February 26, 2014LITTLETON — Ann McLane Kuster, who represents the North Country in the U.S. House of Representatives, visited town on Friday afternoon. She received a briefing on the ideas to improve the River District. After that, Kuster took a walk to examine the district.
The town's River District Re-Development Commission has spent a year considering ideas to improve the area. Voters will be asked to bless two warrant articles, totaling $80,000, to continue work originally begun at a community brainstorming session held in September 2012.
Kuster's visit started with a meeting at AHEAD's Main Street headquarters. She spent over an hour with several people, including commission members John Hennessey and Marghie Seymour.
Kuster was impressed after receiving a district overview from Brien Ward, Jere Eames, and Hennessey, who is chairman of the commission. Kuster said the commitment seen in Littleton to improve the river district was a model for the rest of the state.
Eames said the work done so far shows "what can happen if you get a lot of people enthused." Presentations Kuster received included conceptual drawings of district archways, a view deck planned for the riverbank, and several aerial conceptual drawings.
Gregg MacPherson, a staff member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was another meeting attendee. He provided some ideas on grant and loan programs that could assist the town as it works to improve infrastructure and pedestrian safety. Energy efficiency funds could also be available, MacPherson suggested.
The USDA alone has more than 40 programs to facilitate rural economic development. Kuster said her staff could assist in the effort to get outside funding.
Seymour supports the idea of turning the district into a renewable energy leader. "I would like to look at the possibility of district heating," she said. This could include a large wood chip or pellet heating system. With the idea, Seymour continued, "We would be supporting the local economy when we buy fuel."
Jon Freeman, President of the Northern Community Investment Corporation, continued the discussion about possible district improvement funding sources. He said the NCIC could work with area organizations in the effort to review funding sources for future river district development.
Several other people attended the meeting with Kuster. These included Lauren Anderson, Executive Director of the Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce; Stan Fillion, Littleton Industrial Development Corporation; Geoff Sewake, North Country Council, and; Mike Claflin, AHEAD's Executive Director.
Kuster was very pleased to see the town's continued commitment to economic development. Before embarking on the walking tour, Kuster praised plans for the River District. "I think it's an awesome project," she said.
"I think this is special. People are going to be drawn to this," Kuster concluded.