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January 10. 2013 11:05PM

Franklin looking to hire a lobbyist to fight for Northern Pass

FRANKLIN - While other communities and groups have opposed Northern Pass, Franklin officials have been outspoken advocates of the project, and are looking for a lobbyist to watch out for the city's interests.

Plans call for a converter station to be built in the city; it is estimated Public Service of New Hampshire would pay $4.2 million in property taxes if the project goes through. Franklin residents now pay about $10 million in taxes yearly.

"It's very special to Franklin's future," Mayor Ken Merrifield said of the $1.2 billion project that would deliver electricity from Hydro-Quebec through New Hampshire. "We could reshape the city's future with that additional revenue."

The city has offered $1,000 for a lobbyist this legislative session, and has had several responses, City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said.

"This person would be an advocate for the city of Franklin, and would notify us if there is a need for one of us to travel and testify in Concord," she said.

Merrifield said he's been told the issue will arise many times in the coming weeks and months.

"From what I understand, there are a lot of bills that could affect Northern Pass one way or the other this session," he said.

"Given what the project means to us, and our limited ability to monitor events in Concord, we thought this a wise move."

Northern Pass would run 180 miles of power lines from the Canadian border, through northern New Hampshire to Franklin and then Concord, and then east to Deerfield. The project is a collaboration between Northeast Utilities, NSTAR and Hydro-Quebec.

If completed, it would transport up to 1,200 megawatts of hydropower from Canada to the New England power grid, according to Northeast Utilities. Opponents doubt the project sponsor's claims that it would create jobs or benefit the state, while saying the towers required for the transmission lines would damage the state's mountain views.

But in Franklin, which has a reputation as one of the state's poorer cities, officials see Northern Pass as a way to pay for better schools, better roads and better facilities.

The city would begin reaping the benefits of the project as soon as next year, though it's not scheduled to go online until 2016, Dragon said.

"We would begin to get benefits way before that," she said. "We'd start getting benefits, like jobs, as soon as the permits are approved."


dseufert@newstote.com



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