County leaders thumbed their noses at GOP voices, and it cost taxpayers $2M

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County Commissioners and County Administration were warned repeatedly that $170-200 million for a new nursing home was excessive and would not get bonding. (Courtesy rendering)
Now you see it, now you don't
At the onset of the new county nursing home proposal, we were optimistically told we could get as much as $50 million in federal dollars from the first round of State of New Hampshire Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR) awards.
Then it was $25 million. Then, the first round of awards came and went and nothing for our County.
In the second round of GOFERR awards, the County was awarded a forgivable loan of $15.3 million dollars. But, on March 29, 2024 the County was notified their $15.3 million forgivable loan was canceled. GONE!
Were Strafford County residents told this? NO, but don't feel alone, the County Delegation was kept in the dark too, at least some of us. (Document of GOFERR notice provided.)
Why was the loan canceled? According to the notice from GOFERR, the two big reasons were basically as follows:
1 The award was expressly tied to the specific project approved in the county's application to the program that the County is no longer pursuing.
The specific project County Administration pursued was discovered to have wetlands issues ($600,000 in fines and fees) and a multi-year-permit-process-delay so it was stopped. Bad planning at the least!
2. The same application noted "future costs included $100 million to be obligated by Dec. 31, 2023, with a total expenditure of $170 million by Dec. 31, 2026, the deadline to spend the GOFERR funds. There is no
indication that the project will be moving forward in the near future, therefore GOFERR determines that the County will be unable to obligate the funds...
The County Commissioners and County Administration were warned repeatedly that $170-200 million for a new nursing home was excessive and would not get bonding. We asked for them to look at all options and to come up with something less costly and less extravagant. (Recently finding that, an Architect proposed back in 2022, one could be built for $51 million)
Instead, the County wasted two years pursuing two, similar in costs "Taj Mahal" nursing home projects.
So where are we? To recap, $2 million borrowed and spent in two years on two failed plans. (I believe we were told the $2 million was from several different sources ie State money, Bonded money, Cash flow etc. In the end a Bond Anticipation Note - BAN - was taken out in December of 2023 for $6,261,184 at 4,29% with interest cost of $267,112.54 to repay wherever County money was used to cover the checks written to pay two years of nursing home plan expenses. BAN Information from Commissioners Meeting
Minutes December 7, 2023- Item 1.)
$15.3 million lost, in an approved - now canceled - forgivable loan. We are out $17 million +- and back at ground zero.
If only the powers that be in the County had heeded our warnings seriously. That the necessary 2/3 required vote for bonding approval would not happen with what was being proposed. But, the Democrats outnumbering us twenty four to fourteen, did what they have done for the last 30 plus years, go with 'their way or the highway' approach, because usually it only takes a majority approval for appropriations/spending.
So now Strafford County taxpayers are on the hook to pay back $2 million plus interest. The $15.3 million we had but slipped through our hands due to an application breech of contract. GONE!
As citizens of Stratford County, don't we deserve a finding of fact investigation, which RSA 24:17 investigations allows, to get to the bottom of what happened and why, so the same expensive mistakes won't be made in the future? The letter of cancellation from GOFERR is below.
Cliff Newton is a state rep from District 6 and lifetime Rochester resident.
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