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Gilford has spent $14.6K in legal fees in cases regarding suspended police officers

GILFORD — In the two months since Police Chief Kevin Keenan and Patrol Officer Holly Harris have been on paid administrative leave, the town has spent $14,683 on legal fees associated with their leave.

Additionally, the town has paid Keenan $14,373 in salary since his leave began on August 29. Harris, who has been on leave since around Sept. 15, earns $24.33 per hour and has earned approximately $6,810 during her leave.

To date, other than confirming the amount of money spent on lawyers and salary, town officials have remained silent about the reasons behind the administrative leaves and or how long they expect it to continue.

The Daily Sun has learned that an independent assessment of the police department has been performed however it is not known what costs, if any, are associated with it.


Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 02:26

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Alton going after alleged 'junkyard'

ALTON — The town has petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court for a permanent injunction to stop a local man form operating what the town calls a junkyard on Church Street.

In the filing, Town Code Enforcement Officer John Dever III, said that Mark J. Hanson of 28 Church St. started using the property "for (an) automotive and truck junk yard, motor vehicle repair yard and motor vehicle/parts storage or dealer facility" shortly after he purchased it on December 22, 2005.

Dever said this week that operating commercially is "primarily a zoning issue," and operating a junkyard is against town regulations and violates the state laws regarding junkyards.

The town issued Hanson a notice of violation on May 6, 2013 ordering him to immediately stop using the property for commercial use or as a junkyard. Dever said Tuesday that Hanson was told he had 30 days to appeal the violation notice with the Zoning Board of Adjustment but never filed for a hearing.

When Dever was asked why the town waited eight years to cite Hanson when the paperwork said he began the alleged illegal activity in 2005, he said the activity on the property had escalated within the past few years.

He also said an investigation revealed some items listed for sale on Craig's List (an Internet exchange and sales site) and Hanson had been seen hauling scrap from the site. Dever also said that while Hanson hasn't officially responded, the Church Street property is neater now than is has been in the recent past.

The town, said Dever, considers any commercial use of the property a zoning violation because it is in a residential-zoned area. He said under the former zoning ordinances, the property was zoned as residential-commercial but noted that any commercial use needed a special exception and Hanson never applied for one. He said he also would have needed a site plan approved by the Planning Board and that never happened either.

The town, wrote Dever, is entitled to assess a civil penalty of $550 per day for each violation after issuing the second notice, which was issued on June 25, 2013.

Efforts by The Daily Sun to reach Hanson by telephone were unsuccessful.

CUTLINE : (Church Street Property) Rain falls on cars parked in the front and side yards of a house on Church Street. The town claims the property is being used as an illegal junkyard and has filed for an injunction against owner Mark J. Hanson in Belknap County Superior Court. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 02:20

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Group of lawmakers renews effort to keep State School land in Concord's hands

CONCORD — A bipartisan group of lawmakers have again introduced legislation to repeal the provision of the 2012-2013 state budget requiring the sale of the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street. Last year a bill to same effect was adopted by the Senate but rejected by the House of Representatives.

The bill is sponsored by Representatives John Graham (R-Bedford), Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) and Candace Bouchard (D-Concord) and Senators Jim Rausch (R-Derry) and Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester).
Both Chandler and Rausch believe the state should retain ownership of the property.

In 2011, the Legislature directed the New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to offer the entire site to the city for "not less than $10 million" and if the city failed to accept the offer, to offer it to Belknap County "at fair market value." If neither the city nor the county purchased the property, it would be put on the open market for no less than its fair market value. The law specified that the property was to be sold by May 1, 2013.

City Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), then mayor, chaired a commission convened by the Legislature to consider the future of the property and has led the city's effort to acquire some or all of the tract. He said that with the passage of the deadline of May 1, the state remains open to offers for the property, which Linda Hodgdon, Commissioner of Administrative Services, may present to the governor and Executive Council at her discretion.

With the repeal of the current law, the property would become subject to the statute governing the disposal of state-owned real estate (RSA 4:40), which stipulates that the department with jurisdiction over the property — in this case the Department of Corrections — must recommend its sale or lease to the Long-Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee. Composed of legislators together with a representative of the governor, the committee, with the advice of the Council on Resources and Development, consisting of officials of various state agencies, must approve the recommendation and submit it to the governor and executive council. If the governor and executive council also approve the sale or lease of the property, it must first be offered to the municipality or county where it is located and can only be placed on the open market if both refuse the offer.

The sale price may not be less than the current market value of the property as determined by the governor and executive council. In June, 2011 the state appraised the property for $2.16-million. The next year the City Council offered to purchase it for that amount, but the offer was not considered.

The property consists of four tax parcels. The largest, some 200-acres, is bounded by North Main Street to the east, Meredith Center Road and Eastman Road to the north and Ahern State Park to the west and south and divided roughly in half by Right Way Path. This parcel includes some 60 acres adjacent to the Robbie Mills Sports Complex bounded by Eastman Road and Green Street known as Risley Field, which the city leases on a short-term basis to provide parking for the sports complex. It excludes some 17 acres housing the 911 call center and the building vacated by Lakes Region Community Services that would remain the property of the state. The parcel was appraised at $1,760,000,

There are also two smaller parcels. An undeveloped 10.4-acre lot at the junction of Old North Main Street and North Main Street was appraised at $300,000. An unimproved wooded lot of 7.5-acres at the corner of Lane Road and Meredith Center Road was appraised at $100,000. The state also leased both smaller parcels to the city in 2000 for 99 years at $1 a year.

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 02:14

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A new (red) face for Smith Track

LACONIA — The Smith Track at Opechee Park is slated to be opened by the middle of November, said the director of the Parks and Recreation Department yesterday.

Kevin Dunleavy said the resurfacing is finished and the contractor needs three or four days of good weather in order finish striping it.

When asked why the track is now brick red instead of black, Dunleavy said that is the standard color. "Anything different would have required an upgrade," he said.

He added that Laconia's colors are red and white, which is a plus in his mind, but added the school colors have little or nothing to do with the color of the running surface.

Dunleavy also said the color black absorbs more heat and the rubberized surface is much hotter in the summer. He said most good-quality tracks — including those at Newfound Regional High School in Bristol and Inter-Lakes Regional High School in Meredith.

The replacement of the track was made necessary because the surface of the old track began bubbling and cracking in 2011. The city hired a company to fix it, but the next year the problems resurfaced and the city was forced to close the track again.

As of October, he said the city was still in negotiations with the company that did the 2011 resurfacing because its representatives have said the 2012 problems "were not of (their) making."

He said the city decided this time that the entire former rubberized surface must be removed. Dunleavy said the entire cost for the replacement was $250,000 and is being paid for with a borrowing approved by the City Council. The city had estimated the cost to be $300,000 and the bond was included in the 2013-2014 budget.

Dunleavy said the city also resurfaced all of the runways for the jumps and, aside from the fence, the track is like new.

"What's nice is that it's something the whole city can use," said Dunleavy, noting that some tracks that belong exclusively to school districts are closed when the schools aren't using them.

He also said that being at Opechee Park, which is the city's largest park, is good because it is in such a "nice setting."

He said once it opens the track will remain open until "snow flies."

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 01:57

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