Mayor Morgan Johnston presides over Christmas Village

LACONIA — "It looks like everyone is having fun," remarked Ernie Bolduc, who as an elf called "Tinsel", last night welcomed scores of children to the opening of Christmas Village for the 39th year. "It never changes," he smiled.

The Bolducs, Ernie and his brother Armand, the elf "Twinkle," along with their friend Bob Hamel have been the mainstays of Christmas Village since the festival began in 1975. Each year they oversee the transformation of the Community Center from a basketball court to an enchanted land, alive with the spirit of Christmas.

For the next three days nearly 3,000 children will pass through the village, beginning in the basement where they wait turn through the attractions upstairs while face painting, playing games, learning crafts and watching movies under the watchful eyes of some of the 60 or 70 elves. Upstairs they will share a moment with Santa and savor pink lemonade and cookies at his sidewalk cafe amid the lights and decorations of the Christmas season.

Every child will leave with a personalized ornament, a special gift and a personal letter from Santa bearing the postmark "Christmas Village, Laconia NH 03246-1/2. And for $3 they can have their picture taken with Santa and his wife.

Morgan Johnston and her brother Jack began coming to Christmas Village as young children. This year, her 13th as a volunteer, she is the mayor of the village, while Jack, as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, gambols about entertaining her visitors. Morgan, a sophomore in college preparing to become a veterinarian, said that she began in Santa's House and has since played every role in the village. Jack, a high school senior, was the first toy soldier. "We went through as little kids," Johnston said, "and when my mother saw they were looking for help we volunteered. "

For some years many of those among the first to enjoy the Christmas Village have been bringing their children to share the joy they experienced at what has become one of the city's most enduring traditions and popular spectacles.

The Christmas Village will open this evening from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Tilton man's recent run-ins with law involve police in 5 local communities

CIRCUIT COURT — A man whose alleged late September-October one-man crime spree involved five separate Lakes Region communities appeared in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday to answer to charges stemming from his encounter with Belmont Police on September 28.

Yesterday, Belmont Police charged Corey Cromwell, 26, of 18 Pine Street in Tilton with one count of receiving stolen property and one count of misuse of license plates for actions he allegedly took just before he encountered the Laconia Police at dawn on September 28.

To date, there are active charges and/or criminal indictments for Cromwell from police in Belmont, Laconia, Sanbornton and Tilton. Gilford Police are investigating Cromwell's alleged role in a car fire.

According to police affidavits filed yesterday with the court, at 4:37 a.m. on September 28, a Belmont Police officer was sent to Union Road for a report of a man who knocked on someone's door saying he was out of gas.

The officer said he saw the car, a silver Volvo C-70 convertible, and the driver. He identified Cromwell by his drivers license which was was valid. At that moment, there were no warrants for his arrest.

While the officer was there, a person brought Cromwell some gas and he fueled the Volvo and drove away.

When the officer returned to the police station he entered the Volvo's license plate number into the general dispatch data bank and learned the plate was not the correct one for the car.

At about the same time the Belmont officer was entering the Volvo plate number into the central data bank, Laconia Police were making contact with Cromwell near St. Andre Bessette Church on the corner of Union Avenue and Gilford Avenue, where he allegedly fled from them.

Laconia Police issued a Be On the Lookout For (BOLO) alert for the Volvo and at some point in October obtained an arrest warrant for Cromwell.

The Volvo, which had been reported stolen from Bay Street in Laconia during the late part of the summer, was found about an hour later burning in Gilford.

Belmont's affidavits indicate Gilford Police interviewed Cromwell twice about the fire. During the first interview, he allegedly told the detective he was driving a green Subaru when he ran out of gas on Union Road in Belmont. During his second interview with Gilford Police, Cromwell said he lied in the first interview and admitted he was driving the silver Volvo when he ran out of gas.

The plates on the car during the Belmont incident were for a green Subaru that was registered to Cromwell's mother.

Cromwell was finally arrested on October 14 by Tilton Police after they found him in a car with a man who was charged with shoplifting at Walmart. While Cromwell had nothing to do with the shoplifting, he was arrested on the outstanding Laconia warrants for receiving stolen property, criminal trespass and disobeying an officer.

Tilton Police also charged him with one count of possession of drugs for allegedly having an Adderal pill on him.

So far Cromwell has been indicted by a Belknap County grand jury with one count of possession of drugs for the October 14 Tilton incident and one count of possession of drugs — a fentanyl patch — for a separate incident in Belmont on October 5.

He is also facing an automotive violation from the Sanbornton Police for having a false inspection sticker.

During his appearance in court yesterday, Judge Jim Carroll ordered him held on an additional $500 cash bail for the Belmont charges.

Cromwell has been incarcerated since his arrest by Tilton Police on October 14 and as the charges keep coming, his bail amounts continue to rise.

So far and according to the Belknap County Department of Corrections website, his bail totals are $500 cash for drug possession; $10,000 cash or corporate surety for drug possession; $1,000 personal recognizance for breach of bail; $1,000 personal recognizance for disobeying a police officer; $1,500 cash-only for the Laconia charge of receiving stolen property; $10,000 cash or corporate surety for drug possession; $500 cash only for the Belmont charge of receiving stolen property; $500 cash for an additional breach of bail; and $500 cash for driving after suspension.

City spent more than $3,500 on challenge to 2013 election in Ward 5

LACONIA — Litigation arisen over the result of the 2013 municipal primary election in Ward 5 cost the city more than $3,500.
Dave Gammon, who with his wife and another voter wrote in the name of Tom Tardif for city council, challenged the result, which failed to record the votes, and ultimately petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to order a recount. The city did not object, the recount was held and Gammon was vindicated.
However, no agreement was reached on Gammon's right to recover court costs. At a separate hearing in Belknap County Superior Court, at which the city was not represented, Justice Larry Smukler awarded Gammons costs amounting to $280.76. The city agreed to reimburse Gammon's costs, but asked the court to require him to submit an IRS W-9 form to comply with its internal accounting policies. The court granted the city's request, but Gammon balked, claiming he should not be required to report the award of costs to the Internal Revenue Service. He appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which in October ruled in his favor.
The Supreme Court ruled that although the city may require those receiving payments ordered by the court to submit a W-9, nothing in the rules of the court obliges the payee to comply with the internal accounting policies of the payor to be awarded costs.
The city requires a W-9 form of all individuals to whom it makes payments of any amount as part of its record keeping and internal control processes. The form has no bearing on whether or not a payment represents taxable income.

Altogether Gammon was awarded $816.49 in legal costs — the original $280.76 plus added costs incurred during the appeal to the Supreme Court — while the city spent $2,727.38 in attorney's fees, a significant share of which was incurred contesting his claim that he should not be required to submit a W-9 form.

County attorney will stay out of fight

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners are weighing their options now that Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen has declined 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.
Guldbarndsen cited a conflict of interest in representing one part of the county, the commission, against another, the county convention, in declining the request.
''I can understand why,'' said outgoing County Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont), who recalled that Guldbrandsen had been reluctant to represent the convention earlier this year when it asked for her to seek a court ruling on budget powers which were an issue between the commissioners and convention.
He said that he and other members of the commission are talking about which course to follow now that the convention's Executive Committee has rejected a request to transfer $28,000 from one budget line to another so that the county can pay the $24,000 it faces in unpaid legal bills.
''They are disallowing us from defending ourselves but I don't think they have that power,'' said Thomas, who said that the actions ''have definitely hurt the county.''
''We have 4 or five (legal) cases that have nothing to do with any dispute between the convention and the commission,'' said Thomas, who said he is hoping that the commissioners will be able to formulate a plan for getting a court hearing when they meet Monday at 5:30 to review the budget presentation they will be making at a 7 p.m. meeting of the county convention, which will hold a public hearing on the proposed county budget after it meets to elect new officers.
Commissioners said when they met Wednesday that the result of the committee's action is that the commission can no longer manage the business of the county and that violates the terms of a temporary injunction obtained by the county convention which prohibits the transfer of more than $300 between accounts without approval of the committee.
They maintain that the denial of the requested transfer violated the "good faith" part of the judge's ruling which anticipated the committee would show good faith in approving the transfers.
Incoming county commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) said that it is ironic that the current commissioners have asked the county attorney to represent them after having denied the convention's request earlier this year to have her represent the convention when it sought a clarification in Belknap County Superior Court on the line item budget authority issue.