Groveton's Dilemma: Whether to Spend Tax Dollars With No Guarantee Of Attracting Jobs

Mar 8, 2016

When the Wausau plant shown here closed in 2007, the only paper mill left in the North Country was in Gorham.
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

Town meetings are being held throughout the state and this year the most important – and unusual - in the North Country is in Groveton.

Saturday, Groveton taxpayers will decide whether to spend money to help provide sewage and water for a privately owned industrial development in the hope of bringing jobs to the hard-luck town.

“This is probably the best chance the town’s got to get something going,” says Selectman Jim Tierney, Jr.

When he says “get something going” he’s talking about finding businesses to locate on the site of a paper mill that closed late in 2007, destroying the town's economy.

The key to that happening is the approval of two warrant articles.

One would authorize a bond for up to $400,000. It’s necessary for the town to seek about $600,000 in additional federal funds.

That money would go for water and sewage at the former mill site.

Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

The other warrant article would allow the select board to grant a tax exemption for an industrial business.

Tierney says he doesn’t want to make promises about new businesses without seeing signed contracts.

“There’s no guarantee at this point that anything is coming to town. That is the risk.”

Paying off the bond would increase taxes by about twenty-five cents per thousand dollars, he said.

But the owner of furniture company Cedar & Oak says he’s interested.

Owner Michael Rousseau says the company has seven employees – including a few family members. But he contends that could grow to close to fifty.

Mill site manager Mike Stirling says it probably isn’t realistic for him to search for a company offering 500 jobs.

He argues a better strategy is finding a lot of small businesses –with the potential to grow and hire more workers.

Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

Groveton Selectman Michael Phillips says he supports the warrant article for the bond.

And, he predicts a lively meeting as voters grapple with the issue of spending public money on a private business in the hope of a badly needed economic boost.