BWD will continue to get money from Sunday River
Bethel selectmen last week approved a memorandum of understanding with the Bethel Water District to provide the town access to the Bingham Forest, which the town acquired from the BWD in 2011.
The 2,300-acre parcel, located in Newry, had served as the watershed for the Bethel Water District, until a disastrous storm in 2007 prompted the BWD to drill wells in a new location.
The BWD still owns property adjacent to the Bingham parcel and that location allows the best access.
The Bethel Forest Authority, which now oversees the Bingham land, recommended the MOU, which will eventually lead to an easement to allow the public to access both the BWD and Bingham lands for recreational trail use.
Town Manager Jim Doar noted that the BWD will continue to collect lease funds of $6,000 to $7,000 a year from Sunday River Ski Resort for 20 acres of land at the top of the Bingham parcel.
Doar said he disagreed with the arrangement.
“My contention is they shouldn’t collect rent on property they no longer own. It’s the town of Bethel’s property now. It’s like selling your house but continuing to collect the rent.”
Selectman Don Bennett said the arrangement could be viewed as a tradeoff for the land access rights.
Doar acknowledged the easement would have value, and he said the idea would be applicable in the case of a private entity.
But, he said, the BWD is a public entity.“Taxpayers pay a third of the Water District’s budget. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to to think we should be able to use public land.”
Selectman Peter Southam said, however, that the agreement is worthwhile “because it moves us ahead in terms of recreational development on the whole thing. It’s hard to get on the Bingham Forest land without going through the water district.”
Selectmen also approved a prospectus for timber cutting on the Bingham parcel that was recommended by the BFA.
Forester Sherm Small presented it and said the bid deadline would be Aug. 26 and the award by selectmen would happen in September, The cutting - part of a five-year plan - would start when the ground freezes.
Bethel will realize income from the harvest after the cost of rebuilding old logging roads is paid.
In other business at last week’s selectmen’s meeting, the board approved the FY’14 airport budget with projected expenditures of $152,421 and revenue of $160,350 (mostly from fuel sales).
The board also ratified the Fire Department’s election of the following officers: Chief Mike Jodrey; Asst. Chief Jim Young; Capt. Shannon Sumner; First Lt. Jeff Angevine; Second Lt. Andy Whitney; and Sec./Treasurer Tom Gibbs.
Mike Broderick was appointed to the Bethel Conservation Commission.