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Divergent views of whether or not county needs to formally appropriate grant money

LACONIA — When the Belknap County Convention met last evening, Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) called for developing a policy to vest the convention with greater oversight over grants.

The issue arose over a $297,300 grant awarded to the Belknap County Sheriff's Department last year by the United States Department of Homeland Security to replace its communications system. Much of the grant has already been expended. Last week, when the convention considered the budget of the Sheriff's Department, Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of the Executive Committee of the convention, openly wondered how the funds could be expended without the convention authorizing an appropriation.

Last night, Curt Magee of Sanbornton reminded the convention of a statute (RSA 24:21-a) that provides that "all moneys to be appropriated by the county must be stipulated in the budget on a 'gross' basis, showing revenues from all sources, including grants, gifts, bequests and bond issues, as offsetting revenues to appropriations affected."

That prompted Worsman's initiative. She said that the grant policy could be "whatever we decide" and in addition to appropriating funds received in the form of grants proposed requiring that county officials seek the approval of the  convention to apply for grants.

County Administrator Debra Shackett explained that the county has a policy governing grants, which was developed in consultation with the independent auditors and all grant applications are posted on the county website.

"That is different from the convention's grant policy," Worsman replied. She described the grant received by the Sheriff's Department as "off-budget" and stressed that "it is very important from my perspective that nothing should be off-budget."

Shackett said that the only means of incorporating grants into the county budget would be to authorize a supplemental appropriation, which she claimed has never been done in the past and is not the practice in other counties.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 February 2014 02:44

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Belmont man collecting funds for brother burned from home

BELMONT — A local man is helping his brother's family recover from a fire that destroyed their Hudson home and nearly all their belongings on Friday.

Matt Greenwood said his brother Paul, his two children, fiancee and mother were displaced from their home that burned when the family dog inadvertently turned on one of the burners on the stove top. Paul, Jr., seven years old, alerted his napping grandmother to the fire and is credited with saving her life.

Matt lives in Belmont and said Paul spent much of his youth at a family home in Gilmanton. Matt has placed collection buckets at several local businesses and said the "Greenwood Fire Relief Fund" has been established at TD Bank North. He asked for members of the public to lend his brother a hand in recovering. "They completely lost everything," he said.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 February 2014 02:40

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House panel rejects bills aimed at county budget authority

CONCORD — The House Municipal and County Government Committee yesterday voted unanimously to recommend two bills intended to clarify the budget process in Belknap County "inexpedient to legislate."

The committee found the bills unnecessary. One member said that the county convention was seeking more control over the county budget than was appropriate while another suggested that if members of the convention wanted to manage the budget so closely they should run for the county commission.

House Bill 1373, sponsored by Representative Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the Belknap County Convention, would affirm the authority of the convention to itemize appropriations "in detail, including specific lines within each department," and require the commissioners to seek the approval of the executive committee to transfer funds in any amount either between specific lines within a single department or from one department to another. Her bill would further provide that the convention may take the commissioners to court to enforce the law and if they are found in violation, remove them from office.

Likewise, House Bill 1120, sponsored by Representative Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), would provide the county convention with line-item authority over the budget and require the approval of the executive committee for any and all transfers of funds from one line to another without providing any enforcement mechanism.

The Belknap County commissioners testified against both bills at a hearing last week.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 February 2014 02:36

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Laconia school superintendent tracks progress of $2.15M behavioral health grant

LACONIA — Superintendent of Schools Terri Forsten updated the Laconia School Board last night on progress on a federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) grant that will bring $2.15 million to the city over the next four years for a variety of programs designed to promote positive behavior, decrease drug abuse and cope with school bullying.
Forsten said that the governor and Executive Council will be taking up the grant request for the School District's program later this month and that planning is already ongoing on how the grant will be used in the city.
She said the School District is looking for a project manager to oversee the program and hopes to have one in place by the time a national conference on the program on March 4-5.
The grants are designed to support state and community partnerships to create safe and supportive schools and communities by building partnerships among educational, behavioral health, and criminal/juvenile justice systems.
The Safe Schools/Healthy Students State Program develops and implements evidence-based programs, effective policies, and innovative strategies that address youth violence and promote the wellness of children, youth, and families. The grants will support work to increase the number of children and youth who have access to behavioral health services; decrease the number of students who abuse substances; increase supports for early childhood development; improve school climates; and reduce the number of students who are exposed to violence.
She said that the state received an $ 8.6 million grant last fall which is being administered by state Department of Health and Human Services and is being split by three school districts, Laconia, Concord and Rochester with 75 percent of the money going to the three school districts.
Forsten said that a needs assessment will be conducted and a comprehensive plan will be developed which will hopefully be in place before September when it will be implemented in connection with a number of community partners, including the school district, mental health agencies, police and the justice system.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 February 2014 02:29

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