Belknap Convention will follow open process in selecting new county commissioner

LACONIA — Belknap County Convention chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) says that the convention will follow an open process in seeking to fill the vacancy on the Belknap County Commission, which is being created by the mid-term resignation of Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith)
Citing differences with newly-elected members of the commission, Nedeau resigned effective January 1 at a meeting of the commission last week. Choice of Need's successor will be up to the convention, which under state law 661, section 661:9, is empowered to fill vacancies on county commissions.
The law reads: "II. (a) If a vacancy occurs in the office of a county commissioner, the members of the county convention shall fill the vacancy by majority vote until the next biennial election of county officers. If the term filled is less than the unexpired term, then notwithstanding any provisions of RSA 653:1, VI, the commissioner district filled pursuant to this paragraph shall be added to the next biennial election ballot to be chosen by the voters of the county for a 2-year term.''
Nedeau, who was first elected to the commission for a two-year term in 2010 and elected to a four-year term in 2012, had two years left in his current term. He represents District 3, which includes the towns of Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford and Meredith. His successor will have to be a resident of one of those towns.
Tilton said the convention will decide what process to follow when it meets in January. ''We'll advertise for candidates and set a deadline for them to apply and conduct open interviews with them before making a decision.''
He said that the convention will decide if it wants to have the entire convention involved in the interview process or whether it wants a committee to handle that part of the process. In either case interviews with applicants will be conducted in open sessions he said.
Nedeau had served as chairman of the county convention when it hired Craig Wigeon as sheriff in 2007 to replace Dan Collies. The procedure was challenged by activists Doug Lambert and Tom Taridif because the votes were not taken in public and they won a court decision which forced the county to have recorded public votes by convention members.
The procedure used by the convention will be required to meet the public vote standard set by the state Supreme Court in the Lambert-Tardif ruling.

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Lowest bid on Laconia Central Fire Station project comes in pretty close to target at $4.032 million

LACONIA — North Branch Construction, Inc. of Concord was the apparent low bidder when six bids for the renovation and expansion of the Central Fire Station on North Main Street were opened at City Hall yesterday.

North Branch's bid of $4,032,000 was just $85,000 above the cost of $3,947,000 estimated by Warrenstreet Architects, Inc. to complete the project. Along with the cost of construction, design, engineering and legal fees are estimated to add approximately $226,600 to the total cost of the project for a total in the neighborhood of $4.3 million altogether.

The 2014-2015 city budget includes first-year debt service on a borrowing of $4.4 million for the project.The plan includes the renovation of 13,167-square-feet of the existing station to serve as an apparatus bay, training area and storage space and the construction of a two-story, 12,964-square-foot addition — to the north — to house the administrative offices, emergency operations center and dormitory. The building would be reconfigured to provide public access and parking off Tremont Street, instead of off North Main Street.

The Building Committee for the project will meet this evening to review the bids and perhaps confirm the low bidder.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson and Deputy Chief Charles Roffo, who have shepherded the project since its inception more than a decade ago, were pleased to find that several of the bids closely matched the estimated cost of the project.

Bauen Corporation of Meredith submitted the second lowest bid of $4,183,000, followed by Meredian Construction of Gilford at $4,198,777, Hutter Construction Company of Acworth at $4,297,000, Bonnette, Page & Stone Corporation of Laconia at $4,349,000 and Ricci Construction Company of Portsmouth at $4,489,777.

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Gilford police arrest Meredith man for heroin possession

CIRCUIT COURT — A Meredith man is scheduled to appear in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division today after Gilford police charged him driving while intoxicated and possession of heroin with intent to distribute.

Police said Sean C. Dillon, 33, of Pine Cone Lane was involved in a motor vehicle accident near the Gilford Mobil Mart off Lake Shore Road on December 12 at 10:45 p.m.

When police made contact with Dillon he appeared intoxicated and allegedly failed a field sobriety test.

While searching Dillon for weapons before he was placed in the police car, the officer found what he believed was heroin in Dillon's pocket.

During the inventory search of Dillon's car, the officer found a hypodermic needle and some heroin. The car was seized pending a search warrant.

Dillon is free on $5,000 personal recognizance bail.

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Woman charged with stealing firefighters gear said to have started 2008 fire at church

LACONIA — The woman who was arrested last week for allegedly stealing a firefighter's gear bag from a Fire Department ladder truck is the same person who allegedly set fire to her apartment and Sacred Heart Church in May of 2008.

Jasmin Sanchez, 34, also known as Jasmin Braley, is being held on $500 cash only bail at the Belknap County House of Corrections. She is charged with one count of receiving stolen property.

Braley was arrested in July of 2008 and charged with one count of arson after her apartment on 322 Union Avenue went up in flames on June 21 of that year. Two days earlier, Braley allegedly started a different fire in the same apartment that was quickly extinguished.

Using forensic evidence processed at the state lab, police determine Braley was also the person who allegedly set fire to the alter in the Sacred Heart Church on May 20, 2008.

The church fire was discovered by a parishioner who arrived early for a weekday Mass and found the building full of smoke.

During her subsequent appearance in the Laconia District Court, her attorney told the court that Braley had some significant mental health issues and was trying to cope with the recent death of her infant son.

Braley was indicted for three counts of arson by a Belknap County grand jury in August of 2008.

According to paperwork obtained from the court, both the state and the defense agreed Braley was not mentally fit to stand trial. On December 22, 2008, both side agreed to petition the Probate Court for involuntary admission to the New Hampshire State Hospital for a period of five years with a conditional discharge to be implemented when appropriate.

On October 6, 2009, the state requested a second competency hearing to see if she had been restored to competency and could stand trial.

Because of the evaluation, on Dec 21, 2009 the state declined to prosecute all three arson charges because the second competency evaluation.

The contents of all competency hearings as well as the filings in Belknap County Probate Court are confidential.

Because the three arson fires in 2008 took place more than six years ago, the statute of limitations has expired on them and the charges cannot be refiled. Although many states have excluded arson from their statute of limitations laws, New Hampshire is not one of them.

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