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Ward 5 write-in vote controversy holding up printing of general election ballots

LACONIA — The petition requesting a recount of the primary election results in the City Council race in Ward 5, which Dave Gammon filed last week, will be heard in Belknap County Superior Court on Wednesday, Oct. 2. Meanwhile, City Clerk Mary Reynolds said yesterday that the questions arising from the primary have already set back preparations for the general election on November 5 by a week.

The City Charter stipulates that the two candidates receiving the most votes for each office in the primary election shall advance to the general election in November. In Ward 5, incumbent City Councilor Bob Hamel, who ran unopposed, was declared the winner with 39 of 47 ballots cast. Although election officials reported no write-in votes for city councilor, a computer print-out indicates that three write-in ballots were cast in the race.

Gammon claims that he, his wife and another woman cast write-in ballots for former mayor Tom Tardif, which would account for the three write-in votes for city councilor that appear on the computer print-out. Election officials reported that Tardif received three of four write-in votes cast for ward clerk, but none for city councilor. If Tardif received a majority of the write-in votes, he would be entitled to a place on the general election ballot, which he may either accept or decline. He has yet to indicate whether he would accept the nomination and run in the general election.

The issue can only be settled by opening the ballots, which have been sealed since the polls closed. Reynolds said that she cannot open the ballots without being authorized to conduct a recount.

Gammon asked the court to set aside the the reported results of the primary election in Ward 5 and direct the City Clerk to "schedule a recount or review of the three write-in ballots." Alternatively, he suggested the court review the ballots to identify who received the second highest number of votes in the primary election and therefore, qualified for the general election. He also asked the court to instruct the clerk not to print the ballots for the general election until "the irregularities in the conduct and reporting" of the primary election are resolved.

Reynolds said that she aims to print the general election ballots and distribute absentee ballots at least 30 calendar days before the general election. According to the law, seven days notice must be given for a recount. In other words, if the court orders a recount, it could not be held before October 10, just 26 days before the general election during which ballots would have to be prepared and printed as well as distributed to absentee voters. "That would put us three weeks behind schedule," Reynolds said.

Reynolds said that attorney Laura Spector-Morgan will ask the court, if it decides to order a recount, to also set its date and time. "I could do it the next day, October 3, if the court agrees," Reynolds said.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 September 2013 02:19

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$1.2 million police station vote in Gilford's future

GILFORD — Selectmen approved a 2014 Capital Improvement Program plan Wednesday night that includes $1.213 million for the renovation and addition to the town police station.

The proposed addition, said selectman Chair Kevin Hayes yesterday, is very much like the 2009 proposed renovation and addition that garnered a majority of votes at annual town meeting but didn't get the 60-percent majority needed to pass.

The key difference between the two is newest proposal eliminates the the geothermal heating system that was included in 2009.

"The need is more than it was a few years ago," Hayes said.

Hayes the the $1.213 million budget has been updated for pricing and materials costs by the Amoskeag Architectural Group of Manchester the firm that designed the project.

"We think the number is spot-on," Hayes said.

The CIP plan shows the police station debt would cost the town $96,000 beginning in 2015 and would gradually taper off from then. The proposed police department plan has also been coordinated with the on-going Town Hall upgrade.

The addition and renovation proposal calls for a two-story addition to the backside of the building with the sally port (secure entrance for vehicles) on the ground level.

The 2009 proposal called for about 11,800-square-feet of additional space and a multipurpose room that could be used for community events when it is not being used by the police for training or other law-enforcement uses.

Perhaps most importantly, the expansion would add space for evidence and equipment storage and would bring the department up to national police standards. It would also provide more safety for police personnel, detainees, and the general public.

The Capital Improvement Program Committee consists of Chair Larry Routhier, Giselle Lambert, Jack McDevitt, Selectman John O'Brien, Planning Board member Wayne Hall and Gilford School Board member Paul Blandford.

Other items recommended by the 2014 CIP Committee are a heavy-duty dump truck with a plow for $179,000, a light-duty dump truck with a plow for $97,000. The Highway Department also requested a $60,000 weather cover for the sand pile, however selectmen and Public Service Director Sheldon Morgan and are still researching it and selectmen have made no recommendation to date.

The 2014 CIP report also calls for $220,000 for an ambulance, $50,000 for station improvements, $50,000 for refurbishing Engine 2, and $50,000 in equipment upgrades, all of which have been recommended by the selectmen.

The CIP Committee recommended $165,000 for resurfacing the parking lots and walkways at all schools, $105,000 for high school auditorium seating and $200,000 for technology upgrades for the administration.

Hayes said yesterday that the selectmen's recommended CIP plan will be presented to the Budget Committee on October 3.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 September 2013 02:14

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Police provide court with details of downtown heroin bust; Laconia man held on $25k cash bail

LACONIA — The man arrested by a sheriff's deputy Tuesday afternoon in the municipal parking lot between Main and Pleasant Streets had been disarmed by the arresting officer before he fought and then tried to flee.

Police affidavits reported Joseph D. Morrissette, 23, of 205 Court Street was spotted leaning into the rear passenger side of motor vehicle that had partially obstructed the Main Street entrance to the parking lot. There was a male driving and a woman sitting in the passenger seat.

It was incorrectly reported in Tuesday's paper that he had been a passenger in the car.

Following his video appearance yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Judge Jim Carroll ordered Morrissette held on $25,000 cash-only bail. He is charged with two counts of possession of narcotics with intent to sell them, two counts of possession of narcotics, one count of resisting arrest and one count of simple assault.

At the time of his arrest, Morrissette was on personal recognizance bail for alleged previous drug activity in April.

Affidavits obtained from the court yesterday said Deputy E. Justin Blanchette had arrested Morrissette before Tuesday's incident for drug possession and that he had seen pictures on Morrissette's phone of him holding a gun.

Police also said Blanchette had gotten information from a detective from the Laconia Police Department about an alleged prior heroin sale.

Blanchette said when he saw the awkwardly parked car, he approached and asked the driver what was happening. He said the driver seemed nervous and Morrissette answered the question, telling Blanchette he was "just getting a hair cut."

Blanchette said he saw a knife in Morrissette's front pants pocket and held onto Morrisette's hand while he retrieved it from him and put it on the roof of the parked car.

He said the driver of the car kept looking around so Blanchette asked him to shut off the car while he figured out what was happening.

Affidavits said the driver shut off the car and immediately restarted it — telling Blanchette he was going to park in the parking lot. Instead he drove quickly down Main Street.

Blanchette said he grabbed Morrissette's arm and he "tensed up and started to pull away." Concerned that he had another weapon, Blanchette said he told him he wanted to check him for more weapons.

He said Morrissette pulled away and Blanchette showed him his canister of pepper spray and warned him to cooperate. He said when Morrissette pulled away again he sprayed him in the face.

Morrissette began running and Blanchette said he fell "several times" at one point pulling off his shirt to get away from Blanchette who had grabbed it.

The two fought on their feet moving about 50 feet around the parking lot during which time Blanchette deployed his Taser stun gun twice. Affidavits said once Morrissette was down, he elbowed Blanchette in the face and cut his chin.

A search showed Morrissette had four bags of brown powder on him that tested positive for heroin and four bags of while powder that tested positive for cocaine. Morrissette also allegedly had $1,522 in cash, a digital scale, and "hundreds of small stamp bags used for packaging."

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 03:53

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Few of 600 people who showed up for Northern Pass hearing were supporters

PLYMOUTH — The public hearing held here Tuesday night was yet another reminder that Northern Pass power line project is very unpopular in the northern half of the state.
The forum, hosted by the federal Department of Energy to gather public comment to the recently modified plans for the $1.6 billion project, was dominated by speakers who told federal officials that Northern Pass, rather than being an economic boon to the state as supporters claim, would hurt the tourism industry, lower property values and produce little if any discernible benefit to state residents and businesses.
The most frequently voiced objection was that the 186 mile 1,200 megawatt line would permanent mar the scenic beauty in many parts of the state, including the North Country, an area heavily dependent on tourism and outdoor recreation for its livelihood.

More than 600 people showed up for the three-hour hearing held at Hanaway Theater at Plymouth State University. But the audience dwindled to less than half that number after about an hour and a half.

"Northern Pass is proposing for 180 miles to string lines on steel towers that exceed the height of existing trees," said Eli Gray of New Hampton. He said the line would "mar the scenic beauty up and down the state. This fact is indisputable."
Others voiced similar concerns, calling Northern Pass a monstrosity or a symbol of corporate insensitivity and greed.
State Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) faulted Public Service of New Hampshire and Hydro Quebec — Northern Pass's two major corporate partners — for being unsympathetic with critics' anxieties.
"They are failing to listen to valid concerns of property owners, whose property values and lives will be adversely affected," Bradley said. Calling for burial of Northern Pass along its entire length, Bradley said, "Towers above treetops don't make good neighbors," an allusion to Robert Frost's poem about good fences making good neighbors.
State Sen. Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith), an early Northern Pass critic whose district includes much of Grafton County, said Northern Pass represents "a clear and present danger to New Hampshire's economic health." She urged Department of Energy officials to include two or more alternatives for construction of Northern Pass, including one that would call for burying the lines underground.
Brian Mills, senior planning advisor for the Energy Department's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, said his agency's only role in the Northern Pass decision is whether to grant a permit to allow the line to cross the border from Canada into the U.S. near Pittsburg. He said that Northern Pass will also need to receive separate permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service, as well as various state and local authorities. Mills said all the necessary permits would need to be approved before any phase of the project could begin.
Of the Northern Pass supporters who spoke, many were from Franklin where a large converter station would be built to change the 1,200 megawatts of power from DC to AC current. The city stands to gain about $4.2 million annually in property taxes, if the Northern Pass project goes through.
Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield noted that although the power Northern Pass would bring in from Quebec is not needed to meet electrical demand in New Hampshire, any shortage of electrical power in Southern New England hits New Hampshire ratepayers in the pocketbook because New Hampshire utilities end up having to more for electricity during times of peak demand.
Franklin City Councilor Douglas Boyd likened Northern Pass opponents to the Clamshell Alliance which in the 1970s tried unsuccessfully to block construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. "Thank God they weren't successful," Boyd said, adding: "There will come a day when the opponents (of Northern Pass) will say, 'Boy, did we make a big mistake.'"
But Northern Pass critics, many wearing bright orange "Stop Northern Pass" T-shirts, said the project's supporters overstate its purported benefits are that they also fail to take into consideration the long-term economic impact, especially in the area of diminished property values. Several opponents who spoke mentioned an guest column by Gov. Maggie Hassan published last week in the Boston Globe which said Northern Pass carries "all costs and few, if any, savings" for the people of New Hampshire."
Thomas Mullen, developer of Owl's Nest Resort and Golf Club said Northern Pass has had a chilling effect on real estate sales in and around the resort through which 14,000 feet of the Northern Pass line would run. He said that a lot that sold for $145,000 in 2010 recently sold for $20,000 and a house and lot which had been appraised for $495,000 sold for $225,000.
"Owl's Nest is for all practical purposes out of business until something (about Northern Pass) changes," Mullen said.
John Bruce of Holderness whose property abuts the Northern Pass route said that when prospective buyers hear about the power line they immediately lose interest.
"Would you want to purchase a house with a 135-foot tower in the front or back yard?" he asked.
Critics played down the impact of the jobs Northern Pass would have on local communities, saying that most of the jobs would be only temporary or that because they required certain highly specialized skills the jobs would go mostly to out-of-staters.
But Fran Wendelboe of New Hampton, a former state representative, said, "In this economy 1,200 jobs is nothing to sneeze at."
"I've never seen a project so controversial," said Bradley.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 03:48

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