Guarino in, Hatch in as Gilmanton chairman over taxes

GILMANTON — With the tax rate up $3.01 and the bills in the hands of homeowners, residents are screaming at selectmen for heads to roll, and the first one appears to be that of former Selectboard Chairman Don Guarino.
Guarino was voted out as chairman at the end of a loud and contentious meeting that started with him questioning the process by which the town will hire a engineer for a bridge projected and ended with a screaming match between Town Administrator Paul Branscombe, Guarino, and newly elected chairman Rachel Hatch over the preparation of the 2015 budget.
According to a recording of the meeting, former Town Administrator Arthur Capello may have underestimated the revenue for the 2015 tax year. Guarino said Branscombe had an opportunity to fix it by changing the estimate prior to the state Department of Revenue setting the rate.
The rate increased from $22.93 in 2014 to $25.94 in 2015. The town rate was up from $4.10 to $5.51, the county rate went up from $1.34 to $1.36, and the school rate went up from $14.82 to $16.73 or $1.91. Total property valuation was up from $447,518,768 to $450,393,371.
Guarino said that in many instances the state notices a gross discrepancy and contacts the town administrator for clarification. If the Department of Revenue didn't call, he said at the meeting, when Branscombe was told the preliminary tax rate was up by so much, he should have taken the initiative to call and learn why.
Branscombe, who was hired at the end of July, fired back by saying he was sick of being blamed for all of the problems in town when he had only been on the job for less than four months. He said the Gilmanton finance director was ready to quit because she was sick of doing research into last year's budget preparation.
During the argument, he said that during his attempts to determine what went wrong in formulating last year's tax rate and trying to determine the 2016 tax rate he realized all of the revenue numbers keep coming up "minus." He continually said the entire matter was "ridiculous."
Branscombe gave the example that the estimated automobile registration tax revenues for Gilmanton was $369,544.
"We've already collected $603,000 year-to-date," he said, speculating aloud that maybe the former town administrator made a mistake and used the 2014 July 1 revenue total for an estimate instead of projecting it for the whole year.
While Branscombe and Guarino continued to argue about who should have done what and when they should have done it, Hatch stepped in and said she was sick of Guarino blaming Branscombe for all of the problems in town and for constantly contacting Capello at his new job.
After yelling at Guarino for a while about his continued contact with the former town administrator, Hatch finally said that they should adjourn the meeting and allow cooler heads to prevail at a future meeting.
Up to that point, Selectman Michael Jean had sat quietly, watching and listening. He said he was ready to make a motion and while all thought he was going to move to adjourn, he moved that Guarino be removed as chairman and Hatch be installed. At that point, the tape went silent for about 10 seconds.
During discussion of the motion, which was just a continuation of the shouting match, Hatch said she would second the motion to remove Guarino. With Guarino abstaining, the motion passed.
After taking care of a small piece of immediate business, the board voted to adjourn for the night. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Nov. 30 in the board meeting room.

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Bail revoked for man who allegedly sold drugs to Tilton man who died of overdose

LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge revoked the bail of the Northfield man accused of selling the heroin/fentanyl combination of drugs that allegedly caused the death of 21-year-old Seth Tilton-Fogg of Tilton.
Brian Watson, 50, whose last known address was Hodgdon Road, was free $25,000 cash bail that had been posted by a woman of the same last name from Hooksett.
The court determined that Watson violated the terms of his bail conditions by being in the presence of his girlfriend Teanna Bryson after he had been ordered not to have a contact with her. According to the state's motion to revoke bail, Watson was stopped by police who said Bryson was in his car and trying to hide under some items in the back seat during a police stop.
Watson's hearing was initially scheduled for last Friday; however, it was postponed because Bryson's attorney said she had an infection in her foot, needed medical attention, and was going to be taken to the hospital.
At yesterday's hearing, Bryson was not available for medical reasons and was unable to testify about a second bail revocation matter that alleged Watson was driving Bryson to Narcotics Anonymous meetings in Manchester and buying her heroin on the way home.
Bryson has been given immunity from prosecution regarding the death of Tilton-Fogg by the Belknap County Attorney's Office. She has been ordered by the court to make herself available for testifying at any hearing or trial ordered by the court.
When Bryson is available, the court said Watson could ask for a second bail hearing. For now, he is being held without bail at the Belknap County House of Corrections.

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Bank of New Hampshire to acquire Community Guaranty Savings Bank

LACONIA — The Bank of New Hampshire will acquire Community Guaranty Savings Bank, converting the Plymouth and Campton branches to Bank of New Hampshire locations.

The two banks signed an agreement Monday whereby Bank of New Hampshire, through its parent company BNH Financial, has agreed to acquire Community Guaranty Corporation, the parent company of Community Guaranty Savings Bank, in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $12.9 million. Under the terms of the transaction, shareholders of Community Guaranty Corporation will receive $65.10 in cash in exchange for each share of Community Guaranty Corporation stock. The consideration represents approximately 157 percent of Community Guaranty's tangible book value as of Sept. 30, 2015. The transaction is subject to receipt of state and federal regulatory approvals and approval by the shareholders of Community Guaranty Corporation and is expected to be completed next May, at which time Community Guaranty Savings Bank's branch offices located at 28 South Main St., Plymouth, and 21 Tower Road, Campton, will become Bank of New Hampshire branch offices.

"The acquisition of Community Guaranty Savings Bank will provide customers access to 24 full-service office locations throughout the state including our new Portsmouth office that is scheduled to open spring 2016," said Mark Primeau, president and chief executive officer of Bank of New Hampshire. "With a Bank of New Hampshire office already located in Plymouth, these two new locations will deepen our market presence in the area and strengthen our commitment to the individuals, families and businesses in this region. Bank of New Hampshire has a 184-year history of building lifelong relationships with its customers by providing what matters most – personal attention from knowledgeable staff and financial products that make it easy to save and borrow."

"Since its organization in 1988, Community Guaranty Savings Bank has remained committed to serving its customers and local communities," said Michael Long, president and chief executive officer of Community Guaranty Savings Bank. "We recognize banking is a rapidly changing industry and to ensure our customers' needs are fulfilled while not losing our commitment to the communities, we are merging with Bank of New Hampshire, and know that it is an organization which shares our commitment to service and community banking."

Ronald I. Sibley, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Community Guaranty Corporation, said "this merger with Bank of New Hampshire offers outstanding value for our shareholders and assures that our customers and communities will benefit from the wide range of products and commitment to service provided by Bank of New Hampshire."
After the merger, the combined entity will have approximately $1.4 billion in assets. Upon completion of the transaction, Sibley and Long will both be appointed to serve as directors of Bank of New Hampshire and Trustees of BNH Financial.

Bank of New Hampshire, founded in 1831, provides deposit, lending and wealth management products and services to families and businesses throughout New Hampshire. With 21 banking offices throughout New Hampshire and assets exceeding $1.2 billion, Bank of New Hampshire is the oldest and one of the largest independent banks in the state. For more information, call 1-800-832-0912 or visit www.BankNH.com.

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