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Berlin’s mayor-elect Robert Cone says Burgess biomass plant is here to stay

Robert Cone is mayor-elect for the city of Berlin, New Hampshire.
photo courtesy of Robert Cone
Robert Cone is mayor-elect for the city of Berlin, New Hampshire.

Berlin will have a new mayor for the first time in 14 years. Mayor-elect Robert Cone has served in the National Guard and works at the federal prison in Berlin, where he’s been part of union leadership.

In an interview with NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley, Cone said he’s confident Berlin’s Burgess biomass plant will stay in business. The plant’s future has been in question since Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed future subsidies earlier this year.

“They're definitely a committed member of our community, and they've made the positive changes to stay,” Cone said.

Below is a transcript of the conversation.


Transcript

What are your top priorities when you step into office as mayor in January?

One, [I] definitely want to grow business in the city of Berlin. So we're definitely pushing that, you know, looking for new entrepreneurs that want to come to the area, maybe people that want to relocate their business. We just want them to know that Berlin is a great place for you to have your business. So, we're looking to definitely grow in that area for sure.

And what do you see as some of the issues that are really facing Berlin right now?

Some of the issues that are really facing Berlin right now is, you know, our property taxes are pretty high. I mean, our rate per $1,000 is not crazy, but the evaluations of the homes and what they've done is increase the property tax amount that you're paying. And that's really causing a big weight on the residents of Berlin. So that's going to be something that we've got to figure out how to address. And then definitely by bringing businesses in and adding them to the role is going to help with that to a point.

I know that in recent years, Berlin has, you know, worked with ATV [riders] and snowmobilers to try to bring that kind of tourism up to the area. Do you see that you could be expanding that?

Yeah, I mean, that could definitely be expanding. I mean, they're definitely coming up through here and riding on the trails and utilizing what we have to offer in that aspect. But the city of Berlin right now currently doesn't really offer much to them than that. You know what I mean? Our half empty main street, no real big restaurants, no hotels or inns in Berlin. So they're just kind of coming through here. We need to find a way to capitalize on that and get them to make this definitely a tourist destination.

Speaking of business, the future of the Burgess biomass plant is in question after Gov. Sununu vetoed future subsidies for the plant. How is that going to impact the city if the plant ends up closing? 

Well, actually, I had a meeting with Burgess biomass, with Sarah Boone and another gentleman, but the name's eluding me right now. I'll tell you what, Burgess biomass is here to stay. They've made some changes. They have some positive investments coming up real soon that I really can't divulge into right now, unfortunately. But the biomass is an anchor to our community. I mean, they cover 16% of our tax base. You know, they're our biggest user in water and sewer. So they're definitely a committed member of our community, and they've made the positive changes to stay.

So you're feeling confident that Burgess will stay in business?

Yes, I'm very confident and I look forward to continue working with them in the future that the Burgess biomass will stay. Yes.

Is there anything else you think I should be asking you?

No, I mean, other than I want to say, you know, the city of Berlin is a really special place. You know, the people up here are caring, considerate. In the city of Berlin, they do lead from the front when it comes to working together and coming together as a city. It's really special to kind of see the type of people that we have up here and how willing they are to work together for the greater good to make Berlin a place on the map.

Jackie Harris is the Morning Edition Producer at NHPR. She first joined NHPR in 2021 as the Morning Edition Fellow.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.

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