Save Our Gale School committee submits last-minute plan to Shaker School Board

BELMONT – The Shaker School Board received a last-minute plan from the Save Our Gale School Committee Tuesday night showing that the historic school could be relocated and renovated into SAU offices for between $1-million and $1.4-million.

Committee member Diane Marden explained the individual costs yesterday.

At no cost to the district, she said architect Chris Williams updated his 2003 plan to save the school to current-day costs.

Marden said it would cost $78,000 to move the school from where it is currently located to the corner of Concord and Memorial Streets, which is school property. An additional $10,000 would be needed for a road between the two spots and Marden said she is "pretty sure we can get donated services to decrease the cost of the road."

She said the school is planning on spending $67,500, which is on the school district warrant, to demolish it and save the bell and the bell tower. Additionally, she noted there is $5,000 in a reserve account specifically for renovations to the Gale School and Marden said that those two expenses would nearly pay for moving the school.

She said a 1982 graduate of Belmont High School who lives in town and prefers to remain anonymous has agreed to do all of the site work, which would cost between $80,000 and $115,000. 

To retrofit the Gale School for use as the SAU Offices would cost $789,450, including renovations to the exterior, the mechanical systems, the elevator and the interior.

Marden said the work could be bonded or performed over several budget years.

Advocates for saving the school said the road that would need to be built to move the building corresponds to a district strategic plan for the middle school that calls for an additional bus loop.

Because of pressing space needs and the desire of the parents and taxpayers to have full-day kindergarten and universal pre-school, Marden said the current SAU office building could be converted for use exclusively for the youngest children at a cost of $55,000.

Moving, restoring and/or demolishing the Gale School has been a topic of discussion for at least 20 years.

While many residents have expressed a desire to see the school saved, there has never been enough will among the taxpayers to pay for moving and renovating it. Yet, the few times the district has put its demolition on the warrant, the article has failed to pass.

Last year, the Save Our Gale School Committee approached the town and asked if selectmen would be interested in taking on the renovation and applying for a restoration grant. Selectmen declined, explaining that with the village revitalization project and the Belmont Mill looming over the taxpayers, the town wasn't in the position to adopt a new project.

The school district's annual meeting is scheduled for March 6 at the Belmont High School. District voting takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and the meeting usually convenes around 7 p.m.

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Phone co. says business with unfortunate number has no choice but to change

BRISTOL — Michael Capsalis of Newfound Properties, whose telephone line is choked with calls for Waste Management Inc., the firm that previously had his number until it was disconnected almost two years ago, has only one option, according to a telephone company spokesman — "change the number."

Capsalis said that upon opening his real estate agency last May he began receiving calls for Waste Management depot in New Hampton, which was closed. He said that Waste Management closed its office in New Hampton, but took no steps to reroute calls to the facility or to remove the number from its website or from telephone directories. Altogether he estimates his office has fielded some 4,000 calls for Waste Management.

Capsalis said that the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission told him that the number for a local business can be reassigned one year after it has been disconnected while the number of a national business must be disconnected for three years before it can be reassigned. He believes Waste Management, which serves 27 million residential commercial, industrial and municipal customers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, qualifies as a national company.

Jeff Nevins, a spokesman for FairPoint Communications, said yesterday that within a month FairPoint offered to change the number free of charge, but Capsalis declined, explaining that it would be costly to replace his signs and advertising, and so he is seeking compensation.

Nevins said that FairPoint "is not familiar with rules or regulations that distinguish betweeen local and national phone numbers." He said that the company distinguishes only between residential numbers, which may be reassigned after being disconnected at least 90 days, and business numbers, which may reassigned after being disconnected between at least 120 days and at most 365 days. He described this standard as an internal company policy.

"We continue to talk with Mr. Capsalis," Nevins said, "as recently as this week. We've tried and will continue to try," he continued. "But, the options are few." He added that because Capsalis has persistently declined the offer to change the number, it is "very doubtful" the company would compensate him for the costs associated with doing so.


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Newfound board ratifies Hill tuition agreement

BRISTOL — After adding definitions of technical abbreviations and adjusting the numbering of the items, the Newfound Area School Board on Feb. 16 ratified the draft tuition agreement for Hill students that now goes on to the district voters for approval during the second session of the annual school district meeting on March 10.

The Hill School Board previously ratified the 10-year agreement but School Administrative Unit 4 Superintendent Stacy Buckley said the attorneys for the two sides were likely to find no problem with the amendments Newfound made to the document. Hill voters will decide whether to approve the agreement at their school district meeting on March 18.
The changes involved identifying the terms LEA (local education authority) and CTE (career technical education) to make the terms more readily understood; and to renumber the items because item 17 of an earlier draft had been deleted from the agreement.
The document spells out how Newfound would determine Hill's base tuition rate for students attending grades 7 through 12, along with the additional costs Hill would be responsible for, such as transportation, special education placements, counseling, and the cost of due process appeals. There also is a provision for the assessment of costs for future capital improvements, with Hill having the right to terminate the agreement with two years' notice after being informed of such a planned capital expenditure.
There are technical provisions for adjusting the tuition rate when actual costs do not match estimated costs, and for pro-rating tuition for students who attend non-public schools or are home-schooled but who utilize some Newfound programs.
Key provisions for those students currently attending high school elsewhere include allowing those in grades 9 through 11 to continue attending their current schools if they wish, while students in grades 6 through 8 will be required to attend Newfound unless there is a demonstrated hardship or other accepted reason for not doing so.
Newfound's vote to ratify the agreement was not unanimous, with Vice-Chair Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater saying he had numerous objections. His was the only vote against the agreement. Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury was not present to cast a vote.
The Feb. 16 meeting was delayed by a two-hour non-public session involving "matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself". When the board reconvened in public session, members unanimously voted to seal the minutes of that non-public session for 50 years.
Autumn Fabricant, program director of Project Promise, the district's after-school program, gave a presentation on the various facets of the program, leading into a discussion on the sustainability of the program that currently has significant grant funding that will be running out.
Fabricant took over the troubled program at a time when the school district was facing legal problems because grant funds had been used inappropriately in the past. The district has to pay back money that was used at the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School, which was not included in the original grant, and litigation is ongoing.
Administrators had praise for Fabricant who has been establishing partnerships to improve the program which serves 441 students, 125 of them on a daily basis. Partnerships include Plymouth State University, the UNH Cooperative Extension, AmeriCorps, and local libraries. The program operates special programs with grants from the N.H. Charitable Foundation and a children's literacy grant.
The Newfound Area School District currently pays $161,119 of the $539,379 cost of the program, with major funding from two grants, one specifically for the New Hampton Community School and the other for the remaining schools. The New Hampton grant has one more year, at a reduced rate, while the other grant will expire in three years.
The school board indicated it is pleased with the program but asked administrators to come back with a recommendation on what form the program should take when the grants expire, based on parent surveys and a focus group. Fabricant noted that some portions of the program, such as transportation, are requirements of the grant but, without the grant, might be eliminated as they focused on the things they found to be most important.
The board approved a proposed overnight field trip to an athletic leadership conference in Concord, but made it contingent upon having two adult chaperones. The original proposal called for one chaperone but Alexandria board member Sue Cheney said any overnight trip should have a second chaperone in case there was an issue that required one person's full attention.
Cheney was the dissenter on a vote to approve the 2015-2016 school calendar. The school board this year set the starting date after Labor Day to satisfy families that have objected to the earlier starting dates in recent years, but the proposed calendar returned to an opening day on the Friday before Labor Day. Cheney pointed out that it is considered the second-busiest traffic day of the year but Buckley said safety is not an issue and the other board members voted to accept the calendar as presented.
The board set March 5 as the date for the superintendent's evaluation.

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Court's e-filing system seen adding to county corrections dept. costs (640)

LACONIA — Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward told members of the Belknap County Convention Tuesday night that the advent of an e-filing system for criminal cases in the New Hampshire court system will place additional burdens on county corrections facilities.

''Inmates will need access to computers in order to defend themselves and it will be corrections officers, who will be receiving the e-filings,'' said Ward, who pointed out that there are costs which may be borne at the county level.
Ward also said that video arraignments for inmates who are held at the Belknap County Jail can require up to four hours a day of video time as they must be linked to courts all over the state, not just in Belknap County.

Currently all circuit courts in the state are accepting electronic filings in small claims cases as part of a $7 million program which started in 2011 and is expected to take at least four more years to implement. The goal is to make courts more efficient and entirely paperless by 2019 according to Edwin Kelly, administrative judge of the circuit court system.

Kelly says that starting in March there will be electronic filing of pleas in New Hampshire State Police cases.

Ward said $39,923 has been added to the department's proposed budget to hire consultant Kevin Warwick, who will produce recommendations for programs designed to help reduce recidivism and serve as basis for an architectural firm to design a community corrections center for the county.

He said that commissioner's have endorsed a $3,467,068 budget for the corrections department, some $41,000 more than the working budget being developed by the county convention.

He said that the budget includes a nearly $13,000 cut for dietary services, from $215,496 to $202,030, based on the view that there will be a slight decrease in the average daily inmate population. Meals for inmates are prepared at the Belknap County Nursing Home and cost a little over $180 a month per inmate.

Ward also said that projected income from prisoner phone calls, which are handled by a contractor with a percent going to the county, will drop slightly due to a Federal Communications Commission regulation which reduces the commissions on inmate calls and is likely to eventually eliminate the commissions.

He was one of the department heads who spoke to the convention Tuesday night about their proposed budgets and revisions made to them by county commissioners at an all day budget workshop held last Friday in response to the convention's decision to try and reduce the amount to be raised by taxes for the 2015 budget by about $1.1 million.

County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen said she needed more time to comment on the proposed changes, which would see two full-time positions in her department reduced to part-time.

''I'm going to have to restructure my whole department, and I can't do that overnight,'' she said.

Asked by Rep. Roy Howard (R-Alton) how much would be saved by cutting one fill-time position, Guldbrandsen said that she has a very specialized staff and couldn't provide a number at this point.

Sheriff Craig Wiggin was asked a similar question about the impact of cutting one full-time position from his $2,109,849 budget and said that it would be significant because it would increase overtime and impact the department's ability to provide required services.

He also pointed out that, despite increases in services provided, the department hasn't added any new personnel in 10 years.

Asked by Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) about turnover in his department, Wiggin said that it was low and due mostly to retirement but was higher in the communications center due to the pressures of the dispatch system.

Wiggin was reminded by Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) that federal grants which are being sought should be included in the department's budget so that the convention can approve them as a supplemental appropriation, a practice which was not followed by the former commissioners.

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