County eyes paying inmates $3 a day for work

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have agreed to a trial program in which inmates at the Belknap County Jail who work at county facilities will be paid $3 a day.
Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray told commissioners that he currently has 12 inmates available to work and estimated that it would cost $15,427 a year to pay inmates for their work.
The inmates would work in the Belknap County Home kitchen washing dishes, at the county home and corrections department laundries, or as part of the grounds crew and farm crew at the county home. There would also be some off-site work at locations like the Belknap County Fairgrounds or in communities which ask for prison labor for specific projects.
Gray said that those eligible to work will be minimum risk, nonviolent offenders and that waivers might be sought in order to allow those awaiting trial to participate.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said he thinks getting more inmates working is a good idea.
“There are too many people sitting around watching television,” he said.
He also wondered if it is possible for a judge to include a work requirement when an offender is sentenced.
Gray said that he would assign eligible inmates to work details and that their participation would be mandatory.
The action came in response to concerns raised at the Dec. 2 meeting of the commission at which Carolee Sliker, dietary manager at the nursing home, said that she was concerned inmate labor and a possible shortage when the new community corrections center opens.
DeVoy had suggested $5 a day for inmates who work, and after some discussion a compromise figure of $3 day was agreed to.
County Administrator Debra Shackett wondered what budget line should be used to cover the payments and commissioners asked her to get back to them with a recommendation.
• The commission also voted to approve the purchase of a 12-person, two-wheelchair bus to be used for transporting residents of the nursing home to various functions and activities. The bus will be purchased from Patsy’s Bus Sales of Concord with a total cost of $62,137 less a $3,500 trade-in for a bus currently used by the Corrections Department.
DeVoy asked Gray why the department is giving up the bus and was told that the bus has only been used once by the department in the last six months and that he only has one employee with a commercial driver’s license. He said he could work out an arrangement with the county home to use the bus if his department needs it.
• Commissioners also approved request for five line-item budget transfers which must now be brought to the Belknap County Convention’s Executive Committee for approval. The largest request was for $61,465 to cover Medicare Part B expenses at the Belknap County Nursing Home, which have changed due to shifting medical costs based on a resident census.

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Belmont man arrested after high-speed chase in Gilford

GILFORD — A Belmont man led police from Gilford and Laconia briefly on a chase through those communities after a Gilford officer saw a Nissan Maxima near the Walmart Plaza at 10:02 p.m. Monday with only one headlight working.
Affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said Andrew Decormier, 23, of 33 Sunshine Drive allegedly continued on Lakeshore Road despite being followed by a Gilford officer with his blue lights inhis attempt to stop him.
Decormier allegedly took a right onto the Gilford/Laconia Bypass and was reaching speeds of nearly 90 mph. The officer was able to make out the registration and relay it to dispatch as he turned on his siren.
The car reached 91 mph and police noted in the affidavits that it was drizzling and very foggy, making travel at those speeds dangerous and undesirable. The posted speed limit is 55 mph.
When Decormier got off the bypass at the Gilford Avenue exit, he allegedly failed to stop for the stop sign and turned right onto Gilford Avenue heading into Laconia. While traveling on Gilford Avenue, the officer allegedly clocked Decormier driving 60 mph in a 30 mph zone.
Decormier allegedly turned left onto Highland Street and continued up the residential street at 70 mph. Police said he didn’t stop for the stop sign at Winter Street and passed a vehicle that had stopped at the intersection of High and Highland Streets near the Lakes Region General Hospital – an area heavy with pedestrian traffic because many employees must cross Highland Street to reach their vehicles parked across the street.
Gilford dispatch had already notified Laconia and Belmont Police because the registration came back to a Belmont resident and Decormier was heading into Laconia. After Decormier allegedly took a hard right onto Batchelder Street and then one on Avery Street, the Gilford officer lost site of him and stopped his pursuit.
At one point, a Laconia officer saw a vehicle matching the description of the one Gilford was chasing but could only obtain the first three digits of the plate number.
Belmont police officers went to the registered home of the car owner and found Decormier, who said his mother owns the car. He allegedly told the Gilford officer who went with Belmont Police to the home that he didn’t stop because his license had been suspended and he was afraid of being stopped.
During a conversation the Gilford officer had with Decormier, he also admitted running from a Laconia police officer as well.
At his appearance in court Tuesday morning, Judge Jim Carroll ordered Decormier held on $400 cash-only bail. He is charged with one count of disobeying a police officer, one count of driving after revocation, and one violation for driving after revocation.
Affidavits said Decormier’s record includes four convictions for receiving stolen property, two convictions for theft, one conviction for resisting arrest and one conviction for forgery.

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Surf Coaster lots may be rezoned to increase appeal to buyers

LACONIA — A change in the zoning for the old Surf Coaster USA lots could make the land easier to sell. The City Council this week asked the Planning Board to rezone the two parcels at the corner of White Oaks Road and NH Route 11B at The Weirs by making them part of the Commercial Resort district. The water park, which featured a variety of slides and a wave pool, opened in 1983 and closed in 2006, according to
The two lots are in three different zoning districts. The largest lot, 6.7-acres at the corner of White Oaks Road and Endicott Street East (Route 11B) that houses the pools and slides, is in three districts — Commercial Resort, Residential Single Family and Residential Rural II. The second lot of 4.6-acres, where the parking lot is located, lies south of the first along White Oaks Road in the Residential Single Family and Residential Rural II districts.
Each zoning district not only has a specific mix of permissible uses but also a different set of dimensional requirements, including minimum lot sizes, frontage, setbacks and open space and maximum densities and building heights, which together would hamstring any plans to redevelop the properties.
City Manager Scott Myers explained that the zoning of the property has hindered efforts to sell or redevelop it. He said yesterday that several parties have recently shown interest in the property.
In 2007, Rick Hassler of Weirs Beach Management LLC, which purchased the property in 2001, was granted a variance by the Zoning Board of Adjustment that enabled him to treat the two lots as one, which would be governed by the stipulations of the Commercial Resort District. At the time, Hassler sought a partner to redevelop the property as a resort hotel.
Since then, the property has lain fallow and the variance has expired. This spring, when the Planning Board proposed changes to the boundaries of the Commercial Resort and Shorefront Residential zones, both lots were included in the redrawn Commercial Resort district. However, the City Council tabled the proposal.
If the Planning Board grants the council's request to include both lots in the Commercial Resort district, the issue would be referred back to the council for final approval.

NOTE: The City Council will reopen discussion about zoning regulations at The Weirs in January. Mayor Ed Engler said time will be allotted to the issue at four consecutive council meetings. He explained that attention will be primarily focused on the uses permitted and requirement applied along US Route 3/NH Route 11B corridor, which lies within the Commercial Resort district. He stressed that while the discussion is open to all, 25 significant property owners have been identified and will be invited to participate in the discussions.

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