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Concord Golf Course Draws Outcry Ahead of Vote

Concord city councilors have pages of written letters from residents to consider before they vote on a $10.3 million bond for a new clubhouse at Beaver Meadow Golf Course.

The vote on Monday, Dec. 11 is scheduled to take place at the last meeting of the current council before six new faces and a new mayor are sworn in next month. Outside of the operating budget, the construction of a new clubhouse at the city-owned golf course would be the largest single expenditure this year.

Despite conversations about the future of Beaver Meadow over the last year, many residents feel the project is rushed due to its dramatic changes from a three-story structure to a single-story and ballooning costs.

Among the 43 pages of public comment, 19 residents wrote to city councilors in opposition to the clubhouse project, citing either its cost or the sudden timing before new members join the council. Four letters, one from a Hooksett resident, expressed their support.

For some, like Danielle Hilstro the clubhouse does not need to be added to the list of projects that will increase property tax bills – including the construction of a new middle school and talks about a new police station, she said.

“The new Beaver Meadow clubhouse proposal is a flagrant misuse of taxpayer money at a time when taxpayers are going to be hit hard with three needs that will increase property taxes,” she wrote.

Hilstro, who lives next to the golf course, said a new clubhouse was clearly something desired by the majority city councilors and Mayor Jim Bouley, but not something the community needs.

“From the get-go, this project has not been open for public discussion, rather pitched as a done deal on the dime of taxpayers,” she said.

Wanda Bowers has lived in Penacook for nearly three decades and watched her property taxes increase consistently. They’ve more than doubled in that time, she wrote.

She’s raised four children, who all went to the Merrimack Valley School District. None of them can afford to stay and live in the area.

“Beaver Meadow expansion increase would again impact my taxes considerably for a building my family will never use,” she wrote in an email to Ward 2 Councilor Brent Todd, who represents Penacook. “Please consider the constituents who voted for you and what their needs are in this economy.”

Others took concern with the recent change of the building’s design down to a 15,000-square-fool structure across a single story after a possible tenant, the New Hampshire Golf Association, backed out of the project. The three-story clubhouse was designed to be 18,000 square feet.

Still, the cost came in at $10.3 million, despite initial estimates from Deputy City Manager Brian LeBrun that ballparked the renovation at $4.5 million.

“Not only has the price more than doubled, but the building size has decreased,” wrote Robert Charron, a Penacook resident.

A few, however, supported the clubhouse construction, citing the rich history of the course and potential use that could come with a new facility.

“You aren’t just building a new clubhouse for golfers, you are building a new facility to encompass the vast array of recreational and social needs for both the people of Concord and the many visitors it plays host to,” wrote Kimberly Wheeler.

Wheeler said she remembers when the clubhouse was built in 1968. She was 11 years old at the time.

The original clubhouse was no longer functional to serve its members. The same is true today about the current state of the facility, she said.

For Marshall Irving, who has lived in Concord for 73 years and has golfed at Beaver Meadow for 61 years, there are inherent city costs covered by tax dollars that not every resident utilizes.

“I don’t swim in the pools, hike our trails, visit the Community Center, but I pay for them with my tax dollars year-over-year-over year,” he wrote.

Other residents could be open to the renovation but take issue with the timing of the decision – voters elected a new mayor, current At-Large City Councilor Byron Champlin, and six new council members last month.

“Pushing a large decision through the soon-to-be past council in order to ensure a result that the citizens may very well have been voting against, is a type of politics that I am being disappointed is being used in our city,” wrote Steven Winnett.

Ahead of the city council election, a flyer was distributed that identified candidates who supported a golf clubhouse renovation. Several of them lost.

“Holding this vote now in a lame-duck session when this appropriation was actively discussed by candidates and voters as part of (the Nov. 7) election would pull the rug out from under these voters who decided to elect candidates that reflect their values, including on this important financial issue,” wrote Gilles and Reagan Bissonnette, Ward 5 residents.

Bob Maccini, who created an online petition that met its goal of 500 signatures, urged councilors to delay the vote until January.

“As a Concord taxpayer and a cross-country skier, I’m not opposed to the improvement of the facilities at Beaver Meadow. However, a December vote by the city council on a project this expensive and controversial, to be taken just a few weeks before the new council is seated, is ill-advised,” he wrote to the council in an email.

Source : Concord Monitor