Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Where are our elected officials?

Posted: February 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

nopass2The stunning upset of the Northern Pass project is another example of regular people coming together to oppose what many elected representatives don’t seem to be interested in opposing.

There is an increasing number of examples.

Citizens came together in 2016 to oppose the Kinder Morgan fracked gas pipeline and won.

Over the past 18 months as a Keene city councilor, I joined three neighborhoods that opposed high-density rezoning, a stalled residential development and a non-conforming use proposal. We won each final decision.

This year, the PUC has agreed to hear public comment on the Liberty Gas franchise in Keene because of citizen opposition to what we saw as a rushed decision.

Where are the rest of our elected officials? Who do they really represent? As an elected official myself, I am becoming more and more disheartened by the silence of my colleagues.

Citizens should not have to be so vigilant to protect what they hold dear.

Elected officials should be representing them, not the special interests who are motivated by greed.

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4387.55a57883981dcA recent story in our local paper reported on the environmental and safety problems posed by our current method of de-icing highways. Our public works director has come up with innovative ways to lower the danger, but the costs and pollution problems are still mounting. The solution, as I see it, won’t be found within the scope of conventional methods, but rather by looking outside the box.

Currently, America’s road systems are constructed using bitumen asphalt products that are reliant upon the fossil fuel industry. De-icing technology for those roads are confined to the use of sodium or calcium chloride and sand. Yet, the same fossil fuel industry has been producing byproducts – plastics – for years that we also struggle to dispose of. Europeans have struck upon an answer that should be obvious to all of us, but isn’t considered because it’s not within our conventional scope – solarized plastic.

I suggested this at a Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee meeting of the Keene City Council last year, but was met by blank stares suggesting that I had three heads. Like when Mr. Robinson said “plastics” to young Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate.”

“There are no sources of this material or technology,” said the public works director.

Not among the conventional industry vendors maybe, but they are all invested in the fossil fuel approach and wouldn’t make money suggesting other solutions.

Municipal leaders here must be authorized to go outside the conventional marketplace for solutions, just as European governmental bodies have done.

We operate a recycling center, as do many towns and cities around us, that produces thousands of tons of recyclable plastics. Rather than sell these raw materials to companies who manufacture ski jackets and deck planking, maybe we could seek out a company to produce the same solarized plastic highway sections produced in France. And maybe we could persuade them to produce them in Keene. Maybe on the Kingsbury property.

Having three heads may not be liability after all?

Prospect Park

Posted: January 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

There has been much discussion about the denial of the proposal for the reuse of the Prospect Place property on Court St in Keene.

The problem as I see it is that the story has centered around the need for creating a drug rehabilitation center, and not about the proper way to do it.

There are rules involved, and the rules were not followed by the petitioner. Instead, they have misinformed the public about the process.

Meanwhile, people involved in the process discovered discrepancies and weaknesses in the petitioner’s arguments that didn’t pass scrutiny. That is why it was denied.

I believe that if a petitioner came forward and followed the rules, that this would have passed.

I hope you don’t think less of me for my efforts to protect the interests of my constituents in the Prospect St. neighborhood.

councilorclarkI have joined with the New Hampshire Pipeline Health Study Group in a lawsuit to reverse the NH Public Utility Commission’s unlawful granting of a fracked liquid natural gas franchise to Liberty Utilities (EnergyNorth Natural Gas) Corp. in Keene.

It must be noted that fracked LNG is more dangerous than virgin LNG because of the lethal chemicals absorbed into the gas during the extraction process. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. The NH Pipeline Health Study Group wants to address the fact that fracked gas is not the same as the traditional “natural” gas contemplated by PUC rules, with studies linking carcinogens and a cocktail of other harmful chemicals to fracked gas, emissions and leaks from gas compressor stations and other gas infrastructure to respiratory and other health problems.

It is well-established that Keene sits in a valley that is prone to air inversions that traps particulates in the air from burning fossil fuels. Because of the carcinogens and other harmful chemicals used in the extraction process of fracking LNG, burning and leaking gas would trap these poisonous particulates into the air and cause generations of health issues including respiratory and heart disease as well as cancer among the residents and visitors of Keene.

KeeneLiberty Utilities (EnergyNorth Natural Gas) Corp. is just a small part of a global conglomerate that has established a fossil fuel monopoly in New Hampshire and other states. They are bent on burning every drop of LNG left in the Earth and are using political lobbying to block free-market forces from developing solar and other sustainable energy sources that nearly all other industrialized nations are rapidly exploiting. Keene is the first of 32 plants planned in New Hampshire.

A rapid transition to sustainable energy sources is necessary to address the climate change crisis, and many NH state laws and actions, including this order, are acting as roadblocks to pursuing sustainable energy sources, and allowing the building of a new large, high customer volume hydraulically fractured (“fracked”) gas facility in Keene will impede the development and availability of sustainable alternatives in Keene for at least another generation.

RenewNotFrack

We are asking for reconsideration and rehearing of an order granting a franchise to convert compressed natural gas (“CNG”) and liquid natural gas (“LNG”) without notice, a hearing or the opportunity for intervention, public input or challenge to Liberty Utilities (EnergyNorth Natural Gas) Corp.

 

The Motion
NH Code of Administrative Rules
Exhibits A-C
Exhibits D-G
Exhibits H-J
Exhibits K-N

If you would like to help, please contact our attorney:
Richard M. Husband, Esquire 
10 Mallard Court 
Litchfield, NH 03052 
N.H. Bar No. 6532 
Telephone No. (603)883-1218 
E-mail: RMHusband@gmail.com

final2It would be very easy to say that the most important issues today are well beyond just Ward 3 in Keene. While I am aware of those issues – and they are many – I say, “but”.

And this is an important “but”.

Neighborhood issues tend to get lost when decisions are made on the planning board and council levels. That’s why it’s important that you vote to keep me as your ward councilor. I focus on those smaller issues because they frequently end up as bad consequences of larger decisions that are made.

For example, we have a policy that sometimes allows excess city property to be developed in discordance with an abutting neighborhood. 

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That was the case when I worked with the North Central Neighborhood Group, The Elm Research Institute and city staff to create the North Central Nature Park on North and Carroll streets.

We also started an anti-heroin campaign that culminated in a city-wide addiction solutions task force that I co-chaired with councilor Randy Filiault. Oh, by the way, they don’t deal drugs on the North St. property anymore.

We have zoning regulations that sometimes allow high density zoning to encroach on medium density neighborhoods. An incident happened recently when I worked with Old Walpole and West Surry road residents and city staff to defeat that proposal.

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Our Planning Board rules allow developers to take as much time as they like to complete residential housing developments, no matter how it effects resident abutters. I recently worked with abutters and city staff to jump-start the so-called “Keene Sand and Gravel” development at 431 Court St. A new fence was constructed and stakes are now in the ground in preparation for a new home this spring.

Not too long ago, East Surry Road was devastated by a flood. I stood on the city manager’s desk to get that bridge and road damage repaired ASAP. Last month, Councilor Richards and I convinced fellow councilors to move-up the Gunn Rd. repaving project one year to start this coming spring in order to preserve this deteriorating road before more extensive repairs became necessary.

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The Sentinel asks, what are the important issues? I would argue that those are the issues that residents call me about every day. Whether it is a pothole or tree hanging over a power line, constituent service is Job One for a ward councilor.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t been doing other things, like working to increase efficiencies in city operations. In fact, we have moved forward on a joint procurement initiative with the school district and county to share expenses and eliminate duplication. But, feet are being dragged and you need me to keep those feet to the fire.

There has been an economic development committee at work to bring business into town, and I have advocated for a sustainable path that takes us away from the same old technologies and methods that failed us in the past decades. You’ll recall Bruce Springsteen’s lines in his song, “My Home Town…these jobs are goin’ boys and they ain’t comin’ back.” Well, this is the 21st Century and we need to acknowledge that by facilitating modern development.

Solar Panel with green grass and beautiful blue skyFor example, soon the city will enter into a power purchase agreement with a solar company to buy only electricity generated from solar power in New Hampshire – at a lower rate than Eversource. You need me to stay on that purchasing committee to make sure it happens. Otherwise, you’ll likely be paying for expensive, polluting fossil fuel electricity for another generation.

In order to continue doing these things I need your vote on Tuesday, November 7th

8a773b7c-8068-4afa-818c-006601f3ee80I expected it to be a pleasant Saturday and, having tuned up the old rototiller, was anticipating a little pre-season gardening. I hadn’t planned on reading the paper anyway, but the last thing I expected to see was a story about me on page one, above the fold. But there it was, for all to see, carefully arranged quotes purporting that I had told a city council committee that the Dillant-Hopkins Airport was not viable.
Overall, it was a very well-written story outlining my concerns about how little the airport had to offer the average Keene taxpayer. What it left out though, and please read the meeting minutes, was that I said the airport should be run by an independent, self-funding, regional transportation authority instead of Keene taxpayers.
Fast-forward to today. I had finished planting my peas, spinach, Swiss chard and beets, then went to the office for a couple hours. Opening the paper’s newly-redesigned Voices section, there it was again! Sentinel columnist John McGauley wrote that “…a city council member now thinks our airport is unnecessary…”
One seemingly innocuous omission from a front page story had taken on a life of it’s own. I hadn’t planned on correcting the omission. After all, to err is human, right? But now it seems that even Sentinel columnists are willing to stake their reputations on single-source reporting. When I was a reporter, that was a big no-no. (I forgive you, John, but you shoulda’ called).
Let me be clear. When the late Emile Legere bought six acres of cornfield in 2012 across the Ashuelot from the airport and a group calling itself “Friends of the Airport” asked the city to let him take test core samples of airport property, it became clear that there was regional interest in developing the languishing endeavor.
Senior city staff and several city councils and mayors had allowed the taxpayer-funded airport to run in the red for decades and I thought, “Wow, maybe now the professionals will get involved,” and asked for more details. But alas, Emile died and his dreams along with him.
Later, I thought maybe a regional role would be discussed by the committee charged with writing an airport master plan. But, I was denied an appointment to the city’s airport advisory committee, I think but hope not, because of my early criticism of the city’s handling of Federal aviation grants effecting the Edgewood neighborhood. I’m not optimistic that regionalization will be in that plan once it’s released later this year.
You can take a survey to express your feelings about the airport at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EEN_Master_Plan
Regionalizing the airport shouldn’t be a taboo subject. It is this area’s best hope for attracting economic development into the region.
The Sentinel recently wrote a series of excellent articles about regional ambulance troubles in the Monadnock Region. The topic of the annual City/County delegation centered on it and other problems local governments are having trouble dealing with alone. The Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce is in the middle of a series of roundtable discussions about transportation, housing and other regional topics. Heck, we even have a Joint Procurement Committee with the school district to bulk-buy toilet paper!
Cutbacks on the State and Federal levels have made life very difficult for local governments and I think it’s time we said, “Enough!’ and start banding together to share responsibilities and maybe, even go so far as to stop engaging in unfunded State and Federal responsibilities.
I’ll go back to my beans and potatoes now and wait for next Saturday’s paper.

The quotes are coming in for solar street light units.

Whoa, you say! Isn’t Keene already planning a retrofit of the city’s 1,155 lights with LED fixtures? Yes, that’s true. The public works department announced in September an experimental display of 25 LED fixtures of different designs on a stretch of Marlboro Street to gauge community reaction to the wholesale conversion from HPS to LED. The total cost for the demonstration light fixtures is $6,981 with installation – $280 each.

The plan is to retrofit all city streetlights, as well as some on access roads, parking lots and parks. Today the city spends $165,000 annually on streetlight electricity and maintenance This doesn’t include lights in the downtown area, which are billed separately. The city would apply for the $50,000 LED streetlight conversion grant from our electrical utility, Eversource, to supplement the estimated $270,00-$350,00 cost of converting 1,155 streetlights.

In the Marlboro Street retrofit example Keene would reduce the total KWh from 13,839 KWh per year to 6,496 KWh per year, a 53% KWh reduction. Under the Eversource retrofit program the city would own the streetlights and be responsible for maintenance and replacement costs. Suppliers estimate that the average life of an LED retrofit is 20 years. A preliminary estimate of the 20 year cumulative savings of retrofitting the City’s inventory of HPS lamps to LED is about $1,500,000 and a payback of 3 to 4 years.

But, the city would still be buying electricity generated by fossil fuels, and take on the maintenance cost which is covered in the current monthly rental agreement.

As I was saying, the quotes are coming in for solar street light units.

The figures for the LED fossil fuel lights come in at between $230 – $350 each, plus the cost of electricity. The estimates I have gotten so far from solar streetlight suppliers for comparable wattage systems is $250, with no ongoing electricity costs. And, they send their own technician to install them.

It shouldn’t go unsaid that city staff have shown an incredible amount of foresight in their plan. I commend them because taking steps to decrease our carbon footprint and budget is the right thing to do.

I’m saying, let’s take an extra step. Let’s add a group of solar powered lights to the experiment before we retrofit the entire city.