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Delegation reverses pellet boiler stop order



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THE COUNTY DELEGATION Old Nursing Home Subcommittee met last Friday, Feb. 10. Shown here in a frame from the video at www.governmentoversite.com are (l-r) Rep. Frank McCarthy, Chairman Rep. Mark McConkey, Rep. Karen Umberger (partially hidden), Rep. Harry Merrow, Rep. Steve Schmidt and Rep. Joe Fleck. The floor plan of the old Mountain View Nursing Home is in the background. (click for larger version)
February 16, 2012
OSSIPEE — The pellet boiler installation will continue. Exactly one week after the county delegation voted to halt the installation of the system that will provide heat and hot water to the new nursing home, they reversed their decision.

In total, the cost to purchase and install two pellet boilers to heat both the old and new nursing home and provide hot water will be $750,805. A $200,000 federal grant was received to be used to help purchase two pellet boilers. An additional grant of $200,100 was received to pay for the piping needed to connect the boilers to the new nursing home. The delegation voted to accept both of those grants back in March 2010. Throughout the building committee meetings and the construction of the new nursing home the plan always was, according to County Commissioner David Sorensen, to install the pellet boilers in the old nursing home and pipe the heat to the new nursing home. As it turns out, the pellet boilers and the cost to hook them up in the old home was $325,405 so the commissioners got permission from the grant source to use the bulk of the piping money to pay the balance of the cost of the boiler purchase. The cost of laying the piping was $50,400 and that was completed during the new nursing home construction. Then it came time to hire someone to finish the piping, mechanical, and other work to link the pellet boilers from the old home to the new home.

"We put the engineer's design out to bid and unfortunately we only received one bid. We decided to bid it a second time and asked for a phone call or a letter of intent, but still no additional bidders. The Commissioners then approved the bid for $375,000.00 to do the facility installation and signed the contract," said Sorensen in a letter to the delegation that he presented at their Monday meeting.

On Feb. 6 the delegation voted to cease installation of the pellet boilers until the commissioners could prove to them that the commissioners had the authority to spend the installation money.

The letter goes on, "Since these boilers were to heat the new nursing home, the Commissioners expected the cost of installation would come from the $23,500,000.00 budget for the new home, after all, if the boilers had been placed in the new home they would have been part of the $23,500,000.00. Some members of the Delegation are now expressing disagreement with this rationale. In order to get the project back on track, saving propane cost by 40+ percent and preventing any litigation from broken contracts, the Commissioners are requesting that the Delegation approve the bid of $375,000.00 for installation of the wood pellet boilers and that it come from the new nursing home budget."

The delegation accepted Sorensen's explanation and voted 8-2 to allow the commissioners to continue with the installation work. Frank McCarthy (R-Conway) and Norman Tragenza (R-Silver Lake) voted against it. McCarthy, upset with his fellow delegates, reportedly stormed from the room sending papers flying and even breaking his glasses. In the hope of making the vote unanimous, the delegates agreed to a revote to include that the commissioners have permission to complete the installation within the terms of the contract and use money from the new nursing home contingency fund to pay for it. That passed 10-0.

Old Nursing Home

The county commissioners have been given a "date certain" of March 15 to come up with a plan of what to do with the old nursing home. The goal is for them to then present their plan to the old nursing home subcommittee, who will then make recommendations to the full delegation.

Simply setting a deadline date appeared as great progress in what has become a highly contentious battle between the county delegation and the county commissioners, and at times, the public. With some arguing, "why tear down a perfectly good building" and others adamant that keeping the old nursing home building will only result in a future expansion of government, the Feb. 10 subcommittee meeting appeared to at least result in both sides agreeing there is a possibility of reaching an agreement somewhere in the middle.

"We have made more progress here today than we have in the past four months," said Rep. Steve Schmidt (R-Wolfeboro).

Previously, the county commissioners came to the delegation with a $1.8 million proposal to renovate the old nursing home to include new roofing, pellet boilers, maintenance and laundry facilities, storage space, and room for the UNH Cooperative Extension. The delegation voted down that plan as too costly and sent the commissioners back to the drawing board, instructing them to come up with a plan that includes tearing down the four wings and only keeping the core of the old nursing home. The total cost of demolition and renovation was not to exceed $1 million. The delegation never set a deadline date, argued Sorensen, and he asked the subcommittee for time to pull together that plan. Subcommittee member Karen Umberger (R-Conway) argued that while it was true the delegation never set a date it should have been top on the commissioner's priority list given how much attention this issue has been given.

Randy Remick of Bonnette, Page, and Stone has the contract to provide consulting services to help the commissioners come up with a plan for renovating the old home. Remick, present at the Feb. 10 subcommittee meeting, offered a preliminary suggestion for bringing the cost in at $1 million. That plan would involve demolishing all four wings, repairing the roof and cutting off the front entry section of the old home. Subcommittee members liked his idea. They passed a motion to recommend to the commissioners that a full cost analysis and plan be written up to include Remick's suggestion for the old home that would include keeping all mechanical systems, the pellet boilers, maintenance department, laundry, and 3,000 square feet of open space for other uses. They also want a full cost estimate of what it would cost to tear down the entire old home and build a stand-alone metal building that would house all of those needs. The commissioners, they appeared to agree, are also welcome to come up with any other possibilities as long as the cost does not exceed $1 million.

Schmidt acknowledged that the full delegation has indicated they want to move the UNH Cooperative Extension back to the county complex. Can the 3,000 of open space in the latest proposal meet the needs of the Extension? That will be something the commissioners will have to negotiate and possibly work into the plan they present to the subcommittee in March.

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