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Lawmakers taking dead aim at county wage & benefit increases

LACONIA — Belknap County workers will feel the brunt of cuts being considered by the Belknap County Convention to the proposed 2014 budget, which will see a decrease of $732,855 from the $26.57 million budget proposed by county commissioners if the budget currently under consideration by the convention is adopted.
The budget currently being considered would reduce the total amount to be raised by taxes from $14,445,359 to $13,712, 804, a decrease of 1.3 percent from the $13,889,467 raised last year,.
Once the $533,000 no longer contained in the budget as a result of the county no longer funding Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid, the net change in the proposed budget is 2.7 percent above last year.
The cuts under consideration include a commission-proposed 1.6 percent cost of living pay increase as well as 3 percent "step" increases for eligible employees as well as reductions in health insurance, longevity and retirement benefits, the last three of which are viewed by the commissioners as contractual obligations.
The convention tackled the budget for the second straight day yesterday afternoon at the Belknap County complex in another marathon session which saw sometimes heated discussion over issues of who controls the line items in the county budget and whether or not the county should hire three additional corrections officers at the county jail.
The corrections officer proposal, which would have added about $120,000 in wages and benefits to the Corrections Department budget for an additional community corrections officer and two additional corrections officers was hailed as a ''complete package'' by Rep, Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who pressed county commissioners to agree to support the proposal which had the support of many of the more fiscally conservative members of the convention for its potential in allowing more prisoners to be released into community programs.
But Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont) and fellow commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), pointed out that they would first have to find $82,000 within the Corrections Department budget to make up for cuts in benefits and wages that the convention was considering.
The commissioners said they would either be left in the position of not bringing on the new prison employees or having to reduce the benefits they are contractually guaranteed to provide, resulting in a lawsuit that the county would be certain t lose.
Rep. Ruth Gulick (D-New Hampton) moved that the convention adopt the budget as proposed by the commissioners and add the funds to hire the three new guards but that motion was defeated 14-3.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 02:24

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A middle section of Union Avenue slated for reconstruction this year

LACONIA — The stretch of Union Avenue between Gilford Avenue and Messer Street is scheduled to be reclaimed, reconstructed and repaved in two phases this years.

The project will include the replacement of the water main as well as sections of the natural gas, storm drainage and sanitary sewer piping. In addition, the sidewalks will be rebuilt on both sides of the roadway, which itself will be lined with granite curbing.

The project will be undertaken in two phases the first beginning in April and ending before Memorial Day and the second starting after the July 4th holiday and expected to be completed in October.

The Department of Public Works, Water Department and Liberties Utilities, which operates the natural gas service, plan extensive communication with all abutters and traffic control measures will be taken.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 01:34

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Auditing firm gives City of Laconia high marks

LACONIA — The city was awarded high marks by Melanson Health & Company, its independent auditors, for both its strong financial position and sound internal controls.

Pat Mohan, who audits nearly two dozen municipalities in New Hampshire and Massachusetts each year, said that Laconia was one of only two not to receive a management letter recommending improvements in the administration of its finances and financial management. "That is a very big deal," he told the City Council last night.

Mohan pointed out that in fiscal year 2013, while revenues fell $63,966 shy of projections, expenditures were $756,155 less than budgeted, a sign of sound management by municipal departments.

Likewise, Mohan said that both the general fund and the two enterprise funds — the water fund and sanitary sewer fund — are "stable and strong." Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, noted that the ratio of annual debt service to total general fund expenditures of 6.8-percent is the lowest of the past decade. Mohan said that the water fund has minimal debt and the sanitary sewer fund none.

The total fund balance of $6,111,045 represents 11.6-percent of total general fund expenditures.

"These are positive operating results," Mohan said. "Overall the city is definitely strong."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 01:31

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Belmont looking into placing special empty chair at town hall to symbolize POWs & MIAs

BELMONT — After a presentation on Monday from Rolling Thunder, an national motorcycle club that advocates for the service men and women who are prisoners of war or missing in action, the town is developing a plan to put a specially designated empty chair in town hall.

The chair program, said Robert McGuiggan who made the presentation to selectmen, is one that designates an empty chair in a public place so people who see it will realize there will always be an empty chair as long as there are members of the military who are POWS or MIAs.

McGuggan said venues as large as Gillette Stadium, the Foxboro home of the New England Patriots, and as small as town's like Belmont have designated the single empty chair in a public place.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said yesterday that the town, at the suggestion of Selectman Jon Pike, who is a Vietnam veteran, is working with the Charles Kilbourn American Legion Post 58 to come up with a plan.

Beaudin said Town Assessing Assistant Cary Lagace has a chair that's in the town hall that she had previously refinished.

"She loves working with her hands and she has adopted this project on behalf of the town," Beaudoin said yesterday.

Beaudoin said her suggestion is to place the chair, which will be clearly marked as the empty chair for people who are POWs or MIA, to be under the Boston Post Cane in Town Hall.

Lagacy's idea, along with suggestions from the American Legion, will be brought to selectmen at their next meeting on January 24.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 01:27

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