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Neighbors concerned about possible wood chipping at biomass plant

BERLIN – Neighbors across from the Burgess BioPower plant said they are concerned about reports that the facility wants to be able to chip wood on-site temporarily without doing it in an enclosed building.
Recently eight residents of the area near the Hutchins Street playground meet with the Berlin Daily Sun to voice concerns about chipping once again being performed on the former pulp mill property.
"We don't want to go back to the old days," said Ed Chase.
Berlin Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme said Burgess BioPower has talked to the city about its desire to be able to bring an industrial chipper on-site to chip wood for a limited period of two to three days when supplies are low. She said the company was not looking to do that now but in the future – mostly likely during the winter.
Laflamme said Burgess BioPower has indicated it is not looking to do open air chipping but to chip the wood into a trailer that would be emptied into the plant's wood processing system.
Burgess BioPower spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said right now the plant is receiving 100 truckloads of chips daily, which allows it to run at full capacity. He said on-site chipping was contemplated as part of the project's original design and the ability to chip on-site is included in its certificate from the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee.
But the neighbors point out the SEC certificate requires on-site chipping and/or debarking operations to be mitigated "by having the equipment enclosed and operated in a sound protecting enclosed building." The certificate furthermore stipulates that an electric motor and not a combustion engine must power the equipment.
The neighbors said for years when the pulp mill was operating and there was wood chipping on site, sawdust covered their homes and vehicles. They recalled their kids could not ice skate because a film of sawdust constantly covered the ice.
"You couldn't open your windows in the summer," Corinne King said.
The residents said in the years since the pulp mill closed, they have enjoyed not having the smell and sawdust associated with the papermaking process.
"We finally had a taste of what it was like to live a normal life," said Eli Marois.
Bob Dumoulin said the neighbors do not oppose the biomass plant.
"For the most part they've been a very good neighbor," he said.
The residents said they simply do not want to lose the quality of life they now enjoy. They said if chipping is to occur on-site, they want it to take place in an enclosed building as required by the SEC certificate. They argue temporary could stretch into two or three years.
The neighbors point out that Burgess BioPower is already storing round wood on-site – presumably to have it available for chipping.
The neighbors also note that Richard Carrier Trucking has been hired to handle wood procurement for Burgess BioPower. Dumoulin said Carrier has at least two other local options for chipping. He pointed out Carrier owns a chipping plant in Shelburne and the Milan Lumber Mill. Both, he noted are within a short distance of the Berlin biomass plant.
Laflamme said the city hopes to arrange a meeting soon with Burgess BioPower officials and Dick Huot, who has agreed to represent the concerns of the neighborhood to discuss chipping on-site.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 October 2014 21:47

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Takes more than a little rain to dampen RiverFire

BERLIN – It takes more than a little rain to dampen the enthusiasm and turnout for RiverFire. On a day when the weather was not entirely cooperative, thousands of people still turned out for the festivities – many waiting out the showers by ducking under umbrellas and tents.
"It really goes to show you that RiverFire is truly a signature event that everyone looks forward to each fall. Approximately 3,000 people attended despite the on-and-off rain showers. Many local people returned to the park for the second time to enjoy the fires and all the nighttime festivities. Many others stayed through the rain and made the best of it," said Paula Kinney, executive coordinator for the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce. The chamber sponsors the event along with the Berlin Main Street Program.
Only a few activities were affected by the rain – primarily the Bouncy Houses and the Bungee Trampoline. But the most popular events –the poker run, duck race, the 5k race, the kiddie costume parade, the petting zoo, the hay rides, and of course the lighting of the pumpkins, the bonfires in the river, and Horrorfest – went off without a hitch. The food concession stands were busy and the beer tent was a popular spot.
The Zombie Poker Run attracted a large crowd of ATVers who traveled on a five-stop route developed by Ray Bergeron of Motorcycle Snowmobile Services.
The 5k fun race, which benefits RESPONSE, drew 183 runners of all ages. The first runner to cross the finish line was Bryan Beegle of Berlin with a time of 16:36. After finishing the race, Beegle waited to watch his girlfriend, Amanda Dubs, take first in the women's division with a time of 19:38. The two said they recently moved to Berlin and frequently run together.
Scores of yellow plastic ducks were dumped off the 12th Street Bridge and went bopping their way down the Androscoggin River in the duck race. The first place duck, and $500, went to Hunter Bildoeau. Second place, and $250, went to Lucie Remillard while Mike Couch earned $50 for his duck's third place finish.
It rained for a period in mid-afternoon, but the hayrides and events went on as usual. It cleared by late afternoon and many returned to the Northern Forest Heritage Park to enjoy the lighting of the pumpkins on the pedestrian bridge and the fires on the boom piers in the river.
Kinney said by evening the riverwalk and pedestrian bridge were lined with people, watching the fires and admiring the skills of the pumpkin carving contestants. Over in the park, the band Duke was playing its mix of favorite country, pop, and rock. With four Berlin natives in the group, the crowd was pumped for some dancing.
Spotting a new format this year, Horrorfest again proved to be one of the most popular events with an estimated 600 visiting the haunted village and taking in the other offerings put together by Chris Dubey and Theater North.
On Sunday, a tired but happy crew of volunteers was back at the park cleaning up. While news reports from a festival in the southwestern part of the state included rioting and arrests, RiverFire was a day of family fun and entertainment in Berlin.
Kinney thanked all the sponsors and volunteers as well the community for turning out for RiverFire.
"The support from this community is amazing. Lots of visitors returned to our area for RiverFire and they love it here. They think our community is wonderful and we constantly hear them comment that people are so nice here."
Asked about plans for next year, Kinney said the RiverFire committee is always thinking about how it can make the festival better. She suggested keeping the third weekend in October open next year to see what the 2015 edition offers.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 October 2014 21:31

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Stop for school buses

GORHAM—Police are reminding motorists that it is illegal to pass a school bus when it is stopped to drop off or pick up children and it has its lights on.

Lt. Jen Lemoine of the Gorham Police said there have been a number of incidents recently in which motorists have not stopped for a school bus with its lights on and stopping to pick up children.

Police have received a number of calls from schools about such incidents but noted they cannot be everywhere at once.

“People need to be aware it is illegal to pass a school bus when its lights are on,” Lemoine said.

Even if the road is four lanes wide, cars must stop. Vehicles several lanes over that pass a school bus do so illegally.

It is a $100 fine for the first offense.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 23:12

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Havenstein says he looked at locating company in Berlin

BERLIN – Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein said he looked at locating an electronic cable assembly operation in Berlin 13 years ago. But he said he did not move forward because "frankly we didn't have the right talent as well as the right economic conditions to do that."

Havenstein was in Berlin last Friday for a brief meet and greet with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the Northland Restaurant and Dairy Bar. He is hoping to defeat incumbent Democrat Governor Maggie Hassan in November.
The retired businessman clarified his views on biomass and specifically the Berlin plant. Havenstein called the Burgess BioPower facility a beautiful plant and said he is supportive because it means good jobs for North Country citizens and it supports the forest industry here. He said his concern with biomass plants has to do with subsidies for such facilities.
"I want to make sure we're not artificially propping up biomass, or any other energy plant, that ultimately is being paid for by the ratepayers," he said.
It was Havenstein's second visit to Berlin. He visited the city in June and toured the biomass plant as well as two local machine shops.
Havenstein said the North Country needs better infrastructure including both broadband accessibility and an improved road system. He said the transportation infrastructure is crucial but said he opposed the recently passed gas tax. Havenstein charged there would be money for transportation if the state stopped diverting money from the Highway Fund. He said the fund should be limited to improving and maintaining the road system. He said he supported state Senator Jeb Bradley's plan to structurally fit the system so Highway Fund money would not be used for things like the Department of Safety.
Havenstein pointed out the gas tax also includes diesel fuel and said the increase for the lumber trucks that serve the region comes to about $800 a year.
"It's an $800 a year tax on every one of our trucks up here that are transporting lumber or transporting logs, or frankly transporting anything that's sold and that's an impact not just on the businesses but it's an impact on everyone of our customers," he said.
With the economy stagnant, Havenstein said this is not the time to raise the gas tax.
Formerly CEO of both BAE Systems, Inc., and SAIC, Havenstein cites his business experience as an advantage he would bring to the governor's office.
He said he sees great opportunities in the North Country for light manufacturing as well as some high tech companies. The state, he said, needs to create a business environment that encourages job growth. He said young people need education to work in those fields. Havenstein said regulations, taxes, health and energy costs make it more difficult for businesses to start.
Asked about the high property taxes that plague many North Country communities, Havenstein placed the blame on state government forcing cost down to the local level. As an example, he cited the state pension program. Historically, he said the state covered all costs and funding but now some of the cost has been pushed to the local level.
Havenstein said he is not worried by polls that have him trailing Hassen by ten percentage points. He said at one time he was 30 points behind and said the gap is closing.
Havenstein graduated from the U.S. Navy Academy with a degree in aerospace engineering and holds a masters degree in electrical engineering from the Navel Postgraduate School. He served 28 years in the Marine Corps, retiring in 1999 from the Marine Reserves. He spent 30 years in the private sector working in the defense industry.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 23:04

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