Awaiting a verdict

US Humane Society hopeful in Great Dane case

By DAYMOND STEER, CONWAY DAILY SUN

OSSIPEE  — Lindsay Hamrick of the Humane Society of the United States said she is confident the state will prevail in the animal cruelty case it brought against Christina Fay of Wolfeboro, whose trail wrapped up Tuesday evening in Ossipee’s Circuit Court.
The case began last June, when police and members of HSUS seized dozens of Great Danes owned by Fay from locations in Wolfeboro and Bartlett. The Conway Area Humane Society received another nine dogs prior to the seizure.
Fay, 59, is facing a dozen charges alleging she kept dogs in squalid conditions and denied them adequate food, water and care.
The trial, overseen by Circuit Judge Charles Greenhalgh, started Oct. 16 and ran five days through Oct. 24. It then picked up for a final day Tuesday.
Both sides are now awaiting a verdict from Greenhalgh.
The case was prosecuted by Wolfeboro Police Prosecutor Tim Morgan with assistance from Simon Brown of PretiFlarherty, based in Concord.
Fay was represented by Kent Barker of Winer and Bennett LLP of Nashua and James P. Cowles of Walker & Varney PC of Wolfeboro.
“Our reaction to the closing of the trial is that the state brought forward a very strong case against Ms. Fay, and the photos and the video footage that doesn’t lie,” Hamrick said Wednesday. “We look forward to hearing Judge Greenhalgh’s verdict on this.”
The defense team has stated repeatedly that the pictures the HSUS took were misleading. They said the dogs were left to roam the house for hours during the raid, which took place in the morning before Fay and her assistants got a chance to clean. For instance, one photo showed the kitchen looking clean, which Fay said is what it looked like at 8:10 a.m. the morning of the raid.
“I find it personally sickening and heartbreaking that no one has ever produced this picture,” Fay said when she took the stand Tuesday. “That was the one room that had been clean that morning. The point being that’s how the rooms look after they have cleaned every day.”
Fay told Greenhalgh her efforts to keep the house clean were frustrated by a temporary lack of cleaning help and a knee injury.
The defense team claimed the HSUS used the photos and videos as a fundraising tool for their organization.
Hamrick responded by saying they partner with local law enforcement and assist them upon request.
“There have been some comments made about HSUS supposedly making money on this, which if you simply look at the math, you can see how absurd that comment is because we spent at least $478,000 just to care for these dogs for five months, and we have only raised $180,000 in financial donations,” said Hamrick, who confirmed that about $200,000 in donated supplies also was raised.
The defense team also alleged that the HSUS defamed Fay in accusing her of operating a puppy mill. Her lawyers characterized her as simply a hobbyist with a passion for Great Danes.
Hamrick denied that the HSUS defamed Fay and took exception with Fay’s saying there were only a few litters in 2016 when her records showed 11 litters.
Hamrick said Fay had conflicting testimony on whether four litters or two litters were born in 2016.
“When somebody can’t keep track of the number of puppies they are creating and that they are selling online, I think that’s a pretty big indication of the kind of operation she was running,” said Hamrick, adding that the state definition of a commercial breeder is 10 or more litters a year, though that standard is difficult to enforce.
None of the criminal complaints against Fay was related to the number of litters born.
On the stand, Fay said, puppy mills were on her “dislike list” and said she basically raised the dogs for fun.
At the end of the trial, Barker said Fay was losing $35,000 per month on the dogs. He also said the HSUS, police and other organizations were like a “machine that was well-oiled” and out to prosecute Fay.
“I was accused of saying this was a conspiracy theory, like it was some crazy thing, but we know from an exhibit ... that says on May 8 (Wolfeboro Police Chief Dean Rondeau) was making statements to the members of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen saying, and I quote, ‘This case opened on May 8 when we determined there was an animal cruelty case,’” said Barker.
He believes police had their minds made up about Fay even before the search warrant was executed June 16.
Brown, in his closing statement, said the dogs were kept in an inappropriate and unsafe setting at the Wolfeboro home.
“It was the defendant who had complete control over who many dogs she was gong to permit to live there,” said Brown.
“She allowed the population to balloon from 40 to 75 in two years, and she before her arrest she had inadequate staffing to care for all of these dogs. For whatever reason, she lost control of the situation.”
If Fay is convicted, the judge will also determine what comes next, said Hamrick.
He could decide that the dogs would go to the custody of the HSUS, which would then turn them into local shelters to be re-homed.
Hamrick said the judge also could order Fay to pay restitution and prevent her from having animals again or for a period of time.
If Fay is found not guilty, she would get her dogs back.

  • Written by Ginger Kozlowski
  • Category: Local News
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Cold and homeless

11 13 The Blue Line

“The Blue Line,” art by Elaine Morrison. “Feelings of despair overwhelm the alcoholic. The blue line encompasses him and his addiction. They are one. Recovery is a choice.” (Courtesy photo)

For marginalized citizens, shelter can be hard to find

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

With temperatures hovering around 28 degrees and winds gusting to 30 mph, Trish Hartwell was happy to be inside where it was warm.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Hartwell, her husband and their three children were shivering in an unheated camper in Meredith.
Then they came to the Belknap House, a 19-bed cold-weather homeless shelter in Laconia that has become increasingly busy as temperatures have dropped.
Hartwell, 30, was grateful to be out of the elements.
“Thank God for Kathy and this establishment, or it would be awful,” said the quick-talking, dark-haired woman in a Navy blue hoodie. “Their motto is ‘Keeping families together’ and they are very welcoming.”
The shelter has six bedrooms, four bathrooms and a kitchen with two cooking stations.

Hot to cold
Hartwell and her family gave up the hot, humid weather of Hudson, Florida, after the destruction of Hurricane Irma last summer and came north to New Hampshire.
“It was so hot and the people were awful,” she said. “We didn’t want to raise our children there.”
They had planned to stay locally with her father, but his landlord would not allow it.
The family has not been able to save money. She collects some Social Security benefits because of a disability. Her husband has a background in demolition, but has been working for a landscaping company.

High costs
Housing is expensive.
“We didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a place to live,” Hartwell said. “You have to have first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit, so it’s about $2,000.”
Kathryn Holt, the shelter’s executive director, said Hartwell’s story is not unusual.
Many homeless people don’t have relatives in a position to help, or they have a disability that interferes with their ability to work.
Others struggle with drug addiction and mental health issues.
Some have fallen behind on rent and utility bills in the past and won’t be accepted by a new landlord. There is a waiting list for government-assisted housing programs.
People who qualify can stay in the Belknap House for three weeks to allow them to sort out employment prospects, available benefits and permanent housing options. A three-week extension is also possible.
The shelter at 200 Court St. operates as a hostel over the warm-weather months, with the goal of raising revenue to help support cold-weather shelter operations, which began on Oct. 16.

Salvation Army
A mile to the northeast is The Carey House, a shelter operated by the Salvation Army at 6 Spring St.
Capt. Scott McNeil, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Laconia, said his shelter has 34 beds, including a wing that can accommodate four families. They seldom have a vacancy.
Like the Belknap House, this is an emergency shelter for people who are clean and sober.
“You have to test clean and Breathalyze zeroes or you can’t be admitted,” McNeil said. “We are open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. We work through an action plan and we help people get connected with the right collaborative agencies in the community, with the goals of getting permanent housing, employment and government benefits.
“They are really looking for direction. Many have been couch surfing for several years,” he said. “We don’t enable them. We encourage them to move forward. But they have to want it. They have to have skin in the game.”
The Salvation Army also runs a soup kitchen that runs Tuesday to Saturday every week and the last Sunday of every month. On Tuesday, about 30 people showed up for a turkey lunch. The crowd will triple by the end of the month when needy have spent their disability and Social Security checks and gone through their food stamps. The organization is always in need of donors and volunteers.
McNeil worries about the homeless this time of year.

Bitter cold
“They are vulnerable to the elements, but many choose not to go into a shelter for some reason, or they are just comfortable outside and don’t want to give up the connection to the substance they are friendly with,” he said.
“There are quite a few camp villages throughout the city. I have visited some of them. They are not as lively in the winter as they are in the summer, but they are still occupied.
“In the winter time, some build a hut structure. Some of the younger ones can weather it, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I want to tell them, ‘Life can be so much better.’”
The number of homeless people varies and can be hard to estimate.
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services does a yearly survey. Its 2017 “Point-in-time Count,” conducted in January, found about 60 people without permanent housing in Belknap County.

City welfare
A major resource for the homeless or those on the verge of being homeless is the city’s Welfare Department.
Welfare Director Donna Woodaman said that, over a year’s time, her department handles about 750 people who walk in seeking help. The department also takes about 3,200 telephone calls a year from people inquiring about receiving assistance.
Those who qualify may receive a voucher to pay for temporary, emergency housing.
Woodaman encourages people to think ahead if it looks as if they are in danger of losing their housing.
“Somebody gets evicted and presents themselves to us, but if they had come to us sooner, maybe we could have worked with the landlord,” Woodaman said.
Even better, some people may benefit from drawing up a budget and making arrangements with creditors that will allow them to stay current on their bills.
Those helped by the Welfare Department are expected to participate in an active job search and donate time to help the city.
The department lets people know what resources are available, including food pantries that can help the hungry. Some of this information can be accessed by dialing the 211 helpline.
Woodaman said the emphasis is always on a person helping himself.
“If you fall into a bad situation, it may be hard to get out,” she said. “You have to be motivated and have the initiative and desire on your own to get yourself out of a rut.”

Downtown homeless
Some homeless people tend to congregate in the downtown area, including near City Hall and in Rotary Park.
This can be frustrating for local business people, who sometimes call police to report drunkenness, public urination or a mess. Drug needles and human waste are sometimes found.
Shoplifting and loitering are also frequently reported. Occasionally there are altercations or assaults.
But Police Chief Matt Canfield said that mostly the homeless stay to themselves. Officers keep tabs on them when the weather turns icy.
“Some people will see them in public places and they don’t want them there, but they are citizens and have rights, and we can’t just move them out of certain areas unless they are violating the law,” he said. “There is no crime of being homeless.”
He recalled a man who would be downtown in a sleeping bag near the river.
“He didn’t want help or services,” Canfield said. “It was sub-freezing and we would sometimes bring him a coffee and he would take it. They are human beings, people with feelings, just like everybody else.”

11 16 Homeless Scarves

Hollis Thompson, Tammy Emond and Diane Wells arrange the hand-made scarves made available by Stitches of Love, a club of parishoners at the Congregational Church of Laconia. The club made around 80 scarves and made them available on Wednesday for anyone to take. By midday, many of the scarves had been claimed. “This is exciting for us to make something that they need, we feel like we’re doing something to help people,” said Thompson. Not pictured is Sandy Braillier, chairman of the club. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

11 16 Homeless Meals

Pat Tarpey and Gary Adams, both members of the Lakes Region Rotary Club, serve lunch at the Salvation Army in Laconia on Tuesday. The weekly free meal service will see anywhere from 15 to nearly 100 people at each seating, and the clubs and organizations that sponsor each meal bring enough for each person to have two or three servings. The Salvation Army welcomes other businesses and organizations to help sponsor or serve the meals. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

  • Written by Rick Green
  • Category: Local News
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Depleted reserves

County taxes could jump with little to cushion rate

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Belknap County’s fund balance, which has been used in recent years to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes, has shrunk to the point that it won’t be able to shield residents from either a jump in property tax rates or a reduction of services.
The full extent of its decline won’t be known with certainty until the Belknap County Commission completes work on the proposed budget it will submit next month to the Belknap County Delegation.
But commissioners working on the budget have indicated it is highly unlikely they will propose using any of the fund balance to reduce property taxes in next year’s budget.
“Right now we’re not looking at any fund balance being used at all,” said Belknap County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton). He said that the commissioners expect less than $1 million in the account and that doesn’t include the writing off of uncollectible debts in the Belknap County Nursing Home, which are still being tabulated.
The fund balance is made up of county revenue which exceeds the amount budgeted and operational savings from spending less than the anticipated amount in the various county departments.
The fund balance, which stood at $6.991 million in 2006 and peaked at $8.234 million in 2011, has been dropping ever since. As of Jan. 1, 2017, it was $3.17 million and had been projected earlier this year to drop to $984,826 by the end of the year.
This year’s $27.44 million county budget, which was approved by the delegation over the objection of the commission, projected using $1,675,853 from the fund balance in order to hold the line on the amount to be raised by taxes at $12,963,440, the same as in 2016.
But the amount used from the fund balance jumped to over $2.2 million, with more than half that increase coming from a $290,810 shortfall in revenue that the delegation had projected would come to the county from the state in retirement system contributions that never materialized. The delegation also approved $256,862 in supplemental appropriations, $135,862 of which filled a gap in the Health and Human Services spending caused by a recalculation by the state of the county’s share of the payments for the care of the elderly in private nursing homes.
The other supplemental appropriations were for $95,000 for the Belknap County House of Corrections to hire four corrections workers deemed necessary for opening the new $7.4 million Community Corrections Center and $26,000 for the Sheriff’s Department, which had seen its budget cut by over $126,000.
When the delegation approved the supplemental funds but decided to use the fund balance rather than additional taxes to pay for them, Belknap County Commissioner Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton) said that while taxes won’t increase this year, the result of the delegation’s action was to create a $2.2 million problem next year due to the decline in the fund balance.
“We’re kicking a bigger can down the road, which will come back to bite us all,” said Waring at that time.
Commissioner DeVoy said the fund balance has been used for years by the county delegation to create an artificially low tax rate but those days are now over. Two years ago, when the county delegation increased the amount to be used from the fund balance from $1,775,000 to $2,380,000 in order to reduce county taxes, DeVoy criticized the move as unsustainable and said it was a political gimmick. He had maintained that the funds should have been used to put a new roof on the Belknap County complex.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) warned of the dangers of depleting the county’s fund balance and underfunding county government obligations. Two years ago, Carroll County had completely depleted its fund balance and had to seek an emergency loan in order to complete its fiscal year.
He said Belknap County taxes supporting county government are the lowest in the state, and points out that Carroll County, which has two-thirds as many residents as Belknap County, last year spent $31 million to support county government, more than $3 million more than Belknap County.
Taylor said 44 percent of the revenue raised by taxes by the county goes to the Health and Human Services budget account, which is the money the county pays to the state for the care of elderly in private nursing homes and which the county does not control.
Legislators have agreed that amount will be increasing in the near future as the county’s elderly population increases.
Rep. Norman Silber (R-Gilford) has advocated that the county privatize the county nursing home as way of saving money. But commissioners two years ago rejected that idea when it was proposed by former Commissioner Richard Burchell, who was defeated by Waring last year in the Republican primary.

  • Written by Roger Amsden
  • Category: Local News
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