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Regional Commission Funds Millions in North Country

Published Friday Feb 8, 2019

Author Judi Currie

Taproot Farm will expand the Root Seller and offer classes.

Technology infrastructure, food insecurity, and redevelopment are among the issues being tackled by grant funding through the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC). In the 2018 round of grant funding, 15 projects in NH were awarded nearly $3 million, with 22 percent funding infrastructure.

Created by the U.S. Congress in 2008, NBRC is a federal-state partnership that provides federal grants to employment-generating projects that help reduce poverty, unemployment, and outmigration in 36 northern counties across NH, Maine, Vermont and New York. In NH, Carroll, Coos, Grafton and Sullivan counties are eligible.

In December, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH-02) secured provisions in the final 2018 Farm Bill to expand the reach of NBRC to Cheshire and Belknap counties. As of press time, the legislation won approval from the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and was headed to the president.

As for the 2018 funding, the town of Bristol was awarded $137,157 to build a 3-mile fiber optic cable and high-speed internet network. Town Administrator Nicholas Coates says the town’s greatest strength—its geographic location—is also a weakness. “We have the mountains and valleys, Sugar Hill, and the state forest, all of which block a lot of the cell signals, so we have patchy service,” he says. “We have been advocating that we are a community worth investing in. We hope to get a cell tower and microcell towers to get multiple carriers in town.”

He says the town hopes to make the fiber line the centerpiece of an economic development corridor. “We have an award-winning water and sewer system that we are looking to extend from downtown to Newfound Lake. It is a $30- to $40-million project, and the USDA is very interested in funding,” he says. The corridor would run down NH Route 3A, which is already scheduled for upgrades in the  NH Department of Transportation’s 10-year plan for 2027.

In Lancaster, Taproot Farm & Environmental Education Center was awarded $156,260 to expand the Root Seller, a local food store that supports 88 local agricultural producers and artisan crafters. Executive Director Melissa Grella says the Root Seller “helps expand the selling season beyond the summer farmers markets. With the expansion, we will have storage for our farmers, especially meat. If they run out, we can restock, and we can do the same for the vegetable farmers.”

The project includes a kitchen, which Grella says can be used for community education. “Many people don’t know how to prepare dishes with the items available from our farmers markets.”

The kitchen will also be home to NH Gleans North County, an organization that partners with farmers to collect extra food for soup kitchens, food pantries and senior centers. “Our Gleans coordinator found seniors had a hard time cutting up vegetables, so [with the kitchen] we can prep them. We also need space to do some pre-washing before food goes to certain organizations,” Grella says.

Other 2018 Northern Border Regional Commission Awards

Carroll County
• $200,000 to Mt. Washington Valley Trails/Town of Conway for a 2.9-mile path through North Conway Village for nonmotorized off-road transportation/recreation.

• $250,000 to G.A.L.A Community Center in Ossipee for improvements to a vacant building to establish a makerspace and an incubator.

• $310,000 to Lakes Region Community Developers for road, water and sewer developed for the building of 20 homes for moderate-income families in Wolfeboro.

Coos County
• $250,000 to Coos County Family Health Services for expanded clinical space for behavioral health, substance abuse treatment and more.

• $250,000 to Coos Economic Development Corporation for refurbishment of four prominent buildings around King Square area.

• $250,000 to Weeks Medical Center in Lancaster to build a patient care center with a biomass boiler, reducing operational costs.

Grafton County
• $68,340 to The Bridge House in Plymouth for six units of affordable housing that improves infrastructure and energy efficiencies.

• $119,500 to Littleton Industrial Development Corporation to develop 42 acres of land as an industrial park.

• $135,398 to Enfield for a community gathering space and enhanced recreation opportunities.
• $154,276 to Mascoma Community Healthcare for equipment to expand an existing health center, adding nine jobs.

• $250,000 to Dartmouth Regional Technology Center for a laboratory-grade air handling system for the business incubator.

Multiple Counties
• $95,550 to White Mountain Science for a new region-wide high school STEM workforce training program in a mobile outreach lab (Coos and Grafton counties).

• $240,220 to White Mountains Community College for training to address an industry workforce shortage (Coos, Grafton and Carroll counties).

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