Thursday, November 30, 2017

Ossipee, Carroll County, New Hampshire: Commissioners shoot down Eastern Slope Regional Airport donation

Carroll County Commissioners David Babson (R-Ossipee, left) and Mark Hounsell (R-Conway) argue about a county donation to the Eastern Slope Regional Airport in Fryeburg. 

OSSIPEE — Carroll County commissioners on Wednesday declined to give the Eastern Slope Regional Airport in Fryeburg, Maine, the $3,000 donation that County Commissioner Mark Hounsell had sought.

Hounsell (R-Conway), a member of the airport authority member who represents the county, had said the authority wanted to build a new hangar.

He, along with members of the airport executive committee, argued that the airport generates activity in Carroll County, noting that the owners of Cranmore Mountain Resort would not have bought and expanded their property if not for having a general aviation airport nearby.

Oxford County, Maine, also is also being asked for $3,000.

Hounsell said the new condos going up at Cranmore will bring  over $12,000 in tax revenue to the county. Travelers who use the airport visit hotels and other local businesses.

"Their arrival into the Mount Washington Valley, or the northern part of Carroll County or Carroll County spurs on a lot of positive economic activity," said Hounsell, adding the condo users will not be sending children to school but will be paying school and town taxes to Conway as well. "We want to see our tax bases grow."

But the other commissioners — chair Amanda Bevard (R-Wolfeboro) and David Babson (R-Ossipee) — felt that the airport serves only the northern half of the county. Babson pointed out there is an airport in Moultonborough as well as air strips in Wolfeboro and Ossipee.

"My feeling is I represent all the taxpayers of Carroll County, not just one area," said Babson. "I don't care if the airport is in Maine or New Hampshire ... That's not a factor."

Bevard said she agreed with Babson.

Whereupon Hounsell said it seemed he was "speaking to deaf ears." Babson, who is somewhat hard of hearing, took umbrage.

"Excuse me, Commissioner Hounsell, I found that very abusive," said Babson. "I don't have deaf ears; I can't hear little sounds once in a while, but if you are considering my thoughts, I think that's out of order."

Hounsell responded that he found it "disrespectful" that the commissioners were disregarding his information.

Bevard attempted to end the discussion, as there was no motion per Robert's Rules of Order, but Hounsell kept going.

"You folks, and I apologize for the deaf ear comment, I would say are inattentive to my words ... but anyway, here is the thing, Madam Chairman, chuckle all you want, but I am going to get this message out in public ...

"My objection is we talk about things based on wants and needs, and this is an opportunity we don't seem to want to consider, but last week I saw you two jump all over the board to support a want, a want of a grandfather clock" at the county-run Mountain View Nursing Home.

Hounsell noted that the clock cost $4,000.

Bevard replied that the clock was intended to make the nursing home feel more homelike.

Toward the end of the meeting, after commissioners finished their proposed 2018 budget, to be forwarded to the county delegation of state lawmakers, Hounsell again brought up the airport.

He said Eastern Slope airport will likely ask for money again next year, and at that point perhaps commissioners could consider a lesser amount than $3,000 so the airport could be put on the delegation's agenda.

"The resistance to the conversation boggles me at times," said Hounsell, while adding, "You are good people; you are well-intended, and if I offended you in any way, I apologize."

Babson replied that he had met with an airport board member who asked him if he would support $300 for the airport and Babson said he would.

Babson then moved to put $300 in the proposed 2018 budget, but since the proposed budget had just been completed, the commissioners agreed to hold the request for next year.

Commissioners said their 2018 proposed budget would not raise county taxes.

Hounsell added that the authority's $3,000 request was made late to the county.

The Sun asked Babson why he didn't bring up the $300 at the start of the meeting, and Hounsell took the blame, saying, "That is what happens when someone like me who gets passionate gets off focus and doesn't offer an amendment in a reasonable time," said Hounsell.

"That isn't any fault except my misstep because sometimes I get unfocused. ... That was a procedural misstep that I take responsibility for."

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