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County will submit 'bare bones' budget that increases tax by 4%

LACONIA — After making a second round of cuts on Monday, the Belknap County Commission will recommend a budget of $26,570,997 for 2014 when it meets this morning. The budget represents an increase appropriations of $182,030 or 0.7 percent and an increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes of $555,892 or 4 percent.

"We chopped like hell," said Commissioner John Thomas of Belmont, who chairs the commission. "This is pretty much a bare bones budget. We did all we could without laying people off and we will do anything not to lay people off in this economy. " But, anticipating another uphill struggle to win approval of the budget from the Belknap County Convention, Thomas said "nothing will be enough for them."

The total appropriation recommended by the commission is $3.2 million, or 10.6 percent, less than in 2008, while the amount to be raised by taxes is $173,450, or 1.2 percent, more than in 2008.

Earlier this month the commission pared nearly $2.5 million from the appropriations requested by county departments to reach a budget of $27,0113,237 and this week trimmed another $442,240 to limit the increase to less than 1 percent. The commissioners decided to forego creating three new positions in the Department of Corrections at a cost of $227,000 and eliminated two vacant positions at the county nursing home to spare another $108,500. The replacement of windows at the Belknap County Superior Court at $60,000 and two compressors for the HVAC system at the county complex at $16,000 were shelved. The information technology budget was cut by $15,000 and the maintenance budget by $10,000 while foregoing two television sets for the nursing home saved $2,000.

Thomas said the commission will recommend spending $100,000 for a surveillance system at the county complex, which is the only significant capital project left in the budget.

The budget includes a 1.6-percent cost-of-living raise and three-percent "step" increase for eligible employees. The commissioners also funded bonuses for unused sick days and length of service as well as the increase in the employer share of health insurance premiums, all of which are contractual obligations prescribed by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the union representing county employees. The convention struck funding for both bonuses and increased health insurance premiums from the 2013 budget, but the commission paid the bills anyway by shuffling monies within departmental budgets.

"Now this will be convention's budget and their responsibility," said Thomas. "We have given them a bare bones budget to pay for what we thought the county needed."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 01:11

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Tilton man identified as victim of falling pine tree

LACONIA — Police yesterday identified the man who was struck and killed when high winds toppled a pine tree across Davidson Drive, near the boat club, at South Down Shores on Sunday afternoon as Paul Russell, 54, of Tilton.

According to a prepared statement, police officers and firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 4:13 p.m. where Officer Jonathan Howe found Russell, trapped beneath a large pine tree and covered with fallen limbs.  Fire Lieutenant Chad Vaillancourt said that firefighters cleared the limbs and debris only to find that Russell had already died from his injuries. He said that Russell, who was employed by Sonny and Sons Tree Service of Belmont, was working with another man to remove a pine tree that had fallen across the road when a second pine tree, standing near the first, snapped off about six feet above the ground and fell directly upon on him. Vaillancourt estimated the tree was approximately three feet in diameter.

Chet Cilley said that several of the villages at South Down Shores frequently hired Sonny and Sons Tree Service and the company was called when the tree blocked the roadway on Sunday.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 02:48

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Meredith Police Dept. observing ‘Grovember’

MEREDITH — To call attention to their support for men diagnosed with and fighting prostate cancer, officers from the Police Department have grown beards. The beards are part of Grovember — a nationwide program to call attention to prostate cancer.

In addition, the Meredith Police Association will donate $2,000 plus any and all contributions from their fund raiser to the prostate cancer research.

A blue ribbon of support has been added to each Meredith police cruiser.

The father of one of the department's officers is recovering from recent prostate cancer surgery and the police association chose prostate cancer research for one of their annual fund raisers.

The Meredith Police Association is financed strictly through fundraisers and donations. So far this year, Detective Corporal John Eichhorn said the MPA has donated to nearly $10,000 to various charities and local organizations.

In addition, the MPA purchases Christmas gifts for needy children in Meredith, hosts a toy drive, and provides money and gift cards to residents in need or for those who have suffered through a tragedy like a house fire.

Donations to the MPA and the Grovember Prostate Cancer awareness campaign can be made through the Meredith Police Association, P.O. Box 1366, Meredith, N.H. 03253 or by calling the Meredith Police at 279-4561.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 02:48

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Laconia DPW director raked over coals at council

LACONIA — Paul Moynihan, director of public works, was grilled by Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, about his management of the Department of Public Works (DPW) fleet when the City Council met last night.

Lipman was surprised to learn that the DPW decided to keep four vehicles that he expected would be retired when the council authorized borrowing $170,000 to replace equipment in the 2014-2014 city budget. During discussion of the budget Lipman expressed concern about the cost of insuring and maintaining vehicles that had outlived their useful life.

Moynihan told the council that since 2008 the department had added 20 vehicles and a snow blower attachment and scrapped, traded or auctioned a dozen vehicles. Four of eight vehicles — two salt and sand trucks and two Bobcat sidewalk plows — represented net additions to the fleet. The other four vehicles — two new pickup trucks, a new street sweeper and a new dump truck — were intended as replacement vehicles, but Moynihan said that the department had retained the existing vehicles.

"I have problems with this," said Lipman, who reminded Moynihan that he had requested an analysis of the cost of insuring and maintaining vehicles designated for replacement.

Moynihan replied that the cost analysis was included in his report and that the four vehicles "more than paid for themselves." The pickup trucks were used by seasonal employees, he said, while the dump truck will serve as an extra plow truck if necessary as well as a source of spare parts. The old street sweeper, which costs $2,554 to retain, he claimed more than paid for itself by reducing the amount of contracted street cleaning services.

"Two street sweepers for a city our size seems pretty rich," Lipman remarked. "When we make an investment we need the whole picture," he continued. "I don't want to drive by Messer Street and see lots of equipment parked and not being used."

"We're very concerned about not keeping anything that's not paying for itself," Moynihan responded.

Lipman said that he wanted "a plan," and after assuring Moynihan there was nothing "personal" about his remarks, told him that he presented one plan to the council then chose to take a different course. "You need to come back to us," he said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 02:48

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