Gilmanton selectmen adjust voters guide on sludge warrant

By Gail Ober - Laconia Daily Sun

GILMANTON — Selectmen Rachel Hatch and Don Guarino continue to be at loggerheads over what rights an individual selectman has to access town services and what duty a selectman owes to inform the board before his or her actions.

At issue this time is the voters guide that is on the Gilmanton website and was distributed at the deliberative session of Town Meeting, which included a petitioned warrant article about sludge.

This year, Gilmanton voters will get to decide on a ban against sludge – or bio-solids that are used by commercial farmers to fertilize their fields. The petition to ban sludge was submitted by petition, and Guarino is one of the signatories.

The board of selectmen has not taken a position on sludge and planning board members decided they didn't support the warrant article. Though Guarino is the selectmen's representative to the planning board, he recused himself and Selectman Michael Jean took over his spot regarding the sludge discussion.

The original voters guide, which is posted on the Gilmanton website as from the selectmen, describes sludge as a fertilizer. In addition, the original guide said "Class 'A' bio-solids do not require any permit. Class 'B' bio-solids require a permit from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services. There is current bio-solid use of both Class A and B bio-solids in Gilmanton."

Guarino objected to the second two sentences in the voters guide that read: "Should this petition warrant article pass, the current activity would, by right, be allowed to continue. The proposed amendment would only apply to future users of bio-solids and could create an enforcement issue for the town."

He characterized the description as "electioneering," and said it isn't proper for the voters guide to propagandize either for or against a petitioned warrant article. Apparently, and unbeknownst to Guarino, Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni felt the same way.

Ogni contacted town attorney Walter Mitchell and was told that Mitchell recommended dropping the last two sentences. Guarino also contacted Mitchell with the same issue. Those sentences are no longer part of the voters guide.

Guarino said he contacted the town attorney not knowing Ogni had contacted him as well. From the sidelines came Steve McWhinnie, who is Guarino's opposition in the upcoming election for the open three-year term on the select board. McWinnie submitted a Right to Know request to the town of Gilmanton requesting a copy of the recording of the Feb. 16 meeting, transcripts of emails Rachel Hatch read at that meeting, and "what was submitted to Walter Mitchell (and) what was submitted to Walter Mitchell by Don Guarino/responses, etc. Full conversation, and documentation pertaining to this situation – bio-solids."

In an interview with McWhinnie about his candidacy last week, McWhinnie, who was accompanied by Hatch, said he had no interest in bio-solids and that it was his brother Bob who is the farmer.

McWhinnie said he is interested in governance and "keeping the ball rolling," by which he meant that Hatch, since she had taken over as chairman, is taking Gilmanton in the right direction. McWhinnie said he also has an interest in overseeing as selectman the upcoming bridge projects.

On Monday night, Hatch called for an emergency selectmen's meeting so the board could give the town administrator some direction that would satisfy McWhinnie's request in a timely fashion.

Hatch and Guarino continued their battle about what Guarino can do without the knowledge and approval of the other two board members. This time, she said, Guarino cost the town money because he reached out to the town attorney.

Jean made a motion to ask the town administrator to release the information requested by McWhinnie and Guarino seconded it.

Hatch accused Guarino of having an agenda regarding the outcome of the sludge vote and using the services of town counsel to further that agenda.

Guarino said his primary interest is that accurate information be distributed by the town, through its selectmen, in the voters guide. He said Tuesday night that he was disappointed that the other two members of the board were not willing to spend as much time as he felt they should on the voters guide, which he said "is owned by the selectmen."

Hatch's reply was that Guarino, once again in her opinion, acted without consulting the other board members. His first offense, according to Hatch, was to contact the former town administrator for input into the reasons why revenue estimates for 2016 were so low.

Guarino said the only reason Hatch called for the emergency selectman's meeting was to publicly shame him. She disagreed, saying she called the meeting to satisfy McWhinnie's request within five days of receiving it.

The board voted unanimously to give McWhinnie all of the information he requested in his Right To Know request.

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Car set on fire in Belmont appears to be case of domestic violence

BELMONT — A car was set on fire in Belmont last Tuesday, and police have talked to a man they think is involved in the arson.
The 2000 Toyota Corollas was reported on fire at 9:34 a.m. at 38 Concord St. in Belmont. A resident on the street alerted the fire department, which was able to put out the fire quickly. According to a press released from the fire department, the cause of the fire was a container with flammable liquid.
The Toyota sustained paint damage and interior smoke damage.
The police report that witnesses saw a passing driver throw a lit gasoline-filled container out of a moving vehicle. After an alert, a Tilton officer located the suspect's vehicle at a home in Tilton, where there was fresh burn damage to an interior door panel.
Belmont investigators met with the 26-year-old male suspect in Tilton, according to the press release, and were able to connect him to the Belmont arson. His clothing also showed signed of recently have been exposed to fire.
Belmont officers then visited a local gas station, where surveillance video showed the suspect filling a container with gasoline before the arson. Belmont police said at this point they are certain this was an isolated incident and appears to be a domestic violence case. An arrest is expected soon.

— Ginger Kozlowski

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State Rep. Bob Luther, 72, dies


LACONIA — Robert "Bob" Luther, a longtime city councilor and serving state representative who passed away at the age of 72 in his home on Saturday, once remarked, "You can swing the the pointer to liberal or conservative, but when it comes to me just stop in the middle where it says Laconia."
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in Rockland, Massachusetts, Luther spent the last 44 years of his life in the city, 36 of them as a public servant and elected official. After a tour of duty in the United States Navy and a stint as a mechanic with United Parcel Service, in 1973 he came to Laconia where he fulfilled what he called "my childhood dream" by joining the Police Department.
Six years later, he traded his shield in Laconia for one in Gilford, serving another eight years before leaving law enforcement to become a security supervisor at Lakes Region General Hospital, where he worked until retiring in 2009.
"Ninety percent of my experiences in police work were funny," Luther recalled. But, he was brought to tears when he was called to photograph a 4-year4old girl who was beaten to death by her babysitter. "When I took them to be developed," he said, "I told them not to look." But when he collected the prints "They were crying, and the next morning I sat outside the station and cried. The only time in 16 years of police work I ever cried."
Humor and humanity marked Luther's political career. He served seven consecutive terms on the City Council, representing Ward 2 from 1996 to 2009, when he moved to another ward and resigned his seat.
Mark Fraser, who as a councilor and mayor served with Luther for six terms, remembered him for championing the playgrounds throughout the city.
"It was his pet project," Fraser said, explaining that at Luther's initiative $25,000 was budgeted each year for 10 years to improve the playgrounds. At the same time, Luther sought to trim electricity charges by lopping 2 percent from the annual budget.
Jim Cowan, a contemporary on the City Council, remembered Luther as "not a person of a lot of words who was not in the headlines, but was very important on school votes," indicating that he was often an ally of the School Board. But, during a debate over the school district budget in 2009 Luther remarked "I'm not sure they have a sharp pencil, but I'll lend them one."
Luther could be a hard councilor to pin down. In 2005 , when the council was wrestling with proposals to build new schools on Parade Road and add a tax cap to the city charter he found himself on both sides of both issues. First he supported then opposed a referendum on the issue of schools then cast the deciding ballot to place the tax cap on the ballot. Speaking later at a candidate's forum he said not only that he was personally opposed to the measure but also was lobbying his wife to vote against it.
A man of few words, Luther often spouted them with wit. Fraser recalled recognizing an employee of the Department of Public Works for his 35 years of service at the annual Christmas luncheon and later honoring the same man as the employee of the year. "This is your second date," Luther called from the crowd. "You can give him a kiss now."
When the state of New Hampshire fell behind on the rent for the Laconia District Courthouse, Luther suggesting serving an eviction notice. "I've got a Saturday free to help them move," he added.
Despite his reticence and penchant for one-liners, whenever the council was faced with an ordinance or resolution, which was required to be read aloud in its entirety, Luther readily accepted the task.
In 2009, after leaving the council, Luther announced for mayor, only to find Mike Seymour, the popular chairman of the school board, follow close on his heels.
"My only problem is that now I'm going to have to buy signs," said Luther, who took little more than a third of the vote.
Undaunted, a year later Luther ran for the New Hampshire House of Representatives and was easily elected, joining the Republican majority that held nearly 300 of the 400 seats. He was re-elected in 2012 and 2014.

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