Obvious Questions

I got the press release about Laidlaw sponsoring Berlin Youth Hockey, and I read the story in today’s daily paper. It’s good to see Laidlaw making some investment in the community; that is the sort of corporate citizen the city should hope for.
The story, however, didn’t go deep enough. Max Makaitis held up the daily at tonight’s community EFSEC committee meeting in response to questions about how Laidlaw will give back, effectively quelling any criticism of the answer they gave the committee on the subject. I don’t think the story soundly defeats all arguments.
I can’t fault anyone at the daily on that account, however, seeing as I put several unsuccessful calls into Laidlaw representatives. They no doubt had the same luck I did getting additional comments, and with deadline fast approaching that story was all they could get in there. The benefit of a daily is it gets the news out FAST; the benefit of a weekly is it gets a little deeper. And that’s what I’ll be doing in a story for next week.

The obvious questions:

  1. Was this a response to quell criticism voiced at the community EFSEC meeting two weeks ago?
  2. Was the timing planned to coincide with the committee meeting?
  3. What sort of commitment is Laidlaw making to Berlin Youth Hockey? Does this last one year, or will it be recurring?
  4. What other sorts of commitments of this type will the company make?
  5. How much does the company expect to give away in these types of arrangements?

It seems only appropriate to use the opportunity Laidlaw created to ask some of the questions members of the committee and the community want answered.
Really, it comes down to the fact that Berlin is lucky to have two papers. Many communities don’t have the resources to give these issues a second look. Their dailies, like Berlin’s, have another story to churn out. Anything more than a cursory look is a luxury.
So don’t sweat it if the daily didn’t ask the questions you wanted. And convince more of your friends to buy the weekly.
GET YOUR BERLIN REPORTER, ONLY 50 CENTS!
We don’t have newspaper boys around Berlin, figured I’d do my part.

Oh, and the other question I will ask: When will Laidlaw be applying for EFSEC evaluation? I figure I keep going to the meetings, I’d like to know when the subject I’m writing about is actually going to happen.

5 thoughts on “Obvious Questions

  1. Eric, Great to see you're trying to expand on topics. I hope you receive specific responses. I don't anticipate that you will, however. That in itself would be very telling. We'll just have to wait until next Wednesday to read the whole story. Well worth the wait. Started my subscription again last winter. Jon Edwards

  2. Nice of you to give the BDS the benefit of a doubt as to why they may have not posed those questions in their article Erik. No offense but my guess is that they have better access to Laidlaw then you do. I will be checking their paper every day to see if they have any luck getting those answers. Assuming they ask them despite how obvious they may seem.My money is on seeing something in the Reporter next Wednesday before I see anything in the DAILY Sun.

  3. Erik –I'm sorry I wasn't able to return you call yesterday, but I've been traveling. I was searching for an e-mail address for you and found this site and your questions. So here are the answers:Was this a response to quell criticism voiced at the community EFSEC meeting two weeks ago?Answer: No. We were approached by this organization and asked if we could help. After learning more about it we decided it was a good cause to support.Was the timing planned to coincide with the committee meeting?Answer: Not at allWhat sort of commitment is Laidlaw making to Berlin Youth Hockey? Does this last one year, or will it be recurring?Answer: This really hasn't been discussed, but if they ask us again next year I'm sure we'll do our best to help out.What other sorts of commitments of this type will the company make?Answer: We don't have unlimited funds but we want to support good causes and we'll try to do so in the future to the best of our ability.How much does the company expect to give away in these types of arrangements?Answer: See my answer to your last question.To answer your question about EFSEC, we expect to file our application around the end of the month. This is an estimate. It might be a little later, but we don't view a few weeks either way as significant. Our goal is to ensure we have given the committee all the information it needs to issue a permit to us.I hope this has addressed your questions. If you have additional questions please feel free to shot me an email or call me at my office on Monday.Thanks,Michael Bartoszek

  4. Erik,Another great post. I have been quiet lately (extremely busy at work) but I would like to respond to one point that you made in your entry….As you know, I am a member of The Community EFSEC Advisory Committee…which was established "to identify community issues, including the community’s environmental, economic development and social concerns, negotiate stipulations and other necessary information related to the Mill Site biomass plant EFSEC review process, which stipulations should protect and benefit the community while at the same time creating long term jobs and economic development in the community." (copied and pasted from the statement of purpose)I was at the meeting two weeks ago, and was active in the dialogue that you describe as criticism in your post…..The point that Rachael and I were trying to make was by no means a criticism, as some in the room took it, but a concern that the plant would potentially generate wealth for it's investors without committing a portion of that wealth locally. Don't get me wrong, we need jobs and tax base, but if the plant happens to turn a profit of 10 million dollars yearly after loan payments, operating costs, payroll etc…it would be nice to see the company commit to keeping a portion of that profit here locally. (I understand we will get payroll and the taxes. etc….while these are positives, they are not the wealth that I am talking about.) While Laidlaw's wages would surely be competitive, nobody locally is going to get wealthy while working at the plant.(I admit that these are theoretical numbers, I have no idea what the profit may or may not be.) Rachael used the example of multi-million dollar corporations like Walmart with lower wage jobs donating $100 to a local charity while their CEO's etc earn 25 million dollar compensation packages…..none of which stays in the local community.The $10,000 donation to Berlin Youth Hockey was definitely a nice gesture and is greatly appreciated. As an alumni of Berlin Youth Hockey, I understand that it will go a long way to making ice hockey a possibility for many area kids who may not have had the chance to participate due to the high cost. My point in the meeting was to ask, not demand, that Laidlaw consider donating a portion of these profits to a community fund or other arrangement for the betterment of the community. While some at the meeting thought that it was an un-necessary demand, I view it as a commitment to the community and a sharing of the wealth.I think its very little to ask considering they are asking us to live with an industrial generation facility in the center of town only hundreds of feet away from Main street. A significantly funded commitment to the community might go a long way towards offsetting the negatives that such a plant will bring just by its very nature. I'm sure that when people draw up business models for Biomass plants built from scratch, they do not place them in the center of residential and business areas. Its not Laidlaw's fault that their plant is located in such a sensitive spot, but it is now their responsibility to deal with it with the community in mind. Diverting a slightly smaller portion of the wealth destined for NYC and depositing it here in Berlin NH, where it was generated, would be a start.As always, keep up the good work….Ryan Landry

  5. Ryan, Thank you for contributing as a voice of our city council. Your post is well thought out, professional and genuine. Eric, Thanks for bringing journalism back to Berlin. Testimony to your accomplishments is postings from Bartoszek, and more importantly, Ryan Landry.

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