Executive Council approves railroad contract for Milford
KEENE — After a four-year struggle over an 18-mile stretch of state-owned railroad tracks, the Executive Council Wednesday approved a contract with the current operator, Milford-Bennington Railroad Company of Milford.
Owned by State Rep. Peter Leishman, the company has moved material for Granite State Concrete for more than 20 years, but in 2013 Department of Transportation officials recommended that Pam Am Railways or what used to be Guilford Rail System, take over the contract.
The Pam Am contract was voted down on a 3-2 council vote in May 2013, and earlier this year the department began negotiating with Leishman’s company on a new contract which the council approved Wednesday on a 4-1 vote.
Clement told the counci that in the railroad industry, relationships are important. Granite State lobbied for Milford-Bennington to have the contract.
The contract does not provide more than $10,000 to $20,000 a year for the state, but Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement said for liability and maintenance reasons having a contract is good idea.
However, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, noted the department said the company did not submit enough information to qualify for consideration two years ago, and was not the winning bidder in the latest round of bids.
“I’m concerned ‘relationships are important,’ means give the contract to our friends,” Sununu said after the meeting. “The losing bidder won. We’re giving him the contract anyway and I disagree with that.”
After the council vote, Leishman said his company has been operating over the 18-mile Hillsboro Branch for 25 years serving the one customer. He said the last four years when he did not have a contract he tried to pay the state for using the railroad tracks, but the state said it could not accept the money. He said he continued to purchase insurance and use more than 20 percent of revenues to maintain the track system, even without a contract.
Pam Am is a much larger company and put together a great package two years ago, he said. “But I think we’re good now.”
Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, asked Clement if the state “is better off with a contract or without a contract,” and Clement said with a contract for liability and financial reasons.
And he said “it’s better than having 18-wheelers beating down our roads in the (area).”
Meeting at the Cheshire Medical Center Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the council approved a $52,500 increase in its Medicaid pharmacy benefits contract with Magellan Medicaid Administration Inc. of Glen Allen VA to cover the cost of adding up to 50,000 people to the program under the NH Health Protection Program or Medicaid expansion.
The price of the contract was increased from $16.19 million to $16.24 million.
The increased cost is due to additional personnel the company will need to process orders from the new recipients.
The state pays 25 percent of the increase while the federal Medicaid program pays 75 percent.
The council approved a $3.32 million contract with Xerox State and Local Solutions, Inc. to administer the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer card program for food stamps, welfare and other social service programs.
Under the seven-year contract, the state will be able to block cash transactions at prohibited facilities such as casinos or liquor stores, and more efficiently investigate potential fraud according to information supplied to the council by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Several councilors asked if the company had lived up to its current contract with the state for the EBT cards, and Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas said the company has not had performance issues for the program.
The same company missed deadlines and has been slow to deliver on its contract to construct a new electronic Medicaid program payment and billing system.