Petition calls for special town meeting to take up dump picking

SANBORNTON — More than 100 residents petitioned the Board of Selectmen last week to convene a special Town Meeting with the purpose of restoring the practice of "dump picking" at the transfer station.

Last month, at the recommendation of Primex, which carries the town's property and liability insurance, the selectmen curtailed the tradition of turning one person's trash into another person's recycled treasure by allowing residents to comb through the leavings of their neighbors. The decision sparked an immediate reaction from residents who consider the tradition an efficient means of recycling useful items as well as a significant medium for the social life of the town.

Town Administrator Charles Smith said yesterday that the town clerk has confirmed the validity of the petition. He added that the selectmen have not had an opportunity to discuss the issues raised by the petition and declined any further comment.

State law provides that "in towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants upon the written application of 50 or more voters or 1/4 of the voters in town, whichever is fewer, and in towns with 10,000 or more inhabitants upon the written application of 5 percent of the registered voters in the town, so presented not less than 60 days before the next annual meeting, the selectmen shall warn a special meeting to act upon any question specified in such application."

Sanbornton is scheduled to hold its regular Town Meeting in March.

Eversource shelves deposit policy after Laconia rep draws attention to it

LACONIA — Representative Robert Fisher (R-Laconia/Belmont), who is serving his first term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, claimed a share of the scalp of Eversource — formerly Public Service of N.H. — last week when the state's largest public utility announced it would suspend and review its policy of requiring extra deposits from customers in arrears.

Fisher said yesterday that he began fielding complaints from constituents last winter, when electric rates rose sharply, then found himself behind in his own monthly bills and pressed to pay a deposit. He turned to an administrative rule that stipulated that in place of a deposit Eversource could "accept the irrevocable written guarantee of a responsible party such as a social service organization, a municipal welfare agency, a bank, or a customer in good standing of the utility as a surety for a customer service account."

Eversource rejected Fisher's offer of a guarantee of a customer — his brother — on the grounds that although he had no history of delinquent balances, he had only been a customer for two months. He appealed to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which last month upheld the company's decision. "They are making up the rules as they go along," Fisher said, claiming that "the PUC is complicit in not enforcing the rules and not making sure people get the protection afforded by the law."

Meanwhile, Fisher said that WMUR-TV reported and Eversource confirmed that the company had requested deposits of 17,000 customers through August, 2015, 40 percent more for the same period in 2014. In the 1990s the company began requesting deposits equal to two monthly bills from customers sent seven or more disconnect notices in a 12-month period in order to shrink write-offs born by all customers and in 2012 reduced the number of required disconnect notices to four. Fisher said that constituents reported requests from deposits ranging between $200 and $1,500. He said that he suspected the report by WMUR-TV prompted Eversource to suspend its policy.

Last week Eversource announced that until April 1, 2016 it would neither seek deposits from residential customers in arrears nor disconnect customers for failing to pay deposits while waiving all outstanding deposits. The company said that it would use the time "to consider the most appropriate and fair method of working with habitually delinquent customers moving forward."

"I'm very happy with the company's announcement and glad to see some relief for customers," said Fisher. "I'm looking forward to the company's decision in April."

In the meantime, Fisher and fellow Representative Nick Zaricki (R-Goffstown) have introduced legislation to restrict the use of deposits. Fisher's bill would prohibit what he called "midstream deposit requests", or those made of customers after they bring their accounts current as a precaution against them again falling in arrears in the future. Zaricki's bill would cap the amount of deposits, which currently cannot exceed the charges for the two months of greatest use as measured by monthly billings.

Re/Max Bayside office announces move from South Main to downtown

LACONIA — Re/Max Bayside has become the most recent business to lay a bet on the future of downtown by leasing space at 600 Main Street, the former home of the Sundial Shop, which was purchased and renovated by Lakes Region Acquisitions, LLC in 2011.

"We'll have big signs in the windows soon,"Chris Kelly said yesterday.

Re/Max Bayside has leased the former home of Melcher & Prescott Insurance at the corner of South Main Street and Court Street since 2010. Kelly said that his firm has become engaged in what he called the "renaissance of downtown" and has decided "to put our money where our mouth is." The real estate firm will occupy the largest and second largest of the units of the building, an area approaching 2,500 square feet, facing Main Street, where it will house between 12 and 15 employees.

Kelly said that Re/Max Bayside is managing the 18 apartments at the Colonial Theatre for the Belknap Economic Development Council, which purchased the theatre complex in July. The eventual renovation and reopening of the theatre, he explained, has sparked interest in downtown. By making a timely move, he said "we're in on the ground floor." Kelly expected to be operating at the new location in December.

To signal Re/Max Bayside's presence downtown, Kelly said the company hot-air balloon will be flying the Pumpkin Festival on Saturday, with flights from Opechee Park from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

John Moriarty, one of four partners in Lakes Region Acquisitions, LLC, said he will be welcoming two tenants before the year is out — Re/Max Bayside and Salon Amara, which will move from Church Street to 1,255 square feet on Main Street. He said he is thinking of Re/Max Bayside as "big ticket retail" and anticipates its presence will increase patronage of other downtown businesses.

After the monicker 600 Main Street ran afoul of 911, Moriarty has taken to calling the building the "center city building," explaining that when Laconia is Googled, the arrow points to the building. He said that since 2011 a number of new businesses have opened downtown, where "the energy has become measurable."