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OSSIPEE CITIZEN OF THE YEAR Natalie Hall rode in style during last year's Ossipee Independence Day Parade. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
January 02, 2014
OSSIPEE — Happenings at Ossipee Town Hall started out this year with the 2013 town budget work well underway and a record five candidates vying for election as the town's new selectman. The town's former police chief Richard Morgan would go on to win the election, besting incumbent Kathleen Maloney, as well as Joe Deighan, Roy Barron, and Sam Martin.

Right out of the gate, Morgan made it known that economic development, volunteer recognition, and, whenever possible, fairness, were amongst his top priorities.

Economic development would take a hit through the year as 40 labor-grade jobs as well as administrative positions were lost when Lytron, a designer and manufacturer of thermal management and liquid cooling products made the decision to close its Ossipee plant, leaving not only unemployed but a large facility now vacant on Route 16 in Ossipee. Also this year, Independent Color Press ceased its operation in Center Ossipee, consolidating its business at its Rochester location though its three employees were able to relocate. The Black Bear Café at Route 16 and Route 28 also closed.

Business interest is evident though as several new businesses sprouted up including consignment and gift shops at Hodsdon Farm on Route 16, as well as Ralphie's Restaurant and Pattiken's Fudge in West Ossipee. And as the year came to a close, the former Whittier House Restaurant now called Hobb's Restaurant and Tavern is nearly at the end of a massive renovation project with plans to open early in 2014.

Morgan called the $500 budget appropriated for economic development every year at town meeting a joke "but not a funny joke" and said it would do little to support efforts to bring more businesses to this town. Some townspeople have stepped forward; including Selectman Harry Merrow and community volunteer Jim Fitzpatrick with plans to re-energize the town's economic development committee in the New Year.

It remains to be seen what impact the sudden increases in commercial property assessments will have on doing business in Ossipee, a surprise that many got when they opened their tax bills in December.

Fitzpatrick is also credited with rallying volunteers and saving the town's annual July 4th celebration held at Constitution Park. The event that includes music, vendors, and fireworks was in danger of being cancelled, as membership was waning and contracts weren't signed within weeks of the event. Following this year's event, many said it was the best event in many years at the location.

Two longtime town employees announced their retirement this year. Police Chief Donald Grow retired in the first quarter of 2013 and his second-in-command James Eldridge was appointed as his replacement. The Ossipee Police Department also had a notable accomplishment this year hiring its first full-time female police officer as Kim Hatch was sworn in and successfully completed the full-time police academy.

If you want to try to understand the whys and the whats of Town Hall, the person to speak to has long been Ossipee Town Administrator Martha Eldridge. After nearly 29 years working for the town, Eldridge announced she will be retiring effective Feb. 15, 2014. Her successor has been hired and is currently in training to try to fill Eldridge's shoes.

Some large projects remained ongoing throughout2013 while others were finished, but none without a hitch. The Thurley Road Bridge reconstruction project was completed. Though initially at least one abutting property owner was reluctant, all finally agreed to sign off on the town building a temporary road for traffic to pass through while the bridge was being replaced. Had they not agreed, the town would have had to have a temporary bridge built next to where the new permanent one was going. Through their cooperation, these few property owners saved the rest of taxpayers the cost of a temporary bridge and permitting fees.

Slow and steady progress is being made on the reconstruction of the Whittier Covered Bridge. Grants have been awarded and engineering studies are being done. It is hoped that early 2014 the public will finally be able to see substantial work being done as the project moves to once again have the bridge open some day to vehicle traffic.

Sidewalks by Spring 2014? Merrow said he will believe it when he sees it. For a number of years the construction of sidewalks in Center Ossipee Village in the area of the elementary school has been in the works. Funded through a Safe Routes to School grant, the project has undergone multiple requirements, surveys, and easement work to finally get the project complete.

The toughest town project award this year goes to the Freight House project. On July 16, 2012 selectmen announced the renovation of the building at One Moultonville Road would be done by Peter Lievi of Ossipee, at a later reduced negotiated price of $189,000 and with the stipulation the project would be complete by November 2012. One year later, Lievi was indicted by Carroll County Grand Jury, accused of taking payments from the town but not paying his subcontractors. Those subcontractors then came to the town asking to be paid. Selectmen would go on to not only make sure they got paid but pay them extra as well other contractors to get the building complete. The town's public works department workers were also pulled in to do some of the work. In the end, the project is estimated to cost about $55,000 over the amount approved at March 2012 town meeting. But for now, the town's land use boards and welfare offices are housed in the building and regular meetings are being held there, freeing up space in the cramped Town Hall.

Another item that selectmen have chosen to remain at the top of their weekly agenda is the Route 28/Route 171 intersection the scene of about 40 motor vehicle accidents in the past 10 years. Transportation officials are finally expected to present at the Jan. 6 Ossipee selectmen's meeting their recommendations for improving safety at that intersection.

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