Jail committee talks of selling real need for action

LACONIA — ''We need a conversation about this project. We have to have a dialogue. Last year we never got past the numbers,'' Belknap County Jail Planning Committee Chairman and Belknap County Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) told members of the committee as they discussed a proposal last night to seek a $3.5 million bond issue from the County Convention next year for temporary steps to deal with crowding issues at the county jail.
The bond issue would include a 48-bed temporary housing unit, which would cost $1,584,681 for a three-year contract; $500,000 for a schematic design for a new facility and $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail.
Calling the problems at the jail ''massive and mounting,'' Philpot said that committee members and the commission will be working to develop a persuasive case for the necessity of taking temporary measures to deal with overcrowding and the lack of program space at the current facility.
Alida Millham of Gilford, a committee member and the former chairman of the Belknap County Convention, said that the county will need the temporary housing in the near future no matter what happens with the jail committee's plan to ultimately build a new facility.
''This will have to happen no matter where you go,'' said Millham.
Miller Lovett, former Meredith selectmen and a member of the committee, said ''I know what the political situation is'' and asked if the any of the $3.5 million would be used as part of a future solution.
Philpot said that it would all go to a temporary solution and that down the road there would need to be a plan for an adequate facility.
Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) asked if the currently proposed county budget for 2014 includes funds for staffing a temporary facility and was told that it did not.
When he and others questioned Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward on whether Ward had adequate staff to run an additional, temporary facility and Ward said that he did not although some use might be made of the facility with current staffing levels.
Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett showed figures on the impact of a $3.5 million bond issues, which she said would raise the average county tax rate from $1.39 to $1.48 and add $28.84 to the average annual tax bill on a $300,000 home.