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'Credible threat' leads to lockdown at Newfound High School

BRISTOL — In response to what Police Chief Michael Lewis called "a credible threat", Newfound Regional High School was locked down for 32 minutes yesterday morning and a juvenile suspect was taken into custody.

Lewis said that at approximately 7:24 a.m. a caller, who he declined to identify, advised police that a named juvenile, who was believed to be armed, was going to the high school with malicious intent. By 7:56 a.m. officers found the suspect, who was placed in custody. Lewis said that the suspect was not armed nor were any weapons or explosive devices found at the school. Lewis declined to specify what charges might be brought against the teenager.

Meanwhile, according to a statement by Stacy Buckley, the superintendent of schools, officers responded immediately by securing the high school campus and the building was placed into lock-down. Buckley said that students who had already reached school were confined to their classrooms while those who were arriving by bus, car and on foot were taken to the middle school where the campus was secured.

"We practice fire and safety drills once a month," she said, "and everything went off smoothly."

Buckley said that once the suspect was in the custody of the police the students taken to the middle school were returned to the high school and the lock down and secured campus was lifted at both schools.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 September 2014 12:36

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Bristol selectmen choose incremental path for expansion of town’s solar power

By Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — The Bristol Board of Selectmen chose a cautious approach to solar power for municipal buildings, passing on an option to apply for a $2 million grant that would have required taxpayers to kick in $100,000. Instead, the board agreed to apply for a $1.25 million grant for an array of photovoltaic panels that would supply just enough power to cover the electrical needs of the Bristol Water and Sewer Department. Both options would utilize $150,000 in water and sewer department funds as the local commitment to the project.
Bill Dowey, chair of the Bristol Energy Committee, brought the proposals to the selectmen on Sept. 11, outlining the costs and the potential savings of those options, as well as alternative options for power purchase agreements that would require no up-front cost to the town and provide a fixed rate for the purchase of power derived from a solar array on town property.
Selectman Betsy Schneider favored a power purchase agreement, or PPA, because the town would pay nothing and yet still reap the savings of low-cost solar power. According to Dowey's estimates, it would cost the town $1.53 million dollars over seven years for the electricity to power all of the municipal buildings in Bristol with the town ending up owning the solar array at the end of year seven. Over that period, the town would realize a savings of $2.23 million over the projected cost of electricity without solar power.
Alternatively, the town could enter into a 20-year PPA with a lower electric rate, but would have no ownership. Dowey calculated that the town would spend $1.95 million over 20 years, and would realize $1.12 million in savings.
Schneider questioned the estimates, but Town Administrator Michael Capone noted that Dowey's projections had been right on the mark for the solar array that was installed on the roof of the Minot-Sleeper Library. That system is so effective that the library is on track to have 3,000 KWH banked with Public Service of New Hampshire by the end of the year.
Photovoltaic panels convert sunlight into direct-current electricity and inverters turn the DC power into the alternating current needed to power homes and businesses. During the summer, when solar production is at its highest, the panels typically produce more electricity than needed and that excess power feeds into the electrical grid, producing a credit that can be used during the winter when electrical demand may exceed solar production.
Schneider also was skeptical of industry projections for the life of solar panels. While they are said to last for 40 years, she pointed out that none of them have been on the market long enough for those estimates to be proven. She said the town is likely to incur maintenance costs if it owned the array, whereas if the town leased the land to a company that would operate the system, that cost would not fall on taxpayers.
Chair Rick Alpers said he felt that seeking a town-wide array would be perceived by the taxpayers as excessive. "Let's go ahead and pursue the grant, but also start down the track with a small project," he suggested. "We can already show that it works for the library. To sell it to the people, we need to start small, with the water and sewer department."
The NH Public Utility Commission is offering the grants and Dowey said that, with a $250,000 match, the town could seek a $2 million grant that would pay for an array that would power all municipal buildings and provide $3.54 million in savings over the projected life of the system. With a $150,000 match, a $1.25 million grant would build an array that would provide the power for the water and sewer department which would realize $1.66 million in savings.
Because the water and sewer funds are collected only from those on the municipal system, only the users — not other taxpayers — would be providing the matching funds for the smaller project. They also would be the only ones to realize the savings with the smaller project.
Grant applications are due on Sept. 19. Alpers answered Schneider's concerns about making a decision without the voters having a say by noting that, should the grant be approved, the selectmen could schedule a special town meeting to decide whether or not to go forward. "There's no obligation to accept the grant," he noted.
Schneider responded, "If we apply for the grant and get it, and then turn it down, it would hurt our chances down the road."
Selectman Janet Cote said she favored the smaller grant, saying there might be a change down the road that would provide greater cost savings.
From the audience, John Sellers commented, "You would get a $2 million grant with a $250,000 investment? That sounds pretty good to me."
Selectman Shawn Lagueux made a motion to authorize the energy committee to seek the $1.25 million grant and, if successful, to hold a public hearing on accepting the grant. The motion passed unanimously.
During public comment at the end of the meeting, Lucille Keegan, secretary of the energy committee, commented that, while she was happy the selectmen had gone for the grant, she was disappointed that they didn't go for the larger one.
"If we want Bristol to grow," she said, "we need to show we're on the cutting edge."

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 September 2014 12:14

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Myers: City hasn’t taken a position on affordability of new county jail

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers has written to John Thomas, chairman of the Belknap County Commission, to clarify a remark made at a recent meeting of the committee planning for the county jail suggesting that the City Council placed a $25-million price tag on the project.

When the committee met on Wednesday, Alida Millham, a former chairman of the Belknap County Convention, said that the City Council had indicated that the city could not bear its share of the debt service for a facility costing more than $25-million without exceeding the limits of the tax cap.

Responding to the report of the meeting in the Laconia Daily Sun, Myers stressed that the "the City Council has taken no position at this time on a figure it deems 'affordable' in regard to jail construction."

Instead, Myers explained that the council has limited the annual debt service for the city and school district to approximately $3.3-million. To gauge the impact on the city's debt service and annual budget, the council assumed the city would bear 20-percent of the cost of a project costing $25-million. "This was done strictly as a placeholder and for discussion purposes," he wrote.

Myers calculated that the city's share of principal and interest payments on a borrowing of $25-million with a term of 20 years at an interest rate of 4.25-percent would exceed $400,000 a year "in the beginning" and increase total annual debt service to more than $3.3-million "for several years."

The tax cap, Myers continued, applies to the annual city budget. In 2015, he explained that the county apportionment was projected to rise by $70,000, and any greater increase would compel the city to reduce appropriations elsewhere in either the municipal or school budget to comply with the tax cap. He concluded that a significant increase in county debt service would exceed the limits on the county apportionment set by the tax cap and require offsetting reductions in city and/or school expenditures.

In closing Myers repeated that the City Council has not specified what it "may deem as an affordable figure for jail construction and future jail operations" and added that it "has serious concerns over the impact of increased expenses and how they may affect Laconia's future budgets."

Last Updated on Friday, 12 September 2014 11:53

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City Hall area water to be shut off for 7 hours on Monday night

LACONIA — The meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday, September 15, beginning at 7 p.m., will be held at the Weirs Community Center, not City Hall as originally posted.

The venue has been changed because the water will be shut off in part of the downtown , including City Hall, from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Monday, September 15. Seth Nuttelman, superintendent of the Laconia Water Works explained that water service be interrupted to enable R.M. Piper, Inc., the general contractor for the Main Street Bridge project, to connect the water main on the north side of the span.

City Hall as well as the Busiel Mill and Belknap MIll will be without water Monday evening. In addition, businesses on the west side of Main Street south of the intersection with Pleasant Street will be without water along with the Soda Shoppe, the adjacent building immediately to its north and all those to its south.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 September 2014 01:13

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