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County delegation reaffirms decision to tear down old nursing home wings

CARROLL COUNTY FARM MANAGER Will Dewitte was told by the county delegation Monday to research different options for snow removal at the county complex. Dewitte and the commissioners were asking permission to withdraw $38,000 from the nursing home construction contingency fund to purchase a snow blower and a one-ton truck for plowing and sanding the county complex this winter. Currently, his department has one truck to use for plowing plus this rusted-out pickup, that he was looking to replace, that holds the sander. Not pictured here are the rusted out floorboards inside the truck. Dewitte told the delegates he has to hold his feet up while driving to prevent them from going through the hole in the floor. The delegates said the purchase was unnecessary and chastised the commissioners for not thinking about the needed truck purchase during the regular budget season. They seemed to agree that a tractor would better serve Dewitte’s needs, and if his main truck breaks down he can just hire a subcontractor to fill in. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
October 06, 2011
OSSIPEE— It took months for the county delegation to decide to give the county commissioners a chance to come up with a plan for the old nursing home. Monday they were asked to reconsider their decision but only two of the eleven members present were willing to do that.

At their Aug. 22 meeting, NH Representative Joseph Fleck made a motion "to retain the core of the old nursing home with the cost not to exceed $1,000,000." It passed.

On Monday, commissioners asked the delegation to reconsider their vote to discuss possible uses for the home's wings. Currently, the core of the building is approximately 15,000 square feet and each of the four wings, 5,000 square feet.

Commissioners Dorothy Solomon and David Sorensen attended a meeting in North Conway last month where they heard from NH Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS) officials that the department is planning to expand district areas and consolidate or downsize existing district offices.

Currently there are 11 NHDHHS districts in the state with offices in Berlin, Conway, Claremont, Concord, Keene, Laconia, Littleton, Manchester, Rochester, Portsmouth, and Nashua. The list of services the department is responsible for maintaining for the residents of New Hampshire is very long and can be found at http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/foryou/index.htm and includes programs such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child abuse and neglect investigations, and services for the developmentally disabled and the elderly, to name a few.

Carroll County residents in need of services go to the district office in Conway. The district has been reconfigured and now includes Carroll County to parts of Tilton to parts of Rochester.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, NHDHHS Deputy Commissioner MaryAnn Cooney said the department's lease at the current Conway location on Hobbs Street is coming to an end. With the newly-expanded district, Cooney said the department is hoping to find a location that is in a central location in the district. "We don't need bricks and mortar as much with advancing technology that allows people to enroll and determine eligibility through the Web site and by e-mail," said Cooney.

Within the next few days, Cooney said, a request for proposals will be released and anyone who has adequate facilities that will meet the department's needs will be allowed to submit a proposal. This includes the Conway District's current landlord.

Solomon said that at the NHDHHS meeting she learned the department is looking for about 10,000 square feet and space to accommodate 45 employees.

Delegates at Monday's meeting did not rule out the possibility of leasing old nursing home space to NHDHHS. They did send a clear message to commissioners that if such a lease were to occur, NHDHHS space would have to be included in the core and they aren't willing to keep any of the four wings. The core is already set to house a maintenance room, rooms to house the pellet boiler that is piped to heat the new nursing home, laundry facilities and, quite possibly, the Carroll County office of UNH Cooperative Extension.

The commissioners have been working with contractors Bonnet, Page and Stone to come up with a renovation plan to present to the delegation for approval.

Monday's discussion on whether or not to reconsider the Aug. 22 vote went on for about two hours. Several delegates spoke against reopening the issue for discussion. One of those was Steve Schmidt, R-Wolfeboro who has long held the opinion the entire old home should be torn down, calling it a "bottomless money pit" and said that he is not moved by any argument to keep the building and will not support it. He also said that while the county might make a "couple of bucks," "we'll probably lose our shirts renovating it."

When the call came to end discussion, it was time to vote on one thing, whether or not to reopen their Aug. 22 vote for further discussion. Several delegates wanted to rehash the amount of money they voted on Aug. 22 instead. Finally, Chair Betsey Patten (R-Moultonborough) sternly repeated four times, each time a little more forceful, "This has nothing to do with the money." In a 11-2 vote, the delegation decided not to reopen the Aug. 22 discussion. Representatives Fleck (R-Wakefield), Normal Tregenza (R-Madison), Chris Ahlgren (R-Wolfeboro), Frank McCarthy (R-Conway), Laurie Pettengill (R-Glen), Mark McConkey (R-Freedom), Schmidt (R-Wolfeboro), Karen Umberger (R-Kearsarge), and Patten voted against the reconsideration. Harry Merrow (R-Ossipee) and David Babson (R-Ossipee) voted in favor. Merrow told his fellow delegates that he was in favor of keeping the core only until hearing discussion about the possibility of the DHHS relocating to Ossipee and wanted to leave the option open to be able to accommodate that agency. "I have never been one to turn down a chance to do something good for the county." Babson, who is the only delegate to attend weekly commissioner's meetings and in fact has attended nearly all in the past year, supports both the UNH Cooperative Extension and NHDHHS moving to the county complex, or at least discussing the possibility.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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