By Meghan Pierce
KEENE — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said that during his trip to the North Country this week, he visited tourist attractions, met with state park personnel and with people working on economic development in the region.
When asked about the 20th anniversary memorial of the Colebrook killing rampage that he didn’t attend on Friday and the controversial Northern Pass project, Sununu said they were both unrelated to his trip.
“We were up there in the North County as a completely separate item,” Sununu said after the Executive Council meeting in Keene on Wednesday.
The trip included visiting tourist attractions, people in the state parks up in Jericho, people in economic development, and touring some businesses in Littleton, he said.
“So it was kind of a combination of different efforts. But those are two very separate situations,” Sununu said
Sununu did restate his long-held support for Northern Pass, a proposed 192-mile high-voltage transmission line to bring Hydro-Quebec electricity from Pittsburg to Deerfield.
“I’ve been meeting with people up in the North County and hearing from them on the Northern Pass for the past two years,” Sununu said when asked whether he would meet with people about Northern Pass up north where there is a great deal of opposition.
He added that people opposed to the project need to understand he is not part of the approval process for the project.
On Monday, Dolly McPhaul of Sugar Hill criticized Sununu heading to the North Country and not meeting with North Country people about Northern Pass.
McPhaul, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, said Sununu promised her at his inaugural ball at Mount Washington Resort that he would meet with people up north about Northern Pass.
The state’s Site Evaluation Committee will decide whether to approve or deny the project, Sununu said.
“I believe in the project. But this is a decision that will be made by the Site Evaluation Committee. I think people need to understand the process before they make such statements,” Sununu said.
“People have to understand I don’t have any decision making power on the Northern Pass,” Sununu said.
“That is a completely different group, the Site Evaluation Committee, they are going to go down their pathway and make their decision,” Sununu said.
Sununu restated his position that the project will help the state economically.
“I’m very supportive of Northern Pass. I’ve heard this morning the need of bringing energy, new energy sources into the state of New Hampshire to make sure we can retain manufacturers, high energy users,” Sununu said.
On Monday, Sununu’s office sent out his agenda for Monday and Tuesday saying he was traveling with family to Berlin, Bartlett, North Conway and Sanbornville and that the trip would be closed to press.
Sununu didn’t say why he didn’t attend the Friday ceremony in Colebrook honoring the victims of Carl Drega who were killed during a shooting rampage in Colebrook in 1997.
Two of the victims were state troopers. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, spoke at the memorial Friday. The North Country was shocked on Aug. 19, 1997, when Carl Drega shot and killed State Police Troopers Les Lord and Scott Phillips, newspaper editor Dennis Joos and district court judge Vickie Bunnell.
Before being killed in the shootout, Drega also shot and wounded Fish and Game Lt. Wayne Saunders, U.S. Border Patrol Agent John Pfeifer, and State Police Troopers Jeff Caulder and Robert Haase.
Sununu did say: “We recognize obviously the 20th anniversary of the shooting. When you have shootings like that in a small state like New Hampshire people don’t forget and they shouldn’t forget. We have to remember that those folks are putting themselves, law enforcement, are putting themselves on the line every single day in the communities.”
Meghan Pierce is a veteran journalist who recently launched Monadnock Beat, a hyperlocal news website in the Keene, Peterborough area.