Town Manager Don Jutton announced Wednesday he has been notified that Hitchiner Manufacturing Co. is laying off 32 employees.

At the start of Wednesday & #039;s regular select board meeting, Jutton reported he had been told by a top company official that the employees losing their jobs include 19 so-called temporary helpers.

Despite the layoffs, Jutton said he was told the company is thriving and in fact has plans to invest more money in its operations.

The announcement from the town & #039;s chief executive officer came amid days of unsubstantiated reports that the layoffs were occurring. Jutton made the disclosure after receiving what he said were inquiries from area media outlets.

Company officials could not be reached for comment.

The news of the layoffs comes in the wake of the company having been fined $525,000 by the U.S. what federal officials said was its failure to treat its waste water properly.

The company runs two Littleton facilities that finish metal castings for industrial equipment.

In other business: Tax Collector and Deputy Health Officer Joe Wiggett updated selectmen on the biological warfare Health Alert Network he is helping install in the town & #039;s fire station. He said the equipment, which will be made up of computers, fax machines and projectors, will be ready in eight to 10 weeks. The fire station was the most suitable location for the network -- which will alert local emergency and public health officials of bioterrorism threats -- because it is staffed 24 hours a day, he said.

Tony Ilacqua, who runs the town & #039;s solid waste department, said federal law has decreed old propane tanks unusable starting April 1. New propane tanks are being issued that have a valve in them preventing the tank from filling up to the top. Propane gas expands, he explained, so it is important the tanks remain partly empty. He said gas companies should take back the old tanks if people buy new ones, but he is not sure they will. In the case they do not, he said the town may have to find some way of getting rid of the old tanks safely.

Ilacqua also unveiled initial plans for the town & #039;s 10th Earth Day festival, which will occur May 4-5.

"We have not had a two-day environmental fair ever," said Ilacqua.

The 10th anniversary of the fair, high fuel prices and the continuing need to educate people about conservation prompted him to organize a large event, he said.

He will send out "North Country Environmental Fair" invitations to schools all through the North Country. The first day of the event will be dedicated to students in Grades 3 to 8, Ilacqua said. The public is encouraged to come May 5.

Ilacqua plans on asking state and federal environmental groups to set up informational booths and create interactive displays for children and adults. Local businesses selling environmentally-sound products will also be invited.

He asked that any business that does not receive an invitation, but thinks it qualifies to participate, should contact him at the recycling center, 603-444-1447.

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