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City selects engineering firm for Route 16 project

BERLIN – Moving ahead with its plan to reconstruct and repave Route 16 from St. Anne Church to the White Mountains Community College next year, the city council Monday authorized staff to negotiate an engineering contract for the work with HEB Engineers.
Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme reported that five engineering firms responded to the city's request for qualifications and a team that included staff as well as former city manager Patrick MacQueen interviewed all five. Laflamme said HEB was the unanimous choice. She asked the council to approve the selection of HEB, which has its headquarters in North Conway but has many connections to the Berlin-Gorham area. The council concurred.
Laflamme said staff will now negotiate a contract for professional services with HEB and bring the contract to the council for final approval.
The council hopes to find sufficient funds to improve the road and sidewalks along what is one of the city's main entrances. Laflamme said one of HEB's first steps will be get all the various stakeholders together to talk about the project and needs.
City Manager Jim Wheeler said the council has about $3 million set aside for the project but said he thinks $4 million will be required to do all that the city hopes to get done. Wheeler and Laflamme said they will be working with HEB on finding other funding sources.
Laflamme said the state Department of Transportation has $5 million in funding for what used to be called transportation enhancement projects for items like sidewalks and river walks. She said, however, there is $50 million worth of projects and the money comes with a lot of strings attached.
Wheeler said the city should have a firm estimate of the cost early next year and said the scope of the project will have to fit the city's final budget.
In other business:
* SAU 3 Business Administrator Bryan Lamirande said the school department has spent just over $110,000 to remove the asbestos found in the basement level at the Brown School and reconstruct the area. He said he had originally estimated the project would cost about $100,000. He said there is still one remaining invoice but said the total cost should not exceed $115,000.
The school department had requested permission to use some of its fiscal 2014 surplus of $407,000 to cover the asbestos cost. But Mayor Paul Grenier reminded school officials the council voted to use $300,000 of the surplus to reduce taxes, leaving about $107,000 for the asbestos abatement project. He said the city and school will have to find about $8,000 more and suggested discussing it next week with the city finance director.
* Wheeler reported that City Clerk Debra Patrick calculated that 15 percent of registered voters turned out for the Sept. 14 primary.
* Berlin recreation is seeking nominations for the annual Gus Rooney Volunteer of the Year award. The award is given to a person or organization in recognition of work for the betterment of the city's youth. Nominations forms can be picked up at the Recreation Center and are due by Oct. 10.
* There will be a rabies clinic this Saturday, Sept. 20 at the Berlin Recreation Center sponsored by White Mt. Beagle Club and the Lancaster Veterinary Hospital. Cats will be treated from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and dogs will be treated from 10:15 a.m. to noon. Owners must bring proof of past vaccinations. Price distemper shot $13, leukemia, $22, kennel cough, $13, Lyme disease, 422, and rabies, $13.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 22:31

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Consultant hired for food co-op study

BERLIN – The city council Monday night approved hiring G2G Research Group to do a market study to determine if the area could support a non-profit food cooperative in Berlin.
The study will include a sales forecast analysis and examine the competitive environment within the market area for a food cooperative. The proposal by G2G CEO Debbie Suassuna said the study will not include a financial analysis of the proposed co-op. She said that is usually performed after the market study.
The city successfully applied last fall to the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority for a $12,000 planning grant to look at the feasibility of a non-profit food cooperative. The city applied for the grant on behalf of WREN, the organization that has organized the Berlin Farmers Market.
Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme, who wrote the grant application, said as the grantee, the city must contract with the consultant.
Laflamme said the California-based G2G was the only company to submit a proposal but said Suassuna has a lot of experience. Her proposal called for a fee of $9,000 plus expenses.
In April, WREN hosted a community meeting on a food co-op that attracted over 80 people. Mike Claflin, one of the founders of the Littleton Food Co-op spoke about how that cooperative came about and how it operates.
A total of 160 people filled out a survey on the issue.
North Country Listens summarized the results of both the listening session and the surveys and said participants showed significant support for a food co-operative.
North Country Listens said participants are interested in seeing a market for local products but at the same time expressed concern about the affordability of local foods. There was also concern about the impact of a food co-operative on the locally owned Berlin Marketplace grocery story.
The feasibility studies, funded by the federal Community Development Block Grant program, are designed to allow local officials to assess the likelihood of success for these job creation and public facilities efforts.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 21:37

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Hassan holds bill signing ceremony in Randolph

RANDOLPH – Evoking Teddy Roosevelt, Gov. Maggie Hassan Friday signed four bills she said should help protect the beauty of the North Country.
Hassan said she had been reading Doris Kern Goodwin's book 'Bully Pulpit' and was taken by Roosevelt's belief in the importance of preserving beautiful places for future generations.
"These bill, she said, "will go a long way to make sure we protect this very beautiful part of the state."
Three of the bills increase state-level safeguards against a pipeline oil spill and the fourth bill establishes a Rural Affairs Commission.
The ceremonial signing was held in Randolph, one of five New Hampshire towns along the route of the Portland Pipe Line Corporation's pipeline, which currently carries crude oil from Portland to Montreal. Some environmentalists have expressed concern that the company will reverse the flow to transport so-called tar sands oil from western Canada to Portland.
Carol Foss, director of conservation for N.H. Audubon Society, said in 2008 had been a formal proposal to reverse the flow but citizens along the route raised concerns especially after a 2010 spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan leaked over 800,000 gallons of diluted bitumen. The company has since said it has no plans to reverse the flow and carry diluted bitumen or tar sands oil through the pipeline.

"This has been a very broad scale effort from the grassroots up," she said.
Audubon Society Legislative Coordinator Sheridan Brown said the three bills that deal with pipeline safety were thoughtful legislation and "not window dressing".
Senate Bill 325, sponsored by State Senator Jeff Woodburn of Dalton, gives the N.H. Department of Environmental Services rulemaking authority to impose oil spill preparedness and response requirements upon pipeline operators that are more stringent than those under federal law.
House Bill 1224 requires the N.H. Public Utilities Commission to seek certification from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and take over inspections of interstate oil pipelines in the state including the Portland-Montreal pipeline.
House Bill 1376, sponsored by Rep. Marcia Hammon of Whitefield, establishes a legislative committee to study the safe delivery of oil and gas, including natural gas and propane, throughout the state.
"These three bills really complement each other quite well and set us ahead of other states," said Brown.
Hassan said Senate Bill 392 establishing a Rural Affairs Commission would be very important in improving communication between the rural areas of the state and Concord. She said the commission should give the North Country and other rural areas a stronger voice and expand the state's social and economic approach to rural regions.
Woodburn said he hopes the bill ensures rural regions receive the same treatment as the southern suburbs. He praised Hassan for following through on her commitment to visit the North Country at least once a month.
The bill sets up a 13-member committee to study and make recommendations on public policy towards rural areas. The first meeting is set for early next month.
Attending the signing were both Woodburn and Hammon as well as many co-sponsors of the four bills.


Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 21:37

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Selectmen move forward with Moose River project


 GORHAM--The Moose River project has begun to move forward with a letter of agreement from H.E.B. Engineering for the river assessment.
The large scope of the project required H.E.B. to pull in another firm for a geomorphologic assessment and will work with the Army Corp who originally completed the project.
The engineering study will cost roughly eight to nine thousand dollars to complete, but will give the town a complete outline for the next course of action.
Once the study is completed it will include an outline for design and building options and identify necessary permits.
There was some speculation as to how the original damage occurred along the river. However, after an investigation completed by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services it was unclear if the changes were man made or from natural causes.
Currently there isn't any federal funding available to pay for the assessment, and with much of the effected area on private property the town is unable to provide assistance to fix that portion.
In order to use capital reserves the repairs would have to be made to all affected areas, which in long run will be beneficial to the areas downstream as well. The town has concern that the embankment along the cemetery is being compromised, making it necessary for the town to step and offer some financial assistance.
"All areas would have to be addressed to spend public money on private property," said Town Manager Robin Frost.
In other cases homeowners were required to contribute to the overall cost of the project. During the Peabody renovations the town covered 75 percent of the cost and homeowners paid the remaining 25 percent.
Depending on the number of properties that abut the affected area, the cost could end up being around $2,000 split between the landowners, just for the initial study.
A letter will be sent out from the town addressing the situation, and how affected property owners should move forward.
Selectmen Jeff Schall raised concerns about emergency response following a call from Fish and Game to the Gorham Fire Department requesting their presence to the meet the DHART for a deceased hiker.
Schall remarked that he understood as many as a dozen fire fighters answered the call, and it seemed that there was more assistance than was actually needed.
Selectmen Grace LaPierre pointed out that when a call goes out, the department doesn't know how many people are going to respond, and that is likely the reason that there were more people present than necessary.
"I just think that we should look at the management of the departments and how the resources are being used. We want to do the right thing by providing assistance, but we also have to look at the costs," said Schall.
In other business, only two letters of intent were filed for the vacancy on the Board of Selectmen. Robert Balon and Terry Oliver will met with the selectmen during the public meeting on Sept. 22 to answer questions regarding qualifications.
It is expected that the board will enter a nonpublic session to discuss the candidates, before making a vote later that night.
The town also received results from a feasibility study conducted by K&R Heating. The study examined the benefits of using alternative sources for heating the public works building.
" I believe that we are going in the right direction by looking at alternate energy forms," stated Schall.
The study was provided free of charge by the N.H. Wood Energy Council to fulfill the requirements of the grant. Upgrades to the heating system will likely be completed next year.
Bidding for the public works building roof repair will begin in the coming weeks, and the town is hopeful to have the project completed before winter.
"We are not anticipating that the project will take that long to complete," explained Frost.
Lastly, during the 2014 OHRV season several members of the community and surrounding ATV clubs have come to the board requesting that hours be extended for special events. The town plans on meeting with the Bureau of Trails to see if an agreement can be reached regarding hours of operation.
The next meeting will be held Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. in the Gorham Town Hall.


Last Updated on Monday, 15 September 2014 21:37

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