LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners had proposed changes in the state court system that would see felony charges filed directly in Superior Court, bypassing the current practice of having them filed first in circuit courts, outlined to them by N.H. Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau Wednesday afternoon.
Nadeau said the goal of the program is to see 75 percent of felony level cases resolved within 90 days of being filed, 90 percent within 180 days and 98 percent within a year.
She said that currently in New Hampshire the average is 233 days passing between the time a case reaches Superior Court and it is resolved. And that doesn't even count the 45 to 90 days it takes a case to move from Circuit Court to Superior Court.
''We're duplicating what happens in Circuit Court in Superior Court. What we want to see is getting a judge with jurisdiction to resolve the case involved right away by eliminating the Circuit Court for felonies,'' said Nadeau
She said that eliminating the circuit court path for felonies will save two to three months and result in quicker resolution of felony cases, 40 percent of which she said can be resolved within 40 days of arrest, something she said is already taking place in Strafford County where an early case resolution program for property-crime cases has been in place for five years.
Nadeau said she would like to see other counties using what she called a vertical approach to felony cases, where the county attorneys' office becomes involved in felony cases immediately after arrest.
She said studies have shown that defendants who are held accountable for their actions close in time to their arrest are less likely to become repeat offenders and such an approach has an added benefit of reducing pretrial detention time, saving on costs for county jails.
Nadeau said that a pilot project which will start in Strafford County next month and Cheshire County in in July will see cases bound over from Circuit Court scheduled for an immediate hearing, or initial appearance, before a superior court judge who has jurisdiction to hear the case. At present a felony case waits three months or more once it's bound and a prosecutor can present it to a grand jury.
She said legislation will need to be passed in the next session of the Legislature which would recognize the superior court as having first jurisdiction in these cases, and that more research is being done as to whether other laws would need to change.
''This is different than our current adversarial model'' says Nadeau, who said that the project is intended to keep cases that should not have been felonies from ever reaching superior court, and to identify early those defendants who are eligible for drug court or other alternative sentencing programs.
Draft rules circulated earlier this year provide that at least 10 days before initial appearance, the state will have provided all discovery and a written plea offer. The defense must also let the state know whether it intends to raise an alibi or certain other defenses. At the initial appearance, the prosecutor and defense attorney must be ready to discuss early resolution. The defendant can waive indictment and enter a guilty plea at the initial appearance, if the parties reach an agreement.
She says if a defendant does not agree to accept a plea bargain offer within a 10-14 day period the offer will expire. "It gets the attention of the defense attorneys right away and and makes resolution of those cases before they ever move further more likely.''
She said the changes will be more fully explained to county officials at a meeting in September and that it will be two to two and a half years before the system can be fully implemented statewide.
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 May 2014 01:06
BELMONT — After listening to a presentation similar to one given to community members about the Red Raider logo in April, the Shaker Regional School Board voted 4-to-1 against changing it.
Voting against the change were Belmont members Donna Cilley, Vice-Chair Sean Embree, Gretta Olson-Wilder and Richy Bryant. Voting to get rid of the logo was Canterbury member Robert Reed. Abstaining was Canterbury member Jill Lavallee. Chair Heidi Hutchinson of Canterbury did not vote.
"I don't want to vote on this," said Cilley who was the first to suggest the district voters be the one who make the decision.
Most of the members of the board said they thought it was something that the School District should decide at its annual district meeting in March. This was the reason Lavallee chose to abstain.
"We should vote 'no' and leave it up to residents to bring it up at the meeting," said Bryant, suggesting that the people who support changing the logo to something other than a side profile of what appears to be an American Indian could file a petition for the next district meeting.
Reed voted to change the logo because he said the important thing was not that the people who support keeping it aren't offended, but that it could be offensive to others. "It's how it looks to those Indian people — the Native Americans," he said.
Embree voted against changing it, but said he had done some of his own research and echoed Cilley by saying that it is something the whole district should decide, not just the School Board.
The subject of changing the mascot came from a social studies class discussion and found its way to the Belmont High School Student Council. After conducting research into the use of American Indian names, mascots, and logos, the members of the council began a campaign to change the logo to something else but keep the name Red Raiders along with the school colors of red and white.
Principal Dan Clary wanted it noted that the Student Council tackled a very controversial issue and that some of its members had gotten some negative feedback from their fellow students. School Board members said they appreciated the fact that, regardless of the outcome, the council members did some excellent research and dared to take on a topic that was far from easy.
Student Council members Andrew Bragg and Taylor Becker presented the board with the results of the poll held after the April meeting and noted that 12 people voted for changing the logo and 56 voted against it. Apparently other polls, including one done on-line by Selectman and Belmont High School Alumni Ron Cormier had comparable results.
Bragg and Becker said they polled the high school staff recently and learned that 37 of them supported changing the logo while 11 didn't.
Bragg and Tucker said that a high school-wide poll showed 73 people for changing the logo, 191 against changing it and 11 who had no opinion. In all, 275 of the 414 high school students weighed in.
The room at the Belmont Elementary School library was packed with students – most of whom were dressed in some kind of Red Raiders uniform or jacket and who stood behind one of the smaller bookcases that traverses the library.
Cassie Contigiani was still wearing her softball uniform complete with some evidence of a recent slide into base. She presented the board with a petition to keep the logo that some student athletes passed around school earlier in the day. She said about 75 percent she asked signed.
Another recent former graduate Elizabeth Yelle said said she saw the Raider as a "source of pride."
"I never thought of it as something not to be proud of," she said.
He sister said both of her older siblings were Red Raiders and she had waited four years to be able to wear a Red Raider jacket.
For the logo to be changed, a petitioned warrant article written in the affirmative must be presented to the Shaker Regional School District before Feb. 4, 2015, said Business Administrator Deb Thompson.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 01:17
LACONIA — Following a public hearing the City Council last night voted unanimously to enact an ordinance regulating the operation and location of electronic signs throughout the city.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) acknowledged the concern of some business owners that the ordinance was unnecessarily restrictive, but feared if the council sought to amend it, it would only further put off the day when firms eager to erect signs could do so.
As proposed by the Zoning Task Force and endorsed by the Planning Board, the ordinance distinguishes between two types of "electronic message center" (EMC) — "static" and "dynamic." Static electronic signs are those on which neither the copy nor pictures change during the message while their dynamic counterparts appear to move or change as they present a stream of images or words that fly in, fade out, rotate and scroll across the face of the sign.
Neither type of electronic sign is permitted in the six residential districts. Where they are permitted, the dimensions and heights of signs must to conform to those of free-standing signs in the specific district. Moreover, the electronic portion of the signs must not exceed 75 percent of the total area of the sign, a provision that ensures that all such signs are framed.
EMC-dynamic display signs are confined to the commercial resort district, which includes The Weirs, and permitted there only by special exception.
EMC-static display signs are excluded from the downtown riverfront district, but permitted in the commercial resort district and permitted by special exception in the professional, business central, business central/industrial, commercial, industrial park, industrial and airport industrial districts. In addition, the display, whether imagery or script, on EMC-static display signs cannot change more frequently than every five minutes.
Suzanne Perley, who chaired the task force, said that seven of the 13 cities — Claremont, Concord, Dover, Franklin, Keene, Lebanon and Portsmouth — in the state prohibit EMCs altogether, three — Manchester, Nashua and Somersworth — permit them, and they are unregulated in Berlin and Rochester.
Several members of the business community spoke against the proposed ordinance, challenging the the requirement for a special exception and the frequency at which messaging can change.
Longtime real estate broker Steve Weeks, who served on the Zoning Task Force, repeated his concern that requiring a special exception for all EMCs placed an unnecessary additional expense and regulatory burden on the applicant. He pointed out that while the current ordinance restricts the districts where EMCs can be placed, it permits them by right, without requiring a special exception. Likewise, Weeks told council that the messages on EMCs should be allowed to change more frequently than every five minutes, which "is just way too long." He proposed a frequency of every 30 seconds.
Jeff Flanders of the Byse Agency Inc., which is in the professional district on Union Avenue, said he has been seeking to erect an EMC for three years. While he welcomed the recommendation to permit electronic signs in the professional district, he echoed Weeks in challenging the need for a special exception.
Brian Gilbert of Gilbert Block on Route 107, who invested $35,000 in an EMC, objected to the five minute limit on messaging.
"These rules aren't allowing anybody to get the best bang for their buck out of their signs," he said. He suggested that "some people have an agenda not to see business succeed in this town" and recalled one business owner told him "'if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't spend a penny here.' It's a tough town to do business in," Gilbert remarked.
On the other hand, Michael Foote, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which grants special exceptions, and the Zoning Task Force, urged the council to adopt the ordinance as proposed. He said that the special exception provided the ZBA with an opportunity to review the proposed sign and did not represent an onerous burden. He said that the task force did not want "to turn Laconia into Las Vegas with flashing lights everywhere."
"Laconia will never be Las Vegas," countered Gilbert. "It'll be lucky not to be taken over by Tilton."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 01:49
GILFORD — The clouds broke just in time for the the 300 or so people who attended the annual Memorial Day parade yesterday.
The parade was led by flag bearer and Police Officer Charles Hopkins who has been a local part-time officer for 50 years in both Laconia and Gilford.
Marine Corp Veteran Doug Wall and Army Veteran Wesley DeSousa lead the Gilford Police Department Color Guard and Fire Chief and Deputy Chief Steve Carrier and Brad Ober lead the Fire Department Color Guard.
The Knights of Columbus were there in full-regalia and the Gilford High School marching band brought up the rear with patriotic songs. Also participating were veterans in a white fire truck, veterans, surviving spouses, Blue and Gold Star mothers, members of the Board of Selectmen, town department heads, and the Girl Scouts.
Once at the cemetery, high school trumpeter Hunter Anderson played Taps.
At the route that runs from the Gilford Community Church to the World War I and II Memorial to the Pine Grove Cemetery, Hopkins handed the flag to two members of the military who raised it after a members of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of Troop 243 laid a ceremonial wreath.
Reverend Michael Graham gave a benediction at each of the two sites reminding his audience that "may we never forget what they have done."
Along the parade route, people lined Belknap Mountain Road as the parade progressed along the quarter mile stretch.
The keynote speech at the cemetery was given by Selectman Vice Chair Gus Benevides.
"We cannot allow ourselves to every stop being grateful," Benevides began.
Benevides took yesterday speech as a time to not only honor those who had given their life in battle but to honor those who served but came back wounded both inside and out.
"We should honor our soldiers and their families who served and who are still serving," he continued. "We must encourage and support them."
Benevides encouraged those who were at the ceremony to seek out a veteran and ask what he or she could do to help them.
"It is our opportunity now to serve our veterans," He said. "May we always be grateful to the families of our soldiers."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 12:52
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