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Crowd supports Extension move to county complex

NH REPRESENTATIVES (l-r) Frank McCarthy, Mark McConkey and Karen Umberger listen to public comment during a hearing to decide whether or not the Carroll County branch of UNH Cooperative Extension should be housed at the old nursing home once residents move to the new home. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
July 21, 2011
OSSIPEE — Though admittedly not a fan of straw votes, NH Rep. Mark McConkey allowed one Monday night that showed overwhelming support for moving the Carroll County UNH Cooperative Extension back to Ossipee.

The hearing drew about 80 people, many who thought the intention of the hearing was for the county delegation subcommittee to hear comment on whether or not the county should continue to fund the Extension.

McConkey, subcommittee chairman, sternly ran a very to-the-point hearing that lasted about 40 minutes and did not stray from that point should the Extension be moved into the old nursing home on the county complex?

Several, including Kamal Nath of Effingham and Barbara Wood of Wolfeboro asked why the delegation is even asking the question. It has been brought up at several recent county commission and county delegation meetings that the Extension was moved to the only suitable available rental space five years ago and was promised they'd be back in Ossipee within five years.

"Why are we revisiting this issue when it was decided years ago," asked Nath.

"You made a prior decision. Stick with it," said Wood.

Ralph Lutjen of Madison said the Conway location is more convenient for him but the economics of the move make sense.

William Farnum, a Tamworth resident and selectman, defended the value of the work of the Extension and spoke in favor of reusing the county home for the Extension. "Let's not kick the can down the road. It will only be more expensive to pick it up later," he said.

When questions arose about why county officials voted to build a new nursing home, calling the old one inhabitable, Commissioner David Sorensen said the building is no longer fit for residents to live in but can be used for other purposes. The main reason, he said, is the current home has two residents sharing a room and four residents having to share each bathroom. In the new home, each resident will have their own room and their own bathroom.

NH Representatives David Babson and Harry Merrow are both in favor of reusing the core of the old home and for the Extension moving to the building. Babson said it's time to talk about how much it would cost to tear it all down and then have to rebuild something to house all of the things that were planned to stay in the old home as the final new home plans were finalized.

Former NH Representative Tom Buco of Conway spoke to reference a report completed in July 2009 by consulting firm EGA that recommends the county keep the main core of the building which is 15,000 square feet and tear down the four wings. The building core could continue to house the extra kitchen, electrical room, pellet boiler, laundry, and the Extension with plenty of space left over for other needs.

Rather than those essentials and the maintenance department as well as additional storage being built into the higher per-square-foot construction of the new home, it has always been in the plan to keep these things in the old home.

In addition to supporting the idea to keep the core only, Merrow said it was already decided years ago the Extension should be on the county complex. He also added that he will never vote to discontinue the county's support of the Extension. Maynard Thompson said he supports the county's continued route of leasing property for the Extension rather than moving them to the complex because leasing gives the county the option in the future to do away with the Extension should officials choose to do so. That was quickly countered by Farnum's response that if the county decides to renovate the old home and house the Extension now and the Extension no longer exists some day, the space already will be renovated and could be used for other purposes.

Bill Stockman of Tuftonboro spoke in support of keeping and renovating the core and possibly renting the rest of the building to earn income for the county.

Nursing home residents are expected to move into the new nursing home mid-September. The Extension is currently renting space in Conway Village. This rent is paid by the County and is about $45,000 per year with about 25 percent of that going towards snow and trash removal and utilities.

Several at the hearing spoke to support the expanded learning opportunities moving the Extension to the county complex will offer. The county currently owns about 800 acres that includes the administration building, county farm, jail, as well as the new and old nursing homes. Timber logging has been ongoing on the forested parcels and haying in the fields twice a year. Additionally, said Noreen McDonald of Wolfeboro, there is a long list of possibilities in both agricultural and forestry that could be pursued on the large county parcel.

The subcommittee consists of McConkey, as well as NH Representatives Frank McCarthy, Steve Schmidt, and Karen Umberger. They are charged with bringing their recommendation on the Extension move back to the full county delegation on Aug. 22 at 9 a.m. The county commissioners are also set to present their proposed plan for use of the whole building. That meeting is open to the public. Anyone who has an opinion they would like considered by the subcommittee can submit written testimony to the county commissioner's office at Carroll County Commissioners, PO Box 152, Ossipee, NH 03864.

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