Shaheen visits Meredith waterfront to drive home a federal budget point

MEREDITH — Rallying support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which Congress has so far been unwilling to reauthorize, United States Senate Jeanne Shaheen yesterday strolled along the town docks and through Hesky Park, two of nine projects in Meredith, which together have received $381,477 from the fund since it was established in 1965.

The senator was accompanied by Phil Byrce, director of the division of parks and recreation at the New Hampshire Department of Resources and economic Development, two of his colleagues, Eric Feldbaum and Bill Gegas, Cam Brensinger, chief executive officer of NEMO Equipment, Inc. of Dover, a manufacturer of outdoor gear, and John O'Brien of the Nature Conservancy.

Shaheen explained that LWCF is a partnership between the National Park Service and the states to acquire and develop land for public outdoor recreation. The program is funded exclusively with revenue from leases granted for off-shore drilling for oil and natural gas. She said that although the LWCF enjoys broad bipartisan support, reauthorization of the program, which is set to expire on September 30, has run afoul of dysfunctional congressional politics that threaten to shutdown the federal government.

Liz Lapham of the Great Meredith Program said that she was surprise to learn that the LWCF has funded the reconstruction and expansion of the town docks, renovation of Hesky Park and development of Scenic Park, three projects which distinguish the town's waterfront. "This is the most important part of town," she told Shaheen. "Residents and visitors are here all the time. Pointing to the Inn at Mill Falls, she said "it supports our local economy."

Bryce stressed that the LWCF finances "projects that are very close to local communities that often do not have alternative sources of funds." Gegas, who administers the program and monitors the projects, added that the investments represent "a perpetual commitment to maintain space for outdoor recreation on the part of local communities. It's forever, he said.

Shaheen asked local officials and residents to urge their representatives in Congress — Republican Frank Giunta in the 1st District and Democrat Anne Kuster in the 2nd District as well as Republican Senator Senator Kelly Ayotte — to reauthorize the LWCF.

Since the LWCF began approximately $40 million has been distributed in New Hampshire, including $27-million for more than 530 projects in 180 cities, towns, school districts and counties and $13 million for state-sponsored projects in state forests and parks. Belknap County has received more than $3 million, including some $635,000 for 14 projects in Laconia, including the recently opened Weirs Community Park.

CAPTION: United States Senator Jeanne Shaheen (center) toured the town docks in Meredith with Liz Lapham of the Greater Meredith Program to the left and Phil Byrce, director of the division of parks and recreation, John O'Brien of the Nature Conservancy, and Cam Bresinger of NEMO Equipment, Inc. to the right. (Courtesy photo).

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Gilford Lt. Jim Leach asks judge to agree he had probable cause to arrest Wm. Baer at Gilford School Board meeting

GILFORD — The police lieutenant being sued by a parent who he arrested for disorderly conduct at a School Board meeting in May of 2014 has asked the U.S. District Court, New Hampshire District for summary judgment, which if granted would end the lawsuit against him.

A suit was filed against Lt. James Leach in 2015 after the criminal charges against William Baer were dismissed in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division. In that case, Judge Jim Carroll agreed with Baer that the three counts of disorderly conduct could not be sustained because Baer was expressing his right to free speech under the First Amendment and in doing so, the meeting was not disrupted and it continued without a recess.

According to his filing, "summary judgment is appropriate when pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions of file, together with affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party (in this case Leach) has demonstrated he is entitled a judgment as a matter of law."

The question for the court to determine is whether or not Leach had probable cause to believe Baer violated any of the three charges of disorderly conduct for which he was charged. Should the court determine there was probable cause to arrest Baer, then he is entitled to summary judgment said his attorney Andrew Livernois.

According to court records and news accounts at the time, Baer and some other Gilford residents who had children in the school district objected to a reading assignment they felt contained a pornographic description of a rape. He and others came to the School Board meeting to express those complaints while others came to support the district.

During the course of the meeting, the state, in this case represented by Leach in his role as police officer, determined Baer was disrupting the meeting — first when he spoke beyond his two minute time allocation and secondly, when he interjected a statement while another parent was speaking. When Leach asked Baer to leave, Baer replied that Leach would have to arrest him. And so he did.

Livernois said that probable cause exists when the "facts and circumstances within the police officers' knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that the defendant had committed or was committing an offense."

Baer's attorney Charles Douglas III said in his reply asking the court not to grant summary judgment that Leach arrested Baer without warning or probable cause for exercising his right to free speech at a public meeting. He said the "arrest clearly violates established law."

According to westlaw.com, probable cause generally refers to the requirement in criminal law that police have adequate reason to arrest someone, conduct a search, or seize property relating to an alleged crime. The probable cause requirement comes from the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Douglas also cites Carroll's ruling that Baer's actions were "impolite but not criminal" and "never created a breach of the peace." He wrote that Leach allegedly arrested Baer because Baer consented to it, not because he felt there was probable cause for it.

Douglas also said in his argument based on the Fourth Amendment that protects people against unlawful search and seizure that an arrest must be supported by probable cause or a warrant. He said absent a warrant, there must have been probable cause and it has been defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1949 and has been cited thousands of time since.

"It cannot be said with a straight face that the doctrine of probable cause is not clearly established law," Douglas wrote.

He also said that clearly established law in New Hampshire says that a person must cause "a disruption significant enough to halt or alter orderly proceeding, thereby justifying the state's restrictions of his or her free speech."

He said Baer didn't cause a disruption or a recess in the meeting and went willing to the hall with Leach who arrested him in the hallway.

Based on these standard, Douglas argues that Leach is not entitled to summary judgment and the case should continue.

The case was scheduled for trial in early October.

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Board authorizes new stop sign on Belknap Mountain Rd., at Gilford Glen Rd.

GILFORD — After listening to at least five residents from a Belknap Mountain Road neighborhood at a public hearing Wednesday night, Selectmen voted 2 to 1 to install a stop sign at the "T" intersection with Gilford Glen Road. Selectman Richard Grenier voted against the move.

That there was a problem with the intersection came to the Selectboard's attention earlier this month when Public Works Director Peter Nourse told them he came very close to being in an accident there and felt there should be a stop sign on Gilford Glen Road.

Jim Babcock of Haywagon Road, which is a loop off of Gilford Glen Rd, and Casey and Kara Crum of Gilford Glen Rd. objected. They said exiting their road at the "T" was difficult in the winter because it is up a slope and a stop sign would make it nearly impossible for them to get out if there is snow and ice on the road.

They suggested placing the stop sign on Belknap Mountain Road would be a safer choice because it is easier for traffic to stop there as opposed to Gilford Glen Rd.. They also said the stop sign would be more visible.

A woman from Marjorie's Way, which is further up Belknap Mountain Road made the same argument as Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee — against stopping traffic on Belknap Mountain Road — because they both consider as the primary thoroughfare. Bean Burpee noted that in a commonly used traffic manual says traffic is nearly always stopped at feeder roads and he recommended placing the sign at Gilford Glen Rd.

Nourse said he really didn't have an opinion on where the sign should be but said traffic should be stopped at the "T" from at least one direction.

Selectman Chan Eddy said that in his opinion, safety should come before standard practices and said he would support putting a stop sign on Belknap Mountain Road at the "T" and at some point in the near future putting at "stop ahead" sign further up the road.

Grenier said that he didn't want to add any stop signs at all and felt that a warning sign about "T" intersection should suffice.

Nourse also recommended the stop sign on Belknap Mountain Road at the intersection with Weeks Road should be moved to Weeks Road. He noted the sign was originally placed on Belknap Mountain Road because Weeks Road hosted a busy working farm but that is no longer the case. Selectmen agreed with him and voted unanimously to move the stop sign from Belknap Mountain Road to Weeks Road.

In other action, Town Administrator Scott Dunn told selectmen that replacing the boiler room piping, which is 30-years-old and rotted, in the new police station is imperative and he and the police administration don't want any piping failures in a brand new police station.

Selectmen agreed voted unanimously to take $9,800 from the building maintenance capital reserve account to complete the work.

Dunn also told selectmen that the N.H. Department of Transportation said "several" street lights are being turned off along Route 11, Route 11-A and the Laconia Bypass. Selectmen said they would like to see which ones were not being lit before they decide if the town should assume the cost of operating them. Dunn said they have until October 15.

Nourse said the town received two proposals for re-shingling the roof on the Rowe House on Belknap Mountain Road but neither of them addressed the historic components of the project. He recommended targeting historic preservation renovation specialists in the next bid offering because the job has to be done to meet both state and federal historic standards. The project is being paid for partly by the town and partly through a Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (L-CHIP) and the grant is good through the end of 2016.

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