Selectmen hear complaints about ATVs in Gorham

Some residents ask for roads to be closed; selectmen schedule public hearing to discuss OHRV access
By Kirstan Knowlton
GORHAM — With complaints on the rise, many residents in Gorham would like to see changes made to the amount of access that Off Highway Recreational Vehicle riders have within the town. To address concerns and formally hear appeals, selectmen have scheduled a public hearing for Monday, July 11, to discuss three topics related to OHRV use.
During the most recent selectmen’s meeting, a lengthy and open discussion was had by several residents and town officials regarding the misuse of OHRVs in residential areas.
Resident Gary Davis who lives on Mechanic Street said that on several occasions riders have unloaded their OHRVs and spent at least a half hour revving the engines and driving up and down his street.

Council approves fiscal 2017 budget; no tax increase

BERLIN — There will be no property tax increase this year, Mayor Paul Grenier proclaimed, as the city council Monday approved a fiscal 2017 general fund budget of $32.59 million. The approved budget is down $753,728 or 2.2 percent over the current budget.
When budget deliberations began this March the council set a goal of holding the tax rate at last year’s rate of $39.19. The council acknowledged that some taxpayers took a major hit last year when the tax rate increased more than $5 because of a citywide property revaluation that decreased Berlin’s total valuation. While many taxpayers saw their tax bill go down because their property value dropped dramatically, those homeowners whose property values stayed the same or increased in the revaluation absorbed a steep tax increase.
To achieve a zero tax increase, most department budgets were kept at near level funding and the school board’s budget request was cut $400,000.
The council voted to use $1.02 million from the unappropriated fund balance to reduce taxes, leaving $1.6 million in that fund, which is above the five percent minimum recommended.
The council Monday night made two changes to the budget it presented at the May public hearing. It added $25,000 to the capital improvement line item for replacing the city’s skate park and $90,000 to the school capital improvement budget for a new school bus.
Earlier in the evening, the council received a report on the city’s 2015 audit by Jarad Vartanian and Robert Vachon from the accounting firm of Vachon & Clukay. Vartanian said the city received a good rating.
Grenier asked Vachon, managing partner of the firm and a Berlin native, to assess the city’s financial health.
Vachon said he feels the city is pretty well managed and praised the work of Fiscal Director Patty Chase. He said the council appears to understand the needs of the taxpayers and attempts to balance what residents can afford with the needs of the city.
Vartanian said Berlin is not alone and said he sees all communities battling to manage tax rates.

Stepfather arrested in murder of Celina Cass

STEWARTSTOWN — Just a month short of five years since she was reported missing, the stepfather of 11-year-old Celina Cass has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
Wendell Noyes, 52, was arrested Monday, according to a press release from the N.H. Attorney General’s office, and charged with killing her by submerging her body in the Connecticut River. Noyes was Celina’s stepfather at the time of her disappearance on July 26, 2011.

Berlin Farmers' Market opens for the season this Thursday with plenty of new additions

By Kirstan Knowlton
BERLIN — The Berlin Farmers' Market opens for the season this Thursday, June 23, with plenty of new additions like educational cooking, new vendors and movie night hosted by the Salvation Army. This year the market will run every Thursday through Sept. 15, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Pleasant Street, rain or shine.
New for 2016 is the Educational Cooking Kitchen with free healthy food demonstrations, samples and recipes made from items found at the Farmers Market with James Beard nominated chef Liz Jackson of Libby’s Bistro & SAaLT PUB of Gorham. Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation has sponsored the outdoor kitchen and new seating area.
The hands-on teaching community garden hosted by the Coos County Botanical Society will show how you can grow your own fresh produce. Held weekly, the "Ask the Gardner" Booth will highlight topics like compost, herbs, worm composting and more.