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Local rep's bills to draw bright lines defining county budget authority get hearings before lawmakers

CONCORD — With the Belknap County Convention and Belknap County Commission in the midst of preparing the 2014 county budget, the H.H. House Municipal and County Government Committee held public hearings this week on legislation intended to resolve the dispute between the two that has riled county government for the past year.

Two members of the convention — Representatives Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, and Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of its Executive Committee, — introduced bills to clarify the authority of the convention and the commission over the budget. John Thomas, the chairman of the commission spoke against both bills.

The Republican majority of the convention insists that the convention can rewrite the budget recommended by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. Moreover, they claim that any reallocation of funds within the budget must be approved by the Executive Committee of the convention.

On the other hand, the commissioners claim that the convention can only itemize appropriations among departments and purposes and that the commission can shuffle funds between lines within these categories without the approval of the convention.

Both bills would apply solely to Belknap County and codify the budgetary authority claimed by the majority of the convention. Of the two, House Bill 1373, sponsored by Worsman is the most aggressive and expansive.
Worsman's bill would affirm the authority of the convention to itemize appropriations "in detail, including specific lines within each department," and require the commissioners to seek the approval of the executive committee to transfer funds in any amount either between specific lines within a single department or from one department to another. Her bill would further provide that the convention may take the commissioners to court to enforce the law and if they are found in violation, remove them from office.

Speaking in support of her bill, Worsman recalled that in 2013, after the convention stripped appropriations to fund some employee benefits, the commissioners drew funds from 91 other lines to fund 27 accounts the convention left empty. Among these lines, she said, was an appropriation the convention authorized to pay legal fees incurred by the Register of Deeds in litigation brought by the commission. Worsman also claimed that the commission used the contingency account as "a slush fund."

Like HB-1373, House Bill 1120, sponsored by Tilton, would provide the convention with line-item authority over the budget and require the approval of the executive committee for any and all transfers of funds from one line to another.
Speaking against the bills, Thomas said that the convention was seeking to arrogate management of the day-to-day operations of the county, which is the responsibility of the commission, to itself. The authority of the convention, he explained, is confined to appropriations while the commission is responsible for expenditures in the course of administering and managing the services the county provides. For the Executive Committee to approve all transfers of funds within departments when "priorities change or emergencies come up," he said would be "cumbersome" and "affect the ability to provide efficient services." The commissioners, he stressed "must have flexibility to manage the budget and mange it quickly."
George Maglaras, who has served on the Strafford County Commission since 1983 and as its chairman since 1987, told the committee that both bills were "unnecessary." The current statutes allow county conventions and commissions to establish a format and process for managing the budget. He cautioned against granting the convention line-item authority, which he said would lead department heads and county commissioners to inflate their budgets in order to avoid the cumbersome process of requesting transfers.
Maglaras described the situation in Belknap County as "a political problem, " adding that "there are all kinds of ways of skinning the cat." Calling the proposed legislation "ill-advised," he warned "don't tie your hands."
Representative Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), an outspoken and persistent critic of Worsman's leadership of the convention, said that "I've been here for 11 terms and I've never seen anything like this," adding "it's just a mess up there." Several times he charged the leadership of the convention with "micro-managing" and declared "we should do our job and let the commissioners do theirs. They do a wonderful job."
The few questions posed by members of the committee bore on how the proposals would impact the operations of the county. Representative Tim Copeland (R-Stratham), who serves on the executive committee of the Rockingham County Convention, said that his committee meets only a few times a year and suggested the process Worsman and Tilton proposed appeared "very cumbersome."
Representative Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsborough), who chairs the Municipal and County Government Committee, asked Worsman how the convention and its executive committee could respond to "emergency situations" given the logistics of scheduling and posting meetings. "I can't answer that question," Worsman replied."
Portter said that she expected the committee to vote on the bills next week when they would be reported to the full House for a vote, most likely the following week.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 January 2014 01:54

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Wanted man found camping in Gilford woods

LACONIA — A homeless man wanted by Laconia police on charges of criminal threatening and simple assault, both misdemeanors, was apprehended by Gilford police on Tuesday.

Trevor Bond, 30, was taken into custody without incident by Sergeant Corey O'Connor and Field Training Officer Daniel O'Neill, who acting on information searched the wooded area behind the Lowe's Home Improvement store on Lake Shore Rd. (Rte. 11),  where they found him living in a tent. Police said Bond had been living in the woods for some time.

Bond was transferred to the Laconia Police Department and is scheduled to be arraigned in 4th Circuit Court — Laconia Division on March 3.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 January 2014 01:48

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Music of the 60s to be featured at free concert at LHS on Friday night

LACONIA — Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, one of the seminal events of what became known as The British Invasion when pop rock music acts from Britain like The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and The Who took over the American music charts.
This Friday night at 7 the Putnam Fund is bringing the British Invasion Tribute Show to the stage at Laconia High School for a free performance of the classic songs by these and other iconic British groups such as The Zombies, The Moody Blues, Dave Clark Five and Herman's Hermits.
The American musical "response" follows, with memorable hits by celebrated artists such as The Monkees, The Turtles, The Mamas & The Papas, and and Tommy James & The Shondells and concludes with an extraordinary finale paying tribute to the four lads from Liverpool who started it all.
Bassist Robert Murdock originally formed the British Invasion Band band in 1995, along with guitarist Lee Scott Howard and drummer Jeff Alai. Several years later, the trio decided to focus solely on the music they all loved growing up. Rather than simply paying tribute to just one artist, they expanded the show to include 1960s pop and rock hits from both sides of the Atlantic. With the addition of keyboardist/guitarist Jon Wolf in 2004, the lineup was completed.
Friday night's show will also feature British pop star Julie Grant. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 January 2014 01:46

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Feb. 15 "Share Fair' will focus on local history

LACONIA — For those who think that history is just about dates and dry facts, a group of local residents is organizing an event for next month that's meant to show how tangible items, such as mementos, help to make history come alive.
The Belknap Mill and Laconia Historical and Museum Society are organizing a Share Fair for local individuals and businesses to come and display artifacts and documents related to their history.
The event is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Belknap Mill in Laconia, with a snow date of Feb. 22.
Judith Buswell and Alida Millham, two of the organizers of the half-day event, hope the fair will spur people to become more active in making their family or business history known as well as encouraging people to treasure the tangible things that form part of their heritage.
Others involved in planning for the fair include Barbara Zeckhausen, Warren Clement, Mary Rivers and Historical and Museum Society Executive Director Brenda Kean.
People associated with several current and former businesses and institutions have indicated they plan to participate, including O'Shea's department store, Laconia Shoe Co., Taylor Community, Guild Mills, and Wilkinson-Beane, Buswell said.
Buswell said the idea of the Share Fair was an outgrowth of another type of history project last year in which the she and her daughter, Tamara McGonagle, performed a staged reading based on the journals of the great-grandmother of Buswell's husband, David Stamps.
Buswell and Millham are hoping more people will register for the Share Fair between now and Feb. 15. Those interested in having individual or family exhibits are asked to call Buswell at 524-6580, while potential business exhibitors are asked to call Clement at 520-7650.
Clement will serve as moderator and facilitator of the fair which will get under way at 8 a.m. From 9 to 10 a.m. people will have a chance to browse through the various displays and talk one-on-one with the exhibitors. Then each participant will be given the opportunity to speak for five minutes to explain the significance of the items they brought. After a short break there will time from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for discussion, questions, and propose ideas for possible future related events.
Also, there will be a display on ways to safely preserve papers and photographs and other historically significant items, as well as an exhibit on genealogy. However, Buswell pointed out that no items will be sold at the fair, nor will any items be appraised.
"We hope this event helps people to see that genealogy is not just getting dates, but about telling stories," said Buswell, who plans to exhibit a number of items, including a gold-top walking stick that belonged to David N. Camp, her husband's great-great-grandfather.
Among the items that Millham plans to exhibit are a dress that belonged to her great-grandmother and a photo showing her father, Fred Isham, as a child standing in a cornfield in upstate New York with his sister Edna, and their father, Fred.

Caption
Some of the family mementos and other historical items at the Share Fair planned for Feb. 15 in Laconia include the family tree Judith Buswell, one of the event organizers, a told tip walking stick that once belonged to the great-great grandfather of Buswell's husband, David Stamps, a glass slipper which someone in mother's family received as a souvenir of a Boston performance of "Cinderella" in 1888, and a photograph of Alida Millham's father, aunt and grandfather. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 January 2014 02:24

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