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Gilford police station job could go out to bid as early as September 1

GILFORD — Town Administrator Scott Dunn told selectmen last night that the engineering plans for the Police Department renovation and expansion project at Town Hall should be ready for board review by August 27.

Should the board accept the plans, Dunn said they should be ready to go to bid by September 1.

The board also approved a one-year extension of the finish date for the Homeland Security federal grant portion of the project that will build a Emergency Operations Center — something the existing department doesn't have right now.

Dunn said the assistant chief of planning for Homeland Security approved moving the final completion date from September 30, 2014 to September 30, 2015.

Dunn said the town requested the extension because it had just hired a new police chief, who will be a key member of the construction management team.

He also said the town wants to continue to be able to use the portion of the Police Department that will eventually become the EOC during construction, which should take about a year.

In other news, selectmen approved $2,647 for the replacement of deck of the town bandstand.

According to a memorandum from Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene, the buildings and grounds department has told him the deck has rotted through and replacing the floor board only is no longer an option.

Greene said the re-decking should not interfere with any of the town's scheduled activities which include community band concerts and Old Home Day.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:54

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Police release name of man found dead in Laconia apartment

LACONIA — Police have identified Steven J. Copp II as the man who was found dead in an apartment at 709 Union Avenue Saturday afternoon

Copp's body was discovered around 3:30 p.m. when another person in the apartment checked to see why he hadn't risen.

Police said Copp entered the apartment just after midnight on Friday and went directly to bed.

Police did not give a cause of death and said the investigation is ongoing.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:48

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More detailed HVAC estimate for jail fix not likely

LACONIA — The idea of a stand-alone vote for installing a new HVAC system at the Belknap County Jail is still alive but one of the key conditions sought by members of the county convention for reconsideration, namely more detailed information on the $1 million cost estimate, is unlikely to be forthcoming.
''I can't believe any contractor will take a look at it until a bond is passed,'' Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) told Dave DeVoy at yesterday afternoon's meeting of the commissioners.

Two weeks ago DeVoy, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the County Commission seat currently held by Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), who is not seeking re-election, broached the idea of a second vote on that part of a $2.96 million bond issue which was rejected by a 9-7 vote of the County Convention last month.
DeVoy said he had talked with convention Chair Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) and other members of the convention about a new vote and that Worsman had said that if the commissioners requested a hearing on just that part of the bond the convention would take it up. He said that other members of the convention told him that they wanted a more detailed description of the work which would be done and a more precise cost estimate before they would vote to support it.
Commissioners have said that the million dollar estimate was reached in consultation with Maintenance Superintendent Dustin Muzzey and was based on the cost of a similar project which was completed three years ago at the Belknap County Courthouse.
DeVoy said that some county legislators had suggested that the commissioners might want to consider including the HVAC system as part of next year's operating budget rather than as a stand-alone bond issue.
Other elements of the defeated bond proposal put forth by the Jail Planning Committee, which required a two-thirds majority vote from lawmakers for passage, included $360,000 for a schematic design for a new county jail and $1.6 million for a three-year lease of a 48-bed temporary housing unit.
Commissioners are unlikely to take any action on the proposal until after the next scheduled meeting of the Jail Planning Committee, which will take place on September 10, the day after the primary election, and which will be attended by Kenneth Ricci, president of the Ricci Greene firm which provided the conceptual plan for a 94,000 square foot Community Corrections facility for 184 inmates which carried an estimated $42.6 million price tag which proved widely unpopular with legislators and many local officials across the county.
County Administrator Debra Shackett says that Greene will present alternatives and options to the plan to the committee, which has been looking to bring the cost of the project to $30 million or less and postponed further meetings until it had a chance to meet with him.
Commissioners declined to comment on the lawsuit filed last week by the Belknap County Convention against them which seeks to affirm the authority of the convention over line items in the county budget. They said they were in consultation with their attorney over the law suit, which was authorized by the convention in October of 2013 but not filed until last week.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:41

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Convention sues Commission over budget authority

LACONIA — After wrangling over the last two county budgets, the Belknap County Convention yesterday brought suit against the Belknap County Commission, asking the Belknap County Superior Court to affirm its authority over each of the individual line items within the budget and prohibit the commission from spending more from any line item than it appropriated.

Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, and the clerk of the convention, Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), together with attorney David Horan, filed the suit almost 10 months after the convention, by a vote of 10-4, authorized it in October 2013. Ten Republicans voted to bring the suit, while four Democrats were opposed and four other members — three Republicans and one Democrat — were absent and did not vote. 

"It was filed when it could be done," Worsman remarked, explaining that when the convention voted to litigate the 2013 county budget had been virtually expended.

"This is something that should be resolved regardless of who is in office," Burchell added.

Apparently Worsman did not inform members of the convention that she was taking this action. "This is the first I've heard of it," said Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) on being told of the lawsuit.

The county commissioners — John Thomas (R-Belmont), Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) and Stephen Nedeau (R-Meredith) — who were being served late yesterday afternoon, could not be reached for comment.

The differences between the convention and commission over their respective budgetary authority persisted with the preparation and adoption of the 2014 county budget in March, prompting Worsman to go to court.

First in 2013 and again this year the Republican majority of the convention has insisted that the convention can rewrite the budget proposed by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. And, in the course of managing the budget, the commission may only reallocate funds from one line to another with the approval of the Executive Committee of the convention.
With equal resolve, the commissioners claim that the authority of the convention is limited to itemizing appropriations in 13 categories. Within these categories, the commission contends it can distribute funds among different lines without the approval of the convention as long as expenditures do not exceed the total appropriations of the particular categories.
In its petition, the convention cites the state statute governing the county budget (RSA 24:14), which provides "Appropriations by the county convention shall be itemized in detail and a record thereof shall be kept by the clerk of the convention." It goes on to stipulate that the convention may require the commission to report "the expenditures of the county as compared to the budget as voted, in such detail as determined by the convention." Finally, the convention may require the commission to obtain the written approval of its executive committee "before transferring any appropriation of part thereof."
After convention adopted the 2014 county budget on March 4, it approved a motion "that all funds appropriated for all line items of the 2014 Belknap County Budget shall be non-transferrable without prior approval of the Executive Committee in accordance with RSA 24:14." The convention authorized the commission to transfer up to $300 from one line to another within each department, requiring that these transfers be reported monthly.
The petition claims that on March 27 the commission approved 121 changes to particular line items and 11 changes in departmental budget totals recommended by County Administrator Debra Shackett. All of the 132 changes exceeded $300. Nor did the commission present these transfers to the Executive Committee for approval.

The commissioners transferred the funds to meet the increase in the employer contribution to health insurance premiums, which the convention eliminated from the budget. They contended that they were obliged to pay the increase by the terms of collective bargaining agreements with the unions representing county employees.

The convention counters by referring to RSA 24:15, which reads, "No county commissioner, or elected or appointed county officer, shall pay or agree to pay, in cur any liability for the payment of, any sum of money for which the county convention has made no appropriation." Consequently, the convention charges that 132 changes the commission made to budget adopted by the convention were "illegal."

The convention asked the court rule that the commission must obtain the written authority of the Executive Committee before transferring funds from one line item to another and to schedule a hearing to enjoin the commission from spending more from any line item than the convention appropriated.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:05

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