Tourists acting like sailors on shore leave are straining town services in Conway, New Hampshire, the town manager said Thursday in seeking federal assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tom Holmes was among several municipal, county and state officials who joined U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas for an online discussion about the next round of virus relief aid being debated in Congress. He said the influx of summer visitors to his town has led to an increase in everything from road rage incidents to dangerous fires set by people camping in off-limits areas. And the town has doubled its spending on trash collection and cleaning at recreational areas, he said.
"We’re seeing that the people visiting us right now are a little more unruly than they were in the past," he said. "Being a Navy veteran, I think I know the reason. It’s as if they were out at sea for a long time, and all of sudden they’re in port and letting off steam. It’s created some local fear, and anger."
While the state has passed on some of its initial $1.25 billion in funding to communities, no New Hampshire town, city or county got money directly from the federal government because their populations fall below the threshold for such help. Pappas backs a House measure that would provide $1.5 billion for New Hampshire towns, cities and counties.
"Anyone who’s ever had to balance a budget knows that with less money coming in and more money going out, that doesn’t create a sustainable picture for state and local government," he said. "And that’s why Congress has to act."
"When you’re in a situation like this and an unprecedented pandemic occurs, we need to react fast. We need to be able to turn on a dime, and we’re going to need a lot of dimes to deal with this," Holmes said. "If we were allowed the direct funds, we’d have the flexibility — us here in the trenches — to put them where they’re needed."