Privatizing county nursing home gets thumbs down from commission

LACONIA — A majority of the Belknap County Commission yesterday turned thumbs down on a proposal that the county look at managed care organizations to take over the operation of the Belknap County Nursing Home.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who last week met with members of the state Department of Health and Human Services about Medicaid rate setting, said that he knew of two private companies who have submitted ideas about managing the nursing home.
At the commission's last meeting Burchell, said that managing the nursing home "doesn't have to be a county function," and suggested that nonprofit entities should be encouraged to look at taking over the nursing home.
But Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said the nursing home "plays a unique role which cannot be filled by a private company. It's a home of last resort for Medicaid patients and no private company can make money from it. The county needs to take care of its elderly."
Burchell maintained that Texas has lower reimbursement rates than New Hampshire and still has five private companies that manage nursing homes there. He also said that when New Hampshire counties started taking care of the elderly, it was an entirely different situation.
"200 years ago, you didn't have a convoluted system," said Burchell.
But County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that his goal is to make sure that the nursing home is run efficiently. "I'm not interested in privatizing the nursing home at this time."
Burchell said that at the meeting he had attended last week, he had learned the chief factor in setting Medicaid reimbursement rates for counties is the percentage of Medicaid residents at the county home and that the state uses two "snapshot dates" of Feb. 28 and Aug. 1 to set those rates.
He said that there was a 10 percent drop in the number of Medicaid patients registered in the nursing home in 2015 compared to 2014, which resulted in a large drop of payments for the county.
Taylor said responsibility for Medicaid nursing home patients were at one time split equally between the state and the county, but the state has been passing on a greater share of costs to the counties in recent years.

"Each year, a greater percentage is passed back to the counties," said Taylor, who said that 70 percent of the burden now falls on counties.
He said he would like to discuss the funding with members of the Belknap County Convention and make sure they are aware of the impact on county taxpayers.
Taylor said he thinks the county should take a good look at legislation which is currently being proposed in the New Hampshire House which would allow counties to establish heroin use prevention and treatment programs.
He also said he would like to get some feedback from the County Convention as well as the Belknap County Sheriff and Belknap County Attorney on establishing a program in the county in which the Sheriff's Department add a position similar to what Laconia police currently have for handling drug problems.
DeVoy said he thought that was a good idea and would like to explore it further.

Gunstock Inn zoning change now goes to ballot

GILFORD — The Gunstock Inn and Resort would like its zoning changed to resort commercial, and on Tuesday the Planning Board voted to support that request.

The Gunstock Inn, at 580 Cherry Valley Road, is currently in a single-family residential zone and Les and Linda Schuster, who also own and operate the Lazy E in the Weirs, have petitioned the town for the property to be zoned to resort commercial, saying it would give them a chance to become profitable by allowing better signs.

"We would like to succeed, unlike previous owners," said Les Schuster in defense of his request at a Planning Board public hearing Tuesday. "All I'm asking is for the zone to fit the use."

The Gunstock Inn and Resort operates as an inn, a restaurant, and as a fitness center complete with a salt-water pool. Schuster said the inn portion of the business does well because it is booked by people looking for a place to stay; however, sign regulations because of zoning status have limited him from attracting any drive-by business to his restaurant and fitness center.

He explained that it took him a while to get through the entire planning and zoning process to get his expanded sign permit but that it cost valuable time, which is money in his line of work.

According to Jerry Gagnon of the Planning Board, Gunstock Inn was built in the late 1930s as a barracks for workers who came to Gilford to build what was then Gunstock Ski Area. The project was one of the first public works projects commissioned under former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his New Deal Program to get people back to work after the Great Depression.

At some point in the 1960s and 1970s, the inn became clubhouse of sorts for the then-expanding Gunstock Acres development of residential homes. Gagnon said it began operating as a public restaurant and a fitness club in the late 1980s.

One member opposed to the zoning change was Norman Silber, who said such a change constitutes "spot zoning," and since the use was already accepted and "grandfathered," there is no need to change its zoning status.

The final vote of the Planning Board was to recommend passage of the zoning change for the ballot in March. Silber and Carolyn Scattergood voted against recommending passage.

Gilford man charged with raping girlfriend

LACONIA — A Gilford man who allegedly raped his live-in girlfriend as she was trying to leave him is being held on $10,000 cash bail and $50,000 personal recognizance bail following his appearance in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

According to affidavits obtained from the court, Carroll R. Thompson, 44, of 2652 Lakeshore Road used physical force to get the woman onto the floor, pin her head with his arm and forcibly separate her legs. The alleged victim told police this happened in front of their 3-year-old child.

She told police she had packed her belongings and the child's, and they were preparing to move to a different location. In court yesterday, Concord was mentioned as the possible destination.

The report came to police about 30 minutes after the alleged assault and police were able to confirm the woman's claim that she had twice tried unsuccessfully to call 911 by looking at her cell phone.

While Gilford Police were taking statements from both Thompson and the alleged victim, a different officer took the child to a family friend nearby, who told her that he had heard noises that were consistent with what the alleged victim told police.

In addition, the child told the officer that "Daddy was hurting mommy," "Mommy was yelling," "Daddy didn't stop" and other like statements.

During the woman's statement to police, she told them where they could find certain evidence, which they found, and were also able to confirm her statement that Thompson threatened to kill himself with a pocket knife he carried. Police affidavits said they found a slight cut mark on Thompson's wrist and took from him a pocket knife.

Thompson told police she had assaulted him and showed them a bite mark on his abdomen. The alleged victim said she bit him while trying to fight off the attack.

The alleged victim also told police that both of them had been users of methamphetamine but she had stopped at Christmas and had only one slight relapse. She told them Thompson was allegedly still using the drug.

In court yesterday, Gilford Prosecutor Sgt. Eric Bredbury asked for $50,000 cash-only bail, citing that police consider it a very serious allegation, that Thompson had been convicted once for bail jumping, and that he still poses a danger to the woman and her family.

Defense attorney Allison Schwartz argued that her client would agree to stay away from the woman, that she is moving to another community, and that she was leaving the house so Thompson could still live there. Schwartz said Thompson has a part-time job, is in no financial position to post $50,000 cash bail and noted the bail jumping conviction was from 1993 and not recent enough to be relevant.

Judge Jim Carroll ordered he be held on $10,000 cash bail, $50,000 personal recognizance, and set a series of strict guidelines regarding Thompson's future behavior should he post bail.