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DWI charged

08-05 Hoyt crash

Belmont police charged Trever Hoyt of Bean Hill Road in Northfield with driving while intoxicated, operating after suspension (subsequent) and conduct after an accident following this crash on Monday. Police were called at 1:54 a.m. in the area of 140 South Road, and found a car that had struck a tree but no driver. Officer Boulanger and K-9 Vito tracked the missing driver through a corn field and into the Tioga River, where they found Hoyt and a passenger hiding under the South Road Bridge. Northfield and Tilton police also assisted. (Courtesy photo)

Drought strikes Lakes Region


LACONIA — The New Hampshire Drought Management Team this week designated Belknap County among six counties in the state as beset by "severe drought," and urged residents, both those served by community water systems and drawing from private wells, to refrain from using water outdoors until rainfall mitigates the dry conditions.

However, at the same time, the United States Drought Monitor, which is posted daily, reported "moderate drought" conditions in the southern corner of the county while describing conditions in the remainder of the county as "abnormally dry."

Either way, few would deny that a some steady rain would be welcome.

Laconia and Meredith draw their municipal water from the surface waters of Lake Winnipesaukee and Lake Waukewan while elsewhere in the county both community water supplies and privately owned wells, which draw on groundwater, may be at risk. The Pennichuck East Utility Company, which provides water service to a section of Barnstead, has banned outdoor water use there as well in a part of Tilton. The Lakes Region Water Company has banned outdoor watering at Paradise Shores and West point in Moultonborough, and The Patrician Shores Association in the northeast corner of Meredith has called for a voluntary restriction on outdoor water use. Altogether, more than 100 water systems, most in Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford counties, have imposed bans.

Seth Nuttelman, superintendent of the Laconia Water Works, said the clearest sign of the dry conditions has been a sharp increase in water usage, which climbed 13 percent in June. He said he expects a similar increase in July and August. With a plentiful supply, he does not anticipate imposing any restrictions on water use.

Brandon Kernen, a hydrogeologist with the agency, said Friday that the drought has arisen from the meager snowpack of the past winter and the scant rainfall since this spring. He explained that groundwater, drawn from underground aquifers, represents about 60 percent of the potable water supply. These sand and gravel acquirers are relatively shallow, between 30 feet and 100 feet deep, and in normal conditions recharge relatively quickly. But, he said, as water use has increased through the spring and summer, the sparse snowmelt and rainfall has stalled the recharge of the aquifers. Moreover, in the hot, dry conditions the rain that has fallen either evaporates, runs off the hard ground or fails to soak into the dry soil.

Brian Forst of Gilmanton, who farms 300 acres in Concord, 100 acres in Hartland, Vermont, and harvests from the New Hampshire Seacoast to Woodstock, Vermont, said, "We're sitting around waiting for the third cut of hay and I don't know if it will happen. In some places it's nonexistent." 

He anticipated some hay crops could be a fifth of normal yields. Forst said that what rain has fallen has been spotty, dampening some areas while skipping others. Fields on the Seacoast, he said, are in the worst shape. We've had better years, Forst said.

"Our crops are suffering. Some years are good, some years are bad," he continued, recalling that when, as a young man, he complained, his father asked, "What are you going to do to change it?"

Larry Moore of Windswept Maples Farm in Loudon was not so gloomy.

"You can't except great weather for seven months," Moore said. "You've got to manage for it."

Moore, who grazes livestock and cuts hay, said that his land is blessed with heavy soil that retains moisture and he moves his animals every three or four days.

"They're not grubbing the grass to next to nothing," he explained. "If you keep it at 4 to 6 inches, it comes back quicker," Moore said. "We had a great first cut of hay" but admitted he was somewhat apprehensive about the second cut. "There's still time for it to turn around," he remarked. "I'm not a pessimist and I've got a barn full of hay."

Katie Surowiec of Surowiec Farm in Sanbornton said that, with only one well, they have fed their drip-irrigation system with a tanker truck, which adds to the expense of operating the farm. The field crops — beans, potatoes, peas and corn — she said "are on their own, but actually looking pretty good. Apart from the expense of irrigating, Surowiec said her only concern is that "crops are reining a little fast in the heat."

Bruce Cilley, executive director of the Farm Service Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture in Concord, said he has applied to the Secretary of Agriculture for a "secretarial drought disaster declaration," which would provide eligible farmers for assistance with losses incurred because of the drought. He said he was not aware of any losses reported to the agency's Merrimack-Belknap County Office.

Friday, Gov. Maggie Hassan wrote to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, also to request a disaster declaration for farmers in Grafton, Rockingham and Strafford counties, which would also qualify all contiguous counties for assistance. She noted that forage crops, pumpkin and blueberry crops in the three counties have suffered losses of more than 30 percent. The governor said she would request declarations for other counties should losses there exceed the threshold.

So far, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has encouraged residents to conserve water. However, Kernen said that by declaring a dought, the agency has given municipalities authority to impose mandatory restrictions, even on residents served by private wells, on water usage. He said that conservation is the first priority. If conditions linger and worsen, he said that the department could take steps to address failed private wells and strained water systems.

Speaking on New Hampshire Public Radio this week, Mary Stampone, the state climatologist, said that the most recent forecast by the National Weather Service indicated that the drought may persist through October.

State covenes committee to facilitate sale of State School property


CONCORD — The governor and Executive Council this week created a committee charged with advising the Department of Administrative how to proceed with the sale of the former Laconia State School property as required by the companion bill to the 2016-2017 state budget.

The city has been contemplating acquisition of the property since 2010, and in 2012 offered to purchase it for its appraised value of $2.16 million. The state rejected the offer and hawked the property on the open market without receiving another offer. Last year, Gov. Maggie Hassan included the sale of the property in the state budget and projected $2 million in revenue from the transaction.

In June, Commissioner of Administrative Services Vicki Quiram informed the governor and Executive Council of a number of outstanding issues associated with the property that would need to be addressed before it could be offered for sale. For example, there is a water tower on the property that supplies state buildings on a parcel that was carved out of the larger tract. The Department of Health and Human Services operates a "designated receiving facility," or DRF, two buildings that house sexual offenders with developmental disabilities, at the northwest corner of the property. The property is criss-crossed by easements for sewer lines and snowmobile trails. These and other encumbrances on the property must be removed or incorporated into the terms of the sale.

Executive Councilor Joe Kenney suggested the governor and Executive Council convene a committee to review the issues and recommend how the property should be marketed. Kenney said Friday that "the Legislature acted more than a year ago. This can't just be hanging out there. I wanted to push it."

"I want to thank Councilor Kenney for his attention to this issue," said Mayor Ed Engler. "In part the formation of the committee is due to his effort. We still have faith in the process outlined by the Legislature in 2015."

The resolution to convene the committee specifies it shall hold its first meeting on Aug. 31. Kenney expected the committee would meet periodically, but anticipated it would require only two or three meetings to provide Quiram with appropriate language for a request for proposals to purchase the property.

"Whether it is the city of Laconia or some other buyer," he said, "they have to know what they're purchasing."

The committee will consist of representatives of the departments of Administrative Services, Health and Human Services, Environmental Services, and Resources and Economic Development, as well as a member of the House of Representatives designated by the Speaker and a member of the Senate designated by the Senate President. In addition, the city will be represented by an designee of the mayor and the Belknap Economic Development Council by a designee of its chairman.

Engler said Friday that he will appoint former mayor and city councilor Matt Lahey to represent the city.

"Matt Lahey is the most knowledgeable person in Laconia about the property," he said.

In 2009, after the closure of the Lakes Region Region Facility, a medium security prison, the Legislature formed the Commission to Evaluate the Long-Term Uses of the Lakes Region Facility. Lahey chaired the commission and drafted its report, perhaps the most thorough assessment of the property ever undertaken. Earlier, in the late 1990s, when the state reneged on its undertaking to close the prison, Lahey, as the mayor, contributed to negotiating the lease with the state for what became Robbie Mills Sports Complex, adjacent to the Laconia State School property, to compensate the city for not closing the prison.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to move the "designated receiving facility" from Laconia to the campus of the Glencliff Home for the Elderly in Warren and has requested $1,325,000 in the 2017-2018 capital budget to build a new secure facility. The department made a similar request in 2012, when then Commissioner of Health and Human Services chose Glencliff over sites in Concord and Stewartstown. At the time he said that the ideal site would be distant from residential neighborhoods but close to support and medical services.