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Correction: Shaker budget vote will be Monday morning

The headline that appeared yesterday with an article about the funding of pre-K and kindergarten in the Shaker School District listed an incorrect time for the meeting. The Shaker School Board will meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, January 19,  at the SAU Building, for a final vote on the budget.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 January 2015 01:29

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Zoning Task Force tackles medical marijuana issues

LACONIA — The Zoning Task Force yesterday neared agreement on a proposed ordinance to regulate a medical marijuana dispensary in the event that someone should apply to operate one in the city in accordance with statute authorizing the use of the drug to treat a specified number of medical conditions.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has invited requests for proposals to operate Alternative Treatment Centers (ACTs) in four geographic zones, one of which consists of Belknap, Strafford and Rockingham counties. Each ACT would be licensed to dispense and cultivate marijuana, as well as process the plant into edible products. With the support of DHHS, legislation (Senate Bill 22) has been introduced that would enable each licensed dispensary, with the approval of the department, to operate one satellite facility, which could only dispense, not cultivate or process, marijuana.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders told the task force that although the city manager had an informal inquiry from a prospective applicant in the summer, she anticipated that a dispensary was more likely to be located in a more heavily populated part of the designated region, which includes the cities of Portsmouth, Dover, Rochester and Somersworth. However, she said that DHHS has advised her that applications close at the end of this month and it intends to narrow its selections by the end of next month in anticipation that the dispensaries will open six months later.

Sanders recalled that in 2008, when Metro Treatment of New Hampshire sought to operate a methadone clinic in the city, there were no appropriate zoning ordinances in place, adding that she did not want the city to find itself in the same situation again.

Saunders said that DHHS has issued 70 pages of rules governing the ownership and operation of the facilities, but where and when such a facility could operate are questions for the city to address. Rather than propose different regulations for dispensing, cultivating and processing, she suggested the same regulation apply to all three.
Saunders recommended that ACTs be confined to the Industrial Park, Industrial and Airport Industrial districts and prohibited elsewhere. The Industrial Park District refers to the O'Shea Industrial Park on Lexington Drive. There are three Industrial Districts in downtown, two beyond the south end and another near the north end of Union Avenue. The Airport Industrial District lies east of White Oaks Road and borders the Gilford town line. Acts would be prohibited in residential districts and within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare centers and places of worship. The dispensaries would be allowed to operate between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Michael Foote wondered why marijuana could not be cultivated in districts where agriculture is permitted. Saunders explained that marijuana would be grown indoors in large buildings and, in light of security considerations, these facilities should not be isolated in rural areas.
Warren Hutchins, who chairs the Planning Board, suggested that the ordinance provide for licensing ACTs, which would be charged an appropriate fee. Saunders said that ACTs will be licensed by the state and did not know if they could also be licensed by municipalities.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 January 2015 01:25

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Divided Gilford selectboard votes not to support petitioned fireworks ban

GILFORD — Selectmen crossed swords again last night over the fireworks issue when two of them voted not to support a petitioned warrant article spearheaded by a third selectman.

Selectman John O'Brien, who has long been an opponent of personal fireworks use, started a petitioned warrant article and got the 25 signatures necessary to put it on this year's warrant.

"My issue with this," said Selectman Gus Benevides, "is presenting this by one selectman."

He said he understands that as a private citizen, O'Brien has the right to petition an article if he wants, however, because he is a selectman, Benevides and Selectman Richard Grenier felt the board should make an official recommendation not to support it.

Last year, Benevides and Grenier voted to abolish a fireworks ordinance that had been passed in 2013.

Benevides has been against banning personal fireworks because the state allows them to be purchased. O'Brien has always been for a ban. The third selectman has always been the tie breaker.

O'Brien objected to having the board support or not support a non-money article because the selectmen typically don't take official positions on all non-money articles.

He made a motion that selectmen should vote to support or not support all non-money warrant articles, but it failed for lack of a second.

In other business, at the request of Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee, selectmen are considering an ordinance that would make the possession and sale of synthetic drugs.

Bean Burpee said Det. Sgt. Chris Jacques has been researching the matter for about six months by speaking with chemists, police from communities with similar ordinances, and other experts. His proposed ordinance has the support of Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen and Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill III.

He noted that in the past few years there have been about a dozen incidents in Gilford involving synthetic drugs and he learned that in 2013 a 17-year-old from a different community went to a local concert, purchased some synthetic drugs and died at his home later that evening.

Laconia, Belmont, Wolfeboro, Tilton and Franklin have all passed similar ordinances.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 02:27

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Newfound Budget Committee supports middle school football program

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School District Budget Committee finalized its recommendations for the 2015-2016 school year following a public hearing on Jan. 9, lending its endorsement to a petitioned warrant article that would bring the middle school football program under the umbrella of Newfound athletics.
The petitioned article calls for the district to provide $15,000 per year to support the feeder program known as the Junior Bears. Until now, the Friends of Newfound Football has funded and operated the program at Newfound Memorial Middle School.
The Friends organization also supports the high school program which, like the Junior Bears, began as an independent athletic program but since has become taxpayer-financed, although the Friends maintain the field.
During the budget committee deliberations, Friends President Lynn Comeau of Hebron clarified that the cost of operating the program is about $8,000 per year but that the $15,000 figure would also provide money for uniforms and helmets that need replacing. She expects actual costs next year to be less than $15,000, providing a surplus that the program could carry forward to reduce future years' spending.
Superintendent Stacy Buckley said that, although the article calls for ongoing payments, it would require a new appropriation each year.
During the sparsely attended public hearing, several supporters spoke of the value of the program to students who might not excel in academics or other sports. Football Coach Andrew Szendre noted that the Division III coaches had chosen Newfound as having the best overall sportsmanship from players, coaches, spectators, and the home climate. The team also has helped with regional events such as the New Hampshire Marathon and raised money for the local food pantry.
Other speakers questioned whether adding another sports program would be prudent when there are academic needs that are not being met. Money for textbooks was cut to meet the district's tax cap and the guidance department has been pared back.
Budget committee member Christen Dolloff of Bristol cited those concerns later, saying she had a hard time supporting the article when she is hearing guidance counselors saying the students need more assistance.
Others, however, said the football program answers some of the problems guidance faces in meeting students' needs. Jeff Bird of Bridgewater gave an impassioned plea for the committee to support the article, saying the program builds a sense of community. He noted that bringing the program into the school district brings another level of safety to the participants, as well, as the district can conduct concussion tests, while the Friends cannot.
Harold "Skip" Reilly of Alexandria made the motion to support the article, saying the program builds confidence and character. When it came to a vote, only John Jenness II of New Hampton voted against supporting the article.
The budget hearing attracted a small audience of 15, most of whom were connected with the schools. Chair Simon Barnett of Danbury reviewed the warrant articles, highlighting the budget impacts of the two-year teacher's contract, and he dispensed with a close review of the proposed budget, instead focusing on changes the Newfound Area School Board had made to the administration's original proposal and the items the budget committee adjusted.
The budget committee had added back $93,000 for replacement of the roof and drainage at the middle school; $10,960 for refurbishment of gymnasium floors; $16,000 for a projection system in the high school auditorium; and $10,000 for the painting of buildings.
The total proposed budget is $21,948,204, an increase of $2,767 from the current-year budget.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:48

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