SPEAKING HIS PIECE
With a room full of North Country students, business people and elected officials behind him, Colebrook Academy senior Elias Rella testified before N.H. Senate Finance Committee chairman Jeanie Forrester and vice-chairman Gerald Little last Tuesday on behalf of Senate Bill 30. Like many of the young people on this trip, Mr. Rella is a former Balsams Hotel employee and wore his name tag as a show of support. (Courtesy photo)
Sen. Finance Committee Approves TIF District, Recommends Study on Bond
By Jake Mardin
Last Tuesday the N.H. Senate Finance Committee passed Senate Bill 30, which allows an unincorporated area to establish a Tax Increment Financing district and establishes a commission to study the feasibility and financing of a development district for The Balsams resort.
“I am pleased the Senate Finance Committee has committed to work with the House on trying to determine a financial mechanism before the session is over in order for the project to begin construction,” said Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton), who sponsored the bill.
The creation of a TIF district allows an unincorporated place to collect new taxes, and the bill would allow the N.H. Business Finance Authority to guarantee $28 million in bonds for the Balsams project. Developer Les Otten has said that the bond is necessary for the project, and he is hoping to start construction this summer.
A contingent of citizens from the North Country, including town officials, business owners and high school students from Colebrook and Pittsburg, traveled to the State House to show support for the bill, which heads to the floor of the full Senate tomorrow. If it passes, it will then go to the House of Representatives.
The commission to study the feasibility and financing of the project will consist of two members of the Senate (one from the finance committee and one from the capital budget committee; two members of the House (one from the finance committee and one from the public works and highways committee); the state treasurer; and representatives from the Department of Resources and Economic Develop-ment, the hospitality industry, Ski NH, and the state’s Association of Realtors, Bankers Association and the Business Finance Authority. The commission’s first meeting must be held within 45 days of last week’s hearing, and the commission must report its findings by November 1.
All three Coös County commissioners and all ten members of the delegation signed a letter last Friday in support of the project. “The ability to use tax increment financing has become critical to the plans for the reopening and expansion of the Balsams Grand Resort and Wilderness Ski Area,” the letter states.
The commissioners and representatives say they have met with Dixville Capital, LLC, and are “encouraged by the long-term financial commitment the developer has demonstrated for the project.”
“Coös County and the New Hampshire North Country have not experienced the economic rebound that the more populated and developed southern tier of our state has experienced,” the letter states. “The rate of unemployment in Coös County, the degree of child and family poverty, the discrepancy between median income here and elsewhere in the state, all reflect the presence here of communities that have been left behind by state and federal economic development. The redevelopment of the Balsams Grand Resort represents the clearest opportunity we have to create a positive dynamic.”
Sen. Woodburn said it was important to keep things moving, and he was happy to see the significant turnout of local citizens. Balsams spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said the finance committee’s approval is a positive step, but a small step as well, and there is still a lot of work to be done. “We’re grateful the Senate has moved forward the vehicle by which a TIF can be achieved, and we look forward to the next steps in the process,” he said.
Mr. Tranchemontagne also said there is some confusion over what the project entails. “The project is not asking the state for a loan or any type of financing,” he said. “What we are asking for is something that is tried and true, and something the Business Finance Authority does regularly.” He said the state would guarantee a bond and a level of guarantee or backing, and that will allow the rest of the financing package to come together. “It’s a private bond, not a state-issued bond,” he said. “It will be issued by a bonding authority.”
He said the funds would go toward infrastructure improvements, such as the water line or road work, and new tax revenue would be used to pay back the bond. “It’s not taking tax revenue that already exists,” he said. “It’s only using tax revenue that’s generated by the new development.” He said once the bond is paid back, the tax revenue would go to the county or state.
The text and status of Senate Bill 30 may be found at www.gencourt.state.nh.us under the State Legislation Dashboard and “Find a 2015 Bill.” Details about the plans for development at the Balsams Resort may be found at www.thebalsamsresort. com.
(Issue of March 25, 2015)
Captain Hook (Ian Pfaff) and Smee (Adam Young) celebrate with fellow pirates Landen Phillips, Jessica Tracy (obscured), Ashley Bolton, Ronald Marquis and Carter Prehemo, in a scene from the Pittsburg School’s March 20-21 production of the musical “Peter Pan.” The cast included 30 schoolchildren of all ages and packed the Bremer Pond Auditorium on both nights. (Alan Farnsworth photo)
Two Coös Elementary Principals Are Finalists for SAU 7 Superintendent Job
By Rob Maxwell
After a year-long process, a search committee has chosen two finalists for the position of superintendent of schools in SAU 7. Current superintendent Bob Mills said Colebrook Elementary School principal Dan Gorham and Hillside Elementary School principal Julie King from Berlin will meet with faculty and staff from schools in Pittsburg, Stewartstown and Colebrook today during tours of the four school facilities.
Mr. Mills announced his intention to retire from the position last year, after serving for 16 years. A search committee chaired by Colebrook board member John Falconer, with assistance from search consultant Bill Lander of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, has been conducting a search and selection process resulting in the naming of Mr. Gorham and Ms. King.
“It’s been a difficult process,” Mr. Mills said, “because there are many SAUs without superintendents right now and the pool of qualified candidates is more like a small puddle. There just aren’t many good candidates around.”
The two candidates will tour the schools in Colebrook, Stewartstown and Pittsburg, although Mr. Mills noted, “Dan is well acquainted with the Colebrook schools and staffs, so he will begin in Pittsburg and Stewartstown while Julie will start in Colebrook with me.”
?Staff at all four schools received an e-mail on Friday, March 20, stating, “There will be feedback forms that you can fill out and submit to the office of each school.” Mr. Mills observed that the candidates may not have an opportunity for lengthy conversations with all teachers, as most will be involved with classroom instruction during the candidates’ tours.
Mr. Mills said final interviews of the two candidates will take place at a nonpublic meeting of the SAU 7 board on Saturday, March 28. “If the board decides that neither of the candidates meets their requirements, the search will continue,” he said, “and I have agreed to stay on as superintendent on a full-time basis for one year if that becomes necessary.”
Mr. Falconer is currently attending a meeting of the National School Boards Association in Nashville, Tenn., and was unavailable for comment.
(Issue of March 25, 2015)
BARBIE BUNGEE JUMP
Eighth-grader Brigid Jatkwicz and fourth-grader Shyanna Fuller combined their talents on this Barbie Bunjee Jump project, displayed during the Stratford Public School Science Fair on Thursday, March 19. They learned that the more rubber bands they used, the farther Barbie would fall. (Alan Farnsworth photo)
Dr. Carl Ladd Resigns from SAU 58, Takes Job with N.H. Administrators
By Rob Maxwell
After two stints as SAU 58 Superinten-dent of Schools, Dr. Carl Ladd has taken a position with the New Hampshire School Administrators Association. He will assume the office of associate executive director this June, and will become executive director in June of 2016.
Dr. Ladd will divide his time from this June until 2016 in his new office in Concord, while also serving as interim superintendent at SAU 58. He will take on a reduced role involving attendance at evening board meetings, overseeing compliance issues, and handling the development of school budgets in the SAU. Groveton High School principal Mike Kelley will take on the day-to-day duties of administering educational affairs in Stratford, Northumberland and Stark during this period.
Dr. Ladd is a 1982 graduate of Groveton High School and taught junior high social studies in Colebrook from 1996-98. He was the principal at Groveton Elementary from 2003-07, and has been superintendent at the SAU 58 office twice: once from 2007-09 and again from 2011 onward. He says he enjoyed his teaching time in Colebrook and was “honored and humbled to be asked to speak at the graduation exercises for the Academy Class of 2001. I had the pleasure of teaching that class when they were eighth-graders, and it was wonderful that they asked me to speak at their high school graduation.”
Reflecting on his last four years at the helm of SAU 58, Dr. Ladd noted that despite a severe economic downturn, “I’ve tried to imbue a spirit in our schools and particularly in the students that whatever they’d like to do in life can happen, so long as they believe that ultimate rewards can be had from perseverance and grit.”
Dr. Ladd acknowledged that his greatest sense of personal achievement during his tenure as superintendent has come from “helping to devise college-ready curricula that empowered teachers to be the moving force in curriculum development.”
He added that he is also pleased with the financial stability that SAU 58 has managed to attain. “We’ve had to make some hard choices--especially in Northumberland--but it’s heartening to see that the school budget for 2015-16 is $300,000 less than four years ago, which we’ve managed without losing any programs that impact students directly.”
Dr. Ladd said the upcoming year will be a busy time as he makes the transition from his interim superintendent duties to his new office, “But I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
(Issue of March 25, 2015)