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Committee planning LHS renovation to begin meeting on March 25

LACONIA — The first meeting of the Joint Building Committee for the project at Laconia High School is scheduled for March 25 at 3 p.m. at Harvard Street School.

The installation of a fire suppression system in the older portions of the high school as well as some additional ventilation was made possible when the district qualified for a Qualified Zone Academy Bond for $1.8-million interest-free bond.

The Joint Building Committee is comprised of the members of the School Board who serve on the Building and Grounds Committee – Beth Arsenault, Malcolm Murray and Joe Cormier — plus members of the Laconia City Council, and administration teams from both the city and the school.

Councilors Bob Hamel, Henry Lipman and Armand Bolduc are the City Council representatives for the Huot Technical Center renovation project.

District Business Administrator Ed Emond said the purpose of the March 25 meeting will be to organize the committee and set a timetable for their meetings and the project.

Work on the project is expected to begin once school ends in June.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 12:07

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Jail planners look to cut costs of new facility below $30-million

LACONIA — Meeting for the first time since January, the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee last night discussed a concept plan which has the potential to reduce the size of a proposed 180-bed, 94,000 square foot new correctional facility by about 10,000 square feet.
Gary Goudreau, a committee member and an architect who developed the plan, said he was motivated to look at a way of reducing the square footage by a letter to the editor written by Hunter Taylor of Alton which appeared recently in the Laconia Daily Sun and an article he had read abut a 210-bed jail in Virginia which was estimated to cost between $20 million and $22 million.

After lengthy discussion, during which the committee's chairman, County Commissioner Ed Philpot, reiterated that the committee's goal all along has been to drastically reduce the $42.5 million estimated construction cost of a new facility, the committee decided to prepare a presentation to the Belknap County Convention for a $360,000 supplemental appropriation for a schematic design for the new facility.

"We should be able to push that below $30 million,'' said Philpot, who was joined in his support for moving ahead now on the schematic design by Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward who said that it is the essential next step and Alida Millham, former chairwoman of the Belknap County Convention, who told Ward ''a schematic is what you need.''

Late last year the committee developed a proposal for a $3.5 million bond issue which would include a 48-bed temporary housing unit, which would cost $1,584,681 for a three-year contract; $500,000 for a schematic design for a new facility, and $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail. Millham said that she had a feeling that the temporary housing unit proposal wouldn't fly as part of a bond issue package, and Ward said that he would forgo the temporary housing part in order to have the schematic design work only done this year.

Former Meredith Selectman Miller Lovett said he had met with Hunter Taylor, who last year suggested that a new facility could be built for $15 million, and said that he felt that the committee and community members opposed to the high price tag were working their way toward common ground, but that the Ricci Greene conceptual plan raised a ''red flag'' for critics and shouldn't be placed front and center in any discussions with the County Convention.

Millham said she was pleased that Goudreau came through with his new plan. "We have been in a stop mode and need to restart with what we've got,'' she said.

Goudreau said the savings in his plan range from 10 percent to 28 percent for the four different units and that using a triangular dayroom model brings them closer to 35 square foot per prisoner requirement, whereas the Ricci Greene plan is based on 70 square foot per prisoner.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 01:01

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Bristol voters increase budget during day-long meeting

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — Voters spent seven and a half hours making their way through 22 warrant articles on Saturday, increasing the operating budget by $10,065 and agreeing to purchase a $162,000 dump truck, a $142,725 sidewalk tractor, and a $15,845 power stretcher for the ambulance.

They also agreed to purchase a $450,000 pumper-tanker for the Fire Department but did not appropriate any money to do so.
The pumper-tanker article was submitted by petition and, although residents recognized the need for a new truck and the Budget Committee recommended the article, the selectmen did not recommend its passage, in part because of questions about whether a manufacturer would agree to build the truck without any kind of a down payment. The article calls for a seven-year lease-purchase agreement with the first payment not occurring until 2015 when the town takes delivery of the vehicle.
A town meeting vote cannot bind a municipality to fund an item in a subsequent budget year in the absence of a contract and Town Manager Michael Capone said Monday that the selectmen will take up the issue of how to proceed with the lease-purchase agreement at its next meeting, on April 10.
Voters did agree to provide $25,000 in funding toward the purchase of playground equipment for Kelley Park with the remaining $30,000 coming out of the Kelley Park Equipment Fund; and they agreed to spend $13,500 for a log crawl tunnel for the park.
During the budget discussion, voters agreed to increase the bottom line so the town could support the Newfound Lake Region Association's efforts to protect the lake with a $1,500 contribution; and to increase employees' wages by 50 cents per hour, rather than the 38 cents recommended by the Budget Committee, resulting in an increase of $8,565 when taxes and benefits are taken into account.
Capone said the selectmen originally looked at providing a percentage increase for employees but liked the budget committee's recommendation for a specific amount, rather than a percentage, so it would be more of a benefit for lower-paid employees. The 50-cent figure came about by looking at the consumer price index over the past seven years, he said.
Voters had mixed responses to articles that would use revolving funds, rather than capital reserve funds, for departmental expenses. Unlike capital reserve accounts, revolving funds can be spent without going back to the voters for approval.
Articles calling for revolving funds for ambulance replacement and recycling, with the money coming out of patient fees on the former and refunds from the Concord Regional Solid Waste Cooperative for the latter, easily passed on voice votes. A revolving fund to cover special police details and police cruisers did not pass.
Voters agreed to place $20,000 into a new capital reserve fund for town building maintenance but, instead of creating a new capital reserve fund for the purchase of a fire engine, voters agreed to place $25,000 into an existing Fire Department Reserve Fund.
In discussing whether to add $80,000 to the $80,000 approved last year for repairs to the Old Town Hall, voters discussed transferring last year's amount to the Bristol Historical Society which has used the building instead. In the end, voters rejected the article on a 71-82 vote.
Following the lead of several Newfound Area towns, Bristol voters agreed to petition the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee to intervene in any wind energy site application that would impact the "view shed" of Newfound Lake and/or the town of Bristol "as seen from any point in Town" and they appropriated $10,000 to cover any legal expenses associated with intervention. They also approved an article requiring any wind energy developer to post a bond to cover all costs associated with the removal of facilities upon the cessation of operations.
Unlike other towns in the wind energy debate, voters did not oppose the establishment of a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement, leaving it to the selectmen to determine whether such an agreement might make sense.
Voters supported a resolution calling upon the town's state representatives to support a constitutional amendment to limit political contributions by corporations and other entities that are not natural-born citizens.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 12:44

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Free State heroine accepts opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge

LACONIA — Self-proclaimed anarchist Amanda "Billyrock" Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of disobeying a police officer in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday afternoon.

Johnson, who was accompanied by about 15 Free State members, was facing three charges relating to her actions of December 14, 2013 — resisting arrest, disobeying a Laconia police officer, and having an open container of alcohol in her vehicle.

As part of a negotiated plea, Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer dropped the charges of resisting arrest and the open container violation and Johnson pleaded guilty to disobeying an officer. She was fined $124.

As part of the court stipulation, Sawyer agreed not to go forward with three additional pending charges against Johnson that were related to her arrest that night, including the possibility she provided false information to authorities after her arrest.

Still in her 20s, Johnson has built a considerable libertarian following through an Internet blog — where she identified herself as "Billyrock" — and a number of political speeches that are posted on YouTube. Originally from Utah, she moved to New Zealand for awhile because she heard that police there do not carry guns. More recently she moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project and is believed to be living in the Manchester area.

The day after Johnson was arrested the case went viral — with many of her Free State supporters around the country calling the police and Belknap County Corrections officials demanding to know why she had been "kidnapped" and "held in chains".

According to police, Johnson jumped the gun on a traffic light and was stopped by a patrol officer. Through a video that was taken by one of Johnson's passengers and posted by Johnson and her supporters on the Internet, Johnson gave police some identification but declined to cooperate further with police.

A police supervisor was called and at some point Johnson was removed from the car and taken to Belknap County House of Corrections where she initially refused the services of a bail commissioner. She spent the night in jail and was released the next day when her attorney and a bail commissioner arrived.

Originally, charges against her included driving while intoxicated and unlawful possession of drugs. In her Weblog, Johnson said the drugs were prescribed to her by a physician and she was not intoxicated and those two charges were not pursued.

Two of Johnson's supporters brought video cameras to court yesterday to record what they thought was going to be a trial.

After behind the scenes negotiations with Johnson, Sawyer, and Johnson's attorney, Seth Hipple, Johnson came back into the court room and gathered her followers in a huddle, addressing them in a quiet voice.

Once she finished talking many of them left, some of them grumbling in the hall that they were disappointed she was not going forward with the trial.

Johnson could also be seen counting out cash (not bitcoin) to be used to pay her fine.

Twice the usual number of security guards were on duty in the court house yesterday.

While Johnson was very respectful of the court and its proceedings, her supporters refused to rise when Judge Jim Carroll entered the court room. Both the judge and the court security officers chose to ignore the breach of protocol.

In an unrelated case, one man who was facing speeding charges has his case dismissed because the State Police didn't come to the trial, prompting Johnson's supporters to applaud — another breach of protocol ignored by Carroll and court security.

After the hearing, Johnson declined to comment.

Since that time, she has posted to her Facebook, "Trial was no-go. Surprise allegation at the last minute changed the situation. Plea to "disobeying" taken. No jail time."

Johnson said she may comment further on her blog or Facebook page.

CUTLINE: Amanda "Billyrock" Johnson confers with her supporters yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday afternoon. Johnson pleaded guilty of one count of disobeying a police officer.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 12:33

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