PULLING THE FIRST GLOVE

Rick Tillotson, president of Tillotson Performance Polymers, was helped by Jon Freeman of Northern Community Investment Corporation as he pulled the very first nitrile glove from a conveyor machine, reconstructed after being moved to the Colebrook plant from the former Tillotson rubber factory in Dixville. (Rob Maxwell photo)

In Nod to Neil and to Veterans’ Day, Tillotson Pulls First Glove on Nov. 11

Neil Tillotson was a corporal in the 7th Cavalry when the Armistice was signed on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of November, 1918. After he served his country during World War 1, he returned to work in the lab of Hood Rubber Company of Watertown, Mass., and twelve years later he applied for a patent for the first latex balloon and started his own company. Working with his employees, Neil went on to invent the rubber-coated work glove, the latex exam glove and, at the age of 92, the nitrile exam glove.

Mr. Tillotson’s story of what can be achieved by a curious mind--coupled with hard work and humility--inspired many people including his son, Rick, who achieved the rank of sergeant while serving in the N.H. National Guard. Rick began his work career in the Tillotson factory in Dixville Notch, where the first ballots in presidential elections have been cast since 1960. He worked with his father on the development and production process for both the latex and nitrile exam gloves.

In September of 2012, he created a partnership with Canadian businessman Alain Boisvert, who has a factory in Stanstead, Québec, making rubber parts for the auto industry. Since that time, their new operation in Colebrook has produced hundreds of thousands of eyedroppers, and the novelty carnival balloons that Neil Tillotson first introduced to the world in the 1930s.

For the last year the crew of eight people--who include Rick’s son James, and who have worked with the Tillotsons for most of their working lives—have been putting together an automated dipping machine to produce disposable nitrile gloves that can be used by the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense.

As part of the manufacturing and marketing plan, their company, Tillotson Performance Polymers, LLC, has joined forces with two other enterprises: a new non-profit corporation in Colebrook, the Great North Woods Association for the Blind, who will package the gloves; and Alternative Contracting Enterprises, LLC, a service-disabled-veteran-owned small business that contracts with the Department of VA and the DOD for the supply of disposable nitrile gloves.

The VA is currently working with AbilityOne, a federal agency created to help support employment of blind and severely disabled Americans. This partnership allows the VA’s hospital system to be supplied with nitrile gloves from workshops like the Great North Woods Association for the Blind, after they have been qualified by the agency.

In order to help the company finish the installation of the glove machine and build a second production unit, Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC), working with the Town of Colebrook and the North Country Council, and with financing from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, has provided loan financing to Tillotson Performance Polymers.

“The stars all seemed to line up!” said Rick Tillotson. After months of hard work--both on the set-up of the equipment and on research and development--it was apparent that the machine would be ready to make gloves on the morning of Veterans Day.

NCIC president Jon Freeman was scheduled to visit that morning, Rick said, “to see what progress we have been able to make with their funding. The chemicals we needed had just arrived and the complicated machine process timing had been set the day before. We were ready!”

Realizing that this new incarnation of his veteran father’s glove would be made that day, Rick thought it would be a fitting tribute, to his father and to the other veterans for whom the gloves will be made, to time the very first gloves produced by the machine so they could be “born” at 11:11 a.m. on Veterans Day, November 11, 2014.

“This was an historic moment for the future economic prospects of this rural New England region, next to the Canadian border,” Rick said. “Despite having an outstanding workforce for manufacturing, in the last ten years this region lost over a thousand jobs at four major manufacturing employers and 250 jobs when the nearby Balsams resort was sold and closed. If we can help unemployed community members, blind community members and veterans across the country, today will be a great day.”

As it turned out, the gloves were being formed by their proprietary dipping process when Mr. Freeman arrived. Thanks to a good watch and a keen understanding of the machine timing by employees Bob Scott and Ralph Broad, the first gloves--which are trademarked with the name “ThinGard” in a color trademarked “Pure Pearl,” appeared to shine as they marched out of the machine’s oven at exactly 11:11.

U.S. Senator Kelley Ayotte, whose Senate committee has oversight for AbilityOne, came to the plant in August and encouraged Rick’s and Alain’s belief that their company could work with the federal Government and that their efforts to develop gloves for homeland security, the VA and the military could be successful. In keeping with the support from town government, Colebrook selectman and N.H. Employment Security representative Jules Kennett “has worked since 2012 to help us find workers for current and future jobs,” Rick said. “We are hoping to add 16 jobs in relation to the first two glove machines. He is also helping the Great North Woods Association for the Blind find three individuals who are legally blind and want full-time employment.”

“We are thankful to have an experienced and hard working crew, and thankful for all the help we have received from the town, and from state and regional organizations,” Rick continued. “I also want to thank my personal inspiration for what we are accomplishing. Randy Pierce, an alumnus and speaker at the 2013 Colebrook Academy graduation came from Colebrook, but lost his sight while at the University of New Hampshire. Despite this, today he heads an organization calledVision Quest, is a motivational speaker and climbs mountains. His accomplishments opened my mind to the possibilities of what could be accomplished by workers with skilled hands but limited vision. From his perspective, there are still mountains ahead of our enterprise for the North Country, but we are climbing.”

More information is available from Mr. Tillotson, at 603-490-9877 or Rick@PolymersUSA.com; or from the Great North Woods Association for the Blind, 23 Gould Street, Section C North, Colebrook, NH 03576. --Submitted by Rick Tillotson

(Issue of November 19, 2014)




MAKING MEMORIES

Jack Bouchard dances with granddaughter Gracii at the annual Father-Daughter Dance to benefit the Canaan Little League, held on Sunday, November 16 at the Outback Pub in West Stewartstown. (Alan Farnsworth photo)




County Rails, Millsfield Responds on Agreement with Wind Farm Company

By Jake Mardin

An agreement between Millsfield property owners and Granite Reliable Power that would offset any tax increases caused by the 33-turbine wind farm was the topic of discussion at the Coös County commissioners’ monthly meeting, held in Stewartstown last Wednesday.

According to the agreement, signed in 2009 by 11 property owners, GRP agreed to pay each an amount equal to the increase in their property tax bill “caused directly and solely” by the wind farm. The agreement stated that payments would be made to the owners within 30 days of the submission of a property tax bill from the county, which governs Millsfield and all Unincorporated Places.

The “Assessment Differential Payment” in each year of the term is a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $5,000. The agreement also stipulates that property owners “shall fully support and cooperate with [the] developer in the permitting, development and operation of its wind farm.”

County administrator Jennifer Fish said she received a call last Tuesday from a law clerk at Brookfield Renewable Power, the company that now owns the wind farm, seeking parcel numbers for land in Dixville and Millsfield. The caller also requested tax bills for 11 property owners in Millsfield, provided the names of the owners and referred to an agreement with them.

County commissioner Paul Grenier was upset with the development, stating that residents of Millsfield were “kicking, crying and demonizing [the county] for the past four years. These folks lied to the board, the press and legislators and stole from the county.”

Mr. Grenier said residents came to the county concerned that their property taxes would increase dramatically because of the valuation of the wind farm. In 2007, when entering into a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, the commissioners valued the wind farm at $113 million, using a number they said was provided by a N.H. Department of Revenue Administration representative. Under the PILOT agreement, the county would receive about $495,000 a year.

In 2013, DRA notified the county that the wind farm was appraised at $228,935,438; this put the 2012 equalized value for Millsfield at $180,342,176 and Dixville’s at $54,453,216, meaning residents and non-resident property owners of both towns were looking at a large increase in their taxes.

In May of that year, the commissioners unsuccessfully appealed the valuations to the N.H. Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA), then submitted a Rule 10 appeal to the DRA. Finally in July, New Hampshire governor Maggie Hassan signed HB 1590, a bill sponsored by Senator Jeff Woodburn and eight members of the county delegation that locked in the valuation of the wind farm at $114 million for the life of the PILOT agreement. Last year, the county used excess funds in both Millsfield’s and Dixville’s accounts to prevent a tax increase.

Mr. Grenier said the end result is that the county ended up protecting Brookfield at the expense of everyone else in the county, except for Millsfield. He also noted that in most years, Millsfield residents do not pay property taxes because they are offset by timber tax revenue.

Commissioner Rick Samson said he was opposed to the wind park before he ever thought about seeking election in 2012. He said he did not know about the agreement until he saw it at the meeting, and while he said he wasn’t defending Millsfield residents, he took offense to the term “stealing” being used.

He also said he needs more time to review the issue. “This is something we’re going to have to discuss at length,” he said. He asked if a meeting with Millsfield residents would be appropriate, but Mr. Grenier was not in favor. “These people in Millsfield made fools out of our legislators,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Mr. Samson brought up the county planning board, and said he believes that someone from Millsfield or Dixville must be on the board. Mr. Grenier said that he would not approve the appointment of any resident with their name on the list of those who had an agreement with the wind farm.

Ms. Fish said the documents have been forwarded to an attorney for review.

Millsfield selectman Wayne Urso responded on Friday with an e-mail that explained Millsfield’s side of the matter. “The wind farm was a done deal well before anyone in Millsfield was even aware that such a project was being planned,” he said. “The county commissioners signed the PILOT agreement, which gave the green light to the project.”

He said that no one from the county asked Millsfield residents if they objected to the project, and observed that ten households would not have been able to stop the project even if they wanted to. He said that in 2009, Millsfield had three options: “Protest the project and then get steamrolled when the project becomes a reality; quietly accept the project; [or] try to cut a deal with the wind farm so that the permanent residents got something out of the project.”

He said residents chose the last option. “A deal was cut for annual payments to each of the ten households,” he said. “He also said Granite insisted “on a strict confidentiality clause” and that it was Brookfield who broke it by going tothe court “instead of dealing directly with us as was customary for previous years.” He said the payments started coming in when the project became operational in 2012.

Mr. Urso said the agreements were done “well before there was any problem with valuations” and were drafted “to protect each household from any additional realistic property taxes up to a maximum of $5,000 per household.”

“There is no way that the maximum of $5,000 would have had any impact on any of us if we were taxed at $20,000-$50,000 annually, which was what was in store for us with the fiasco that ensued last year with the DRA and their new valuation of the wind farm,” he said.

He also addressed the property tax abatements residents filed last year under the poverty exemption. “The truth is that we dealt with that excessive tax problem through the judicial branch, through the legislative branch, and through a last-ditch effort of abatements if there was not a fix through other means,” he said.

Regardless of the $5,000 maximum payment, people would have lost their homes. “If we had been hit with those tax rates, it would have caused not only my personal poverty, but also the loss of my home,” he said. “If we were taxed at the rates that were a very real possibility, our actual property values would become zero. There is no way that we could ever give away our property with such high taxation, and it is clear that whatever valuation was on the county books would be wrong.”

In addressing the “valuation fiasco,” he said it was not the fault of Millsfield; he said the county did not hire any valuation experts and the state, through the DRA, said the PILOT agreement valuation was wrong and should have been increased by $116 million. “We, the Millsfield folks, who got the wind farm forced down our throats, and who were about to be shafted by the valuation fiasco (but who happened to get an agreement for a small amount of money from the wind farm that was greatly dwarfed by the prospect of astronomical taxes) are apparently the bad guys?” he asked.

Mr. Urso said the bill establishing the $113 million valuation originally had two “very serious flaws” as it was initially filed: The wind farm money was to go directly to the county instead of the Millsfield account, and “the commissioners were legally able to sign the PILOT agreement retroactively to back when they signed it.”

Mr. Urso said Millsfield citizens felt these clauses should be removed, and he worked to have them removed. “The bill that directly involved Millsfield should have been brought to the Millsfield citizens ahead of it being filed,” he said. “The big problem, as we see it, is that the county does not ever hold a Millsfield town meeting to discuss Millsfield issues. Instead, they do things behind our backs like agreeing to PILOT agreements [and] filing bills that directly affect us.”

Mr. Urso said the agreement was drafted years ago and has no bearing on the “valuation fiasco,” which he said was the fault of the county. He said residents were “shocked” to read about Mr. Grenier’s comments in another paper last week. “No one from here ever lied, cheated or did any of the other nasty stuff Mr. Grenier accuses us of,” he said. “I have full and complete documentation to back up the above facts. Mr. Grenier only has his incorrect suspicions and the platform as commissioner to spout off before knowing any of the real facts.”

(Issue of November 19, 2014)




TAKING CARE OF GRANDDAD ON VETERAN’S DAY

Seventh- and eighth-graders from Stewartstown Community School spent the morning on Veterans Day, November 11, serving breakfast to a large crowd of veterans at Monadnock Congregational Church in Colebrook, and Chandler Biron took special care to make sure his grandfather Harry was well taken care of. Mr. Biron served on active and reserve duty in the Army from 1958-71. (Rob Maxwell photo)



Colebrook Taxes Are up Significantly Due to Drop in Assessed Valuation
By Jake Mardin

Local towns are announcing their property tax rates, and Colebrook property owners learned last week that their taxes have increased by just over 25 percent due to this year’s revaluation. Pittsburg and Stewartstown also reported rate increases, of 55 and five cents, respectively.

Colebrook’s outside-precinct tax rate went from $23.07 to $28.95, an increase of $5.88. The town’s portion is now $10.47, and town manager Becky Merrow said the main reason for the $3.02 increase is a nine-percent drop in the town’s net assessed value following a revaluation. She said there were no major appropriations and the town is where officials wanted it to be on revenues.

The local school rate increased by $1.96 to $11.41; the state school rate decreased by a penny to $2.21; and the county rate went up by 91 cents to $4.86. The precinct rate is $2.07, an increase of 47 cents, putting the in-precinct tax rate at $31.02, an increase of $6.35.

Pittsburg
The tax rate increased by 55 cents to $17.25 in Pittsburg, where selectmen’s assistant Jenn Landry said the town rate is up by 41 cents to $2.99, mainly due to a loss in revenue. The local school rate increased by 32 cents to $6.68, the state school rate is down by 20 cents to $2.54, and the county rate went up two cents to $5.04.
Stratford

Stratford’s total tax rate increased by five cents, to $23.97, and the town portion went up by 52 cents to $5.33. Administrative assistant Suzanne Goulet said changes in the current use rate resulted in less revenue for the town. She said Stratford used to receive around $13,000 for the Nash Stream land, but this year it was down to $3,600. The local school rate dropped 40 cents to $12.21, the state school rate decreased by three cents to $2.51, and the county rate dropped by four cents to $3.92.

(Issue of November 19, 2014)



 

 

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