Commissioners willing to ask only for HVAC money for jail

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners say that they like the idea of asking for a $1 million bond issue for a new HVAC system for the county jail but say they have no idea what the county convention will do given that its chairwoman wouldn't allow separate votes on the three elements of a proposed $2.96 bond issue when the convention rejected it by a 7-9 vote last month.
The idea of bringing the issue before the convention again was raised by Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton during the public input session when the commission met yesterday.
DeVoy, who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for the commission seat currently held by Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), said in a letter published in Tuesday's Daily Sun that he believes that the ''vast majority or maybe the entire delegation would support this bond.''
Philpot , who is not running for re-election, said that he had no idea if Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), would allow the bond issue for the HVAC system to be brought back because there is no communication between the commissioners and the convention leadership.
Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont) suggested to DeVoy that he bring up the idea with the chairwoman.
Other elements of the defeated bond proposal, which required a two-thirds majority vote for passage, also included $360,000 for a schematic design for a new county jail and $1.6 million for a three-year lease of a 48-bed temporary housing unit.
County Administrator Debra Shackett, who said it was worth making the effort to try and get funds for the HVAC system, noted that members of the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee and House of Corrections Superintendent Daniel Ward said the top priority was the temporary housing, which would allow the jail more space for inmates as well as for programs which help them adjust to life in the community once their jail terms are over.
Commissioners voted at yesterday's meeting to accept a $3,600 grant from the N.H. State Council for the Arts for establishing a poetry workshop at the Belknap County House of Corrections which would involve both male and female inmates and is seen as an important outlet for many of the inmates which would provide them with a way of expressing feelings that perhaps cannot be expressed in any other manner.
It was noted that many inmates currently draw, keep journals and write poetry on a daily basis to help themselves cope with their feelings and frustrations.
The county will provide $1,800 in cash support for the program, $704 for instructor preparation and planning and $1,096 for composition books and papers, as well as $6,340 of in-kind contributions for managing and supervising the program and providing utilities, including the Internet, and classroom and closet space.
The program is slated to start in November with instructors Timothy Muskat and Linda Kunhardt, locally published poets, teaching four six-week sessions in which there will be scheduled poetry readings for inmates as well as regular classes and writing time.
Commissioner Stephen Nedeau (R-Meredith), citing the county's tight budget constraints, opposed the program at this time but both Thomas and Philpot said they thought it was a good program and offered another way to help inmates adjust and achieve positive growth.
Commissioners also signed an agreement with the State Attorney General's Office which provides a $25,000 grant for the county to fund an ongoing victim services coordinator position and requires a $35,787 local match.