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Charge of gas theft dropped against former Gilmanton firefighter

GILMANTON — A 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division judge has dismissed criminal charges for theft filed against a former Gilmanton firefighter for allegedly stealing diesel fuel.

Byron McSharry had been charged with theft by unauthorized taking after a student firefighter said he saw him remove a gas-pump key and later return it to its place without putting gas in any department vehicle last summer

The theft charge was not prosecuted at his trial after attorney Mark Sisti argued that the state agreed that there was insufficient evidence that would survive a motion to dismiss.

The state agreed and brought forth a charge of attempted theft.

Sisti then argued that an attempt to commit a crime must be stopped by an intervening action and in this case there was none, which compromises the defense from proving there was an attempted theft.

In addition, he argued that even if the defense could prove he had the key, an attempt, as defined by Black's law Dictionary, "may be described as an endeavor to do and act, carried beyond mere preparation, but short of execution."

The prosecution was given 10 days to respond to the motion but did not.

Without further evidence, Carroll dismissed the charge.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 01:28

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Little enthusiasm on council for Vet Square redo plan

LACONIA — A proposal to reconfigure the west end of Veteran's Square met with a cool reception when Planning Director Shanna Saunders presented it to the City Council on Monday night.

As proposed the plan would convert the intersection of Pleasant with Veteran's Square and Beacon Street West into a simple four-way junction by eliminating the circle that enables west bound traffic through Veteran's Square to reverse direction by rounding. In place of the circle, the curb in front of the Congregational Church of Laconia, UCC would relocated between 60 feet and 40 feet forward into Veteran's Square but there would still be three lanes — two west bound and one east bound.
The five angled parking spaces in front of the church would be relocated at the new curb. The driveway between the Congregational Church and its adjacent Parish Hall would be expanded to a handicap-access turnaround and four angled parking spaces in front of the Evangelical Baptist Church would be retained. Likewise, the six parking spaces on the north side of Veteran's Square, alongside the railroad station, would remain.
The pavement and sidewalk would be removed from the area between the new and existing curb and sidewalk, which would become a landscaped sublawn, bordered by the relocated curb on Veteran's Square and an extended curb on Pleasant Street. The memorial and flagpole would be relocated from the circle to the sublawn, to which benches would be added.
Other than the change to the flow of traffic through Veteran's Square the traffic pattern would remain the same. Traffic entering Veteran's Square from Pleasant Street could turn right on to Beacon Street West, which would remain one-way, left into Veteran's Square or proceed down Pleasant Street, which would also remain one-way. The plan does not include traffic signals at the reconfigured intersection.
Saunders said that the plan enhances the safety of pedestrians, who must cross several lanes of traffic and a considerable expanse of pavement, to cross the square as well as simplifies the flow of traffic. In addition, she said that the plan would prevent motorists leaving the Bank of New Hampshire parking lot turning into the one-way traffic on Pleasant Street then eastbound into Veteran's Square, which is a concern to the police.
Saunders estimated the project would cost approximately $280,000.
Saunders explained that the plan grew from concerns to improve the flow of traffic through and around downtown expressed in the Master Plan in 2007 and repeated in 2012 when the council rejected a plan to open Beacon Street East and Beacon Street West to two-way traffic and improve the intersections around the loop. She said that with the Congregational Church planning to improve access to the church and David and Maureen Kennedy converting the Evangelical Church to a restaurant Holy Grail an opportunity arose to revisit the the intersection where Veteran's Square joins Pleasant Street.
Saunders said she had canvassed opinion among the abutters, including the owners and tenants at the railroad station as well the WOW Trail and New Hampshire Department of Transportation, and the the next step would be for the Planning Board to hold a public hearing on the plan.
Both Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) and Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) said that since the plan was outlined in the newspaper they had heard from residents, all of whom were opposed to it.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, raised concern at the cost while Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) suggested the project belonged on the "backburner."
Mayor Ed Engler asked if anything would be done to improve the movement of traffic through the intersection of Pleasant Street and New Salem Street, particularly since the next phase of the WOW Trail would increase the number of pedestrians passing through the intersection. Saunders said that because its proximity to the railroad crossing nothing could be done to alter the intersection.
Engler asked for a straw poll of the councilors to determine if they considered the project a low, medium or high priority. With Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) confessing he knew too little to offer an opinion, the remaining five councilors agreed the plan was a low priority. However, at the same time, the council encouraged Saunders to sound the general public.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 08:29

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Volunteers introduce knitting to inmates at county jail

LACONIA — Maryly Matthewman spends nearly every Monday afternoon in jail.

For about three or four years, she has been volunteering her time at the Belknap County House of Corrections as a knitting coach for some of the incarcerated women.

Recently, the yarn coffers got so low that Belknap County Department of Corrections Program Director Tamara McGonagle thought she might have to stop the program.

She sent an e-mail to Len Campbell of N.H. Catholic Charities, who forwarded the message to Alan Robichaud at Granite United Way and anyone else he could think of. And the yarn came pouring in.

"We have had an incredible amount of donations," McGonagle said yesterday, saying some came from area churches but much of it came from about 40 private donors.

On Tuesday, the table in the classroom was piled high with multiple types of yarns in a multitude of colors.

Matthewman and volunteer Irene Gordon sat at the table giving instruction to about six women who were knitting a variety of things.

One woman was knitting herself a pocket book while another was wrestling with her first attempt at knitting.

And many of the women, including "H" who, after knitting mittens for her oldest child and a blanket for her youngest, was working on a baby blanket with a hoodie for the Carey House — the transitional homeless shelter operated in part by the Salvation Army.

"H" said she learned how to knit while incarcerated but thinks its something she'll continue once she is released.

She said she finds it very relaxing but challenging at the same time.

Nearly all of the programs, except those mandated by law, for women in the Belknap County House of Corrections are assisted by community volunteers. In addition to knitting, "H" is a member of a book club, a Bible study class, an art class, a writing class and a Yoga Class — all assisted by volunteers.

"H" said she enjoys most of them except poetry. "And I'm not a very good artist," she added.

On the same side of the table sat Pam — an older inmate who was knitting what will become a small pocketbook.

"We really appreciate these women coming in and doing this for us," she said.

"Tamara has a lot of classes," she said, noting that the poetry class was on of her favorites. She said she especially likes it because there are no men in it.

"When there are guys in it it gets weird," she said.

Pam said her real handicraft specialty is quilting — something she learned from her grandmother.

She said she likes knitting and considers it a "pleasure" that the program allows them to do something for their families as well as the community through the Carey House.

"Even though we've made a mistake in society, we can do something to help others who are less fortunate," Pam said. "Most of the stuff we have done is donated.

As to the women who volunteer with their programs, Pam and "H" both said they are wonderful.

"They're non-judgmental and willing to listen," Pam said, saying Gordon, Matthewman and the other women who come to knitting class on Monday are people who just enjoy sitting around and knitting and chatting.

"Its relaxing," said Pam. "People are willing to see past the crimes, that we have the ability to things beyond break the law."

CUTLINE: (Knitting in jail) Maryly Matthewman and Irene Gordon volunteer on Mondays to teach a knitting class for women at the Belknap County House of Corrections. The yarn is primarily donated by churches and private citizens and the women use it to make blankets for the Carey House — a transitional homeless shelter affiliated in part with the Salvation Army. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 02:05

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Council to study possible elimination of city's primary elections as unnecessary

LACONIA — On the recommendation of City Clerk Mary Reynolds, the City Council will consider modifying the procedure for conducting municipal primary elections or doing away with them altogether. The City Council this week referred her proposal to its Government Operations and Ordinances Committee for study and a recommendation.

In 1995 voters amended the City Charter to eliminate partisan elections, in which party caucuses nominated the candidates for mayor and city council, and instead hold primary elections to choose the two candidates who appeared on the general election ballot. Primaries for city offices are held in September of odd-numbered years.

In a memorandum to the council, Reynolds explained that since the change was introduced, relatively few primary elections have been contested and very few voters have cast ballots. For example, in 1997, when the first primary was held, only one candidate entered the primary for City Council in each of the six wards and only two candidates entered the mayoral primary. With no contested races, just 7 percent of registered voters went to the polls.

In the eight primary elections between 1997 and 2011 voter turnout has averaged 9 percent. In 2001, when turnout reached a high of 18 percent there were four candidates for mayor, along with five city council candidates in Ward 3, three in Wards 4 and 5 and two in Ward 6. In three of the past eight elections — in 2003, 2009 and 2011 — primary elections were held even though there were not more than two candidates for either mayor or any of the six council seats. In 2011, only 259 of 8,422, or 3 percent of registered voters went to the polls, just 21 of them in Ward 2 and another 22 in Ward 5, at a cost to the city of approximately $39 a vote.

Last year when there were three candidates for mayor but no more than two for any of six city council seats the turnout was six-percent.

Along with the mayor and city councilors, primary elections are also held to nominate candidates for the the seven seats on the School Board, whose members serve staggered requiring a primary every year, and three seats on the Police Commission.

Reynolds said that cost of conducting municipal primary elections is approximately $8,600, which does not include about $1,000 for police details at the polling stations at Woodland Heights Elementary School and Laconia Middle School. The cost consists of $3,900 for printing ballots, $1,000 for materials at polling stations and $3,700 in wages of poll workers.

Laconia is one of three of the state's 13 cities to conduct municipal primary elections. In both the other two — Manchester and Keene —the charters authorize the city clerk to deem a primary election election unnecessary if no more than two candidates file for any particular office.

To spare taxpayers the cost of elections that more often than not are unnecessary Reynolds proposed either adopting the procedure followed by Manchester and Keene or abandoning primary elections entirely. She told councilors that if they choose to act on her recommendation an appropriate amendment to the City Charter would be put to the voters at a special municipal election on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, the date of the general and School Board election. If voters approved, the primary election process would either be discontinued or modified in 2015.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 01:54

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