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Ashland tax commitment drops 1.5%

ASHLAND — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has set the 2013 property tax rate at $25.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, $3.14, or 14.3 percent, more than the 2012 rate.

The amount to be raised by property taxes decreased by $89,158, or 1.5 percent, from $5765,615 to $5676,457, while the assessed valuation shrank by $36,647,116, or 13.8-percent, from $264,315,381 to $227,668,265.

The town tax rose from $8.60 to $9.15, the local school tax from $9.68 to $11.78, the state education tax from $2.27 to $2.52 and the county tax from $1.43 to $1.67.

Town administrator Paul Branscombe said that the increased property tax rate reflected the adjustment of property values to more closely match market prices, which significantly reduced the assessed valuation of the town. He pointed out that there was no significant increase in municipal expenditures.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 December 2013 01:58

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$1.4 million for road work tops Laconia CIP list for 2014-2015; fire station #9

LACONIA — The Planning Board this week endorsed the recommendations of the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee for capital outlays in the 2014-2015 municipal budget, which will be referred to City Manager Scott Myers for his consideration.

Each year the CIP Committee reviews the requests for capital expenditures presented by each of the city departments then, after scoring each request, ranks the proposed projects in order of priority. The recommendations provide guidance to the city manager in preparing the budget presented to the City Council in March.

Although ranked ninth by the CIP Committee, the City Council has indicated that the renovation and expansion of the Central Fire Station will be among its top priorities in the coming year. The project is estimated to cost $4.1-million, which would be funded by the sale of general obligation bonds. City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that the debt service on the borrowing could be financed while keeping total principal and interest payments within the annual limit of $3.2 million set to comply with the tax cap.

A traffic signal at the junction of Court Street and Fair Street, where the construction of the Advanced Auto Parts store created an opportunity to reconfigure a dangerous intersection, at a cost of $25,000 ranked 12th among the committee's priorities.

Again this year, street repairs was the highest priority for the CIP Committee, for which it recommended appropriating $1.4 million, $100,000 more than was budgeted this year. The committee recommended increasing funds for drainage improvements throughout the city by $20,000, to $100,000 next year. Four water projects, including upgrading hydrants, costing $285,000 were among the committee's top ten priorities along with $50,000 for upgrading sewer mains.

The list includes $50,000 for sidewalk repair and construction and an equal amount for replacing fencing and guardrails. The committee recommends spending $170,000 to replace vehicles at the Department of Public Works and $70,000 for two cruisers for the Police Department.

In 2013-2014, $1,874,436 was appropriated for capital outlays and another $850,000 was borrowed to construct the Weirs Community Park and replace the Smith Track at Opechee Park.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 December 2013 01:48

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Mark Sisti to defend Amy Lafond

LACONIA — Amy Lafond, the woman who struck two teenage girls on Messer Street on April 19, killing Lilyanna Johnson and severely injuring Allyssa Miner, while driving her Jeep Cherokee, has retained Mark Sisti, a prominent criminal attorney from Gilmanton, to defend her against charges of manslaughter, negligent homicide, assault and wrongful possession of a prescription medication.

Sisti will replace John Bresaw and Justin Littlefield of the New Hampshire Public Defenders Office. Justice James D. O'Neill, III postponed a disposition hearing scheduled for December 13, at which the case would be put on track to either enter a plea bargain or go to trial. Currently the case is scheduled for trial early next year, with a final pre-trial conference on January 13 and selection of a jury on February 3.

Lafond pled not guilty to the charges when she was arraigned on September 25 and was subsequently indicted by a Belknap County Grand Jury on October 3. Since her arraignment she has been held in lieu of bail of $50,000 cash or $100,000 corporate surety.

In charging manslaughter, a class A felony, the state alleges that LaFond recklessly caused the death of Lilyanna Johnson by driving while distracted at an excessive speed after consuming drugs. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison. Alternatively, she was indicted on two alternative theories of negligent homicide, both class B felonies, one for "failing to maintain a proper lookout" and the other for "failing to pay due attention while operating a motor vehicle after having consumed drugs." As class B felonies the negligent homicide charges carry maximum sentences of three-and-a-half seven years in prison.

Johnson and Miner were struck while on the sidewalk at the crosswalk at the south end of the Messer Street Bridge at approximately 2:30 p.m. Lafond was traveling northbound on Messer Street toward its intersection with Opechee Street. A car going in the same direction had stopped at the crosswalk, apparently to enable a number of middle school students standing at the corner to cross the street. Lafond is alleged to have skirted the stopped car, crossed into the southbound lane of Messer Street and mounted the raised sidewalk, hitting the two girls.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 December 2013 01:43

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Downtown projects on agenda for special CIty Council meeting on Monday

LACONIA — The City Council will hold a special meeting on Monday evening, beginning at 6 p.m. in the council chamber, when it will once again consider authorizing a borrowing to undertake a series of projects recommended by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District Advisory Board. The improvements would to be funded by borrowing $1,350,000.

In August, the council approved spending $275,000 to improve the gateway to downtown at the Main Street Bridge, in order to ensure that the improvements were incorporated into the design for the reconstruction of the bridge. In addition to the so-called Gateway Plaza, the board recommended investing $400,000 to extend the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street, $25,000 to add signage and kiosks to the riverwalk and WOW Trail, $181,000 to connect the Main Street Bridge to the riverwalk at the Landmark Inn, $121,800 to extend the riverwalk through the Walgreen's property, $200,000 to create a pocket park where Water Street joins Pleasant Street and $300,000 to carry the riverwalk from behind the old police station up to the Church Street bridge. Altogether the estimated cost of the projects totaled $1,550,000.

However, the council withheld its approval of the remaining projects, choosing instead to refer the recommendations to its Finance and Public Works committees. After further review the pocket park at at the junction of Water Street and Pleasant Street was struck from the list while the remaining projects were returned to the council for its approval. Meanwhile, in October the council approved spending $35,000 to extend a ten-inch water main from Main Street to Veteran's Square to service the former Evangelical Baptist Church, which is being converted to restaurant. The net effect of shelving the pocket park and adding the water main was to reduce the amount of the borrowing to $1,337,800.

The projects would be funded by borrowing $1,350,000 against the annual revenue to the TIF account at an estimated interest rate of 4 percent over 20 years. The TIF account has a current balance of $311,353 and projected revenue of $173,687 in 2014 and an additional amount each year thereafter for a total of $4,250,212 during the next 20 years. When the debt is retired, assuming no further borrowing, the TIF fund would be left with a balance of $2,811,654. City Manager Scott Myers has assured the council that the revenue accruing to the TIF fund is sufficient to service the proposed debt and, within a reasonable time, support another borrowing.
The Main Street Initiative, together with representatives of the Belknap Ecomnomic Development Council and WOW Trail, are expected to offer their opinions on the proposed projects before the council itself begins deliberation.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 December 2013 01:40

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