State Reps OK Sullivan Land Purchase
Newport — After about 30 minutes of discussion, 11 of the state representatives from the 13-member Sullivan County delegation voted 9-2 Tuesday to purchase a 600-acre parcel in Unity for $298,000.
The land off Second New Hampshire Turnpike has boundaries that abut existing county land to the east and west.
“I think it is of value to the county and Unity and the Unity Selectmen are in favor of it,” said Linda Tanner, D-Sunapee, on why she supports the purchase.
The county recommended buying the parcel for several reasons, which include increasing its ownership to 75 percent of the land where an underground pipe runs from county-owned Marshall Pond to a fire pond on county property that supplies water for the hydrants and sprinkler systems at the county jail and nursing home. Though the county already has an easement to access the pipe, county officials say maintenance will be easier if the county owns more of the property.
Future timber harvesting, protection of Marshall Pond’s western shoreline and potential for recreational activities because of the expansive views to the north are other reasons pushed by the commissioners pushed to purchase the land.
State Reps. Joe Osgood, R-Claremont, and Steve Smith, R-Charlestown, cast dissenting votes.
Smith said he didn’t see the reason why taxpayers’ money needed to be spent. (The money will come out of the county’s fund balance.)
“For me to vote yes, I need a compelling case on why this needs to be done,” said Smith, who noted that the Charlestown Selectboard took a formal vote against buying the land. “That has not been made.
“I want to know what I will be getting back for my money. I’m not getting the bang for the buck.”
Osgood wanted to reduce the price on the purchase and sales agreement with owner Dan Dagesse of Gilford, N.H., to $238,400, but Virginia Irwin, D-Newport, said the delegation did not have the authority to amend the pending contract.
“We cannot change that amount,” Irwin said. “We have to vote down the purchase and send our representatives to negotiate a new purchase and sales agreement.”
Osgood said the price was too high because the property has been “severely logged” and won’t be ready for logging again for 30 to 50 years. Dagesse paid $755 an acre and Osgood’s recommendation would have lowered the county’s price to $355 an acre compared to the $497 per acre the county has agreed to pay.
“I don’t want to pay a high dollar amount and sit and wait,” he said.
“I think we are paying too much for it.”
Andy Schmidt, D-Grantham, disagreed. Though it has been logged off, Schmidt said, “It is not unreasonable to think the residual value represents what the sale price is.”
Skip Rollins, R-Newport, pointed to the land’s future value as a valid reason to spend taxpayers’ money. He said a logger told him that although trees may not be ready for use as timber for 50 years, some will grow enough in 20 years to supply the biomass facility now under construction at the county complex.
“This is an investment,” Rollins said, adding that the price of wood chips could rise as more biomass plants are built, so it would benefit the county to have its own wood source.
The parcel has 10 subdivided lots and that holds the potential for sale for private development. Jim Grenier, R-Lempster, said there is economic potential and the county could recoup some of its money in a sale. However, it was also stated at a hearing last week by one resident that the cost to make the necessary infrastructure improvements for building homes is seen as cost prohibitive to most.
Unity Town Clerk Rosemary Heino said the property was sold to the current owner in 2010 for $450,000. It is currently assessed at $573,000 but it is in current use and that value is $26,420, which translates into $579 a year in taxes for 2012.
Andy O’Hearne, D-Claremont, and Ben Lefebvre, D-Grantham, were absent.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at email@example.com.