Town to hold meeting with Commissioner Rose to discuss OHRV use

By Kirstan Knowlton

GORHAM — The town has arranged for a public meeting with Jeff Rose, commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development to discuss OHRV use in Gorham.

In a letter to town officials, Rose said he is not inclined to extend the OHRV portion of the Presidential Rail Trail between Jimtown Road and the parking lot on Route 2. The proposed section of railroad bed is 2,355 feet long and is owned by the state.

“As I understand it, the opening of this section of trail would be used primarily to connect local residences to the trail network. While I appreciate the local appeal for access from private homes, providing exclusive access to the public resource is not a priority in our management of trail networks,” stated Rose in his letter to the town.

Rose did address concerns from business owners in that area, but noted that they existed before the proposed trail connection was made. Rose reiterated that their focus is on public access and any expansions would handled in a mindful way.

“The ability to manage the trails, impacts on private and public lands, safety for all trail users, and respect of the natural resources need to be adequately evaluated in any decision,” stated Rose.

Rose agreed to meet with the Board of Selectmen as proposed to discuss trail access and receive input for the public.

The meeting will take place on Monday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at the Medallion Opera House located in Gorham Town Hall. The meeting is open to the public, but is not a public hearing.

In other news, selectmen clarified their role in the potential merger between the fire and EMS department. In a previous meeting selectmen stated that the newly hired fire chief would be the one making the decision on whether to merge the two departments. The board revised their statement to include the selectmen and the town manager in that decision making process.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held on Monday, May 2 at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall in Gorham. Agendas for the meeting can be found online at gorhamnh.org.

Woodburn pushes bills forward

CONCORD –A bill sponsored by North Country State Senator Jeff Woodburn that would make it a felony to put sexually explicit pictures of someone on-line without their consent passed the legislature and now awaits Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signature.
“Disclosure of sexually explicit material without consent and for no legitimate purpose causes immediate, devastating, and potentially irreversible harm to victims of this crime,” said Woodburn (D-Dalton). “Unfortunately, rapid advances in technology have created a loophole in our state laws that prevent prosecution of this crime. SB 465 closes this loophole and establishes a penalty for this devastating crime.”
Woodburn noted that the ability of people to gain access and distribute some material has resulted in law enforcement seeing an increase in such crimes. He said tools are needed to protect potential victims.
The House passed the bill Wednesday. It had passed the Senate last month. Hassan is expected to sign it.
On Wednesday the House also gave initial approval to SB 533, which would provide funding to combat the heroin and opioid crisis. Woodburn, who also serves as Senate Minority Leader, was prime sponsor of the bill, which he said will provide much needed funding.
“Those who are battling drug addiction have been crying out for treatment and recovery services and far too often, none are available,” Woodburn said.
He noted that New Hampshire is second to last in the entire country in access to treatment programs and the state’s spending on such programs is among the lowest in the Northeast.
“With state revenues close to $80 million ahead of estimates for the year, we have the money to pay for this vital funding, what this really comes down to is the will to spend money to address this crisis,” he added.

Prior to final approval in the House, SB 533 will be reviewed by the House Finance Committee and returned to the House floor for a final vote.
Woodburn said he was still concerned that using so-called lapsed funds instead using excess revenues may delay getting funding into communities to help save lives. Despite that, he thanked the House for its support and urged the House Finance Committee to act as soon as possible to provide resources communities with much need funding to combat the opiate epidemic.

Balsams developers will present ski area site plan to Coos Couty planning board

DIXVILLE – The developers of the Balsams resort will appear before the Coos County Planning Board Tuesday to present their site plan for expanding the Wilderness Ski Area into a world class resort.
The application from Dixville Capital LLC calls for adding up to 1,065 acres of ski terrain to the existing 135 acres plus another 800 acres of glade skiing for a total of approximately 2,000 acres of alpine skiing terrain. The project will be done in phases over a number of years based on market conditions
The opening phase is expected to be six lifts and 250 acres of new trails but the application said that could change as plans for the resort are finalized. The site plan contains no public buildings and the application states separate site plans will be submitted for buildings in the near future.
The Balsams web page describes the ski expansion as “an ambitious and inspired design” and notes the development team has over 120 years of resort development experience. Les Otten, head of Dixville Capital, developed Sunday River Resort in Maine into a mega-resort and later formed American Ski Company.
The planning board will meet at 6 p.m. on April 26 at the North Country Resource Center in Lancaster to review the application. If the board rules the application is complete and meets regulations for both site plan review and the PUD site plan applications, it will schedule a public hearing.
The ski area will cover 4,567 acres with over 23,000 feet of frontage on Route 26. Included with the application are letters of authorization from existing property owners, Bayroot LLC, Balsams View LLC, and Tillotson Corporation. The letters state Dixville Capital has the right to acquire ownership and to apply for permits and approvals to develop the Balsams Wilderness Resort.
There will be four primary access points to the ski area. One is the existing driveway into the ski area and base lodge. Primary access for skiers and pedestrians, however, is expected to a gondola, ski lifts, and a ski-back bridge connecting the ski area to the Balsams Lake Village Resort. An existing forest access road from Route 26 to the South Village site initially will be used for construction, maintenance, and emergency to South Village with plans to upgrade that in the future for public access. The fourth access point is expected to be a future service road from the Wilderness Base Lodge through the state Department of Transportation Route 26 underpass tunnel to Valley Road.
The existing Wilderness base lodge will continue to provide services to skiers and also continue to serve as part of the staff headquarters, dispatch center, incident command center, and primary first responder aide facility.

The Valley Garage, north of Route 26 on Valley Road, will serve as the maintenance facility for all rolling stock and small engine machinery while the Wilderness maintenance shop, adjacent to the ski base, will serve as the primary maintenance and fueling depot for snow grooming and snowmaking equipment.
The existing base lodge has parking for 375 cars and no new parking is proposed in the application. Instead the applicant points out additional day skier parking will be located at the Balsams Lake Village and incorporated into the site plan application for the Lake Gloriette House at the hotel resort. Dixville Capital suggests a adding a condition of approval for the ski area that sufficient parking be in place to accommodate projected skier demand prior to opening of the new alpine ski trails.
No new drinking water supply or wastewater disposal systems are proposed in the site plan application.
Eversource and N.H. Electric Co-op will supply electrical power to the ski area. Dixville Capital has offered the utilities a ROW across a portion of its land south of Route 26 – limited to distribution voltages only.
Ski trail lighting will be provided by LED light fixtures, which the application said consume about half the energy of traditional slope lighting and contain no toxic metals. The proposed system can be dimmed, focused, and turned on and off remotely.
If approved, the application said Dixville Capital plans to get forestry activities for ski trail and lift line construction underway within next several months. Opening phase for snowmaking water delivery and distribution systems, utilities, lifts, trails, ski back bridge, and related infrastructure will take place over 2016 and 2017.
Dixville Capital has already received permission from N.H. Department of Environmental Services to withdraw water from the Androscoggin River in Errol for snowmaking.

Berlin and Gorham explore sharing fire chief services

By Barabara Tetreault

BERLIN-GORHAM — The town of Gorham and the city of Berlin are exploring the idea of the two communities sharing the services of Berlin’s fire chief as a way to reduce costs for both communities.
With Gorham Fire Chief Rick Eichler retiring this summer, Gorham Town Manager Robin Frost suggested the town approach Berlin to explore the feasibility of the city providing fire chief services to Gorham. She noted the town of Belmont just entered in a one-year contract with the city of Laconia for fire chief services.
“If we didn’t explore it, I would think we didn’t do due diligence,” she said.
The board of selectmen thought the idea was worth exploring and Frost contacted Berlin City Manager James Wheeler. Wheeler brought the proposal before the city council Monday night, saying he was pleased to see Gorham’s interest in exploring new ways to provide services.
“We think it’s a worth while thing to take a look at,” Wheeler said.
The idea received a warm reception from city officials and from Fire Chief Randall Trull who attended the meeting.
“It may not go anywhere but we won’t know until we try,” said Mayor Paul Grenier.
Councilor Mike Rozek noted there has been a lot of talk about regionalization but this is the first proposal to come forth. He suggested it might spur a look at ways to consolidate other services like police and schools.
While Councilor Mike Gentili said he was all for the idea, he expressed some concern that Gorham has a volunteer fire department while Berlin has a full-time department.
Asked his thoughts, Trull said he definitely supported exploring the idea.
“At least we are looking at opportunities,” the fire chief said.
Frost said the idea has to work both financially and operationally for the two communities. She said there are issues that have to be carefully examined and at this point neither community knows if sharing fire chief services is even a possibility. But with the coming retirement of Eichler, she said it seemed like a good time to explore such an option.
In the meantime, Frost said Gorham will continue to advertise for a full-time fire chief. She said some applications have been received and there is still over a week until the May 2 closing date for applications.
The town of Belmont last month signed a one-year contract with Laconia for fire chief services. Belmont has agreed to pay Laconia $78,050 or 25 percent of administrative costs and 25 percent of the chief’s vehicle expenses, as well as education and certification expenses. The fire chief remains an employee of Laconia and the city is responsible for all wages and benefits. The contract between Laconia and Belmont automatically renews at the end of a year but it can be terminated with a 30-day notice by either community.
Both Belmont and Laconia have a full-time fire department.