Senate Finance Approves Trams for Cannon Mountain 

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The Senate Finance Committee works Friday on its version of the state's next two-year operating budget.


CONCORD — The Senate Finance Committee Friday looked favorably on a proposal to spend $18 million to replace the tram cars and upgrade the tramway at state-owned Cannon Mountain Ski Area.

The money which would be included in the next biennium’s operating budget, is expected to come from the budget surplus anticipated at the end of this fiscal year June 30.

The current revenue surplus is $453 million.

Senate Bill 55 seeking $25 million passed the Senate earlier this year and was tabled to be considered when the Senate works on its version of the budget.

The bill had the support of Gov. Chris Sununu, who suggested smaller gondolas which could transport more people up and down the mountain, but most want to see the larger trams of the original tramway as well as when the system was updated 40 years ago.

The original tramway was built in 1938.

State officials told the committee the current tramway with its two tram cars is nearing the time it will need to be replaced as it is becoming more expensive to maintain as the system ages.

Sarah Stewart, commissioner of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, told the committee the tramway produces $2 million for the park system in the summer and fall yearly. The tramway makes Cannon the only easily accessible mountain peak over 4,000 feet in New Hampshire outside of Mount Washington.

She noted it is a tourist attraction in the summer and fall as well as during the ski season, which some other transporters would not be.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said the $18 million should be sufficient to replace the trams if the current towers can be used instead of replaced.

The committee also approved $150,000 to study ways to make Hampton Beach more accessible to the handicapped.

A pier is proposed that would allow for walking, but not docking ships.

Bradley said there has been a “lot of back and forth between folks in Hampton and the state park system.”
He said $2 million has been requested for engineering, siting and final design for a pier that would help people with disabilities access the beach, but he suggested $150,000.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said the state has spent a lot of money improving the beach area, upgrading rest rooms, a new shell and a lot of positive things to allow access to the beach.

“I’m not sure spending $150,000 is worth it,” he said.

He didn’t believe you would want cruise ships coming to the beach and there is concern about seals being killed and damage to the environment.

“It’s a bad idea with good intentions but a bad idea,” D’Allesandro said.

Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, proposed an amendment that the pier study include determining the extent of damage to wildlife and the environment.

Bradley said he wanted it clear that the pier would only be for walking and not docking ships.

His amendment reducing the money to $150,000 and adding protections for seals and the environment was approved.

The committee also discussed a proposal to once again provide state money to NH PBS. The proposal was for $1 million over the biennium.

Over a decade ago, the state stopped providing money to the public television station.

Rosenwald said there has not been any local programming since the state stopped providing some funding for the station.

D’Allesandro also said he would like to see the state contribute something to the station.

When his daughter was at UNH, she worked at the station and at that time it produced a number of New Hampshire programs, but has not since the state stopped contributing.

They should know how the money would be used, he said.

But committee chair Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, said if someone put $1 million on the table to use any way he wants, it may not be for public television.

“There are a lot of needs out there,” he said, indicating public television was not high on his list.

The committee put the request on hold.

The committee meets again Monday at 1 p.m. tentatively to review requests from the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification, the Judicial Council, the Department of Safety, the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, the Department of Environmental Services, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Administrative Services.

Tuesday the committee takes up requests from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Senate has to vote on its budget plan by June 9.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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