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February 27. 2013 9:55PM

Gov. Hassan to give keynote speech at Berlin chamber meeting

BERLIN - Gov. Maggie Hassan should get a warm response when she attends the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and dinner Friday night, at least from Mayor Paul Grenier of Berlin.

Hassan will be the keynote speaker at the dinner at the Town & Country Resort in Shelburne. The meeting includes a discussion of marketing with Scott Spradling of the Spradling Group; he's formerly of WMUR-TV.

In his February mayor's report, Grenier expressed his support of Hassan's budget recommendations, singling out proposed increases for mental health services and restoration of funds for the state's promised portions of municipal water and wastewater treatment projects.

During the last 20 years, Berlin has poured $40 million into improving its water system, about $20 million of which was grants, with the other half coming from bonds and loans. In November 2012, the mayor and council passed a resolution calling for the restoration of funding to the State Aid Grant program's eligible deferred projects. Grenier said that the deferment of payments for the city's water and sewer upgrades would cost the city $5 million over the life of the eligible bond issue.

Grenier also reiterates the mayor and council's stand on expanded gambling. Though the latest proposed bill does not call for a casino in the North Country - something which has been proposed in past sessions - it does include language directing a portion of the gaming revenues be used for North Country economic development.

"Berlin has always supported gaming as a revenue source for the state, and we have gone on record again last week to support Gov. Hassan's new efforts," Grenier said in his report.

The mayor said the city continues to work hard "to convince Concord that level funding of the state education grant is critical for us to keep moving forward while we continue to address surplus housing in Berlin."

He added that another challenge for the city - utilities appealing their property values - is being addressed in Concord by District 1 state Sen. Jeff Woodburn.

"They seem to want it both ways," he said, "oftentimes paying way above market value when acquiring new assets from other utilities, then saying they weren't worth what they paid for them."

The city has roughly 33 percent of its value in utility properties, Grenier said. The chamber meeting and dinner is sold out, with the Town & Country making accommodations for an expanded guest list of 260.

syoungknox@newstote.com


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