‘Smear campaign’ against county commissioner both denied, supported


LACONIA — Charges levied by County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) regarding a smear campaign against fellow Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) regarding a county sales tax, allegedly launched at meeting at a Gilford restaurant, have been supported by a former state representative and denied in part by participants at the meeting.

Former state Rep. Bob Greemore (R-Meredith) said he was told by Rep. George Hurt (R-Gilford) that he shouldn't have a sign at his business property on Route 104 supporting Belknap County Commission candidate Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) claiming Taylor supports a county sales tax, which he does not support.
"I told him (Hurt) that I thought it was inappropriate for him to tell me who I could support. I told him that what he was saying wasn't factual. I have talked with Hunter and I know he doesn't support a county tax," said Greemore, who said that he continues to support Taylor and that the sign still remains on his property,
Greemore said Hurt was at his property to put up a sign for state Senate District Two candidate Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) when the discussion with Hurt took place. "I told him I could make up my own mind and that as far as I was concerned any Republican who wanted to put up a sign was free to do so as long as they asked for permission."
He said that he subsequently had a discussion with County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) about the Hurt visit and that he is the person referred to by DeVoy in a letter to the editor published in Tuesday's Laconia Daily Sun which criticizes Hurt.
DeVoy claimed in an earlier letter printed in last Tuesday's Laconia Daily Sun that Hurt and Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton) were part of a smear campaign directed at Taylor by what he claimed was alliance between Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) and Jonathan Smolin (R-Alton), who is running against Taylor in the primary.
Burchell and Smolin have denied their campaigns are linked but have expressed support for each other.
In his letter, DeVoy charged that Burchell and Smolin were both present at a meeting at a Gilford restaurant along with Hurt and Howard and four other individuals at which advertising for the upcoming primary election was discussed. Rep. Hurt said the meeting described by DeVoy never took place and expressed his support for Smolin in a letter published in last Wednesday's Daily Sun.
Two of those who attended the meeting described by DeVoy, Rep. Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) and Rep. Glen Aldrich (R-Gilford), say that neither Burchell nor Howard were present at the meeting held several weeks ago at the Lakeside Restaurant in Gilford.
Vadney said that he and Aldrich were at the meeting, along with Republican candidates Norm Silber of Gilford and Marc Abear of Meredith. Hurt, who is not running for re-election, and Smolin were also present.
Both Vadney and Aldrich said there was no discussion about Taylor and a county sales tax and that discussion centered on advertising for the upcoming campaign and possible coordination of efforts.
"I called the meeting about five or six weeks ago, right after the filing period was over," said Vadney, who said that he had sent an email to the other candidates.
He said he was opposed to the idea floated at the meeting by Hurt that the four candidates for the state representative seats should tie Smolin into their campaign. But it was later agreed that they would run an ad in the Gilford Old Home Day program and that Smolin would be included at the bottom of the ad.
"George Hurt had done the ad for us two years ago and I assume that he's the one who had it put in this year's Old Home Day program," said Vadney.



Two arrested when found in house

LACONIA — City police have charged two men with one count each of criminal trespass after a person reported they were in a house at 57 Adams St. Saturday without permission.

Capt. Matt Canfield said the witness told police he saw one man enter the house through the back door and let a second man in through the side door.

Canfield said police found Aaron Rae, 27, of 455 Pine St. in Manchester, and John B. Bixby, 27, who is transient, in the house. He said it appears Bixby tried to pull away from arresting officers and faces a single charge of resisting arrest.

Police said they believe the house was unoccupied.

– Gail Ober

Ensuring a living wage - Hermit Woods offers $15 per hour to employees


MEREDITH — Responding to the ongoing national debate about the minimum wage, the partners at Hermit Woods Winery announced this week that beginning on Friday, Aug. 19, all its employees will be paid "a living wage" of $15 per hour.

In a prepared statement, Bob Manley, who with Ken Hardcastle and Chuck Lawrence owns the business, said "We have built a hardworking, dedicated team. We want to be able to reward them with a living wage so they can support their families and pursue their passions in life as we have."

Manley said the company operates with eight full-time and part-time employees, some recent graduates carrying student debt, others with families to support and two single mothers. All, including one placed by Lakes Region Community Services who holds an entry level position, will receive $15 per hour, an increase of $3 per hour, or 25 percent.

Jennifer Dystra of Northfield, the sales and distribution manager, joined Hermet Woods in April.

"It's going to be the difference between scraping by and not having anything to save and saving something," she said. "I have two kids that I support. It's a huge difference."

"Finding the right people for the right jobs," Manley said, "has been a challenge." He explained that the winery invests considerable time and effort training its employees, providing them with a knowledge and appreciation of wines. "Our employees know about wine in general and our wines in particular," he continued. "Our job is not to sell wine, but to create a unique experience, to educate our customers about wine and encourage their interest in our wines in a setting where they are comfortable." Employees, he described as hosts and hostesses, not sales clerks.

Hardcastle said that 85 percent of all sales originate in the tasting room in Meredith. He hopes that the pay raise will reflect itself in the experience of customers if those catering to them are not worried about how to make ends meet. "Having the additional money helps alleviate personal financial stress," he remarked. "So everyone who comes in will see happy people serving them."

"We can't afford to keep turning employees over," Manley said, adding that "we want to offer the opportunity to make a career. Anticipating significant expansion of the business in the next two to five years, he remarked "there will be lots of opportunity here."

On the company website the partners explain that they reached the figure of $15 after reviewing data that indicated the amount is widely considered "a living wage" throughout the country based on the cost of living. At the same time, they acknowledged that the cost of living in New Hampshire is about 16 percent higher than elsewhere and conceded that "$15 an hour would be the minimum for most people to adequately supports themselves and their families."

Manley said that that to meet the cost of the raise a surcharge of 3.5 percent will be added to every sale, stressing that all the proceeds from the surcharge will be applied to the payroll. He said the average purchase is $50, for which the surcharge would amount to $1.75. He pointed out that customers pay all the expenses of operating the winery, including the wages of employees.

08-16 Hermit Woods Liveable Wage

Jennifer Dykstra, sales and distribution manager at Hermit Woods Winery in Meredith, and co-owner Ken Hardcastle, are both excited about the company's decision to enact a surcharge on its products in order to pay each employee $15 per hour. Co-owner Bob Manley said, "We are not sure $15 is enough, but it is a heck of a lot closer than $12."(Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)