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Commission says lawmakers won't give jail plan a fair hearing

LACONIA — Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), chairman of the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee, told his fellow commissioners when they met yesterday at the Belknap County Complex that he thinks any attempt to bring a request for a supplemental appropriation for a $2.96 million bond issue for three major priorities at the county jail before the current Belknap County Convention would be an exercise in futility.
''After Monday night's meeting (at which the Convention rejected a proposed collective bargaining agreement for employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home by a 9-7 vote) I can see no indication they're prepared for a rational discussion of this issue'' said Philpot, who indicated that the commissioners would have to wait until after this fall's election and it has a new convention to deal with.
The committee wants $360,000 so that it can begin work on a schematic design plan for a new jail, $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail and $1.6 million for a three-year contract for installation of a 48-bed temporary housing unit at the jail.
''It's sad. We're kicking the can down the road much too far, but I don't know what else we can do. We have a convention that does not speak to us and won't have a conversation with people who have been working on this for five years to come up with a solution. Their minds are made up and they are going to say no to anything we ask for,'' said Philpot.
The decision by the jail committee to support a supplemental appropriation came at it's April 15 meeting after a discussion of priorities during which Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward said that all three elements are all badly needed.
He said at that meeting that the schematic design ''keeps us moving'' on the process of designing a new facility while the HVAC system is needed to improve air quality for both inmates and staff in the three or more years it will take before a new facility can be built. He said the temporary housing will enable the county to keep inmates in the county, where they can continue to receive needed services, while at the same time providing additional program space during the construction period.
The committee has been looking at ways to bring the cost of a new facility to below $30 million for a proposed 94,000-square-foot, 180-bed community corrections facility, which carried a conceptual design estimate cost of $42.6 million.
Fellow commissioners Steven Nedeau (R-Meredith) and John Thomas (R-Belmont) said they were equally reluctant to pursue any request to the convention for a supplemental appropriation as they see no likelihood that it will get a fair hearing.
Nedeau said it was evident from the way the convention majority handled the request for a $336,170 supplemental appropriation for a contract the commissioners had supported for nursing home employees what the outcome was going to be. ''That's not going to change. It's sad to stop what we've been working on for so long.''
Thomas said that from his perspective the contract vote on Monday night shows how little the county convention majority values county workers. ''The delegation doesn't understand anything about employees,'' adding that the recent formation of a fourth union of county workers shows people who work for the county feel ''they need to protect themselves.''
Norm O'Neill, who earlier this month announced that he was stepping down from his $94,000 a year job as Belknap County Human Resources Director, suggested that as a citizen watching the dynamics of the whole process that it might be a good idea to bring in someone from the outside to facilitate a discussion between commissioners, the jail planning committee and the county convention on the jail issue.
Philpot said that the idea was a good one and that he would be amenable to changing his mind if such a process could be started and their was a willingness by both sides for a meaningful discussion.
Ken Brace, a member of the Jail Planning Committee, said that he hoped the process could continue and that the committee could get out the information it needs to convince people of the need for a new jail built along the lines recommended by the committee.
Brace said that the committee should not go the convention's May 27 meeting with a proposal unless it was invited by the convention.
He also said that it was his gut feeling that the convention would say no to any contract which the commissioners presented to them until they got their way on increasing employee contributions on health insurance, one of the major issues raised by the county convention majority when it rejected the proposed contract Monday night.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 May 2014 02:52

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Gilmanton has to redo fire truck vote

GILMANTON — Because of an error in the ordering of the 2014 warrant articles at March's SB-2 vote, voters will have to return to the polls to vote again on the five-year lease/purchase of a $469,000 fire truck.

Town Administrator Arthur Capello said yesterday the article needs to be voted on again because it is a capital expenditure that requires long-term borrowing and should have been the first article after the zoning articles on the ballot. What should have been article number 7 ended up as article number 18.

The truck will be paid by removing $190,000 from a fire truck capital reserve account with lease payments of $60,848 annually beginning in 2015. He said the payments beginning in 2015 will become part of the operating budget.

At the March 11 election, voters supported the fire truck lease purchase by a vote of 563 for to 325 against — meeting the 2/3 majority vote necessary for the article to pass.

Capello said there will be a public hearing on the article on May 6 at 7:30 p.m. The deliberative session will be May 13 in the Academy Building at 6 p.m. and the vote will be June 10 — also a the Academy Building.

A 2/3 majority vote will still be needed for passage.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 12:33

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Hosmer loves being senator; will run for re-election

LACONIA — "I really love being a state senator from Laconia," Andrew Hosmer told a gathering of near 20 constituents at the Taylor Community last night. "I really do."

He said that he will seek re-election in November.

Hosmer, a Democrat, said that he scheduled the event to "find out what's on your minds and answer any questions you have," but began by reminding his listeners of some of the major achievements of the Legislature during his first term. In particular, he mentioned the biennial budget, which carried the Senate by a unanimous bipartisan vote of 24 to 0, and the plan to use Medicaid funds to expand access to health care to a needy population, a compromise reached only after prolonged negotiations between the two parties. Likewise, he noted that after refusing to raise the gas tax last year, a bipartisan majority of the Senate adopted an increase of 4.2 cents, which passed the House of Representatives last week.

Questioned about the high cost of energy, Hosmer explained that as nuclear and coal-fired power plants are retired, the price of alternatives, especially natural gas, tends to rise. Stressing the importance of a diversified energy portfolio, he turned to wind farms and Northern Pass, the transmission line proposed to carry hydro-electric power from Canada, both of which are very controversial.

Hosmer said that while wind farms have aroused opposition in communities around Newfound Lake, residents of Lempster appear at relative ease with the facility operating in their town. He agreed that municipalities should have a greater measure of control over the siting wind farms.

Turning to Northern Pass, he said that "we must find a way to bury as much of the line as possible," acknowledging that the terrain, much of its underlain by granite, posed a challenge. Since Hosmer's district includes Franklin, where the construction and operation of the DC to AC converter terminal would boost employment, he takes the most favorable view of the project of the senators representing the northern reaches of the state. He also noted that he opposed a bill establishing a moratorium on energy project pending reform of the siting process.

Saying that he he found the rift between the Belknap County Convention and Belknap County Commission "rather frustrating from the outside looking in," Hosmer referred the question to Representative Bob Luther (R-Laconia), who was in the audience. Luther described the situation as "kids angry with each other," adding "and I'm trying to be nice."

Hosmer said that he supported the employees of the nursing home whose contract, which included a 1.6 percent pay raise, was rejected by the convention this week. "I fear we're making short-term decisions that we'll pay a lot for farther along," he said.

When one man suggested instead of increasing spending scarce resources to address mental health and substance abuse the state should invest in children and teachers, Hosmer became impassioned. "He said that to suggest that "somehow those with mental illness are lesser and don't deserve help, I find offensive. I won't write them off or write off others." The man apologized for the tenor of his remark, explaining he did not wish to suggest that anyone was undeserving, but instead to say that he thought important priorities were overlooked.

"Wouldn't it be a much better Legislature," a woman asked, "if we didn't have 400 people who have nothing better to do than drive to Concord?" Hosmer said that he was very proud of the Senate, emphasizing that despite their differences "Republicans and Democrats can talk. We may have passionate debates, but we can make things work."

Luther said that "the House is the most responsive form of government you can have," conceding that "it may be like herding cats, but it's very effective."

Hosmer said that the recent downgrade of the state's bond rating underlined the fiscal challenges posed by a court decision that found the tax on hospitals, which is projected to return $200 million a year, unconstitutional, the need to fund a settlement of litigation with mental health providers. He said that the Senator Chuck Morse (R-Salem), president of the Senate, acknowledged that "the issues are daunting and there are only so many options available."

"Stay tuned," Hosmer remarked.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 01:35

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Laconia baseball team improves to 2-1 with 13-3 win over Prospect Mtn.

LACONIA — The Laconia High School boys varsity baseball team defeated Prospect Mountain (Alton) on Tuesday afternoon by a score of 13-3. 

The win improved the Sachems record to 2-1. The team's first loss of the season occurred at home on Monday afternoon against Gilford, when the Golden Eagles left with a 4-0 victory.

Although the team is experiencing a rebuilding year, Sachem coaches and players believe that the team has the potential to make it far NHIAA Division III play again this season. Junior, Matt LeBlanc stated, "We are strong team with a lineup that 1 through 9 can hit the ball, and perform well out on the field. We have things to improve upon to make the team better, but overall our performance at practice and generally in games, is indicating that we should be a strong playoff team again this year." 

The Sachems next game is against Belmont on Friday, May 2 at 4 p.m. at Robbie Mills Field.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 01:27

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