Common Man Roadside Gets Hooksett Contract Extension on Welcome Centers

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Paula Tracy photo

Commissioner Bill Cass is pictured addressing the Executive Council Wednesday with Gov. Chris Sununu seated next to him.

Marc Plamondin was sworn in by Gov. Chris Sununu to serve Nashua as a Democrat in the House of Representatives following a special election. Paula Tracy photo


CONCORD – The Common Man Roadside Hooksett welcome centers on Interstate 93 got a five-year state contract extension on a 35-year lease Wednesday despite some concern by two Executive Councilors that they are looking too far down the road.

The extension allows the company to operate the rest areas through June 2053. Granite State Hospitality LLC, doing business as the Common Man Hooksett, Meredith, owned by Alex Ray of Holderness, and Edward J. “Rusty” McLear Jr. of Meredith, asked for the extension to get better terms on private financing for an immediate, planned expansion.

The vote at Wednesday’s meeting was 3-2 with Executive Councilors David Wheeler, R-New Boston, and Janet Stevens, R-Rye, opposing the contract extension, while both noted they believe the company is doing a good job. The item was tabled two weeks ago at the request of Wheeler.

This is the sixth year of business for the welcome centers and it is booming, according to the state Department of Transportation, which gets 10 percent of the revenue.

The state will get an estimated $400,000 more for rent a year from the expansion, Department of Transportation Commissioner Bill Cass told Gov. Chris Sununu. The expansion will not expand the liquor stores or the gas areas on each side of the highway but increase the dining areas and the very profitable and popular convenience stores, which may be the only places where beer is sold on an interstate in the country.

Cass wrote that the General Stores have seen revenue increases by 13 percent in Fiscal Year 2021 and in 2022, by 39 percent after the pandemic but even in the first year, the place was exceeding revenue projections.

Wheeler of Milford said they are doing a great job as an operator but he was concerned about what would happen if they sold the business, the fact there was no commitment for them to do the expansion which is not outlined in the contract extension request, and wondered what benefit the state would get by allowing for the extension.

Cass said the state will get the immediate benefit of improved services on the highway and more revenue.
Councilor Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, asked Cass if they would likely come back and ask for another extension in five years. Cass said it would be unlikely. Both McLear and Ray attended the meeting but did not speak.

Sununu also said it was his understanding that the original construction paid for by the company with the exception of the liquor stores, did not anticipate the demand they are experiencing.
The request bears that contention out and notes the company has spent almost $4 million to date on improvements past the original construction.

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, said not approving the request would likely be a disservice to the state and its visitors.

Marc Plamondin was sworn in by the governor to serve Nashua as a Democrat in the House of Representatives, following a special election there. He replaces Democrat Stacie Laughton who resigned.
The Executive Council approved a special election to fill a vacancy in the House for Rockingham District 1 in Northfield and Nottingham with the filing June 5-9, a primary Aug.1, and Special Election Sept. 19.

The governor honored law enforcement agencies along a 50-mile stretch of Route 125, for an initiative to concentrate on more public safety patrols.

Described as the fourth most dangerous road in the state by Stevens, she said officers have made a concerted effort to improve safety. Officers from Rochester, Plaistow, New Hampshire State Police, and others attended the commendation ceremony at the beginning of the council meeting.
There have been more arrested on charges ranging from distracted driving to DWI.


Kim MacKay, commandant of the New Hampshire Veterans Home, clarified information she gave on the wait list at the home to the council two weeks ago. Currently, she said there are 23 veterans on the wait list who have gone through the whole process and five are pending admission.

There are about 32 others in the middle of the application process. If you add it up, that is 55 on the wait list whereas two weeks ago she said 60 were on the list.

MacKay said she has vacancies in just about all departments impacting their ability to serve the veterans but there are now 125 veterans being cared for at the home and things are looking up with more people being hired.

Warmington asked what was the longest time that a veteran has been waiting, and she was told that person has been on the list since last June.
The wait list is dependent on where they are living with favor going to those who are at home rather than a medical facility where they have more support, MacKay explained.

“We are serving the most fragile situations first,” she said.

Expected state pay increases, as part of the new state budget will help the staff retention and recruitment, MacKay said.


The state is looking toward closing on a deal to sell the former Laconia State School in September, Commissioner of Administrative Services Charlie Arlinghaus told the council.
Private developers have offered $21.5 million and have an ambitious plan to develop the tract primarily into new housing. The developers have entered the second phase of their due diligence and the progress is good.
“Going swimmingly,” Arlinghaus said.


Both outgoing public servants Joe Ribsam and Joanne Ruel received thanks for their service to the state at the Executive Council table Wednesday.

Ribsam is leaving as director of the state Division for Children, Youth, and Families to accept a position as director for child welfare and juvenile justice policy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

He was lauded by DHHS Commissioner Lori Weaver for his work at the department since arriving in 2017 during a crisis period and moving the division toward stability. Sununu said Ribsam was able to make great strides for the youths of the state and thanked him for helping to improve outcomes.

Ruel is retiring on June 1 after many years as an assistant to the Executive Council.
Sununu thanked her and noted he was able to convince her once before to return from retirement and that he had her cell phone number “so don’t go too far.”


The next meeting of the state Executive Council is June 14 at 10 a.m. in the State House.

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