Commission concerned that budget overruns not being caught ahead of time

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners endorsed five 2015 budget transfer requests when they met Oct. 7 at the Belknap County Complex and are anticipating several more requests in the coming weeks.
The new transfer requests bring the total to 27 so far this year and must be approved by the Executive Committee of the Belkap County Commission before they can be made official.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he is concerned that the requests are being made after the budget line for the accounts have been over expended, pointing out that it is a violation of state law to expend more than has been appropriated for a budget line as well as a violation of a court order issued last year by the Belknap County Superior Court, which prohibits transfers of more than $300 between budget line items without approval of the Executive Committee.
''It is imperative that we catch these before they go over,'' said Taylor, who repeated his concerns later in the meeting when County Administrator Debra Shackett pointed out that there were several budget lines already over expended for which no transfer requests have yet been made, several of which were at the nursing home.
Commissioners asked that Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue be brought back to the meeting to explain the apparent need for further transfers which had not been requested. Earlier in the meeting Logue had explained the need for two transfers, one of $800 for vehicle maintenance and repair and another for $2,000 for medical service supplies.
It was pointed out that no transfer requests had been made for several accounts which an up to date budget report had shown were exceeding the budget line item.
When Logue said that he had used an August 31 budget report as the basis for his earlier requests, Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy asked ''why would you be working off an August report in October?''
He asked Logue if he reviewed the real time budget which is available every single day on the county's network and available to all department heads and Logue said that he did.
''I would suggest that you pay attention to this,'' Taylor told Logue after the exchange.
Other budget transfer requests are expected from the Sheriff's Department for wages for part-time deputies and the House of Corrections for travel.

Weirs Action Committee's annual request for MC Week parking concession not a slam dunk this year

LACONIA — The request of the Weirs Action Committee (WAC) to gain the proceeds at the lot at Endicott Rock Park during the 2016 running of Motorcycle Week, a concession the City Council has routinely granted for years, promises to arouse some debate when it is presented to councilors tonight. The group apparently enjoys gross income of about $25,000 a year through the running of the lot during the rally.

Two weeks ago, the Weirs Community Park Asociation made a similar request to raise funds from the parking concession at the lots adjacent to the Weirs Community Center. Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4), mistaking the Weirs Communty Park Association for the WAC, challenged the request for the parking concession, referring to the WAC's decision to leave the Laconia Motorcycle Weeks Association rather than pay increased membership dues. Although Baer aimed at the wrong target, her shot echoed a round fired earlier by Mayor Ed Engler.

Speaking at council meeting in August, Engler scolded those who profit from Motorcycle Weeks for failing to invest in the success of the rally. "What is unacceptable," he said, "is to take money from Motorcycle Week and the people it draws and put nothing back into it. That's unacceptable! I'm not giving anybody a pass," he continued. "The city is as guilty as anybody. We're mad this year because we didn't make any money." He noted that the WAC, which reaps significant returns from the parking concession on city property, left the LMWA when the dues were increased from $2,000 to $5,000 per year.
The mayor's statement prompted a sharp rejoinder from Joe Driscoll, III of the WAC, who in a letter to The Daily Sun, wrote: "The WAC did not leave the LMWA board so much as we were shown the door. At $5,000 these dues would typically represent 20 percent of our funds raised each year. We determined that this was more than we could afford and would create much hardship in successfully pursuing our mission, but in recognition of the substantial financial difficulties of the LMWA we offered to increase our dues to $3,000. We were turned down flat."
At the request of City Manager Scott Myers, the WAC has supported its request with a profit and loss statement for the 18 months between January, 2014 and September 2015, which includes parking revenue for two Motorcycle Weeks,  and a list of the contributions, in money and kind, the organization has made to the community over the years.
The WAC reported total income of $58,496, of which parking income represented $53,225, and total expenses of $48,894 while contributions for fireworks of $24,985 fell $344 short of expenses, leaving total net income of $9,258.
Over the years, the WAC has made cash contributions of almost $135,000 to a variety of projects, many but not all at The Weirs. For instance, the WAC donated $5,000 to the reconstruction of the Laconia Public Library and another $2,000 for the purchase of books, $3,500 to the Police Department for acquisition of equipment, $2,000 to the Fire Department to train divers and $2,500 to the Parks and Recreation Department for cleaning municipal beaches. Not surprisingly, most of the WAC's resources have been applied to improving the infrastructure and enhancing the appearance of The Weirs, including $55,000 to commission the statue of the Native American atop the Endicott Rock Monument.

City to get another chance at buying State School property

CONCORD — The state will renew its effort in the coming months to sell the site on North Main Street that formerly housed the Laconia State School, Michael Connor, deputy commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) with responsibility for property and purchasing, said yesterday.

The sale of the property was included in the 2016-2017 state budget adopted by the Legislature last month. The revenue estimates for the biennium include $2-million in proceeds from the transaction. In 2012 an appraisal prepared for the state by the Bureau of Right-of-Way of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation placed the value of the site at $2.16 million.

Mayor Ed Engler, who has favored purchasing the site, yesterday reaffirmed that he would advocate acquiring it if it were offered to the city for its appraised value or less.

The terms of the proposed transaction are stipulated in the companion bill to the budget. The transaction would be subject to the requirements of RSA 4:40, the statute governing the sale or lease of state property, which stipulates that it must be first be offered to the municipality or county where it is located. But, the transaction would be exempt from the review and approval of both the Council on Resources and Development, a panel representing executive departments and agencies, and the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, consisting of four members of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives. Instead, the sale would require the approval of only the Governor and Executive Council.

"Something has to happen," Connor said yesterday, who added that the first step would be to hire a broker and then to approach the city. "There is a lot to talk about," he said.

The property consists of 202 acres bounded by North Main Street to the east, Meredith Center Road and Eastman Road to the north and Ahern State Park to the west and south and divided roughly in half by Right Way Path. Among the 26 buildings on the site, the appraiser found less than a handful salvageable and estimated the cost of demolishing the rest at more than $2 million.

An initial assessment of the site by Credere, LLC of Westbrook, Maine in 2010 indicated that there were typical but significant environmental concerns, most of them confined to the 75 acres housing the buildings. As the party responsible for the environmental contamination the state cannot qualify for federal funding to address it. But, the city qualifies for funding to assess the extent of the contamination and if were to acquire the site, would be eligible for funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to address contamination.

The state first sought to sell the property in 2011, offering it to the city for $10-million. However, soon afterwards two appraisals, one by the state and another by the city, found it was worth about a fifth that much. In April, 2012 the Laconia City Council offered to purchase the property, together with the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, an abutting 10.2-acre parcel owned by the state and leased to the city for 99 years, for $2.16 million. The state did not respond to the offer. The property has been on the open market ever since, but the state has received no offers for it.

Connor said that the state spends approximately $330,000 annually to maintain and police the property, apart from the cost of any urgent repairs like the replacement of a failing roof.