GRAND OPENING. A major highlight of the year was the opening of the new Mountain View Community nursing home on Sept. 10. Among the dignitaries attending the ceremony was Executive Councilor Ray Burton, seen here with Carroll County Commissioner Dorothy Solomon. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
January 05, 2012COUNTY—The year 2011 was a busy year for the towns in Carroll County as well as the county government itself. Here are some of the highlights.
Fire department news
The year ended with Ossipee voters and taxpayers contemplating whether or not the town should have a town-wide single fire department or if the current system of three chiefs, nine commissioners, and three precincts is working just fine.
It was not an easy year for Ossipee fire departments. In March, voters rejected Ossipee Corner's request to build a new fire station by a wide margin, with opposition citing the possible fire department consolidation and the current state of the economy as their major reasons for voting against it.
While it may have a markedly lower call volume than the other two precincts, West Ossipee Fire Department and the business of running it took many of the headlines in the first half of the year. At their January annual meeting, an event that for decades has garnered little interest from precinct residents, voters turned out in droves. Some of those voters admitted they had no idea in the past that the fire department was a separate line on their property tax bill and had never been to a precinct meeting before or set foot in the fire station they fund. That is until they got their second half 2010 bill and saw a jump in the tax rate caused by the new fire station construction bond that a handful of voters had approved the year before in their absence. Voters came out ready to slash the budget and vote in a change in leadership at January's meeting.
In the past, hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual budgets had been approved by a few people in a few minutes. The 2011 meeting lasted the entire day and a lot less money was approved than asked for by commissioners. An incumbent commissioner lost his bid for re-election and the incumbent clerk refused a nomination for re-election. In the months following, the treasurer, clerk and secretary all resigned. In March a commissioner died suddenly and a new one was appointed three days later. The fire chief was fired and as of press time the deputy chief continues to serve in the acting chief position. For the first few months following the annual meeting, the regular commissioner's meetings lasted for hours with the public demanding change in the operation of the precinct.
A bright spot in Ossipee fire department news was the much-deserved and long overdue recognition of former Center Ossipee Fire Chief Roland Stockbridge. In a touching and very well-attended surprise ceremony, the Center Ossipee Fire Station was renamed and dedicated to Stockbridge.
Neighboring fire departments also saw some major changes in 2011. In Effingham a new fire chief was appointed. Over in Freedom a scaled-down addition to the fire station is currently under construction after voters gave the approval in March to put the fire and police departments under the same roof.
Construction and restoration
Phase Two of the Whittier Covered Bridge project in Ossipee is about to begin. In 2011, Phase One was completed: it involved removing the failing bridge from its abutments and placing it on the ground so it could be repaired. Phase Two will finish the restoration, build up the abutments and put the bridge back across the Bearcamp River.
Ossipee's highway department was able to do much of the work to build a new bridge over the Lovell River on Marble Road after that bridge was washed away by Tropical Storm Irene, saving the town thousands of dollars in repairs. They also did much of the preparation and finish work for the new bridge on Chapel Road that was dedicated to the late Rodney White, Sr. and Harold White, longtime employees of Ossipee Highway Department.
Ossipee selectmen have received renovation plans for the One Moultonville Road building in Center Ossipee. The project to renovate the building into useable storage, office, and meeting space for the town's land use boards is expected to go out to bid in the first part of 2012.
Other projects either completed in 2011 or in progress in Ossipee include the Governor Wentworth Regional School District Region 9 Construction Trades' construction of a garage at the Town Hall; a partially-constructed car wash in Ossipee Corner that awaits a judge's decision after an abutter objected to the building permit being issued; the owners of Agape Food Pantry's purchase and renovation of Pine Hill Plaza on Route 16 in West Ossipee, which they plan to transform into a food pantry and a thrift shop; Indian Mound Hardware's relocation to a new building currently under construction on Route 16 in West Ossipee; Indian Mound House of Pizza opened for business; and Village Variety convenience store in Center Ossipee abruptly closed mid-year but has since reopened under new ownership. Zoning officials heard preliminary plans for a possible campground to be developed behind West Ossipee Fire Station on the former Yield House property; and state officials gathered public comment and revealed their improvement plans for the Pine River boat launch on Route 25 East.
A project that continues to push forward despite intense objection from some is the Club Motorsports, Inc. driving course on Route 25 West in Tamworth. In Fall 2011, Greater Ossipee Area Chamber of Commerce awarded CMI and its owners with Business of the Year for their monetary contribution – in excess of $800,000 – that they have pumped into the local economy by using local contractors and purchasing from local businesses.
The most notable construction project in Ossipee, of course, was completion of the Mountain View Community nursing home on the county complex on County Farm Road. The $23 million project was approved by county delegates by a vote of 11-3 in November 2009, the ground was broken in April 2010, and the official opening ceremony for the 85,000 square foot facility was held in September 2011. A large crowd attended the opening ceremony and for months, a crowd of 14 delegates continue to argue over what should be done with the old nursing home. At the end of 2011, delegates had rejected a renovation plan and had sent the county commissioners back to the drawing board to rework the plan. As of the end of the year, the majority of delegates continue to stick to their two votes that order the commissioners to spend $500,000 to tear down the four wings and only keep the 15,000 square foot core, if they can do all the work needed and the demolition for $1 million or less.
Other notable happenings
Crroll County Transit's Blue Loon bus service was launched and citizens from Conway to Wolfeboro started to slowly warm up to the idea of public transportation. The "big" buses did not launch officially until the first week of 2012. The bus schedule and more information about the program can be found in this week's issue of the paper.
During the 2011 county budget process, delegates rejected Carroll County Farm Manager Will DeWitte's plan to spend money to purchase pigs for the farm. Two of the state representatives, David Babson (R-Ossipee) and Betsey Patten (R-Moultonborough) believed in DeWitte's idea so much they made private donations and county commissioners allowed him to launch a pilot program. DeWitte used the donations and his own money to purchase piglets and the necessary supplies to raise them and has conducted several well-received public classes on the raising of pigs. The annual County Farm Day was also a resounding success with agricultural demonstrations and vendors throughout the day on the county complex.
Thanks to Ed Comeau of Brookfield, those interested in county meetings as well as Wakefield and Brookfield selectmen's meetings can now watch them from the comfort of their own homes at www.governmentoversite.com. Comeau's strong desire to make government accountable to its people continued through the year and he is not compensated for his services.
Carroll County employees took home a slew of awards at the NH Association of Counties Conference as this county was recognized for having the best farm manager, sheriff's department employee, jail employee, nursing home employee, maintenance worker, and nursing home administrator in the state.
Susan Simpson was recognized as Ossipee Citizen of the Year for her contributions to the town's Old Home Week and veterans programs.
Ossipee Recreation Softball Team swept the tournament and brought the Carroll County Championship trophy back to Ossipee, an award last won in 2005.