Senate Committee Balks At Funding For The Balsams

Mar 4, 2015

Dixville Capital developer Les Otten: Says he's confident the project can move forward.
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

A Senate Committee Wednesday sidelined a bill designed to provide state backing for a $28 million loan to the developers of the Balsams Resort. But developer Les Otten says he still hopes to begin construction in June.

The legislation is Senate Bill 30 and it would have provided a state guarantee for a $28 million bond to help Otten’s Dixville Capital LLC renovate and expand the Balsams resort.

But the Senate’s five-member Public and Municipal Affairs Committee – which was considering the bill - unanimously decided a committee should be formed to study the issue. The committee has three Republicans and two Democrats.

Regina Birdsell, a Republican who represents Derry, Windham and Hampstead, chairs the committee.

“We all care about what happens to the North Country. I ran on economic development so I want to support it. I just want to make sure that our financing is solid.”

Birdsell said the study committee’s deadline is November but the review could be done much earlier.

Under SB 30 the state would have held the priority lien on the Balsams if there was a problem with payments.

Les Otten, who heads up Dixville Capital, has said the $28 million bond was crucial for the project.

Wednesday he told NHPR he still hopes to start construction in June.

And he said he looks forward to providing elected officials with the necessary information and is confident their concerns can be alleviated

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat from Dalton who represents the North Country.

Late Wednesday Woodburn issued a statement saying to revitalize the Balsams "the state, the state legislature must assume some measured and modest risk" but he appreciates the fact that some senators want more time to understand the legislation.

State development officials have said they are strongly in favor of the Balsams project. 

In a statement Wednesday Senate President Chuck Morse, a Republican from Salem, said:

“While we would all like to see the Balsams restored to its former glory and the anticipated economic benefit for Coos County and the State, I have some serious reservations about state taxpayers taking on the responsibility for a private business’s loan and the precedent this would create. We need to be sure we are making prudent and educated decisions when awarding funding to any business venture and the Balsams project is no different. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the developer and to study the details of this project specifically.”