Interstate 89 drivers into the village.

Albano and his ten-member group, which was appointed by the board of selectmen two years ago, hope to build on that strength and other positive community attributes to spur economic growth, make the town more enjoyable, and temper the tax rate.

Albano says that a large part of the committee’s job is simply educating citizens about the advantages and ideas behind economic growth for Warner.

For instance, some have suggested that attracting a large business into the town would significantly lower their tax bills. “What do you think it would do if we brought in a big business that added a million dollars in tax revenue a year for the town of Warner,” Albano asked rhetorically.

“It would drop the property tax rate by about two-cents per thousands (dollar of property value,)” he reported, which is much less than what most people would expect.

Warner could benefit from some kind of bigger facility, the chairman explained, but it should be one that meets locally articulated needs, is environmentally responsible, fits the town’s aesthetics, and provides new tax revenue.

Those are the goals listed in the town’s master plan and the standards the committee is using, he said.

The group has just finished working a survey that will allow residents to identify how they would like to see Warner grow. It’s also involved with a redesign of the town website that will emphasize economic development and tourism, and its planning to distribute a new town-themed visitor brochure this fall aimed at drawing more Interstate 89 drivers into the village.

Previous surveys have helped, he noted. In the past, residents have used them to indicate their desire for increased dining options in town and a local pharmacy. Now, the popular eatery called The Local is celebrating its fifth anniversary and the nearby Warner Pharmacy is only about two yeas older. In addition, the new Warner Public Market on Main Street, scheduled to open this summer, will feature locally sourced goods, providing more healthy food options, the chairman noted.

The committee’s new survey, which should be available in print and online within the next few weeks, might indicate that residents want a local dental office and/or more daycare options. “So, maybe we (town officials) should go seek a dentist,” Albano suggested.

Warner has an uncommonly large percentage of home-based businesses and some of those owners could benefit from access to economic development support, the chairman said. “We could look at creating a business incubator where a small business could learn how to grow and expand, how to do a business plan, modern marketing techniques, and more.

“Or, If a business wanted to expand or come to Warner, can we create and institute a new or existing tax incentive program,” he asked rhetorically.

Albano also suggests that Warner could benefit from an increased emphasis on tourism. While the town is known for its local museums, visitors may also be interested in more than 15 other businesses and activities in the community. “Tourism dollars circulate throughout a community,” he noted, without adding significantly to the cost of town services.

While the economic development committee is looking forward to reviewing residents’ input from its survey results this fall, it has already identified some tentative goals.

One is to develop a plan to permanently staff the parks and recreation department to increase awareness of local recreational opportunities. Another is to improve walkability in Warner with improved signage and street/trail development. The committee also hopes to raise the profile of agritourism in town.

Right now, the group is continuing to seek input from local residents and businesses. It meets the third Wednesday of every month and the meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20, from 6-8 p.m., in the town hall. (The meetings may soon be moving to a larger venue in the future so check the town website, http://www.warner.nh.us)

 

This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

 

 

 

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