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State law prohibits County Convention from holding meetings when legislature is in session

LACONIA — A law which prevents county conventions from holding meetings in their home communities on days in which the state legislature is in session could impact a number of upcoming budget review meetings planned by the Belknap County Convention for next month.
''They can't meet here on days in which they meet in Concord,'' County Administrator Debra Shackett told Belknap County Commissioners Wednesday morning. She said that effectively limits the convention to Monday and Friday meetings when the legislature is in session.
Shackett said commissioners had been asked to seek a legal opinion from Attorney Paul Fitzgerald over the statute and he had ruled that there were no exceptions which would permit meetings to be held and that he would put his opinion on writing for the convention.
Fitzgerald was also asked to rule by Convention Chairperson Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) on whether the same 10-day notice period on public meetings that applies to the convention as a whole also applies to subcommittees. Shackett said that he had ruled that the same notice period applies.
The County Convention, which is made up of all the members of the state legislature from Belknap County, controls the appropriations for county government functions.
The convention is in the midst of its review of the 2014 budget proposed by the commissioners and is scheduled to hold a series of four meetings as a committee of the whole, including ones on Wednesday, February 5 and Tuesday, February 11, both of which may need to be rescheduled.
''Hopefully it can be changed,'' Shackett said of the restrictions on meeting dates, saying that it would be difficult for the public and county staff to participate if the convention held meetings in Concord on those days.
In other action the commissioners agreed to award a contract for replacement of the 28-year-old pneumatic control system in the newest part of the Belknap County Jail to Pro Controls of Bow for $56,350. Facilities manager Dustin Muzzey recommended the firm over Control Technologies of Manchester, which had submitted a bid of $58,980. The system is being replaced due to age and condition which make it difficult to regulate temperature and air quality within the facility.
The firm will remove and replace all of the pneumatic control devices and tubing in the 1986 jail addition and install a web enabled controller and replace all pneumatic dampers, control valves and valve actuators with electronic modulating actuators.
The commission approved County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen's request to hire Adam Woods as a new Assistant County Attorney. Woods currently works as a part-time prosecutor in the Cheshire County Attorney's Office and lives in Concord.
They also approved a grant from the New Hampshire Department of Justice for a grant under the Violence Against Women Act for the Belknap County Attorney's Office which will continue to devote a three-quarter time prosecutor to cases of violence against women.
Deputy Attorney Carley Ahern will serve in that position with three quarters of her $73,398 annual pay ($55,049) paid for that position. The $30,000 in federal funds will be matched by $29,639 in local funds, which include pay and benefits.
Shackett also reported to commissioners that the the attorney representing the commission in its dispute over budget authority with the County Convention, which authorized legal action against the commission, has had contact with the attorney representing the convention to inquire if legal action was pending.
''Attorney Horan told him that he hasn't had any contact with the Convention Chairperson Rep. Worsman in over a month,'' Shackett said.
That prompted Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) to observe ''in other words they still have no idea what they're doing.''

 
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