Record turnout for Mount Washington ATV Climb creates traffic jam on Route 16

By Barbara Tetreault

MOUNT WASHINGTON — A record turnout for the Mount Washington ATV Climb jammed traffic on Route 16 Sunday morning, with some commuters stuck in traffic for hours.

Both Auto Road General Manager Howie Wemyss and NH ATV Club President Buddy Dionne have apologized for the traffic snafu that resulted on Route 16. Wemyss said his company will discuss the event internally and with the club before deciding whether to hold it again next year. He said the traffic delays that resulted on Route 16 were unfair to people traveling on the road, especially those going to work.

“We won’t let that happen again,” he promised.

Both men said no one predicted the volume of ATVers that showed up early to ride to the 6,288-foot summit.

Holmes said there were a total of 2,534 people that traveled to the summit by ATV Sunday, about 1,000 more than the previous record. That figure does not include those turned away when the road closed for a while because the parking area was filled.

The bulk of the ATVers showed up early Sunday, driven by the beautiful weather and the desire to get down in time for the ride home.

Wemyss said hundreds and hundreds of trucks and trailers carrying ATVs arrived at the Auto Road in a short period of time. The trucks and trailers take up far more room than regular vehicles with space and time required for unloading.
In a letter he sent out, Wemyss said he had nine parking crews working in six different parking locations to get vehicles off the highway. But by 9 a.m., he said, the parking space was filled.

Complicating matters was the fact it was a rare clear and calm day on the summit, leading many to linger once on top, compounding the traffic problems below.

“It was a spectacular day for being up on the mountain,” said Wemyss.

“It was such a nice day I think a lot of people stayed at the top,” said Dionne.

Wemyss said in the interest of safety, they closed the road until 2 p.m. to allow the congestion at the base to clear and get traffic moving on Route 16.

“I know we turned away a lot of people,” he said.

Wemyss noted that ATVers who arrived later in the afternoon had a totally different experience. The congestion was gone and they could park and unload quickly.

Dionne said the club and the Auto Road worked hard to plan and run the event.

“We all did our best. We just got overwhelmed,” he said.

Wemyss expressed his appreciation to Gorham Police and N.H. State Police for assisting with traffic.

Dionne said he thinks the club and road may have to split the ride into a morning and afternoon session. Wemyss said he expects they will discuss doing online ticket sales.

The Mount Washington ATV Climb drew hundreds of ATVers to the Androscoggin Valley with most lodging establishments booked for the weekend. The Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce took advantage by hosting a Redneck Poker Run on Saturday.

"Our first ever Redneck Poker Run was a huge success," said Chamber Executive Coordinator Paula Kinney. She said 230 participated in the poker run. Many stopped at the Service Credit Union Heritage Park where the run was based. At the park were concession stands and a beer tent and in the evening, the popular group, Riot Act, performed.

Prizes in the poker run went to Best Hands: first place, Dale Cookson, Plymouth, Mass.; second place, Matthew Hoseason, Harrisvile, R.I.; third place, Kris Cicchetto, Pembroke. Best Use of Redneck Theme: first place, Ashley Demers and her son Gabe, Berlin; second place, Rachele Ouellette, Berlin; third place, Chad Losier, Berlin.

“It was a great kick off to the tourism season in the Androscoggin Valley. The chamber is looking forward to a very busy season in our area. Next up is PaddleMania on Thursday, July 14,” said Kinney.

Gorham Public Works Director hurt in motorcycle accident

GRAFTON NOTCH, MAINE — Gorham Public Works Director Austin “Buddy” Holmes and his wife Rhonda were seriously injured in a motorcycle accident Saturday afternoon in Grafton Notch.
Maine State Police and Oxford County Sheriff’s Office could not provide details Monday afternoon. But a report in the Lewiston Sun Journal said the couple was traveling north on Route 26 when their 2011 Honda motorcycle went off the road and both were thrown. The article said neither appeared to be wearing a helmet. Buddy Holmes reportedly received a gash to his eye, a broken ankle, and possible head injury. Ronda Holmes sustained a head injury.
The article said Route 26 was closed for about an hour to allow LifeFlight to land and the two were taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine. Hospital officials Monday could not confirm that the pair was patients there.

USDA & partners make Joy Potter’s home wheelchair accessible

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun

STARK — Joy Potter, a Stark native who has lived 28 years in what was originally built as the one-room Blake School off Route 110, smiled happily all day on Friday, June 24, except when she shed a few tears of gratitude and relief when her son, two daughters and a son-in-law plus five of her six grandchildren posed with her in front of her newly renovated home where she plans to “age in place.”
“Seniors like Joy Potter are mainstays of New Hampshire’s tight-knit communities,” said State Director Ted Brady of USDA’s Vermont-N.H Rural Development (RD). “Their ability to continue to play their integral social role is challenged by their changing housing needs, however.
“Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Rural Development’s local staff, headquartered in Berlin, Tri-County CAP, and the local partners in her hometown and nearby, Mrs. Potter will be able to continue to be a member of the Stark community. The local, state and federal partnerships represented here today are at work across the state as agencies and communities work together to support our seniors.”
Potter, now 62, thanked everyone who has been involved with the project. “Everyone has been very pleasant and helpful, and I appreciate everyone’s efforts,” she said.
Her second husband Norman Eugene Potter bought the building over 50 years ago in about 1964. “Although he wasn’t the first to live there, he turned it into a real home, dividing the then-open attic space into three bedrooms, creating one downstairs, and installing a basement,” Potter explained. “I didn’t move there with my children until 1988 when we were married. My three children were already 9, 11, and 16.”
The building was closed as a school in the mid-1940s.
It is one of Stark’s many historic assets, and Potter is keen to keep living there on her own, using a wheelchair plus a battery-operated Jazzy Scooter that was given to her.
Both she and Director Brady noted that — typical of many North Country families — at least three generations had worked in the paper mills in Groveton, and she at the local credit union.
Recognizing her need for upgrades, Potter contacted USDA RD to take advantage of its Home Repair Program. She qualified for a $14,999 loan and grant combination that allowed a chairlift to be installed to the second floor and her bathroom to be made safe and handicapped accessible, as well as other repairs, including weatherization to reduce energy costs.
The program, used by over 100 Granite State income-qualified households in 2015, offers very low-interest loans and grants to eligible senior homeowners, Brady pointed out.
Other community donations included: Eversource, $5,700 for new kitchen appliances, LED lights and attic insulation; Tri-County CAP, $1,138 for home improvements plus $375 in fuel assistance for which she had not realized she qualified; Keene Medical Products, $1,000; Sherwin Williams, $500 paint supplies; and Perras Ace Hardware, $350 materials, plus state Department of Environmental Services, $1,500 for new a oil tank and state Department of Energy, $450.
The total support exceeded $25,000, explained USDA RD point person Janice Daniels, who was recently named the N.H. Federal Executive Association’s 2016 Star Performer. The Town of Stark and Stark Fire Department also helped, as well as Dennis Lunn, director of the Stark Heritage Center, who donated a framed copy of a photograph of her home when it was a school and what is now Route 110 ran along its south side.
Many USDA staff and others spent the day volunteering their efforts painting, staining, landscaping and finishing up projects, including transforming an old sawblade into a handsome property sign.
Congratulatory letters were read from elected members of Congress: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Congresswoman Annie Kuster.
Kuster praised local contractors who operated on tight margins, including Brian Meunier, Dan McCash, Peppy’s Electric, Northwoods Heating, Granite State Independent Living (GSIL) and others. “To Joy, I wish you many happy days here with family and friends,” the Congresswoman wrote. “These few changes may have enriched your life but they have also enriched the lives of everyone who has participated in bringing them to you. Thank you all for a job well done.”
District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney praised the positive response to upgrading Potter’s home so that she can remain in it. Coos District 7 Rep. Leon Rideout of Lancaster congratulated everyone who worked hard to implement the federal programs or helped out in other ways.
Brady and Daniels also presented a Gold Star Award to nine real estate agents of RE/MAX Northern Edge Realty of Berlin and Lancaster who closed on 17 of 27 new USDA RD home loans.
They also highlighted the outreach done by Andrea Gagne, Tri-County CAP’s Director of Energy, Elders & Outreach Services Division.

Council approves three new contracts

BERLIN – The city council last week approved labor contracts with unions representing public works employees, teachers, school custodians and bus drivers.
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 1444 representing school custodians and bus drivers negotiated a three year contract with the school board. It calls for a wage increase of .75 percent in 2016-17, 1.25 percent in 2017-18, and 1.75 percent in 2018-19. Composite fillings will be added to dental coverage and there is also an adjustment for unused sick leave. Total three-year cost of the negotiated cost items for 14 employees is $28,247.
The school board and Berlin Education Association also negotiated a three year contract. It provides for wage increases of 1 percent for 2016-17, 1 percent for 2017-18, and 2 percent for 2018-19. It also adds composite fillings and the district will cover the $1,000 deductable for outpatient surgery for fiscal 2018 only. Total three-year cost of the contract items for 109 employees is $341,288.
The council, which has to approve cost items for all labor contracts, voted 8-1 to approve the two contracts for school employees. Only Councilor Russell Otis voted against them.
The council unanimously approved a new three-year contract for public works employees. The contract, which runs from fiscal 2017 through fiscal 2018, provides three percent annual raises. The cost of the wage increase, however, is more than offset by savings in the cost of health insurance premiums and the city anticipates it will save money overall as a result of the new contract.