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Still under scrutiny to meet residency requirement, Tilton-Northfield fire chief quits to take #2 job in Gilford

GILFORD — For the second time in the past three years a chief has left the Tllton-Northfield Fire Department for the position of deputy chief in Gilford. Yesterday the Board of Fire Engineers here announced the appointment of Brad Ober, chief of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department, as deputy chief of the Gilford Fire Department.

"I couldn't be more pleased," said Chief Stephen Carrier, for whom Ober served as a captain when he was chief of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department before becoming deputy chief in Gilford in 2010. "Brad quickly rose to the top of our hiring process," Carrier said, adding that Ober will assume his duties on October 15..

Noting that Ober served as chief of the Ashland Fire Department before joining the Tilton-Northfield department, Carrier said that "his experience as a fire chief in two different communities and his extensive fire prevention background makes him tremendously valuable to our department and our community,"

Paul Auger of Northfield, who chairs the Tilton-Northfield Fire District Commission, said that the commissioners had yet to receive a formal letter from Ober tendering his resignation and declined to comment. Likewise, Commissioner Pat Clark only learned of Ober's appointment when it was announced by Carrier. He said he had "no idea" that Ober was seeking a position with another department, but added, "if this is an opportunity to advance his career and he will be happier somewhere else, I'm all for it and wish him the best."

However, Pat Consentino, who chairs the Tilton Board of Selectmen, called Ober's departure " a profound loss to this community, profound. Brad dedicated his career to our community with the utmost commitment and professionalism." She confessed herself "totally baffled" by the behavior of the Fire Commissioners, particularly Pat Clark, which she believes led to Ober's resignation. "Shame on them, shame on them," she said.

As chiefs of the Titlon-Northfield Fire Department both Carrier and Ober had trying relationships with the commission. Carrier found himself in the midst of a dispute between the two towns over the prospect of constructing a life-safety building to house the Tilton Police Department and elements of the Fire Department, which led the Northfield selectmen to force a vote to dissolve the fire district that was soundly rejected in 2010.

Ober's tenure as chief was dogged by his difficulties in complying with the commission's requirement that he establish residency within the district. Unable to sell his home in New Hampton, he rented an apartment in Tilton on the eve of the deadline on January 2 to avoid the risk of dismissal. But, the issue lingered, emerging again in June when, according to minutes of a commissioner's meeting, Clark said that "people have complained the chief is coming in to work from up north on a regular basis" and he "invited them to come into talk about it." Clark said that without a formal complaint it would remain a "non-issue," but, echoed by Commissioner Les Dolecal, recommended monitoring the mileage on the chief's car.

"I think that must have been the last straw," said Consentino.

Although the commission has not discussed the procedure for appointing a new chief, Auger said that he expected the residency requirement would be among the conditions of employment. "It was one of the biggest things last time," he remarked.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 02:22

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Belmont to seek LCHIP grant to help restore village green bandstand

BELMONT — Selectmen have voted to endorse a grant application for restoration work and other improvements to the town bandstand downtown.
Belmont Heritage Commission Chairman Linda Frawley told the selectmen at their meeting last night that she is in the process of applying for a grant under the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.
Frawley told selectmen she hopes the grant will help cover the cost of new cedar shingles for the bandstand's roof, removal of lead paint and repainting of the 105-year-old structure, upgrades to some of the electrical fixtures and wiring, and replacement of some of the decorative finishes. All told, Frawley estimated the cost of the work would be around $35,000.
The bandstand was moved yesterday to a spot behind and to the south of the town library as part of the Belmont Village revitalization, which is designed to energize the village area through improvements and renovations.
If the LCHIP application is approved, the program would pay for half the cost of the work with the other half being matched by local sources – $8,750 from the town and another $8,750 from the Heritage Commission, Frawley said.
The selectmen unanimously approved endorsing the application with little discussion and authorized Town Administrator K. Jeanne Beaudin to sign any documents related to the application on behalf of the town.
In other business, selectmen voted to unanimously to amend the town license application regarding utility poles to make explicit the town has the right to tax the poles as property under the terms of existing state law.
The action was prompted by a suit filed by telecommunications utility FairPoint against 200-plus communities statewide, including Belmont. FairPoint contends since the company pays the state's telecommunications tax, allowing its poles to also be taxed by communities constitutes double taxation. But proponents of the tax argue that since the communities already tax the poles belonging to electric utilities it is unfair not to allow them not to tax FairPoint's poles.
Beaudin said under the terms of state law, Belmont taxes public utilities for their poles as well as for the use of the rights of way through which their lines run. She was not immediately able to provide the number poles which FairPoint owns in Belmont. However, she said that the total value of its poles and right-of-way use amounts to $1,147,000, for which the company is being taxed $24,899 in the latest tax year. She said FairPoint has paid the tax, but that the payment has been appealed.
A public hearing on the utility pole issue which preceded the vote drew no participants.
NOTE: Beaudin said she is in the process of drawing up requests for qualification for architectural services to look at possible uses for the Belmont Mill. She said she hoped to advertise the requests in October or early November and said her goal is to advertise it widely in hopes of getting multiple bids.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 03:17

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Football camp hazing episode being investigated

MOULTONBOROUGH — Police are investigating an alleged hazing incident that occurred at a local summer camp on or around Aug. 23, in which players from the football team at Chelmsford, Mass., High School were involved.

Detective Stephen Kessler and School Resource Officer Jody Baker are conducting the investigation with the assistance of the Chelmsford Police Department. Moultonborough Police Sgt. Peter Beede said that all those subject to investigation are juveniles, and as the investigation is in progress, no further details will be disclosed.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 03:08

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Understanding Obamacare one of the programs at local Business Resource Fair

LACONIA — Local businesses owners and managers were updated on the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, at the opening session of the Lakes Region Business Resource Fair held at the Woodside building at the Taylor Community Wednesday morning.
Amy Bassett of the Small Business Administrations' Concord office, attorney Katherine DeForest of the Sulloway and Hollis law firm and Ray Hurd, regional administrator of the Boston office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services all spoke about the impact of the comprehensive health care reform on businesses and how the provisions of the act are being phased.
Bassett noted that the rules for implementing the program are still being written and that open enrollment for the health care exchanges created in each state as part of the program opens on October 1 for insurance plans which will take effect on January 1, 2014.
She said that there is a one-year phase-in for provisions of the act and that firms which employ less than 50 people, which she said amounts to 96 percent of American businesses, are exempt from the provisions.
Bassett said that a great amount of work is needed to educate small business owners and workers about the provisions of the act and that all employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act are required to provide informational notices to their employees regarding the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Exchanges."
She said employers are obligated to provide to each current employee, on or before October 1, 2013, a written notice describing the individual employee's options in the exchanges, and to all employees hired subsequent to October 1, within 14 days of hire. This health care reform exchange notice requirement applies to hospitals, schools, certain residential institutions, and government agencies, as well as any employer that is engaged in interstate commerce or an employer with at least $500,000 of business per year.
Attorney Katherine DeForest of the Sulloway and Hollis law firm said that the Affordable Care Act is the largest piece of social legislation in decades and that many provisions are being only partially implemented.
She noted that the law's employer penalty applies to firms with 50 or more full-time workers who do not provide health insurance coverage or whose coverage is unaffordable (costing more than 9.5 percent of household income) are subject to assessments of up to $2,000 per full-time employee or $3,000 for each full-time employee who receives a tax credit when buying insurance coverage on the exchange.
DeForest said employer penalties kick in during 2015.
Ray Hurd of the Boston Medicare office said that a small business tax credit designed to help businesses afford the cost of health care coverage applies to firms with less than 25 full-time equivalent employees who pay average annual wages below $50,000 and pay more than 50 percent of employees' self-only health insurance premiums enables them to qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35 percent in the first year of the program and 50 percent in the second.
He said that starting October 1 the Small Business Health Options Program will offer different kinds of health plans and that businesses which seek tax credits will have to purchase their plans through SHOP or a broker registered with SHOP in order to qualify.
Hurd said the program represents a step towards quality, affordable health care for those 41 million previously unable to obtain health insurance and that there is a huge education task ahead which will include health service providers as well as small businesses.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 02:44

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