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Belmont wants to use part of mill space for welfare office but will need federal OK

BELMONT — Town officials are considering relocating the General Assistance Office to the space on the second floor of the Belmont Mill that was vacated last winter when the Lakes Region Community College Culinary Arts Program was forced to relocate.

The college used the space on the second floor for offices and a classroom.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin told selectmen earlier this week that she is checking with the Community Development Finance Authority to see if relocating the welfare office is an acceptable use of the space that was renovated using a $1 million USDA Community Development Block Grant.

Beaudin explained that because the Belmont Mill was restored with a federal grant there are accepted uses for the space in the building and according to the terms of the grant received by Belmont, at least 51 percent of the total renovated space must serve low-to-moderate income people.

"We're not supposed to use the space for town facilities," she said, saying the selectmen are hoping the estimated $200,000 needed from the town to fix the structural deficiencies in the mill would be an acceptable token of good will for a change of use, in the eyes of the federal grant administrator.

Initially, officials thought they would be able to relocate the Department of Parks and Recreation to the second floor space but said it would be difficult to quantify how many people who participate in town-sponsored recreation program were low-income. Beaudin believes the general assistance program meets the criteria of the grant.

If the CDFA gives it seal of approval, it is likely the Recreation Department would use the bottom floor of the Corner Meeting House and the former Winnisquam Fire Station could be vacated.

Should the CDFA not agree to the program shift, the other alternative is to reimburse the federal government in the amount of $21,600, which is calculated by dividing the total grant of $1 million by 20, or the years in the payback period. That leaves $50,000 annually that must be paid back over the next six years because the grant is 14-years old. Seven percent of $50,000 represents the amount of total space that would be used by a non-qualifying agency or $3,600 which is multiplied by the six years remaining in the payback period, or $21,600.
Beaudin said she expects an answer regarding the change of use from the CDFA before the next selectman's meeting. She said she is also meeting with the directors of General Assistance and the Parks and Recreation Department to see if the proposed new spaces are a good fit for their clientele.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 01:54

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Having Belknap County towns pay directly for belonging to Mutual Fire Aid will find some paying more & some less but it's complicated for Tilton & Northfield

LACONIA — With Belknap County likely to strike the annual appropriation for its 11 municipalities belonging to the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association (LRMFAA) from its 2014 budget, the cost of membership would rise for some and fall for others while Tilton and Northfield, who share a fire district, could fund themselves haggling over the tab.

The LRMFAA manages emergency communications, coordinates mutual assistance and provides training programs for 36 municipal fire departments operating across 1,500 square miles in all or part of half the state's 10 counties. The organization originated in 1951 with a handful of towns in Belknap County, but has never been an agency of county government., although all 11 of its municipalities belong to the LRMFAA.

The LRFMAA is governed by a board of directors composed of the fire chiefs from the member municipalities, four of whom are elected to an executive committee. The executive committee prepares and adopts an annual budget then distributes the cost among the member municipalities.

The municipalities are assessed by a formula consisting of the sum of three factors. A fixed charge, representing 36 equal shares of one-tenth of the total budget, accounts for 10 percent of the assessment. A valuation factor, calculated by dividing 40 percent of the budget by the total assessed property value of 36 municipalities and multiplying the evaluation of each municipality by the result, represents 40 percent of the assessment. The remaining 50 percent of the assessment is based on a population factor, calculated by dividing half the budget by the aggregate population of all 36 municipalities and multiplying the population of each municipality by the result.

The 25 municipalities in Carroll, Grafton, Merrimack and Strafford counties are billed directly by the LRMFAA in accordance with the formula. However, Laconia and the 10 towns of Belknap County have long been treated differently. They are not being billed directly by LRMFAA. Instead, their total share of its budget is included in the county budget, apportioned among them based solely on their share of the total assessed property valuation of the county and paid through the county property tax.

In other words, the county acts only as a collection agency.

Although severing the relationship between the county and LRMFAA has arisen in the past, the issue came to a head this year when Meredith and Center Harbor asked to be billed directly. County Administrator Debra Shackett explained that if any municipality in the county is billed directly, all must be billed directly, since whatever amount is included in the county budget would be incorporated in the county tax rate levied on all 11 municipalities. "The towns that opted to be billed directly," she said, "would be billed twice, once by the LRMFA and once by the county. "

If the LRMFAA's budget is stripped from the county budget and the 11 municipalities are billed directly, they would pay the same total amount, but the shares would be distributed differently.

Based on the LRMFAA's requested budget, this year the share of the 11 municipalities was $554,037, distributed as follws: Alton $81,048, Barnstead $27,350, Belmont $34,381, Center Harbor $22,457, Gilford $88,631, Gilmanton $25,680, Laconia $106,731, Meredith $100,545, New Hampton $17,528, Sanbornton $22,072 and Tilton $27,614.

Billed directly, according to the formula applied by the LRMFAA, four towns — all with extensive waterfront —would have paid less while Laconia and six towns would have paid more. The assessment to Alton would have been reduced by $18,922, to Center Harbor by $4,721, to Gilford by $14,326 and to Meredith by $25,445.

On the other hand, the assessment to Laconia would have risen by $17,606, to Barnstead by $9,206, to Belmont by $18,290, to Gilmanton by $6,237, to New Hampton by $3,372, to Sanbornton by $4,527 and to Tilton by $4,176.

The prospect of direct billing by the LRMFAA has breathed fresh life into a lingering issue between Tilton and Northfield, which share a common fire district. While Tilton has been billed through Belknap County, Northfield, which is in Merrimack County, has been billed directly.

However, Glenn Smith, Northfield Town Administrator, said that the Board of Selectmen have consistently taken the position that the LRMFAA should bill the Tilton-Northfield Fire District, not the two towns. They note that the fire district, established in 1945, is a distinct entity, governed by an elected commission and annual meeting. The district, not the towns, he said, provides fire protection and emergency services. Smith described the different methods of billing the two towns as "an impediment to billing the district."

Pat Clark, who chairs the Tilton-Northfield First District Commission, agreed that the LRMFAA should bill the district, not the towns and acknowledged that removing the LRMFAA from the county budget presented an opportunity to address the issue.
The district, he said, is responsible for providing fire protection, ambulance service and a water supply to both towns.

Currently, Tilton bears 63-percent of the district's annual budget and Northfield 37-perecent. Clark conceded that if LRMFAA billed the district directly, Tilton's share of the district's budget would rise, estimating the increase would fall between $9,000 and $10,000. He noted that if billed separately, each town would pay a fixed charge, but the district would pay only once.

"It is a question of dollars and cents," he said, anticipating that billing the district would encounter resistance from Tilton. But, he said "put in context it is not a lot of money and it might help in mending fences between the two communities."

Clark said that since the two towns voted to join the LRMFAA, warrant articles in the both as well as a vote of the fire district would be required to affect the transition, which probably could not take place before 2015.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 01:46

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With construction bid now in line with budget, Gilford Town Hall renovation project will begin in Sept.

GILFORD — Selectmen have accepted a bid of $344,000 from a local construction company for the renovation of Town Hall scheduled to begin in September.

The board made its decision at the August 14 meeting, two weeks after learning that all three bids for the Town Hall renovation came in substantially higher than the $350,000 approved by warrant at the March annual town meeting ballot vote.

The lowest bid of $385,000 was submitted by PRB Construction and in late July, selectmen asked Town Administrator Scott Dunn to work with them to get a price that was at or below the amount approved by voters.

"We are pleased to be able to award this contract to a local company that will be buying its material from local vendors," Dunn said.

Dunn said the biggest thing that had to be eliminated from PRB's original bid is the sidewalks around the building. The other major change is the new steel roof will be installed on top of the existing roof rather than removing the shingles.
Dunn said the structure can handle the weight of two roofs.

The sidewalks will be included in a future Phase 2 project that would be scheduled for some time in 2016 or 2017 but only after the town completes its newest 10-year Capital Improvement Plan.

He said there is about $362,000 in the capital reserve fund set aside for the Town Hall repairs.

The biggest unknown, said Dunn, is the condition of the wood behind the siding.

"The roof has been leaking for 20 years," Dunn said.

He said the project budget has set aside $4.25 for 90 sheets of plywood that would need remediation if they are rotten. He said the contractor won't know if there is any rot until the siding is removed.

The scheduled start date is September 9 and the projected completion date is December 20.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 01:30

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Tilton story robbed at gunpoint

TILTON – Police were looking Wednesday night for a man who robbed a Rte. 3 convenience store at gunpoint in the middle of the afternoon.

Police Chief Robert Cormier reported a man walked into the Tilton Shop Express store at 622 Laconia Road in the Winnisquam section of town at about 3:30 and demanded money. The clerk said the robber was wearing a mask and pointed a gun right at him.

The clerk handed the clerk the money that was in the cash resister and the thief fed on foot behind the store.

The clerk described the suspect as a white male, tall and thin. He was wearing a dark colored, hooded sweatshirt, a dark mask and dark colored pants.

Anyone having information about the incident is asked to contact the Tilton Police Department at 286-4442 or the Tip Line at 855-286-6565.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 01:25

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