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Laconia has already spent 1/3 of winter road budget

LACONIA — Although there was no white Christmas, the Department of Public Works is on track to have spent approximately a third of its winter maintenance budget between December 21, the first day of winter, and the beginning of the New Year.

Paul Moynihan, Director of Public Works, said yesterday that the final tally for December has yet to be calculated, but he anticipates that expenses for the month will approach $90,000, which together with costs incurred in November will bring expenditures to date to around $147,000.

In November, the department spent $43,440 , $41,704 of it coping with the snow storm over the Thanksgiving holiday, when crews working overtime applied 422 tons of salt and 28 tons of sand. "It was an expensive storm," Moynihan said.

Moynihan said that the despite the lack of heavy snowfall and spells of warm temperatures in December, crews have turned out at night to plow, sand and salt on nine occasions. At the same time, he said that the department has incurred the expense of replenishing its stocks of salt and sand.

By comparison, the DPW had spent $102,890 by end of December, 2013 and $83,703 by the end of December 2012.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 02:05

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Belmont man accepts prison sentence for providing deadly drug to his best friend

SUPERIOR COURT — A former Belmont man yesterday pleaded guilty in Belknap County Superior Court to selling fentanyl to his best friend and was sentenced to serve 4 to 8 years in the N.H. State Prison for Men.

Jonathan Woodbury, 32, formerly on 56 Arlene Drive sold fentanyl that he thought was heroin to Michael Chamberlain on February 7, 2014.

The remaining charges against Woodbury that involved different theories of the same crime were dropped.

Woodbury will serve his 4 to 8 year sentenced after he has completed serving a 1 1/2 to 3 year sentence imposed in July of 2014 for smuggling contraband into the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Woodbury, who was accompanied by three members of his family had nothing to say to the family of Michael Chamberlain who were also in the court room yesterday.

Speaking for him, his attorney Wade Harwood, said Woodbury and Chamberlain had been friends since they were in grade school and that he will have to live knowing he killed him for the rest of his life.

Deputy Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern said that if they went to trial the state would prove that Chamberland went to Woodbury's home and consumed the fentanyl while he was there.

She said when he began to turn blue, people in the house attempted to revive him but ultimately called 9-1-1. When firefighters and police arrived, she said she would offer testimony that by Woodbury hedged before telling emergency responders what Chamberlain had taken.

She said she would call Det. Sgt. Christopher Noyes of the Laconia Police Department who would testify that Woodbury confessed that he sold the drugs to Chamberlain two days after he died.

By the time they administered NARCAN, Chamberlain has died.

She also listed Woodbury's previous criminal record that included 30 previous convictions from sales of tobacco when he was younger that escalated to assault, drugs possession, parole violations, and a second-degree assault in 2006.

Ahern said this would be Woodbury's second time in the N.H. State Prison.

Harwood said the Woodbury pleaded guilty but there were some mitigating factors including that others would testify the Chamberlain was already under the influence of impairment when he first arrived at Woodbury's home.

"It is possible he ingested the fentanyl before," Harwood said.

Harwood said Woodbury would also agreed to drop four motions to exclude much of the testimony filed on his behalf.

"He feels terrible," Harwood said. "It's difficult for him to deal with."

Once Woodbury is freed from prison, Woodbury must be on parole for four years and complete a substance abuse assessments.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 02:02

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New county commissioners will be sworn in on Wednesday; first meeting on Thursday

LACONIA — The changing of the guard at the Belknap County complex will get underway next week when the two newly elected county commissioners take office and the county convention outlines the process for filling the third seat on the commission opened by the resignation of Steve Nedeau of Meredith.

On Wednesday, Jan. 7 Republicans Richard Burchell of Gilmanton and David DeVoy of Sanbornton will be sworn in as county commissioners at the Belknap County Courthouse. Burchell, who served one term as a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and Belknap County Convention, defeated incumbent Republican John Thomas of Belmont in District 2 (Barnstead, Belmont, Gilmanton and Tilton) and Devoy, in his first bid for public office, topped Democrat David Pollak in District 1 (Laconia, New Hampton and Sanbornton).

The new commissioners will meet for the fist time on Thursday, Jan. 8 at 9 a.m. Burchell has indicated that the agenda for the meeting will be posted on the county website by Tuesday, January 6.

Both Burchell and DeVoy were critical of the conduct of the prior county commission, particularly of its opinion of its authority over the management of the county budget and its plan to replace the county jail with newly constructed facility that would include a county corrections element. Last month, Nedeau, citing his differences with the incoming commissioners, announced his resignation, leaving two years remaining in his term. State law provides for the convention to fill the vacancy by majority vote until the next biennial election.

Representative Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who chairs the county convention, said that the convention will meet on Monday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m., when it will set a schedule for soliciting and interviewing applicants for the seat in District 3 (Alton, Gilford, Meredith and Center Harbor). He anticipated that the convention would fill the vacancy early next month.

In addition, Tilton said that he expected that the commission would offer the convention an indication of how it intends to approach the 2015 county budget and the issue of the county jail. The outgoing commission has recommended a $27.3-million budget for 2015, which represents a 6.8 percent increase in expenditures and a 10 percent increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes.

The budget proposes expenditures of $27,330,778, which less revenues from sources other than property taxes of $12,296,021, leaves $15,034,757 to be raised by property taxes — or $1,371,443 more than the $13,663,314 raised this year. Personnel costs account for the largest share of the increased expenditures. The budget includes a 3 percent step increase for eligible employees, that is, those not at the top of their pay scale, based on their job performance as well as a 1.4 percent cost-of-living allowance (COLA) for all employees. This would be the first pay raise since 2012. The cost of the health insurance plan in which most employees are enrolled is budgeted to rise by 6.4 percent, and the less popular plan by 4.9 percent.

Tilton said that the convention has appointed sub-committees to review the budgets of county departments, but noted that the entire convention will address compensation and benefits.

The executive committee of the convention will meet before the convention, at 5 p.m. on January, 12, to revisit three requests to transfer funds within the 2014 budget to pay invoices, for water and sewer, electricity and heating fuel, which it declined to approve last week.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 01:47

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Belknap Mill Society to discuss its future at special meeting on Jan. 14

LACONIA — A meeting of the Belknap Mill Society will be held on Wednesday, January 14 at the mill, beginning at 7:30 p.m., to consider the financial challenges facing the society's ownership and operation of the historic downtown building.

There are approximately 150 individual and corporate members of the society.

In October, Chris Santaniello, the president of the society, informed city officials that the society lacks the financial resources to sustain its ownership of the building and is seeking a "partner" to ensure that the mill remains open to the public. At a non-public meeting with the City Council, the leadership of the society offered the mill to the city at an undisclosed price, but councilors declined the offer and urged the society to explore alternative arrangements.

Santaniello said that the meeting is closed to all but the membership of the society. She said that members will be informed of the issues facing the society and invited to offer suggestions for addressing them.

Last month, when the City Council hosted a public forum on the future of the mill, George Roberts of Gilmanton, a past president of the society, voiced his concern that the leadership of the society had entered conversations with city officials without consulting its members.

The society has operated at a loss for a number of years and all but exhausted its reserves as the cost of maintaining the building have continued to rise. Although the society has received grants to fund some repairs, it lacks the funds to finance major capital expenses, particularly the replacement of the boiler.

The use of the building is closely restricted by an easement granted by the society to the state in return for funds in 2004. The restrictions and obligations the easement places on the owner of the mill, especially a prohibition against operating it for private profit, represent strong disincentives for any private party other than a philanthropist to invest in the property.

The declared intent of the easement is "to ensure that the architectural, historical, and cultural features" of the mill are sustained and "to prevent any use or change of the property" that would "impair or interfere" with this purpose. The easement provides that if the society divests itself of all or part of the building, its "restrictions, stipulations, and covenants" shall bind the new owner. Furthermore, the easement expressly prohibits the subdivision of the building and specifies that if sold, it must be sold "as a unit."

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 01:40

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