Report of layoff at nursing home turned out to be premature

LACONIA — Lower than projected health insurance costs and the retirement of the human resources director have freed funds in the 2014 Belknap County budget, enabling the the county commissioners to restore one of three positions they eliminated to cope with spending cuts adopted by the County Convention.

County Administrator Debra Shackett said yesterday that the increase in health insurance premiums, originally projected to 13.4-percent, will be 6.2-percent and with the retirement of Norm O'Neil the county will be spared a significant share of his annual salary of $96,634.

Just days after the convention adopted the budget, the commission announced that one full-time position and two part-time positions at the nursing home would be be eliminated. With the unforeseen funds, the full-time position, held by Deb White, who has worked at the nursing home for the past 39 years, was restored less than a week before what would have been her last day on the job.

Shackett said that the two part-time positions will not be restored, but added "I don't believe that there will be any more lay-offs."

Shackett said that the search for a successor to O'Neil will get underway later in the year with the intention of filling the position before the 2015 budget is prepared. In the meantime, Shackett said that she, together with Finance Director Glen Waring and Deb Laflamme of the Human Resources Department, will share and shoulder O'Neil's responsibilities.

These include negotiations with three collective bargaining units. The State Employees' Association (SEA) represents corrections officers, with whom talks are near conclusion, and employees of the Sheriff's Department, with whom negotiations are at a standstill. Shackett said that contract talks with the State Employees' Association (SEA) representing corrections officers are near conclusion, but negotiations with employees of the Sheriff's Department are a standstill. Talks with the third union, Teamster Local 633, which was certified earlier this year to represent 20 county employees described as "support staff," have not yet begun.

Last week the commission ratified an agreement reached with the SEA representing some 80 employees at the nursing home. That contract still has to be funded by the Belknap County Convention.