Not all speech is protected

Judge tells Meredith museum owner to be careful in comments about Mayhew Funeral Home


OSSIPEE — A Carroll County Superior Court judge warned Douglas Frederick, the owner of the American Police Motorcycle Museum in Meredith, that things he says in public about his neighbor, Mayhew Funeral Home, could potentially get him in trouble.

After a 45-minute hearing, Judge Amy Ignatius did not issue a ruling from the bench about Peter Mayhew's request for a temporary restraining order to make Frederick stop saying bad things in public about his crematorium. She said she would issue a written order shortly.

"The defendants (the Fredericks) need to understand there are consequences to speech," she said cautioning both neighbors to try to become more neighborly.

The public squabble between the two began in earnest this spring when Frederick attended a Meredith selectmen's meeting and publicly complained about what he said are offensive smells and noise coming from the funeral home's crematorium next door to his motorcycle museum. Selectmen told him that the crematorium is a permitted use but Frederick continued attending selectmen's meetings and has said he will continue to do so until something is done about the chimney at the funeral home's building.

Mayhew filed suit last week in Belknap County Superior Court to stop Frederick but the case was moved to Carroll County because of a conflict with Judge James O'Neill and at least on of the parties.

As to the history of Frederick and Mayhew, Frederick's attorney, William Woodbury, said his client purchased the building on Daniel Webster Highway on June 8, 2010, with the intent of opening a museum. He said the town issued a permit for the crematorium on June 9, 2010, so Fredrick had no way of knowing he was going to be next door to a crematorium.

Mayhew is represented by attorney Marc Van Zanten, who said the impact of Frederick's public complaints has been very emotional for Mayhew and has damaged the dignity and respect he needs to conduct a very sensitive and emotional funeral home business.

Van Zanten said the town has told Mayhew he is not in violation of any ordinances, the state Funeral Directors Association has said the crematorium is not in violation of its rules and the state Department of Environmental Services has done an inspection and found nothing amiss.

Woodbury told the court that the DES only did a visual test once a month. He said Frederick says foul odors are a regular events and the noise of the furnace is "like a jet engine," but it has waned over the past few months.

Woodbury presented photographs to the judge of what he said were ashes and debris on the motorcycles in Frederick's museum, which he said are wiped down every evening. He said one of the photos he submitted showed a tarp that is used to cover a motorcycle with small burn holes in it.

A different picture showed that the chimney for the crematorium is lower that the second floor of Fredrick's property. In the past he has suggested it be made taller.

He said the Fredericks are being forced to abandon their dream retirement project because "there is no way they can continue to operate." Woodbury also said that there could be a counter claim that Mayhew's crematorium is causing a public and private nuisance.

When Ignatius asked if there could be a second source of the ashes, Van Zanten said there is another neighbor nearby with something she burns.

As to the request to silence his client, Woodbury cited two high court cases that determined that censuring the right to free speech is unconstitutional and violates the doctrine of prior restraint. He said Frederick never meant for the media to report the story and that he was exercising his rights as a citizen to address a public body, namely the selectmen.

Van Zander said the cases cited by Woodbury were focused on free speech and prior restraint as it pertains to the media and not to an individual.

The doctrine of prior restraint is typically cited when government tries to prevent the media from reporting something. It places an extremely high burden on the petitioner requesting censorship to prove that it is warranted.

Van Zander said that it is his belief that Frederick intended to try this issue in the media all along and knew the media attended the selectmen's meetings.

"Private speech can be restricted," said Van Zander. "The courts have looked at this issue and private speech can have a marked impact."

Woodbury replied that just because Frederick isn't a member of the press it doesn't mean he "can't speak his mind."

LRCC partners with Toyota in new state-of-the-art lab


LACONIA — Lakes Region Community College showcased its new state-of-the-art automotive lab, which features 17 vehicle bays and all the latest equipment Thursday afternoon, and announced that it has entered into a new partnership with Toyota.
Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, said that the new lab shows the dedication of the state's community college system to workforce development.

"We're looking to the future workforce and training people with the very latest technology," said Gittell.
Scott Kalicki, president of Lakes Region Community College, credited Mike Parker, head of the college's automotive program, with reaching out to Toyota to help make the partnership a reality. Kalicki told the group that with a "huge, huge demand for auto technicians across the board, the new building allows for more industry training."
Patty Koerner, Toyota's national manager for strategic resources, said that LRCC is "an awesome school and that's why we chose the opportunity to be here."
Parker said that the new 21,000-square-foot facility, which cost about $4 million, has 17 bays and each of the two classrooms also have bays as well as 20 laptop computers for use in diagnostics and troubleshooting.
He said the school continues its relationship with the nationally recognized GM Automotive Service Education Program, known as ASEP, which was brought to the college years ago by then automotive department head George Dykstra, who is now the coordinator New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association's education efforts. The LRCC auto program has seven instructors.
NHADA President Peter McNamara said that the LRCC auto program plays an important role in the state and that dealerships in New Hampshire have openings for 400 technicians. He said that the auto industry in the state is excited about the new facility and the expanded program, which will provide even more options for training tomorrow's workforce.
The college offers a two-year associate degree in Auto Technology and GM credits toward certification in all areas through their ASEP. LRCC also offers a general auto tech program.

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Patty Koerner, Toyota's national manager for strategic resources, and Scott Kalicki, president of Lakes Region Community College, listen as Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, speaks at the opening of the college's new state-of-the-automotive lab. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Cigarette smoke causes grief for downtown condo association


LACONIA — A cigarette-smoking condo owner on Beacon Street West has prevailed over a board of directors who wanted to renovate her apartment to stop the second-hand smoke from entering other apartments.

Sue Ann Merrill and the Beacon Street WEst Condominium Unit Owners Association agreed to a compromise but not before a Belknap County Superior Court judge had to issue an injunction to stop the renovation and then mediate the case.

Merrill lives in a condo on the first floor of the Beacon Street West Condominiums. She confines her smoking to the bathroom so as not to adversely affect the health of a person who lives with her.

According to the court pleadings, the cigarette smoke exits her bathroom through a bathroom vent and rises into the apartments just above hers. Over time, Beacon determined that when she smoked within her unit in the bathroom, which is allowed in the bylaws, is "a harmful or offensive use" and contrary to the bylaws.

Beacon determined that the only way to fix the problem was to have Merrill's smoke rerouted through her dryer vent that goes directly outside. Merrill objected to this because the dryer is her dryer and not part of the common area. She said if her housemate's clothes become inundated with smoke, his physician said it could be detrimental to his health.

Despite this, Beacon sent a notice to her that they would be entering her condo on June 1 to make the repair without her permission, so she filed an emergency request with the court to stop them from doing this.

She said that Beacon's attempt to "classify only (her) exercise of a permitted act in her own unit and no one else's within the association, as harmful, is a breach of (the) covenant" she signed when she purchased her condo.

In his order granting the emergency injunction, Judge James O'Neill wrote that her request rises to the level of an emergency because her "rights will be violated, and significant harm will come to her property, specifically her unit."

He also ordered a mediation before a hearing date was scheduled.

During the mediation, the two parties agreed that the bathroom vent will be redirected into a separate pipe that runs parallel to the dryer vent and the association will cap off the existing bathroom vent.

Within 48 hours of the signed agreement, she will allow Beacon's contractors access to her home for inspection by contractors with plans and a material lists.

Beacon agrees that it will connect the exhaust vent and the dryer vent at the exterior wall of Water Street and that during construction the contractor will seal off the rest of the unit and provide a dust barrier during construction.

The association agreed to provide a letter to Merrill that states the smoking vent won't flow back into the dryer vent and that all of the work will be completed by June 17.