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Residents along remote Meredith roadway want to form village district

MEREDITH — Eight of the 10 property owners on Maple Ridge Road, a steep, winding graveled track about a half-mile long that comes to a dead-end 750 feet above the western shore of Lake Winnisquam, have petitioned the Board of Selectmen to establish an official village district that would improve and maintain the road.

Village districts in New Hampshire have taxing authority and are managed by an elected board of commissioners.

At a workshop this week, Marshall Hubbard, who moved to Maple Ridge Road in 1978, six years after the town approved the subdivision, told the selectmen that he tried to form a residents' association, but wound up maintaining the road himself for 20 years. Since the Maple Ridge Association was formed two years ago it has budgeted for the upkeep of the road.

David Desmarais said that by forming a village district, with the sole purpose of maintaining the road and authority to raise and appropriate funds, would ensure sufficient resources "year in and year out" to plow, sand, grade, gravel and ditch the road. "We want to take responsibility ourselves," he said, adding that the residents understood that an improved road would enhance the value of their properties as well as benefit the town by providing safe access for emergency vehicles.

Mike Poirier, who spent 30 with years with the New Hampshire Bureau of Emergency Management, pointed out that N.H. village districts qualify for federal disaster assistance administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Although Maple Ridge Road has suffered several washouts, he said that so far it has been spared a catastrophic event, but warned that "sooner or later it's going to happen."

"I drove Maple Ridge Road," said Selectman Lou Kahn. "I didn't drive all the way because I was frightened. I would not want a fire truck or an ambulance on that road." He said that the residents are "doing the town a favor."

Selectman Peter Brothers questioned what administrative costs the town would incur by billing, collecting and distributing the property taxes raised by the village district as well as placing liens and tax deeds on delinquent property owners. Town attorney Laura Spector-Morgan said that the town would recover any enforcement costs when properties were conveyed.

Town Manager Phil Warren asked Spector-Morgan if the village district would impose administrative burdens on the town. "Not if the district is working properly," she replied.

"And if it isn't?" he asked. "It can become a mess," she said.

Spector-Morgan explained that the selectmen, having received a petition, must delineate the boundaries of the district and convene a meeting of the voters, at which they will vote to form the district and elect its officers.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 01:33

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Democrats challenge budget vote by phone in court

LACONIA — The five Democratic members of the Belknap County Convention have asked Belknap County Superior Court to overturn the vote that thwarted adoption of the 2014 county budget recommended by the Belknap County Commission.

The vote was taken when the convention met in the midst of a heavy snowstorm on February 18. Only 13 of the 18 members were present when the meeting was convened a half-hour past the scheduled hour of 5 p.m. In addition, Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, arranged for Rep. Guy Comtois (R-Barnstead), who was tending to a failing roof, to participate by telephone.

Noting the absence of several Republicans, Rep. Beth Arsenault (D-Laconia) offered a motion to adopt the commission's budget, which was second by Rep. Lisa DiMartino (D-Gilford). They were joined in support of the motion by their fellow Democrats — David Huot of Laconia, Ian Raymond of Sanbornton and Ruth Gulick of New Hampton — and two Republicans — Reps. Bob Luther and Don Flanders of Laconia.

The other six Republicans present — Reps. Richard Burchell of Gilamnton, Frank Tilton of Laconia, Michael Sylvia of Belmont and Bob Greemore, Herb Vadney and Worsman, all of Meredith — voted against the motion, along with Comtois, who voted by telephone.

With four Republicans — Reps. Dennis Fields of Sanbornton, Charles Fink of Belmont, and Stephen Holmes and Jane Cormier, both of Alton — absent, the convention deadlocked seven-to-seven and the motion failed.

The suit, naming Worsman and Cormier, the clerk of the convention, alleges that Worsman violated the provisions of the Right-to-Know Law bearing on members participating by telephone. The Democrats note that the convention was not required to allow one or members to participate by "electronic means" and claim the decision properly rested with the convention, not the chair. Moreover, they charge that no notice was given to the convention that Comtois would be permitted to participate by telephone nor was the reason he could not be physically present recorded in the minutes as the statute requires. Finally, contrary to the law, Comtois failed to identify anyone else present at the location from which he was participating.

Consequently, the Democrats claim that since "Rep. Comtois' vote was unlawful and in violation of RSA 91-A:2 " the vote should be overturned.

When the convention met last night (see story on page 1) Worsman sought to amend the minutes of meeting of February 18 to show that before the meeting was convened she and other members referred to the Right-to-Know law and discussed the procedure for allowing Comtois to participate by telephone. Huot reminded her that at the time there was no quorum and not all those who were present were party to the discussion. Arsenault questioned recording a discussion that took place before the meeting in the minutes.

"It's critical and germane," Worsman insisted with an apparent eye to the litigation.

When Worsman's motion to amend the minutes was put to a vote there was much confusion about who was and was not present when the supposed discussion occurred and therefore would be eligible to vote. Ultimately the motion failed five-to-four, with five abstentions.

Obviously troubled by the outcome Worsman tersely noted that the minutes were approved without reference to the discussion of the Right-to-Know law prior to the meeting.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 10:29

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Justin Slattery is new executive director of Belknap Economic Development Council

LACONIA — Justin Slattery has been named executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Corporation. He succeeds Carmen Lorentz, who served in the position for three years before leaving recently to take the position as head of the New Hampshire Department of Economic Development.

The announcement was made by Sean Sullivan, chair of the BEDC board of directors.

Slattery has been on the job since February 24.

A native of the state, Slattery graduated from the University of New Hampshire and has worked in both public and private sector positions for more than 12 years working to build economic development opportunities in New Hampshire. He most recently was employed at the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development where he worked statewide on economic development projects and workforce development initiatives. He has served on several state boards and committees including the Governor's Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council and the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Advisory Committee.

Slattery's career started as an aide to Governor John Lynch. He has worked extensively in talent management and acquisition positions for several leading New Hampshire firms and was employed by the Workforce Investment Act program working on workforce development projects statewide.

As Belknap EDC executive director, Slattery will be responsible for the development and delivery of programs and services designed to promote economic vitality in Belknap County and the greater Lakes Region. He will direct the organization's budgets, grant administration, revolving loan fund, and strategic planning.

Belknap EDC was founded in 1992, and is one of ten non-profit regional development corporations in the State of New Hampshire. The organization operates a $3 million revolving loan fund that provides gap financing for local businesses and partners with the NH Small Business Development Center and SCORE to provide technical assistance to local businesses. Recently, the organization has focused resources on workforce development programs, developing strategies to retain and attract young talent to the region, and supporting creative entrepreneurs.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 01:24

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Scheduled fight at county jail lands pair in hot water

LACONIA — Two men who are in official custody of the Belknap County House of Corrections are in additional trouble for allegedly fighting in one of the bathrooms.

According to affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Michael Hann, 28, and Deric Nevin, 27, allegedly agreed to meet in a bathroom to settle a dispute on January 25 at 8:30 p.m.

The Belknap County Sheriff's Department investigates all alleged criminal activity at the jail, but when the sheriff began the investigation on January 27, both Hann and Nevin invoked their 5th Amendment right to avoid self incrimination and refused to speak to the investigator.

The investigator noticed Hann had multiple stitches on his upper right forehead and Neven's left eye was swollen and dark purple. Nevin also had scratches on his forehead and a split lower lip.

The investigator met with a different inmate who said he allegedly saw Nevin in the bathroom with Hann, who was standing in the shower. He said he heard Nevin say to Hann "Do you want to do this now?"

Hann allegedly replied "Whatever."

The witness said he saw Nevin swing at Hann, striking him in the head. When they started wrestling, the witness said Hann ended up on top of Nevin and was hitting him with his fists.

When the fight ended, he said the two combatants turned on the shower to wash off the blood while two other inmates cleaned up the bathroom.

The investigator said she reviewed the tape and she saw two men who she couldn't identify fighting. After the fight she saw one man push a cleaning cart into the shower followed by a second inmate who mopped the floor, corroborating the information she gathered from the witness.

Both are charged with one count each of assault by prisoner by mutual consent.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 01:19

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