County will pay Luther's legal bill

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee Monday agreed to several 2014 budget transfers sought by Belknap County Commissioners, including $5,200 to pay legal fees incurred by former Belknap County Register of Deeds Barbara Luther in 2011, when she was sued by the previous commission in an effort to make her comply with recommendations made by an auditing firm hired by the county.
In 2013 the county convention appropriated $5,200 to pay Luther's fees but the former commissioners refused to release a check to her.
Commission Chairman Richard Burchell said that since the lawsuit was brought against her in her capacity as Register of Deeds that it was appropriate that the county should reimburse her for those costs.
''Apparently the money we put in the budget was spent somewhere else,'' said Burchell.
Transfer requests also approved were $11,291 for inmate medications and medical services at the Belknap County Jail, $6,530 for natural gas heating fuel charges for December, $260 to pay for legal expenses incurred by Burchell in fees paid to Belknap County Superior Court in filing a lawsuit on behalf of the county convention against the commissioners and $71.84 to pay former representatives Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), and Robert Greemore (R-Meredith) to attend a Personnel Committee meeting.
A total of 56 budget transfer requests have been made by county commissioners for the 2014 budget year, the vast majority of which came after the county convention obtained a temporary injunction in Belknap County Superior Court in late summer which prohibited county commissioners from transferring more than $300 from one line item in the budget to another without the approval of the Executive Committee.
Still awaiting action by the Executive Committee are some $60,000 in unpaid legal bills which Belknap County Commissioners put off consideration of until a third commissioner had been appointed to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Commissioner Steve Nedeau of Meredith effective as of January 1.
Hunter Taylor of Alton, a retired lawyer who was also a law professor at Rutgers University and moved to the Lakes Region from New Jersey in 2010, was named by the Belknap County Convention to fill the remaining two years of Nedeau's term on Monday night.
During an interview of Taylor conducted by members of the convention, Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, convention clerk, expressed the view that the legal bills, many of which were run up in the battle between commissioners and the convention over line item budget authority, should be paid so that the county could put the issue in the past.
He asked Taylor, who has in the past suggested that the county convention should conduct an investigation into the possibility that the previous commissioners had broken the law by having the county incur legal fees for which no funds had been appropriated, whether it was wise ''to be spending taxpayer dollars to get the same conclusion'' already rendered in the court's decision.
Convention Chairman Frank Tilton cut off that line of questioning before Taylor could answer, saying ''we don't want to go that deep'' and suggested that the questions should focus on qualifications, not on specific issues the candidate for the position would be dealing with.
Last week Burchell revealed that the county now holds nearly $30,000 in recently received legal bills, $5,456 from the Drummond Woodsum law firm which represented the commission at a hearing on the dismissal of Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue, $12,600 from the lawyer who represented the Belknap County Convention in its lawsuit against the commissioners over line item budget authority and another $10,429 in a personnel matter case. The source of the last bill was not mentioned.
Prior to receiving the latest bills last week the commissioners declined to endorse a 2014 budget transfer request to the convention's Executive Committee for $31,852.54 to pay the county's legal bills which had been received between October 31 and the end of the year. That request had been made by the board that left office on December 31.
Legal bills which have been paid through the end of the year total $39,574.59 and many of those relate to the year-long struggle between the former commissioners and the convention over line item budget authority.

Gilford agrees to contribute $21k to Public Access TV

GILFORD — Selectmen voted unanimously last night to contribute the $21,393 requested by Lakes Region Public Access television for fiscal year 2015 operations.

In November of 2014, the board voted unanimously to withhold the requested contribution because they had not yet gotten a detailed budget from the former station manager and the assurances they needed to know the operation had been streamlined.

After the meeting, Selectboard Chair John O'Brien said that LRPA had made enough financial progress that the board was more comfortable supporting it.

"We still have a few concerns," O'Brien said.

During the 2014 cable franchise negotiations with local communities, MetroCast Cablevision eliminated a $30,000 grant that it had been making to LRPA for the past 10 years.

Traditionally, LRPA also derived income from annual contributions from Laconia and area townships that are part of a consortium that negotiated the original cable franchise agreement with MetroCast. Those contributions were intended to come from the franchise fees MetroCast pays communities, based on the number of subscribers.

Over, the years, though, Franklin, Deerfield, Gilmanton, New Durham, Tilton and Northfield all stopped paying anything to support LRPA.

In 2014, LRPA shifted to a system whereby communities would pay less and businesses and companies would be solicited for a total of $129,000 in donations — much like the public radio and television models.

However, when LRPA's fiscal year began in June of 2014, no bills were sent to communities at any rate, much less the lower rates. In October, when no funds were left in the coffers and none of the communities had accepted new contracts, the LRPA board held an emergency meeting and asked member communities for their normal fiscal year 2015 contributions.

In late 2014 Laconia gave them $20,000, Belmont gave them $7,500 which is approximately half of their bill for half of their fiscal year, and Meredith gave them $17,991.

Alton and Northwood made their contributions earlier in the year.

In January of 2015, the board fired long-time station Manager Denise Beauchaine. Consultant Shane Selling took over as station manager on a part-time basis.

Rosemary Landry running for selectman in Meredith

MEREDITH — With two open seats on the Board of Selectmen and two days left in the 2015 filing period, only one candidate has filed for election — Rosemary Landry.

Landry, who most recently mounted the petition drive to scuttle the trio of roundabouts along Routes 3 and 25, has been an advocate but not an officeholder for some time. Active in the Lakes Region Tea Party, she was in the forefront of opposition to the Granite State Futures program, an initiative of the regional planning commissions to encourage "sustainable" communities. She was an outspoken critic of efforts by the Alton Planning Board to amend the local zoning ordinance to foster opportunities to construct workforce housing. And she challenged the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative when it introduced so-called "smart meters."

Landry regularly attends and tapes meetings of the Meredith Selectboard and frequently contributes letters to the editor of this and other newspapers. Avowedly conservative, she believes that government, at all levels, must strictly comply with the state and federal constitutions by respecting the freedom of individual citizens and the right to private property while reducing spending and taxes.

Selectmen Carla Horne and Peter Brothers are not running for re-election.

City Council seems receptive to continued funding for police stubstance abuse (prevention, enforcement & treatment) coordinator position

LACONIA — Police Chief Christopher Adams told the City Council Monday night that the position of Prevention, Education, and Treatment (PET) Coordinator has accomplished remarkable things in the four months since the program began and announced plans to now hire an additional officer to replace the one who is now the community's go-to person on the substance abuse front.

Chief Adams also indicated that with council support he will make the PET Coordinator — Officer Eric Adams — a permanent position. The move, he said, will cost the city another $36,000 in the next fiscal year. $50,000 was added to this year's budget to fund the trial run.

"I couldn't be happier with Eric's (Adams — no relation) progress over the past four months," said Chief Adams. "I have watched from a distance as he started making connections among those in treatment, prevention, education, health care, and he judicial system.

Eric Adams told the council he responds to all overdoses during the day and helps the people — often family and friends — to cope with the crisis.

He also provides the names of social agencies who can help recovering addicts and their families. Eric Adams said he is becoming known throughout the drug community as someone who people can trust to get them help.

"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," he said.

He told the council about one instance on Winter Street where he responded to an overdose and was able to get the two people who were with the victim into rehab. He said he heard from them recently and both are clean, both have jobs and both of them have physically removed themselves from the area and are living with a relative.

He said the woman told him that if he hadn't intervened an explain where she could get help, she's sure she's be dead today of an overdose.

Eric Adams said the reason he is able to do these things for people is that typically, patrol officers and a supervisor respond to drug overdoses, but most of the time they can't stay long enough to help the family. He can.

To date, Eric Adams has worked with nine individuals and is still working with six of them. He has attended nearly 80 meetings with various agencies including Horizons Behavioral Health, Genesis Mental Health, Stand Up Laconia, and representatives from the court system. He is active in Recovery Court, which is headed by Judge Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

After the presentation, Mayor Edward Engler said is was his understanding that the city added $50,000 to the fiscal year 2015 police budget for the PET Coordinator and if the program went well it would be funded for fiscal year 2016.

Councilor Brenda Baer commented that if the department was hiring three new officers — to cover retirement and resignations — then the new officers would be earning a lower rate than were the ones who left.

Police Capt. Bill Clary, who heads the administration wing of the department, said two of the potential hires are already N.H. certified officers and although there will be some minor savings it is not enough to cover the added FY-2016 $36,000 cost for the PET Coordinator.

All of the councilors said they felt Eric Adams was making great strides toward filling the gaps in the treatment and prevention programs and in identifying those people who at the highest risk of dying.

In addition to praise from the City Council, a number of community members including Clare Persson of Stand Up Laconia, Lisa Morris of Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, and Dick Smith and Elaine Morrison of the former River Art Crew spoke in favor of the PET coordination program and urged the City Council to fund the position in 2015-2016.

Persson said they have had a number of "wonderful" meetings at Stand Up Laconia. "We all have our piece to do and it important that we identify resources." she said.

"We are on the verge of something big here," said Morris, who said the PET and Eric Adams show the community that the police are invested in reducing drug abuse.

Smith and Morrison noted that one area often forgotten is the step from prison or jail back into real life. She said the PET coordinator is the "best possible thing for Laconia."

A woman from Gilford complemented Laconia on its program as did Dick Bouchard and Larry Frates.

All of councilors appeared to support continuing the PET program.