Jail Planning Committee struggling to secure place on convention's agenda

LACONIA — The Belknap County Jail Planing Committee has been allotted 15 to 20 minutes of time during the public input session of a Belknap County Convention meeting scheduled for May 27 at 5 p.m. for a discussion of the county jail, according to Convention Chair Colette Worsman (R-Meredith).
But the committee requested earlier this week that it be placed on the agenda so that it could discuss the urgent needs of the jail with the convention and has renewed its request that it be placed on the agenda, noting that it is not asking to add to public input but is asking for the delegation's input and decision.
The jail committee met Tuesday night and despite reluctance expressed by its chairman County Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) about committee members attending the May 27 meeting reached a consensus that it should bring its plan for a $2.96 million supplemental appropriation to the convention and have County Corrections Superintendent Daniel Ward make the presentation.
The committee wants $360,000 so that it can begin work on a schematic design plan for a new jail, $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail and $1.6 million for a three-year contract for installation of a 48-bed temporary housing unit at the jail.
Worsman said that she is allotting one hour of the meeting for public input and that the goal of the meeting is to have the delegation talk about the jail with its constituents. ''This will provide an opportunity for the public to speak to the delegates about what they want,'' said Worsman.
She said that county officials, including Ward, had not been invited to the convention meeting to give any presentations but would be welcome to speak during the public input session.
County Administrator Debra Shackett e-mailed Worsman on Wednesday asking that the committee be placed on the agenda ''to explain our next steps and discuss the possibility of borrowing money to address the most urgent needs at the jail as well as continuing to plan for a new facility. We would also be available to answer any questions about the process to date.''
Worsman replied ''Yes, as always everyone is welcome to attend our meetings. If the Jail Planning committee would like to add their input that would be great. I will be placing 1 hour for public input on the agenda beginning with the Planning Committee. Please be sure it is limited to 15-20 minutes as I am certain most of us are well aware of their efforts to date. I also want to ensure there is time for other public input. Secondly this meeting is not scheduled for additional appropriation so that is not part of this meeting.''
Shackett replied that the committee preferred to be placed on the agenda before the public input session. ''Will you please add The Jail Planning Committee to your agenda, as a separate item, and prior to "public input"? It should answer a lot of questions for the public and will be very much appreciated.''
She also asked if Worsman preferred a different approach of scheduling a separate meeting to consider the Jail Planning Committee's recommendation for improvements to the jail. She said it would involve a bond issue and not necessarily any additional appropriation for 2014.
Philpot told his fellow commissioners at last week's commission meeting that he felt that inn the wake of the convention's rejection by a 9-7 vote of a collective bargaining agreement for employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home that he felt that bringing any request for a supplemental appropriation before the convention would be an exercise in futility.
The Jail Planning Committee meets again on May 20 at 6 p.m. at the Belknap County Complex and will consider its response to being limited to only speaking at the public input session.
The committee has been looking at ways to bring the cost of a new facility to below $30 million for a proposed 94,000-square-foot, 180-bed community corrections facility, which carried a conceptual design estimate cost of $42.6 million.
The current facility has a capacity of 110 inmates in what was designed as an 87 inmate facility.