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Vote today: special election will decide race for executive council seat

LACONIA — The Special Election to fill the Executive Council seat in District 1, which was held for 35 years by Ray Burton until his passing in November, is being held today, March 11.
The candidates are Republican Joe Kenney of Wakefield and Democrat Michael Cryans of Hanover.
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The polling stations are in Ward 1 at the Belknap County Nursing Home, in Ward 2 at the Sacred Heart Parish Hall, in Ward 3 at the Laconia Middle School, in Ward 4 at the Memorial Park Club House and in Ward 6 at the Leavitt Park Clubhouse. The Ward 5 polling station will again be at Wooodland Heights Elementary School, but it has been moved to the music room, the entrance to which is at the front of the building.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 01:02

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Polished thief leaves Laconia jewelry store with 3 expensive watches

LACONIA — City police confirmed yesterday they are investigating the theft of three Rolex watches from Sawyer's Jewelry, reported to them on Tuesday.

Capt. Matt Canfield said a lone man went into the store and used what ended up being a bad cashier's check to purchase three watches with a total value of $40,000.

"They (Sawyer's) followed all of their safeguards and protocols," Canfield said.

He said the man provided identification that he was from Connecticut and the bank check appeared to be real until management learned it wasn't and called the police.

Police have a photograph of him and witnesses said there was nothing about him that raised any red flags.

Canfield said the case is being investigated locally but the federal agents have taken an interest in it because there have been some similar thefts reported in New England.

"We're not sure yet if the case is going to the feds or not," said Canfield.

If anyone has any information they are asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 March 2014 12:17

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McCormack & Barnes make pitches for election to selectboard at candidates' forum

GILMANTON — Both candidates vying for a single spot on the Board of Selectman said last night that they support getting rid of SB-2 or the Official Ballot Act.

Stephen McCormack — a former employee of the State Employees Association and James Barnes — a former propane salesman turned entertainer — both said they didn't like SB-2 and think it leads to an uninformed electorate.

The topic arose when Moderator Mark Sisti, who is seeking re-election but is unopposed, spoke about the matter to the nearly 100 people who were at Thursday's candidate's night.

McCormack, who spoke first, said he also is concerned with the number of non-public-sessions occurring at selectman's meetings. He said that in the last 45 selectman's meetings he has counted 98 non-public sessions and, in his opinion, that's too many.

He said he would bring open government back to Gilmanton and not support all of the non-public sessions currently being held.

For disseminating information, he said he would like to set up some kind of e-mail or Internet system for town residents. He said he would support having selectman meetings aired on public television.

McCormack described himself as a listener who would like to take more time with the employees to learn what they think about matters specific to their jobs. He also supports some kind labor-management committee that would address employee issues.

Barnes said he was a newcomer to politics but described himself as someone who was "very careful with his money."

"I'm responsible but not cheap," he said, saying it's okay to spend money as long as it's done thoughtfully and with deliberation.

As to his approach to governing, he said he learned as a former baseball umpire that people "need to know the rules and play by the rules."

Both Barnes and McCormack said they support Article 30 on the warrant that sets a policy that would mandate four full-time employees for the fire department. Both also said the fire chief should be left to do his job.

"It it ain't broke don't fix it," said Barnes. "Leave it alone."

For Barnes, the biggest issue in Gilmanton is the future of the Gilmanton Year-Round Public Library and how it is tearing the town apart. He said he is fairly confident that the funding measure on the ballot this year will pass — suggesting the town forms a one-year committee with all the stakeholders to come up with a solution for the next five to 10 years.

He said he would like to have the town sponsor summer concerts at Crystal Lake Park and allow some local organizations to set up concession stands to raise money for their group.

Barnes said the old town hall in the Iron Works is underutilized and thinks the there could be some sort of community center there.

Although no one asked, Barnes took it upon himself to talk about potentially serving on the same board as his brother-in-law, selectman Don Guarino.

"My wife and his wife are sisters," he said, dismissing some of the concerns he's heard expressed by people in the community.

"My brother-in-law has about as much influence over my thinking as your brother-in-law has over yours," he said, eliciting laughter from nearly everyone in the room.

While it didn't really have anything to do with the positions held by candidates, there were some people who used Thursday night's candidates night to espouse on their own agenda with one man giving a speech about recycling and one man using the event to talk about capital improvement plans.

Elections are Tuesday March 11. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and elections are held in the Gilmanton Academy Building in the upstairs auditorium.

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 March 2014 02:22

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In Laconia, DOT head makes case for road & bridge needs

LACONIA — If you know you've got a problem." said Chris Clement, New Hampshire Commissioner of Transportation, "you've got to talk about it. This is not whining and complaining, but just facts."

Clement was speaking about the conditions of the state's roads and the Department of Transportation's (DOT) budget. yesterday to a forum hosted by State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) at Lakes Region Community College attended by some 50 local officials and business people. With a PowerPoint presentation he said he has made to more than 6,000 people around the state he painted a picture of deteriorating roads and bridges with inadequate and dwindling funds to address them.

Of the 4,559 miles of road in the state, Clement said that just 828, or 19 percent, are rated in good condition, while 1,867 miles, or 44 percent are deemed fair and 1,565 miles, or 37 percent poor. He noted that with the current paving budget of $57 million a year the share of mileage in good or fair condition is projected to shrink from 59 percent to 53 percent by 2016. An extra $12 million a year, he said, would halt the decline steady decline in pavement conditions that began in 2000 and was interrupted only in 2010 with the receipt of additional federal funds distributed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Likewise, Clement said that 2010 was the only year since 1998 that the department met its goal of resurfacing 500 miles of road a year.

The department is also responsible for 2,143 state-owned bridges and 1,685 municipal bridges. Among the state-owned bridges, 145 are on the red list, requiring inspection twice every year, and another 261 are close to it. There are 353 municipal bridges — a fifth of the total —on the red list , which are inspected annually. "That right there keeps me up at night," Clement remarked of the municipal bridges. The state contributes 80 percent of the cost of rehabilitating or rebuilding municipal bridges, but with an annual funding of $6.8 million a year since 1991 the program cannot keep pace with the lengthening of the red list. Laconia City Manager Scott Myers pointed out that the cost of reconstructing the Main Street Bridge, which is scheduled to begin next month, represents a third of the annual funding of the bridge program.

Clement explained that the DOT maintains two funds. The Highway Fund, consisting of proceeds from the gas tax, registration fees and traffic fines, amounts to about $260 million a year, which is supplemented by about $143 million in federal funds and $900,000 from the state general fund. The Highway Fund supports the department's operating budget, including winter maintenance which generally costs between $32 million and $40 million a year, as well as capital projects. Clement projects the operating budget to run a deficit of $48 million in 2016 that will grow to $107 million in 2017. Moreover, $30 million from the Highway Fund is distributed to cities and towns and another $83 million is allocated to the Department of Safety and Judicial Branch to enforce the rules of the road.

The Turnpike Fund, fueled by tolls amounted to $117 million, can only be applied to the maintenance of the 89 miles of roadway, 170 bridges and 10 toll booths in the turnpike system. The current capital program for the turnpike system includes $560 million in unfunded projects with the potential to create 14,000 jobs over a decade.

Clement said that the gas tax was last raised in 1992 and at 18 cents a gallon is easily the lowest among the six New England states. Moreover, increases in fuel efficiency and decreases in miles driven have reduced annual revenues from the tax. Meanwhile, since 1992 the price of asphalt from about $110 a ton to more than $600 a ton, a jump of 460-percent while the price of road salt has risen 120-percent in the last 12 years.

Diminishing revenues, Clement explained, have left the DOT unable to fund either the completion of major priorities, particularly the widening of I-93, or the maintenance of roads and bridges as the costs of these projects escalates. He said that if properly maintained, a well built road should last between 20 and 25 years, adding that while it may cost $50,000 a mile to keep a good road in good condition it costs $1.1-million a mile to reconstruct a road fallen into poor condition. Holding two fingers close together, he said "if you don't invest this much" then, widening his fingers, warned "it will cost this much." Although Clement described himself as a "revenue agnostic," he said that a business than failed to invest in its assets would go broke.

His listeners agreed. "He needs help," said Jerry Gappens, general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Everybody is afraid of the word tax. I wish we could change the mentality." Gappens pointed to Virginia, where a reluctant legislature ultimately agreed to a major investment in the state's highways and bridges. "If other states can do it, we're capable of doing it as well," he said.

"It's your fault and my fault," said Rusty McLear of Meredith. Referring to legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Rausch (R-Derry) to riase the gas tax, which will soon come to a vote in the Senate, he declared "we should stand up and pay the tax and it should be a lot more than four cents. Four cents is a band-aid."

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 March 2014 02:18

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