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Co. jail planners will make their pitch for interim funding on June 16

LACONIA — The Belknap County Jail Planing Committee found out Tuesday night that an error in the posting of a public notice in a local newspaper for a scheduled June 9 meeting of the Belknap County Convention for a public hearing and a vote on a $2.96 million bond issue for improvements, planning and a temporary facility for housing prisoners has resulted in the meeting being moved to Monday, June 16 at 6 p.m.
Committee members spent the rest of the meeting strategizing on how best to present the plan to the lawmakers and addressing some of the issues raised at last week's public input session of the convention, which was dominated by concerns raised over the projected final cost of a new facility and how it would affect property taxpayers in Belknap County.
One of the proposals aired last week by Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton, who is running for the Republican nomination for the commission seat currently held by Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), who is not seeking re-election, which called for moving women prisoners out of the current jail and into the county complex area currently occupied by Belknap County administrators.
County Commission Chairman John Thomas said that such a move would require major construction while Corrections Superintendent Daniel Ward said it would create two separate jails creating all kinds of staffing and program problems.

''I don't know how you could retrofit it. You'd have to convert it to meet modern detention standards. It's just not practical,'' said Ward.
Commissioner Steve Nedeau was critical of a proposal floated by County Convention Chairperson Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) last week for moving all prisoners to other counties. ''That's not saving money. The impact on the local police departments for transportation of prisoners would be really costly. We had 15 people from a Meadowbrook concert that were held overnight last weekend. How would it have been if you had police officers taking them all the way to Dover and then bringing them back again to court on Monday?''
County Administrator Debra Shackett said the suggestion wasn't a new idea and had already been explored by the committee and found to be wanting while Philpot said that the idea got no traction at all when discussed with local officials last winter.
Commissioner Thomas said that the low daily rate for out of county prisoner placements quoted by proponents of the idea wouldn't hold once it became clear that all of the Belknap County prisoners would be coming and Philpot warned that ''you're at everybody else's mercy'' if that path is followed.
Three weeks ago the jail committee met and reached a consensus that it should bring its plan for a $2.96 million supplemental appropriation to the convention and have Ward make the presentation.
The committee wants $360,000 so that it can begin work on a schematic design plan for a new jail, $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail and $1.6 million for a three-year contract for installation of a 48-bed temporary housing unit at the jail.
Because the supplemental appropriation will require a borrowing, which would also require a public hearing, a two-thirds vote of the convention would be needed for passage.
Committee members have supported the HVAC system replacement as necessary to make conditions at the current facility bearable for inmates and staff during the three years or more it will take before a new facility can be built and noted that many of the components of the upgraded system can be used in a new facility.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 01:17

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Chichester teacher to be new Elm Street principal

LACONIA — Superintendent Terri Forsten announced last night that Tara Beauchemin, a teaching, assistant principal in the Chichester School District will be the new Elm Street School principal.

Beauchemin has been in the Chichester School District for 14 years and has taught kindergarten through eighth grade.

Forsten said her areas of strength are developing relationships with students, staff, family members and the community. She has been part of a school district recognized for by the state as a leader in creating "Response to Instruction" processes to support student learning.

Beauchemin earned her undergraduate degree at Plymouth State University and her Master's degree in Education at New England College.

Jim Corkum of the Rundlett Middle School in Concord was named as the assistant principal of the Laconia Middle School.

Corkum is a Social Studies teacher and has worked with school-level committees in the area of positive behavioral intervention and supports.

"His areas of strength are seen in his calm and strong presence in a variety of circumstances," Forsten told the School Board.

Corkum earned his Masters in Education at Plymouth State University and is working toward an advanced degree in educational leadership.

He also has experience in coaching football, baseball and wrestling.

The School Board also honored and thanked five retiring teachers last night.

CAPTION: From left to right are Superintendent Terri Forsten, teacher Janyce Forsberg who retired after 26 years; Aimee Stevens, who retired after 10 years; Deb Brooks who retired after 27 years; Karen Goss, who retired after 30 years; Wendy Olson who retired after 36 years; and Ginny Babcock who retired after 28 years. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 01:08

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Ed Philpot retiring from county board

LACONIA — Ed Philpot said yesterday that he will not seek a third term on the Belknap County Commission.

The lone Democrat and most controversial of the three commissioners, Philpot was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. He has led the effort to plan and construct a new county jail, which has set him at loggerheads with the leadership of the Belknap County Convention. At the same time, he has firmly opposed the efforts of the convention to encroach upon the budgetary authority of the commission, a conflict that brought the two bodies to the brink of litigation.

During Philpot's tenure, county government was restructured and streamlined and, with funds allocated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, infrastructure improvements were undertaken both at the county complex and the superior courthouse.

Philpot said that he was recently elected as an at-large member of the Board of Governors of the New Hampshire Bar Association and, after six years of county government, wishes to renew his participation in volunteer activities and non-profit organizations in the community.

"I also want to get back to making furniture," he said. "I've got a little backlog."

Philpot represents Laconia, Sanbornton and New Hampton on the commission. His 2012 Republican opponent, David DeVoy of Sanbornton, has already declared he will make another run for the office. The nine day filing period opens on Wednesday.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 12:16

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Trial of Tilton man accused of sexual assault of disabled man under his care gets underway on Tuesday

LACONIA — After 16 months of legal wrangling, a jury was selected yesterday in Belknap County Superior Court in the case of Thomas Gardner — a Tilton man who stands accused of sexually abusing a disabled young man who was in his care in January of 2013.

From the start, the Gardner case has seen a number of twists and turns including one that involve the credibility of the two men who initially lodged the complaint against Gardner with the Tilton Police on January 16 and the second that involves one of the detectives who investigated the alleged crime.

The file that's available from the court is peppered with sealed documents that may refer to the personnel file of former Tilton Det. Cpl. Matt Dawson who has opted to evoke his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination rather than serve as a witness in this trial because of a matter that could criminally involve him in a different matter.

Gardner's defense team, attorneys Wade Harwood and Amy Ashworth has asked for Dawson, who is now a patrol officer with the Tilton Police, to take the stand, saying that Gardner has a right to face all of his accusers.

Dawson's attorney objected saying that his client has a right against self incrimination and he fears the defense is trying to use Dawson to impugn the credibility of the entire Tilton Police Department.

So far Judge James O'Neill has ruled that Dawson needn't take the stand, however, Harwood and Ashworth have asked him to reconsider his ruling.

Other issues that have arisen revolve around the two men — Joseph Ernst and Mark Corente – who allegedly saw Gardner engaging in oral sex with the victim, who is non-verbal and is not able to testify.

Ernst and Corente told police that they were at the former Sherryland (mobile home) Park on School Street looking for used trailers to purchase when they said they saw Gardner and his ward.

One of them told police her approached Gardner's car to asked him about the trailers and that's when he said he saw the alleged sex act.

Gardner has never said he wasn't there. He told police he and the child had taken a ride to see if their home on Sanborn Road was visible after a large swath of timber was harvested between their home and the land where the park is. He says Corenti and Ernst made up the allegations against him to detract police from their real purpose for being there.

In his initial encounter with police, according to affidavits obtained from the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division, said Gardner asked them what would happen to the two men if it was later determined they made up the story.

George Hast, the former owner of the park, has told The Daily Sun he never had any used trailers to sell and that it is his opinion the Ernst and Corente were there to steal from him.

Three days after they reported the alleged rape, Hast said his caretaker reported seeing the Ernst and Corente on the property and later discovered that two industrial batteries were missing.

Hast said police were notified about seeing the two back on the property and they responded to the call. There is no report of a theft included in the second report, however Hast said police told Ernst and Corente not to return to the park.

Hast and the caretaker are expected to testify at Gardner's trial.

Corente, according to pleadings, has been convicted of two felony counts of driving after being deemed a habitual offender, one conviction for theft, one conviction for possession of heroin and one conviction for bail jumping.

According to Concord Police, he was arrested on February 10, 2014 on a warrant for a B felony violation of the controlled drug act. He is free on $15,000 personal recognizance bail.

Ernst was convicted of simple assault, second degree assault, endangering the welfare of a child and a parole/probation violation in 2012 said a representative at the N.H. Circuit Court call center.

According to the rules of evidence, none of the above convictions except for possibly Corente's theft conviction can be presented to the jury because only convictions that have a bearing on someone's ability to tell the truth, like theft, are allowed at trial to discredit a witness.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Assistant Attorney Carley Ahern.

The defense and the prosecution were in court yesterday afternoon for a hearing on three pending motions however, the arguments were heard by O'Neill at the bench and audible to onlookers.

The trial is scheduled to begin today at 1:30 p.m. with a scheduled viewing of Sherryland Park and the spot where the alleged rape occurred.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 12:08

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