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1 bid to install sheriff's new $300k communcation system

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners yesterday approved the expansion of a previously approved grant for the Belknap County Sheriff 's Department which will allow it obtain a new digital radio valued at $3,500. It will replace a 20-year-old portable unit still in use.
Sheriff Craig Wiggin told commissioners that the new Motorola radio meets interoperability standards and is made possible by the distribution of nearly $500,000 in 2010 grants through the state Department of Safety.
''It is possible that there may be more funds available next year,'' Wiggin told commissioners.
Commissioners also opened the only bid received for the installation of a microwave regional communications system.
The project will be funded with a $297,110 Department of Homeland Security grant which will the department received earlier this year.
The bid from 2Way Communications on Lily Pond Road in Gilford totaled $297,107 according to calculations made by County Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia). Ossipee Mountain Electronics of Moultonborough submitted a letter to commissioners indicating it would not bid on the project.
Wiggin recently told commissioners that a waiver of the county's requirement for at least three bidders would most likely be needed as few firms have the capability of installing the system, which he has described as being ideal for the county as it has simulcast capability, can use the existing tower on Mt. Belknap and is capable of being used by the Lakes Region Mutual Aid system in the event of an emergency in which their system went down.
He said that the grant will allow a long-sought communications upgrade, which had been proceeding on a piecemeal basis to this point, to be achieved in one big step. The new system is state of-the-art and will provide 95 to 97 percent coverage of the entire county, which Wiggin has said will have a huge public safety benefit.
Commissioners were updated by County Administrator Debra Shackett on progress on preparing next year's operating budget. She said that all initial requests from department heads will be received by Friday and that the departments would work together to prepare recommendations for commissioners, which would enable them to be mutually supportive and understand the priorities of other departments.
Shackett and the commissioners also discussed a proposed review of the effectiveness of social service agencies which receive county funds to see which of them would should be funded and at what level.
She said that she had attended a Granite United Way meeting the previous day which the "collective impact" process was discussed and said there was a sense that when it came to funding ''everyone is competing instead of cooperating.''
She said the UNH Cooperative Extension Service is in the process of redefining itself and has offered to work with the county on ways to determine the effectiveness of social service agencies.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 September 2013 02:35

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Witness balks & alleged heroin dealer walks

LACONIA — After two years of legal maneuvering and four separate Superior Court trials, the Belknap County Attorney's Office dropped the remaining charge of sales of narcotics against Alfredo Gonzalez yesterday. He is the Manchester man city police believed was responsible for supplying the heroin that killed a 22-year-old local mother in late March of 2011.

Gonzalez, 46, who had been incarcerated for two years in the Belknap County House of Corrections while awaiting trial, had maintained his innocence. He was represented by attorney Mark Sisti.

Earlier this week, and after the jury was picked for his trial for selling heroin — death resulting, Sisti learned that the Laconia Police were investigating a different person who had allegedly admitted on his Facebook page that he was the one who injected Denty with the heroin that killed her.

Sisti argued that the prosecution knew about the investigation seven weeks before Gonzalez's trial but never told him there was potentially exculpatory evidence or a different theory of her death.

The prosecution dropped the charge for sales of heroin — death resulting, and decided to continue prosecuting him for only for sales of heroin. When one of the key witnesses against him, Karen Mekkelson, asked to be immunized for her role in Denty's death, the prosecution's case apparently unraveled.

Yesterday, the state made a verbal motion to change the day of the sale from March 30, 2011 to May 11, 2011. Sisti argued that the change would indicate an entirely different crime and Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill agreed.

The prosecution dropped the final charge against Gonzalez and, as of yesterday afternoon, he was no longer in jail.

Gonzalez first became known to the public in 2011 when 22-year-old Denty was found dead of a heroin overdose by her neighbors on April 1. They said they heard Denty's two-year-old son crying inside their apartment and, when she didn't respond to their knocks, instructed him on how to unlock the door.

Laconia Police investigated her death and arrested Mekkelson, 29, Stephen Marando, 43 and Amanda Kelly, 31. All were charged with some role in supplying Denty with the heroin and all three pleaded guilty to drug-related charges. They are serving or have served sentences in the N.H. State Prison or the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Mekkelson has now filed a motion with the court asking that her conviction be set aside because she believes she was represented by "ineffective counsel" at the time she agreed to plead guilty.

The police said their investigation of the trio led them to a fourth person — Gonzalez — who was arrested by police in the parking lot at Vista Supermarket on September 1, 2011. He was charged with and later indicted on one count of sales of heroin — death resulting, and one count of sales of heroin. If he had been convicted, he faced the possibility of life in prison.

In a different case, Gonzales was indicted by a Belknap County grand jury for selling heroin on August 23, 2011 to a Laconia woman who was facing two counts of robbery in Gilford but who was working for Laconia Police in exchange for some consideration on the robbery charges.

Gonzalez's first trial for selling heroin to the confidential informant began in October of 2012 and ended in a mistrial three days later after the jury foreman spoke with Judge James O'Neill in his chambers.

The second trial for allegedly selling heroin to the confidential informant lasted two days and ended with a not-guilty finding after the jury deliberated for about an hour.

During the time he spent waiting in the Belknap County House of Corrections — he was being held in lieu of $100,000 cash-only bail — Gonzalez was involved in an altercation with two male prisoners. He agreed to plead guilty to assault on prisoners and was sentenced to time served.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 September 2013 02:05

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LRCC opens new building to house nursing, science & fire science programs

LACONIA — Two students — Nicole Soucy and Tom Newman — shared the honors at Lakes Region Community College (LRCC) yesterday when for just the third time in the 46-year history of the college a ribbon was cut to mark the opening of a new building.

The 24,000-square-foot companion to the Center for Arts and Technology, which opened in September 2005, completes a project begun in 2003. The new building will house the nursing, physical science and fire science programs as well as a multi-purpose room and faculty offices. Designed by SMRT, Inc. of Manchester and constructed by Bonnette, Page and Stone Corporation of Laconia, the building was completed at a cost $6.4 million.

"There were lots of shoulders we stood on to get this building built," said Scott Kalicki, president of LRCC, expressing his appreciation to Tom Clairmont, president and CEO of LRGHealthcare and Carmen Lorentz, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council for assisting with designing and equipping the nursing complex.

Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire agreed "it takes a partnership," stressing that "everything we're doing here is for our students." He said that the college is playing a major role in developing the skilled workforce required to attract and retain businesses in the Lakes Region.

"This college changes people's lives," declared Paul Holloway, who chairs the Board of Trustees of the Community College System, "by offering opportunity and providing self-worth." Turning to several elected officials at the ceremony, he asked for their "increased support," adding "that means dollars."

Tom Goulette, vice-president of LRCC, called the new space "a fantastic shot in the arm for our college." The nursing program, which has operated in a few rooms of the academic building, has moved to the lower floor of the new building. It features a skills laboratory with eight beds, outfitted as though they were in a hospital and occupied by "high fidelity" mannikins, whose vital signs and medical conditions can be manipulated with the touch of a finger to simulate a variety of scenarios. There will be sufficient space and equipment to enroll 32 students in the two-year nursing program each year.

The science suite consists of two rooms for biological sciences and one each for physics and chemistry. The fire science program, the most popular offering on campus, has both a sprinklered training laboratory for controlled burns and a classroom. A multipurpose room with seating capacity for 140 people can be configured to provide a variety settings, including an auditorium.

Kalicki expects to be cutting another ribbon in the near future. He said that the 2013-2014 state budget includes $3.25-million for construction of a new building to house the automotive program at the college and design the renovation of the space it will vacate to accommodate the culinary arts program, which is now housed at Canterbury Shaker Village.

Last Updated on Monday, 10 March 2014 10:48

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Quest to authenticate 3 write-in votes likely to trigger Ward 5 recount

LACONIA — An alleged oversight by those working the polls in Ward 5 during the recent primary election has former city councilor Dave Gammon and former mayor Tom Tardif questioning the electoral process.

City Councilor Bob Hamel, running for re-election without opposition, received 39 of the 47 ballots cast on Sept. 10. After closing the polls and tallying the votes, the ward clerk and selectmen delivered the ballots and reported the results to City Clerk Mary Reynolds at City Hall. The paperwork did not indicate that anyone received a write-in vote for city council.

If write-in votes are cast, the person with the most, which could be as few as a single vote, is notified by the City Clerk that they have qualified for the general election in November and asks if they wish for their name to be placed on the ballot.

On Friday the 13th, Gammon went to City Hall and asked for a copy of the results. Gammon, who along with his wife, cast write-in votes for Tardif for city council was troubled to discover no write-in votes were recorded and Tardif would not appear on the general election ballot.

Reynolds said that since the results were certified and the ballots sealed, the only way to address the situation would be for Tardif to request, in writing, a recount by the close of business on the first Friday after the election. Alternatively, she explained to Gammon that five registered voters could petition the New Hampshire Secretary of State to conduct a recount before the second Friday after the election or, failing that, petition the Superior Court to order a recount.

This week Gammon and Tardif requested and received a computer print-out of the election results, which showed three-write-in votes for the city council seat in Ward 5. Subsequently, Gammon received a call from a voter, who said that she also cast a write-in ballot for Tardif.

Reynolds explained that the ballots are sealed before they leave the polling station and cannot be opened except in accordance with the statutes governing recounts. Without recounting the ballots there is no way of confirming the number of write-in votes that were cast or the identity of those whose names were in.

Tardif said yesterday that he understands the dilemma facing the clerk and expects five registered voters to petition the Secretary of State for a recount before the week is out. He said that Gammon is determined to ensure that his vote, along with those of any others who cast write-in ballots, are counted.

Asked if he will run against Hamel in the general election if a recount awards him a place on the ballot, Tardif replied "that's a hard question. I'm not going to put my foot in my mouth until I've seen the ballots."

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 September 2013 01:38

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