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.''

City's busy brush dump will remain open through Saturday

LACONIA — The city brush dump on Hilliard Road at the Weirs, which was empty before the storm on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, was filled yesterday with the limbs and branches felled by the heavy, wet snow and by noon was aflame.

John Neal, general foreman at the Department of Public Works (DPW), said that the brush dump will remain open to residents on both Friday and Saturday this week, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. The dump closed for the winter in early November but reopening for a few days to help people deal with storm damage. Neal said the added Saturday hours would provide those unable to take time away from work on weekdays an opportunity to dispose debris from the storm.

At the dump yesterday, DPW worker Tony Linkkila, who had not been home since the day before, said that empty space has filled up quickly. Within the circular road around the dump, he said that the pile of fallen limbs had grown large enough to require burning and was ringed by more brush to be consigned to the flames. "Usually we don't burn until after Christmas when we've picked up the trees," he said.

Apart from residents bringing debris to the dump, Neal said that three crews have been working since Friday to clean up after the storm. "Everybody has been hard at it," he remarked, confessing that he had lost track of what day of the week it was.

At midday Mike Kelly set the pile alight. He doused a patch of pine and pallets with diesel fuel and with a wand called a "rosebud" attached to a propane tank lit the fire. Linkkila said that it had been raining on the brush since 1 a.m. and was not surprised the fire was slow to spread. Neal expected the fire to burn around the clock through the week.

This week the DPW has waived all restrictions on size and will accept all limbs and branches regardless of their length and diameter.

To reach the brush dump turn go to the roundabout at the Weirs, turn north on Endicott Street (Rte. 3), and past the Meredith Bridge Condominiums turn left on to Hillard Road. The dump is one mile down the road on the right.

Increase in stipends paid to coaches & advisers will be only special article on Gilford school warrant in 2015

GILFORD — The School Board unanimously voted Monday night to move $11,545 for increases in stipends to athletic coaches and after-school advisers from the operating budget to a separate warrant article.

The stipend increases were included for the proposed 2015-2016 budget because they are called for in the union contract negotiated and approved by voters earlier this year. But they were not a cost item in the 2014-2015 budget because negotiators agreed the increases would not take effect until the second year of a three-year contract.

Superintendent Kent Hemingway said that because the stipend increases of $11,545 have an impact on the new budget, they must be presented as a separate warrant article.

For the current school year, Hemingway said the stipends paid are the same as the year before. Should the warrant article pass, the stipends will not go up again in 2016-2017, which is the last year of the current contract with the Gilford Education Association.

The warrant article for the stipend increases is the only warrant article Gilford voters will act on this year. Because of upward financial pressure from health insurance costs and mandatory employer contributions to the N.H. State Retirement System, the district administrators and School Board members decided not to include any major capital projects in the proposed budget.

The proposed budget of $25,430,087 now moves on to the Gilford Budget Committee for consideration

The School Board approved a default budget last night of $25,394,241. Should the voters reject the budget put forward by the Budget Committee, the default budget will become law under the rules put forward by SB-2, the Official Budget Act.

In other School Board action, the board approved a fund-raising letter that was drafted by the Meadow Athletic/Academic Complex fundraising team.

The letter will be sent to businesses in the towns of Gilford and Belmont, which joined forces with Gilford Football for the first time this year, in the hopes of carrying on the Carye Foundation's goals for the land.

With Phase I, which includes an all-purpose and professionally designed playing field for the northwest corner of the land, the 2016 goal is to raise money for concession stands, restrooms and other amenities.

The School Board noted that any gifts or in-kind donations are tax free.

Garden club's Greens & Gilfts Boutique & Homes for the Holidays tour are this weekend

LACONIA — Members of the Opechee Garden Club gathered at the Weirs Community Center Tuesday morning for a greens workshop where they put together dozens of holiday wreaths, arrangements and swag which will be available for sale at the Greens & Gifts Boutique which will be held Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Belknap Mill.
The arrangements will also be used to help decorate the featured homes in the "Homes for the Holidays" House Tour which is being revived by the club this year and will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. This self guided tour features five beautifully decorated homes in Laconia and Gilford.
The historic 1823 Belknap Mill is headquarters for the event. Tickets at $20 may be purchased in advance at the mill, Laconia and Gilford libraries and Kitchen Cravings restaurant or the day of the tour at the mill itself.
Visitors to the mill will be tempted with a lovely variety of wreaths, swags, arrangements and handcrafted items for sale, and a raffle table of specialty items. Complimentary refreshments of mulled cider, coffee and home made goodies will be served.
Carolyn Temmallo, chairman of the event, says "the tour promises to delight and enlighten you with a true holiday spirit. Each of the houses boasts of creative ideas and beautifully crafted handmade decorations reflective of the home's era".
In Laconia, a gracious Greek revival style brick home with slate roof, built in 1911 was renovated in the early 2000's respecting the integrity of the original design. Chandeliers, stained glass windows, an ornately decorated tree along and fresh greens are only a few of the delights guests will experience touring this beautiful home.
The second Laconia home, an elegant and beautifully restored Victorian farmhouse, built in the 1800s will delight guests with a 10-foot tree decorated with cascading ribbons, candle lights, ornaments and tussie mussies.
The home is owned by Jim and Linda Belcher, who were recently presented with a Front Porch Award by the City of Laconia for the improvements made to the home. Linda was among those working with club members to put together Christmas wreaths and decorations and said that she was excited about the prospect of having so many visitors in her new home.
Before leaving Laconia, guests will tour a lovely contemporary home on Lake Opechee, designed by the owners, affords expansive views of the lake. Fieldstone fireplaces, etched glass doors, and many unusual striking decorations skillfully made by the owner will be enjoyed by all who visit.
Traveling to the historic Gilford Village, guests will be greeted with a red sleigh filled with holiday dreams and antique sleds at the oldest home on the tour. This charming farmhouse was originally built in 1832, and renovated in 1972 as a traditional European colonial home. Also located in the village, this 1847 dwelling, one of the original homes built in the village, which was expanded in 2013. This magnificently restored, holiday decorated farmhouse, with hand-hewn beams and country décor invokes images of a true 1800's Christmas
Judy Robertson, co-president of the club says "This is such an important event for our club. It provides the funds needed to support our scholarships, grants and community betterment projects throughout the year. Our talented members love creating the many greens arrangements, hand crafted items and decorations seen in the houses and the boutique. I know this year's tour will once again delight our guests."
Co-President Doreen Worthley added " We are so fortunate to have the support of the businesses and our neighbors in the community. Bank of New Hampshire is again our financial sponsor for this major event and we thank them for their continued support."


Taking part in an Opechee Garden Club Greens Workshop at the Weirs Community Center were club members Linda Belcher, Marilyn Lynch and Lynne DeVivo. Dozens of wreaths, swags and other holiday arrangements were made and will be available for sale at the Greens & Gifts Boutique which will be held Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Belknap Mill in Laconia. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)