Ossipee Selectmen Address Concerns Surrounding Camp Sokokis Proposal

Ossipee—September 28, 2017—At one time, there were four generations of the same one family spending summers at Camp Sokokis. Then there are others who have returned to their seasonal sites for a few years or for decades, and all, related by blood or not, have become part of the campground family.

They pay lot rent and property taxes. They, like so many others along the lake who call Ossipee their second home, contribute to community causes and help bolster the local economy. The one thing they do not have is a vote, and oftentimes barely a voice.

The half-century-old Camp Sokokis was built and has been continuously run by Dianne Sheehan’s family, but now is the time for her and husband Bill to retire from the year-round work of running a campground. Enter Town of Ossipee and $1.2 million.

Ossipee Select Board Chairman Richard Morgan said on Sept. 25 that he was appointed by his fellow board members to negotiate the purchase of the campground and its 200-foot beach. He and Town Administrator Ellen White met with the Sheehans to do just that.

According to Bill, the campground was never officially put on the real estate market. But after the sale of other campgrounds in the area, including Westward Shores and Ossipee Lake Camping Area in Effingham, town officials approached them asking that they consider a sale to the town should they decide to sell as well.

Once negotiations were underway between the town and the Sheehans, a gentleman whose identity was not revealed by Bill came forward, offering to buy the campground and donate 90-feet of beach to the town. That information was presented to Morgan, who countered that negotiations with the town had already reached agreement, encouraging the Sheehans to keep their promise of selling to the town.

Camp Sokokis tenants and others have brought forward many concerns since the news broke that the town plans to buy the campground, operate a public beach and take over as landlord. Several people have taken to the Ossipee Lake Alliance Web site (www.ossipeelake. org) to discuss their concerns. The misgivings expressed include the future costs such as maintenance and staffing that Ossipee taxpayers will have to bear to operate a town beach. Others questioned why the town would give up the $25,000 in annual property taxes paid by the campground and take it off the tax rolls.

The campground is accessible by the now-private Gretchen Road off Route 16B and the town-owned Hodsdon Shore Road off Route 25, leaving some to question if the traffic impact and potential impact to surrounding property owners has been studied.

Morgan reiterated on Sept. 25 that it is likely 15 of the 45 seasonal campsites will be eliminated if the town purchases the campground to make way for a public parking lot.

“I understand whole-heartedly why the folks in Camp Sokokis don’t want this. What I am trying to weigh is your feelings, quite frankly, versus 4,500 other residents who don’t have a place to put a foot in Ossipee Lake,” Morgan told longtime Sokokis camper Carole Lyons, who had a list of questions for selectmen during their meeting Sept. 25.

He suggested Lyons and others move to another campground.

Lyons continued voicing her concerns, asking whether or not Ward’s Boat Shop (where Morgan is employed) will gain something from the town buying the campground. Morgan laughed off the insinuation that he stood to profit from the arrangement, and expressed resentment at what he called a “preposterous” attack on his character.

Selectman Robert Freeman suggested that any such accusations were groundless, and concocted by individuals who are upset that they stand to lose their seasonal campsites at Camp Sokokis if voters approve the purchase of the land.

Morgan said the town is in “phenomenal” financial shape with a $1.47 million surplus rainy-day fund for emergencies. There are towns around Ossipee that are “swimming in debt,” he said, while Ossipee has “zero.” The cost of bonding the purchase of the campground, Morgan said, will be minimal—about the cost of a cheese pizza.

Lyons commented that even the cost of a pizza may be a lot to some taxpayers.

On Sept. 26, paperwork was filed in Carroll County Superior Court asking a judge to grant the selectmen permission to hold a special town meeting in November to authorize selectmen to purchase the campground. If approved, there will be at least one public hearing prior to the special town meeting.

When asked to consider holding at least one of the hearings on a weekend so non-residents can attend and hear the plan or voice their concerns, Morgan dismissed that idea, stating that those who are interested but unable to attend in person can watch the hearing after-the-fact on www. governmentoversite. com. He also voiced his hope that an organization like Ossipee Lake Alliance would throw their support behind the development of a public beach on Ossipee Lake.

Ossipee Selectmen Address Concerns Surrounding Camp Sokokis Proposal

6 thoughts on “Ossipee Selectmen Address Concerns Surrounding Camp Sokokis Proposal

  • October 3, 2017 at 10:16 am
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    Towns do not need to nor should they ever consider purchasing property with rentals along with typical issue surrounding such properties. We are not in business to make money. Suggesting “feeling” as a primer to make such a troublesome enterprise is asking for a plethora of problems.
    A better plan would be to have a private sale of this property and public access a contingency for 100 years.
    Imagine the need for another town department, added costs, all of its duties, and legal issues. Don’t go there.
    Steve Foley

  • October 3, 2017 at 10:17 am
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    Running a campground is not an easy job. Who will be the campground manager?
    Pay the bills?, Collect the rent?, Do the maintenance? Clean toilets? Haul the trash? Arrange for insurance? When the water system or septic system fails does the town pay for new systems? Who answers a late night call to respond to a late night complaint of a loud out of control party? Yes there are 24 hour a day responsibilities. The existing campers will miss the Sheehan’s attention. What happens if existing campers leave because they don’t want to share the space with the public and the town doesn’t have their rent to pay the bond and the taxpayer is left on the hook?
    Payroll and all the other campground bills along with the loss of the campground taxes will leave a large burden for the town taxpayers.

  • October 3, 2017 at 7:40 pm
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    I agree with the above comments and questions…and I have emailed the town many of my own questions/concerns. Can Morgan please provide us with a financial breakdown on the numbers?? I really want to see how this is only going to cost the town the equivalent of a pizza! Let’s see the numbers so we can start making an educated decision.

  • October 4, 2017 at 5:48 am
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    I agree with Steve and Ted,as do many through out the town…..
    So….the town is flush with cash as stated (1.47 million)….where did this money come from?
    Yea, you guessed it. The waterfront tax payers and seasonal campers….
    Maybe their input would be important.
    I would like to know how many towns own and operate campgrounds in NH.
    Having a family member who was an owner/operater for a few years,its 24/7 pretty much year round.
    This is why turn over of these businesses is up..
    With all new reulations from the state and feds,it seems like its not a sound financial investment.

  • October 5, 2017 at 9:42 pm
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    Right on Scott!!!….those of us living on the lake have been unfairly subsidizing this town for years. With no voice in how the money is spent I might add. When will people learn that whenever the government (local, state or federal) steps in to “help out” you can bet that it will be the taxpayers that pay the price. Former town selectman have been sticking it to the lakefront owners for years. I think enough is enough….no more frivolous spending at the taxpayers expense.

  • October 9, 2017 at 1:10 pm
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    So the court will render the decision on this week I truly hope they take in to consideration that special town meetings are for emergency expenditure of funds. The purchase of a beach is hardly an emergency and should be considered in March when the whole town is present and not down south to get away from the cold weather of New Hampshire.

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