Belmont planners say article to protect aquifer is bad idea

BELMONT — The Belmont Planning Board voted unanimously not to support a petitioned warrant article that would have prevented all further industrial development in the aquifer overlay district last night.
After listening to just over an hour of testimony during a public hearing held exclusively for the warrant article, board members agreed with Chairman Peter Harris’s statement that there wasn’t enough scientific information presented to them to make an informed decision.
“We have good safeguards. Better than most,” he said.
The public hearing came about because George Condodemetraky and at least 24 other residents signed a petition that would eliminate all future industrial development over the aquifer. Nearly all of the industrial zones in Belmont are at or on the aquifer which comprises 37 percent of the total land mass of Belmont.
Speaking last night, Condodemetraky said he “could see the future of Belmont at risk if we continue to put contaminating businesses in (the aquifer zone.) He identified seven industrial based businesses that had already located there and said they are all potential contaminators.
He reminded the members that they each took an oath of office that requires them to consider the safety and security of the residents every time they vote.
Most of the 25 to 30 people in the room who spoke were in favor of the proposed ordinance echoing Condodemetraky in his belief that once something happens to the aquifer there is no turning back.
One woman said she moved to Belmont from Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, where contaminated soil was found in the ground on the property that was the former home to a tannery and some wells were polluted as a result. Susan Condodemetraky spoke about the recent lead poisoning of people in Flint, Michigan, that people believe was caused when the city decided to switch its water supply from Lake Huron to a nearby river.
The few who spoke against the article included Conservation Commission member Ken Knowlton who called it “draconian with good intent.” He said that all of the businesses that were in the aquifer zone are “early compliers” with the town ordinances that protect the aquifer and that he doesn’t think any of them pose a serious threat to it.
When Knowlton said that junkyards, recycling waste storage facilities and petroleum storage should all be banned, Town Planner Candace Daigle said they are all prohibited or regulated either by state or local ordinances, as was the expansion of the Casella facilty to include solid waste transfer.
Knowlton said he would like to see all commercial water withdrawal prohibited in the zone, which Daigle said was already prohibited by the state.
Daigle said that the town spent seven years working with the Lakes Region Planning Commission in a project that secured three separate grants that would educate people about the aquifer and then identify, map and delineate best-management practices for it.
From that, said Daigle, came the Tri-Town Agreement just signed three years ago and in which Tilton, Northfield and Belmont all agreed to certain management practices that would best preserve and protect the aquifer. She said Belmont adopted similar ordinances to the ones adopted by the other two communities..
She noted that Belmont got a grant in 2008 for its aquifer protection and in the process adopted the Tri-Town Agreement as to ordinances and best-management practices regarding the aquifer. She said the ordinances and the agreement stemmed from science not conjecture or speculation.
Linda Frawley, who has played an integral part in the past regarding the Tri-Town Agreements, hit a nerve with some in the crowd when she said that the town never followed through with an economic development plan surrounding aquifer protection that has been recommended by the LRPC.
She also said there hasn’t been a zoning change in Belmont since zoning was first passed in 1986. Many there volunteered to help with an economic development plan regarding future development of the aquifer.
“We could have had a community grant to rezone...but the town didn’t apply,” Frawley said. “When the water’s gone, it’s gone.”
A sign-up sheet was circulated by an observer for people who want to assist the town with any committees that would examine or work to get grants for an economic development plan that would protect the aquifer.
“We could have had a community grant to rezone...but the town didn’t apply,” Frawley said. “When the water’s gone, it’s gone.”
A sign-up sheet was circulated by an observer for people who want to assist the town with any committees that would examine or work to get grants for an economic development plan that would protect the aquifer.
Because the warrant article was submitted by petition, it will appear on the ballot and while there can be discussion at the deliberative session, there can be no changes made to it.

Gilford Police Dept. ‘safe room’ used for first time

GILFORD — When a woman who escaped her captor this week after allegedly being held in her home for 16 hours with a gun to her head and at times handcuffed, she ran to the police department, likely thinking that at 3 a.m. it was the safest place she could go.
What she didn’t know was that all of the Gilford police officers were out of the station corralling youths who were attending a large under-aged drinking party in Gunstock Acres.
But, according to Lt. Kris Kelley, she did find the brand new “safe room” that was installed as part of the new police station renovation. Once she arrived, she secured herself in it and an officer, who was contacted by dispatch, responded immediately from the party to the station to offer assistance.
“She was very, very smart and courageous,” said Kelley, referring to her ability to de-escalate the situation and eventually get the gun from her captor and leave the home in his car.
Kelley said this is the first time someone needed the safe room. He also hopes it the last time someone will ever have to use it.
“I’m just glad it was there for her,” he said Monday.
He said neither the woman nor the police had any idea if her estranged boyfriend was following her, as there were two working vehicles left behind at her home, and that it’s not unheard of for a victim’s captor to follow the victim wherever they go.
In a story obtained from the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch from 2013, a Reynoldsburg, Ohio, woman who fled from her husband was gunned down in the lobby of the police station while trying to flee. In an interview given from her wheelchair, the victim said she ran through the lobby doors, but once inside was trapped because all of the doors leading into the station were locked. By the time three on-duty officers reached the lobby, she had been shot three times. Her husband had stood over her and shot her in the base of the spine. She survived, but will use a wheelchair for the rest of her life. He surrendered and is in prison.
The shooting led to a number of police stations in the Columbus area being retrofitted with safe rooms in police department lobbies, and, according to various recent articles in the news media including a story by NBC about one in Washington state, most new construction or renovations of police departments include safe rooms in the lobby.
The relatively new Meredith Police Department has a safe room off the lobby that is also used to separate couples who are fighting or for initial interviews of people who are walk-ins.
Capt. Matt Canfield of the Laconia Police said they don’t have a safe room as such, but there are two bathrooms in the lobby where someone could hide until police could get to the lobby. He also said someone in distress could be “buzzed” into the community room by a dispatcher, which is secured from the rest of the building.
The one in the Gilford Police station that was used over the weekend is there by design. It’s a small room with dimensions of 8 by 12 feet, and holds three chairs and a small table.
It is used for interviews and fingerprints for job interviews and is also equipped as a safe room. Kelley said the police facility planning committee incorporated it into the design as a kind of all-purpose room/ safety room.
“A lot of thought went into this building,” he said.
He said there is a telephone that connects to the dispatch center and cameras so the dispatcher can monitor activity until uniformed officers arrive. Kelley said it is steel reinforced and there are some Kevlar components to it and in the entire lobby but he declined to elaborate.
One of the most important things for Kelley is that the door is controlled by the dispatcher and can be used as it was over the weekend even if there are no officers immediately available. In this weekend’s incident, he said the dispatcher was able to get a police officer there within minutes.
“We are very grateful we have this facility and the full-time dispatch center,” said Kelley. “We are doing our best to keep everybody safe.

Belmont fugitive arrested in city

LACONIA - A sheriff's deputy arrested fugitive Stephen Anderson of Belmont at 3:20 a.m. yesterday after spotting him riding in a car on Mechanic Street.

Sheriff Craig Wiggin said Anderson was wanted for failing to appear for his Belknap County Superior Court date on a charge of operating after being deemed a habitual offender in September of 2015.

He was re-arrested in October but Wiggin said his bail status was changed to personal recognizance bail he was released but failed to show up for his Dec. 21 court date.