Selectmen decide to pursue cost share of study with Berlin

By Kirstan Knowlton

GORHAM — After hearing criticism about the way the study committee for the Police and Dispatch Services Study would be organized, Selectman Patrick Lefebvre proposed a plan to use Municipal Resources Inc. to conduct the study instead.

With the hopes of offering an unbiased approach, Lefebvre presented information to the board of selectmen about using MRI, and potentially splitting those costs with the city of Berlin. The total cost to use Municipal Resources for the project would likely run around $6,000.

“This is a professional organization that has no stake, they want what is supposed to be best,” said Lefebvre.

Since the previous meeting, Lefebvre reported that several residents approached him with concerns about who would be on the study committee and the role of the board. Some residents also expressed specific concerns about the role of the town manger, and police chief in the process, suggesting that they should be used as resources only.

“For me it solves everybody’s discrepancies, period,” said Lefebvre.

Selectman Michael Waddell shared similar concerns about the board’s involvement, citing the lack of knowledge by board members on this topic.

“The technical part of it should be handled by qualified people,” said Waddell.

The board unanimously voted to move forward and contact the Berlin Police Department about splitting the cost of the study through Municipal Resources.

Also in attendance, Gorham Police Chief PJ Cyr shared his opinion about the potential use of Municipal Resources to conduct the study, which he felt was straying from the initial plan.

“We’ve already told people at the town meeting that it would cost zero dollars, and at the outset it was the old board that said it would be in-house; that the chief would meet with the chief of Berlin and put together a proposal,” said Cyr.

It was at that point that Cyr explained that the plan started to change with different configurations for committees being proposed.

“We have gone left, right, up and down, and we have veered away from that the original wording was and the intent of the article.

Cyr reiterated his qualifications to create a proposal, citing the work that went into the relocation of the police department in 2005 to the town hall.

“I know that I can go up there to Pete, and put together a proposal for you all to consider and maybe we can put together three,” said Cyr.

Cyr explained that the proposals could include plans to save anywhere from $250,000 to $350,000, and what police services would like using those numbers as a budget.

“I think we are making it more difficult than it needs to be,” said Cyr.

Cyr also acknowledge that tough decisions will have to be made in order to see significant savings for the taxpayers, but he strongly felt that he could make those decisions in an unbiased way.

Lefebvre stood by his request to use an outside agency; because of the feedback that he has consistently received from residents who felt that Cyr was not right for the task.

The board will wait to hear back from the Berlin Police Department, before moving ahead with the study committee.

MIlan zoning board hears proposal for recreational cabins

By Barbara Tetreault

MILAN — The Milan Zoning Board will meet on May 2 to decide whether to grant a special exception to allow the development of a recreational cabin campground on Milan Hill.
The board held a public hearing last Thursday on an application submitted by Amos Flint to build nine vacation cabins as well as a residential cabin and maintenance building on a 40-acre parcel at 460 Milan Hill Road owned by Thomas Flint.
Planning board Chair Rodney Young said the property is in a single-family residential zone but non-residential uses are allowed under special exception if they meet the criteria. In this case, the board would have to grant a special exception for commercial use.
Presenting the proposal, Don Bouchard of Horizons Engineering said he followed state statute on recreational campgrounds in developing the application. Under the statute, recreational camping cabins are defined as structures, 400 square feet or less, designed as a temporary dwelling for recreational camping and vacation use.
Bouchard said Flint is proposing nine such cabins, designed to each house two to six people. He said they will be high-end cabins with small kitchens, bedroom space and bathrooms. A propane heating system will allow year-around use, and he said they are also looking into installing solar panels.
“These are not little backwoods cabins,” he said.
The property is located within 200 feet of the entrance to Milan Hill State Park. Bouchard said Flint would look to rent to people coming to the area to enjoy the various recreational opportunities including fly-fishing, rafting, snowmobiling and canoeing. At this time, there is not ATV access to the property.
To accommodate the vacation cabins as well as the 3-bedroom residential cabin, the owner would install a large septic system and a well. The maintenance building would be used to house equipment used to maintain the property.
Bouchard said the project will require state environmental permits, a driveway permit from the state Department of Transportation and site plan approval. But the first step, he said, is to acquire zoning board approval.
Young read into the record a letter from abutters Madeleine and Guy Beauboeuf strongly objecting to the project. The Beauboeufs said they purchased their property on Milan Hill Road for the quiet and privacy. Milan, they wrote, has no noise ordinance to regulate noise such a campground might generate.
Robert and Zanita Morin said the Flint property on Milan Hill is now used as an informal party place. Zanita Morin said the couple wants the town to require an on-site manager to oversee the campground.
Bouchard said there will have to be someone on site to manage. He said he believes that is the purpose of the residential cabin.
Milan resident John Beaudoin asked about lighting especially at night. Bouchard responded that there is no plan for massive outdoor lighting. He said each cabin will have a porch light and said the project will comply with dark sky regulations.
Selectman Randy Fortin said he believes the project fits the criteria to receive a special exception. He said it would increase the town’s tax base.
Beaudoin, who plans to develop an RV campground, said he supports the Flint project. He said it is nice to see someone like Amos Flint return to his hometown.
“I actually think there’s a place for this here,” he said.
Julie Renaud Evans, who also lives on Milan Hill Road, said it would be nice to get assurances from the state that it will do a better job of taking care of the road. She said the state does an inadequate job of caring for the road now.
Evans asked how much economic impact weighs into the decision under state law. The board indicated it did not know but would review the question with legal counsel.
Board members questioned Bouchard about setting both maximum lengths of stay and maximum number of people per cabin. Bouchard stressed the cabins are vacation rentals and not designed to turn into residential cabins. The board suggested a maximum stay of four to six weeks. Bouchard said he believed the cabins would be designed for two to six people but said he did not want to preclude a situation where two couples might share a cabin with four young kids.
The board also discussed setting quiet hours after 10 p.m., banning fireworks, and requiring adequate signage to indicate property lines.

Veterans Choice Card Program extended

By Barbara Tetreault
COOS COUNTY — The Veterans Choice Card program has been extended until at least late this year.
The program had been due to expire on Aug. 7. But President Trump last week signed into law an extension of the program, after Congress passed the measure earlier in the week.
“Our veterans deserve nothing less than convenient, quality, accessible health care, yet in New Hampshire, too many veterans are burdened with long travel and even longer wait times,” said U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who supported the extension.
The Choice Card program allows 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.
Shaheen pointed out that she introduced legislature last year to simplify the billing process for reimbursing health care providers administering care to veterans in the Veterans Choice Card Program. She said the program needs to be streamlined to improve access for veterans seeking appointments and provider reimbursements.
Veterans are now able to go to local providers such as Coos County Family Health Services in Berlin and Gorham and Indian Stream Health in Colebrook using the Veterans Choice Card program to reimburse providers.
Nurse case managers are in Coos County five days a week to assist veterans in navigating community health care services using the Veterans Choice Card. The case managers are in the Berlin-Gorham area three days a week and in Colebrook two days.
The system was set up after veterans complained about difficulties and problems using the Choice Card. The case manager will help schedule appointments for veterans with local providers and assist with the paper work.
A White River Junction Choice Case Management staff member will be present on the days and at the locations listed below.
Monday: Berlin Vet Center at 515 Main St., Gorham, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday: Indian Stream Health Center, 141 Corliss Lane., Colebrook, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Coos Family Health Services, 59 Page Hill Rd., Berlin, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thursday: Indian Stream Health Center, 141 Corliss Lane., Colebrook, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Friday: Berlin Vet Center, 515 Main St., Gorham, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fire causes minor damage to home

By Kirstan Knowlton
BERLIN — Firefighters responded to a house fire Friday night on Hillside Avenue, after a call came into the Berlin Police Department reporting smoke coming from a residential building.
The house sustained minor damage.
The fire department received a call at 8:57 p.m. reporting a fire at a single-family residential home at 379 Hillside Ave., in Berlin.
Arriving on scene just minutes later, the initial crew of four personnel was able to quickly contain the fire according to Berlin Fire Chief Randall Trull.
Trull said the house was in the process of being remodeled and is owned by Craig Bozek of New Hampton. The house was unoccupied at the time, but did have active utilities. The damage was primarily contained to the kitchen, and the house is considered salvageable.
“They did an excellent job of knocking it down,” said Trull.
In total, 15 firefighters responded along with the Berlin Police Department, Berlin EMS and the American Red Cross.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined and remains under active investigation by the Berlin Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal.