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Rep. Fields has praise for Belknap Commission & its staff, not so much for fellow lawmakers

LACONIA — Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton) praised Belknap County Commissioners and county staff at Wednesday's meeting of the commission and said that he hopes that there will be better relations between the Belknap County Convention and the commissioners in the future.
Fields, one only three Republicans who last week supported the request of the commissioners and the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee for a $3 million bond issue for improvements to the jail and funds for a schematic design for a new jail, also thanked Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward for his efforts on behalf of a new facility.
He said that alternatives which were proposed by opponents of a new facility, such as shipping prisoners to other counties, ''aren't a good idea.'' The proposed bond issue, which required a two-thirds majority, failed to garner even a majority, losing 9-7.
''I was very proud of the staff this year and I hope we can get back we can all communicate. I believe it was more the delegation's fault than the commissioners. The way the delegation acted made us all look bad and some of us aren't. The problems we had were more no the delegation than the commissioners.'' said Fields.
He said that he thinks it was wrong to separate one political party from another in deliberations by the county convention and said he would like to see a delegation that does its job in a non-partisan manner.
Fields, who served 11 terms in the legislature in another county before moving to Belknap, said that he decided to run for re-election to what would be his fourth term in Belknap County, where he represents Sanbornton and Tilton, because he thinks that compromise and mutual respect are needed and that he has always liked working with others to improve government.,
''We work best when we work together and sit down and compromise and that's what I would like to see brought back to the county,'' said Fields.

He then proceeded to criticize an idea championed by Dave DeVoy, who is running for the Republican nomination for the seat being vacated by County Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), which called for converting a part of the Belknap County complex, currently used by commissioners and county staff, into a women's jail, saying that the plan was ''nonsense'' and would never work.

DeVoy, who lives in Sanbornton, was in the audience at the meeting but did not respond.
Commissioner Stephen Nedeau (R-Meredith) thanked Fields for his comments and said that he too was proud of those who work for the county. ''We have one of the best staffs in the state,''
Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont) also thanked Fields, who then proceeded to wish him well in the upcoming Republican primary in which Thomas will be opposed by Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who has been critical of the commission and of the county jail planning process.
County Administrator Debra Shackett, who has been charged by the Jail Planning Committee with contacting the Ricci Greene consulting firm, which developed a conceptual plan for a 180-bed, 94,000-square-foot community corrections facility, said that she has talked with the firm and that a meeting will be scheduled in the near future.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 01:06

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FairPoint will host customers' IT equipment at N. Main Street building

LACONIA — FairPoint Communications, Inc. has announced the opening of a data center serving its commercial customers at the company's property at 762 North Main Street.

The data center provides commercial enterprises and public institutions with a secure off-site facility to house their information technology equipment and computing capacity in a closely controlled environment. Data centers enable these organizations to tailor and arrange their IT systems to meet demand without incurring the costs of adding space or staff while keeping control over their equipment and data. Spaces as small as half a rack or as large as cages of thousands of square feet are available.

The data center offers a secure connection over the largest fiber-core Ethernet network in northern New England and with multiple choices of redundant network connections, customers can configure the optimal connection for their needs.

In a prepared statement Chris Alberding, vice-president of product management, said that "as more organizations seek to reduce capital expenses and adapt to the ever-evolving technology and regulatory landscape, we continue to see the need for data center services."

Jeff Nevins, a spokesman for FairPoint, said that as the facility, which consists of 24,000-square-feet on two stories, will be fully automated and remotely monitored — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will not generate employment.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:52

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Laconia police union rank & file rejects negotiated 3-year contract

LACONIA — The membership of the Laconia Police Association has rejected the proposed three-year contract that was recommended by its team of negotiators and approved unanimously by the Police Commission at its May meeting.

The union's existing two-year contract expires at midnight on July 1 and was approved by the City Council on June 26, 2012.

Although details of the contract itself are not made public until it is accepted by the membership and approved by the City Council, Police Chief Chris Adams said some provisions like health insurance and cost-of-living adjustments are consistent with what commissioners approved for non-union employees in May.

Non-union employees will get cost-of-living raises of 2-percent in the 2014, 2.25-percent in 2015, and 2.5-percent in 2016.

Commissioners also approved the elimination of the more comprehensive health insurance plan previously available to non-union employees, however employees will be given a $250 stipend over the next three years as compensation for higher out-of-pocket expenses.

In addition, the commission voted to contribute $1,000 per non-union employee annually to a Health Savings Account as an offset for higher deductibles. The money can accumulate but an employee cannot take the money with them if they leave or retire.

Commissioners also agreed that non-union employees contribution to the premium will be 8-percent in 2015, 9-percent in 2016, and 10-percent in 2017.

The police department plan for non-union employees is consistent with that offered to other non-union employees who work for the city of Laconia.

Adams said he and union President Jeff Wholley are still communicating. Wholley was unavailable for comment.

On June 12, City Council rejected a three year contract that the union of Laconia firefighters had agreed to. Terms of that agreement were not publicly discussed either.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:28

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Council adds & subtracts its way to $115k reduction of proposed tax bill

LACONIA — The City Council this week stopped short of adopting the 2014-2015 municipal budget, but with a mix of budget adjustments, revenue increases and expense reductions, sketched a scenario that would trim the amount to be raised by property taxes and lower the projected rise in the property tax rate while applying more resources to the scourge of illicit drugs.

The council's plan would reduce the amount to be raised by property taxes by $115,000, or three-tenths of one-percent, from $36.1-million to $36-million. At the same time, the projected increase in the property tax rate of 31 cents, from $22.08 to $22.39, would be reduced to 25 cents, leaving a rate of $22.33. The owner of a median priced home of $200,000 would be spared $12 in property taxes by the council's action.

The council is expected to adopt the budget at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 14.

Last week City Manager Scott Myers recommended raising the projected revenues from motor vehicle registrations by $30,000, from $2,150,000 to $2,180,000, reducing the appropriation for the employer's share of health insurance premiums by $30,000 and eliminating a $20,000 appropriation for preparing the Master Plan to reflect receipt of a grant for the purpose. Together these changes to his original budget proposal represent a net gain of $80,000.

After what Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, called "an informal give and take," Mayor Ed Engler conducted a straw poll on a handful of proposals offered by Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4).

The council agreed to eliminate $25,000 for a study of the intersection of Court Street and Fair Street from the capital outlay budget. With support from Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), Baer suggested cutting some or all of the $39,500 appropriation for Lakes Region Public Access television. On advice from Myers the council agreed to reduce the appropriation by $10,000.

After some discussion with School Superintendent Terri Forsten and members of the School Board the council agreed to increase School District revenues by $30,000 and decrease expenditures by the same amount for a net impact of $60,000.

Initially Lipman asked school officials to cut their budget by $50,000. Instead, Forsten proposed to increase revenue $50,000 in anticipation of increased reimbursement of special education costs. "I'll be up front," Lipman told her. "I can't support the plan you just outlined."

Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) agreed that "it's not okay to adjust the revenue line."

When Hamel suggested raising revenues and cutting expenses by equal amounts, school officials withdrew to confer and later accepted the proposal. "There's no reason not to ask the schools to help out the taxpayers," he said.

Joe Cormier, a member of the School Board, said that there was 20 percent turnover in the teaching staff of the three elementary schools and the $30,000 could be teased from the salaries and benefits of the new hires.

Meanwhile, the council agreed to appropriate an additional $50,000 to the Police Department to strengthen targeted patrolling for drug enforcement as well as to coordinate community programs aimed at preventing and treating drug abuse. Lipman foresaw "a collective effort to get a the demand side" while conceding "it may not work, but I'm willing to give it a shot."

Councilors also readily agreed to add another $10,000 to the overall budget, $7,000 to service the debt on the high estimate to construct a new fire station and $3,000 increased dues to the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. Altogether the additional expenditures amount to $60,000.

The adjustments, higher revenues and lower expenses amount to $175,000. Less the $60,000 in additional expenditures, the net effect would be to reduce the tax commitment by $115,000.

Two other proposals failed to gain a consensus of the council. Baer proposed eliminating the $32,000 appropriated to fund the salaries, benefits and related expenses of four firefighters for five weeks. The firefighters were hired with a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant of $642,028 from the federal government, which expires in April 2015. Baer said that since there is no plan for funding the positions once the grant expires and the additional personnel have not led to a significant reduction in the cost of overtime, she believes the positions should be eliminated for the last five weeks of fiscal year 2015 budget.

Likewise, Baer also sought to withhold a $15,000 appropriation for the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail. Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, reminded the council that businesses and individuals have been contributing as much or more than the city to the project, which is a priority in the Master Plan. "We need your support. We need your help," he said. "I'd like to ask you for more money."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:20

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