Senate Finance Committee bids to find funds to keep Laconia HHS office open

CONCORD — The Senate Finance Committee has unanimously endorsed an amendment to the 2016-2017 state budget that would spare four district offices of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), including the office in Laconia, from closure.

The companion bill to the budget, House Bill 2, adopted by both the House and Senate, directs the commissioner of DHHS to consolidate district offices to reduce general fund appropriations to the department by $1 million in each year of the biennium. In an e-mail sent to district office staff a week ago, Nick Toumpas, the commissioner of DHHS, confirmed that along with Laconia offices in Claremont, Conway and Rochester have also been identified for closure. He noted that the savings would be achieved by "consolidation of district offices and associated reduction in lease expenses."

Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), who chairs the committee, said that she suggested the amendment to strip the provision from HB-2 when the committee met on Thursday. She said that she and other members of the committee, heard concerns from their constituents about the prospective closures. Forrester, who will tour the Laconia District Office with Regional Manager Lisa Boucher on Monday, said that "I hope to gain a fuller understanding of their work so that the Senate can effectively advocate for the restoration of funding for these offices."

Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) said that he and Senator Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester), his fellow Democrat on the Finance Committee, also intended to offer a similar amendment, along with several others. He said that the proposal to close the four district offices, which was supported by the Republican majorities in both the Senate and House, was among a number of issues that prompted the ten Democrats in the Senate to vote against the budget. The budget carried the Senate  with the unanimous support of all 14 Republican members. Hosmer acknowledged that the success of the amendment may depend on finding reductions of $1 million elsewhere in the budget, but remarked "there are lots of ways of doing that."

The amendment will be referred to the Committee of Conference, consisting of members of the Senate and House, which will meet next week to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the budget adopted by the two chambers. The Senate conferees are Morse Forrester, Gerry Little (R-Weare) and D'Allesandro. Hosmer and John Reagan (R-Deerfield) are alternates.

There are 62 employees working in the Laconia District office with 11,938 open cases. The office serves the city of Laconia and 25 towns (Alexandria, Alton, Ashland, Barnstead, Belmont, Bridgewater, Bristol, Campton, Center Harbor, Dorechester, Ellsworth, Gilford, Gilmanton, Hebron, Holderness, Meredith, New Hampton, Plymouth, Rumney, Sanbornton, Thorton, Tilton, Waterville Valley and Wentworth) .
Laconia, Belmont and Gilford are in Senate District 7, represented by Hosmer while 18 of the 22 towns in the catchment area of the Laconia District office are in Senate District 2, represented by Forrester. Laconia, Belmont and Gilford are in Senate District 7, represented by Hosmer while 18 of the 22 towns in the catchment area of the Laconia District office are in Senate District 2, represented by Forrester.

SWAT team called in to deal with Gilmanton man said to have threatened police

GILMANTON — A Musket Trail Road man is being held on $1,000 cash bail for allegedly threatening police by telling him he was going to shoot them.

Fifty-year old Michael Tape's threats led to a Thursday call to the Belknap County Special Operation Group (SWAT Team) as well as police from Alton, Barnstead and Belmont.

Tape is charged with two counts of criminal threatening, two counts of resisting arrest, one count of phone harassment for annoying Belmont Sgt. Steve Akerstrom, one count of simple assault for grabbing Gilford Officer Curtis Mailloux's wrist.

According to police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division and statements by Gilmanton Police, one of Tape's neighbors called the police and fire departments because Tape had been injured earlier in the week but had gotten drunk and fallen down some stairs. The neighbor said his head wound had reopened.

Sgt. Matt Currier was the first to respond. He went to check on Tape, who he knows, and was speaking to him through the sliding glass door in his home. Affidavits said Tape told Currier to get off his property or he was going to shoot him.

Currier evacuated the EMTs and told the neighbors to remain in their homes.

At 3:10 p.m. Currier called Tape on his phone and told him to come out of the house. Tape came out on his porch at 3:31 p.m. said police, and spoke with Currier who told him he was under arrest and to get off the porch.

Affidavits said Tape refused to be arrested and returned inside, closing the door behind him. Tape allegedly told Currier to "bring the whole SWAT Team."

At 3:37, Akerstrom spoke with Tape on the phone. Akerstrom told him to come out side because he was under arrest. Affidavits said Tape told Akerstrom that he would shoot every officer who came to get him.

Gilmanton Police Chief Joe Collins called Tape and was told that he wouldn't come out of the house unless Collins could guarantee him personal recognizance bail.

Others in the Special Operations Group arrived and advised Tape to come out of the house with his hands up and visible. Tape allegedly refused each time. The SWAT Team fired tear gas into Tape's home in an effort to get him to come out.

A short time later, said police, Tape opened the sliding door to get some fresh air. A SWAT Team member fired a Taser round but it had little to no effect.

Affidavits said SWAT Team members forced open Tape's door but Tape refused to submit. During the struggle, he grabbed Mailloux by the wrist.

Tape was eventually taken into custody and evaluated by emergency medical providers before being transported to the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Should Tape post bail, Judge Jim Carroll ordered him to live at 23 Musket Trail and to refrain from all alcohol. Carroll said bail could revert to personal recognizance if Tate is admitted to Portsmouth Hospital. Tate is also required to meet with Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center while at the jail about his treatment options.

Traditional riding events still at heart of nation's oldest motorcycle rally

LACONIA — The 92nd anniversary edition of Laconia Motorcycle Week, the nation's oldest such rally, remains true to its tradition of providing top notch adventures for riders.
''We're known as America's original riding rally for a good reason,'' says Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. "'We've always concentrated on riding events which give people the chance to take advantage of winding roads and picturesque views of all parts of the state. That's why the rally call is, ''In Laconia, we ride.''
St. Clair points out that New Hampshire has the second highest rate of motorcycle riders in the whole country and has always been a haven for motorcyclists, who first began gathering at the Weirs in 1917 for the New England Gypsy Tour.
The Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated reported on June 7, 1917 ''Gypsy tourists of Littleton under the guidance of Tour Manager Sullivan A. Fleury have arranged to join with tourists of the Bay State M.C. for a two-day tour to the Weirs on Lake Winnipesaukee. Littleton riders will cover approximately 160 miles, the course leading through Franconia Notch to Plymouth, Ashland and Weirs.''
He says that this year is no exception with a wide variety of rides scheduled starting today and running through next weekend.
The 9th annual Peter Makris Memorial Run, which has raised over $275,000 since its inception, will start from the NASWA Resort on Weirs Blvd. this morning at 11 a.m. for a ride with a State Police escort around Lake Winnipesaukee. The annual charity run that benefits the Laconia Fire Department Lifesaving Fund and Water Rescue Team and the Easter Seals NH Veterans Count program.
On Sunday the AMA Gypsy Tour ride leaves rally headquarters on the Weirs Beach boardwalk at 10:30 a.m. for vintage motorcycle races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
On Monday the second annual Mae West Memorial 'for the love of pets' Ride leaves rally headquarters at 10:30 a.m. and after a tour through local scenic towns ends at Junior's Crush House in Gilford. Proceeds benefit the New Hampshire Humane Society.
Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. a Gypsy Tour ride leaves rally headquarters for a scenic ride to Bentley's Saloon in Arundel, Maine.
Wednesday will see a covered bridge Gypsy Tour leaving rally headquarters at 10:30 a.m. for a 200 mile scenic ride which will take in at least 10 covered bridges in New Hampshire.
On Thursday there will the annual ''Ride to the Sky'' up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, which is open only to motorcycles and the 22nd annual POW/MIA Freedom Ride from Lowe's parking lot in Gilford to the POW/MIA monument at Hesky Park in Meredith. The ride gets underway at 6 p.m.
Cynthia Makris, the general manager of the NASWA Resort who chairs the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association (LMWA), says the association is marking its 25th year organizing and promoting the rally.
She says that Motorcycle Week ''is like our baby. We have raised it and continue to treat it delicately as we feel like all those who are here to ride or here to assist those who ride are part of the Laconia motorcycle family.''