City, Belmont agree to share fire chief


LACONIA — The city ratified a one-year contract with the town of Belmont Monday night that will consolidate fire chief services between the two communities.

Belmont will pay the city $78,750 in the first year of the contract and 25 percent of the chief's vehicle expenses and 25 percent of the chief's education and certification expenses.

The city will continue to carry the fire chief as an employee of the city and will be responsible for paying all wages, payroll taxes, retirement contributions, worker's compensations, unemployment services and any other applicable benefits to him or his designees while acting as the Belmont fire chief.

Belmont will provide liability insurance to protect itself and its officials, volunteers and employees while in the scope of official duties. Should the fire chief be unable to perform his duties, the city agrees to provide those services to Belmont.

The sharing of chief services is not intended to adversely impact Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association and Belmont will retain its vote in the association.

Sheriff's department employees switch to Teamsters union


LACONIA — Employees of the Belknap County Sheriff's Department voted unanimously Monday to switch to the Teamsters Union to represent them in contract negotiations.
The department had been represented in negotiations by the State Employees Association, which still represents workers in the Belknap County Nursing Home and the Belknap County House of Corrections.
Convention Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that all 10 members of the department who were eligible to vote favored the change. There are five additional employees in the department who have yet to complete their probationary period and were ineligible to vote but who will be represented by the union once their probationary period is completed.
Some of the unionized employees of the Belknap County House of Corrections voted Tuesday on a proposed contract with the county which would provide them with their first pay raise in four years. But voting won't be completed until Thursday, according to DeVoy.
DeVoy did not reveal details of the proposed contract but said that he is very hopeful that the contract will win approval of union members so that commissioners can bring it before the Belknap County Delegation in the near future.
When they met two weeks ago commissioners discussed what they called a "consensus agreement with corrections employees" which was described as cost-neutral and said that it was similar to the collective bargaining agreement between Teamsters Local 633 and the county which was approved by a 10-5 vote by the County Delegation last August.
The contract which was approved last August with the Teamsters, who represent 23 mid-level managers in several county departments, provided a 1.4 percent pay raise as well as step increases, which increased total compensation by 4.4 percent for eligible workers.
It also provided for health insurance changes from an HMO plan to a "site of service" plan which provides for $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 deductibles on single, two-person and family plans for which the county now pays the entire bill. Currently employees pays 5 to 6.5 percent of the premiums for the HMO plan.
DeVoy said in August that the change reduced the amount the county pays for the current HMO plan by as much as $4,000 per employee.

Dog park in Laconia has funding, construction could start this summer


LACONIA — The more than 6,000 registered dogs in the city and neighboring towns of Belmont, Gilford and Meredith may be frollicking in a park of their own in the South End of the city this summer.

Ginny Martin, president of Happy Tails Dog Park told the City Council Monday that a generous benefactor, the Lezama family, has offered to not only underwrite construction of the park but also endow a fund to maintain it. Martin said that altogether the family has offered to contribute $100,000 to the project. She expected a plan would be presented to the Planning Board in the spring with an eye to beginning work in the summer.

Founded in 2008 as a nonprofit corporation, Happy Tails Dog Park spent five years seeking a suitable site and in 2013 approached the Parks and Recreation Department about building the park on on part of a 25-acre rectangular tract between the end of Spruce Street and Growtth Road, which is owned by the city. The city acquired the land in 1976 with a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established by Congress in 1965, which the restricts the property to recreational uses.

Happy Tails proposes to lease two acres at the southeast end of the property. John Rokeh, of Rokeh Consulting LLC of Chichester, has prepared a plan for the park, which includes two abutting enclosures, each 78 feet by 130 feet, one for large dogs and another for small dogs, and a third separate enclosure, 20 feet by 60 feet, for puppies. The park would be reached from the end of Growtth Road, where a 20-foot gravel driveway would lead to a graveled parking lot with spaces for 19 vehicles. The park would not not be served by either water or electricity and Martin estimated that the annual maintenance costs would fall between $1,500 and $2,000. The park, she said, would be managed, policed and maintained by members of Happy Trails Dog Park.

The site plan for the dog park must be approved by the Planning Board and a lease agreement concluded between Happy Tails Dog Park and the city.

Altogether, there are a dozen public, fenced dog parks in New Hampshire, including urban dog parks in Concord, Portsmouth, Hooksett, Manchester, Derry, Rochester, Nashua and Dover.

Also at the City Council:

• At its next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 21, the City Council will begin forming a citizens committee to make arrangements to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the City of Laconia in 2018. Pam Clark of the Laconia Museum and Historical Society told the council that past anniversaries have been marked by a parade, entertainment, souvenirs and mementos. Mayor Ed Engler noted that the committee would require funding, which would be included in the 2016-2017 municipal budget adopted in July, suggesting that the committee be convened in April.

• The City Council endorsed the recommendation of its Government Operations and Ordinances Committee to uphold the ordinance prohibiting operators of boats engaged in commercial enterprises from mooring theirs vessels at municipal docks. Two businesses had inquired about leasing space at the docks at The Weirs.

• With the mild winter and light snowfall, the the Department of Public Works spent less than half its winter maintenance through the end of February. Altogether the department spent $181,756, or 41 percent of the $445,500 appropriated for plowing, salting and sanding, including the cost of overtime wages and material purchases.

03-16 dog park map

The Happy Tails Dog Park is proposed for the land noted above. (Graphic courtesy Google Maps)