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Credit will offset most of health insurance hike for Laconia schools

LACONIA — School District Business Administrator Ed Emond told members of the Budget and Personnel Committee last night that the 2014-2015 health insurance budget will go up by 2 percent.

Emond said the increase from insurance underwriter School Care — a Cigna Insurance product — was contractually capped at 10 percent but the district qualified for what amounts to an 8 percent credit toward its 2014-2015 premiums.

He explained the credit stems from the recent Local Government Center-related ruling that caps the amount a company that insures municipalities and school districts can hold in reserve.

Although the Laconia School District does not use LGC as its insurance carrier, the principal established by the recently adjudicated lawsuit applies to all municipal insurers.

In other news, Emond told the committee that the school's so-called educational adequacy grant from the state was reduced by $125,000 for the 2013-2014 year, meaning the district has to absorb the hit from other budget lines. He said the contingency line had $25,000 in it and the rest of the money comes from various savings in other line items, including transportation and fuel, salary lines from all the schools, and interest and principal on debt.

Emond explained the $1 million bond for the Huot Technical Center Project that was approved by the Laconia City Council last year was approved late in the fiscal year so the $75,000 budgeted for principal and interest for this year is unnecessary.

The first payment on the bond — $50,000 in principal and $26,800 in interest — is due July 1, 2014 or the beginning of the next fiscal year. He cautioned members that the $76,800 must be budgeted for 2014-15.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 01:56

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Wind too strong to evaluate visibility of cell tower site

GILFORD — Buffeted by high winds, a trial balloon, floated to measure the visual impact of a proposed cellular telephone antenna tower on nearby residences, burst yesterday just hours after the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment, meeting the night before, postponed a public hearing on the controversial project until December.
New Cingular Wireless PCS, doing business as AT&T, and American Tower Corporation, LLC, the construction manager, have applied to erect a 100-foot monopole tower with 12 antennas on the southeast corner of a 148-acre tract owned by the Traditional Catholics of New Hampshire, much of which consists of the Bolduc Farm, managed by Armand and Ernie Bolduc. The tower would stand 100 feet from the property line of two adjoining lots, one a house lot at 38 David Lewis Road owned by Kevin Lacasse and the other a vacant 5.27-acre parcel reached from Stark Street owned by Roger Baron. Both Lacasse and Baron, together with the other eight homeowners on David Lewis Road are opposed to the citing of the tower.
The balloon test was arranged by AT&T and American Tower Corporation in hopes of demonstrating that the tower would not have the impact the neighbors fear. Niam Soule of KMB Design Group arrived at David Lewis Road with two yellow balloons filling the back seat of his car. On the roadway, he measured 100 feet of string and wrapped it around one hand. Carrying the balloon in his other hand, he walked through a wooded area between two houses to the site of the tower. The balloon rose some 20 feet before a gust of wind drove it into a stand of saplings, where it burst.
"That's why I brought two," said Soule as he headed for his car. Returning with his cell phone to his ear but no balloon in his hand he said that he would return Thursday morning.
Lacasse said that although the tract owned by the the Traditional Catholics stretches over 148 acres, the Bolducs chose to site the tower where it would be nearest to neighboring residences. He said that because of the slope of the land, another 72 feet of elevation would be gained by placing the tower closer to the church on Morrill Street. Lacasse and his neighbors claim that by overshadowing their properties, the tower will diminish their value while radio waves emitted by the antennas will pose health risks.
The Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment are scheduled to hold a public hearing on New Cingular Wireless PCS's request for a special exception, without which the project cannot proceed, as well as a site plan for the tower on Monday, December 16 ay 6:30 p.m. .To qualify for a special exception a project must comply with six requirements, among them that it is "not detrimental, injurious or offensive to the neighborhood."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 01:50

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Suspended Gilford police officer back on the job

GILFORD — The Daily Sun has verified that Patrol Officer Holly Harris is back on duty with the Police Department.

An unnamed town official had confirmed she had been on a paid administrative leave since the middle of September.

Harris, at one point the School Resource Officer, was place on leave about two weeks after Chief Kevin Keenan was placed on a paid administrative leave at the end of August.

Keenan remains on paid administrative leave.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 01:38

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Belknap Commission challenges delegation's legal authority to sue anybody

LACONIA — The attorney representing the Belknap County Commission has written to her counterpart representing the Belknap County Convention, which last month voted to petition the Belknap County Superior to resolve the dispute between the two over the county budget, questioning the authority of the convention to sue the commission.

Throughout the year the Republican majority of the convention has insisted that the convention can rewrite the budget proposed by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. And, in the course of managing the budget, the commission may only reallocate funds from one line to another with the approval of the Executive Committee of the convention.

With equal resolve, the commissioners claim that the authority of the convention is limited to itemizing appropriations in 13 categories accord with the "Statement of County Appropriations and Revenue as Voted," or MS-42 form, submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration. Within these categories, the commission contends it can distribute funds among different lines without the approval of the convention as long as expenditures do not exceed the total appropriations of the particular categories.

In her letter Sharon Cuddy Somers of Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella, reminded David Horan that since July, when he was retained by the convention, she has twice asked him to explain the legal authority supporting the convention's position. Receiving no reply, she wrote "we can only assume that no such authority exists."

Furthermore, Somers noted that the prospect of litigation raises the question of whether the convention can bring legal actions and claimed that it has no such authority. The enumerated powers of the convention are prescribed by statute, but "nowhere does the statute indicate that the delegation (convention) may bring legal actions in court on behalf of the county, let alone against the county commissioners."

Likewise, Somers challenges the authority of the convention to retain and pay legal counsel. Although the authority to appropriate funds rests with the convention, the authority to enter contracts and approve expenditures rests with the commission. Before retaining Horan, the convention, without authorization from the commission, sought legal advice from the Mitchell Group, incurring a bill that has yet to be paid.

In closing, Somers advised Horan that the commissioners seek to avoid spending scarce public funds defending a lawsuit without merit, which the convention has no authority to initiate. Nevertheless, she continued "the commissioners will defend against the action and will seek to have those individuals who voted to proceed with the action be held personally responsible for attorney's fees and costs."

The vote to file suit was 10 to 4, with all 10 of the Republican members present voting in favor and all four of the Democratic members present voting against. Those in the majority were Representatives Colette Worsman, who chairs the convention, Bob Greemore and Herb Vadney of Meredith, Jane Cormier and Stephen Holmes of Alton, Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Chuck Fink and Mike Sylvia of Belmont, Richard Burchell of Gilmanton and Frank Tilton of Laconia. The four Democrats present were Lisa DiMartino of Gilford, Ruth Gulick of New Hampton, David Huot of Laconia and Ian Raymond of Sanbornton. Three Republicans — Don Flanders and Bob Luther of Laconia and Dennis Fields of Sanbornton — and one Democrat — Beth Arsenault of Laconia — were absent.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 01:36

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