Temperatures leap, roads shed frost

04 11 weather crocuses

Crocuses bloom in a yard in Laconia Monday as temperatures crest into the mid-70s. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — Temperatures leaped 30 degrees in three days, as highs crept into the 70s in Laconia Monday, the National Weather Service reported.
On Saturday, the high only reached 42 degrees in Laconia, the National Weather Service reported. On Sunday, the high was 62 degrees. On Monday, temperatures hit the mid-70s.
Southern New Hampshire basked in even warmer springlike temperatures.
In Concord, the temperature hit 80 degrees at 2 p.m. Monday, the National Weather Service reported.
Across Belknap County, towns prepared to lift spring road weight-limit restrictions.
Jim Goodwin, with the Gilmanton Public Works Department, said, "We're shooting for hopefully next week. We should be all set by next week."
The sudden onset of warm temperatures means a bit of mud emerging in place of the freeze-and-thaw cycle.
"Most of the frost is out," Goodwin said Monday.
In Belmont, the tentative plan is to notify the public on Friday, lifting a 6-ton weight limit imposed during the spring thaw.

Some back roads, such as The Ledges, may take a month longer.
"The roads are looking pretty decent so far. With all the snow we had, it seems like a slow melt time," said Claude Patten, foreman at the public works department.
"Last year, the Ledges, we had to block it off because it turned to mud," he said.
"This year, it's a lot more gradual. The roads are a little damp but not really muddy, which helps us out a lot in terms of maintaining them," Patten said.

County: Hire corrections workers now, worry later about paying


LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have adopted a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" approach to opening the county's new community corrections center.
Commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to proceed with hiring the two additional corrections officers Belknap County Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray says he will need to operate the facility, despite cuts to the department's budget recently adopted by the Belknap County Delegation.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) voted to proceed with plans to open the center and to seek a supplemental appropriation from the delegation in the near future. Commissioner Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton), who said he also supports seeking a supplemental appropriation, urged his fellow commissioners to first have department heads provide a list of spending priorities with the funds made available by the delegation to show where they are short and to build a case for the supplemental appropriation.
DeVoy and Taylor said they fear that failure to move ahead now would place the county's attempt to secure $216,000 in grants for program staff at the community corrections center in jeopardy.
"We will have missed an opportunity to receive grant money," said DeVoy, who maintained that the $216,000 would be available for the next three years and would allow the county to provide the kind of programs needed to allow the community corrections center to help inmates re-enter the community.

"You can't put people in a soft building without programs," said DeVoy.
He maintained that the delegation's budget contains bottom line numbers for each department and that commissioners can use their authority to transfer funds within departments without approval from the county delegation's executive committee.
DeVoy said his calculations show that the Department of Corrections will run out of money on Dec. 12 unless there is a supplemental appropriation.
"We're going to do what we think we need to do and is the right thing for the county. We're going to do the right thing right to the end," said DeVoy. "We decide who to hire and we're going ahead with that."
"It's a roll of the dice," said Taylor, who pointed out that a supplemental appropriation request will require that the county delegation hold a public hearing on the request.
"We have to make it clear that the budget approved by the delegation is not our idea. It will make legislators see if people in the county agree with them," said Taylor.
Commissioners attempted to get the delegation to reconsider the budget at a meeting which it had scheduled for March 28, but which was attended by only six legislators, none of whom had voted to support the budget which was approved by the delegation by a 9-6 vote last month.
Taylor said the budget adopted by the delegation appeared to have only one goal – to limit the amount raised by taxes to no more than it was last year, and was not designed to provide sufficient funding to open the community corrections facility or for the sheriff's department to fulfill its responsibilities.
He and DeVoy agreed to cut the lines in each department's budget by the same percentage that the delegation had approved for funding the total department budget. Waring said he didn't think that was a responsible way to handle the budget and urged a more methodical approach to building the case for a supplemental appropriation.
Last month the delegation voted to cut the proposed $28 million county budget by over a half-million dollars and to maintain the amount to be raised from county taxpayers at same level as last year, $12,963,440.
The action came on a motion offered by Rep. Marc Abear (R-Meredith) to cut $545,804 from the budget, reducing it to $27,487,463.
Abear's budget cut $126,736 from the Sheriff's Department, eliminating overtime, one deputy and one dispatcher, and cut $44,562 from the Belknap County Nursing Home for an activities position.
It also cut $40,000 from the dietary department at the Belknap County House of Corrections and incorporated a $53,344 cut already made by the delegation for the hiring of two Department of Corrections officers.
On the revenue side it included $290,100 from a bill which has not been adopted by the legislature for the state paying 15 percent of retirement system costs and $175,000 from the Gunstock Recreation Area. Currently there is no agreement with Gunstock on the payment and $100,000 is being discussed as the amount which will be paid.

Laconia firefighters rack up more than $600,000 in overtime


LACONIA — As city officials prepare to begin their yearly budget process, one category of expenditure looms large – firefighter overtime pay.

Last year, almost every firefighter took home thousands of dollars in overtime in addition to their regular compensation.

A dozen firefighters earned more than $20,000 in overtime alone, boosting some annual wages to more than $90,000.

In all, the 40-member department racked up about $600,000 in overtime last calendar year, by far the most of any city department. The city was responsible for about half that amount, with Lakes Region General Hospital picking up much of the rest of the expense through an ambulance contract.

City Manager Scott Myers said overtime is not unusual in the fire service, particularly for a busy department that handles emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We don't want them coming to work when they are sick," he said. "This is monitored at the department level, and on my end and in the budget process. I don't want to say there's zero abuse, but there are checks and balances in place."

Myers will present an initial budget at the City Council meeting on Monday.

Excessive overtime is a source of frustration for city leaders trying to adequately fund city services while living under a tax cap that limits increases in net spending for city, school and county budgets.

"There's certainly significant suspicion on the part of the City Council that the system is being gamed," said Mayor Ed Engler. "There are ways of working within the system, including the collective bargaining agreement of ensuring there is a lot of overtime that is available as a matter of routine, not out of the ordinary, or extraordinary, but routine."

Adding firefighters doesn't help, he said.

"Three years ago, we added four firefighters with no appreciable decline in overtime," said Engler.

The current contract between the city and the firefighters union, which expires June 30, mandates overtime pay at time-and-a-half for hours beyond the regular tour of duty.

Firefighters work one 24-hour day, followed by 48 hours off, followed by a 24-hour work day followed by four days off.

Chief Ken Erickson said the City Council and the city manager have always been supportive of his department, but he said he remains short of firefighters compared to other New Hampshire cities.

His is one of the busier departments in the region. The city's aging housing stock contributes to fire calls.

"Older buildings, you can do everything you want with your electrical system, but we have old wiring that can overheat and start a fire," he said.

Erickson typically has nine firefighters on duty, with six at the central station, and three at The Weirs station. Each station has a fire engine, a ladder truck and an ambulance.

Ideally, Erickson would like to have 13 firefighters on duty. That would entail hiring 16 new firefighters at an additional cost of $1.2 million.

The cost of hiring new firefighters would not be covered by a possible reduction in overtime. It can be less expensive to pay an overtime to an existing firefighter than to hire a new one and fund a full compensation package.

Erickson said although absenteeism is low, overtime is unavoidable. It costs the department $220,000 just to cover the 10 vacation days and four personal days the average firefighter takes per year.

Despite staffing constraints, the chief said his firefighters do an outstanding job and expressed pride in the force.

"Yesterday, they saved four lives," he said. "By lunchtime, that's a remarkable day in a city of 16,000 people."

• • •

Laconia firefighters with highest overtime for 2016:


  1. Lt. C. Vaillancourt, overtime $27,388, total pay $91,172

  2. Firefighter D.M. Doucette, overtime $24,699, total pay $75,244

  3. Lt. J.P. Hobby, overtime $24,578, total pay $87,020

  4. Firefighter B. Keyes, overtime $24,370, total pay $81,018.

  5. Firefighter S.A. Lewandowski, overtime $23,572, total pay $75,487

  6. Firefighter K. Pierce, overtime $23,177, total pay, $74,972.

  7. Firefighter D.J. Mann, overtime $22,928, total pay $77,935

  8. Lt. D. French, overtime $22,570, total pay $89,003

  9. Capt. C. Shipp, overtime $21,618, total pay $91,557

  10. Capt. J. Bean, overtime $21,137, total pay $87,952