Belknap County sheriff gets OK to buy two new radar units

LACONIA — The Belknap County Sheriff's Department will be able to purchase two new radar units.

The Executive Committee of the Belknap County Delegation Monday afternoon approved the transfer of $3,000 for the purchase.
The approval came after a lengthy discussion over the proper procedure for accepting and expending grant money as the radar units are funded through a Justice Assistance Grant for $14,641 to the Laconia Police Department from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Laconia received $11,641 for nine semi-automatic 5.56-mm caliber urban patrol rifles as its share of the grant, but was required to partner with the county in order to be eligible for the money. A memorandum of understanding with the department which was signed by Sheriff Craig Wiggin and Belknap County Commissioner Dave DeVoy last June spelled out the details of the joint grant application and said that the Sheriff''s Department would receive $3,000 for the radar units.
Committee member Ray Howard (R-Alton) questioned whether or not the Sheriff's Department was involved in traffic law enforcement to the extent that they need radar units and Sheriff Wiggin said that the department makes several hundred traffic stops per year and is constantly in action when they witness traffic violations. Wiggin said the department needs the units as some of the units they currently have no longer operate.
Howard also wondered if the department could wait until the grant was received before making the purchase but was told by Wiggin that the money would only be available after the units are purchased and the request for reimbursement is submitted to Laconia.
Former Laconia Mayor Tom Tardif said that it was his opinion that the grant application process had not been followed properly and that the only people authorized to sign the paperwork are those with the authority to tax, which would mean the City Council in Laconia and the Belknap County Delegation for the county.
He said that the county had also applied for radar units in 2013 JAG grant but Wiggin said that there had never been a request in 2013 for radar units for his department,
Wiggin said that the grant application was handled "in complete and full compliance with law" and had been approved by federal auditors.
Executive Committee members, after hearing Tardif's argument, decided to go ahead and authorize the transfer by a unanimous vote.

Police seek white pickup in Cumberland Farms hit and run

LACONIA — Police are looking for a white double-cab pickup truck that may have a wooden box in the bed whose driver allegedly backed into a gas meter at Cumberland Farms on Court street and caused a serious gas leak.

Police said the incident occurred at 8:52 a.m. Saturday, and both the driver and the passenger got out to examine the damage before they left the lot. The male passenger was wearing a bright green shirt.

Police said according to utility crews the damage is extensive.

At the time of the crash, the pickup had a wooden tool box and tools were placed in a standing position behind the cab.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

– Gail Ober

05-07 truck

Rehab center plan shot down

By Michael Kitch


LACONIA — An amendment to a House bill allowing the former Laconia State School property to be leased for a substance abuse and recovery center has been withdrawn by state Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R- Meredith). 

At last night’s City Council meeting, Mayor Ed Engler said the issue was no longer on the agenda, and that after a couple of conversations with the senator, she is “withdrawing her sponsorship of the amendment. As of now, this is a moot subject.” 

The proposal came to light last week when Forrester added the amendment to House Bill 1695. The Senate Finance Committee voted five to one to support the proposal. In the meantime, the proposal was met with puzzlement by Engler, who said he thought nothing was happening with the property.
Alex Ray, owner and founder of  The Common Man family of restaurants, supported the proposal due to his commitment to addressing this issue of substance abuse. 

Forrested insisted last week that “My intent is not to hurt Laconia.” 

The state has been trying to sell the 200-acre property, and offered it to the city of Laconia for $10 million in 2011. In 2012, the city offered $2.16 million for that property, the Robbie Mills Sports Complex and another 10.2-acre property, but the state never responded to the offer, which was withdrawn once an environmental assessment was done. About 75 acres had been found to be contaminated. 

Pat Wood, speaking to the City Council last night, suggested the city form a committee to address the future of the state school property, perhaps exploring joint ventures with the state and private parties.