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Selectmen vote to pay for river study after residents fail to contact town

GORHAM—Selectmen Monday night voted to cover the total cost of an engineering study for repairs to be made to Moose Brook River after abutters failed to contact the town regarding their ability to cover a portion of the cost. Originally, selectmen were not in favor of fully funding the study, however concerns were raised that if action were not taken soon, public and private property could be damaged.

Earlier this month, the town sent out letters to abutting landowners that were directly affected by erosion on the banks of Moose River. The letters outlined the reason for the study and requested that residents contact the town directly to discuss covering the costs.

Similar to projects completed after Hurricane Irene, the town was looking to collect twenty-five percent of the total cost for the study. It is estimated that the cost for an engineering study would be close to $9,000, and land owners would have been expected to contribute to the cost based on river property frontage.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers originally constructed the berm in the early 1920's, and some residents feel very strongly that the corps should be the ones responsible for maintaining it.

Concerned landowner Dennis Arguin has attended the selectmen meetings regularly to voice his concerns about the rising water. The town temporarily placed sand bags long the property, but Arguin said more permanent measures need to be taken.

The town agrees  the problem needs to be addressed, but the issue lies in funding the project. Most grants are used to protect public property and in general private property is not covered.

Another aspect to the project that the town is considering is addressing other areas of concern like the Peabody River. Town Manager, Robin Frost acknowledged that flooding concerns are not a localized problem, and that it affect the entire town.

"We need to look at this from a whole town perspective, and realize that if we do work here, we have to be prepared to do it elsewhere," said Frost.

Budget Committee Chair Michael Waddell suggested that the town consider a warrant article to cover the expenses of the project.

Selectmen Grace LaPierre motioned that the town use $9,000 from the River Maintenance Fund to get the study completed, and then look into a warrant article to cover additional expenses.

Frost agreed that it was time to move forward with the project, even without the financial contributions of the landowners.

"I think that would be money well spent," agreed Frost.
During the final vote to use $9,000 from the River Maintenance Fund, Selectmen Jeff Schall voted no, while Terry Oliver and LaPierre voted in favor of the motion.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 21:33

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County commission will present 2015 budget with $1.3 million increase in county tax line item

WEST STEWARTSTOWN – The Coos County Commission has approved a proposed 2015 budget of $34 million that holds the line on expenditures but projects a $1.3 million increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes.
But there is a long way to go before the county delegation finalizes the 2015 budget in March and the commission has deliberately been conservative, particularly in estimating the 2014 surplus. In its proposed budget, the commission is estimating a 2014 surplus of $2 million to reduce taxes. That is far lower than the 2013 surplus, which came in at $4.1 million.
The commission held a budget work session on Nov. 5 and reviewed the budget again at its Nov. 12 meeting.
When the initial budget presented by County Administrator Jennifer Fish projected a $2 million increase in the amount to be raised by taxes, the commission asked the administrators of the county's two nursing hospitals to reduce their budgets by one percent or about $100,000 each. Superintendent of Corrections Craig Hamelin was asked to cut $25,000 from his budget. At the Nov. 12 meeting, the commission focused more on revenues. Commissioner Paul Grenier said he had attended a meeting on Medicaid Proportional Payment and while the total appropriation has not been determined, the funds will be available in 2015. In 2014, the county received $2.36 million and had budgeted $1.13 million for 2015. Grenier suggested the county could safely increase the 2015 revenue figure for the payment to $1.5 million. The N.H. Quality Incentive Payment to the West Stewartstown nursing home was increased by $100,000 and private pay revenues at the Berlin nursing home were increased by $203,200.
There are still several unknowns facing the county. The proposed budget contains no increase for county employees. The county also does not know what increase it is facing in health insurance when the new rates come out for July 1. Fish said the county has been guaranteed that the increase will not exceed ten percent but said she is hoping for a lower increase.
Grenier said he was comfortable presenting the revised budget at the budget public hearing on Friday, Dec. 12. He noted the appropriation side of the budget is actually $57,627 lower than the current budget. The problem, he said, is on the revenue side of the budget.
Commission chair Tom Brady said once the commission presents its budget in December for public hearing, the budget is in the hands of the delegation. He said the commission can only make recommendations.
Grenier said he expects the delegation will look to the commission for recommendations for cuts.
County Treasurer Fred King suggested the county could look at cutting the appropriations it makes to outside agencies. He said the county is not legally required to provide that funding. Grenier said he did not want to cut those appropriations because the agencies are successfully in using that money to get other funds. He said the programs provide a variety of services that save taxpayers money in the long run.
The commission voted to present the revised budget at the public hearing.
Commissioner Rick Samson asked if the commission could start the budget process earlier to allow more time to go over budgets. He noted the county tax burden is higher in Coos County than in other counties. Grenier suggested the commission could spend the month of October meeting individually with department heads over the budget.
All three county commissioners as well as County Treasurer Fred King said they will not accept the salary increase approved by the delegation in May. The delegation voted to increase the salary for county commission from $7,000 annually to $9,000 with the chair receiving an additional $500. The treasurer's salary was increased from $3,000 to $4,000 per year. The commission voted to budget the current salaries for the positions.
Grenier said the commission wanted to show leadership in keeping costs down at a time when county taxes are facing an increase.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 21:31

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Gorham Town Manager suggests Selectmen consider Fire and EMS consolidation

GORHAM—Over the past several years closing the Cascade Fire Station has been the focuses of many emotional debates. Recent discussion on purchasing a new fire truck and restructuring emergency services has once again put the topic back on the table. Gorham Town Manager Robin Frost urged the selectmen to carefully consider the impact closing the station would have on the residents.

Earlier in October, Fire Chief Rick Eichler met with the board to discuss replacing Engine 2, which repeatedly fails pumps tests. In the meantime, the engine requires costly repairs to keep it partially operable.

Eichler estimates replacing the truck could range from $184,000 to $310,000 depending on the model, year, and mileage. The department has set aside $190,000 towards the cost of buying a newer pump truck.

There is no question that the truck is not operating as efficiently as possible, but the debate still stands if the Cascade Fire Department should be kept open. It has been several years since the fire station has been used, and the truck that is housed there has never been used.

The station has remained open, because of concerns that if there were ever to be a fire in that section of town prompt action would be crucial to saving the structure and occupants.

Frost also urged the selectmen to consider the consolidation of the fire and EMS departments. She said the town also needs to discuss succession planning, because there is talk that current Fire Chief Rick Eichler is nearing retirement.

The town is considering a model that would include an emergency services department head to oversea both fire and EMS. The fire department and EMS would still have supervisors overseeing specific operations. The change would not eliminate any positions, but the hope is it would create efficiency. If the changes were approved, the town would be looking at implementing the changes for 2015.

"I think in the long run it benefits the town and the way the departments would be organized with cross training and filling shifts," explained Frost.

The board agreed that it would be in their best interest to discuss the possible changes with Chief Eichler, considering his experience, but all are in favor of exploring the options further.

The board understands that there may be some opposition to the changes and small steps would need to be taken.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 21:26

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Cutline: Berlin Middle School Book Drive

 

BookdonationStudents from Mr. Welch's 7th grade advisory conducted a multi week children's book drive collecting books to donate to the children enrolled in local Headstart classrooms. Students and faculty at BMS generously donated 350 books that have been distributed to children and classrooms in Berlin, Groveton and Colebrook. Students from BMS visited the Berlin Headstart site this past Thursday to deliver the books and read to the children.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 21:16

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