Published DateLACONIA — Today's scheduled public hearing called by the Belknap County Convention to consider a request for a supplemental appropriation from the Belknap County Commission is the latest casualty of the frayed relations between the two.
Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, yesterday cancelled the meeting after consulting with Reps Bob Greemore (R-Meredith), the vice-chair, and Jane Cormier (R-Alton), the clerk.
Her decision followed an exchange of e-mails with County Administrator Debra Shackett, who Worsman claimed had failed to provide the convention with the information it requested in sufficient time to prepare for the meeting.
Last month the commission advised the convention that it would request $200,000 to increase the capacity of the nursing home to provide rehabilitative services to limited numbers of Medicare patients. Matt Logue, the director of the nursing home, explained that since Medicare reimburses occupational, speech and physical therapy as well as pharmaceutical, testing and X-rays at 14-percent above costs, the program is projected to generate $400,000 in annual revenue.
The convention voted to schedule a public hearing and asked Logue to prepare a formal written proposal. Subsequently, Worsman, along with Rep. Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont), posed a series of questions to the county administrator. Shackett said yesterday that she sent Worsman a spread sheet listing the accounts affected by the program along with a PowerPoint presentation addressing some, but not all, the questions. She said that she did not include answers to all the questions in the PowerPoint because Logue was not available last week, but assured Worsman that "all of the questions will be addressed at the meeting," adding "that way the public will also be informed. "
Worsman replied that "while we appreciate the bit of information we have received, there is much more that is necessary for the delegation to consider." She stressed that members of the convention must have an opportunity to review the information prior to the meeting.
Commissioner John Thomas (R-Belmont) said that the commission intended to ensure that the process of considering the request for a supplemental appropriation was a public process by explaining the plan and answering the questions with a presentation. He said that throughout the budget process members of convention reached decisions in private meetings. "They have to have a public hearing," he said. Worsman, he continued, "didn't want a public process, but they are not going to have a private meeting."
Worsman acknowledged yesterday that while she has spoken with members of the convention, both Republicans and Democrats, but insisted "there have been no private or secret meetings." She said there have been no Republican causcuses since December, when she invited Republican members to meet at the Laconia Public Library.
"No decisions have been taken in private," she vowed.
Explaining her decision to cancel the meeting, Worsman repeated that the county administration failed to provide the convention with the information it requested in sufficient time to prepare themselves to consider the request for a supplemental appropriation. She said that members had a right to seek information and to expect the administration to provide it so they could make informed, responsible decisions.
Worsman has not yet rescheduled the meeting.