Tom Tardif loses lawsuits against Belknap County Convention, may have to pay court cost

ntyBy MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A Superior Court justice has flatly denied claims by Tom Tardif that the Belknap County Convention violated the Right to Know law as well as statutes prescribing the scheduling and noticing of its meetings. At the same time, Justice Amy Ignatius of Carroll County Superior Court ordered a subsequent hearing on the county's request that Tardif pay its attorney's fees.

Three meetings of the county convention were posted for the 4th, 6th and 8th of April, 2016. But, when the convention convened on April 4 and 6, both meetings were recessed and continued for lack of a quorum. When the convention met on April 8, a quorum was present and action was taken on three items.

Tardif claimed that since the meetings on April 4 and 6 were not held, the convention could not have recessed them and was required to post new notices of the meetings on April 6 and 8. Since the convention failed to properly post the meeting on April 8, Tardif alleged, the actions it took were invalid. He asked the court to enjoin the convention from recessing and continuing meetings at which there is no quorum and to invalidate the actions taken when the convention met on April 8.

In rejecting Tardif's allegations, Ignatius noted that the notice of the meeting on April 4 included notice of the two subsequent meetings. Consequently, the public was informed of the date, time and venue of all three meetings. Nor, she continued, did the convention act improperly in recessing the two meetings that lacked a quorum, for there is nothing in law that prohibits it from doing so.

"The notice," Ignatius wrote, "strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of the public to have transparency and access to the workings of government and the needs of the public body to perform in a timely and efficient way. To read the statutes to require new notice for the second and third scheduled meetings of the convention, notice which had been previously given, "she continued, "would result in delay without any greater transparency to the public or access to documents."

Noting that Tardif attended the meeting on April 8 when the convention took action, Ignatius found "there was no attempt to conduct business outside the presence of the petitioner or the public at large or to conduct business at a place or time that the public could not easily locate." She ruled there was no reason to invalidate the actions taken at the meeting.

Meanwhile, earlier this month Tardif brought suit against the Belknap County Commission and Convention charging they violated a number of state statutes, including the Right to Know law, in the course of ratifying and funding the collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the State Employees Association on behalf of employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home. Although filed in Belknap County Superior Court, this litigation will also likely be heard in Carroll County Superior Court, which has ruled on the other suits Tardif has recently brought against the county and city of Laconia.

'Granite Dome' will host indoor field sports in Tilton

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

TILTON — Work is underway on the Granite Dome, an indoor field sport facility and adjoining clubhouse built on a 10.7-acre lot on Bittern Lane near Exit 20 on I-93, which will be open to competitive and recreational leagues and athletes of ages and levels throughout the Lakes Region.

The project is being undertaken by Paula Hiuser, a well known businesswoman in the region whose experience includes owning and operating Lakes Region Volkswagen and Audi in Gilford and serving as vice president and commercial sales manager of TD Bank.

The facility will be housed in an air-supported field house with 42,000 square feet of unobstructed space with convertible dasher boards, skylights and LED lighting, which can be maintained at a comfortable temperature in all seasons. The structure consists of a fire-resistant outer membrane of high-tensile acrylic and vinyl-coated polyester welded to a thermal/acoustical membrane with insulation between the two. The dome will be heated with an indirect fired gas furnace. The dome is manufactured by Yeadon Fabric Domes LLC of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has erected 600 domes around the world in all climates.

In addition, there will be a 32,000-square-foot clubhouse with lockers, restrooms, and utility space as well as a 700 square foot studio, pro shop and small cafe. There are parking spaces for 243 vehicles.

Using the portable dasher boards the field can be divided into three playing surfaces, each 120 feet by 80 feet, for regular play. They can be reconfigured to a 200-foot-by-65-foot field, with space beyond the boundary, for tournament play. The field can host soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, flag football, rugby, Ultimate Frisbee, fly ball and canine agility competition, an indoor driving range, volleyball and fitness training.

Granite Dome LLC will operate the facility, with Hiuser responsible for overall operations, financial management, sales and strategic partnership. William Bald, vice president of Melcher and Prescott Insurance, will manage talent acquisition, human resources and risk management. Mike Gagnon of JG Realty, who has close ties to the soccer community, will direct the marketing program.

Editor's note: In the above story, The Laconia Daily Sun would like to make clear that the only work underway consists of dredging and filling 26,000 square feet of wetland in compliance with a permit issued by the New Hampshire Department of Environment Services. William Bald, a partner in the project, said that although the project has been approved by the Tilton Planning Board, other permits must be obtained and other conditions fulfilled before construction of the proposed facility.

01-17 Milford dome

The Granite Dome is being built in Tilton near Exit 20 of I-93. A similar domed field exists in Milford. (Courtesy photo)

01-17 Milford dome interior

This is the interior of the Milford domed field. The Tilton facility is expected to offer live streaming, catering, a pro shop, a club house and more. (Courtesy photo)

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Time’s up - Senator presses to resolve issue of State School property sale

CONCORD — The Senate Finance Committee has unanimously endorsed a bill introduced by state Sen. Chuck Morse (R-Salem), president of the Senate, to convene a committee to frame a recommendation for proceeding with the sale of former Laconia State School property on North Main Street before the end of the current legislative session.

"It's time to end this," Morse said after the committee met on Tuesday. "The bill is meant to have a solution to present to the governor and get this done."

Morse, who first proposed selling the property in 2010, has grown increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress, particularly as the state is spending some $400,000 a year to maintain and police the property. On Tuesday, he told the Finance Committee that he met with then governor-elect Chris Sununu in December and they agreed "It needs to be dealt with this session."

The bill — Senate Bill 36 — establishes a committee consisting of the chairmen of the Senate and House finance committees, both Republicans, a Democratic member of the House Finance Committee, and a representative and senator from the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee. The committee is charged with reporting its findings and recommending legislation on or before April 1, 2017. Morse said he expects his bill to carry the Senate shortly then be referred to the House, where he anticipates it could encounter some resistance.

In fact, state Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett), who chairs the House Public Works and Highways Committee and has opposed selling the property from the outset, has proposed referring the matter to the Long-Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, which would determine whether, as the statute reads, "the property is no longer needed by the state" and commission an appraisal of its value.

"Not another year of meetings," Morse said in response to Chandler's initiative. "We're not going to let that property sit for another ten years with nothing happening. I want to make sure it gets develops and benefits Laconia. I will make sure I use my power to get this done."

Meanwhile, in accord with a directive in the 2016-2017 state budget to sell the property, the Department of Administrative Services has also made a recommendation to market the property in its present condition. Although the entire property stretches over about 245 acres, only the main campus straddling Right Way Path of some 200 acres would be offered for sale. The buildings and land are beset with environmental issues and numerous encumbrances and the so-called "designated receiving facility' housing sex offenders found incompetent to stand trial remains on the site, all of which diminish its value and appeal to prospective purchasers. The property was appraised for $2.16 million in 2012, but its actual value remains in question.

The city was not represented when the Senate Finance Committee met, prompting Morse to remark "because they've had enough of us." In the past the city has expressed interest in acquiring the property and in 2012 offered to purchase it for its appraised value, but the state declined the offer. If a private party makes an offer to purchase the property, Laconia, as the host municipality, would be given, under state law, an opportunity to match that offer.

Mayor Ed Engler said that at this point there is nothing for the city to do but let the state pursue whatever course it chooses to a conclusion and if an offer is made to purchase the property, then decide whether or not to match it.

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