Mt. Washington Commission focuses on assessing Yankee Building


By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun

SARGENT’S PURCHASE — Nearly every one of the dozen members of the Mt. Washington Commission was on hand for the Friday, July 21, quarterly meeting in the Tip Top House atop the 6,288-foot summit when chairman Walter Graff, senior vice president of the Appalachian Mountain Club, called it to order.

This was the commission’s first meeting since July 1 when the Department of Resources and Economic Development was reorganized.

The state Division of Parks and Recreation, including both N. H. Bureau of Trails and N.H. Bureau of Historic Resources, and the Division of Forests and Lands have been realigned into the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Two divisions, Economic Development and Travel and Tourism Development, now make up the N.H. Department of Business and Economic Affairs.

Parks and Recreation Director Phil Bryce acknowledged the leadership that both Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro and Rep. Karen Umberger of North Conway had provided in June to secure $200,000 to allow a request for qualifications to go forward to properly assess the conditions of the Yankee Communications Building and the next optimal steps.

The state is facing having to make a significant investment, Bryce explained, which makes it critical that both fire protection and security issues are addressed.

“We’ll be looking to get accurate cost estimates and a full understanding of all the advantages and disadvantages of building a new building plus the disadvantages of ripping the Yankee Building down or retrofitting it for a new use,” Bryce explained. “We’re looking for a contractor who really ‘gets’ Mt. Washington, who really ‘gets’ it up here.”

Commission member Mark Ericson, regional technical manager for Townsquare Media N.H.-Portland-Augusta, has shared his knowledge with Bryce and state architect Tom Mansfield of the communications world occupied by the other 18 state tenants, including two-way radio, electronic, satellite and microwave.

WHOM, 94.9, is the station Townsquare owns that has its own concrete structure. WPKQ, 103.7 is the station it owns that has all its equipment housed in the Yankee Building.

Mt. Washington Cog Railway president Wayne Presby noted that concrete is not as resilient a building material as wood. Further, he explained, wind and snow load are both key factors. Presby noted that the excellent track record achieved by the 50- by 110-foot Sprung structure fabric building erected more than 10 years ago at the Bretton Woods Ski Area as an private alpine membership club demonstrates why unconventional buildings are worth considering.

Bryce also discussed how the commission might approach the topic of the summit’s “carrying” capacity, including septic disposal and fresh water, both of which are being studied or monitored.

Presby said that he believes that long-standing financial arrangements between the Auto Road and the state that governs how it pays for parking lot spaces on the cone should be examined.

“It’s a sweetheart deal,” he declared.

Auto Road general manager Howie Wemyss said he’d resist coming up with a quick defense for the status quo because he’d not been aware that Presby had planned to discuss these fees.

“The state is the “new kid on the block,” Director Bryce said. The Mount Washington State park was not created until 1964. Other entities, including the Auto Road and the Cog Railroad, “go back a couple of centuries,” he said. The Mt. Washington Carriage Road was completed and opened to the public in 1861. The Cog Railway reached the summit in July 1869. In August, President Ulysses S. Grant visited New England to escape the Washington heat and rode the Cog to the top of Mount Washington. Mount Washington Observatory President Sharon Schilling noted that the Obs is still working out entrance arrangements to the Summit Museum and that “relationships are intertwined.”

When Wemyss asked Presby how much the Cog pays the state for its post office space in the Sherman Adams Building, Presby replied that he had a deed: “legal rights.”

“We have to be careful of how we work together and interact at Mount Washington State Park — our flagship” state park,” Bryce said. “We want our relationships to work; otherwise it will affect our visitors and their experience.”

Chairman Graff noted that it could be time to once again continue have facilitated discussions. “We have to work together,” he said.

Graff thanked Forest Supervisor Tom Wagner, who recently announced he will retire from the U.S. Forest Service on Sept. 1, for the 16 years of service that he has given to the nearly 800,000-acre White Mount National Forest, including as a member of the commission protecting the alpine garden. Deputy Supervisor Clare Mendelsohn will become White Mountain National Forest acting supervisor. The vacant position is already being advertised.

Presby has not yet filled out a formal application for a building permit to construct at 35-bedroom skyline hotel, he said. He is waiting for the Coos County Planning Board for the Unincorporated Places to hold its public hearing on proposed zoning ordinance amendments at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at the state Fish and Game Building in Lancaster.

The Cog has already set new visitor records this summer, Presby said.

Mt. Washington Commission public member Paul Ingersol of Berlin, a former state representative, missed several meetings in a row because of two successful surgeries, but he happily returned to duty on Friday.



ATV accident and injured hiker keep rescurers busy in Pittsburg

PITTSBURG — N.H. Fish and Game, assisted by local responders, handled both an ATV accident and an injured hiker Sunday in Pittsburg.

Maclynn Trojan, 29, of Worcester, Mass was driving an ATV on Halls Stream Road behind an ATV operated by her grandfather, John Saffron, 72, also of Worcester. Shortly after 1 p.m., Trojan failed to slow down in time to avoid hitting her grandfather’s ATV in front as he slowed down.

Authorities believe the front right tire of her ATV struck the rear left tire of her grandfather’s ATV, causing both vehicles to crash and rollover.

Along with Fish and Game, Pittsburg police and fire department personnel along with 45th Parallel EMS responded to the scene. Trojan was transported by ambulance to Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook with non-life threatening injuries. Saffron refused medical treatment for minor scrapes and bruises he received. Neither driver was wearing a helmet. Fish and Game said the leading factor in the accident was Trojan was following too close behind her grandfather.

Injured hiker

Later in the afternoon, a second call came in for an injured hiker at Garfield Falls on the East Branch of the Dead Diamond River. Carolyn Vecchry, 71, of Middleton, Mass., was walking on the rocks below the falls when her left foot slipped, causing her right ankle to roll. Family members helped her back to the shoreline and then one member drove over four miles towards Route 3, looking for service to make a cell phone call to 911.

A Fish and Game conservation officer was still in Pittsburg and responded to the scene along with Pittsburg Fire Department and 45th Parallel EMS. Vecchry was secured in a litter and carried up the steep trail from the falls to a waiting ambulance. She was transported to Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook and treated for her injury.

Fish and Game said they appreciated the assistance of volunteers and first responders and noted without their dedication neither call would have been handled so professionally and promptly.

Body of missing Stark man found

STARK — The body of a local man was recovered Saturday from the Upper Ammonoosuc River where he is believed to have drown according to N.H. Fish and Game.

Authorities were notified around noon Saturday that Kent Woods, 53, of Stark was missing from his camp on Route 110 in Stark. He had last been seen at his camp Friday between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Fish and Game and State Police troopers with a K-9 unit responded to Woods’ camp and began searching the immediate vicinity. While they were searching, some kayakers discovered Woods’ body in the river near South Pond Road, about a quarter of a mile downstream from his camp. A medical examiner pronounced Woods dead at the scene. The incident is still under investigation.

Woods grew up in Franklin but has lived in the North Country since 2004. He was employed by Mr. Neat Roofing. His obituary states he loved fishing, gardening, sitting by the campfire and living in Stark. He was married to the former Mandy Lafleur of Berlin. His full obituary appears elsewhere in today's edition.

Larger than expected school surplus will fund running track work

By Barbara Tetreault

BERLIN — A larger than anticipated fiscal 2017 school surplus will allow the school district to tackle additional capital improvement projects including a resurfacing of the high school running track. At the same time, the city will retain some of the additional funding to ensure it can meet its goal of a 52-cent tax increase.

School Business Administrator Bryan Lamirande briefed the city council last Monday on the final fiscal 2017 surplus numbers. In the budget approved by the council in June, Lamirande had estimated a school district surplus of $580,455, including both general fund and revenue surpluses. With the close of the fiscal year on June 30, Lamirande said the actual surplus is $878,809, $398,354 more than he had estimated.

On behalf of the school, Lamirande asked that the district be allowed to keep $208,984 of the additional surplus for six specific capital improvement projects.

The costliest project is a resurfacing of the high school’s rubberized running track at an estimated cost of $61,650. The rubberized track was installed in 2004 and Lamirande said a resurfacing is needed. He said he reached out to the company that installed the track and it provided that quote. He said he tried another company but they did not want to do the project.

“This is awesome news,” said Mayor Paul Grenier, who said he had been racking his brain to come up with a way to pay for resurfacing the running track.

As a city councilor, Grenier served on the subcommittee that oversaw the upgrade of the running track and Memorial Field and he has been a strong advocate for maintaining those facilities.

Lamirande said $21,800 will go to replace the Marston School roof. He said bids exceeded the $44,500 in the account for the project.

Lamirande said he would like to get more bids for the roof with the work to be done next spring. Providing pictures of the work underway to renovate the Berlin Middle School locker and rest rooms, Lamirande said that work could use another $40,000. He proposed $34,534 to pave the Marston School parking lot and basketball court, $10,000 for tile replacement at the Marston School, and $41,000 for a mobile column lift for the bus garage.

Grenier said he “wholeheartedly” supported the school district’s request. He said the extra money that will go to the district will be used on one-time capital projects and will not increase the district’s operating budget.

With the council off until Aug. 7, Grenier asked the councilors if they were willing to allow the school to move forward on some of the projects without a formal resolution, so the work can get done before school opens. The council unanimously agreed to allow the district with the understanding it will pass a formal resolution next month.