LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have agreed to provide legal counsel to County Convention Chairwoman state Rep. Colette Worsman in the lawsuit filed against her by the five Democratic members of the Belknap County Convention who have asked Belknap County Superior Court to overturn a 7-7 tie vote that blocked adoption of the 2014 county budget recommended by the commission on Feb. 18.
But at a meeting yesterday afternoon the commissioners, maintaining that the county's legal budget is virtually exhausted, made the appropriation contingent on the County Convention approving a supplemental appropriation of $10,000.
The vote was taken when the convention met in the midst of a heavy snowstorm on Feb 18. Only 13 of the 18 members were present when the meeting was convened a half-hour past the scheduled hour of 5 p.m. In addition to those who showed up for the meeting, Worsman (R-Meredith), arranged for Rep. Guy Comtois (R-Barnstead), who was tending to a failing roof, to participate by telephone.
The suit, naming Worsman and Cormier, the clerk of the convention, alleges that Worsman violated the provisions of the Right-to-Know Law bearing on members participating by telephone. The Democrats note that the convention was not required to allow one or more members to participate by "electronic means" and claim the decision properly rested with the convention, not the chair. Moreover, they charge that no notice was given to the convention that Comtois would be permitted to participate by telephone nor was the reason he could not be physically present recorded in the minutes as the statute requires. Finally, contrary to the law, Comtois failed to identify anyone else present at the location from which he was participating.
Consequently, the Democrats claim that since "Rep. Comtois' vote was unlawful and in violation of RSA 91-A:2" the vote should be overturned.
When the convention met on March 4 Worsman sought to amend the minutes of meeting of Feb. 18 to show that before the meeting was convened she and other members referred to the Right-to-Know law and discussed the procedure for allowing Comtois to participate by telephone. But that motion failed 5-4 with four abstentions.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said yesterday that she had conferred with County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen, who said that the legal action brought by the five Democrats as individuals representing themselves qualifies as an action against the county and that legal fees should be paid by the county.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 March 2014 08:33
LACONIA — The School Board will present a maximum 2014-5015 budget request of $36,293,552 to the City Council on March 24 at 6 p.m.
The amount to be raised by taxes local taxes will be $17,669,159, which is up $672,488 while the amount to be raised by the statewide property tax is projected to be $4,608,269, which is down $118,146, for a net increase in local taxes of $554,340.
School Business Administrator Ed Emond said $36.3 million was calculated for tax cap purposes based on a Consumer Price Index-Urban or inflation rate of 1.5 and $19 million of net property value increases.
Traditionally, the school district figures its own budget by multiplying the dollar amount of the captured value of property taxes — the $19 million — by the 2013 school tax rate of of $12.06 per $1,000 evaluation. The city portion of that is $9.40, and the statewide property tax portion is $2.66.
Emond explained that the way the final school budget is determined is by calculating the maximum amount allowed under the tax cap, presenting that number to the city, and waiting for their acceptance of the total amount of money allocated to the school.
At that point, the School Board takes its priorities and "backs in" to the line-by-line budget that will be finalized by the School Board sometime in May or June. The city has until July to vote on a final budget that will include the school budget.
In other business, Superintendent Terri Forsten said the last day of school will be June 13 as was presented on the school calender in the fall of 2013.
Forsten said the school has used five snow days so far this year. But she said the number of hours the students have been in school satisfies state requirements.
"We can't take too many more (snow days) before we reach the (point where the school will have to add days to the calendar), she said with fingers crossed. "We will surpass (the number of hours) with 175 days."
High School graduation is scheduled for June 7, a Saturday, and the Laconia Academy graduation is scheduled for the Friday night before the high school graduation.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 01:22
MOULTONBOROUGH — The future of fireworks and the village highlighted the Town Meeting that ran for six hours last Saturday.
A warrant article to forbid the use of "consumer" fireworks within the town, where "display" fireworks requiring a license would be be permitted, failed on a vote of 123 to 86. However, a second article restricting the use of "consumer" fireworks to the hours between noon and 10 p.m., excepting from the Fourth of July and New Years Eve when fuses could be lit until midnight and 15 minutes past midnight respectively, carried by a clear majority.
The village was the theme of three major articles. First, voters followed the recommendations of the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Budget Committee by agreeing to appropriate $275,000 for the purchase of the so-called Adele Taylor property by a vote of 176 to 62.
The 5.09-acre lot at 970 Whittier Highway (Route 25), which abuts properties belonging to the school district, Bank of New Hampshire and Huggins Hospital in the village commercial zone, was a centerpiece of the Village Charette Report accepted by the Planning Board in January 2013. In June the trustees approached the Board of Selectmen and the School Board with an offer to sell the property to the town and donate the proceeds from the sale to the School District, and a price of $240,900, matching the assessed value in 2012, was negotiated.
The selectmen convened a committee to consider possible uses for the property. Although 56 specific uses were suggested in the course of committee meetings and public hearings, the panel offered four perspectives and found that "the property is well suited for combining any number of uses and it is not the intention of this study to suggest that there is only a single potential use for the property."
In keeping with the Village Charette Report, Safe Routes to School Travel Plan and 2008 Master Plan, the property could provide access and egress to the school district property from Route 25. Alternatively, the committee found that the property could house a multipurpose community center. The committee also heard that the property presented an opportunity to develop a park in the center of the village. Finally, the report notes that residents expressed "considerable concern" that if the town does not acquire the property "anything can happen there" in compliance with the zoning ordinance.
By a similar margin of 171 to 68, voters approved an article to appropriate $17,500 for a site study pursuant to the report of The Blue Ribbon Commission Report on Community Services and Facilities. Dovetailing with one of the suggested uses for the Adele Taylor property, the report recommended that "the town pursue development of a facility that includes an indoor gymnasium, recreation department office, program and storage space that would be on existing school land or property adjacent to school facilities."
However, an article to spend $590,000 to complete the first phase of the village sidewalk project failed as voters deadlocked 101 to 101. The project included the design, engineering and construction some 2,560 linear feet of sidewalks and cross walks along Route 25, as well as costs of acquiring property and easements. The warrant article excluded a spur of 1,130 feet from Route 25 to Moultonborough Academy originally included in Phase 1.
Neither the selectmen nor the advisory budget committee recommended the project. Supporters stressed that sidewalks were a component of the Master Plan adopted in 2006 and would enhance the safety of pedestrians, especially senior citizens and school children.
Speaking against the project, Josh Bartlett of the Planning Board said that there was nothing to demonstrate the need for sidewalks, a view that was echoed by others who claimed that foot traffic in the village was sparse.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 12:49
MEREDITH — The 24th annual Taste of the Lakes Region will be held from 4-7 p.m. at Church Landing in Meredith on Sunday, March 30, and will feature more than 20 of the Lakes Region's finest restaurants serving up samples of their culinary specialties for the benefit of the Laconia Altrusa Club's community projects.
Over the years the event has raised nearly $300,000 for the Altrusa Club's efforts in promoting literacy, and providing scholarships, according to Carla Peterson of Hector's Fine Food & Spirits, which has been represented at all but one of the events.
Peterson and her husband, Carl, moved to the Lakes Region from Connecticut in 1986 after buying Hector's, which celebrates its 30th year in business this year.
''We had a couple of little kids and thought it was a nice place to move to,'' says Peterson, who bought the restaurant through real estate agent Nancy LeRoy, who also recruited her to join the Altrusa Club.
She was one of the club members who attended a Taste of the Seacoast event put on by the Altrusa Club in Portsmouth, which served as the model the local club sought to emulate when they held the first Taste of the Lakes Region at Pheasant Ridge Country Club in Gilford. Over the years it has grown to become a Lakes Region tradition.
''It's a great way to start the spring. It's like a big garden party and comes during mud season when people have cabin fever and want to get out and enjoy themselves but it's not quite warm enough to spend a lot of time outdoors,'' says Peterson.
Carl Peterson says that Hector's seafood stuffed mushrooms have become so popular at the event that they will be served again this year in response to popular demand while chef Peter Cullen will be preparing one of their new menu items, Sonoma Chicken.
Cullen said the dish features grilled chicken in a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce topped with mushrooms and onions and freshly grated parmesan. ''It's something on the lighter, healthier side,'' says Cullen.
Tickets cost $25 per person and can be purchased at Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith, or in Laconia at Hector's or at the Coldwell-Banker Residential Brokerage on Court Street. Because there is a cash bar at the event, no one younger than 21 will be admitted.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 12:17
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