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Sanbornton BudCom says 'no' to 2 1/2% raises

SANBORNTON — The Budget Committee has voted against giving town employees a 2 1/2 percent raise in fiscal year 2014-2015.

The committee's vote on Tuesday goes against the Board of Selectmen's recommendation that the town's 22 full-time employees get the raises.

"Everybody got 2 1/2 percent last year and the Police Department got their pay scales adjusted," said Budget Committee Chair Earl Leighton, adding he is comfortable with not giving raises in fiscal year 2015.

Sanbornton operates on a fiscal year as opposed to a calender year. The annual town meeting is held in May and the year begins on July 1. Not an SB-2 community, Sanbornton budgets and most warrants articles can be amended on the floor.

"If the voters choose to add the 2 1/2 percent, then I'm comfortable with that, too," Leighton said. "After all, they are the ones who are paying for it."

Leighton said the Budget Committee supports the reclassification of five employees — meaning five people will get raises because additional duties and/or training has earned them a different classification and a higher spot on the grade scale.

Three of those employees are in the Fire Department and include Chief Paul Dexter and two of his call staff. Two of the positions are in the Town Hall Administration.

On Tuesday, the Budget Committee reviewed the Fire Department budget but kicked it back to the selectmen when members realized it the classification adjustments were included by the 2 1/2 percent proposed pay increase for the rest of the employees was not.

Next Tuesday, the Budget Committee is scheduled to review the Highway Department budget which is up 8.6 percent including the proposed 2 1/2 percent pay increase.

So far, the selectmen have presented a still-in-progress proposed fiscal year total budget of $4,695,546 that represents an increase of about 1.4 percent over the current fiscal year's budget.

Town Administrator Bob Veloski said the selectmen have not voted on a final budget but are waiting for the recommendations of the Budget Committee. He said the fiscal year 2015 is still very much a work in process.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 02:13

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Mooneys agree to sell Briarcrest Estates to cooperative

LACONIA — With the decision of Mark and Ruth Mooney, the owners of Briarcrest Estates, to enter a purchase and sales agreement to sell the manufacturing housing park to the Lakemont Cooperative for $10 million the struggle over the future ownership of the park appears to be nearing an end.

Attorney John Giere, representing the Mooneys, confirmed yesterday that the owners reached agreement with the cooperative on January 8, contingent on on the completion of due diligence and the arrangement of appropriate financing.

Jim Cowan, president of the cooperative said "we're on an express train and heading into the station," adding that he expected the transaction would close in late March or early April. The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which has facilitated the conversion of more than 100 manufactured housing parks from commercial to cooperative ownership, is shepherding the cooperative through the transaction.

In July the Mooneys accepted a $10 million offer from Hometown America. State law requires park owners, upon receiving an offer, to "consider any offer received from the tenants or a tenants' association" and to "negotiate in good faith with the tenants concerning a potential purchase." Tenants representing a minority of the 241 units formed the Lakemont Cooperative and presented a matching offer, The Mooneys, with the support of a majority of tenants who prefer commercial to cooperative ownership, asked the Belknap County Superior Court to approve the sale to Hometown America. The cooperative challenged the maneuver and the case is still pending.

Giere said that the litigation has been continued with the agreement of both parties and would be withdrawn when the transaction closes. He noted that Hometown America, which also has a purchase and sales agreement with the Mooneys, is "on the sidelines", apparently prepared to pursue its offer should the deal with the cooperative go awry.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 02:10

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Fire breaks out in Busy Corner cellar

LACONIA — Firefighters from Laconia, Gilford and Belmont quickly doused a fire that broke out in the cellar of the building at Normandin Square housing JD's Barber Shop around 8 p.m. last night. At 8:20 p.m. Fire Chief Ken Erickson told police the fire had been extinguished and he expected the intersection would be cleared within the hour. The building long housed the Busy Corner Store. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 02:10

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Issues involving homeless an every day fact of life for Laconia police

LACONIA — When police officers in Laconia begin their shifts, they generally meet with the outgoing shift for daily updates, check their messages, and get their instructions from their supervisor.

As temperatures dip below zero, some of those assignments include checking on the various homeless camps hidden throughout the city.

"We want to make sure they're okay," said Police Chief Chris Adams. "Many of these people are in danger of freezing to death."

Adams estimates there are between 20 to 35 chronically homeless people living in Laconia and winter's cold and snow present a unique challenge to both the homeless and the police.

Police have joined forces with other city agencies both public and private to address homelessness in Laconia and to encourage a city-wide effort called Hope for the Homeless. The mission is working together as a community to combat the causes of homelessness and the kickoff is the marshaling of community efforts at the Laconia Middle School on February 17 from 5 to 8 p.m. The highlight will be a community viewing of the award-winning short film "Inocente" that is about a teenaged girl who combats her homelessness with her art work.

The challenges presented to police by the homeless and near-homeless are two-fold said Adams. On one hand, there is the duty to protect and serve and he said people who are homeless deserve and need the same protections offered to all.

To that end, he said many of his patrol officers have struck up relationships with individual members of the community and check in on them regularly.

"Last year we had a man who lived, by his own choice, in a tent nearby," said Adams, beginning just one of the many stories he can tell. He said the man and one particular officer struck up a relationship and the officer checked on him daily and occasionally brought him food, coffee, and other small necessities paid for out of his own pocket.

Adams said the man's only desire was to be left alone and, aside from this officer, he trusted no one.

But he said the officer and other police also had to make sure others weren't taking advantage of this man, adding that people who live on the streets often have their own code and will often times prey on other homeless people.

Over the course of last winter, he said, the Laconia officer realized the man wasn't doing well physically. He drank, which is often the case of the chronically homeless, and his health had deteriorated to the point that the officer realized the man would die if he didn't get medical treatment.

Adams said the officer convinced the man to be put into protective custody and he was taken to the hospital where he was treated for a variety of ailments.

When asked what became of the man, Adams said local agencies learned he was a veteran and they combined resources and convinced him to go to a veterans hospital, where he remains today.

But most times, stories involving the police and the homeless don't have happy endings.

Adams said the department faces constant pressure from the rest of the community to remove homeless people from their camps and hangouts.

In the 20 years he has worked in Laconia, Adams said he has sen the number of homeless and transient people in the city increase.

He said some of the clusters of the chronically homeless, especially the people who congregate near Laconia City Hall and in Rotary Park, are a constant problem for the police.

"We get calls all of the time," he said. "Sleeping in the parking garage, sleeping in the lobbies of banks and ATMs, public urination and defecation, shoplifting, drinking, sleeping in cars, and loitering," he said, reciting off the usual complaints his department gets about the homeless.

Often times, police find intoxicated people who have to be taken into protective custody. In nearly every police log for nearly every shift, the Laconia Police record some response to a complaint about homeless or transient people.

In the 24 hours recorded from 4 p.m. Wednesday until 4 p.m. yesterday, city police responded to one call for shoplifting, one call for loitering, and had to take one transient man into protective custody for intoxication coupled with some mental health problems.

In the past four years, at least two homeless people have died in separate incidents. In both cases, the individuals had fallen into the water and either died from drowning or exposure. The family of one of these men planted a garden in his memory along the WOW Trail.

Police also respond to altercations and incidents within many of the homeless camps — especially in the summer. He said there have been reports of beatings, stabbings, and sexual assaults and all are investigated. Most times the crimes are fueled by alcohol and/or drugs.

He said some of situations within the camps are volatile and present real dangers to the officers who respond to them.

Laconia does not have a cold-weather shelter. Adams said the one shelter available to locals is a "dry" shelter where any alcohol or drugs use is strictly forbidden, which puts it off-limits for many of the city's homeless.

When asked if he would support a cold-weather shelter in the city, Adams said he would if it is done correctly. He also said he thinks many of the homeless people he and his officers deal with regularly would come in to an emergency shelter if there were one.

When asked what police do now, he said on extremely cold nights, police will use money from the Police Relief Association Family Fund to buy hotels rooms for a night.

He also said on extremely cold nights, homeless people will stay with friends who happen to have apartments at the time.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 01:54

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