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Bethlehem says no to former ranger station

June 09, 2011
BETHLEHEM—The town has rejected the proposal to buy the former White Mountain National Forest Ranger station.

The Board of Selectmen made the decision during its meeting Monday night.

"I'm not in the least bit interested," said board Chairman David Lovejoy.

His statement was in response to a question by District Ranger Molly Fuller, of the National Forest Service. She was before the board looking for a decision and a commitment from town whether it was still interested in the 1.28-acre site located on Trudeau Road, not far from North Country Environmental Service's landfill. A house and a large garage with more than five bays are on the site. The Forest Service hopes to sell the building soon, as the longer it stays empty the more it will deteriorate. The property is valued at $165,000, Fuller said.

When the station closed in 2009, the town government expressed interest in buying the property, which was considered a possible site for a town highway garage, fire station or recreation center, according to Jeanne Robillard, a former selectmen present at the meeting.

She said after the meeting that the selectmen's decision was shortsighted, since a fire station, recreation center or new highway garage could still be in the works. She noted that the buildings, with their large bays, would be perfect for a highway garage.

Lovejoy said the idea of buying the building may have made sense at one time but the town is strapped for cash now. Besides, the selectmen couldn't agree to buy the building on their own—that would have to be decided by the people at a town meeting. He said because of that it would be impossible to provide a commitment to the Forest Service

The other serving selectmen echoed Lovejoy's sentiments that they saw no purpose buying the property now.

"I'd like to see it put on the tax rolls," said Selectman Sandy Laleme. "I'm not interested in buying it and don't think the town would agree to spend $165,000 to buy it."

Selectmen Gerald Blanchard agreed and said it was the selectmen's fiscal responsibility to "pass it by."

Selectman Mike Culver said he personally was opposed to it but wasn't sure how the people would vote if the question were put before them, a point Selectman Alicia Loveless agreed with, noting it would be hard to gauge public sentiment in any event.

Lovejoy told Fuller the board would seek input from residents but suggested the Forest Service go ahead and plan to sell the property without waiting for Bethlehem.

Fuller said the process to sell the property was to start advertising it was for sale, something she said would be done soon.

Martin Lord Osman
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Varney Smith
Armen Kevorkian
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