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Council votes to support CPD over petitioners


January 13, 2010
BERLIN — The city council voted unanimously to send a letter to the state Site Evaluation Committee requesting Clean Power Development not be slowed by the SEC review process.

The city has done it's due diligence on this project, said Councilor Tom McCue, and the petition requesting the state to oversee the process belies that work.

"It's disrespectful to say the least to the various city boards," he said. "There's been a lot of work done on this thing."

He called the effort to have the committee review the proposal "very frustrating."

"I couldn't agree more," said Mayor David Bertrand. He said he thinks it is important the city takes a stance on the issue and perhaps send a delegation to address the SEC at the public hearing on January 29.

Mayor-elect Paul Grenier said he intended to go to Concord for the hearing to represent the city's interests at the hearing. He did not indicate whether he intended to speak on behalf of the petitioners or CPD.

Mayor Bertrand said perhaps he could carpool with Mayor-elect Grenier.

Councilor David Poulin unveiled return address labels, letterhead and envelopes printed with the new version of the city seal. He said Seventh Street Graphics donated the new logo and the printing of samples to give councilors a chance to see what the product looks like.

Councilor Poulin also told the council that TimeWarner Cable informed him they would like to give the city control of its public access channel, which is currently controlled by the company. Councilor Poulin said he wanted to make sure this was something the council was interested in before he moved further. The other councilors expressed interest in seeing the city taking control of the station, which would also be the public access station for Gorham, Randolph and Shelburne. Mayor Bertrand said he would be interested in the cost involved.

The council also heard from Al Hartheimer, of the Center for the Study of Economics, who gave a presentation on land value taxation, or LVT. LVT, Mr. Hartheimer said, is when land is taxed but development on the land is not. He said it is a way for poor cities to get out from underneath high tax rates that stymie growth.

"When we don't want people to drink, we raise the liquor tax," he said. "When we want to discourage smoking we tax cigarettes. Apparently we want to discourage building because we tax buildings heavily and we tax land lightly."

The Center for the Study of Economics is a small non-profit that works to bring LVT to cities. He said there are cities in Pennsylvania that have instituted LVT very successfully. He said a rapid switch to LVT is ill-advised, but a gradual transition can have positive results.

"The city should not have a hand in our pockets, that's the bottom line here," he said.

City Manager Pat MacQueen said it would require significant changes at the state level to allow LVT in Berlin. Mayor Bertrand said it made sense to him, but because LVT would result in the utility companies bearing the brunt of the tax burden he doubted legislation enabling it would make it through the legislature.

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