"Failure to communicate" over county lands

Carroll County Lands Advisory Committee member Dale Drew left approaches Carroll County Commissioners about what he perceives to be a lack of communication between the groups. Commissioners from left are David Babson, Amanda Bevard and Mark Hounsell. (DAYMOND STEER PHOTO).

OSSIPEE — Carroll County commissioners and members of a land advisory  committee mulled how a 'failure to communicate' was hampering their efforts to find viable uses for the county's 900 acres of agricultural land. They plan to have a joint meeting the end of June to get on the same page.

The advisory committee is made up of state Rep. Mark McConkey (R-Freedom), Carroll County Commissioner Amanda Bevard (R-Wolfeboro), chairman Steve Knox of Albany and citizens Dale Drew of Conway, Sandra Brocaar of Madison and Susan Gaudette of Wakefield.

In recent years, the land has been used for hay, wood, blueberries and vegetables. The county owns about 900 acres, and most of it is forested. In April, the committee suggested that the forest lands could be used for trails.

On Wednesday, Drew approached the commissioners at the public comment period at the end of the meeting with some concerns he has with the way things are going in terms of communications between the committee and the commissioners. Drew stressed he was speaking for himself and not the committee on which he's spent nearly a year.

He said the committee felt they could get people interested in the agricultural land because the old nursing home has commercial kitchen that could be put to use. Then it seemed the commissioners were making plans for it.

"One of the biggest selling points we were trying to work together on was the the commercial kitchen in the old nursing home, and we find out through word of mouth that you guys have signed a memorandum of understanding with somebody else," said Drew.

Commissioners replied that they had an MOU with Head Start, which sought to look at the kitchen. In a recent phone interview, commissioner’s chair Amanda Bevard said that Head Start is looking into using the kitchen to serve breakfast and lunch to students.

Carroll County has a commercial kitchen in the former nursing home, but it goes unused most days. A group seeking to create a culinary school restored it before that effort fell apart when one of the organizers fell ill, said Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro) at a committee meeting earlier in May.

On Wednesday, Bevard said the committee needs to bring specific plans forward to the commissioners when it comes to the kitchen and land.

Drew said he's been told by delegation members that the committee should be looking at alternatives to having the county be in the farming business.

"They want to get away from spending taxpayer money on the farm, so we have been trying to do agricultural things as far as a learning center, a commercial kitchen, production ag," said Drew adding they were going to try and get a grant to have those options studied. "We have many ideas, and it's hard to figure out which ones to pursue and which ones we shouldn't."

Gaudette also attended the meeting and said she agreed with Drew.

Drew said he was caught off guard by the commissioner's actions in regard to the garden and the blueberry bushes.

Recently, Commissioner David Babson (R-Ossipee) decided to plant vegetables like pumpkins, winter squash and gourds on county land.

Drew said the committee had discussed leasing out that land for gardens and then found out Babson planted there already.

Babson said he didn't know the committee was interested in the commercial kitchen. As for the garden, he said the committee didn't seem to be doing anything and the land was just sitting there.

"Because the species is called winter squash that doesn't mean you plant it Dec. 1," said Babson adding he was trying to grow some produce to make the employees happy at no cost to the county.

Drew replied that if Babson consulted the committee, the garden work could have been done bigger and better and Babson could have had some help.

Babson said he would welcome help.

As for the blueberries, the commissioners and the committee first wanted to lease the plants out but that didn't work out for lack of interest. 

The commissioners had staff weed and maintain the blueberry bushes recently.

"What we wanted to do is a save our blueberries campaign," said Drew. "I just feel like we are banging our heads up against the wall. We have a lot of things we think are recommendations, and we try to have good discussions and try to get things in order to bring to you so they look organized and well thought out, and nothing seems to be happening."

Bevard and Drew agreed that the commissioners and the committee were unaware of each others plans to deal with the blueberries after their plan to lease the blueberry bushes fell through.

Bevard said plans for dealing with things like the blueberries need to be made well in advance.

Drew said nonprofit groups might enjoy maintaining the bushes and harvesting the berries and vegetables.

"It might not make the county a lot of money but it will get people here and interested in the land," said Drew.

Bevard replied, "Bring us the facts; not ideas."

Commissioner Mark Hounsell (R-Conway) said there were "huge miscommunications" happening. He said the commissioners were waiting for the committee to bring them the proposals. He said Drew moved things forward by attending the county meeting and raising his concerns.

"I would suggest it's time for you to go back to your committee and say, 'Listen, it's time for us to become more active than just sitting here talking,'" said Hounsell.

Commissioners invited the committee to the June 27 meeting and Drew said the committee should be able to have some written proposals by then.

"What we have here is a problem of communication," said Hounsell. "So what I would suggest is that on June 27 we schedule on the agenda a report from the land use committee ... Failure to communicate has led us into a 'he said, she said,' and that's not going to get anything done."

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