Merrimack sheriff crashes cruised avoiding deer

NORTHFIELD — Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard was involved in a single car accident with his unmarked cruiser Sunday night at 10:45 p.m. on Rand Road not far from his home.

Northfield Police Chief John Raffaelly said police from both Tilton and Northfield responded to the crash.

Hilliard said he swerved to avoid hitting a deer and went off the road, rolling over the cruiser.

Raffaelly said Hilliard reported scrapes to one of his arms and declined treatment. The next day, Hilliard went to the hospital and was treated with a broken sternum.

The car was towed that night by Rusty's Towing but Raffaelly said he doesn't know where it is being stored.

He said the investigation into the crash is closed.

Laconia man involved in stolen credit card case that got Tilton cop in hot water pleads guilty

LACONIA — A city man who became entwined with a Tilton Police officer regarding a stolen merchandise card pleaded guilty yesterday in the Belknap County Superior Court to one count of receiving stolen property.

Judge James O'Neill sentenced Richard McNeil, 40, formerly of Laconia to 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison — all suspended — pending five years of good behavior. McNeil was also ordered to undergo substance abuse treatment.

McNeil, along with the man who actually stole the card, Richard Miner, was ordered to pay back $2,000 to the victim.

Miner pleaded guilty in August of 2014 to receiving stolen property and was released from the Belknap County House of Corrections on April 1, 2015.

According to records, Miner stole the card from a Tilton homeowner and contacted McNeil about selling it. At the time, Minor and McNeil were roommates.

McNeil, according to an investigation into the theft conducted by the Merrimack County Sheriff's Department, allegedly called former Tilton Det. Crp. Mathew Dawson and asked him if he knew anyone who could use it. (It was a Lowe's rebate card good only for merchandise).

According to Dawson's statements to investigators, McNeil assured him it was not stolen and Dawson told a relative about the card. The relative  allegedly purchased it from McNeil for $600.

The card was used once in Gilford for a small purchase and once in Littleton for the balance.

By pleading guilty today to receiving stolen property, McNeil acknowledges he knew or should have known the card was stolen.

In court yesterday, McNeil, through his lawyer William Woodbury, told Judge James O'Neill that he was an addict. He said he failed to appear for a court date because he had relapsed while in Manchester sometime in April and spent a month in both Massachusetts General Hospital and a Manchester Hospital. He said when he was able to fully be aware of his circumstances he called his parole officer. McNeil was returned to the N.H. State Prison for a 30-day parole setback but has since been released.

As a result of his overdose, McNeil told the judge he had become involved in a residential treatment program called Teen Challenge, which is a 15-month residential program with an option to stay as an intern for an additional six months.

He said he had been living there since May 5.

McNeil told Judge O'Neill that prison was a "crazy experience" and that he completed programs while he was there but they just weren't long enough. He said his new program is Christian-based and is helping him to address the feelings and problems he had been using drugs and alcohol to masquerade.

"I am at your mercy," he told Judge O'Neill and agreed with him that if he didn't complete the program he would go to prison.

Grafton County Prosecutor Mary Bleier said that McNeil's most recent sentence would be served consecutively to his current one (for which he is on parole) should he mess up again. He must be of good behavior for five years.

"I'm giving you a shot again to straighten out your life," said Judge O'Neill. "I sincerely hope you do so."

Because of his involvement with McNeil, Dawson was placed on paid administrative leave for six months while the Merrimack County Sheriff's Office and the N.H. State Police investigated the case.

Upon his return to work, Dawson was demoted to patrol officer and removed from the detective bureau.

Neither he or his relative Ted Dawson have been charged with any wrongdoing by police.

DeVoy says $7 million is limit to budget for a new 'community corrections' facility

LACONIA — Belknap County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy said that he sees $7 million as the highest acceptable figure for building a new "community corrections" facility for the county and urged the architectural firm hired by the county to design the new building to see that as their target.
DeVoy was speaking at a meeting of the county's jail planning committee with SMP Architecture of Concord, held at the Belknap County Complex Wednesday morning.

SMP Architecture was hired last week to provide architectural and engineering services for a schematic design and cost estimates for the project.

Devoy said that some of the costs associated with reconfiguring the current jail for continued use could be handled outside of the projected $7 million bond issue if that was necessary in order to hold the line on costs.
''We've got more than $300,000 left in the jail planning account and another $200,000 in contingency which we could use,'' said DeVoy, who said that if necessary the work on the old facility could be spread out over several years and paid for as maintenance within the corrections department's annual budget.
DeVoy said that the yearly payment on a $7 million borrowing would be around $550,000, which the county could handle without a tax increase as bonds which are currently costing $600,000 a year in principal and interest payments will be retired in the near future.
He said that a $7 million bond is ''salable'' to the Belknap County Convention, where a two-thirds vote of the 18-member delegation is required for passage.
SMP President Eric Palson said that the company will keep that in mind but at some point during the planning process ''we're going to get push back from our experts and we'll hit the point where we can't squeeze out anymore.''
SMP, which designed the community corrections facility for Sullivan County (Claremont), which is the model that Belknap County is closely following. 

SMP was hired after its $84,880 bid for the work was accepted by the county commission, even though the bid was higher than than a $62,500 bid from Cowan Goudreau Architects.
Commissioner said that they felt comfortable with SMP and felt it would best serve the needs of the county for a comprehensive plan for the new facility.
In addition to its architectural team of Palson, architect Jason LaCombe and Project Manager Anthony Mento, SMP is utilizing the services of six consulting engineers to develop the schematic design, including Bauen Corporation of Meredith for construction estimating. The project has an August 21 completion date.
Palson showed five different versions of where the new facility could be built at the site, including one which would require a separate entry road into the county complex for service vehicles only, which would separate public traffic from service vehicles and provide an alternative exit way for the Sheriff's Department.
He also said that access for construction vehicles during the construction of the new facility was a key element in the planning process which needed to be looked at closely.
Following the meeting with the jail planning committee, which includes DeVoy, County Administrator Deb Shackett, County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward and County Facilities Manager Dustin Muzzey, the SMP team toured the site with committee members.
SMP will be meeting every Thursday morning for the next few months with the jail planning group as well as Kevin Warwick and Ross Cunningham of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., a consulting firm hired by the county to develop a plan for a community corrections facility and programs which it would provide.
Next week the meeting will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon but after that it will switch to Thursday morning meetings at 9 a.m.
Warwick was a consultant for the Sullivan County project and Cunningham, who is currently the assistant superintendent for the Merrimack County House of Corrections, was superintendent for Sullivan County when the facility there was designed and put into operation.
They have developed a plan for a 64-bed community facility for Belknap County which will have have 30 treatment beds, 20 for men and 10 for women, and 34 work release beds, 24 for men and 10 for women.
The new facility would be built next to the current jail and connected to it through a newly created control room. It would contain 22,327-square-feet and a suggested addition which would include a small 2,500-square-foot gym, 1,500-square-feet of administrative space — all of which would bring the total space to just over 27,000-square-feet.
Palson said that one of the first steps will be paring down the size of the proposed facility, which would see the gym replaced by an exercise facility, as well as looking at mechanical issues and the possible removal of a wing of the current jail.
Several of the models Palson showed the committee featured the community corrections facility as a two-story facility, which DeVoy questioned due to concerns over the costs of an elevator which he said might run as high as $500,000, a number which LaCombe questioned.
Palson said that many of the renovation costs to the current facility are unknown and Muzzey pointed out that the deterioration of the concrete in parts of the old jail made some of the proposed fixes which have been looked at over the years unfeasible.