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Gulick Says County Budget Has Already Passed, Maintains Phone Vote Was Illegal

LACONIA — State Rep. Ruth Gulick maintains that the Belknap County Convention has already passed a county budget of $26,570,997, and says that she will be asking the New Hampshire Attorney General's office to rule that Rep. Guy Comtois' vote by telephone at last Tuesday night's meeting that resulted in a 7-7 tie vote on the motion to pass the budget should be disallowed.
Gulick, D-New Hampton, raised the issue at last night's meeting of the convention and cited a statement by Assistant NH House Clerk Paul C. Smith on absentee voting which said, ''No member can vote who is not present when the question is put.''
''Comtois' vote doesn't count. Mason's rules of order, which the chairman claims we are following, doesn't allow it. And it that's not the rules we're following, then the state Right to Know law says the minutes of the meeting must specify the location from which the vote is being taken, and they don't. At the very least we should have taken a vote on his ability to vote. Therefore, his vote is improper and the budget actually passed by a 7-6 vote,'' said Gulick.
Last week's vote came during a heavy snowstorm after a 30-minute wait for a quorum of 10 members to arrive. Rep. Colette Worsman, R-Meredith, convention chairman, had proposed recessing the meeting. But after the number present climbed to 13, members voted to proceed and Worsman allowed Rep. Guy Comtois, R-Barnstead, who was tending to a failing roof, to join in by telephone.
All five Democrats voted for the the motion by Rep. Beth Arsenault, D-Laconia, to approve the budget as submitted by the commissioners, which the county convention majority had already trimmed by $850,000, and were joined by Republicans Don Flanders and Bob Luther of Laconia.
The Six Republicans present at the meeting were joined by Comtois in voting against the motion to pass the budget.
At the conclusion of last night's meeting Gulick invited any representative with a view of opposite hers to give their input to the Attorney General's office.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:55

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Correction: McCormack worked for N.H. State Employees Association

CORRECTION — Gilmanton's selectman candidate Stephen McCormack does not think the current selectmen are listening to the town residents and employees. Due to a typographical error, McCormack's position was misstated in a story that ran on February 22 on Page 9. In addition, McCormack was not a state employee but spent 21 years working for the N.H. State Employees Association.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:13

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Belmont Selectmen want all boards videotaped and broadcast over LRPA

BELMONT — Selectmen will send an official letter to members of the other governing boards in town to better understand why their members are reluctant to be taped for Lakes Region Public Access.

They also suggested that next year's Town Warrant have an article asking voters if they want the the selectmen and the Budget Committee, Planning Board and Zoning Board as well as others to be aired on Lakes Region Public Access.

"If those boards don't want to be videotaped, maybe that could have some bearing on an election," said Selectman Jon Pike, a long-time advocate of taping all of the town's the meetings. He said the request for a vote would be one way to determine who doesn't want to be taped.

All of the boards in Belmont meet publicly except within the allowances made by RSA 91-A which is the Right-To-Know Law that sets out specific instances where a board can meet behind closed doors.

To the best of the Daily Sun's knowledge, no member of the media or the general public has ever been denied access to any of the Belmont's boards' meetings nor have any Belmont boards or committees ever stopped an individual from the public from taping them.

The issue is whether or not these boards can be compelled to used the video system installed at taxpayers expense after voters agreed at Town Meeting about 10 years ago that the town should spend money to install the system and broadcast their meetings on LRPA.

The problem for selectmen right now, is that there is no money in the budget for paying a stipend to someone to tape any meetings, including theirs. Depending on the availability of volunteers, the Board of Selectmen has been on-again, off-again with taping its meetings and sending them to LRPA. The town's other boards have not expressed any interest in being taped or broadcast over LRPA.

The topic most recently came up at a meeting in early February when the selectmen questioned continuing to pay dues to LRPA when their meetings aren't being taped.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin told them that not having the meetings on LRPA was the fault of the town, not LRPA. She explained that LRPA will air any tapes sent to them, but only if the town does the recording.

Last night she elaborated for selectmen by telling them she learned this month that LRPA will tape any meetings, but the charge is $50 per hour.

Selectmen Chair Ron Cormier has suggested adding a stipend to the town budget to tape all town meetings, but said he would like to see all of the town's boards videotaped – not just the selectmen.

In early February, he asked Beaudin to ask the Town Attorney if selectmen can order the other boards to tape any meetings that are held in the room with the town's taping system. Beaudin reported last night that the selectmen's job is to manage the affairs of the town as set out by law but they do not have the right to order other boards to tape their meetings.

She reported to them that they could place it before the voters at a future town meeting but that it wouldn't be binding.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:39

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From Skate Escape to Sports Complex

MEREDITH — After losing their venue on Court Street in Laconia , the owners of Skate Escape, Erica Duncan and Janine Page, are seeking to develop an indoor sports complex on a 5.24 acre lot on Reservoir Road. The fate of the project may hinge on whether voters in March agree to amend the zoning ordinance to expand the permitted uses in the Business/Industry District.

The property is in the Business/Industry District, approximately 241 acres along Rte. 104 between Rte. 3 to the east and Pease Road and Winona Road to the west, which was established to reserve space for industrial growth by prohibiting most commercial uses while providing land for large office buildings. Nevetheless, the district has become home to the a chiropractic office, martial arts studio, fitness center, visiting nurse association, child care facility and kindergarten day nursery as well as the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, all far from the industrial uses originally envisioned.
The sports complex would include a roller-skating rink and full-size turf field, both under one roof.
In November the Zoning Board of Adjustment found that a commercial recreational facility was not a permitted use in the his district and refused to grant a variance for the project. Instead, Jack Dever, chairman of the ZBA, told Duncan and Page that the Planning Board was contemplating changes to the ordinance and advised them to offer their suggestions.
The amendment, which is Article 5 on the warrant, would tailor the general purpose of the district to capture the diversity of uses it has come to house over the past 30 years while distinguishing it from residential and retail zones. The district is described as "ideal for small to medium size businesses" that do not "depend on high visibility from the roadway." The permitted uses include light manufacturing, commercial printing, warehousing, laboratories, storage, building materials, clinics, offices and firewood processing. Building trades, equipment rental and repair, vehicle service, child care, recreational and cultural facilities, schools and restaurants would be permitted by special exception. The uses are clearly defined by the proposed ordinance.
When the issue came before the ZBA, Justin Van Etten, the owner of Stewart's Ambulance Service, told the board that he was among the potential investors working with Duncan and Page to pursue the project. He stressed that the sports complex, by supporting other local businesses, would significantly contribute to the economic development of the town. The minutes record that Van Etten noted that most tourists visit Meredith between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, but that the sports complex would be "counter-cyclical. It puts heads on beds and heads in restaurants," he continued, starting about the end of October and going to about the beginning of May."
Neither Duncan nor Page could be reached for comment.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 02:19

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