THE PAINTING BRIGADE
Audrey Spiegel of Old Lyme, Conn., and Keira Poquette of Westerly, R.I., were part of the volunteer crew from WorkampNE working on a North Stratford house as part of a summer work project. The Christian Youth Camp provided free repairs for low-income, elderly and disabled households last week in Stratford and Bloomfield. (Alan Farnsworth photo)
Efforts to Move ATV Traffic off Roads Discussed at Stewartstown Hearing
By Jake Mardin
A public hearing was held at Stewartstown Community School last Tuesday on the question of closing Hardscrabble Road, Bear Rock Road from Route 145 to North Hill Road, and South Hill Road from Bear Rock Road to Noyes Road to ATV traffic.
The sections of roads in question are currently open to OHRV traffic for the purpose of connecting trails, and the Stewartstown OHRV/ATV Committee that was formed shortly after March's town meeting recommended closing the roads because they are no longer needed for that purpose.
The meeting began with committee member Harry Brown giving the audience a review of events leading up to the meeting. He related that during a 2011 Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Committee meeting, some members began talking about increasing economic activity at Coleman State Park in Stewartstown. They discussed a number of riding areas throughout the county and wondered if there was a way to connect all of them.
One place of inspiration was the Hatfield-McCoy trail system in West Virginia, which covers multiple counties. Mr. Brown said that the original plan for the interconnected trail system was never to use roads as trails; however, when making the trail, they needed Hardscrabble Road and a piece of Bear Rock Road.
He said roads were used only when no other trail option was available. "We were mainly trying to stay off all the roads we could," he said. Eventually, selectmen approved opening the portions of Bear Rock Road and South Hill Road to OHRV traffic.
At the 2019 town meeting, Stewartstown voters authorized the creation of a committee to look at the use of town roads, and a proposal to close all town roads to OHRV traffic was tabled for one year. The seven-member committee has met on the first Monday of every month since then, and the recommendation discussed at last Tuesday's meeting was the first one it has made.
Mr. Brown said that one of the first things the committee did was come up with fundamental definitions for connector, trail, off road and access. He said that regarding access, local landowners or renters can use a section of road not open to the general public with permission granted from the board of selectmen.
When the committee first gathered, Mr. Brown noted, a lot of people were not happy with the presence of OHRVs on town roads, and pointed out as evidence the fact that four bills were filed with the state legislature. He said the committee's intent is to move everything and have no trails on roads, and to act in a proactive manner rather than reactive.
Mike Ouellet of the Metallak ATV Club said the club has long-term plans, including significant money going toward trails off of South Hill, Sims Stream and Kelsey Notch, and asked if the committee has discussed long-term plans with the club. Committee member Dwayne Covell said he talked with Metallak president Craig Washburn the night before to explain what was going on.
County commissioner Rick Samson applauded the work of the committee, and also noted that Groveton closed a road in town after it was deemed not necessary.
Allison Lynch asked about permission granted to residents on roads, and asked if that would also apply for situations where a group of friends came up to visit. Mr. Covell said the board felt that if someone from a household had permission to use the road to access the trail, then they could have guests ride with them as long as someone from the home was riding with them, but said that is a detail they are still ironing out.
Selectman Allen Coats said it's not about whether someone likes ATVs or not, and that he doesn't think anyone argues that the sport has an economic impact. "All we're trying to do is get them off the roads," he said, adding that the closures would not stop anyone from traveling from point A to point B.
Some residents said the proposed closures would just hurt residents. Heather Leighton said the people who will suffer will be locals who use the roads to access the trail system, and the only ones using Hardscrabble Road are neighbors and one Piper Hill resident who has permission to cross their property. Another speaker said an issue with permits is enforcement, and law enforcement doesn't know if a rider is a resident or not, and suggested that the roads be signed for local use only.
Sue Rugg said a preferable alternative is make sure there are other routes available before closing roads. "Give us a little time before you close anything," she said.
(Issue of July 17, 2019)
Guy LaPerle has sold his IGA grocery store business to Lance Walling, and the two are seen here holding a wooden plaque tracing all the way back to the original LaPerle store from the late 1950s. (Rob Maxwell photo)
Lance Walling Buys LaPerle's IGA, Keeping Store Local & Independent
By Rob Maxwell
Guy LaPerle announced last Thursday that LaPerle's IGA in Colebrook has been sold to store director Lance Walling, who said on Monday that the LaPerle name will stay in place.
Guy's parents Leon and Adrienne LaPerle started in the grocery business in 1956 when they bought their first store location on Colby Street, a small, 1,600-square-foot building. The business was moved to the former Shop 'n Save location farther east on Colby Street in 1964, which dramatically increased its square footage and put the business closer to Main Street. Guy had started working with his parents when he was seven years old, and after college he purchased the concern from his parents in 1979.
In 1992, faced with fierce competition and a challenging business environment, Guy made a critical decision. "We took a gamble and moved the business to the outskirts of Colebrook, building an 18,000-square-foot store that was expanded by an additional 7,500 square feet in 2004," he stated. "The business has survived three relocations and one expansion, all while serving customers with the strength and resilience needed in an ever-changing economic environment."
Mr. Walling observed that he and Guy have been discussing the ownership transfer "for a couple of years, and I would not have made the decision to buy the business if it weren't for all the excellent people on our staff and the continued support of all the loyal shoppers in our community. I look forward to serving all of our customers and building on what has been established over the years. Guy's tutelage has helped to make me more comfortable about undertaking this endeavor."
Guy said now that it is time for him to retire, it's important to him that the business will continue as a locally owned, independent supermarket. "I feel this is the best structure to continue supporting the community I love with products, continued employment, and local decisions supporting local community needs," he stated.
"Lance is exceptionally well qualified to guide his new business venture and has an exceptional staff to support him. Lance has worked with me for many years and we have shared so much that I don't believe the values of LaPerle's IGA will change in the least."
(Issue of July 17, 2019)
Eighty-five-year-old Albert Maurais gathered with Mike Phillips, Bonnie Goodrum and Patrick Maurais for a photo at the "Picnic in the Park" themed Family Day Picnic at the Coos County Nursing Hospital on Sunday, July 14. (Alan Farnsworth photo)
Coos Delegation Brainstorms, Poses Questions on Balsams Bond Process
By Jake Mardin
Members of the Coos County Delegation met in Lancaster last Wednesday for a non-mandatory brainstorming session concerning the establishment of a tax assessment district in Dixville and bond financing.
House Bill 540, which allows counties to create a tax assessment district in an unincorporated place, became law in May, and The Balsams is seeking to establish a district in Dixville.
Last month, Les Otten and members of the Balsams development team met with the Coos County commissioners to discuss the district and the bond question.
Delegation chairman Wayne Moynihan said he called last Wednesday's meeting so the members could discuss what their role in the process will be. Charlie French, the leader of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension's Community and Economic Development Program, joined the discussion via teleconference.
Rep. Moynihan said the delegation has the role of approving whatever the commissioners and developers may negotiate. He shared a letter sent to county commissioner Paul Grenier from attorney Greg Im of Drummond Woodsum concerning whether Coos County would have any liability for bonds issued by the county. Based on the language of the bill, Mr. Im stated that "if the assessments pledged to pay the debt service on the bond are insufficient, the county will not be liable on the bond." If the county issues a bond, the Balsams' existing property would be taxed and assessments on new structures would go toward paying off the bond and county expenses.
At the May commissioners' meeting, developers said their next step would be working on a financing plan to present to the board for approval. The plan will include the terms of the bond, amount of the assessment, payment terms, method of collection, treatment of future real estate assets and compensation to the county. Developers will also have to designate the boundaries of the redevelopment district's area to be consistent with the already approved Planned Unit Development. The PUD consists of all Balsams property in Dixville.
Rep. Moynihan said he had a discussion with the commissioners' attorney about the bond and district, and said he asked specifically what they should do if there is something in the agreement that they want to change. The attorney's sense, he related, was that if the delegation was not comfortable with anything in the financing plan, they should not approve it until they are at ease with it. He was unsure if the delegation has the power to change the financing plan, or only to approve it or not. Rep. Larry Laflamme said he would be uncomfortable with changing a financing plan.
The delegation also talked about evidence of the bond serving a public good. Rep. Moynihan said he would want some confidence that the jobs would be held by Coos County employees. Mr. French said that PolEcon has undertaken economic impact and work force studies for the project. He said that he thought it would be difficult for the delegation to specify where people are hired from, and said that in the resort industry in general, J1 visa holders generate substantial employment.
Mr. French said there are five phases to a normal tax assessment district: first is determining feasibility, second is development of a formal plan, third is the government entity adopting the plan, fourth is implementation, and fifth is monitoring based upon set criteria. He recommended a cost benefit analysis, and said one important test is the "but for" test, which asks if the project would occur without the TIF. If the answer is no, it means the TIF is necessary for the project.
Rep. Moynihan said the critical question is what happens if the project doesn't succeed. He said the bill states that the county is under no obligation to repay the bond, but asked what impacts it could have on the county seeking out a bond on another major project. Rep. Kevin Craig pointed out a line in the bill that states, "any unpaid assessment under this chapter shall constitute a lien pursuant to RSA 80 on the assessed property."
Rep. Moynihan said the sense he got from the rest of the delegation is that they favor a joint public meeting with the commissioners. He said his only concern is that the public must be presented with the final plan, and wondered what good it would be to have the public come in if the plan is not completed. He suggested a public hearing only after the plan has been established in its final form.
(Issue of July 17, 2019)