Two more sentenced in Meredith home invasion last March


LACONIA — Two more people charged in a Meredith home invasion last March were sentenced this week in Belknap County Superior Court.

Tyler Best, 38, of Franklin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve 1 ½ to 5 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for one count of armed robbery. One a second count of armed robbery, the court sentenced Best to a suspended sentence of 3 to 6 years to be served consecutive to the first sentence. The suspension is conditioned on Best's maintaining good behavior after his release from prison and that he pay for and participate meaningfully in a substance abuse program within 45 days of his release.

He is credited with 188 days of pretrial confinement.

Meghan Tighe, 23, of Tilton pleaded guilty to a single count of accomplice to armed robbery and was sentenced to serve 12 months in the Belknap County House of Corrections. She will be on probation for two years after her release and is ordered to do 200 hours of community service and is credited with 57 days of pretrial confinement.

A third man, 41-year-old Keith Renaud of Franklin, was sentenced in December and will serve 3 to 8 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for being an accomplice to armed robbery.

The above three entered a home at the Currier Mobile Home Park at 125 Livingston on March 6 at 4:30 a.m. and stole a number of items, including debit and credit cards and electronics.

Two people reported being pulled from their beds by Best and struck on the head by the butt of a handgun. Best was identified by his unique tattoo on his forearm and Tighe was wearing the same clothing she had worn during an earlier visit to the victims home.

Meredith Police also received a tip from an anonymous caller who said she was in Franklin and who said she overheard a conversation in which some of the people involved were bragging about what they stole and where they sold it.

Laconia School Board wades into new zero-based budget format

By David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — For next school year, Laconia schools will operate on a budget that starts from scratch, with every spending item explained and justified, according to a new format for budgeting as explained by the budget office.
"You'll see a different budget this year, it will have more information in it regarding specific accounts," said Business Administrator Christine Blouin, speaking to two members of the district's budget and personnel committee.
Committee Chairman Michael Persson and fellow board member Mal Murray received the briefing Thursday as part of a launch of the 2017-2018 budget preparation season.
This year's $32.2 million budget for Laconia schools dropped from $32.7 million in 2015-2016. Adequate Education Aid funding dropped from $10.9 million in fiscal year 2015-2016 to $10.5 million in fiscal year 2016-2017, according to the current school budget (2016-2017). The current year's aid includes $4.463 million in state property tax and $6.052 million in state adequacy aid.
Officials expect further declines in state adequacy aid, which is based largely on enrollment.
Blouin didn't delve into any specific spending estimates for next year — it's too early for that. Rather, she explained a new method of budget preparation that has been in the works since last October.
Descriptions will accompany accounts, and the budget will emerge from a "zero-based" approach.
"I would say by the end of January we should have a good handle on what we're going to be presenting as the first, 'This is what we need in a budget,'" Blouin said.
Persson explained that past years' spending will no longer predicate how the budget is developed.
"Everything that goes into the budget has to be justified based upon the strategic plan, building needs, and they have to be justified, each of the lines as we're going," Persson said. "It's no longer, 'Last year we had $50,000 in this account, and that's probably about right, let's keep that there.' Now it's going to be, if there's $50,000 in that account, this is what it's for."
"Super Saturday," a meeting of district personnel and the public to hash out budget priorities, likely will take place in the second week of March, the committee agreed.
For Super Saturday, Persson recommended a look five years ahead. He said a two-year effort to develop a strategic plan is almost finished, which should inform the school board as it makes priorities in next year's budget.
"From year to year, they will be building the budget from zero-based (budgeting) again, so looking at it downstream, this year is going to take quite a bit of time, there will be quite a bit of effort," he said.
Murray said too many details could confuse the public so he praised a budget that contains justifications for spending but not too many numbers that delve into the financial weeds.
Blouin said the new format will strike a balance.
With teacher salaries, for example, "it will tell you down below, how many FTE's, how many full-time equivalents, how many positions there are, what positions are in there, and how many are grant funded."
Describing the budget format as clearer and more transparent, Blouin said she tried to list as many items as possible under budget lines, "but I also tried to compact it so you're not getting a 70-page document."
Persson said in the area of grant funding, this new approach could alleviate some public confusion.
"When people look at our administrative budget vs. what others' are, it appears that we're top heavy, when in fact we're able to have these positions because of the fact we have the grant funding to be able to do it so I think it's great that we'll have that breakdown," he said.

Pro-pot group: 2017 could be New Hampshire's year

01-03 marijuana

Recreational use of marijuana has become the law of the land in Maine, while medical marijuana use, as shown here, has a longer history. New Hampshire legislators have killed seven decriminalization bills dating back to 2008, but in the next legislative session, the issue may clear the governor's desk. Officials also foresee a flurry of bills regarding the state's medical marijuana program, which was implemented in 2013. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

Legislature, new governor poised to decriminalize marijuana


New Hampshire has been a thorn in the side of marijuana-legalization advocates, and a bright spot for those battling to keep the drug illegal amid a flurry of pro-pot ballot measures.
But this year, based on the make-up of the state Senate, legalization advocates expect the New Hampshire Legislature to approve decriminalization, which would reduce marijuana possession from a criminal offense to a violation.
"New Hampshire has lagged behind other states in the region on marijuana policy for many years," said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the group which successfully pushed for last year's referendum to legalize pot in Maine.
Simon, who has lobbied for legalization in New Hampshire for about a decade, said, "It's the only state in New England that has not yet decriminalized simple possession. The House has passed decriminalization bills several times dating back to 2008. They have always been opposed by the governor, and they have always been killed in the Senate. That finally changes this year."
For the first time, New Hampshire has elected a governor, Republican Chris Sununu, who, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, "is clearly on record in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession."
"The make-up of the state Senate, which has killed seven decriminalization bills dating back to 2008, also improved in the 2016 election," the MPP reported. "Several of the worst prohibitionist senators from last session did not seek re-election, and some of the candidates who replaced them have much more enlightened positions on marijuana policy. Now that two neighboring states, Massachusetts and Maine, have legalized marijuana for adult use, New Hampshire appears poised to finally decriminalize possession in the 2017 session."
Eight states have legalized marijuana — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts.
In March 2016, a WMUR Granite State Poll revealed that a majority of state respondents support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. "Sixty-two percent of randomly selected adults supported legalization of marijuana," WMUR reported at the time.
But prominent opponents will continue to push back against the tide of legalization in New England.
Last fall, as Maine voters contemplated the referendum to legalize marijuana statewide, Roman Catholic Bishop Robert P. Deeley cited the "devastating impact felt in Colorado since the commercial sale of marijuana began in January of 2014." A comprehensive report issued by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Deeley reported, gave evidence that legalized marijuana is a public-safety concern. In the study, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 62 percent and marijuana-related hospitalizations increased by over 30 percent in Colorado, the Bishop warned.
Deeley also warned that the use and abuse of marijuana by the youth of Colorado increased by 20 percent since legalization in that state. (The Diocese of Manchester is awaiting the language of bills before commenting on New Hampshire marijuana policy.)
Despite these warnings, voters in Maine approved legalization by a narrow margin. A statewide recount sought by opponents failed to change the outcome. In Maine, marijuana possession and home cultivation will become legal Jan. 30 — the legally required 30 days after certification. Gov. Paul LePage proclaimed the Nov. 8 election results on Saturday, Dec. 31, according to the Marijuana Policy Project in Maine.
Warnings against legalization have gained more traction in New Hampshire. On March 26, 2014, the New Hampshire House voted 192-140 against legalizing one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. At the time, the New Hampshire affiliate for Smart Approaches to Marijuana — a nationwide anti-legalization group — called the vote "a victory for public health advocates across the state." Linda Saunders Paquette, executive director at New Futures, a SAM affiliate, reported, "Full legalization of marijuana would lead to lower work place productivity, expose our children to an increasingly potent substance, and increase the amount of intoxicated drivers on New Hampshire roadways."
The Marijuana Policy Project disputes these and other public-health risks associated with marijuana and argues that opponents rely on scare tactics. But Simon conceded that New Hampshire legislators may not be the first in the nation to legalize marijuana through the legislative process, as opposed to voters approving bills via referendum.
"As far as legalization, it's going to take some time," Simon said. "There is finally going to be a bill that would legalize marijuana, with Senate Democratic leader Jeff Woodburn sponsoring that. Everybody recognizes with the 24 members of the New Hampshire Senate, that's going to be an uphill climb."
"No state has done it through the legislature yet," Simon said, and he said Vermont or Rhode Island could be first rather than New Hampshire.
Decriminalization — the act of removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replacing them with a civil fine — stands a better chance in New Hampshire, Simon said.

On another front, New Hampshire has been the slowest state in New England to roll out its medical marijuana program, Simon reported, but called 2016 "a big year."
Four dispensaries opened, following a patient's lawsuit against the state spurring the issuance of identification cards. In the next legislative session, Simon expected a flurry of bills to improve the state's medical marijuana program, which was implemented in 2013.