Belknap County's latest attraction: Real-life jail experience ;-)

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LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have approved a plan to convert the 18,000-square-foot building which had originally been slated to become a community corrections facility into a tourist attraction which will offer guests a real-life jail experience.
The plan was approved at a special meeting of the commission Friday morning after an attempt earlier in the week to have the Belknap County Delegation reconsider the budget it approved two weeks ago failed.
"We decided that since we won't have the funds to staff it at a level which the Corrections Superintendent says is needed that we should make the best use we can of the facility," said Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy.
He said that the idea of using it as a tourist attraction came from Commissioner Hunter Taylor, who said that it would be a unique, one-of-a-kind experience for tourists to be able to spend a time inside a corrections facility where they would be kept safely under lock and key and get to experience the daily life of a prison inmate.
DeVoy said that the facility would be staffed with workers who would be limited to 29 hours per week so they wouldn't qualify for health insurance benefits and whose top rate of pay would be $7.25 an hour or whatever the minimum wage rate is. Workers would also be required to pay for their own uniforms and for meals.
It was suggested that inmates of the current jail who are slated for work release might get special consideration as workers at the tourist attraction in order to provide for a realistic atmosphere.
Commissioners said that the financial projections show the facility would generate as much as $365,000 a year in revenue at an 85 percent occupancy rate. If it fails to attain the expected return, taxpayers will be asked to make voluntary contributions or to volunteer their time as an unpaid employee.
When Commissioner Glenn Warring arrived at the meeting, which was already in progress, he expressed disbelief at the proposal.
"What do you guys think this is? April Fools' Day?" asked Waring.


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If the county goes ahead with plans to convert the new jail to tourist use, visitors may find an interior much like this one, a real jail-themed restaurant in Tianjian, China. (Reuters photo)

Gilford adopts new new math to save money on budgeting ;-)


GILFORD — Looking to placate a hostile Budget Committee and furnish fresh funds for local projects, the Gilford School District has adopted a new budgeting approach centered on the "new math."
In a surprise move, School Board members — wanting to reassure the public that funding increases are being properly calculated — voted unanimously this week to only count budget increases on a fiscal year-to-calendar year basis.
The change, which takes effect Saturday, will dispense with year-to-year cost estimates.
When voters last month approved Article 3 on the school district warrant — the three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Gilford Education Association, the teachers' union — the vote approved new costs for taxpayers with a combined cost of $810,409.
But the combined cost of $810,409 was each year's increase, not the cumulative cost as salary increases repeated throughout the duration of the contract.
School board members shrugged off this distinction, which irked a Budget Committee already frustrated from lack of control over the school district's default budget.
The new approach cuts each appropriation in half, leaving half of the funds intact for other purposes, school board members explained.
A $296,819 increase in teacher payroll costs would actually only amount to $148,410, based on the district's new approach of factoring the costs and spreading them over a calendar year. The remaining $148,410 will be factored into the default budget as an expansion of the Imagination Station, officials said.

In Belmont, where the town followed a similar year-to-year budgeting approach in recent budget cycles, officials said they want to try the model that's been rolled out in Gilford.
In Belmont, the collective bargaining agreement with the police union was estimated to cost taxpayers $126,328. The actual cost based on accumulated payroll was $252,656. Now, under fiscal year-to-calendar year budgeting, the cost will be estimated as $63,164. The balance of $63,164 will be reincorporated into the budget for a new initiative — the Gale Mill, a project which calls for combining the Belmont Mill and the Gale School buildings, moving them to the corner of Shaker Regional School District property and building a metroplex theme park based on education and labor history.

(And by the way, April Fool!)

Ghost at Gilmanton Winery fails to scare, only irritates ;-)


GILMANTON — The owners of the historic and reportedly haunted Gilmanton Winery announced that a paranormal team would try to ferret out a resident ghost, after complaints that the spirit was annoying diners.

But the apparition apparently was a source of amusement, not fear, because the visitors had partaken of so much of the winery's product.

The chief complaint by guests was that the ghost appeared in a part of the winery's restaurant that was not permitted by the town. The critics, hardened by ongoing disputes over the restaurant's permitting, argued that the establishment did not have a license to serve spirits.

(April Fool!)