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County Convention Squabbles over Budget Review Process and Makes Grudging Progress

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention held the first of four scheduled budget review sessions last night and members spent nearly as much time dealing with philosophy and wrangling over procedures as they did talking about any parts of the budget.
All of the county department heads were on hand for the three-hour meeting, which ended up covering only the outside agency and administrative, finance and IT department budgets, the only ones so far reviewed by the convention's subcommittees.
The evening opened with Convention Chairperson Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) correcting minutes from the last convention meeting and then sparring with Reps. Ruth Gulick (D-New Hampton) and Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton) over the powerpoint presentation she had made at that meeting regarding administrative salaries and health insurance issues.
Gulick asked Worsman, ''Where do you get your authority to have your own personal opinion presented in that manner'' while Fields said he was ''curious to why you keep making your own budget up?'' rather than working on the budget as presented by the Belknap County Commissioners.
Worsman told Gulick that she used "the prerogative of the chairman'' when she decided to make the presentation and told Fields that he was free to use the commissioner's budget or hers, which she said was prepared in order to add pertinent information.
Jane Cormier (R-Alton) defended Worsman and said that she thought that she saw personal animus at work in the criticism of the chairperson.
Worsman then proceeded to ask each member of the convention ''what you'd like to bring home to the taxpayers as a tax rate?'' That prompted a lengthy debate over how to proceed on the budget.
Rep. Lisa DiMartino (D-Gilford) said she wouldn't set a number but preferred to look at the needs of the county first and then work from there to the tax rate. Rep. Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) said that he sees a projected 8 percent increase which he thinks is too high and that ''what we can afford is the bottom line'' and said that he thought a 1 1/2 percent increase in the total appropriation is the most the county can afford.
Fields questioned how the budget could be cut by a percentage amount without knowing what would be cut and DiMartino questioned Vadney's number on the projected increase and asked county commissioners, who said that the appropriation request was up 4 percent with expenditures up by seven-tenths of a percentage point and revenues down by 3.1 percent.
Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said a $533,000 reduction in spending from last year should be factored in now that the county is no longer paying the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association assessment for Belknap County Towns. But county commissioners maintained that was simply a pass through of funds which are now being paid directly by the towns.
Rep. Ian Raymond said that he wouldn't want to take a vote on any part of the budget until he knew how much the convention would be paying for its lawsuit in its dispute with the commissioners over budget authority and urged the convention not to make cuts without regard to consequences.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 02:27

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Laconia recycling ‘on track’ to meet targets

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council last night that in the first six months since the mandatory recycling program was introduced, the reduction in the volume of solid waste collected at the curbside is "on track" to meet the target set in the 2013-2014 city budget.

The budget projected reducing the tonnage of solid waste collected at the curbside by 575 tons, from 4,500 tons to 3,975, which at approximately at $150 a ton would reduce the cost of collecting, hauling and disposing of solid waste by about $86,000, from $675,000 to $589,000.

Between July and December 2013, 1,865.73 tons of of solid waste were collected at the curbside compared to 2,141.20 tons during the same period in 2012, a difference of 275.47 tons. As a result, the cost of collection, transportation and disposal fell from $321,180 to $279,859.50, a difference of $41,320.50.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 02:21

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Fugitive arrested after traffic stop on Rte 106

BELMONT — A routine traffic stop of a speeding vehicle on Sunday evening led to the arrest of a Gilford man wanted for larceny in Maine, and who allegedly was in possession of a controlled drug, oxycodone, when he was apprehended.

Robert Boyd, 42, of 200 Cherry Valley Road, Gilford was held in Belknap County Jail in lieu of $6,000 cash bail as a fugitive from justice charged with possession of a controlled drug, a class B felony.

According to police, Officer Evan Boulanger was patrolling on Route 106 when he spotted the vehicle in a 50 mile-per-hour zone. After stopping the car, he discovered that the driver had an expired license and identified the passenger, Boyd, as his brother. Boulanger discovered that an electronic bench warrant for Boyd's arrest was issued by the 4th Circuit Court — Laconia Division, and subsequently confirmed he was also wanted in Maine.

In his affidavit, Boulanger reported that he handcuffed and searched Boyd, finding a folded dollar bill holding what Boyd told him was a crushed Percocet and a blue pill on the floor of the car that Boyd said belonged to him.

Boyd is scheduled to appear for a probable cause hearing in 4th Circuit Court — Laconia Division on Feb. 2.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 02:18

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Weekend fires deemed ‘random acts of arson’

LACONIA — A pair of fires in the early hours of Saturday morning have aroused suspicions among police and fire officials that the incidents could possibly have been committed by whoever is responsible for the spate of random fires that occurred last autumn.

Shortly after 2 a.m. on Saturday firefighters were dispatched to 46 Academy St. where a vehicle was burning. While they were on the scene police reported a second fire on the porch of home at 91 Highland St. Both fires were quickly extinguished, with extensive damage to the rear seat of the vehicle and minor damage to the porch of the residence.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson described both fires as "random acts of arson" similar to those in September and November when vehicles, dumpsters and empty buildings were set afire. Like the fires on Saturday morning, those fires occurred on weekends, late at night or early in the morning.

Police Chief Chris Adams said that while the similarities between the fires cannot be overlooked, the investigation is not based on the assumption that the same person started all the fires.

"We have never stopped working on the case," Adams said, recalling that more than half a dozen similar fires were set in a short period in September. The fire at the occupied residence on Highland Street, he called "a step up," adding "we were concerned before and we're very concerned now."

Both Erickson and Adams urged members of the public to be vigilant and alert. They asked anyone who sees someone behaving suspiciously, especially in the late night or early morning hours, to get a detailed description — height, weight, hair color and clothing — and report their location and direction of travel to the police at once. He said that patrol officers are on the alert for suspects and will respond immediately.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 01:50

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