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City Council gets briefing on fireworks laws & ordinances

LACONIA — After Mayor Ed Engler and several city councilors fielded complaints from residents about fireworks during the summer, City Manager Scott Myers briefed the council last night on the regulation of aerial displays in the city.

Myers explained that fireworks fall into two categories: "display" fireworks, which can only be purchased and displayed by licensed contractors, and "permissible" or "consumer" fireworks available to the general public. State law also prohibits the sale of certain sparklers, firecrackers and bottle rockets. Moreover, federal law, enforced by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, forbids the sale of particularly explosive fireworks, including M-80s, cherry bombs, large shells, aerial bombs and firecrackers with more than 50 milligrams of powder, which is about one-sixteenth the weight of an aspirin tablet.

The city, Myers continued, is bound by state statutes governing the sale, possession and display of permissible fireworks. State law authorizes municipalities to prohibit the sale, display or possession of permissible fireworks. "Display" is defined as "the use, explosion, activation, ignition, discharge, firing or any other activity which is intended to cause or which causes a firework to do what it was manufactured to do." State law restricts the possession and display of permissible fireworks to those aged 21 or older and confines their display to private property with either the consent or presence of the property owner.

In 2000, the City Council adopted an ordinance (Chapter 150) prohibiting the sale or purchase of fireworks in the city. However, the city neither prohibits nor regulates the possession or the display of permissible fireworks. Without a more specific ordinance, Myers said that the police are bound by state law, which he noted "leaves lots of gray area."

Police Chief Chris Adams told the councilors that complaints about fireworks represent "a very common type of call." He said that officers respond to complaints and, echoing Myers, agreed that because there are no specific restrictions, enforcement is difficult.

Myers said that the city's noise ordinance is also challenging to enforce. It reads that "It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to make, continue or cause to be made or continued or to allow to be continued any loud, unreasonable noise or any noise which would annoy, disturb, injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace, safety, convenience, welfare and prosperity of a reasonable person" within the city limits. He recalled the concerns raised by hotel, motel and cottage owners about venues offering live music at The Weirs and the difficulty the Planning Board has encountered in prescribing appropriate noise levels.

Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) noted that outdoor loudspeakers cannot be operated after 9 p.m. between Sunday and Thursday or past 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.and suggested similar restrictions could be imposed on fireworks. Myers said that the city could regulate the display of fireworks in a similar fashion.

Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) asked if the council could hold a public hearing on the issue of fireworks. Myers replied that if there were a proposal to adopt or amend an ordinance a formal public hearing would be appropriate, but in the meantime the council could simply place the issue on the agenda of a future meeting and invite the public to comment about it. The council took no action.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 01:08

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Head on crash at dangerous Belmont intersection

BELMONT — Two young men were taken by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital with what police are preliminarily describing as serious but non life-threatening injuries after a two car crash at the intersection of Seavey Road and Rte. 106.

Police Chief Mark Lewandoski said, preliminarily, it appears a small silver sedan was making a left turn from Seavey Road on to Rte. 106 and was struck head-on by a Mercury Mountaineer headed south.

He said it appears the driver of the Mountaineer tried to avoid the crash by moving as far left as he could but was unsuccessful.

Lewandoski said it looks like impact spun the sedan around at least once while the Mountaineer went off the road about 50 feet south of the crash site.

He said the driver of the sedan had to be removed by emergency responders from the car while a front seat passenger was found lying on the road next to the car. Since the accident had just happened, Lewandoski said police hadn't determined if the young man was able to get out of the car by himself or if the door flew open and he fell out.

A third young man was in the back seat of the sedan and he was able to get out of the car on his own and declined to be taken by ambulance to the hospital.

The two men in the Mountaineer also declined transport to the hospital.

Lewandoski noted that this is one of the more dangerous intersections in Belmont and is scheduled to be reconfigured by the N.H. Department of Transportation using federal highway safety money.

He said one of the changes will be turn out lane on either side of Rte. 106.

CAPTION: Belmont Police Chief Mark Lewandoski investigates a two-car crash at the intersection of Rte. 106 and Seavey Road that sent two young men to the hospital by ambulance. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 01:03

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Mayor casts deciding vote for police contract

LACONIA — The City Council last night approved the collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the Laconia Police Officers Association by the Police Commission as Mayor Ed Engler cast the deciding vote when the councilors divided evenly for and against the contract.
With councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Ava Doyle (Ward 1) absent, councilors David Bownes (Ward 2) and Brenda Baer (Ward 4) voted to approve the contract while councilors Bob Hamel (Ward 5) and Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) dissented. Two weeks ago, after appearing preparing to approve the agreement, the council unanimously rejected it. Last night, before the vote, City Manager Scott Myers, when questioned by Bownes assured the councilors that three items in the agreement had been adjusted.
The compensation and benefits provided by the contract with the police mirrors those the City Council awarded to city employees who are not members of a union as well as those of contracts with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 534, which represents some 15 non-managerial employees at the Department of Public Works, and the Local Professional Firefighters, Local 1153 of the International Association of Firefighters already approved.
The agreements are for three years. Employees will receive cost of living adjustments of 2 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent in each year of the contract. Employees will no longer have a choice between two health care plans. The so-called "HMO High" plan, which has a $500 deductible and $10 office visit copay and requires a 15 percent premium contribution from employees, has been eliminated. The so-called "HMO Low" plan, with a $2,000 deductible and $20 copay, remains.
While employees have contributed 6 percent to the premium of the "HMO Low" plan, under the new contracts they contribute 8 percent the first year, 9 percent the second year and 10 percent the third year. The wages of employees will be supplemented by an annual payment of $250 in each of the next three years and the city will contribute $1,000 to the Health Reimbursement Account of each to be applied against their deductibles. Any unused funds may be carried forward to subsequent years.
The contracts also include language to forestall liability for the so-called "Cadillac Tax," a 40-percent federal levy on the value of health insurance benefits exceeding specific thresholds — $10,200 for an individual and $27,500 for a family — imposed on January 1, 2018 by the Affordable Care Act. The city and the unions agreed that if new contracts are not agreed when the current contracts expire, steps must be taken to ensure that the cost of health insurance is below the thresholds. The contracts require the city and unions to either negotiate a health insurance plan or accept a plan reached through binding arbitration that makes the minimal changes to benefits required to keep the cost below the threshold.
Negotiations with the State Employees Association, Local 1984 of the Service Employees International Union, representing employees at the Department of Public Works, have reached impasse. Myers said that the city and the union are awaiting the report of a neutral fact finder, who will consider the differences between the two and make recommendations for resolving them.
Neil Smith of the SEA, who is negotiating on behalf of the employees, said that the differences turn on the amount and duration of the city's contribution to the Health Reimbursement Account. Stressing that he represents relatively lower wage employees, he said that the amount of the contribution is the same for all employees regardless of how much they earn, but the impact of the higher deductible weighs most heavily on those earning the least. Moreover, he said that contribution expires with the contract in three years with no assurance that the city would be willing to include it in a subsequent agreement.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 September 2014 01:04

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Arbo Ministries gets Gilford Planning Board approval

GILFORD — After months of discussion and negotiations with neighbors and various planning officials, the Planning Board approved last night an application for Arbo Ministries, Inc. to run a ministry from their Curtis Road home.

The conditions placed by the board include a provision that this permit, although issued to Arbo Ministries, Inc. is to be used by the corporation principals Barbara and Steve Arbo.

The Arbos can have overnight guests as long as it is not part of the ministry unless there are extraordinary circumstances like a snow storm or other event. Their attorney Pat Wood said they have no intention of running a guest house but occasionally they will have friends and family who will spend the night.

They agreed there will be no outdoor bells, camping, tents, or sound amplification and that any ministerial outdoor activities shall cease by 11 p.m.

The site plan limits the parking to 12 cars other than those in garages and the Arbos have said they plan on using the Curtis Road driveway as an entrance and the Route 11A driveway as an exit. Excluding family, the Arbos may have no more than 35 people on the property at any given time.

The ministry is not a church, said Planning Board member Norm Silber, who was initially of the opinion that the Arbos, by applying for a home-based business, were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

He said his original thinking was that a church was something open to all however one of the stipulations of the Arbos' ministry is that only people who are invited can be on the property.

He said after the site visit last week, he was convinced that their plan was acceptable for the site.

Member Jerry Gagnon still had a few issues with exiting on to Route 11A and said that he would like it if they took one layer off from the brick wall in front of the home to help visibility.

Other members, including Chair John Morgenstern,said that wasn't necessary and Gagnon voted for the site plan approval without any changes to the brick wall.

The Arbos also agreed that they would maintain all of the natural buffers on the land and would not alter any of the structures on the land.

About seven people attended last night's meeting, down from a packed house when the Arbos first made their application to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a special exception to operate a church.

Only one neighbor spoke and she said that she was very happy with the way the Arbos had reached out to the neighbors and was in favor of them having their ministry.

The site plan is contingent on Arbo Ministries satisfying all other local, state, and federal rules and regulations. Wood said last night that Arbo Ministries would be withdrawing their application to the ZBA for a special exception.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 September 2014 12:51

Hits: 350

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