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School board sets priorities heading into 'Super Saturday'

LACONIA — School Superintendent Terri Forsten presented priorities for the 2015-2016 School District budget to the Budget and Personnel Committee of the School Board this week in anticipation of "Super Saturday," the board's annual budget workshop session, on February 7.

The city manager and City Council will be invited to "Super Saturday" to listen to the discussion. The budget will be presented to the School Board on February 17, when the manager and councilors will have an opportunity to ask questions. The board is expected to vote on the budget proposal on the 17th. City Council will also need to approve it by the end of July.

Scott Vachon, who chairs the Budget and Personnel Committee, said that by inviting city officials to observe and participate in the deliberations "we're hoping for a much smoother process."

Altogether the items listed as priorities carry a total price tag of almost $710,000, which is $155,660, or 28 percent, more than the increase allotted to the School District for fiscal year 2016 under the property tax cap. The priorities do not include increases in compensation and benefits.

Only one new position, a full-time instructor in law enforcement at the Huot Technical Center with salary and benefits of $70,00, is included among the priorities. Another $51,000 would fund the cost of increasing hours and providing stipends for eight positions at the three elementary schools. Professional development is estimated at $91,000 for the staff of the five schools and Huot Technical Center.

Proposed expenditures on facilities include between $42,500 and $68,000 for new furniture at the high school along with another $65,000 for surveillance and lighting as well as upgrades to doors and shades. A new Multi Function School Activity Bus (MFSAB) for 14 passengers for Huot Technical Center is priced between $46,000 and $48,000 with a local contribution of $10,000. Cameras at the middle schoo lwould be upgraded for $20,000 and the same amount would be spent replacing the telephone systems at the Elm Street and Pleasant Street elementary schools.


Last Updated on Friday, 23 January 2015 01:43

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Narrow majority of Gilmanton BudCom says 'no' to library funding

GILMANTON — The town Budget Committee voted not to recommend a petitioned warrant article that would appropriate $46,000 for the privately-owned Year-Round Library at the "Super Saturday" hearing held on January 17.

The 5-4 vote in which the tie needed to be broken by Chairman Brian Forst came on the heels of a denial by the Board of Selectmen to include funding for the Year-Round Library in its operating budget.

During her request to be included in the town budget, library director Anne Kirby told selectmen that the facility has held a voluntary cap on expenses, whether or not it got money from taxpayers via warrant article. The library is in its sixth year of operation.

While selectmen have been consistent about their vote against the town supporting the Year-Round Library through public funding, the Budget Committee has often sent mixed messages, including a 4-to-3 vote in 2014 to support a $52,500 petitioned warrant article.

At annual town meeting in 2014, the library warrant article passed by 17 votes in a year when 38-percent of Gilmanton voters went to the polls.

The Gilmanton Year-Round Library opened in 2009 as a privately-funded entity that was available to all members of the community. Each year the library has asked for some voter support and in all but two of them the voters have agreed.

Many voters support the library but not public funding because when it was being built — entirely through a donated building, grants, and private donations — they believe trustees promised they would not come to the town to request money for operating expenses.

To this day, the library runs with the help of volunteer labor but other operating expenses like heat and electricity cost money.

Additionally, Gilmanton has two other seasonal libraries — one in the Gilmanton Iron Works and one at the "Four Corners", that are funded through taxpayers dollars to the tune of about $3,000 to $4,000 annually.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 January 2015 01:40

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Racial element apparent in fight between inmates at Belknap County Jail

LACONIA — A inmate housed at the Belknap County Jail appeared in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division by video yesterday and pleaded not guilty to one misdemeanor count of assault by prisoners, mutual consent.

Affidavits filed with the court by the Belknap County Sheriffs Department said Corey Cromwell, 26, of 18 Pine St. in Tilton allegedly hit fellow inmate Cody Ryan with his hand during a confrontation.

During the investigation, police learned that Ryan and Cromwell were housed in the same unit in adjoining cells. On the evening of December 1, 2014 witnesses said Ryan was "banging" in his cell and yelling racist obscenities at Cromwell.
Ryan was successful in getting some of the other inmates to join him. Corrections officers put the entire unit on lock down for the night. The lock down ended in the early morning hours of the next day.

Ryan allegedly kept yelling to Cromwell saying the two would meet "face to face" in the morning.

At 5:45 p.m., a guard in the main console room watched on video and saw Cromwell go into Ryan's cell, come out once and then go back in. He notified other guards that there was a fight in the unit.

When guards arrived, both men were removed from the unit. Ryan allegedly had blood coming from his nose and Cromwell allegedly had blood on his T-shirt.

Ryan allegedly told one of the guards that because Cromwell was so much bigger than he was he just started swinging when Cromwell entered his cell.

During his police interview, Cromwell waived his right to legal counsel and told a sheriff's deputy that he thought Ryan was making a ruckus on December 1 because he was being sent to the N.H. State Prison the next morning.

Cromwell told the deputy that he did go into Ryan's cell to tell him it wasn't fair to punish all of them for something that Ryan did. Cromwell left Ryan's cell but was called back in by Ryan. He said when he went in the second time, Ryan started swinging at him, hitting him mainly in the chest. Cromwell said he swung at Ryan in self defense.

A different inmate in the same unit told the deputy that he heard Ryan tell Cromwell to return to the cell and that he heard Ryan call Cromwell a racial slur. He said Ryan tried to to grab Cromwell by the legs in a take-down move and that's when the fight began.

Affidavits said Ryan refused to cooperate with the deputy's investigation. N.H. State Prison's on-line inmate locator said Ryan is prison for a year. He was convicted of heroin possession.

Cromwell remains in Belknap County Jail and is awaiting trial for charges stemming from a Laconia incident revolving around his role in a car theft. He also faces charges from Gilford Police for one count of arson.

The sheriff's investigation into the fight ongoing and additional arrests could be made.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 January 2015 01:39

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City asked to ease process for couples who want to marry in Rotary Park

LACONIA — For nearly 150 years the Belknap Mill clattered and hummed with the sound of weaving and knitting machines, but now rings with wedding bells on spring and summer weekends.

Each year dozens of couples celebrate their union at the mill. The program director of the Belknap Mill Society, Beth San Soucie, said that she has already booked more than two dozen 2015 weddings on the some 30 weekends of the peak season between late April and early October. "There are still a few open dates," she noted.

"We get requests from everywhere," San Soucie continued, recalling that last year couples from California, Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New York and the New England states, many with some ties to Laconia or New Hampshire, tied the knot at the mill. She said that the mill touts itself as a wedding venue on the Internet at websites like "The Wedding Wire" and "The Knot".

For weddings the third floor Rose Chertok Gallery is rented for the day — from 9 a.m. until midnight — for $850, which includes the room, tables, chairs and layout. San Soucie said that she hopes to work with local businesses to create what she called "wedding packages" that would expand what the society could offer.

Frequently, the wedding ceremony itself is held in the gazebo at the adjacent Rotary Park, then the couple, family and guests retire to the Rose Chertok Gallery for the reception.

This week the process for using city-owned Rotary Park brought San Soucie to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which approves requests to hold events in the city parks.

Those seeking to use the parks must make a formal request to the commission, accompanied by proof of liability coverage indemnifying the city in the amount of $1 million. The request is placed on the agenda of next meeting of the commission, which the applicant or a representative must attend to address any issues raised by the commissioners.

San Soucie told the commission that for some applicants, particularly those residing in other states, the requirement to attend the meeting poses a challenge. "I asked if there was some way for the applicant to be virtually present without being physically present," she said.

Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said yesterday that the commissioners were "a little uncomfortable" with the suggestion of a virtual presence, either by telephone or Skype, but were eager to cooperate with the Belknap Mill Society in promoting the venue. He said that the commission asked him to draft a policy authorizing the director to approve routine requests for weddings in Rotary Park, which would eliminate the need for applicants to appear before the commission. The commission, Dunleavy said, "is acting in the spirit of cooperation with the mill to make their operation successful. He noted that the policy would apply solely to weddings and other requests to use Rotary Park would still require the approval of the commission.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 January 2015 01:23

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