Ossipee—October 26, 2017—On Monday, October 30, Ossipee officials will hold a public information session about their proposal to purchase Camp Sokokis for $1.2 million. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. at Ossipee Town Hall.
The plan has been in the works since August, when First Selectman Rick Morgan announced that the town had signed a purchase and sales agreement with the campground’s owners, Bill and Dianne Sheehan. Morgan was tasked by the Select Board to find a property to provide recreation access to Ossipee Lake after town voters in March approved seed money for such a search.
The Sokokis property, Morgan said at the time, would continue to be managed as a campground with a reduced number of campsites to accommodate parking and other amenities required for a town park. He called on residents to help the town develop an operating plan for the property.
But the community appears to be split on the issue. Opponents have been more vocal—online, in the papers, and on lawn signs. The opposition was initially sparked by rumors that the town had declined a third party’s offer to buy the property and donate part of the shorefront and parking space to the town at no cost.
Acknowledging the offer, the town said the property purchase had to continue because an agreement had already been structured with the seller, and because the donated parking area was insufficient, an explanation some found to be lacking.
Other opponents questioned the town’s ability to manage a campground business, to which the Select Board announced last week that it would permanently close the campground. Doing so, however, eliminates the anticipated revenue from the business, and appears to violate the purchase and sales agreement.
Fewer in number, at least in public forums, proponents of the plan have focused on the fact that the town has missed out on previous opportunities to own land on the lake and may never have another chance.
Purchase proponent and former elected official Harry Merrow has echoed the Select Board’s contention that the cost to taxpayers will be minimal, ranging from a $6.50 increase for a property assessed at $50,000 to $45 for a property assessed at $300,000. Opponents counter that Merrow is looking only at the bond payments and ignoring other expenses of owning and managing the property.
Questions about the plan, how it will be paid for, and how much it is likely to cost Ossipee taxpayers will come to a head this Monday when town officials will meet with residents in an open forum at Town Hall.
According to the Carroll County Independent, it is anticipated that the Select Board will present “preliminary drawings” of the park on Monday. But it appears the operating plan for the property may be on hold until after voters decide whether to authorize the purchase.
“Currently, town officials are compiling a list of people willing to serve on a committee that will determine how to best utilize the property if the vote to purchase it passes at the town meeting Nov. 28,” the Independent reported this week.