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Couple said to have been running 'big drug operation' out of Laconia apartment

LACONIA — A Cambodian couple are being held in Belknap County Jail in lieu of cash bail following their arraignment in Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday on charges arising from allegedly operating what prosecutor Jim Sawyer described as "a big drug enterprise".

Bountham Sonthikoummane, 52, and Onnella Nguan, 37, both of 25 Grove Street, Apartment 1, were arrested on Thursday morning. Sonthikoummane was charged with possession of narcotic drugs with intent to distribute and conspiracy to to distribute controlled drugs while Nguan was charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled drugs.

Judge James Carroll set cash bail at $100,000 for Sonthikoummane, who was in the courtroom accompanied by an interpreter but not represented by counsel. The judge informed him the the United States Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have placed an "immigration hold" on him, requiring that he be placed in federal custody once he posts bail, is released or serves his sentence. Carroll assured Sonthikoummane that the court would appoint an attorney to represent him by Monday when he could petition for a further review of his bail.

Sawyer requested and Carroll set bail for Nguan, who was arraigned by video but represented by Public Defender Alison Schwartz, at $50,000. Schwartz asked to reduce her bail to $5,000. She told the court that Nguan, who came to the United States from Cambodia in 1996 and to New Hampshire from Massachusetts about a year ago, has no prior history of drug offenses. Moreover, she said Nguan has two children and is expecting a third without any family to care for them and that "she was not the main player in these circumstances," which she questioned were as extensive as Sawyer claimed.

Carroll disagreed, saying "this could be a large drug enterprise."
Sawyer told the court that a search of the apartment found significant quantities of drugs and amounts of cash as well as "further evidence of a drug enterprise," but no indication of drug use within the unit. He said that drugs were stored in a laundry basket, mingled with children's clothes, and in a bedroom closet within easy reach of the young children. He said that Sonthikoummane "showed disregard for the welfare of his step children."

In addition to drugs, Sawyer said police found "a large amount of cash" and receipts for purchases of jewelry made between May 27 and August 16 totaling $32,000. Furthermore, Sonthikoummane was wearing a gold necklace, which was appraised by a local jeweler at $7,000. Sawyer said that there was no evidence that either Sonthikoummane or Nguan were employed and suggested that the receipts and jewelry were bought with the cash proceeds of drug sales, which were laundered by turning them into things of value.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 11:32

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WEEKEND - Corn Mazes: How to get lost in the Lakes Region & have a lot of fun doing it

GILFORD — It's the time of year when you can have a lot of fun getting lost out in a corn field at either of two local farms which are again hosting visitors at their mazes.
At Beans and Greens on Rt. 1-B in Gilford, the yearly corn maze has become a very popular activity for visitors of all ages. Alex Howe, son of farm owners Andy and Martina Howe, has once again created a challenging puzzle for visitors.
The first corn maze at the farm was designed by Howe as part of a math project when he was an eight grader in 2002, according to Whitney Vachon, a five-year employee at the popular farmstand.
She says the process starts in June with Andy Howe planting the corn. When the cornstalks are a few feet high Alex starts designing the maze, making graphs of the entire cornfield on draft paper in order to create his master maze. Workers at the farm then help him remove cornstalks, creating paths and dead ends throughout the field.
''We pull all the plants from the paths that are designed into the maze,'' says Vachon.
When September arrives the corn has grown to more than 10 feet in height and the fields are opened to visitors, who can expect to spend up to an hour finding their way through the maze. Workers from the farm act as "corn cops" to help walkers with directions, which may or may not lead to the right way out, and are on hand to guide those who become hopelessly lost.
The Beans & Greens Farm corn maze is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is also open Friday and Saturday nights for those seeking extra heart thumping thrills and challenges (reservations are required for the night visitors) Day rates: $7 for adults, $5 for children 12 or under. Night rates are $7 for children 12 or under and $9 for all others. Call 603-293-2853 for reservations.
The corn maze at Moulton Farm in Meredith started back in 2000 with a small piece of land across the street from their farm stand.
Rob Stephens, retail manager, was thinking of fun and unique ways to offer fall visitors an experience they would not forget. He came up with the corn maze idea and brought it to reality. Moulton Farm paved the way as one of the first businesses in the state to offer such forms of what is now commonly known as agri-tourism.
Over the years the designs have grown more complex, to the delight of many visitors.
During the farm's 131 year history John Moulton's ancestors ran the farm as cattle farm and then a dairy farm before transitioning to growing vegetables, fruit and flowers. This year they're celebrating the farm's dairy past.
Maze designer Wes Thomas, who has worked at the farm since he was in high school, has designed the farm's puzzles for the past seven years.
"Wes wanted a farm theme for this design this year," says John Moulton. "When I shared with him that the maze is located where the cows used to graze when my father ran the farm as a dairy farm, he smiled. You could see an idea forming in his mind." Thomas incorporated barns, a silo and two cows into this year's design (see photo).
According to the Moulton's Farm Stand website, a lot of time and effort is put into designing the maze for the enjoyment of everyone who visits the farm. Here are some answers to the many questions they get about the corn maze:
The corn maze is planted around mid-June every year (depending on the weather). It takes about six hours to plant. The field is planted in both directions to create a grid.
An outline of the field is drawn on graph paper (20 pieces taped together). Each line on the graph paper represents one row of corn. The maze is then designed by hand inside the field outline on the graph paper. This process alone takes one to two days.
When the corn is between eight to 12 inches tall, the paths are cut out using a trimmer and following the giant graph paper map very carefully (it's a lot of counting). Cutting the paths takes two to three people about two days to complete.
After the paths are cut, a small tractor and rotary tiller are sent through the maze to make sure the paths have no corn in them. This takes a full day to complete.
The paths are then compacted and the rocks are removed in order to make the terrain as safe as possible for travelers. As the corn grows, leaves are stripped off the stalks that line the paths to make it easier to see and safer to travel. The corn in the maze can grow up to 15 feet tall.
None of the corn in the maze is harvested. It is used a feed corn (cow corn), which is edible but not very tasty.
Prices for the 2014 maze are $6 for adults and children 7 or older and $4 for children 6 and under. Included with admission is access to both our full size maze and our maze designed for very young children, a maze trivia game, and a treat after completing the trivia game. The last admission to the maze is one hour before the farm closes.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 10:45

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Cliff Buswell: A life in & around cars

TILTON — Cliff Buswell has been taking care of cars ever since he was 10 years old and he started polishing the new cars his dad sold. His first-ever paying job was cleaning cars and working as a janitor at an auto dealership in Plymouth.
Since then he's done just about everything a person could do with cars, from checking the new cars that came off the hauler at his dad's auto dealership, Moody Motors in Laconia, and installing the carpets, to selling cars, working on them as a mechanic, racing in Saab club rallies and running his own service station and in recent years his own auto cleaning business.

He's become so familiar with each and every one of the myriad parts that make up an automobile that just a glimpse of any part of a car, like the headlights or the side rear view mirror, will let him know what make and model the car is and the year it was built.

"It's been my life, it really has. And I feel pretty blessed because I love every minute of it," said Buswell, who says his dad, Harold, who was in the auto business for 42 years, taught him that there was no such thing as luck involved in becoming successful.

"He used to tell me 'if you want it, you have to earn it,' and that's the way I've lived my life," said Buswell, who this year celebrates his 58th year in automotive business involvement.
''Between my father and I, that's 100 years of being in the car business,'' says Buswell. He said that his father started selling cars in 1927 until he retired in 1972 and had a number of franchises, including Dodge, Ford, Jeep and Saab.
Buswell started selling cars in 1956 at his father's dealership and says that over the years he's owned a wide variety of automobiles himself, starting with a 1941 Dodge. There were dozens of others, from a 1950 Chevrolet, a 195 0 Plymouth convertible, and a 1953 Packard to a 1961 Ford Galaxy 500, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air and a 1962 Pontiac Bonneville.

He raced a 1968 Dodge Charger as well as variety of Saabs in road rallies and still closely follows local and regional auto races, as well as NASCAR, and is at virtually every cruise night held at the Tilt'n Diner .
In 1987 he and his wife, Arlene, started their auto cleaning business on Route 3.

"It wasn't easy. We started out with a spray bottle and brush, no machines at all. But we've built it up step by step and have a good detailing and cleaning business with lots of repeat customers," says Buswell, who retired in 2008 but still has people calling for him to take care of their cars.
He also still sells cars through his connections with people in the area and works closely with the nearby AutoServ dealerships to help people who contact him locate the car they're looking for.
One of the big attractions for people who stop by is his auto memorabilia collection in the breezeway office between the Buswell's home and the two-bay garage where the cleaning work is done.
Buswell has more than 300 model cars there, set up in displays which cover just about every available surface, as well as other auto memorabilia ranging from old calendars and catalogs, vintage ads and even wall clocks with an automotive theme.
"People who stop by are amazed. They say it's like a museum," said Buswell, who says that he enjoys nothing more than taking time to show his collection and talk with people about them.
"Everyone has their own memories, of their first cars or the ones they wish they had never traded in. Cars tie us all together and there's nothing more fun than sharing those experiences with other people," Buswell said.
He said that he's very proud of his daughters, Cheryl Carter who works at Meredith Village Savings Bank in Laconia, and Tammie Smith who works at The Joy of Seasons in Concord, North Carolina, where she builds racing seats for NASCAR. His grandson, Dylan Smith, races Sprint cars at tracks in North Carolina.
''I'm really blessed and just a humble Christian who loves automobiles,'' says Buswell.

CAPTION:
Cliff Buswell of Tilton has a collection of over 300 model cars in his home and is celebrating his 58th year of involvement in the automobile business. (Roger Amsden/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 01:07

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Implementation of Medicaid Managed Care for N.H. nursing homes likely to be delayed until sometime in 2015

LACONIA — Interim Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Charlotte Flanagan told county commissioners yesterday that it is likely that the state implementation of Medicaid Managed Care for nursing homes will be delayed for as much as a year.
She said that nursing homes around the state are lobbying for a delay and are concerned that critical questions posed to the two managed care organizations which are under contract with the state — such as how per diem rates will be calculated and what the contracts with nursing homes will cover — have not been answered.
In a letter written to the commissioners last month, Flanagan said that so many questions remain unanswered that she thinks the state should delay its proposed implementation date of April 1, 2015 by a least a year.
She said that the managed care regulations she has seen create additional regulations for nursing homes and will require more pre-authorizations in the patient care area.
County Commissioner Steven Nedeau said he had discussed the issue with other county officials at a statewide meeting held recently in Concord and had he had been told that implementation will ''probably not even happen until late next year.''
Commissioners, who convened nearly half an hour after their scheduled starting time yesterday due to a "non-meeting" they held, approved a five-year service agreement with Cintas corporation for a desk-top shredding service for the Belknap County Nursing Home.
They also received a schedule of fees from Lakes Region Public Access TV and decided to ask for a further explanation of the fees, which range up to $300 flat rate for video taping county and delegation meetings.
Attending the meeting was Paula Child of Gilford, whose husband Ken is a resident of the county home, and who had spoken at Monday night's meeting of the County Convention's Executive Committee about her disappointment with the committee's discussion of funding the wages of nurses at the county home.
She said that she planned to attend meetings of the convention along with her husband. ''Bringing Ken along will make it a lot more real,'' she said.
County Commissioner Ed Philpot said that an ideal situation would be for commissioners and the convention ''to concentrate on ways to make Belknap County better. But it doesn't seem to me that we're doing that in a cooperative way."

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 October 2014 12:59

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