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2-1 selectboard majority adds some teeth to Gilford's ban on consumer fireworks

GILFORD — Selectmen voted last night by a two-to-one margin to maintain the town's current ban on fireworks and to add some teeth to the ban that imposes fines for those who violate it.

The fines are $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense, and $500 for the third and any subsequent offenses.

Selectmen John O'Brien and Kevin Hayes voted for the ban while Selectman Gus Benevides voted against it.

The vote came after two attendees at last night's public hearing spoke — Walt Stockwell of Wesley Woods, who said he supported the ban because it was a public safety and noise issue and Matt Shea of Altas Fireworks of Belmont, who spoke against a ban.

Shea said all consumer-grade fireworks sold in New Hampshire are inspected and designed to be used by people who are using them for their own purposes on their own property.

He said his research showed Gilford's ban came in 1988 when consumer grade fireworks were still illegal in the state. When New Hampshire adopted its commercial fireworks laws some towns like Gilford continued to ban them.

Shea also said his primary concern with Gilford's ordinance was that fireworks can be shot off by professionals but not consumers.

Hayes also read a letter into the record from a local woman who said she couldn't be at the public hearing but was for the ban because common sense and beer don't go together — echoing a statement made a few weeks ago by O'Brien during a previous discussion about fireworks.

She also said that despite the ban, when residents call the police with fireworks complaints, the police say they're coming but often don't.

O'Brien has been the leading voice for the fireworks ban over the past few years. After last night's public hearing he said he considers it a public safety issue and that the first role of selectmen is to enact ordinances that keep the general public safe.

He said no place in Gilford is free of dried leaves and he supports the ban because fireworks are also a fire hazard — especially during the summer.

O'Brien said he didn't expect the police to be driving around looking for fireworks violators but said wants to see them respond when they are called for complaints.

Benevides has long been opposed to a fireworks ban in Gilford. Reading from a prepared statement, he said that the town is seeking to ban something that is legal to possess and use in the state of New Hampshire.

He said he feared expensive legal challenges to the ban once someone is fined and dreads the day when the town is in court because someone had a sparkler.

Benevides said he feared the impact on what he said was an already over-burdened police department and said he wanted their resources used on drugs, rapes, drunk drivers, domestic violence and other criminal activity.

He also wanted to know how the police were going to enforce the rules for island residents, calling the fireworks ban a "law for some but not others."

"Our population swells (in the summer) and we can't expect them to know about this ban," Benevides said. "Residents and guests are our bread and butter."

He said he was also concerned that summer residents have had no opportunity to weigh in on the newest version of the ban. "This will not be received well," he said.

Going to his personal philosophy, he said government, in this case the Board of Selectmen, should meet the needs of residents and that people should take more personal responsibility and not need the government to tell them what to do — especially with legally-possessed item like commercial fireworks.

He said he has never gotten a call from constituents complaining about fireworks, has never gotten any letters or e-mails, and that people have not been "forming lines" at selectmen meeting to get them banned.

"Banning legal items is a dangerous path," he concluded.

As an alternative, he suggested banning them after a certain hour or placing the matter before the voters at an annual town meeting.

"Wow" said O'Brien, before saying Benevides sounded like a lobbyist for some fireworks manufacturer.

He said if faced with a legal challenge he would simply hold up a picture of a young girl who was burned over much of her body when a sparkler she was holding ignited the clothes she was wearing.

"It's strange to allow something so dangerous," he said.

Hayes called for the vote latest ban was enacted.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 02:02

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Chief: local fire departments limited in how they can respond to hazmat crisis

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that while his department is familiar with the flammable and hazardous materials stored and used by local businesses, its capacity to respond to incidents like the explosion that occurred at the New Hampshire Ball Bearing plant in Peterborough on Tuesday is limited.

The New Hampshire Fire Marshal yesterday said that explosion in Peterborough was "directly related to a nitric acid reaction" and has been classified as "an industrial accident."

Officials at the New Hampshire Ball Bearing facility in Laconia were not available for comment on Wednesday.

Erickson said that firms file reports of their hazardous materials on site annually, adding that local companies tend to keep such products in relatively small amounts and replenish them as necessary. He said that the departments is familiar with the layout of local plants and seeks to visit them at least every two years in order to prepared for any emergency that may occur.

However, Erickson emphasized that the department's first priority as the first responders to any emergency would be the safety of those involved. For example, he noted that on Tuesday firefighters and emergency medical technicians immediately decontaminated those who may have been exposed hazardous substances by the explosion, which involved hosing them down in frigid temperatures, and transported the injured to hospital. Erickson said that at the same time, the incident would be stabilized by shutting off electricity and gas supplies to the building.

Erickson said that if highly caustic, acidic or poisonous materials were released, the Central New Hampshire Haz-Mat Team would be called to the scene. "We can't protect firefighters from those kind of substances," he said. "We can evacuate the area and deny entry."

He recalled that in July, 2012 firefighters responded to ABC Fabricators at Cook Court to find some 275 gallons of nitric acid spilled inside the building. Although firefighters entered with breathing apparatus, Lieutenant Lisa Baldini ordered them out of the building when she sensed the fumes.

Erickson said that he was less concerned about the local industries, with which the department is familiar, than by the garages, sheds and barns that may contain flammable, volatile or hazardous materials unknown to the department and its personnel.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:51

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After deliverative session amendment, Gilmanton Schools could double spending & still comply with proposed tax cap

GILMANTON — An attempt by some residents to impose a total property tax cap for three years on the School District went horribly awry Saturday when the  warrant article was changed from allowing "zero" increases to "$10 million" at the deliberative session of town meeting.

If the article passes on March 11, the School District cannot increase it's budget by more than $10-million per year. But the School District's total annual budget is less than than sum now.

As written, the article restricted the Gilmanton School District to a $0-increase for the next three budgets after the budget for the 2014-2015 school year. The article was submitted as a request to adopt the provision of RSA 32:5-b that allows districts and towns to adopt tax caps.

With the operating budget at $9.6 million for both this school year and the next, Superintendent Joe Fauci said he couldn't foresee an occasion where the Gilmanton School Budget would literally double in size.

He said if the zero-cap recommendation passed as petitioned, it would have frozen the budget regardless of contractual obligations, including the tuition needed to send their high school children to Gilford, or special education expenses.

Neither the School Board nor the Budget Committee supports a tax cap.

Fauci said he wanted to assure the voters that tax cap or not, he would continue to develop responsible budgets that allow the district to educate its students while keeping the concerns of the taxpayers in mind.

A second petitioned warrant article will, if passed, eliminate the School District High School Expendable Trust that holds about $30,000 in the event unanticipated students move to Gilmanton and need to be tuitioned to Gilford High School.

If it is eliminated, the money would return to the taxpayers.

According to Fauci, the expendable trust account was established in 2003 when the Gilmanton School District entered into its 20-year agreement to educate high school students in the neighboring  town.
He said the goal of the fund was to set aside enough money to cover two students.

At $17,425 per student, Fauci said the current fund balance would almost cover two students, which he said has traditionally been enough money.
Those who wish to eliminate it, including some member of the Budget Committee, said the fund has not been used for a number of years and that there is enough room in the regular operating budget to absorb the costs of a student or two should one or two of them move into the district mid-year.

In the same vein, the Budget Committee didn't recommend adding $10,000 to the Special Education Expendable Trust Fund that provides a cushion in the event a student who need special services moves into the district or moves into the district and needs to be placed into a specialized school. This article was placed on the warrant by the School District.

Right now, said Budget Committee Chair Brian Forst, the fund holds slightly over $190,000. He said the money is in a interest-bearing account and the amount of interest it will earn this year will bring it close to the $200,000 goal so the Budget Committee didn't recommend adding the $10,000.

Fauci said the district hasn't had to use the fund in a few years but supported adding to it because the costs of special education can be very high in some cases.
As an example, he said a child may need a full-time paraprofessional aid or may need to be sent outside of the district, however the district is still responsible for any costs incurred.

Voters go to the polls on March 11.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:34

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Former director of Inter-Lakes food services is subject of police investigation; wife indicted for theft

MEREDITH — The Director of Food Services for Inter-Lakes Regional School district is no longer employed there, The Daily Sun confirmed on Wednesday.

Multiple sources told the newspaper that Joseph Cyr, who is an employee of Cafe Services, Inc., a private company that handles Inter-Lakes food and cafeteria services, is the target of a criminal investigation being conducted by Moultonborough Police.

"There is somebody else in that position right now," said Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormand.

While the scope of the investigation involving Joseph Cyr is not public information, what can be confirmed is that Cyr's wife, Shirley, was indicted last week by a Belknap County grand jury for one felony count of theft by unauthorized taking.

Sources said the investigation into Joseph Cyr stemmed from what the police found in the Cyr's Moultonborough home while they were executing a warrant to search for something his wife Shirley had allegedly stolen.

Shirley Cyr's indictment indicates she took possession of and sold jewelry between December 6 and December 7 that was taken from a couple while she was providing care in their home.

Search warrant affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division indicate that on August 3, 2013 a man reported to the Meredith Police that a substantial amount of money was missing from his residence. He said he didn't want Shirley Cyr, his caretaker as well, investigated because he thought it was someone else who took it. The complaint was investigated but no arrests were made.

In December,  Meredith Police began investigation of the complaint that led to the indictment. A couple contacted police regarding some jewelry that was stolen between December 6 and December 7, when Shirley Cyr was in their home and working for the same home care company.

While interviewing her, police affidavits indicate she confessed to officers that while employed as a care taker by Live Free Home Care, she took the jewelry and sold it at various gold dealers in the area.

When questioned about the August theft, the same affidavits said Cyr denied involvement. She agreed to take a polygraph test that was conducted by a Laconia Police detective who concluded Cyr had failed the test.

The Meredith officer and the Laconia detective re-interviewed Shirley Cyr, and according to the affidavit, she admitted she took $12,000 from the first victim's home.

She allegedly told them she took $3,000 and placed it in a safe belonging to her father who lives with her at 14 Hanson Mill Road in Moultonborough. She told police she spent the rest but couldn't recall specifically where it went.

Looking for the $3,000, Meredith Police applied for and received a search warrant for her home that included all rooms, open or closed, all closets, opened or closed, and any furniture, containers including outbuildings and sheds where a safe or money could be hidden.

Meredith Police and Moultonborough Police executed the search warrant and made a discovery that led Moultonborough Police to apply for a separate warrant for the home — this time targeting the other members of the household including Joseph Cyr.

Moultonborough Police confirmed last week that there was an ongoing investigation but declined to offer any details.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:21

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