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Courthouse heating unit not pulling weight

LACONIA — The Belknap County Executive Committee Monday night approved a $2,000 transfer of funds into the county maintenance department budget in order to have a contractor look at a malfunctioning heating unit on the roof of the Belknap County Courthouse.
''They're unable to get the temperature in one of the courtrooms to over 60 degrees,'' said Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), newly elected chairman of the Belknap County Convention, who said that county officials told the seven-member Executive Committee Monday night that the unit is about two years old but the warranty has expired.
''They needed a transfer because the funds in the maintenance line for the courthouse were exhausted,'' said Tilton.
Tilton, who chaired the Executive Committee for the last two years, said that the committee will soon decide whether to name a chairman or continue with the same structure of previous years, in which the committee has the same officers as the County Convention, which would mean that he and convention vice chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) and clerk Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton), who are already members of the committee, would be the presiding officers.
The Executive Committee met to hear the request following a public hearing Monday night by the Belknap County Convention on the county's proposed $27,330,778 budget for 2015, up by 6.8 percent, which calls for an increase of 10 percent in the amount to be raised by property taxes. The tax bill would go from $13,663,314 in 2014 to $15,034,757 next year.
Tilton was critical of the numbers used by the county commissioners regarding the percentage increase from previous years, saying that a $533,000 appropriation made in previous years for Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid which is no longer part of the county budget, would have to be factored in and wasn't.
He also maintains that the commissioners' claim that two positions that the convention funded last year went unfilled because the benefits for those positions were not funded is not accurate. He said the commission, which is asking that those positions be filled in the upcoming budget, decided instead to use the funds for other purposes.
During Monday night's hearing, Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), who is stepping down after two terms on the commission and will be replaced after the first of the year by Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), likened the county to a $60 million a year business which is managed by the commissioners as the board of directors, with the county administrator serving as CEO.
''We run several major businesses, a nursing home with 94 residents and 105 full-time and 37 part-time employees, a corrections department with 100 inmates and 30 full-time and 24 part-time employees, as well as sheriff's department with 19 full-time and 29 part-time employees as well as a law firm, the county attorney's office, a maintenance department and a registry of deeds.'' said Philpot.
He said that labor is the biggest part of the county's costs, followed by operating expenses and health insurance costs.
The county has four collective bargaining units (unions) he said, all of whom are covered by the status quo doctrine which means all conditions of employment, including health insurance benefits, remain the same until a new collective bargaining agreement is agreed to.
County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen told members of the newly-elected convention that it is ''really important to keep in mind the importance of county government, which is often ignored, and keep in mind all the things we do,'' as they consider the new budget request.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 12:40

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12 members of family displaced by fire

NEW HAMPTON — Twelve people including seven children between the ages of 1 and 12 were left temporarily homeless Monday after a chimney fire extended into their home at 115 Kelly Pond Road.

Fire Chief Mike Drake said the call initially came from a third party just after 4 p.m. He said he and the police were the first to arrive and he called for a first alarm bringing in help from neighboring communities.

Drake said the fire started in the chimney but had extended into the ceiling and walls. He said the house appeared to have been built in the 1970s but has had extensive renovations and additions, making the fire tough to extinguish.

He said one member of the family was taken by ambulance to the hospital for evaluation.

Drake said the interior of the house suffered a lot of smoke and water damage and it appears most of the family's possessions, including Christmas presents for the children, were destroyed.

He said the police and firefighters were able to save the family's cat.

The family is being assisted by the American Red Cross who determined the families immediate needs so they could provide lodging and financial assistance for food and clothing.

To make a donation to the Red Cross to help this family and others who a victims of disasters, please visit redcross.org/nh or connect using Facebook.com/nhredcross.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 12:36

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Heroin overdose thought to be reason for death at local hotel

LACONIA — Police Chief Christopher Adams confirmed Tuesday that there were one fatal and two non-fatal heroin overdoses in the city over the weekend.

The fatal overdose occurred in the Landmark Inn, on the 4th floor. Adams said a second person in the room called for help after both men present had used what police believe to be heroin, fentanyl or some combination of the two.

A 37-year year old man died, however Adams said the firefighters were able to save the man who made the phone call.

Adams said identification of the dead man is being held pending notification of his family.

He said police were able to recover some evidence from the scene and a criminal investigation is ongoing.

Adams did not have the details for the second non-fatal overdose saying only that the victim did survive and police are investigating.

"The warning is the same as it always is," Adams said, referring to what some have called a heroin epidemic in the state. "Don't risk it. It could be fatal."

He said that anyone who wants help or who has information should call 211 or call Officer Eric Adams of the Laconia Police at 524-5252.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 12:31

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Attorney says no new evidence to charge Clairmont with 7 additional counts of arson in Laconia

LACONIA — The probable cause hearing for convicted arsonist Jason Clairmont was postponed yesterday because his defense lawyer had just gotten a transcript of a police interview and needed more time to review it.

Clairmont, 34, formerly of Gilmanton, was charged last month with setting seven fires within the city of Laconia — including one of the two fires at Pitman's Freight Room — a local night club and meeting facility.

In February of 2014, Clairmont pleaded guilty to three other counts of arson and was sentenced to serve one to five years in the N.H. State Prison. Laconia Police brought forward seven additional arson charges on November 14 — one day before Clairmont was scheduled to begin his parole process.

Police believe Clairmont is responsible for a string of arson fires between September of 2013 and January of 2014, including one of the two fires at Pitman's on New Salem Street. Although Clairmont was officially living in Gilmanton at the time of the suspicious fires, his family home is also on New Salem Street.

Of the seven additional charges faced by Clairmont, Judge Jim Carroll determined there was no probable cause for three of them on November 18, the day of his arraignment.

Yesterday's probable cause hearing was for the four remaining new charges.

Attorney John Bresaw has argued that there is no new evidence against Clairmont and that all of the evidence against him was from a single 5-hour interview conducted by a Laconia Police detective in the days after a January 25, 2014 car fire on Bowman Street and a lattice fire on Highland Street.

Clairmont pleaded guilty to those two fires plus an additional car fire that occurred outside the Funky Monkey night club on Main Street in September of 2013.

Bresaw argued last month that if his client were to be charged with any additional crimes, he should have been charged after the interview and not months later.
Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer argued that police charged Clairmont with the three fires they knew they could prove at the time so they could get him off the streets. He said the investigations into the other fires during that time has been ongoing and now police are ready bring forward more charges.

Yesterday's probable cause hearing was not a trial but rather a way to get the state to submit some of its case before the trial. From that evidence, Carroll is to determine if there is enough evidence to bind the cases over to Superior Court.

Bresaw said yesterday that he had just received the complete transcript of one of Clairmont's interviews from Sawyer minutes before the hearing and needed time to review it.

Sawyer didn't object and the probable cause hearing will be held in early January.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 01:45

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