Nedeau says he can't work with new commissioners, will resign

LACONIA — Belknap District 3 County Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith), citing differences with newly-elected members of the commission, resigned effective January 1 at a meeting of the commission last night at the Belknap County complex.
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 said that he couldn't see himself being able to work with new commissioners Dick Burchell (R-Gilmanton) and Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) who will take office on January 2.
''They (Burchell and DeVoy) don't even speak to me,'' said Nedeau, who was closely aligned on policy issues with the two outgoing commissioners Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) and John Thomas (R-Belmont). Thomas was defeated by Burchell in the Republican primary in September.
At last week's commission meeting held in response to the county Executive Committee's decision not to grant the commission's request for a transfer of funds to pay $24,000 in legal bills Nedeau told fellow commissioner Philpot that ''it was amazing to sit there and listen to our next commissioner basically swear at me.''
He said that he didn't think it was possible for him to work with the new commissioners and didn't want to place himself in the position of always being the minority member and unable to accomplish any of the goals of the current commission.
''Belknap Couunty will survive these guys.'' said Nedeau.

Commissioners Philpot and Thomas praised Nedeau for his work on behalf of the county as a commissioner and his previous 10 years as a county legislator, as well as his service as deputy sheriff for the county.. Thomas noted that he and Nedeau had worked together for many years as legislators and also as deputy sheriffs for the county and said that his service will be sorely missed.
Philpot noted that the current commissioners had set an example of working together which shows that ''we all don't have to agree but we always need to talk.''
Nedeau had served as chairman of the county convention when it hired Craig Wiggin as sheriff in 2007 to replace Dan Collis. The procedure was challenged by activists Doug Lambert and Tom Tardif because the votes were not taken in public and they won a court decision which forced the county to have recorded public votes by commission members.
Choice of Nedeau's successor will be up to Belknap County 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.
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.
The commission also heard from County Administrator Debra Shackett that more budget transfers will be needed before the end of the year and will be presented to the convention's Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 16 at a meeting whose time has yet to be determined.
Shackett said that the nursing home needs transfers between Medicare A and Medicare B accounts and that trying to keep track of fund balances in order to meet the court ruling obtained by the county convention which prohibits transfers of more than $300 without Executive Committee approval has become onerous and very time intensive.
''I have the director of nursing keeping track of spending every day. Things change so rapidly on a daily basis that we have to review spending in quarter hour increments,'' said Shackett.
''This shows why the court order is wrong. It's completely unworkable and unmanageable. I don't think this was clearly articulated in court and the result is this situation,'' said Philpot.
Shackett said that the situation is going to get far worse next year and that there will be a significant need for transfers which will have to be dealt with.

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Courthouse heating unit not pulling weight

LACONIA — The Belknap County Executive Committee Monday night approved a $2,000 transfer of funds into the county maintenance department budget in order to have a contractor look at a malfunctioning heating unit on the roof of the Belknap County Courthouse.
''They're unable to get the temperature in one of the courtrooms to over 60 degrees,'' said Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), newly elected chairman of the Belknap County Convention, who said that county officials told the seven-member Executive Committee Monday night that the unit is about two years old but the warranty has expired.
''They needed a transfer because the funds in the maintenance line for the courthouse were exhausted,'' said Tilton.
Tilton, who chaired the Executive Committee for the last two years, said that the committee will soon decide whether to name a chairman or continue with the same structure of previous years, in which the committee has the same officers as the County Convention, which would mean that he and convention vice chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) and clerk Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton), who are already members of the committee, would be the presiding officers.
The Executive Committee met to hear the request following a public hearing Monday night by the Belknap County Convention on the county's proposed $27,330,778 budget for 2015, up by 6.8 percent, which calls for an increase of 10 percent in the amount to be raised by property taxes. The tax bill would go from $13,663,314 in 2014 to $15,034,757 next year.
Tilton was critical of the numbers used by the county commissioners regarding the percentage increase from previous years, saying that a $533,000 appropriation made in previous years for Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid which is no longer part of the county budget, would have to be factored in and wasn't.
He also maintains that the commissioners' claim that two positions that the convention funded last year went unfilled because the benefits for those positions were not funded is not accurate. He said the commission, which is asking that those positions be filled in the upcoming budget, decided instead to use the funds for other purposes.
During Monday night's hearing, Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), who is stepping down after two terms on the commission and will be replaced after the first of the year by Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), likened the county to a $60 million a year business which is managed by the commissioners as the board of directors, with the county administrator serving as CEO.
''We run several major businesses, a nursing home with 94 residents and 105 full-time and 37 part-time employees, a corrections department with 100 inmates and 30 full-time and 24 part-time employees, as well as sheriff's department with 19 full-time and 29 part-time employees as well as a law firm, the county attorney's office, a maintenance department and a registry of deeds.'' said Philpot.
He said that labor is the biggest part of the county's costs, followed by operating expenses and health insurance costs.
The county has four collective bargaining units (unions) he said, all of whom are covered by the status quo doctrine which means all conditions of employment, including health insurance benefits, remain the same until a new collective bargaining agreement is agreed to.
County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen told members of the newly-elected convention that it is ''really important to keep in mind the importance of county government, which is often ignored, and keep in mind all the things we do,'' as they consider the new budget request.

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12 members of family displaced by fire

NEW HAMPTON — Twelve people including seven children between the ages of 1 and 12 were left temporarily homeless Monday after a chimney fire extended into their home at 115 Kelly Pond Road.

Fire Chief Mike Drake said the call initially came from a third party just after 4 p.m. He said he and the police were the first to arrive and he called for a first alarm bringing in help from neighboring communities.

Drake said the fire started in the chimney but had extended into the ceiling and walls. He said the house appeared to have been built in the 1970s but has had extensive renovations and additions, making the fire tough to extinguish.

He said one member of the family was taken by ambulance to the hospital for evaluation.

Drake said the interior of the house suffered a lot of smoke and water damage and it appears most of the family's possessions, including Christmas presents for the children, were destroyed.

He said the police and firefighters were able to save the family's cat.

The family is being assisted by the American Red Cross who determined the families immediate needs so they could provide lodging and financial assistance for food and clothing.

To make a donation to the Red Cross to help this family and others who a victims of disasters, please visit or connect using

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Heroin overdose thought to be reason for death at local hotel

LACONIA — Police Chief Christopher Adams confirmed Tuesday that there were one fatal and two non-fatal heroin overdoses in the city over the weekend.

The fatal overdose occurred in the Landmark Inn, on the 4th floor. Adams said a second person in the room called for help after both men present had used what police believe to be heroin, fentanyl or some combination of the two.

A 37-year year old man died, however Adams said the firefighters were able to save the man who made the phone call.

Adams said identification of the dead man is being held pending notification of his family.

He said police were able to recover some evidence from the scene and a criminal investigation is ongoing.

Adams did not have the details for the second non-fatal overdose saying only that the victim did survive and police are investigating.

"The warning is the same as it always is," Adams said, referring to what some have called a heroin epidemic in the state. "Don't risk it. It could be fatal."

He said that anyone who wants help or who has information should call 211 or call Officer Eric Adams of the Laconia Police at 524-5252.

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