Summit Ave. residents asking for stop sign to slow traffic down

LACONIA — Residents of Summit Avenue, the street that carries traffic from Route 11-B over the bridge to Governor's Island, which lies in Gilford, have petitioned the City Council to address recurrent speeding on the road.

Several years ago the speed limit on Summit Avenue was reduced from 35 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. However, the residents claim that "the speeding problem continues to this day" and the efforts of the Police Department have brought "little relief to our neighborhood."

The residents trace the problem to "many of the residents, their guests and contractors who frequent Governor's Island." Others driving on the street are leaving or returning to homes on the mainland, which requires them to reach nearly a full stop in order to turn left on to Wentworth Cove Road. With this mind, the residents suggest placing a three-way stop sign at the intersection of Summit Avenue and Wentworth Cove Road, which they believe will "go a long way in solving the speeding problem."

The council will consider the petition when meets on Monday, Sept. 28, beginning at 7 p.m.

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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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