Governor Maggie Hassan was in the North Country Saturday and heard from roughly a half dozen local business owners who said they need the Balsams resort to reopen for their businesses to survive.
And, they also wanted the Democratic governor to somehow get the Republican controlled House and Senate to support the redevelopment of the Balsams.
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One of the people she heard from was Mark Decareau, who five years ago bought the Diamond Peaks Motel & Store on Route 26 in Colebrook, where Hassan met the crowd.
Buying the motel was Decareau’s idea of a dream, living and working in the North Country.
“And then the Balsams closed and it has been downhill ever since.”
“I don’t expect to be here next December without this project…”
Pauline Lemieux said her family has been working in the North Country since 1959 and she has watched things get tougher and tougher as the Balsams closed.
“We don’t have anything up here,” she said.
Hassan said her administration strongly supports the project and so should the rest of the state.
“But the people down south of the notch need to understand what this will mean to the economy here.”
“When we work together and we support each other and we include everybody, then we all get stronger.”
But Balsams developer Les Otten’s $143 million plan hit a snag last week.
The problem was a Senate committee that sidelined Senate Bill 30, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat who represents the North Country.
It would have provided Otten with a state guarantee for a $28 million bond through the Business Finance Authority, sometimes called the BFA.
The committee said more time was needed to make sure taxpayer money would not be risked. That was bad news for Otten who hoped to begin construction in June, although he told NHPR that is still his goal.
Hassan said she would work with the Senate.
“And we really need to find a way to give the Senate confidence that this is a good investment, to remind them that the BFA has provided this kind of guarantee in lots of other projects and to remind them of what this part of the state could look like and feel like with the kind of investment and development of the Balsams that this team is talking about.”
Hassan told the crowd they should contact legislators from below the notches and urge support for the Balsams.