Petitions in Gilmanton call for vote on returning to town & school meeting format

GILMANTION — A group of townspeople have submitted petitions to have the town and School District return to the traditional town-meeting style of governing, Town Clerk Debra Cornett confirmed Tuesday.

She said the Supervisors of the Checklist have met and determined that the minimum number of signatures needed to put the measure on the 2015 town and school warrants has been met.

Gilmanton has been governed the Official Ballot Act — also known as SB-2 — since 2012. Under SB-2, which was enacted into state law in 1996, towns and school districts approve their budget and decide other matters through standard day-long balloting, compared to the traditional town meeting format where voters debate the budget and other issues then vote on them in a open forum.

Needing a three-fifths majority to pass, Gilmanton voters passed SB-2 by 10 votes. The result was 519 in favor and 328 opposed. The turnout in that election was 38 percent of registered voters, high by local election standards.

Under SB-2 voters also have to choose between a proposed town budget and a "default" budget that consists of the previous year's budget minus one time expenditures plus the cost of new contractual agreements.

According to a story written in early 2014 by the Union Leader, in 2012 there were 67 towns using SB-2 and 19 school districts.

Those who favor SB-2 argue that it cuts down on spending and takes the intimidation factor out of annual town meeting where, in most cases, townspeople can see who supports various measures. Advocates also said that, in a perfect world, voters would come to the deliberative session, discuss and alter the proposed warrant articles as they see fit, and then be well-informed about how they cast their ballots.

Those who are against SB-2 say not enough people attend the SB-2 deliberative sessions and on town election day are voting on items they don't completely understand.

It will take the same 60 percent majority of Gilmanton's voters to undo SB-2 as it did to enact it in 2012.

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Man who did not report to jail on assigned date now charged with bail jumping

LACONIA — A local man is being held on one count of bail jumping after he failed to turn himself into jail to serve a sentence for possession of marijuana.

Laconia Police arrested Bradley Perreault, 42, on Christmas Eve after an altercation was reported at Walgreen's.

According to Belknap County Sheriffs Department prosecutor Jim McIntire, Perreault pleaded guilty on Nov. 3 to one count of possession of marijuana in Laconia.

As part of his plea agreement, Perreault agreed to serve 15 days in the Belknap County House of Corrections and was scheduled to surrender on Nov. 15.

McIntire said there was some confusion with the paperwork and Perreault turned himself into jail officials on Nov. 17. Employees at the jail expected him two days before so Perreault returned to the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on the 17th to get his paperwork fixed.

For some reason, after his paperwork was changed to a self-surrender on Nov. 17, Perreault allegedly didn't return to the jail.

A warrant had been issued for his arrest, and when he got into his altercation on Christmas Eve, he was arrested for one count of bail jumping.

He is being held on $500 cash bail and is scheduled to appear in the 4th Circuit Court on Monday.

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Tardif not deterred by opening of minutes to 1 non-public meeting on Belknap Mill issue

LACONIA — The City Council this week voted unanimously to unseal minutes of two non-public meetings held on October 27, which together with an earlier non-public meeting on October 14, are the subject of litigation filed by Tom Tardif, who alleges the meetings violated the state Right-to-Know law.
When the City Council met on November 10, Mayor Ed Engler reported that the trustees of the Belknap Mill Society had informed city officials, including the City Council, that it no longer had the financial resources to sustain its ownership of the mill building and was seeking a "partner" to sell the building to. He announced that the council would host a public forum to consider the future of the mill on December 8.
In his suit Tardif said that when he read an article in The Daily Sun reporting the mayor's remarks, he requested minutes of the meetings. City Manager Scott Myers informed him that the council voted to seal the minutes of the meetings. In his suit, Tardif questions the legitimacy of the non-public meetings and alleges that the council failed to follow the prescribed procedures in convening them. He has asked the court to review the minutes of both meetings to determine if the matters discussed represent exceptions to the Right-to-Know Law as the council claims, order the disclosure of minutes that fail to qualify as exceptions and require the councilors, city manager and city clerk to undergo remedial training in the administration of the Right-to-Know law.

A hearing has been scheduled in Carroll County Superior Court on January 5. (The suit was referred to Carroll County after Belknap County Superior Court cited a conflict on interest.)
Tardif said yesterday that the release of the minutes of Oct. 27 would have scant impact on the litigation. "It's one less set of minutes the court will have to read," he remarked. "The way they entered the meetings was not correct."
Altogether the council held four non-public meetings, two on October 14 and two on October 2. Three of these meetings were to consider "the acquisition, sale, or lease of real or personal property which, if discussed in public, would likely benefit a party or parties whose interests are adverse to those of the general community," which is one of the purposes the Right-to-Know law permits to be discussed privately. The council voted to seal the minutes of all four meetings for two years.
The minutes of the first meeting on October 27, which were released this week, record that the council met privately with Christine Santaniello, president of the Board of Trustees of the Belknap Mill Society and two trustees — Allison Ambrose and Marty Ilg. The minutes record that "the Mill Society is now looking to partner with the city, BCEDC (Belknap County Economic Development Council) or a private concern to save the structure." Furthermore, according to the minutes "Budget figures were discussed regarding with or without a partner" and "Several options were considered." Finally, the minutes note that the council agreed to convene a public meeting about the situation facing the mill.
The minutes of the second meeting on October 27 referred to the acquisition of two commercial properties on Frank Bean Road, the site of a dump, which the city is in the process of cleaning up under the direction of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES). The minutes record that the council authorized Myers to purchase the properties "at a price not to exceed $325,000."
The minutes of the meetings on October 14 remain sealed. However, In a private e-mail to Tardif, which he attached to his petition to the court, Engler explained that at least one set of minutes refers to "the acquisition, sale or lease of real property," adding that "the reason was solid." He explained that prior to non-public meeting on October 14 he met with Sanataniello "several" times, sometimes accompanied by the city manager. Engler told Tardif that he briefed the city council on these earlier meetings at the non-public meeting on October 14, when no representatives of the Belknap Mill Society were in attendance. The mayor said that at both meetings, on the 14th and 27th ,"we discussed the possibility of the city purchasing the mill from the society. Specific dollar amounts were mentioned."
The subject discussed at the other non-public meeting on October 14 has not been disclosed.

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Noisy weddings? Sanbornton woman asks court to force neighbors to keep it down

SANBORNTON — A Knox Mountain Road woman has petitioned Belknap County Superior Court to stop a gathering-venue rental business located near her home from operating, saying it is a "private nuisance".

Laurie Graham owns a home at 170 Knox Mountain Road which is nearby to a "venue rental" business located at 195 Knox Mountain Road known as "Longlook Farm."

Graham contends that because of the weekend rental of the Longlook Farm for gatherings like weddings, she has lost the "quiet enjoyment" of her home.

Specifically, she said that she had contacted the Sanbornton Police repeatedly because of "unreasonable noise caused by music played through speakers," noises from the crowds, cars speeding by her home, and shuttle buses going past her home.

Longlook Farm is owned by Colm and Katie Brophy who also live at the site. Planning and Zoning Board records obtained online indicate that in March of 2012, the ZBA granted the Brophys a special zoning exception for allowing up to 10 (from a maximum allowed of 6) bedrooms for a tourist home and for cooking functions.

Minutes indicate that the property is in a Forest Conservation District and the Brophys plan was to rent the barn and a guest house for weekend functions — especially weddings — from May through October.

The events are limited to one rental at a time and there is a maximum occupancy of 120 people, although there is some confusion over whether the site plan granted by the Planning Board on June 21, 2012 allows for 150 total people.

In her pleading, Graham said they Brophys had already been renting the property as a venue since 2010, without proper land use board approvals.

Graham said since the proper land use board approvals were granted in 2012, the noise and number of events has escalated and because the events can last over a four-day period, the Brophys' activities have cost her the enjoyment, quiet and safety of her own home.

She has asked the court to order the Brophys to not used amplified music, to reduce the number of annual events, and to order that all events are supervised.
In the alternative, she has asked to court to stop the Brophys from using the home as a rental venue.

Minutes from the Planning Board public hearing held on June 21, 2012 indicate that Graham was at the meeting and voiced similar concerns and complaints even before the site plan was granted.

She told the board that she had lived there for four years and moved there for the beauty and serenity. She noted that she had invested money in her cars because the condition of Knox Mountain Road is not that good but, for her, it was an equal tradeoff. Her request to the Planning Board in 2012 was similar to her recent request to the court—– that the Brophys scale back their enterprise.

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