CONCORD — State Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) was picked to chair the Senate Finance Committee by newly elected Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) yesterday.
Forrester, who is midway through her second term in the Senate, was the lone freshman senator to serve on the committee following her election in 2010 and was appointed vice-chairman after her re-election in 2012.
"I am very pleased by the confidence Senator Morse placed in me to head the Finance Committee," Forrester said yesterday.
Senator Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester) was named vice-chairman. Forrester said that she and D'Allesandro worked well together throughout the budget process earlier this year and anticipated their successful relationship would continue.
In a prepared statement, Morse said that he had worked closely with both senators during the last two budget cycles. "I have complete confidence in their understanding of the intricacies of the budget, as well as their ability to oversee the implementation of this fiscal spending plan going forward," he said.
Morse recalled that the Legislature worked across party lines to prepare and adopt the 2014-2015 budget. "I know Senators Forrester and D'Allesandro will work well with Governor Hassan and our executive branch agencies to ensure our spending targets are met." Managing the state budget, he continued, provided the foundation for a sound economy.
Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, immediately charged that by appointing Forrester, Morse began his presidency by "starting down the same ethically questionable road that ended Peter Bragdon's."
Earlier Kirstein charged charged that Bragdon, who resigned the Senate presidency to become executive director of the Local Government Center (LGC), appointed Forrester to a committee studying the LGC and the statute governing the management of insurance risk pools, knowing that was in line for the job, which pays $180,000. Claiming the appointment to the study committee breached the Ethics Guidelines of the General Court, Kirstein alleges that Forrester lied when she denied she was not aware of Bragdon's interest in the position when she accepted the committee assignment.
Yesterday Kirstein issued a statement insinuating that Forrester's appointment to chair the Finance Committee was a reward for her part in helping Bragdon secure the job.
Bragdon has insisted that he decided to name Forrester to the study committee on July 5, when the bill creating it crossed his desk for his signature and almost a week before his initial conversation with the LGC on July 11. Later on July 16, documents record a conversation in which Bragdon told Forrester of his interest in the position. She encouraged him and offered to provide a reference.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 September 2013 02:40
LACONIA — City Councilor Matt Lahey said yesterday that awarding the concession stand operation during Friday night home football games at the High School to Laconia Youth Football was previously known to nearly everyone involved.
Lahey, who is the chair of the Huot Regional Technical Education Center Renovation/LHS Athletic Complex Fundraising Committee, said the Key Club advisers, who are teachers at the High School, had been told earlier this year that they would likely not be able to continue using the concession stand during home football games this fall.
"I was aware of it and I supported it," said Lahey of the decision to make the switch. He said Laconia Youth Football leaders pledged they would raise $10,000 for the cost of the renovation and expansion project in exchange for the football home game concession stand rights.
Rod Roy is the president of Laconia Youth Football. Yesterday he said he also thought the Kiwanis Club of Laconia — the sponsoring organization of the community-service oriented Key Club — was aware of the decision but had no idea who was designated to tell them.
"My understanding was that the Key Club was going to get the other stuff, including hosting the soccer match this year," Roy said.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has chosen Laconia as one of the hosts for this year's soccer playoffs.
He also said he wasn't privy to any discussions between the school administration, the Key Club advisers or the Kiwanis Club, whose members made their displeasure over the students losing concession stand rights known to the School Board Tuesday night. They claimed that school officials had been stringing them along for months, saying a final decision on who would operate the concession stand had not yet been made.
Kiwanians told the board the Key Club's association with football game concessions dates back six decades.
Roy said the building that housed the concession stand at the old football field was built three years ago by Laconia Youth Football and volunteer labor from the Bean family of Gilford. All of the equipment, including a grill, three Fryolator, a popcorn machine and refrigeration units, was purchased by Laconia Youth Football.
He said that for the three years after the newer concession stand was built, but before the Bank of New Hampshire Stadium project was on the city's radar, Laconia Youth Football shared the space and split the cost of supplies and the revenue with the Key Club. He also said the space-sharing agreement was arranged by former Principal Steve Beals, who told Roy he was reluctant to give the concession stand rights solely to Laconia Youth Football.
When asked why the joint relationship didn't work, Roy said in his opinion the two agencies had different missions — Laconia Youth Football needs money to support its program and the Key Club is more about civic participation and less about money.
Roy said Laconia Youth Football is one of the smaller youth football programs in the state and needs to be able to offer scholarships to the children who want to play but can't afford the $100 annual per child registration fee.
"We don't want to turn away any kids," he said, adding the number of children seeking scholarships from Laconia Youth Football increases every year. Drawing from a number of cities and towns in the Lakes Region, Roy said there have been times when they thought the program would end because there weren't enough children participating who could pay the dues.
Roy said the Huot project and stadium construction included a new concession stand and Laconia Youth Football donated the older stand to the school district for use as an equipment shed. "That's a $12,000 building," he said.
He said that Laconia Youth Football initially wanted the Friday night football concessions in exchange for the building but offered an additional $10,000 to the stadium project — a proposal he said Lahey and former Superintendent of School Bob Champlin accepted. The pair's goal was to privately raise $1 million to supplement the public funding of the project.
Roy also recalls making the arrangements at a meeting in the Media Room of the High School about six months ago.
"I don't recall specifically who was at the meeting but I know (School Board Chair Joe) Cormier was there," he said.
At Tuesday night's School Board meeting, Cormier said he didn't recall who made the decision but said Champlin was empowered to make the decision himself.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 September 2013 01:38
LACONIA — "We have got to figure out ways to broaden prosperity and expand opportunity within the community," said Ed Engler, who stressed that "my commitment is that if I am elected, economic development will be my focus, my top priority every day."
Engler, the editor and president of The Laconia Daily Sun, grew up in Ipswich, South Dakota, and graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Texas. After a brief stint in advertising, he has worked in the newspaper business for 36 years, the last 27 of them in New Hampshire, where he has worked as a co-owner of The Daily Sun since the first edition appeared on June 5, 2000.
Engler finds the city's shrinking and aging population "very alarming," explaining "it's not so much the total population, but more alarming is the rapid decline of the school population, which signals a lack of younger families and prosperity."
"City government must play a more activist role in economic development," Engler said. "We can't sit around and wait for private developers to turn things around." He described Laconia's position as the county seat and commercial hub as analogous to a suburban situation. "Most people are not aware that Shaw's, Lowe's, Hannaford's and the Belknap Mall are not in Laconia," he said, "there is an invisible line. But when it comes to collecting property taxes it's very visible. We're not only competing with other states and countries," he continued. "We're competing against our neighboring communities, which makes it very challenging."
A director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, Engler envisions redevelopment as a cumulative process. "If positive steps are made in targeted areas, the residual effects will be felt in other parts of the city." But, he emphasized, the process must begin with consensus.
"The bigger picture is that we as a community have to decide what we want downtown to be," Engler said, adding that city government must play an active role in reaching consensus. "It's about the place and what we want it to be more than about the people and businesses that happen to be there," he said. "Redevelopment is for the city, for all of us. If redevelopment happens to help businesses, all the better, but that's not the aim."
Once consensus is reached and goals are set, Engler suggested they should serve as filters for proposals and projects. "If a proposal furthers the goal, we should encourage it and if it doesn't we should discourage it," he said. For instance, he said that the prospect of Genesis Behavioral Health operating a residential treatment center for the mentally ill at its property on Church Street raises the question, "What do we want downtown to be? It would be of concern to me," he allowed, "but that conversation needs to be had."
Engler said that tax increment financing (TIF) offered an effective means of making significant investments in public infrastructure required to support redevelopment. However, he cautioned against speculative building. "I'm very leery of 'build it and they will come'," he said. Instead, he said that he would prefer to work in partnership with a private developer to pursue projects in which public investment was contingent on private investment.
At the same time, Engler said that TIF funds could be applied to projects like the construction of the WOW Trail and the restoration of Weirs Beach. "I'm a big supporter of the WOW Trail," he said, "but I find the relationship between the WOW Trail organization and the city confusing and unusual. It makes little sense to me the way it is currently configured." The city holds the lease on the railroad right-of-way that the trail follows and once complete the trail becomes a city park, Engler said. "If it is a city park," he continued, "then we should treat it as such by investing in its construction and maintenance. It's either a city park or it isn't." Likewise, he insisted that Weirs Beach is a city park and if restoration is feasible, the city should fund it.
Noting that the federal grant that funded four additional firefighters for two years will expire in two years, Engler said that "it is way too early to make a judgment about whether to retain them at a cost of more than $300,000 a year." He said that Chief Ken Erickson told the City Council that adding one firefighter to each shift would help mitigate the cost of overtime, which has been a source of concern to councilors for some time. He said that after an appropriate time the impact of increased staffing on overtime can be measured to provide the basis for a decision. "If there is no significant effect," Engler said, "the decision will be much harder. And we're also looking at $4-million to expand and renovate Central Station."
Engler said that although "I have no philosophical objection to Pay-As-You-Throw, the mandatory recycling program should be given every opportunity to succeed." At the same time, he remarked that "as a business owner I understand that it is appalling on the face of it to spend so much money burning trash when it could be avoided. It's just bad business." More important, he said that the current city budget is balanced on the assumption that disposal costs will be reduced by a specific amount. "If we're nowhere near the necessary savings," Engler said, "the City Council will face a difficult choice sooner rather than later." He added that he believes for the mandatory recycling program to succeed, recyclables must be collected every week, not every other week.
Engler said that he could not anticipate either excluding the county tax from the tax cap or overriding the tax cap to offset an increase in the county assessment. "I'm a big supporter of the tax cap," he declared. "It takes away the 'oh, well factor', meaning 'oh,well' it's not our fault, it's beyond our control. It eliminates that response to anything," he explained, "and makes government focus on priorities."
Engler said that since the tax cap was introduced in 2005 successive city councils have made adjustments to comply with it with "not a hint of overriding it."
The most important job of the mayor, Engler believes, is "presiding over the City Council in every sense of the word. It's overlooked and difficult, but must be done fairly and competently, and not just during meetings," he said.
Engler is in a three-cornered contest to succeed Mike Seymour, who retired after serving two terms as mayor, with former city councilor and state representative Bob Luther and political newcomer Khaleif Mitchell. The two top vote getters in the primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 10, will square off in the general election in November.
(Editor's Note: All three mayoral candidates are being asked the same set of dozen questions at interviews providing the information for profiles of each to be published before Tuesday's primary.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 September 2013 01:48
BRISTOL — Police have charged a Center Harbor man with possession of methamphetamine after he was stopped by a police sergeant while allegedly speeding on Pleasant Street.
Charles Whittlesey, no age given, of Center Harbor is charged with one count of reckless operation, one count of possession of a controlled drug, and one count of possession of methamphetamine.
Police Chief Michael Lewis said in a media release that police began an investigation after Sgt. Joseph Guerfiero stopped Whittlesey on August 13 at 6:45 p.m.
Police obtained a search warrant for Whittlesey's vehicle from Judge Edwin Kelly and allegedly found an undisclosed amount of cash, a scale, and a substance believed to be methamphetamine. Police said other undisclosed items were also taken from the car.
Lewis said the investigation in ongoing.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 04:06
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