Lakes Region Planning Commission’s director begins first day
MEREDITH — The new executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission sees the work ahead of him as a welcome challenge.
Coming from his job as executive director of the North Country Council, Jeff Hayes, 45, sees a quality of uniqueness in the Lakes Region that he appreciates.
“I’m very impressed with what the LRPC has done. You can tell that the planners have been working in an area that has a geologic factor — the lakes — that draw people together,” Hayes said from his new office on Monday.
Hayes graduated from the University of New Hampshire with an economics degree and holds a master’s degree in regional planning from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
A native of North Conway, Hayes has worked on the four-state Northern Forest Sustainable Energy Initiative, which dealt with the shared challenges facing Northern Forest communities. He was also part of the New Hampshire Living Wage study, which identified disparities between salaries and the cost of living in areas of the state.
He replaces Kimon Koulet, who retired this month after leading the LRPC for 30 years.
In leaving his position, Koulet cited many needs, among them infrastructure failings, that should be addressed by his successor.
Hayes agrees with Koulet’s assessment.
“Transportation infrastructure is something I’ve always been very involved in, and we have a substantial number of ‘red-list’ bridges in the Lakes Region that badly need repair,” he said. “We also have a lot of facilities that need upgrade and repair.”
A large issue that Hayes identifies is the lakes-area wastewater infrastructure. “A lot of septic systems in lake houses were built in the 1970s, and they need to be improved or replaced,” he said.
Hayes and his staff will be finishing one of Koulet’s projects, the Lakes Region Plan, a comprehensive plan that will reflect the vision and priorities of the region’s communities. A draft will be completed by summer, and a final version will be voted on by the commission by the end of 2014, Koulet said.
Hayes likes the look of his work ahead.
“I’m very excited about the Lakes Region,” he said. “It will be important to keep a healthy balance between economic development and water quality, while at the same time recognizing that there can be more economic opportunity in some areas.”