Other side to the story - Mayhews to respond in court about alleged crematorium smells


MEREDITH — The late ABC radio personality Paul Harvey, known for his "The Rest of the Story" segments. has a convert in a Carroll County judge.
Judge Amy Ignatius, who is weighing whether to at least temporarily halt a local crematorium from operating has said she will delay her decision until the funeral director has the chance to respond to allegations from an abutter.
On Oct. 17, Queen City lawyer Marc van Zanten and his clients Peter and Kelley Mayhew failed to show up at a hearing at Carroll County Superior Court. They were scheduled to present evidence as to why the court should reject claims by their neighbors Doug and Leslyee Frederick that their crematorium is a public nuisance. The Fredericks assert that the crematorium at the junction of Route 3 and Cataldo Road in Meredith, produces a sickening smell and emits an ash-like particulate that falls on their property.
After the Fredricks, their legal team and 17 witnesses, many of whom traveled from out of state to attend, the judge allowed testimony to proceed despite the absence of the Mayhews and their attorney.
On Oct. 19, Ignatius issued a written order detailing that the plaintiff's counsel had received notice of the hearing but that as a result of "internal miscommunication" at his law firm, it was not placed on his calendar.
The court decided to allow the plaintiffs to obtain copies of the photographs and video recordings that were submitted as evidence during the hearing as well as a recording of the testimony. Attorney van Zanten was also given leave to file written arguments and/or a sworn affidavit or response. All filings must be submitted by Nov. 2.
Last May, the Mayhews, who own and operate Mayhew Funeral Home Inc., sought a court order temporarily restraining the Fredericks from making unsubstantiated claims regarding their crematorium and the impact it has on abutting property.
While the court denied the Mayhews' request to silence the Fredricks who formerly operated the American Police Motorcycle Museum out of a building next door to the funeral home, an underlying suit that claims the Fredrick's continued public complaints have defamed the Mayhews, remains ongoing.
The Fredericks in turn counter sued, asking a judge to find that the crematorium is a nuisance and as such should be shut down, or at least temporarily closed until changes can be made to abate the problems the Fredericks claim have forced them to close their museum.
In asking a judge to muffle the Fredericks from making continued public complaints, the Mayhews argued that since 2013, the couple have disparaged and defamed their business by making false statements that the crematorium deposits "human remains" on their property, regularly gives off malodorous dark smoke, and was put in without proper authorization.
The Mayhews cite testing done by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in May 2016 during which no smoke or ash was observed coming from the crematorium stack, but charge that the Fredericks have continued to tell municipal and state officials, townspeople and the media, that the facility exceeds regulatory limits and is depositing human ash on their property.
The Fredricks have acknowledged making such statements, but assert they are neither false or defamatory.
In denying the Mayhews' request, Ignatius held that issuing an injunction is in and of itself an extraordinary measure, but that granting one against the Fredericks, amounts to restraint of free speech.
Ignatius ruled that she was not persuaded that without an injunction, that the Mayhews would be immediately and irreparably harmed by the Fredericks' statements. She further found that the Mayhews had not shown they had a reasonable likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the underlying case.
But the judge did warn the Fredericks that while they were not under any court order, "They make disparaging statements at their peril."
If evidence later proves that the ash they complain of is coming from a source other than the crematorium, does not contain what they call "human remains" or there are other allegedly defamatory statements, the Fredericks could face monetary damages, the judge wrote in a July 26 order.
Four days before the hearing van Zanten failed to attend, he filed a motion asking the judge to extend the deadline for the two sides to share their respective evidence until March 30. Attorneys William Woodbury and Mark Mallory, who represent the Fredericks and the motorcycle museum, which closed its doors in July, assented to the request, which was granted by the judge on Oct. 24.
A final pretrial hearing is now scheduled for March 31. If the parties are unable to reach agreement following mediation, jury selection is set for April 10.

Gilford tax rate set - Stays almost even at $17.95 per $1,000

GILFORD — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue has set the tax rate for 2016 at $17.95 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is down 20 cents or less than 1 percent from last year. For someone with a home valued at $300,000, that translates to a bill of $5,385.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said Monday that tax bills should have been mailed to residents  and are due around Dec. 8.

The local tax rate is composed of two separate factors over which the voters have control and include the town rate, which is $5.34 per $1,000 in assessed value and is up 20 cents or 3.7 percent from 2015, and the local school rate, which is $8.98 and down 2 cents, or less than 1 percent, from 2015.

One other components of the tax rate are the statewide property tax that is set by the state and collects money that is redistributed to local school districts. This year's rate is $2.30 per $1,000 in assessed value, which represents a decrease of 15 cents or a 6.1 percent decrease from last year.

The final component is the county tax that is driven by the budget passed by the 18 members of the Belknap County Delegation, who are also the people elected to represent various Belknap County communities in the N.H. State House. This rate is $1.33 per $1,000 in assessed value and is down five cents or 3.6 percent from last year.

Dunn said the 2016 town operating budget was $8,858,929 in money raised through local taxes.

Selectmen approved a budget last Wednesday that included a total of $8,991,821 in money to be raised by local taxes, which is up by 1.5 percent. The Budget Committee is reviewing the proposed budget and meets weekly on Thursday nights.

Genesis Behavioral Health honors Kristen Welch and Jacqui Abikoff


LACONIA — Genesis Behavioral Health celebrated its half-century as the community mental health center for Belknap and southern Grafton counties and honored two individuals for their outstanding service to the community at its annual meeting last week.

Kristen Welch, the former director of development and communications at Genesis Behavioral Health, received the Dr. Pete Harris Community Service Award, named for the founder of the agency and awarded to someone whose actions speak louder than words to promote respect and care for those in need.

"Her efforts have helped improve community regard and township support for the necessity of timely access to emergency clinical and medical service supports that are often unfunded in service contracts," said Marshall Hatch, who nominated Welch. "She has conducted herself tirelessly, with brightness, humor and hopefulness, for the improvement of services and and respectful regard within the communities of New Hampshire for all those living with mental illness and emotional distress."

Welch left the agency to become director of advancement at Community Action Partnership of Strafford County.

The Helen Holbrook Leadership and Service Award, named for the first staff member of Genesis Behavioral Health who remained active until her death in September 2015, was awarded to Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons Counseling Center.

"Abikoff," said Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis Behavioral Health, "has created and expanded services for those with substance abuse disorders and co-occurring disorders."

Describing Abikoff as "part of the landscape of the Lakes Region," Pritchard said that she has been essential to the success of Belknap CountyRecovery Court as well as contributed to efforts to address domestic and sexual violence and prevent suicide.

"It is very special that on our 50th anniversary we honor former employees of Genesis Behavioral Health who have contributed to and continue to champion the success behavioral health services," Pritchard said.

11-01 Kristen Welch Recipient of Dr Harris Award

Dr. Kelley White (second from right) presents the Dr. Pete Harris Community Service Award to Kristen Welch (second from left), former director of development and communications at Genesis Behavioral Health at the agency's annual meeting together with Dr. Harris's daughters, Martha Dolben, left, and Anne Onion, right. (Courtesy photo)

11-01 Jacqui Abikoff Holbrook Award

Elaine Morrison, left, the daughter of Helen Holbrook, presents the Leadership and Service Award named for her mother to Jacqui Abikoff, executive director of Horizons Counseling Center, at the annual meeting of Genesis Behavioral Health. (Courtesy photo)

photo credits Ian Raymond.