Police chief and council discuss ATV complaints

By Barbara Tetreault

BERLIN — Complaints about ATVers riding up and down neighborhood streets, riding after curfew, loud exhaust pipes, and popping wheelies has police encouraging the public to report such incidents.
The topic was discussed at Monday’s city council work session after the council received a written complaint from a Hillside Avenue resident. The resident complained that ATVs and dirt bikes operating between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. were waking him up at least three times a night. Police Chief Peter Morency said police have also received complaints about ATVs use in the city.
Morency said there is a 10 p.m. curfew and ATVs should not be on city streets after that time. The chief said the department takes ATV complaints seriously and wants to hear about enforcement issues.
Morency said he believes the vast majority of ATVers are responsible and follow regulations because they want to see city street access continue. ATVers are allowed to ride on city streets to access trails and local businesses. But the off-highway vehicles are not suppose to be used to go back and forth to work or to drive around the city.
Morency said he believes most of the complaints are from young riders and said he feels the city should take a look at tightening up the ordinance. As written it allows underage drivers who are state OHRV safety certificate to ride on city streets as long as they are accompanied by a licensed adult over 18. Morency said the idea was to accommodate families with teen drivers ATV riding together.
The chief said the ordinance, however, allows underage teens to drive with friends over 18 and the result is groups of young riders. Morency said he feels most of the complaints about ATVs traveling up and down city streets late at night as well as wheelies and noise stem from younger riders.
He suggested it might be time to review the ordinance to see if there needs to be more restrictions on young ATV drivers.
Councilor Mike Rozek suggested the council traffic and safety committee review the ordinance with police and report back to the council for the Aug. 14 meeting. Mayor Paul Grenier and the council agreed with that suggestion.
Morency asked the public to report violators to police immediately so they can have a chance to catch them. Councilor Peter Higbee asked if that included noise complaints and Morency said it did. He said Berlin and Gorham police have been talking about purchasing a decibel meter to measure noise levels.

Veterans tell Shaheen and VA officials Chocie Card Program not working

COLEBROOK – Complaining of unanswered phone calls, long wait times for appointments, too much paperwork, and conflicting information, veterans Friday told U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Veteran Administration officials the Veterans Choice Card program is not working.
In frustrated and at times emotional testimony, an overflow crowd of veterans and their families spoke about the problems they have had using a program designed to make it easier for veterans to get health care locally.
“I’m feeling like this place don’t want to take care of us,” one veteran said. “We’re not getting the benefits and help we deserve,” he said, adding that the stress was getting to him.
The informational meeting was part of an outreach effort undertaken by Alfred Montoya, director of the Veteran Administration’s White River Junction, Vt. division. He was joined by Assistant Director Matthew Malcahy and Dr. Hugh Huizenga, chief of primary care at VA-WRJ as well as Shaheen. Approximately 100 people jammed into a room at the Indian Stream Clinic with some people forced to stand.
Montoya, who became director at WRJ last month after serving as interim director for seven months, told the crowd that as an Air Force veteran, he gets 100 percent of his health services through the VA.
“I believe in the system,” he said. “This is personal”.
Montoya provided updates on the part-time health care clinics the VA Medical Center has set up in Colebrook and Berlin to offer primary care, preventive health care, lab draws, and telehealth services. The Colebrook clinic opened almost a year ago at the Indian Stream Health Center and is currently staffed on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. The VA is still trying to find clinical space in Berlin. In the meantime the VA’s mobile unit is at the Androscoggin Valley Hospital one day a week to provide health care. Montoya acknowledged he has received a lot of complaints from veterans about the mobile unit in Berlin.
Through the efforts of U.S. Senators Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, legislation was passed in 2014 allowing veterans who live in a state without a full service VA hospital to get health care from a private facility if they are more than 20 miles from a VA hospital. New Hampshire does not have a full service VA hospital and the closest one to Berlin is in White River Junction, Vt. The goal is to allow veterans to receive health services close to home and avoid the long drives to Whire River Junction. Shaheen said she understands the Choice Card Program has worked for some veterans and not for others.
“We’re really here today to try and figure out the best way to deliver heath care in the North Country,” she said.
In a letter read to the crowd, Ayotte wrote that the veteran clinics in Colebrook and Berlin are insufficient and it is past time to deliver those services. The delays in getting the clinics open and operating more hours make the Choice Card program more important, she said.
Montoya said there are 1,337 veterans in Coos County enrolled and confirmed eligible for health care. He said 76 percent of those enrolled have sought and received VA care.
Shaheen asked if the VA had a sense of the number of veterans who qualify but are not enrolled. Montoya said they do not but hope to get such numbers in the future.
Combined the two clinics have about 225 current users, less than the 1,200 patients needed for a full-time provider. He said a full-time clinic like the one in Littleton is not sustainable.
He said two potential options have been identified for the future. One is to have on-site staff to facilitate appointments and answer questions and arrange for health care in the community. The other option is to contract with a community-based provider to provide health services one to two days a week.
“This is your health care. What do you think it should look like,” Montoya asked.
But the veterans wanted to talk about the present and reported a litany of complaints. One veteran complained the phone lines are always busy when he calls to schedule an appointment and he has called repeatedly only to get a recorded message.
Paul Robitaille, manager of ServiceLink for the county, said he has heard a lot of frustration from veterans who come to his program for help. A major complaint, he said, isveterans receiving conflicting information from the White River Junction center and Manchester facility.
Montoya urged veterans to call his direct extension with problems and provided both his phone number and e-mail address. Shaheen said veterans having persistent trouble getting through to the VA can also contact her staff.
Montoya said he will discuss issues with the director in Manchester and said he has started a program to improve communications between VA staff and veterans.
One veteran complained that veterans are treated as second rate citizens and illegal immigrants get better health care from the federal government. “You’re wrong,” Shaheen responded, telling the crowd that the federal government does not provide benefits to illegal immigrants. At the same time, the senator said she believes veterans deserve better service and treatment then they are getting.
One veteran broke down as he told of receiving a bill for $300 for a procedure he had gotten prior approval to have performed. He said he did not have the money to pay the bill.
Huizenga said the VA’s goal is to get the care to veterans where they live. He said they understand people are having problems and would like the process to be simpler.
Wrapping up the meeting, Shaheen told the group she is committed to working out the problems in the program and fixing what’s not working.
“We’re going to keep at it... We’re not going to give up until it’s right,” she promised.

Commissioners take no action on discontinuing Golf Links Road

Commissioners take no action on discontinuing Golf Links Road

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun

STEWARTSTOWN — Acting in their role as selectmen for the county’s unincorporated places, the Coos County commissioners held a public hearing Wednesday, July 13, on a proposal to ultimately allow the developers of the Balsams to take ownership of Golf Links Road in Dixville.

The 35-minute hearing was held as part of a multi-step process designed to secure the state’s help in the Balsams’ revival and expansion project in order to boost Coos County’s economy.

The state Department of Transportation has proposed spending $2.8 million project to improve Golf Links Road on the Balsams Resort property. The 1.8-mile road leads from the now-shuttered historic Dix and Hampshire Houses on the Balsams Resort property to the 18-hole Donald-Ross-designed Panorama Golf Course in Colebrook. DOT outlined its proposal in an informational meeting in the Colebrook on March 28.

The state and developers have worked out a proposed plan to allow the road to be privately owned by the developers, Dixville Capital, LLC, which would be responsible for year-round maintenance. While the road is privately owned, the state is responsible for maintaining it.

Under the proposal first outlined by lead developer Les Otten at a meeting in October 2015 at the Captain’s Lodge in Dixville, attended by DRED commissioner Jeff Rose and then-soon-to-be-sworn-in DOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan, and other stakeholders, the Dixville section of the road would first be given to Coos County and then the county would convey it to Dixville Capital.

Colebrook, in a separate action, would have to vote to convey its section of road to Dixville Capital.
Under the proposal now on the table, DOT would cover the cost of repairing and repaving the deteriorating paved road at a cost of up to $2.8 million.

Commissioner Rick Samson of Stewartstown presented his fellow commissioners — chairman Tom Brady of Jefferson and vice chairman Paul Grenier of Berlin — with a packet of documents, including letters from the selectmen of Pittsburg, Stewartstown and Northumberland.

Stewartstown Selectmen Allen Coats, Hasen Burns, and James Gilbert, in a letter dated April 14, wrote that they "feel it is irresponsible to 'privatize'" such a large sum. They implied that skullduggery is at play: Stewartstown is "'upwind' of this proposed project, but something in the air is preventing it from smelling as clean and fresh as it should be."

Northumberland Selectmen Jim Weagle, Jim Tierney and Michael Phillips, in a letter dated April 27, also said, "the whole proposal smells bad," and point out their town has two state roads — Lost Nation and Brown Roads — that need to be overhauled.

Pittsburg Selectmen Steve Ellis, Brendon McKeage and Richard Lapoint, in a letter dated April 26, said that, although in favor of The Balsams being restored, they "have a concern of taxpayer dollars being allocated to a section of road that would later be turned over to a private entity," when several sections of state road in and leading to the North Country need improvement.

The Colebrook selectmen did not submit any comments.

Commissioner Samson also wrote Sheehan outlining his concerns and opposition at this time to the proposed road upgrade. He asked that the state delay the upgrade until at least 25 percent of Phase I of the Balsams project be completed.

Sheehan, in a reply letter, pointed out that "Golf Links is presently a state-maintained road." She said its planned rehabilitation will serve two purposes: 1) discontinue the road as a state maintenance responsibility; and 2) help support the Balsams development and its regional economic benefit.

Further, Sheehan pointed out, "We have committed, and legislation has reinforced, that the rehabilitation of Golf Links Road will not begin construction until the Balsams development funding is in place and ready to move forward."

Although Samson said he believed that Golf Links is at best a Class V town road, Sheehan has said that the road is a Class II highway. The commissioners' hearing would only be legitimate if the road is either a Class I or Class II state highway.

Grenier said that if the Balsams project does secure the necessary funding, the proposed transfers of Golf Links Road would mostly likely be done in one fell swoop at a future date.

Brady agreed that the commissioners would not take any action at its July meeting.

New 'Randolph Paths' guidebook and RMC map now available

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun

RMC PATHS 1A could use w headline 1RANDOLPH — The ninth edition of “Randolph Paths: Guide to the Northern Presidentials and the Crescent Range” and an updated local Tyvek map with 50-foot contours were rolled out at the 106-year-old Randolph Mountain Club’s annual Fourth of July Tea, held at Katie and Mark Kelley’s lawn and barn on Randolph Hill Road.

It has been 11 years since the last edition of “Randolph Paths” was published in 2005, and lead editor Judy Hudson and her two co-editors, Doug Mayer and Steve Smith, extensively revised the guidebook.

There is information on the Randolph Community Forest Trailhead and related changes to paths — all open to the hiking public — on Randolph Hill. Forest roads on the north side of Route 2 are also included.

Mayer wrote a new section on trail running, and backcountry skiing opportunities are described for the physically fit, as well as suggestions for cross-country skiing and snowshoe hikes: easier, moderate and difficult.

But the heart of the updated guidebook lies in the more than 80 trails that are detailed, with mileages and average hiking times, plus descriptions of the four rustic RMC camps on Mount Adams: Crag, Grey Knob, Perch and Log Cabin.

Four pages are also devoted to trails in the Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson and Whitefield, including the .6-mile-long, wheelchair-accessible Mud Pond Trail off Route 116.

There are more than 140 entries, listed alphabetically, that describe Points of Interest, starting with Abigail Adams (5,355 feet), a subsidiary summit on Mount Adams named six years ago for President John Adams’ wife, and ending with White Cliff (2,484 feet), an outlook on the low northwest swell of Nowell Ridge with good views to the north.

Three outdoor enthusiasts who stay in Randolph at least part of every summer contributed their expertise: Bates College geology professor Dyk Eusden, “Geology Notes;” botanist Brad Meiklejohn, “The Natural History of Randolph Paths;” and Hudson, who edited “Peaks and Paths: the history of the RMC’s first 100 years,” a “Brief History of Path Making on the Northern Presidentials and the Crescent Range.”

The hiking and biking (cooscyclingclub.wordpress.com) trails in Moose Brook State Park off Jimtown Road in Gorham are shown for the first time on an RMC map.

Two weeks ago the club’s first short hike took place on July 5 on the newly designated mile-long “scenic loop” that crosses Perkins Brook under towering pines. This route incorporates sections of the unpaved Berry Farm Road, the CCC Link Trail and the Perkins Path, which starts across from Moose Brook’s administration building constructed in the mid-1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Mapmaker Jonathan Hall of Sugar Hill, a Fitchburg, Mass., native who has been hiking the Whites and skiing at Cannon for 30 years and who moved to the North Country in 1993, once again took the lead in revising the RMC map. He worked for 10 years at MicroDATA in St. Johnsbury and seven at Cartographic Associates, rebranded as CAI Technologies, in Littleton, and is now self-employed, allowing him more time to serve as member of Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue (AVSAR).

Hall worked with a good-sized advisory committee, including Hudson, Mayer, Dwight Bradley, Mike Micucci, John Scarinza, Jim Anderson, RMC caretaker Carl Herz and others.

“There were a lot of changes to incorporate,” Hall explained.

For the first time, the RMC map’s folded version has the Crescent Range on one side, with insets for Starr King in the Pliny Range and Owl’s Head on Cherry Mountain, as well as the Northern Peaks on the other, with a small inset depicting the area south of the Appalachia trailhead, including the Snyder Brook Scenic Area. In another first, using USDA data, the RMC map features three different shades of green, representing deciduous forest, mixed forest and evergreens, with white indicating treeless areas, including those on summit cones.

Hudson credited the attractiveness of “Randolph Paths” to the elegant work done by designer-photographer Allison Bell of Central Mass. “As more and more changes were made to the previous edition, Bell stepped up and repaginated the guidebook, working extremely rapidly and with enormous patience,” said Hudson, adding that the 4½-by-7½-inch paperback has many new and historic photos.

Both the map and “Randolph Paths” can be bought through use of the RMC website — www.randolphmountainclub.org — or at Lowe’s Gas Station in Randolph, White Mountain Cafe in Gorham, RMC Crag Camp and Gray Knob, plus area bookstores and outfitters.