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Sheldon Morgan will retire as Gilford highway chief at the end of the year

GILFORD — Long-time Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan has announced his retirement and last night the selectmen, regretfully, accepted his resignation, effective near the end of the year.

Morgan has worked for the town of Gilford for 42 years and according to selectmen John O'Brien, knows where every pipe and ditch in the town is.

Selectmen have been advertising the position and decided last night that they will form a hiring committee.

Tentative members are Selectmen Richard "Rags" Grenier, former Selectman Kevin Hayes and Town Administrator Scott Dunn.

Selectman Gus Benevides asked Highway Superintendent Brian DeNutte if he thought it would be beneficial to have a member of the department serve on the committee.

DeNutte said he really didn't know but when asked directly, said he would serve if that was what selectmen wanted.

Dunn said there are two schools of thought about having someone serve on a committee that would be hiring his or her own boss.

Board members agreed they didn't need to make a decision immediately as the closing date for applications isn't until December 19.

Morgan's last day is December 27.

In other business, Dunn told selectmen that after meeting with two separate law firms, he has been advised that the town should remove itself from any regulation of adult entertainment businesses except for matters of life-safety and zoning.

Dunn noted that he has been told that so-called adult entertainment is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as freedom of expression.

The town is in the middle of a lawsuit filed by the owner of the former Kings Grant Inn because of what he says was the town's violation of his civil rights.

Will Drew had leased his business to a company that called itself Mardi Gras North that was the target of a N.H. Drug Task Force raid in October of 2011.

Although Drew had nothing to do with the operation of the Mardi Gras, he claims in a suit filed in U.S. District Court, District of New Hampshire that when he went to reopen his business in 2012 and 2013, the town sullied his reputation by making him answer a series of questions regarding drugs and alcohol regulations before it gave him permission to reopen his club.

Drew and his business partner Tom Lyons reopened the adult venue calling it the Lakes Region Cafe and Tavern over the course of the summer, however it was shut down by the Fire Department about three weeks ago because of some fire safety issues.

Drew has declined to comment about the recent closure other than to say that he is working with Fire Department officials to address the issues.

Selectmen tabled further action on the town's entertainment ordinance because Dunn said he has a meeting scheduled today with one group of attorneys. He said he would report back to selectmen on December 19 at their next regular meeting.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 December 2014 01:51

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148-year-old marble-faced clock now up and running again on wall at Sanbornton town offices

SANBORTON — For about as many years as anyone can remember, an old marble-faced clock without hands hung on the wall next to the finance director's desk in the town offices.

A bag of spare parts, including the hands, were in a plastic bag somewhere in a desk drawer.

As of last night, the clock is now hanging behind the selectman's table in the meeting room — completely restored by hobby clock repairer Jesse Lacasse of Tilton.

While repairing the clock and researching its origins, Lacasse learned the clock was made by Robert Stuart Johnson and Richard Davis Johnson at their clock shop near Turkey Bridge in Sanbornton.

The Johnson brothers built the clock specifically for the town of Sanbornton in 1866 in The Old Clock Shop built by their father Simon in an area of town Selectman Chair Karen Ober said was a small village in the 1800s.

Lacasse said Richard Johnson, who was also a selectman, noted he was paid $10 to build the clock and worked on it for eight days.

As part of the research, the town was able to find a picture of Richard Johnson taken in 1905 at his workshop. An older man in his 70s with white hair, a white beard and wearing small wire-framed glasses, the black and white picture shows him working at a work bench filled with clock pieces and using the natural light from a window in his shop to see.

Lacasse, who, along with his wife Nikki, owns a shop in Tilton called The Prim Home, said working on old clocks has always been one of his favorite hobbies.

He said he heard about Sanbornton's clock from resident Rachael Swain, who happened to stop by his store one day.

Lacasse said he went to the town offices, spoke with Town Administrator Bob Veloski, and asked if he could fix the clock.

When asked what he did to repair it, Lacasse said, "mostly just a good cleaning, some adjustments, and some minor parts."
He said he reversed a few repairs that someone else had tried to make and replaced the glass door that was chipped. He said he used old glass so it is wavy like the original glass was.

He said clock door had been painted a glossy white and he stripped down the wood and restored it to its original color.

The one thing Lacasse was unable to fix was the original mercury-filled pendulum. He said mercury pendulums were used to compensate for humidity during the summer months when clock makers realized their clocks lost time in the summer.

As of last night, the Sanbornton clock is back on the wall. Lacasse said he still needs to fine-turn some of the timing of the pendulum but says he's fairly confident it will keep time once he makes the final tweaks.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 December 2014 01:41

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School board members concerned with format of state's new standardized test program

LACONIA — Members of the School Board got a look at a sample of what the new standardized Smarter Balanced assessment tests that students will be taking for the first time in the spring of 2015 are like on Tuesday night and were shocked and concerned by what they saw.
The tests will do away with pencil and paper and utilize computer adaptive technology according to Kirk Beitler, assistant superintendent, who told the board that the test will replace the NECAP for math and English and is still being developed.
He explained that computer adaptive testing adjusts to a student's ability by basing the difficulty of future questions on previous answers, providing more accurate measurement of student achievement, particularly for high and low-performing students.
''The questions get harder as they go along,'' said Beitler, who said that grades 3-8 and grade 11 in Laconia took part in a field test of the new assessment program this spring but that no scores have been made available to assess how well the students performed on those tests.
A sample of what a fourth grade math test will entail was displayed Tuesday night for the board members, whose immediate reaction was one of befuddlement, as they contemplated the different problem solving skills which students will need to have in order to take the test and how difficult the program interface appeared to be.
Mike Persson said that he would need a pencil and paper to make the math calculations needed and didn't see any calculating tool or notepad within the test program which students could use.
''It's clunky, like a 10-year-old type of display. It's not how a good interface works,'' added board member Scott Vachon, who questioned whether the students would have the time needed to complete the tests.

Beitler said students would have as much time as needed to complete the tests, which would be given over several days.
''Has the state (school) board taken these tests? What are their reactions?'' asked Mal Murray, who said that in order for students to perform well on the tests their classroom lessons will have to be tailored to the same format used on the tests and that students will need a lot of practice in order to understand how to complete the tests.
Beitler said that the tests have proven more difficult than expected according to many educators, some of whom say it will take several years for students to adapt to the tests.
Persson asked what the School District would be doing with its science testing, noting that NECAP is still being used, and was critical of the most recent results for local students.
''Only 3 percent of our kids were proficient with distinction in science. That's five out of 150 students at the grade 11 level. That tells us we're not doing something right,'' said Persson.
Board Chairman Joe Cormier said that improving science test performance is ''not a quick process but we're moving in the right direction.''
Vachon said the district needed higher standards, as does the whole country, when it comes to science.
''If we're going to compete globally we've got to get better in science. We're not going to be a creative economy and will go from leading to trailing as an economic power. Our economy is changing because we're not keeping up,'' added Vachon.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 December 2014 01:28

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Belknap commissioners want county attorney to represent them in action aimed at lawmakers seen as acting in 'bad faith'

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners will ask Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen to intervene on their behalf in a court case which limits their authority to transfer funds without the approval of the Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee.
The action came Wednesday afternoon following on the heels of Monday night's rejection by the committee of a $28,000 transfer request which would have allowed the county to pay $24,000 it has in unpaid legal bills.
Commissioners said the result of the committee's action is that the commission can no longer manage the business of the county, which violates the terms of a temporary injunction obtained by the county convention prohibiting the transfer of more than $300 between accounts without approval of the committee.
''The judge's ruling said that the committee would in good faith approve the transfers. But this transfer was denied because they don't like what the commission is doing,'' said county Administrator Debra Shackett.
Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), who did not seek re-election and will be stepping down on January 2, said, ''They are essentially through their actions denying the commissioners the ability to conduct the business of the county, which is within our statutory authority. We're still here and still charged with managing the county and we have to do that in a way which meets the responsibilities we have.''
He said that the commissioners have incurred legitimate expenses in several legal matters, which include defending the commission in the lawsuit brought by the convention as well as seeking to overturn the county Personnel Committee's reinstatement of Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue after he had been fired by the commissioners in late August.
Shackett said that ever since Monday night's decision she has not spoken to the attorneys hired by the commission for fear of incurring further legal fees.
"How can we petition the court without a lawyer?'' she asked and commissioners agreed that the only alternative remaining to the commission is to be represented by the county attorney in its appeal to the court.
Philpot pointed out that the firms which have billed the county for their services are not going to just walk away and will press to have the bills paid, which prompted Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) to say that ultimately the county will have to pay it's legal bills.
Among those who voted to deny the request for the transfer of funds was Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who defeated incumbent commissioner John Thomas (R-Belmont) in the Republican primary in September .
At Monday night's Executive Committee meeting, Rep. Burchell told the commissioners ''you continue to throw away money on a issue that will go away on January 2'', referring to a statement that he and fellow incoming commissioner Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) issued recently saying that they plan to drop an appeal commissioners are planning to make to the state Supreme Court of the Personnel Committee's reinstatement of Logue as head of the nursing home.
At that meeting Nedeau said that Burchell may not be able to cast a vote on that issue, maintaining that there may be a conflict of interest as Burchell serves as a member of the Personnel Committee and voted to reinstate Logue. Burchell maintains that he has no conflict of interest, citing state law, and that he intends to vote to drop the appeal.
During yesterday afternoon's meeting, Nedeau told Philpot, who was not at Monday night's meeting, that ''it was amazing to sit there and listen to our next commissioner basically swear at me.''
Philpot observed about Burchell, ''that's happened more than once. That's despicable, thuggish behavior. He's been on the delegation for two years now and has never said a word to me.''
Philpot said it was obvious that Burchell and other members of the county convention were intent ''on the disassembly of everything we (the current commissioners and administration) have worked so very hard for.''

Commissioner Thomas said that there are ''many people filled with hate and discontent. And we have nine of them right here in our county delegation.''

Shackett observed yesterday that during the Monday night meeting she had been accused of lying for the second time in two weeks by outgoing Belknap County Convention chairperson Colette Worsman (R-Meredith).
Worsman charged at Monday's meeting of the county's Executive Committee that Belknap County Commissioners spent $174,000 more than the $2.6 million which was appropriated by convention for health insurance costs for 2014.
''That's not true. We didn't spend any more money than was appropriated,'' Shackett replied.
Worsman said she based her calculations on the monthly bills paid by then county of about $230,000, which dropped to $73,800 during one month in which the county's bill was reduced by a $159,000 credit.
Worsman said that the credit should have gone to the county as revenue and maintained that the commissioners did not have the authority to spend the money without convention approval, a position which was supported by Rep. Burchell and Rep. Herb Vadney (R-Meredith), who said the money should have been returned to the taxpayers.
Shackett said that she had followed the advice of the county's auditing firm on how to handle the credit as well as that of the Local Government Center. County Finance Director Glen Waring observed that Worsman's numbers were faulty, as the monthly payments also reflected the employee share of health insurance costs.
Worsman persisted however, saying ''you're not being truthful'' to Shackett and later saying ''the $174,000 spent is a violation and individuals should be held accountable.''
Rep, Davis Huot (D-Laconia) defended Shackett, saying ''it's not fair to accuse people of not telling the truth.''
Rep, Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of the Executive Committee, sought to rein in the discussion, saying ''the committee is beyond the purview of what we need to do'' and after allowing a few more comments said ''let's put this one to rest.''

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 December 2014 01:15

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