By Charlene Lovett
As 2019 draws to an end, we may find ourselves reflecting upon the year. For the City of Claremont, 2019 was a pivotal year. Increased funding and economic incentives brought new development, increased city valuation and a lower tax rate. Individuals received state recognition for their achievements, and private donations strengthened our community. While this is not a comprehensive list, the following are some highlights of the year:
State budget provides significant funding
As a result of the state budget negotiated by the governor and New Hampshire State Legislature in September, Claremont received more than $6.2 million in additional funding for the 2019/2020 biennium for unrestricted municipal aid and education funding. On the municipal side, this will enable the City of Claremont to address long-deferred capital improvement projects that will reduce operational costs and foster economic growth. On the school district side, the funding will provide tax relief and the resources needed to develop educational programming that addresses student needs and creates new revenue streams.
In addition, the budget included reimbursement for three completed wastewater treatment projects — favorably impacting sewer rates — and funding to address childhood lead poisoning.
New development in the city’s center
After standing vacant for decades, the former National Bank (next to City Hall) is now undergoing a complete renovation and will soon become the home of the West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts. The Claremont Dental Initiative will be expanding to include the upper level of the Farewell Block, increasing its capacity to bring needed dental services to the community. The renovation of the previously condemned Goddard Block, representing an investment of over $11 million, is almost complete and will bring 36 new apartments and updated commercial space to the historic district. The multi-year, multi-million Main Street project was officially completed providing new water and sewer infrastructure beneath a completely rebuilt road, new sidewalks, and expanded parking. Four new businesses and one new gallery opened their doors, expanding offerings in the city’s center.
Charlestown Road business expansion and Renovations
Activity along Charlestown Road, one of the city’s main arteries, continues to increase. McGee Toyota broke ground for its new state-of-the-art building, increasing capacity to serve customers in the region. Stealth Performance Products is an incoming business, and Collision Pro updated its building.
Washington Street development
Claremont’s busiest corridor, Washington Street, continues to see commercial growth. Keady Family Practice relocated and expanded its health care services. O’Reilly expanded and renovated its store. A new barber shop opened, and Kentucky Fried Chicken upgraded their restaurant.
Solar array installation
While construction will not start until 2022, the Claremont City Council granted permission in October for Northern Light Energy to install a 10MW solar array on two vacant city-owned parcels zoned for industrial use. This will be the largest of two solar arrays on city-owned property, further promoting the generation of renewable energy and creating a new revenue stream for the municipality.
Lower tax rate
The tax rate decreased nearly $2.00 from $42.08 to $40.26. This reduction is attributed to two primary factors. First, after completing the 2019 revaluation, the city’s valuation (not including utilities) increased approximately $20 million. Second, citizens voted to allocate half of the state’s additional education funding for 2019 for tax relief.
Individuals receive state recognition
Several individuals received state recognition in 2019.
Victor St. Pierre, director of the Department of Public Works, received a Meritorious Achievement Award from the New Hampshire Waterworks Association.
Tom Belaire, captain at the Claremont Fire Department, was named New Hampshire Small-School Coach of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches.
The Claremont community is strengthened by a network of people, businesses and organizations willing to provide resources when needed. A donation of $20,000 and $15,000 from the Helen Cormier Estate and Mascoma Bank Foundation respectively enabled the city to install air conditioning at the Fiske Free Library.
For the third year in a row, McGee Toyota donated $8,000 towards the city’s Fourth of July fireworks display. Ford of Claremont donated a 2020 Ford Interceptor, valued at $38,000, to the Claremont Police Department.
People throughout the community participated in multiple fundraisers in support of Nymen and his family, a local boy who needed and eventually received a kidney transplant.
As we enter the New Year, it is a much different landscape than when we began 2019. Vacated buildings are being transformed, offering new housing and economic opportunities. Businesses are expanding their operations. Claremont’s valuation is higher and the tax rate lower. Citizens, businesses and organizations are investing in Claremont, and it is that investment that brings opportunity and vibrancy. Continuing this momentum will be the focus of 2020.
Charlene Lovett is the mayor of Claremont and a 22-year Army veteran. She welcomes your feedback. Please email questions, comments or concerns to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.