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Local legislators identify key issues facing the North Country


February 27, 2019
BERLIN — The Berlin Reporter recently contacted Representatives Yvonne Thomas (D), Henry Noel (D), and Larry Laflamme (D), as well as Sen. David Starr (R), with the following question: What do you see as the biggest challenge or opportunity facing the North Country? How do you see it being addressed if it's a challenge? Or how do you think it should be utilized if it's an opportunity?

As of press time, only Sen. Starr had responded.

"I see jobs and the economy as the North Country's biggest challenge and opportunity," he wrote. "Over the last 50 years we have lost a lot of industry up here, culminating in the recent paper mill closures which really hurt Berlin, Colebrook and others. Since then, we have seen snowmobiling and off road vehicles grow, bringing in tourists, with money."

Starr pointed out that the tourism business seems to be helping property values in Berlin, a real estate market which has suffered deep declines, writing "Off road vehicle people are buying second houses in the Berlin area and have driven up the local real estate market." Pointing to legislation currently under consideration in Concord, Starr said "We don't want to mess that up with restrictive laws about off road vehicles, of which we have two in the hopper down in Concord right now."

One of those bills, HB498, which is sponsored by Dummer Rep. Wayne Moynihan (D), would prohibit ATV's from using Class V roads. ATV's on town roads has become a contentious issue, with some complaining about noise and safety hazards while others point out the economic benefits. In either case, judging by the sheer number of trailers seen on the highway, it's a significant question. The next meeting on this bill is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26.

In terms of exploring opportunities, Starr says "We ought to try and attract some high tech companies. They don't require a lot of electric power, or water, or other resources. There are a lot of people working down on Rte 128 who would love to move to New Hampshire for the skiing or snowmobiling, hiking, hunting, or just the NH ambiance - if they could find a job. I'm thinking a high tech start up could attract a wonderful staff just by advertising that they are in New Hampshire. And we ought to do more to connect up with the Canadians in Montreal."

Starr concluded by briefly discussing things that he feels are promising for the North Country, including the greenhouse project being discussed in Berlin. The Berlin Reporter will continue to update readers on the progress of current and pending legislation that affects the area.

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