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Bristol voters increase budget during day-long meeting

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — Voters spent seven and a half hours making their way through 22 warrant articles on Saturday, increasing the operating budget by $10,065 and agreeing to purchase a $162,000 dump truck, a $142,725 sidewalk tractor, and a $15,845 power stretcher for the ambulance.

They also agreed to purchase a $450,000 pumper-tanker for the Fire Department but did not appropriate any money to do so.
The pumper-tanker article was submitted by petition and, although residents recognized the need for a new truck and the Budget Committee recommended the article, the selectmen did not recommend its passage, in part because of questions about whether a manufacturer would agree to build the truck without any kind of a down payment. The article calls for a seven-year lease-purchase agreement with the first payment not occurring until 2015 when the town takes delivery of the vehicle.
A town meeting vote cannot bind a municipality to fund an item in a subsequent budget year in the absence of a contract and Town Manager Michael Capone said Monday that the selectmen will take up the issue of how to proceed with the lease-purchase agreement at its next meeting, on April 10.
Voters did agree to provide $25,000 in funding toward the purchase of playground equipment for Kelley Park with the remaining $30,000 coming out of the Kelley Park Equipment Fund; and they agreed to spend $13,500 for a log crawl tunnel for the park.
During the budget discussion, voters agreed to increase the bottom line so the town could support the Newfound Lake Region Association's efforts to protect the lake with a $1,500 contribution; and to increase employees' wages by 50 cents per hour, rather than the 38 cents recommended by the Budget Committee, resulting in an increase of $8,565 when taxes and benefits are taken into account.
Capone said the selectmen originally looked at providing a percentage increase for employees but liked the budget committee's recommendation for a specific amount, rather than a percentage, so it would be more of a benefit for lower-paid employees. The 50-cent figure came about by looking at the consumer price index over the past seven years, he said.
Voters had mixed responses to articles that would use revolving funds, rather than capital reserve funds, for departmental expenses. Unlike capital reserve accounts, revolving funds can be spent without going back to the voters for approval.
Articles calling for revolving funds for ambulance replacement and recycling, with the money coming out of patient fees on the former and refunds from the Concord Regional Solid Waste Cooperative for the latter, easily passed on voice votes. A revolving fund to cover special police details and police cruisers did not pass.
Voters agreed to place $20,000 into a new capital reserve fund for town building maintenance but, instead of creating a new capital reserve fund for the purchase of a fire engine, voters agreed to place $25,000 into an existing Fire Department Reserve Fund.
In discussing whether to add $80,000 to the $80,000 approved last year for repairs to the Old Town Hall, voters discussed transferring last year's amount to the Bristol Historical Society which has used the building instead. In the end, voters rejected the article on a 71-82 vote.
Following the lead of several Newfound Area towns, Bristol voters agreed to petition the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee to intervene in any wind energy site application that would impact the "view shed" of Newfound Lake and/or the town of Bristol "as seen from any point in Town" and they appropriated $10,000 to cover any legal expenses associated with intervention. They also approved an article requiring any wind energy developer to post a bond to cover all costs associated with the removal of facilities upon the cessation of operations.
Unlike other towns in the wind energy debate, voters did not oppose the establishment of a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement, leaving it to the selectmen to determine whether such an agreement might make sense.
Voters supported a resolution calling upon the town's state representatives to support a constitutional amendment to limit political contributions by corporations and other entities that are not natural-born citizens.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 12:44

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Free State heroine accepts opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge

LACONIA — Self-proclaimed anarchist Amanda "Billyrock" Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of disobeying a police officer in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday afternoon.

Johnson, who was accompanied by about 15 Free State members, was facing three charges relating to her actions of December 14, 2013 — resisting arrest, disobeying a Laconia police officer, and having an open container of alcohol in her vehicle.

As part of a negotiated plea, Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer dropped the charges of resisting arrest and the open container violation and Johnson pleaded guilty to disobeying an officer. She was fined $124.

As part of the court stipulation, Sawyer agreed not to go forward with three additional pending charges against Johnson that were related to her arrest that night, including the possibility she provided false information to authorities after her arrest.

Still in her 20s, Johnson has built a considerable libertarian following through an Internet blog — where she identified herself as "Billyrock" — and a number of political speeches that are posted on YouTube. Originally from Utah, she moved to New Zealand for awhile because she heard that police there do not carry guns. More recently she moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project and is believed to be living in the Manchester area.

The day after Johnson was arrested the case went viral — with many of her Free State supporters around the country calling the police and Belknap County Corrections officials demanding to know why she had been "kidnapped" and "held in chains".

According to police, Johnson jumped the gun on a traffic light and was stopped by a patrol officer. Through a video that was taken by one of Johnson's passengers and posted by Johnson and her supporters on the Internet, Johnson gave police some identification but declined to cooperate further with police.

A police supervisor was called and at some point Johnson was removed from the car and taken to Belknap County House of Corrections where she initially refused the services of a bail commissioner. She spent the night in jail and was released the next day when her attorney and a bail commissioner arrived.

Originally, charges against her included driving while intoxicated and unlawful possession of drugs. In her Weblog, Johnson said the drugs were prescribed to her by a physician and she was not intoxicated and those two charges were not pursued.

Two of Johnson's supporters brought video cameras to court yesterday to record what they thought was going to be a trial.

After behind the scenes negotiations with Johnson, Sawyer, and Johnson's attorney, Seth Hipple, Johnson came back into the court room and gathered her followers in a huddle, addressing them in a quiet voice.

Once she finished talking many of them left, some of them grumbling in the hall that they were disappointed she was not going forward with the trial.

Johnson could also be seen counting out cash (not bitcoin) to be used to pay her fine.

Twice the usual number of security guards were on duty in the court house yesterday.

While Johnson was very respectful of the court and its proceedings, her supporters refused to rise when Judge Jim Carroll entered the court room. Both the judge and the court security officers chose to ignore the breach of protocol.

In an unrelated case, one man who was facing speeding charges has his case dismissed because the State Police didn't come to the trial, prompting Johnson's supporters to applaud — another breach of protocol ignored by Carroll and court security.

After the hearing, Johnson declined to comment.

Since that time, she has posted to her Facebook, "Trial was no-go. Surprise allegation at the last minute changed the situation. Plea to "disobeying" taken. No jail time."

Johnson said she may comment further on her blog or Facebook page.

CUTLINE: Amanda "Billyrock" Johnson confers with her supporters yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday afternoon. Johnson pleaded guilty of one count of disobeying a police officer.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 12:33

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Seeger assumed she was running against Vadney

MEREDITH — Despite repeated denials from all concerned, charges persist that one or more members of the Board of Selectmen acted in concert to ensure that Hillary Seeger was the only candidate who filed to succeed Herb Vadney on the board.

The backbiting began earlier this month when, in letters printed in local newspapers, Rosemary Landry said that Vadney, who never publicly announced his decision not to seek re-election, told her after the filing period closed that "the board wanted Hillary." Landry had told Vadney that had he disclosed his intentions earlier she and others could have run for his seat.

Vadney has not only flatly denied making the remark but also openly doubted the selectmen would anoint a candidate. Nevertheless, Landry reasserted her claim in a letter that appeared in The Daily Sun on Saturday. "Many untruths have filled the space in the news around the Meredith selectman election and I do not appreciate being the scapegoat," she wrote. "So I repeat, what I wrote was the truth, regardless of what officials are saying."

Among today's letters, Karen Sticht writes "I know Hillary Seeger was recruited by Carla Horne to become a candidate" and presumes that she would not have done so unless she knew that Vadney had decided not to run.

Vadney said yesterday that he spoke to one other than Nate Torr, the chairman of the Selectboard, about his intentions. He said there were two conversations, one in early January when he indicated he probably would not run for re-election and another a week or so later, at Torr's home, when he told the chairman he would not run.

Torr confirmed the two conversations with Vadney and insists he did not share them to any other member of the board.

Meanwhile, Seeger after working on Christopher Boothby's primary campaign for the Republican nomination to the Executive Council in District 1, became interested in running for the Selectboard. Horne said that Seeger, who she knew from participating in the Got Lunch! program together, approached her. Horne said that she assumed Vadney would run, but encouraged Seeger to enter the race all the same. Seeger, who was attending a funeral in West Virginia during part of the filing period, returned and filed her candidacy on January 30, a day before it closed.

"I thought I was running against Herb Vadney," she said yesterday.

Seeger commented that the controversy surrounding her candidacy did not arise until after she publicly endorsed Democrat Michael Cryans over Republican Joe Kenney in the special election for the Executive Council, nearly a month after the filing period for the seat on the Selectboard closed. About the same time Landry mounted a write-in campaign for selectman  on behalf of Dave Sticht, who insisted he was not running but agreed to serve if elected. Last week Seeger was elected, with 518 votes to 185 votes for Sticht, and yesterday took her seat on the Board of Selectmen.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 12:30

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Laconia Water Works receives Flouride Quality Award for 2012 levels

LACONIA — The Laconia Water Works has received the highest honor given to public water systems by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Hampshire Division for Public Services for its management of fluoridation in 2012.

"We're on our game," Water Works Superintendent Seth Nuttleman said yesterday. ""The award is a recognition of the professionalism and attention to detail of our staff." He said that the credit lies with Floyd Dungelman, the water quality supervisor, and the 16 employees of the department for their diligence and skill.

The Fluoridation Quality Award, announced last week, celebrates public water systems for maintaining the concentration of fluoride within appropriate ranges for 12 consecutive months. Nuttleman said that there are a dozen municipal water systems in the state that fluoridate their drinking water, and the Laconia Water Works was one of only three to be recognized. He said that fluoride concentrations are randomly tested each month.

Since the introduction of fluoride to public drinking water supplies in the 1950s the incidence of tooth decay has fallen significantly, particularly among children.

Although the use of fluoride was approved by a public referendum in November, 1975, it was not added to the city's drinking water until the water treatment plant was constructed in 1989. In 2011 concern about levels of fluoridation led the United States Environmental Protection Agency  to direct those public water systems that fluoridate their drinking water to reduce the levels to 0.7 milligrams per liter, and since February 2011 the Laconia Water Works has complied with the recommended concentrations.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 12:13

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