Select board has proposed GPT repayment schedule under review

Select board has proposed GPT repayment schedule under review

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun

GORHAM — Two weeks ago, Town Manager Robin Frost said the select board would discuss Gorham Paper and Tissue’s proposed repayment plan for its back taxes in public session at its next meeting on Oct. 13. Selectman Mike Waddell had questioned discussing the plan in public session, Frost said it could not be held in a non-public session.
When the meeting opened Friday, however, Frost admitted she had erred and the board already had a proposal from GPT “under review”. Presumably the board had learned its details from Frost.
The town and paper company reached an agreement last year on a payment schedule for back taxes owned by GPT. This summer, the town agreed to the paper company’s request to suspend the $15,000 weekly tax payments temporarily because of a cash flow issue at the mill. The company has outlined a repayment plan to get caught up on the $200,000 in suspended payments.
The board held a lengthy work session with Berlin police chief Peter Morency, Berlin Deputy Police Chief Dan Buteau, Gorham police chief P.J. Cyr and Berlin Police Commissioners Jerry Nault and Marc Tremblay in preparation for the Oct. 16 public hearing, originally designed to gather townspeople’s input on the proposal for the town to contract for its police and dispatch services with the City of Berlin.
After that session was adjourned, the select board voted to go into executive session to discuss Chief Cyr’s firearms request, discussed in public on Oct. 2.
No vote or discussion was held after the board returned to public session.
The board agreed to begin its budget review in preparation for the March 2018 Town Meeting. The board will start budget presentations at 6 p.m. at meetings on Nov. 6; Monday, Nov. 13; and Tuesday, Nov. 14.
The next board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 30.

Filing period closed, contested races for mayor, council, and school board

BERLIN — The filing period for the November municipal election closed Tuesday and there are contested races for mayor, city council and school board.

Incumbent Mayor Paul Grenier is running for a fifth consecutive term. In a rematch of the 2015 race, he faces a challenge from businessman Rich Mattos. The mayor serves a two-year term.
Eight candidates have filed the four open city council positions. All four incumbents, Mike Rozek, Russell Otis, Lucie Remillard and Diana Nelson, have filed. Running as a team with Mattos are Lanetha Strahan, Jeffrey Lagrange, Andre Martel and Christina Dickinson. Councilors serve a four-year term.

Six candidates have filed for three two-year seats on the board of education. Incumbents Nicole Plourde, Louise Valliere, and Denise Valerino have all filed for re-election. Also filing for the positions are Debra Ackerman, Robert Hill and Heidi Richard.

Incumbent Scott Losier is the only candidate for the four-year school board seat.

Incumbents Yvonne Thomas and Linda LaFleur filed for the two library trustee positions. The positions are two-year terms.

The municipal election is Nov. 7 with the city’s three polling places open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. North Country Listens has scheduled a Candidates Night for Nov. 1, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at city hall and invited mayoralty, city council and school board candidates.

Complete List of Municipal Candidates

Mayor (two-year position) – Paul Grenier of 492 Champlain St., and Richard Mattos, Jr., of 700 Lancaster St.

City Council (four four-year positions) — Lanetha Strahan of 207 Willard St., Christina Dickinson of 19 Charron Ave., Jeffrey Lagrange of 117 Wight St., Andre Martel of 375 Derrah St., Michael Rozek of 2525 Howard St., Lucie Remillard of 85 Hinchey St., Russ Otis of 18 Cascade St., and Diana Nelson of 46 Franklin St.

School Board – (three two-year positions) Nicole Plourde of 111 Washington St., Louise Valliere of 25 Pinecrest St. Debra Ackerman of 15 Arlington St., Robert Hill of 19 Brett St., Heidi Richard of 162 Denmark St., and Denise Valerino of 84 Horne St.; and (one 4-year position) Scott Losier of 52 Main St.

Library Trustee (two two-year positions) — Linda Lafleur of 400 High St. and Yvonne Thomas of 557 Norway St.

Supervisor of the Checklist (12 positions) — Donald Bisson of 84 Summer St., Paul Croteau of 380 Norway St., Roland Croteau of 80 Granite St., Shirley Croteau of 380 Norway St., Melvin Heidt of 770 Sixth Ave., Donald Huot of 45 Countryside Ave., Jean Lemieux of 109 State St. and Robert Pelchat of 171 Wight St.

Ward Clerk (three positions) – John DeChamplain of 15 Boulay St. and Lucille Lavoie of 350 Goebel St.

Moderator (three positions) – Robert Dumoulin of 680 Lancaster St. and Robert Morrissette of 121 Madigan St.


Mayor responds to comments that city favors firm that employs his son

By Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN -- Angered by comments that the city favors HEB Engineering because his son works for the firm, Mayor Paul Grenier asked City Manager James Wheeler to explain the city’s selection process for engineering consultants at Monday’s council work session.
Grenier said he wanted the public to hear the process Berlin uses and understand that HEB competes for projects on the same footing as any other firm.
Wheeler said the city has long followed what is known as a Qualifications-Based Selection process, which is required for all federal projects and used by the state as well.
Under the process, the city prepares a preliminary scope of services for a project and advertises for firms to submit letters of qualifications. A committee reviews the letters submitted. Wheeler said the committee is generally made up of three to five city staffers, and frequently includes the public works director, city planner, and city manager. It does not include the mayor or council.
Depending on the number of letters received, committee selects three to five firms for interviews. Each committee member individually ranks the various firms using a specific set of criteria. The individual scores are totaled and the highest-ranking firm is then asked to prepare a detailed scope of service and negotiate the terms of a contract including the fee. If the two parties cannot agree on a contract, the city moves to the firm with the next highest ranking.
For the Route 16 project, Wheeler said five firms were interviewed and HEB came out on top. But he said HEB was not selected to design the new Recreation Building – that project went to CMA Engineers out of Portsmouth.
Wheeler said he was not city manager when the city awarded the engineering contract for the Hutchins Street project, which went to HEB Engineering. But he noted the majority of the funding for that project was federal, which requires an additional process verifying that all federal requirements have been met.
In a statement read after Wheeler’s presentation, Grenier said he took exception to his opponent Rich Mattos going after his son. He said Mattos never bothered to contact the city manager or N.H. Department of Transportation to inquire about the selection process.
The mayor noted HEB Engineers, which is headquartered in North Conway, has an excellent reputation and have five employees living in the Berlin-Gorham area. He said employees of the firm volunteer hundreds of hours to the local communities, serving on various boards and committees.
“In other words, they are part of our city and have earned the projects they were awarded ... the scoring process works as it is designed to, despite comments from the ill informed,” he concluded.

County attorney wants court to question jurors in negligent homicide case

By Barbara Tetreault

LANCASTER — Coos County Attorney John McCormick has filed a motion to question jurors in the Randy Baillargeon case.

The motion states four jurors in the case saw the forewoman hug Baillargeon and members of his family minutes after the jury found him not guilty of negligent homicide and two other felony charges.

Baillargeon, 34, of Berlin was charged with negligent homicide, reckless conduct and conduct after an incident in Berlin in August 2016. Kristin Black died of a severe head injury incurred in a fall while clinging to the outside of Baillargeon’s truck while he was driving. After a four-day trial in Coos County Superior Court last month, the jury found him not guilty of all charges.

In his motion to voir dire jurors, McCormick said the jury deliberated just over two hours before delivering its verdict at about 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22.

Four jurors were mingling in the parking lot within 30 minutes of the verdict and reported they saw forewoman Melissa Gooden stop her car as she drove out of the employee parking lot.

“She then got out of her car, walked quickly to the defendant and his family. As she neared them, she opened her arms, as if to hug someone. She then hugged the defendant, his mother, and a man that I am guessing is his father,” wrote one of the jurors.

The motion said the four jurors reported what they had seen to the Superior Court monitor. The jurors were then directed by the clerk of court to write statements detailing what they had seen. The court provided copies of the statements to McCormick and Defense Attorney Len Harden.

McCormick is requesting the court reconvene the jury and question all the jurors individually or at least individually question the forewoman and the four jurors who witnessed the incident.

He argued the forewoman’s conduct in showing affection for the defendant “supports a claim that the jury may have been biased or tainted.”