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Joyce Endee

County delegates order halt to pellet boiler installation

February 09, 2012
OSSIPEE — "If you don't want to save money, that's up to you people. I'm trying to save money for the taxpayers," Carroll County Commissioner David Sorensen told the delegation as they, once again, spent several hours the past two weeks trying to agree on what to do with the old nursing home.

Sorensen was referring to the estimated 42 percent in energy costs the wood pellet boilers acquired by a federal grant are expected to save the county, if they are ever installed. And for now, it is uncertain if and when they will be installed.

Monday, Feb. 6, the delegation met in a non-public session with the county attorney and then passed a motion to immediately cease installation of the pellet boilers, a move that left most in the audience shaking their heads.

The pellet boilers have been purchased, delivered, and are being assembled in the old nursing home. They were purchased with federal grant funds, a grant that was voted on and accepted by the county delegation last spring. A separate contract was awarded, signed, and a deposit paid to Bonnett, Page, and Stone (BPS) for completing the plumbing and electrical work necessary to connect the pellet boilers to the new nursing home.

The delegation vote to cease the installation of the pellet boilers stopped all work currently underway by BPS and its subcontractors.

When the audience finally got their chance for public comment, they let the delegates know exactly what they were thinking. Don Litchko told the delegates their decision to violate the terms of the contract could cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal fees. "My guess is you have no idea what you did…This is the most fruitless thing I have ever seen…This taxpayer thinks you're a bunch of cowards," said Litchko. His comments were echoed by Sandy Stowle and Maureen Spencer and all accused the delegates of not representing the taxpayers but rather their own agendas. Spencer, who served on the building committee for the new nursing home pled with delegates to not tear down the old nursing home and chastised them for trying to prevent the boiler installation. Spencer said the plan throughout the building planning process always was to house the laundry, maintenance, and pellet boilers in the old nursing home rather than build additional space in the new nursing home in an effort to keep the construction costs down.

At their Jan. 30 meeting, the first order of business for delegates was deciding on Rep. Harry Merrow's motion to mothball the old nursing home until the end of the year, spending no money other than regular upkeep. He said this would allow all involved to come up with the best plan for the future of the building rather than jumping to a quick decision now. Merrow's motion passed 7-3 with Reps. Frank McCarthy, Steve Schmidt, and Mark McConkey all voting against the motion. McConkey's objection to the motion was that the subcommittee he chairs that is charged with making a recommendation to the delegation about the fate of the old nursing home has not had enough time to gather information and come to a consensus. He asked his fellow delegates to allow the subcommittee to do their job.

Once the mothballing motion passed, the delegates, couldn't agree on what "mothballing" means. Merrow said his intent was to allow for the pellet boiler installation but no other improvements were to be made to the building until the end of the year or until a solid plan is in place.

Delegates voted on a motion defining mothballing as routine maintenance plus the installation of the pellet boilers. The vote was tied 5-5 so the motion failed and the meeting went on, giving the commissioners no idea what mothballing means.

That was clarified Feb. 6 when delegates directed the commissioners to stop the installation of the pellet boilers until the commissioners can provide the delegation with proof that they have the authority to spend the money on the installation.

The delegation is meeting next on Feb. 13 at 9 a.m. at the county administration building on Water Village Road in Ossipee. The subject of the old nursing home is expected to be up for discussion again. Whether the subcommittee will recommend tearing down two wings, four wings, the whole building, or renovating all or part of the old nursing home remains to be seen.

The county delegation is made up of the 14 state representatives elected to represent Carroll County and oversee the financial operations of Carroll County Government.

Following the meeting, county officials suggested those interested in the fate of the old home plan to attend the delegation meeting or contact their state representative and voice their opinion. To find out who your representative is or how to contact them, call the county business office at 539-7751.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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