Gilford parent files wiretapping suit against bus company, superintendent


GILFORD — A parent who was charged with three counts of disorderly conduct after protesting the school district choice of mandatory reading material at a School Board in 2014 has filed a federal suit against the First Student Bus Company and Superintendent Kent Hemingway for allegedly violating state and federal wiretapping laws.

The suit says William Baer is the father of two children who attend Gilford High School who he claims were audiotaped while on a school bus owned by First Student which is under contract by the school district to transport students back and forth to school.

Baer said his children have been riding the same bus "#3" since 2013 and regularly engage in conversation during their rides.

He said neither child consented to being audiotaped and were unaware this was happening until one of them was summoned to the principal's office in January for a incident on the bus. During the conversation, he said the principal referred to the audiotape.

When the child referenced the student handbook, he realized it stated that all buses "shall be posted" with a sign indicating the people aboard it are being audiotaped.
The suit said Baer's students examined bus #3 as well as "a number" of other buses provided to the school district by First Student and learned that most of them did not have the required posting. They also said they had never noticed any posting in their bus since they began riding it in 2013.

In his suit, Baer noted that bus #3 has since posted the requisite warning signs.

Hemingway is being cited because of his role as the overseer of the Gilford School District.

William Baer was involved last year in a court case over his right to free speech at a school board meeting. He was arrested for disrupting the meeting, but the 4th Circuit Court decided Baer, while rude, was not breaking any laws.

Baer also later filed a federal suit against the police lieutenant who arrested him but the court determined the lieutenant was immune from suit.

First Student and Hemingway have not responded to the complaint.

Timber Hill Farm warrants fail - Gilford approves town budget, school goes to default budget

GILFORD — There were five total warrant articles that proposed to address agritourism in general in Gilford yesterday and the two submitted by Timber Hill farm went down to a resounding defeat.

Article 4 was submitted by petition and asked voters to support an amendment that would amend the current definition of agriculture to include agritourism and to included it in all zones as agriculture is allowed in all zone. The Planning Board did not recommend this article and it failed by a wide margin of 218 for it to 1,173 against it.

Article 5 was also submitted by petition and generated by the family of Andrew and Martina Howe who sought to rezone all of their farm property of nearly 240 acres from Single Family Residential to Resort Commercial – a designation that allows them by right to conduct any agritourism events in the zone with only a traditional site plan review. The Planning Board did not recommend this article and  if also failed by a wide margin of 1,016 to 171.

Article 7 was created by the Planning Board and sought to make any agritourism events subject to the town's nuisance laws. Howe and the Planning Board agreed with this and it passed by a vote of 1,145 to 228.

Article 8 was created by the Planning Board and it proposes to make agritourism allowable by special exception in all zones with the exception of the Island Residential Zone. The Planning Board recommended this warrant. It passed by a two-to-one margin of 900 voting in favor and 408 voting against it.

In addition to agritourism, a petitioned warrant article to allow the Gunstock Inn and Resort to switch from Single-Family Residential to Resort Commercial was passed by a vote of 1,012 to 353.

Warrant Article 3, also submitted by petition, sought to eliminate and churches from opening in the Limited Residential Zone which would made it consistent with the town's other three residential zones. This passed by a vote of 1,096 to 259.

On the school side, a warrant article supported 4-to-1 by the School Board sought to issue a $2.4 million bond to perform mechanical, HVAC, electrical and other upgrades to the elementary school passed by a vote of 940 to 439. It needed a three-fifths majority to pass, or 827 of the 1,374 votes cast.

The town budget of $12,015,382 was approved by a vote of 1,057 to 252.

Voters rejected the proposed School Board budget and will go forward in 2016-17 with a default budget of $25,688,824. The proposed budget was for $25,852,759.

Incumbent School Board member Jack Landow was not re-elected to office. Political newcomer Gretchen Gandini was the largest vote getter with 936 votes, while incumbent Chairman Karen Thurston retained her seat with 718 votes. Landow received 368 votes.


Belmont favors industry over aquifer


BELMONT — Voters overwhelmingly turned down a move to prevent further development over the aquifer by a vote of 514-187.
Article 2 was a petitioned warrant article to stop all further industrial development over the aquifer circulated and submitted by George Condodemetraky who also sought a seat on the Board of Selectmen.
The article was the subject of many letters to the editor and great deal of conversation around Belmont. Its future was the hot topic of this year's candidates' night at the Belmont High School.
Proponents of the warrant article said that the biggest danger to the aquifer is industrial development over it, while opponents claim that is in not in the best financial interests of any industry to potentially pollute the aquifer. Opponents also say the long-term economic viability of Belmont would be severely hampered as one-third of the town is over the aquifer.
Article 3 asked voters to raise by bond issued under the Municipal Finance Act for $375,000 to replace a bridge/box culvert on Hoadley Road. This was supported by the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee and passed by a vote of 420 for it to 261 against it and got a three-fifths majority, or 408 votes of the 681 needed to pass.
Article 4 asked the town to authorize a long-term lease/purchase agreement for of $560,000 to purchase a new pumper truck for the Belmont Fire Department and to raise and appropriate $63,507 for this year's payment. Both the selectboard and the Budget Committee recommend this article. This article squeaked by with 414 voting for it and 260 voting against it. With 674 voting yesterday, it need to pass by 404 votes.
Article 6 requested $40,000 for a new command vehicle for the Belmont Fire Department. Town Administrator Jean Beaudin said yesterday that it was too late to remove the article from the warrant when Belmont and Laconia decided to share a chief and a deputy chief. She said should the article pass, the money would remain in the apparatus special revenue fund. This vote passed by a narrow margin of 346 yes votes and 335 no votes.
Selectman Jon Pike easily bested his three opponents by garnering 333 votes to 93 for James Spiller, 119 for Condodemetraky and 153 for write-in candidate Kevin Sturgeon.
Of the six people running for five slots on the Budget Committee, Eric Shirley, Albert Akerstrom, Tracey Leclair and Ronald Mitchell prevailed. Former selectman and town administrator Donald McLelland Sr. fell short.