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Goldner confirmed to PUC despite questions about his experience

By Paula Tracy - InDepthNH | May 6, 2021

Daniel Goldner's nomination to the PUC was approved Wednesday. (Courtesy photo)

CONCORD – The New Hampshire Executive Council confirmed Beth H. Kissinger of Hopkinton to serve as justice for the state Circuit Court and Daniel C. Goldner of Manchester to serve on the state’s Public Utilities Commission, despite some concern raised about his nomination by the Council’s lone Democrat.

The vote for Kissinger Wednesday was unanimous but Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington of Concord expressed concern about Goldner’s lack of “relevant knowledge” and experience for joining the PUC.

The PUC, according to its stated mission, ensures consumers of regulated utilities with safe and reliable service and just and reasonable rates. It has general jurisdiction and sets rates over electric, natural gas, water, and sewer utilities throughout the state and has oversight over issues of financial accountability, safety, finance, and limited jurisdiction over telecommunications.

Goldner is a mechanical engineer who worked for 32 years for Texas Instruments and as a resident of Manchester, ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for a District 8 Hillsborough seat in 2020. Incumbents Jeffrey Goley, a Democrat, and Diane Langley won the two seats.

Two weeks ago, public hearings were held for Goldner’s and Kissinger’s nominations. Warmington said in her discussions with Goldner she found he was unable to answer many of her questions and lacked the sort of knowledge of utilities and finance that the PUC job requires.

In an op-ed piece, Warmington wrote: “I specifically told Mr. Goldner that at the public hearing, I would be interested in hearing his positions about energy efficiency, distributed energy, clean transportation technology, and climate change. At the hearing, Mr. Goldner demonstrated a shocking lack of knowledge in all areas and, with respect to climate change, appeared to have no understanding of the threat it presents to our planet and our economy.”

Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, said at the meeting Wednesday he took Goldner on the road through his district and found that his constituents were satisfied with the answers Goldner gave to their questions related to energy policy.

He said it was an advantage to have an outsider from industry because Goldner would not have to recuse himself as often. He added that Goldner could learn on the job and he was approved.

Kissinger of Hopkinton graduated from Harvard Law School in 1995, served as a summer associate and research assistant for the Constitutional and criminal law expert Alan M. Dershowitz, and has been with the Preti Flaherty Litigation Group since 2012. Prior to that, she clerked for both a U.S. District Court judge in the District of New Hampshire and for William R. Johnson at the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Gov. Chris Sununu nominated Dr. Horace Henriques III of Lyme to another term on the Adult Parole Board.

Progress on I-93 Expansion

Victoria Sheehan, commissioner for the Department of Transportation, brought forth two contracts to enable the expansion of I-93 and the new proposed Exit 4A. The commissioner also gave an overview of the project’s progress as requested by Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, who has been insistent that the department is not moving fast enough on the important highway expansion to the Massachusetts state line.

There will be no more full acquisitions on the agenda for the project, Sheehan told him prior to the vote. The Council approved authorization for the Bureau of Right of Way to sell a 1.30-acre parcel of state-owned land, with improvements located at 9 Tracy Drive in Derry to Alberto Santiago and Rachel Ferreira for $303,000 plus a $1,100 administrative fee. It further authorized compensating NAI Norwood Group from the proceeds of the sale in the amount of $18,180 for real estate services.

The Council also agreed to authorize the bureau to sell a 2.04-acre parcel of state land with improvements that are located at 23 Spinnaker Drive in Derry to Cristian Jorge for $340,000 plus a $1,100 administrative fee and further to compensate Coldwell Banker Realty from the proceeds of the sale in the amount of $20,400 for real estate services.

Both were originally purchased with 90 percent federal and 10 percent highway funds.

Cog Rail Improvements

Calling it a “national jewel” Councilor Kenney asked about the revolving loan rates and fund balance related to a contract to authorize “the Bureau of Rail & Transit to enter into a loan agreement with the Mount Washington Railway Company, Mount Washington, NH, for rail replacement materials, construction of re-rail installation, care and labor to install replacement rail, in an amount not to exceed $1,228,160.”

The contract involves 100% general funds-capital. Kenney read an unattributed quote that the “project is the highest cost-benefit of any project to date.” Kenney said, “we want to make sure it keeps rolling.” The contract was passed unanimously.

Moose Plate Marketing

The Council approved a $100,000 contract with the Altos Group LLC, Bedford, for conservation license plate marketing in support of the Conservation Number License Plate and state officials brought in brochures and discussed fundraising efforts.

The contract is effective July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2023, with the option to renew for an additional two-year period.

Alton Public Boat Launch

The southern tip of the 72-square mile Lake Winnipesaukee is finally getting a public boat ramp after funding for the completion of the project was approved Wednesday.

Councilor Kenney had questions about an administrative services contract to authorize the Division of Public Works Design and Construction to enter into a contract with Alvin J. Coleman & Son Inc., Manchester, for a price not to exceed $795,890.

The Council also further authorized the amount of $42,000 for payment to the Department of Administrative Services for engineering services, bringing the total to $837,890. The public ramp will have 18 trailer parking spots and room for another three vehicles when completed.

The funding breakdown is 75 percent federal and 25 percent Statewide Public Boat Access Funds. The efforts to rehabilitate the private site have been going on for a long while the council was told. It will be operated like all other public boat ramps by the state Fish and Game Department.

Kenney asked the director if a flag pole could be placed on an island on the property, noting it is an iconic spot in New Hampshire.

Scott Mason, the new director of the department, went with Kenney to view the new ramp site and also to the New Durham Fish Hatchery where there is a capital project for water filtration.

He said he posted photos on his Facebook page of the hatchery and many asked when they could get in for hatchery tours. Mason said some hatcheries are open and most are accessible from outside.

Kenney noted the New Durham Fish Hatchery pays nothing for electricity, yet the fish hatchery in Milford pays $80,000 to $100,000 a year in electricity. He said they are considering a solar array for that site.

Sununu interjected that he thought the fish themselves should be providing the power.

“I think the fish should be like on a hamster wheel going crazy,” Sununu said to laughter noting it might be “part of the green new deal coming out of Washington.”

Mason noted that the Fish and Game Commission will be holding some upcoming meetings on the road with the first stop, the Pemi Fish and Game Club in Holderness.

This will offer the local public around the state an opportunity to attend the meeting and provide input. Usually, the commission meets in Concord.

Sununu said he thought that a “great idea to start at the Pemi.”

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