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State Rep. candidates sympathetic to city council’s county jail concerns

LACONIA — Appearing before the City Council last night, candidates running for seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, who would also fill the 18 seats on the Belknap County Convention, generally shared the city's approach to rebuilding the Belknap County Jail.
Mayor Ed Engler explained the council's concern that since the city will bear approximately 20-percent of the expense of constructing and operating a new facility, its share of the cost should fall within the limits of the tax cap.
Last month the council resolved that the county jail must comply with all state and federal regulations and standards required of correctional facilities in order to eliminate any liability to the county and that the project should be undertaken in a timely manner. Moreover, the council specified that a compliant facility should be built for between $15 million and $20 million, either by renovating some or all of the existing facility, constructing an entirely new jail or some combination of the two. The term of a borrowing to fund the project should be as long as possible in order to minimize the annual principal and interest payments. Finally, the council noted that the higher the construction cost, the lower the operating costs to limit the aggregate annual cost to the debt service on a borrowing of between $15-million and $20-million.
This resolution was sent to all incumbent members and aspiring candidate, who were invited to respond to the council.
"I will continue to give careful consideration to this project," Rep. Ian Raymond (D-Sanbornton) began, "but, I will not allow the Laconia tax cap to take precedence over public safety."
David Devoy of Sanbornton, a candidate for the Belknap Commission, assured the council "I will protect Laconia's tax cap and I will protect public safety."
David Pollak of Laconia, who is competing with Devoy for a seat on the county commission, dismissed the suggestion that anyone sought to spend $42-million on the jail and said that there are several alternatives, one estimated to cost $25-million. The size of the facility, he noted, depends on making changes to the criminal justice system, particularly the pre-trial and sentencing processes, to reduce the number of beds required.
Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, who is running for a House seat, said that he would measure the financial impact on all the municipalities in the county and seek to balance the interests of as many as possible.
Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who chairs the executive committee of the county convention, asserted that cost of the project "should be within the tax cap" and said that he was "optimistic" this goal could be achieved.
"I'm all for building that jail and building it now," said Rep. Bob Luther (R-Laconia), who suggested that the rift between the convention and commission was the major stumbling block. "'No' never built anything," he remarked
Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) cautioned the council that by setting a range of costs "you're essentially speculating. The cost will be determined by how soon we get pricing." He said that to meet all codes and regulations as well as provide "a modicum of support for programs to keep from having to build more jails is going to cost some money." Huot also questioned the wisdom of extending the amortization schedule on a borrowing.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) countered that extending the amortization would distribute the cost of the project over a greater number of residents who would benefit from it. More importantly he stressed the importance of lending highest priority to bringing the facility into compliance before considering adding programs and personnel. In particular, he said that county officials should begin by setting a budget for the project and asking the architect and engineer to design a facility with the parameters of the budget.
Devoy offered that if elected, he would tell the architect "you have $7-million to work with. You got to think what you can afford," he said.
Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) expressed concern that the animosity between the convention and the commission had brought the process to a standstill. "What can we do to get this process going?" he asked.
"After November 4," said Gallagher, "there will be a real opportunity to look at something that makes sense."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 01:38

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Barnstead police arrest 2 for tire theft

 BARNSTEAD — Two area men were ordered held on cash bail after appearing in the 4th Circuit Court Laconia Division yesterday after allegedly admitting to stealing some tires from a Rochester tire dealer.

Clifford Watson, 33, of Alton is charged with one count of receiving stolen property, and Brandon Prue, 32, of Northfield is charged with one count of receiving stolen property, one count of disobeying an officer, and one count of driving after suspension.

According to Watson's affidavit, a local business owner noticed two men on her property. Her relatives went out to speak to them, but one of them took off in his car leaving the other person behind.

When police arrived the property owners described a car that happened to drive by the property again while the officer was there.

The officer followed the car and stopped it.

The driver, later identified as Prue, allegedly gave a false name, said police. When the officer spoke to Watson, he identified the driver as Prue.

While police officer spoke to the two, he noticed a number of tires of different sizes and types in the back seat.

Police separated Prue and Watson and initially got different explanations.

Affidavits said Prue was placed under arrest and charged with driving without a license, after which he agreed to talk to police and told them he and Watson had taken four truck tires from Town Fair Tire in Newington and the rest from a garage in Rochester.

After being read his rights, affidavits said Watson admitted to being with Prue and taking the tires from the businesses.

Prue was held on $500 cash and Watson was held on $1,000 cash.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 12:32

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Flagpole dedicated at Gilford’s historic warming hut

GILFORD — After three-plus years of planning and fund-raising, the town of Gilford dedicated its public safety and service flag pole yesterday afternoon in its permanent spot next to the historic warming hut on Route 11A.

The memorial is the town's way of saying thank you to the police, fire, and public works and other town employees who work to make the community a better place to live.

"We expect that this memorial will have all of us not think of these folks in the background, but recognize them all the time – not only when they are urgently needed," said Selectman John O'Brien.

The idea of a memorial park began in early 2011 when O'Brien proposed a flag pole and a small memorial for the triangle area where Route 11A and Route 11B intersect. The goal was to have the park ready for a dedication ceremony on the 10th anniversary of the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The selectmen agreed with the plan and began a campaign to raise about $3,000 for the project.

Initially proposed a the Memorial Triangle, the N.H. Department of Transportation was against the project from the beginning, citing its concern for safety because of the overall design of the triangle and the intersection.

The state holds the rights of way and easements in the area, even though the triangle belongs to the town.

After squabbling back and forth for three years, selectmen decided to give up negotiating with the DOT, forego the Memorial Triangle, and build the park on town property across the road next to the newly restored warming hut.

At yesterday's 15-minute ceremony, attended mostly by members of the Police, Fire and Public Works Departments, Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee, Fire Chief Steve Carrier, and Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan each made brief statements.

A color guard comprised of police and firefighters led the ceremony.

The flag flies from a 25-foot-tall pole and is lit 24 hours a day through solar power. Public Works employees constructed a small flower bed around the base of the pole that is situated about 20 feet away from the newly acquired plaque designating the warming hut as a historical landmark.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 12:39

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Rep. Shea-Porter supports air strikes against ISIS but ‘I don’t see any role for us on the ground’

LACONIA — First District Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, whose forthright criticism of then-President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq contributed to her election in 2006, finds herself with misgivings about President Obama's policy in the Middle East as she campaigns for re-election.

In an interview with Laconia Daily Sun, Shea-Porter, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said, "I'm not comfortable with the president's handling of the situation. Other countries should be out there defending themselves," she continued, "but everyone is waiting for us to lead." Instead of seeking countries to help the United States, she asked, "Shouldn't it be that the United States will help them?" She said that President Obama has not spoken enough about the responsibilities of other countries or stressed the willingness of the United States to help them.

She said that the invasion of Iraq "set the stage" for the current crisis in the region, marked by the civil war in Syria and the ascendancy of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), which she called "heart-breakingly horrible. The region is full of minefields," she continued, "and we must be careful where we step." She said that because "alliances change daily, we can't figure out who we can trust. There are lots of questions to answer before we just jump in," she said.

Shea-Porter, of Rochester, said that she supported air strikes aimed at ISIS as well as efforts to strengthen the Kurdish forces resisting ISIS. But, she cautioned against arming the Free Syrian Army in the hope it would join the campaign against ISIS since its leadership has said it would turn its weapons to the campaign to overthrow President Assad of Syria.

Direct intervention in the Middle East — particularly the civil war in Syria — "would be a very big mistake," Shea-Porter stressed. However, she did not rule out providing "humanitarian aid." The warring parties in the region, she said, "don't like us and don't trust us. I can't see any role for us on the ground," she remarked.

Shea-Porter said that while the administration's foreign policy began on "a good track," it has been "less so recently as the world has become a lot more complicated." The president, she said, is receiving "lots of conflicting advice" and in the circumstances suggested he "move slowly."


Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 01:08

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