The Power of Article 5.

 

Sometime in 2004 I heard of a project that I thought would be positive towards creating economic development and jobs in northern New Hampshire.

This project was called the Tri-Town Industrial Park located on some largely unused agricultural land right off the Brook Road in Bethlehem, N.H. This project as stated was a three town effort between Bethlehem, Littleton and Lisbon to create this industrial park. As I understood it the three towns, after voting for approval at three separate town meetings would submit a federal grant application that would be used by the developer and the owner of the real estate which was the Franconia based Peabody & Smith Realty Company; to build the major infrastructure requirements of the park such as: road, electricity, lighting, etc.

In exchange for the grant application and the funds received to build this new industrial park the Peabody & Smith Realty Company would turn over 12 lots in the park to the three towns and then they would either sell or develop 16 lots in the park on their own.  I’m a supporter of creating economic development and jobs wherever possible so when I first heard of this project my initial reaction was to support it. When town meeting came around I read through the warrant articles and as I recall there were two warrant articles relative to the Tri-Town Industrial Park. The first was to authorize its creation and the second was to authorize $5000.00 to be given to the developer for “planning purposes for the Tri- Town Industrial Park.” The wording might not have been exactly this, but it was $5000.00 to be given to Peabody & Smith Realty Company. I understand similar warrant articles appeared in both Littleton and Lisbon.

By now my brain clicks on: something is wrong here. It was.

NH State Constitution [Art.] 5.[Power to Make Laws, Elect Officers, Define Their Powers and Duties, Impose Fines and Assess Taxes; Prohibited from Authorizing Towns to Aid Certain Corporations.]

“; provided that the general court shall not authorize any town to loan or give its money or credit directly or indirectly for the benefit of any corporation having for its object a dividend of profits or in any way aid the same by taking its stocks or bonds.”

Towns are not authorized to give their money to a private for profit corporation.

So my question to the Chairman of the Bethlehem Selectboard, Steve Huntington at the budget hearing was why the town was proposing a warrant article for $5000.00 when the NH State Constitution forbids it. "Well there are some high powered lawyers working on this." Huntington said. And with this he simply moved on to the next question which was completely unrelated to the Tri-Town Industrial Park. Acting as if my question really had no basis. I left the meeting wondering if the NH State Constitution is even law anymore or if the high powered lawyers, judges and administrative rulemakers  have reduced it to toilet paper.

At this point I decided to contact the Grafton County Attorney, Ricardo St. Hillare.

To Be Continued...