LACONIA — The Belknap County Commission voted unanimously yesterday to inform county employees that they must pay the balance of the employer's share of the annual increase in their health insurance premium until the close of the fiscal year on December 31. At the same time, the commissioners agreed to ask the executive committee of the Belknap County Convention to approve the transfer of $93,667 to spare the cost to the employees and honor the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the union representing them.
The Belknap County Convention withheld funding for the increased employer's contribution from the budget. When the commission transferred funds within the budget to restore the funding, the convention went to Belknap County Superior Court where Justice James D, O'Neill, III issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the commission from either spending in excess of any line-item appropriation of the budget adopted by the convention or transferring more than $300 from one line item to another without the approval of the executive committee.
Yesterday the commissioners rejected the suggestion of County Administrator Debra Shackett to apply a credit of some $159,000 from HealthTrust against the premiums, which by discounting the cost of premiums would have enabled the county to pay the employer's contribution. Shackett told the commissioners the county's auditors informed her that they could not agree that applying the credit against premiums rather than booking it as revenue would be proper accounting procedure. However, the auditors agreed that if the credit were applied the amount of the credit would not have a material impact on either the county's financial statement or audit report.
Commissioner Ed Philpot of Laconia said that the credit could not be applied against the premiums without the approval of the court. Without a modification of the court order, the approval of the convention to transfer funds or lay off employees, there was no alternative but to inform the employees that they must pay the remaining balance of the premium. Philpot noted that O'Neill has already declined to reconsider his order "We cannot lay people off and the convention will not agree to transfers," he said.
When Commissioner John Thomas, the chairman, reminded his colleagues that they would breach the collective bargaining agreement, Philpot countered "we're not under a court order to honor the contract. We're under a court order not to transfer funds." He said that it was time for the consequences of the convention's attempt to run the day-to-day operations of the county to "come home to roost."
Shackett said that the impact on individual employees has yet to be calculated, but emphasized that if employees must bear the cost, every effort will be made to distribute it equitably among them. Ironically, she said that while some line-items for health insurance are short of funds others are in surplus and the county could end the year spending less for premium contributions than the convention budgeted.
Shackett, who prepared a request to transfer sufficient funds to pay the premiums, recommended approaching the executive committee, which is scheduled to meet on October 27. She explained that because of significant turnover there are sufficient funds in the budget to pay the employer's contribution, but the funds are not in the appropriate lines.
"The executive committee is hell bent to destroy the benefits of our employees," said Thomas, who noted that Reps. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) and Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) both draw pensions and benefits funded by taxpayers.
Philpot ventured that based on what the convention budgeted and how it has advocated for its budget, the executive committee would not approve the transfers. "We're at the end of what we can do," he said.
Nevertheless, the commission unanimously approved the transfers Shackett recommended and agreed to present them to the executive committee.
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 01:20
LACONIA — A Tilton man who was wanted on a variety of charges stemming from the theft and burning of a Volvo last month appeared in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.
Corey Cromwell, 26, of 18 Pine Street also faces charges of criminal mischief for damages he allegedly caused on September 28 to St. Andre Bessette property while fleeing from police.
He is additionally charged with disobeying an officer and receiving stolen property - a silver Volvo C 70 valued at $30,000.
According to police affidavits, Cromwell was arrested by Tilton Police Tuesday night after police detained one of his friends for shoplifting at WalMart.
Tilton Police said Cromwell was not involved in the shoplifting but was wanted by Laconia Police on outstanding warrants for the September 28 incident.
During his arrest, police said they found one Adderall pill and a plastic bag with what police believe was heroin residue. He faces two counts of drug possession.
Police also learned Cromwell was on bail for having a false inspection sticker and transporting alcohol in an open container from Sanbornton as well as being on bail from Belmont for possession of drugs.
Detective Sergeant Chris Jacques said yesterday that Gilford Police are planning on indicting Cromwell for one count of arson for allegedly burning the Volvo in the woods after fleeing from Laconia Police.
Judge Jim Carroll ordered him held on a total of $4,000 cash bail.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 11:49
LACONIA — Anticipating the expiration of a lease on a strip of land along Union Avenue, the City Council this week considered several options for dealing with the property, but deferred any decision to a future meeting.
The property was leased to Lakeport Landing in 1985 for ten years with two ten ten-year renewal periods, which have been exercised. The lease expires on November 1, 2015 and cannot be renewed or extended. Erica Blizzard, who owns the marina, asked the council to clarify the city's intentions for the property.
The 0.81 acre lot lies between the roadway and railway and runs from Elm Street northward to halfway between Harrison Street and Walnut Street. In 1987 Lakeport Landing constructed a 35,284 square-foot building on the lot. The property has an assessed value of $389,600 of which the building represents $263,200.
At the termination of the lease all buildings and improvements on the lot become the property of the city. In a memorandum to the council, Purchasing Officer Jonathan Gardner explained that the council may choose to sell, lease or hold the property. To sell the property the City Manager would be required to certify that it has no immediate or foreseeable use and declare it surplus. Then a public hearing would be held, after which the council may reconsider or reaffirm its decision to proceed with a sale. He recommended that if the council chooses to lease the property, that a public advertisement, including the terms of the lease, be placed and the city seek the highest rent for the property.
Responding to suggestions from several residents and business owners the council agreed to explore the possibility of converting the property to a municipal parking lot. Since the lot can only be reached by crossing the active railway , the council asked City Manager Scott Myers to raise the issue with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. Alternatively, the lot could be subdivided in two and the portion with the building either leased or sold and, if possible, using the remainder for public parking.
Mayor Ed Engler said yesterday that he expected the council to revisit the issue at its next meeting on October 27 and to reach a decision at its first meeting in December.
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:07
LACONIA — Family and friends of Kalem Beane held a candlelight vigil for the missing man last night at Rotary Park.
Beane has been missing from his Merrimac Street home for seven days and, although his father-in-law Jim Skinner said there have been some phone calls about people who look like him, he said they haven't led to any solid information.
"We're just trying to spread the work as best as we can," said Megan Beane through her tears.
The group has been making posters and distributing them where ever they can. Skinner said he has reached out to the Department of Fish and Game for their assistance.
He said Beane's family and friends have been searching for him nearly every place they can think of but haven't had any success in finding him.
Beane, 34, walked away from his home a week ago and hasn't been seen or heard from since. He is 5-feet 8-inches tall, weighs 225 pounds and wears his dark hair short. He was wearing a dark blue T-shirt, a gray zippered sweatshirt and tan hiking boots.
Skinner said they just want Beane to know that he is loved and missed.
He told the group that Beane needs to know that there are people who can help him with his depression and if he would contact them they could get him the help he needs.
"He hasn't broken any laws," said Skinner. "He's sick and he needs help."
If anyone has any information or has seen Beane, they are asked to call the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 11:39
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