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Another View: Katherine Aldrich Cote - Northern Pass impact would be more than towers

September 18. 2017 6:11PM

I WRITE as a proud third generation owner of Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill. For 79 years we have served countless New Hampshire families — and maybe some of you reading today — as well as thousands of tourists who come annually to enjoy our breathtaking scenery and natural beauty.

Last month I submitted comments in opposition to the Northern Pass project that the Site Evaluation Committee is currently considering, joined by a number of other local small business owners who share our grave concern about how Northern Pass will negatively affect our businesses.

Many have talked about how enormous new electric transmission towers will gash our state’s communities and forests, with lasting negative impacts on property values, tourism and our environment.

However, less attention has been given to the enormous disruption that a multi-year construction project to bury portions of Northern Pass will cause.

As currently proposed, Northern Pass is projected to be a two-year build out that we know will take a tremendous toll on our business. So-called experts presented by Northern Pass have tried to minimize the impact construction will have on tourism and small business. Those experts aren’t from here. We are, and have been for decades.

The truth is businesses like ours rely on thousands of summer visitors to get us through the leaner winter months. We know from experience that any construction that affects access to our area roads, Routes 18 and 117 for us particularly, affects our business. We have kept meticulous attendance records along with records of other factors affecting the numbers. Past construction projects and events that limit road access have decreased our customers in the past. The two-year construction delays and disruptions projected by Northern Pass would dwarf those numbers, and cause enormous harm to our business and countless others.

Using Polly’s as an example, here are some numbers that will be impacted as context. From April to October 2016, Polly’s served 71,031 customers out of a total 93,500 for the year.

As you can see, the bulk of our business comes during those six summer months, driven largely by tourists from outside the area. During the height of the summer season we are serving on average 3,600 customers per week with a peak of 4,000 one week in August.

In 2016, Polly’s collected and paid $108,000 in Room and Meals Tax to the State of New Hampshire. Of that amount, 75 percent — $81,482 — was collected from April through October. Decreased, rerouted and impeded traffic on local roads at any time, particularly during the summer, will result in decreased tax revenue for the state.

We proudly employ up to 50 employees, with a gross payroll for 2016 at $480,000 not including officers. In the least these employees, who live as far away as Littleton or Whitefield, will be affected by traffic delays and road closures.

However, when our business is negatively impacted by Northern Pass construction, the hard truth is that we will have to lay off employees.

Polly’s receives weekly deliveries from 12 different vendors whose orders and schedules will be impacted by this proposed project. They will experience delays and possible loss of income due to decreased business.

Polly’s is but one example. The truth is there are countless other small businesses like ours up and down the proposed Northern Pass route that face similar threats to their viability if this project goes forward.The combination of enormous transmission towers permanently changing our state’s landscape in some areas, and massive construction disruptions in areas like ours where Northern Pass is proposed for burial, is an existential threat to our existence and way of life.

Standing against this is the alleged benefit of lowered electric rates if Northern Pass is built. Any good businessperson would prefer to see lower rates.

Northern Pass is primarily intended to use our state as an extension cord to feed electricity to southern New England, not to reduce our rates. In fact, expert testimony provided to the Site Evaluation Committee indicated that in a best case scenario, Northern Pass would lower electric rates by only 0.28 cents/kWh.

This minuscule and speculative savings is far outweighed by the massive and permanent negative impact of building Northern Pass, even more so now that there is at least one other competing transmission project that would have far lesser impact on our state.

Massive impacts with minimal benefits. It is clear Northern Pass is not right for New Hampshire.

Katherine Aldrich Cote lives in Sugar Hill.

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