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Jury selection for Lafond trial is June 9

LACONIA — The trial of Amy Lafond on charges that her reckless and negligent driving caused the death of one teenage girl and severely injured another on Messer Street a year ago, is scheduled to begin with jury selection on June 9, following a hearing on pending motions in the case on May 14.

Justice James D. O'Neill, III has said that once the trial begins it will proceed uninterrupted to its conclusion. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Earlier this month attorney Mark Sisti, who represents Lafond, for the second time asked the Belknap County Superior Court to delay her trial, explaining that three eyewitnesses — all juveniles — had come forward with additional information, which he would need time to review. Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen told the court that both the prosecution and defense should have time interview the witnesses and did not object to the request to continue.

Lafond, 53, is charged with manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide arising from an incident on April 19 when she allegedly drove into two teenage girls on Messer Street, killing Lilyanna Johnson and seriously injuring Allyssa Miner. She is also charged with several drug offenses and traffic violations. She remains in the Belknap County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bail.
Last week Sisti filed a motion to suppress the results of tests conducted on blood drawn from Lafond at Lakes Region General Hospital shortly after the incident. He claimed that the officer seeking her consent to the blood draw failed to inform her that the results could be used against her in a criminal prosecution and argued that her consent was not given "knowingly." At the same time, he contended that the results of a second blood draw, which state law requires of drivers involved in accidents leading to serious injury of death if there is probable cause that they caused the collision, must also be suppressed because the officer found no probable cause to believe Lafond was impaired.

Meanwhile, Guldbrandsen has indicated that she will move to introduce a video simulation of the incident prepared by the Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team into evidence.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 12:43

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Provision of Obamacare causing 'heartburn' at Gunstock

GILFORD — Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock Mountain Resort, said yesterday that provisions of the Affordable Care Act are "problematic for businesses with seasonal workforces" and "have prompted us to have very difficult conversations about how to address them."

Goddard explained that the health care law requires firms to provide health insurances to employees who work 30 or more hours a week or more than 120 days a year. Since both the winter season, which runs from around Thanksgiving to Easter, and the summer season, which runs from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, stretch beyond 120 days, he said that the law would require Gunstock to offer health insurance to between 10 and 12 part-time employees in addition to its 40 full-time employees.

Goddard said that Gunstock provides its full-time employees with "a very attractive comprehensive benefits package," but find it "problematic" to increase enrollment by between a quarter and a third. "It is disappointing that we're having very difficult conversations about how to address this situation," he remarked, describing the issue as "an unintended consequence of the act."

Noting that any number of seasonal businesses are wrestling with the problem, Goddard said that he has been speaking with other resorts, insurance carriers and healthcare providers and hopes to learn more when he attends the annual meeting of the National Ski Area Association in Savannah, Georgia.

Goddard discounted a report in the New Hampshire Union Leader that he is considering shortening both the winter and summer season to get below the 120-day threshold. He acknowledged that he said that was one possible option, but said his remark was taken out of context. He said that while shortening seasons and raising prices were possible, both were "far down on my list" and repeated that "this discussion is a source of real heartburn and we haven't found the good solution yet."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 12:36

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Meredith will pay its 'call' firefighter force higher wages

MEREDITH — At a workshop yesterday, the Board of Selectmen approved a pay raise for "call" firefighters that will narrow the disparities between their compensation and that of their counterparts in neighboring towns and their colleagues in other departments.

So-called "call" firefighters are essentially trained volunteers who get paid an hourly wage when, and only when, they respond to a alarm.

Meredith has only one full-time salaried firefighter, Chief Ken Jones.

Jones broached the issue last October in the course of preparing the 2014 town budget, stressing that the retention and recruitment of employees was an increasing challenge. An appropriation of $115,000 for a wage adjustment was included in the budget in anticipation of approving the new pay scale.

Town Manager Phil Warren cautioned that comparisons with other towns are difficult because departments have different responsibilities and operations. However, compared to a peer group of 11 other fire departments (Ashland, Barnstead, Belmont, Bridgewater, Bristol, Campton-Thornton, Center Harbor, Hebron, Holderness, Moultonborough and New Hampton) the current hourly wage in Meredith is between 18.4 percent and 43.7 percent below the median depending on the rank.

The current rates are for trainees $7.49, for firefighter-1, 2 and 3 $9.29, for lieutenant $10.33, for captain and second deputy $11.36 and for first deputy $13.42. The new rates will be $9 for trainees, $11.50 for fighter-1, $12.50 for firefighter-2, $13 for firefighter-3, $14 for lieutenant, $16 for captain, $17 for second deputy and $18 for first deputy. The increases range from 20.2 percent for trainees to 49.6 percent for the first deputy.

With the increase, hourly wages will be between 2.7 percent and 10.5 percent above the median of the peer group with the exception of the rate for trainees and lieutenants, which will fall 5.7 percent and 1.5 percent below the median.

With the staffing plan Jones has proposed, the cost of the increases are projected at $ 108,000, within the amount budgeted.

"This has been brewing for several years," said Selectman Peter Brothers in support of the plan. "Our interest is to retain our call fire fire department structure," he remarked, adding that full-time, professional personnel would cost between $950,000 and $1 million a year. He said that the current pay scale left volunteers asking "do I work for $12 or $15 an hour or do I drop my tool belt and answer the call for $9.50?"

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 12:33

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Seaplane crashes into 40° Lake Winnipesaukee

ALTON — A pilot suffered from cold water immersion but escaped without serious injury when his single-engine seaplane crashed and sank on The Broads, north of Rattlesnake Island, on Lake Winnipesaukee at about 12:30 p.m. yesterday.

Vadim Gayshan, 59, of Sudbury, Mass. was found by Marine Patrol officers Joshua Dirth and Philip Carpenter at 12:50 p.m., 20 minutes after the crash was reported, straddling the tail section of the largely submerged plane and waist deep in water. Gaysan was brought aboard the patrol with a throw ring and taken to Glendale, where he was met buy an ambulance from Alton Fire Rescue and transported to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laocnia.

The N.H. Department of Environmental Services (DES) reported the water temperature of the lake was 40 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday.

According to Marine Patrol, Gayshan, a pilot of 13 years whose experience includes two years with seaplanes, told officers he had flown the Cessna T206H from Fitchburg, Mass. He said that he was eying the retreating ice on the lake and flying at a speed of 70 to 80 knots between 300 and 400 feet above the water when he decided to fly "touch and gos," landing on the surface and taking off again without stopping. He said that he misjudged his elevation and the pontoon caught on the water, causing the plane to crash nose first. The plane subsequently sank in 105 feet of water.

Marine Patrol and DES, in partnership with Dive Winnipesaukee of Wolfeboro and Winnipesaukee Marine Construction of Gilford, were working to recover the plane yesterday.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 11:59

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