Lawmakers chastise county administration but approve budget transfer of $10k to get jail through the weekend
LACONIA — A rump of four of the seven members of the executive committee of the Belknap County Convention met in an emergency session yesterday and unanimously approved the request of Dan Ward, Superintendent of the county jail, to transfer $10,000 to ensure inmates necessary medications through the weekend.
Funding for medications was the most acute issue arising from the preliminary injunction issued by Justice James D. O'Neill, III of Belknap County Superior Court prohibiting the Belknap County Commission from either spending in excess of any 2014 line-item appropriation or transferring more than $300 from one line item to another without the approval of the executive committee.
Meanwhile, Representative Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of the committee, was more concerned with how the emergency arose. "I'm wrestling with the questions of when and why this need occurred," he said, "with why we're here today." He noted that O'Neill issued his order on August 28 and said "this could have been repaired in 20 minutes." Reminding the commissioners that the executive committee was scheduled to meet on September 15 and asked "why did you not give us a request on the 15th?"
"Why don't we just move forward?" replied Commissioner Steve Nedeau.
"The bigger issue is why did we go 20 days without a request for transfers," Tilton insisted.
County Administrator Debra Shackett then began speaking from prepared notes. She said the commission received the court order on August 29 and on September 4 advised the committee that neither the county commissioners nor the county administrator could attend a meeting on the 15th and asked for the meeting to be rescheduled. The meeting was not rescheduled, but Tilton indicated he would hold another meeting, most likely on September 29.
Shackett said that on September 18 the commissioners prepared requests to transfer funds within the budget and wrote to Tilton asking him to convene a meeting of the executive committee. On the 23rd Tilton announced that the committee would meet on the 29th. Claiming that operations at the nursing home and county could not be maintained past the 26th without transfers of funds, the commission asked O'Neill to compel the executive committee to meet on the 25th. The court refused the request.
"When exactly the emergency occurred and when it was conveyed to the public are not of primary importance to the safe and continued operation of this organization," Shackett said. "It has not been easy or quick to adapt to new procedures."
Tilton insisted that his initial question had not been answered, adding that the requests for transfers could have been presented and addressed in the first week of September immediately after the court order or when the executive committee met on the 15th. He pointed out that the committee did not require the presence of the commissioners to consider the requests.
Representative Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, said that although the court issued a preliminary injunction, management of the county budget must comply with the order. "Enough with the lawyers," she said, eying Shackett. "Just do your job." She indicated that funds appropriated for legal expenses may have been exhausted and repeated, "leave the lawyers out of it and let's move forward."
However, as the meeting adjourned Nedeau said that the commission, which has asked O'Neill to reconsider his decision, intends to appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, should he refuse to do so.
In the meantime, the executive committee will reconvene on Monday, September 29 at 5 p.m. to consider 13 more requests to transfer funds totaling $604,818.20. Finance Director Glen Waring anticipated that more transfers will be requested throughout the fourth quarter of the fiscal year ending on December 31.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 September 2014 11:51
WEEKEND - Funds raised at today's WOW Fest in Laconia vital to final push toward funding of Phase 2 of recreation trail
LACONIA — The 6th Annual WOW Fest takes place today at the Laconia Athletic & Swim Club. The fun-filled event features two bicycle challenges, 5K and 10K road races, a fun walk, lunch and live music.
WOW Fest is an important fundraiser for the WOW Trail, which is currently a 1.3 mile recreation trail connecting Lakeport to downtown Laconia.
The WOW Trail is a planned 9 mile recreation path to be built alongside the active railroad corridor through the City of Laconia. When completed, it will showcase the three lakes for which it is named: Winnisquam, Opechee & Winnipesaukee, as a part of the regional trail network that will connect Meredith to Franklin and the Northern Rail Trail.
Final design and fundraising for Phase 2 of the WOW Trail is currently underway, which will double the length of the trail from downtown Laconia to a planned Belmont trail, for which voters there approved funds at the March town meeting. Construction of the second phase is scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2015, if funds allow.
Speaking at the WOW Trail annual meeting this summer, Gretchen Gandini, executive director, said that she expected the design work would be complete before the year is out and the funds for the project would be in hand by the coming of spring.
Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail board, said that HEB Engineers, Inc. of Conway has estimated the cost of constructing the second phase at $975,000, stressing "this is only an estimate." This figure is in addition to the $151,552 that has already been spent on this phase of the project.
In 2007, the WOW Trail contributed $71,881 to the cost of rebuilding the Fair Street Bridge in anticipation that it would carry the trail across the Winnipesaukee River. Since 2011 another $79,671 has been spent on design and engineering.
It was reported at that meeting that the organization had over $300,000 cash on hand.
The City Council has agreed to apply $400,000 from a larger borrowing to be retired by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Fund to the project. And the trail was one of two recreational projects to be awarded state tax credits worth $125,000 by the New Hampshire Community Development Financing Authority. The sale of those credits to private business will net $100,000 for the cause.
Beetle said the second phase, unlike the first, crosses and brook and wetlands and requires a bridge and two boardwalks. Apart from raising the funds, he said that easements remain to be negotiated with two property owners.
The WOW Fest and the other major fundraisers for the trail effort, the WOW Ball, and BOW WOW Fest, along with other contributions,helped the WOW trail organization raises $134,504 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. Gandini said that the WOW Fest attracts about 400 participants and raises over $20,000 a year.
Event day registration will be available at Laconia Athletic & Swim Club today. All events start and end at the club.
Bicycle events include the Lake Challenge ($65), a 67 mile ride around Lake Winnipesaukee which gets underway at 7 a.m. and the Bay Challenge ($60), a 15-mile trip around Paugus Bay which starts at 10 a.m.
Running events include the Opechee 5K Road Race ($35) and Opechee 10K Road Race ($40), both of which start at 9 a.m.
There will also be a three-mile Trail Fun Walk ($25) which starts at 10:30 a.m.
All events are followed by a luncheon provided by Fratello's Italian Grille, T-Bones Great American Restaurant, The Common Man Restaurants & Patrick's Pub & Eatery. There will also be live music with Justin Jaymes, a beer garden with Contigiani's Catering.
The festival, which runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., is also open to those not taking part in the events and includes lunch, lives music and children's activities. Fees are $10 for teens and adults and $5 for children 12 and under.
"Bank of New Hampshire is proud to support the WOW Trail and the 2014 WOW Fest event," explains Mark Primeau, president and CEO of Bank of New Hampshire. "This is an exciting event that encourages all of us to get out and get active while supporting this worthy project. We believe the WOW Trail contributes to the health and economic vitality of our community and we support its continued growth."
Gandini says ''The regional trail will be a significant enhancement to our economy and it's not just us trail advocates who are saying so. According to downtown Laconia business owner Myles Chase of MC Cycle and Sport, 'We have a customer base of recreational riders who seek out and travel to these types of trails as a destination. With the new addition to Belmont and eventually beyond, there is no doubt that riders from afar would do the same for the WOW Trail.' "
Donation to the Phase 2 expansion efforts can be made online at www.wowtrail.org or by mail to PO Box 6832, Laconia, NH 03247.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 September 2014 11:39
GILMANTON — Police charged an Elm Street man with simple assault on September 18 after he allegedly wrapped a cord around a 22-year-old female companion's neck while she slept.
The alleged victim said she woke and found Joseph Baumann, 46, wrapping a pair of earphones around her neck.
Baumann turned himself into police on September 20 and was released on personal recognizance bail.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 September 2014 01:30
GILFORD — This is Homecoming Week for Gilford High School and the theme this year is "The Seasons."
Adviser Terry Wilson said the each high school class picked a different season and volunteers decorated various parts of the "wall way" in the gymnasium for their class's season.
This morning, all of the students will go through the cafeteria to admire their fellow student's handiwork. He said the faculty will vote on the winner.
The lineup for homecoming this year begins with a Hall of Fame induction at 4 p.m. in the gymnasium at the high school. Tonight is the dance at the High School. Wilson said it's an informal dance with a disc jockey.
Saturday's sport's line up begins at 9:30 a.m. with J.V. Boys soccer hosting Belmont High School. The varsity game against Belmont is at 11 a.m.
On the other soccer field, the Girls JV soccer game against Belmont begins at 11 a.m. with the varsity girls soccer game beginning at 12:30 p.m.
At 11 a.m. the varsity field hockey team hosts Laconia while the JV game begins after the varsity game ends.
At the football field at Gilford Meadows features the 2-0 Golden Eagles against the 1-1 Newport Tigers for a Division III match up.
In the gymnasium, the J.V Girls Volleyball team takes on the Prospect Mountain Volleyball team at 5 p.m. while the varsity match up against Prospect Mountain begins around 6 p.m.
Last Updated on Friday, 26 September 2014 01:26
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