Belknap County reverses some proposed cuts to agencies


LACONIA — After an outcry at proposed cuts, the Belknap County Convention members have restored some funding to outside agencies which a subcomittee had recommended cutting, along with reducing the overall proposed budget on Tuesday.
The Belknap County Economic Development Committee, whose $75,000 request had been cut to zero by the subcommittee, saw $60,000 of its request restored.

Genesis Behavioral Health, which had also been zeroed out, saw $30,000 of its $34,200 request restored.
UNH Cooperative Extension Service, which had requested $152,217 and had been cut to $116,703, was funded at $145,000.
The Belknap County Conservation District, which had requested $92,400 and was cut to $49,160, was funded at $80,000.
The Community Action program, which had requested $86,905 and had been cut to $54,905 was funded at $60,000.
Greater Lakes Region Child Advocacy saw its $11,000 request cut by 5 percent to $10,450.
Court Appointed Special Advocates, whose $5,000 request had been denied, was placed in the budget as a $1 line item.
County Commissioners proposed a $27,235,571 budget which the convention reduced to $27,109,620 earlier this week. The convention also reduced the amount to be raised by taxes from $13,837,714 in the commission's proposed budget to $12,956,223 by voting to increase the amount of the fund balance used to reduce taxes from the $1,775,397 proposed by the commission to $2,380,000.
The convention also increased the anticipated revenue line for the Belknap County Home by $150,000 when it met Tuesday night.
The Belknap County Convention will hold a public hearing on the 2016 budget on Monday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. at the Belknap County complex.

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New county drug task force to target dealers


LACONIA — Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin and the Belknap County Police Chiefs Association have announced the formation of a Belknap County Drug Task Force which will target drug dealers who are operating in the county.
"Our goal is enforcement. We have to arrest these people who are selling this stuff which is killing our people," Wiggin said as he spoke at the Alton Town Hall Thursday morning following a meeting of the police chiefs organization at which the cooperative effort was discussed.
Wiggin said that low-level drug dealers who are "sneaking through the cracks" and bringing fentanyl-laced opioids into the county from places like New York City and Lawrence, Massachusetts, will be the main targets of the effort, which he said is focused on drug dealers and not those using drugs.
He said the countywide effort will be coordinated out of his department and will involve the sharing of information and joint investigations which will see local police officers deputized as part of the task force, which he said is similar to drug task forces already in operation in Stafford and Grafton counties.
"We already have these connections between departments and want to want to share information and work together on investigations. This increases our capabilities," said Wiggin,, who said the task force will also work closely with State Police and federal agencies to cut down the flow of drugs into the area.
He said that the drug overdoses claimed over 400 lives in New Hampshire last year and that thee were about 30 in Belknap County, as well as many near fatal incidents.
"It's a serious problem we have to deal with. We know we can't arrest our way out of the problem and that there have to be treatment and education programs for drug users," said Wiggin. But he said that drug users who are also selling drugs will be among the targets.
His department will soon have a new vehicle which will remain unmarked and will be used in undercover operations.
County Commissioners agreed Tuesday morning to his request to accept the vehicle, which was seized by Stafford County in a civil forfeiture action and made available to other law enforcement agencies.
Wiggin said that the unmarked vehicle will be used undercover operations as part of an expanded role by the department in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies in drug investigations.

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Center Harbor prepared to welcome crowds for 2nd annual Skatefest


CENTER HARBOR — Sandy Frost, director of the Parks and Recreation, said she and other organizers weren't sure what to expect when they held their first Skatefest last year, and were thrilled when nearly 300 people showed up for an afternoon of skating and family fun. The town's municipal departments and businesses came together to create the event, and it was a good thing there were so many people on hand to help.

"It worked out great – with the help of many hands, it works out great," Frost said.

The second annual Skatefest will be held on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 1 to 7 p.m. There's no fee to join, just bring your skates. Skating will be possible on both the town's rink, in the parking lot overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, and on the surface of the lake itself, which is in excellent skating condition as a result of the un-winter-like weather of the beginning of the week.

"The ice on the lake looks great – after the rain we just had, it looks beautiful," she said.

The event was conceived by the Center Harbor Community Development Association, a group of local businesses. Members of the association are helping to provide everything that's needed to put on the event. There will be food samplings, including soups, chili, hot cocoa and cookies, in the lakeside pavilion from 1 to 4 p.m., and from 4 to 7 p.m. hot dogs and hamburgers will be served under a tent on the town beach.

Three different skating clubs have been invited to perform demonstrations of their skills, which will begin at 2 p.m. A bonfire will be lit to add some warmth.

Frost hopes the second annual Skatefest will draw another big crowd, including Center Harbor residents, people who live in neighboring towns and visitors here for a just a short time.

"It's all about people getting together and having fun family time together," she said.

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