Gilford community loses treasure with death of Polly Sanfacon

GILFORD — The community is mourning the loss of long-time Planning Board Chair Polly Sanfacon who died over the weekend, after a period of declining health.

Yesterday, Sanfacon was being remembered by the many people who lives she touched through her volunteerism and her professional life as a paralegal with Wescott, Millham & Dyer in Laconia. (Now known as the Wescott Law.)

"I loved Polly," said Gilford Librarian Katherine Dormody, who recalled that Sanfacon was on the Board of Library Trustees that hired her in 2000.

Dormody said Sanfocon served as her confidant, mentor, and adviser when she first became the librarian. "She was always there to listen."

She said one of the things she admired most about Sanfacon was that she remained a "life-long learner" who was always interested in the world and embraced change rather than trying to ignore it.

Sanfacon spent 17 years of her professional life working with attorney Rodney "Rod" Dyer.

"We were devastated when we heard," he said, describing her as an integral part of the law firm. "She was well liked by the staff and the people we represented."

Dyer said Sanfacon really came into her own during the 1980s, when the two of them worked on the South Down Shores (Laconia) real estate project and the many residential condominiums projects and conversations that came to the Lakes Region during the building boom of that period.

"She really knew condominiums," he said.

Sanfacon served on the building committee that designed and built Gilford High School in the 1970s and, more recently, the building committee formed to build the new town library six years ago.

"I have a great picture of her and me standing in front of the garage they tore down," said Dormody.

"We're both wearing hard hats," Dormondy explained while noting that she is very tall and Polly was very short and the two of them standing next to each other in their hard hats presents a very comical image.

Twenty-five year veteran Planning Board member Jerry Gagnon said she was an "outstanding person" who did a "spectacular job".

Gagnon said the two of them didn't always agree on everything but she was so reasoned, prepared and precise that he always respected her opinion and her input.

"At the end of every meeting I would look at her and say "P(olly) S(anfacon), I love you," said Gagnon.

Former Selectman Alice Boucher said she was heartbroken from news of Sanfacon's death. They were colleagues through their volunteerism and friends.

Boucher recalled Sanfacon not only as someone who gave a lot to the town, but as someone who was a delight to be with. Both, she said, were members of the Gilford Yacht Club and she recalled how much Sanfacon enjoyed being outside.

Knowing how much she loved to go on walks, Boucher said she felt badly that Sanfacon was likely disheartened by her recent inability to spend time outside but, as was her style, would never complain about it.

She said that this past summer, Polly and her husband Leo spent less time at their home on Squam Lake and much more time at the club. "I am grateful for the time I got to spend with her last summer," Boucher said.

Planning Director John Ayer said Sanfacon had served on the Planning Board since 1998 and was on the board when he was hired. He said she was board chair from 2000 to 2010.

"She was outstanding," he said, echoing Dormody about how helpful she was when he first came to Gilford.

He said she was insightful and asked great questions. He also remarked that she was one of the most prepared Planning Board members he had ever seen.

"I can tell who reads the Planning Board staff reports and who doesn't," he said. "She did."

He also praised her knowledge and understanding of condominiums and the laws surrounding them. "You couldn't pull anything over on her," said Ayer.

Ayer said Sanfacon was still on the board as an alternate at the time of her death. He said she had told him that she was too ill to attend any more meetings and he convinced her to stay formally on the board.

He said his intention was that if she not seek another appointment when her term ended next month, the board and his staff would make a presentation to her thanking her for all she had done for them.

"I hope she knows how much we appreciated her," he said.

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Chasm opens on new Belknap Commission over budget issues

LACONIA — When the chairman of a three member panel finds himself in a minority of one, he should be looking over his shoulder and that is where Richard Burchell of Gilmanton, the new chairman of the Belknap County Commission, found himself when he and his colleagues — Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton and Hunter Taylor of Alton — appeared before the Laconia City Council this week.

Two months after taking office, the three Republicans, all new to the commission, are at loggerheads over the 2015 county budget, which will be adopted by the Belknap County Convention next month.

DeVoy and Taylor have chosen to support their budget by increasing revenue projections. Burchell, who doubts actual receipts will match their estimates, proposes trimming personnel costs by $329,192 by eliminating eight full-time positions. When the commissioners addressed the council, Burchell informally presented his plan, prompting DeVoy to counter that by a vote of two-to-one "this is not the county commissioners' budget."

The rift emerged on February 13, when DeVoy and Taylor met with the county administrator, finance director and department heads, throughout the day to discuss the budget and cuts that were asked for convention Chair Frank Tilton (R-Laconia). Burchell, who anticipated DeVoy and Taylor would raise projected nursing home revenue to get to the target, was at the county complex but absented himself from the meeting.

"It struck me as superficial," Burchell said yesterday of his colleague's decision. "They're rushing down the road to solve our problems by sweetening the revenue stream."

DeVoy recalled that when he and Taylor tackled the revenue estimates prepared by their predecessors "we asked 'why put the numbers so low?'" He said that they reviewed the history of nursing home revenues during the past four years and decided to increase the projection to what he called "a good number" and to hedge by raising the appropriation for contingency to $200,000. DeVoy said that notes of the meeting, with all the figures, were e-mailed to Burchell as soon as they were drafted.

Five days later, on February 18, Matthew Logue, director of the Belknap County Nursing Home, wrote to Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, expressing concern that the introduction of phase two of the state's Medicaid Managed Care plan could cost the nursing home $2.2 million, or 24 percent of its annual revenue. The letter confirmed Burchell's suspicions of the revenue estimates on which the majority hinged its budget. He said that Logue regularly consults with his counterparts in other counties, officials of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, which represents 90 long-term care facilities, and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

"It's not just Mr. Logue who is concerned about nursing home revenues," Burchell said. He added that he met with Kenney, Logue and Rep. Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont), a member of the convention's executive committee, all of whom echoed his concerns about projected revenues.

DeVoy pointed out that Logue is primarily concerned about the impact of the introduction of the second phase of the Medicaid Managed Care program on July 1, 2016, which has no bearing on the 2015 county budget. He said that he has met with Logue, who did not question the revenue estimates he and Taylor prepared.

Burchell said that the county will not know the actual revenue figures to expect until June. "It will be too late to right the ship," he remarked, "and then we will face some very unappetizing choices." In particular, he questioned whether the commission would have sufficient funding to undertake renovation and construction of the county jail. Noting that DeVoy and Taylor set aside some $440,000, he called their decision "fatuous" and claimed, "the money doesn't exist."

Burchell took a different approach to the budget. He proposed eliminating the position of county administrator, two positions in the finance department and one position on the maintenance crew. In addition, two full-time positions in the County Attorney's Office and one Registry of Deeds would become part-time positions and and two instead of three new corrections officers would be hired. "I couldn't start off like that without a need," he said, referring to his expectation of a revenue shortfall.
DeVoy and Taylor did not learn of Burchell's alternate budget proposal until the day before the commission was scheduled to address the City Council.

DeVoy suspected that Burchell was using the prospect of diminished revenues as leverage to shrink and restructure the county administration, an agenda he nurtured as a member of the convention for the two years before his election to the commission. Alluding to the tension between Burchell and county officials, particularly county Administrator Debra Shackett and Finance Director Glen Waring — whose positions he would eliminate, DeVoy suggested his plan smacks of "retribution".

"I'm not interested in settling old scores," DeVoy said. "I want to do the right things for the county." He said that he also has concerns about the county administration and, like Burchell, favors a "business model", but "being in office for six weeks is not enough time to make those decisions. You can't make decisions without talking to people," he stressed.

With the commission divided, the budget will be decided by the 18 members of the convention, who like the commissioners are all Republicans,. Burchell said that Rep. Tilton has informed him that the convention will work from the revenue estimates prepared by DeVoy and Taylor. Nevertheless, he said that he has and will seek to muster support for his position among members of the convention.

"I don't have a handle on where it stands," Burchell said, referring to votes on the convention.

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OD suspected in death

LACONIA – Laconia Police are investigating the untimely death of a 34-year-old man who was found Wednesday morning in his Girard Street home by a work colleague.

Capt. Bill Clary confirmed that there was an untimely death at that location but said the exact cause has not been determined.

Laconia Police logs indicate the call came to them just before 6 a.m. yesterday and was initially reported as an "overdose".

Clary said until the N.H. Medical Examiner and the toxicology reports are complete he can't say whether the victim died of a drug overdose or because of something else.

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