DIXVILLE NOTCH — Midnight voting has been retained at the tiny unincorporated hamlet of Dixville Notch, which had faced losing its tradition of being among the first to vote in the first primary in the nation after its population fell from the requisite five citizens.
Since the 1960s, the unincorporated Dixville Notch has been known for its midnight voting, along with Millsfield and Hart’s Location.
In June of last year, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office sent longtime Dixville resident Tom Tillotson a letter stating that in order to hold an election, Dixville Notch will need a moderator, town clerk, two selectmen and a ballot clerk. Some offices can be held by the same person.
Up until Thursday, Dixville was a person short.
“Until such time as the Town of Dixville fills the above referenced offices, and as you stated to Investigator (Richard) Tracy, Dixville will be unable to hold its own elections,” states the letter sent by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas A. Chong Yen.
Tillotson told the Sun earlier this week, “We are still optimistic we will be able to hold the vote, but I can’t say it’s a go until it’s officially a go.”
Then he heard from Les Otten, ski mogul who is hoping to turn The Balsams grand hotel into a first-class ski resort, saying he was moving back to Dixville from Greenwood, Maine, in time to take part in the New Hampshire Primary.
“We heard about it yesterday,” Tillotson told the Sun on Friday. “We’re pleased.”
According to Tillotson, Otten had been talking about moving to Dixville “for months. Now he’s made it official.”
The Balsams will now be Otten’s primary residence, Tillotson said. “That project is his main thing in life, and now that it’s getting closer to fruition, it just makes sense to live and work there.”
Reached for comment Friday, Otten told the Sun that he is glad to be able to be part of keeping Dixville Notch’s tradition going.
“To me, Dixville’s first-in-the-nation voting is a tradition, and to have an election without that would be like New Hampshire without snow,” Otten said.
“I am one of five folks, and maybe there will be a few more by the time of the election,” he predicted.
Otten noted that “I voted in Dixville as a resident of New Hampshire four years ago, as the (hotel) project went through.
“And now the project is heating up again, so I am spending more time there. It is an honor to vote there, so I am taking the opportunity to vote and be the New Hampshire guy.”
Otten’s quest to return The Balsams to glory seemed mired in red tape for a long time. Then, bolstered by legislation relative to the issuance of bonds by the county for redevelopment districts in unincorporated places sponsored by state Reps. Edith Tucker and Henry Noel (both D-Berlin), the financing pieces started to fall into place.
In May, Gov. Chris Sununu signed House Bill 540 into law in what was described as a milestone in developer Otten’s efforts to redevelop The Balsams Resort.
The bill allows the Coos County commission to create a tax increment finance district in an unincorporated place like Dixville.
Under Otten’s proposal, the commission would issue a $28 million bond to investors as part of the $173 million Otten estimates he needs to redevelop The Balsams. But Coos County is not under liability to repay the bond if the developer defaults.
Reporters Tom Eastman and Daymond Steer contributed to this story.