CONCORD — State Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), who took the chair of the Senate Finance Committee in September, took her first major initiative this week by openly recommending that $15 million of the $72.2 million budget surplus be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund rather than spent.
"I'm coming from my experience as a town administrator, not as a Republican," Forrester said yesterday, explaining that the New Hampshire Department of Revenue of Administration expects municipalities to maintain undesignated fund balances of between 5 percent and 10 percent of their operating budgets. She acknowledged that there is no consensus about the appropriate balance of the state's Rainy Day Fund, but said sound budget management requires a healthy fund in order to address an unforeseen deficit and maintain a strong municipal bond rating.
Forrester said that Governor Maggie Hassan has indicated that while she wishes to deposit some of the surplus in the Rainy Day Fund she also seeks to spend a portion of it. However, she has specified how much would be spent or to what purposes and how much would be saved. Forrester said she will raise the issue when she meets with the governor next week.
The state established the Rainy Day Fund, or Revenue Stabilization Reserve Account, in 1987 at the urging of Governor John H. Sununu, in whose officer Forrester served. The statute requires that any budget surplus of not more than 5 percent of unrestricted general fund revenues be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund unless the balance in that account exceeds 10 percent of unrestricted general fund revenues, in which case the surplus is transferred to the general fund.
Forrester said that although the Legislature has frequently suspended the law, the Rainy Day Fund grew to $90 million by 2009. However, she said that after $80 million was applied to the 2010-2011 budget, the balance shrunk to $9.3 million, its lowest level in 22 years.
In a column published in the Concord Monitor a week ago, Forrester noted that the state closed its books on the 2012-2013 biennium in June with a surplus of $72.2 million. The surplus is $15 million more than the $56 million projected in the 2014-2015 budget adopted last year, which authorized transferring the money to the general fund. The unanticipated $15 million in revenue represents receipts from business taxes that topped estimates.
Forrester recommends transferring the $15 million to the Rainy Day Fund, increasing its balance to more than $24-million. She said that she took the initiative on her own, but enjoys the support of the Republican leadership in the Senate, including the president of the Senate, Chuck Morse of Salem. She said that she hoped to win the backing of Senate Democrats, particularly Senator Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester, the vice-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Senator Andrew Hosmer of Laconia is one Democrat who questioned Forrester's proposal. "As much as I think we should replenish the Rainy Day Fund," he said, "it is already raining when it comes to our infrastructure — roads and bridges." Recalling the recent remarks of Christopher Clement, the commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, who warned the House Public Works and Highways Committee that without more revenue the highway fund would be in deficit by October 2015. Hosmer said that some towns in the North Country have let paved roads return to gravel for want of funds. "It's 2014 and we're going backwards to dirt roads," he remarked.
Hosmer has invited Commissioner Clement to the Lakes Region to discuss the condition of some of the secondary roads in the area with local officials. "It's an imperative issue," he stressed, suggesting that infrastructure needs should be considered before deciding to set aside money in the Rainy Day Fund.
Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 02:02
LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge ruled last week that the state cannot use interviews or statements made to a Tilton police detective while an accused drug dealer was in their custody against him.
Judge James O'Neill said that Justin P. Jones, 27, of Franklin was not given his Miranda warnings while he was in a police cruiser with Det. Cpl. Matt Dawson nor was he given them while he was in police custody at the Tilton Police Station.
Jones is charged with one count of conspiracy to sell controlled drugs.
According to various suppression motions filed by Jones's lawyer, Jones was spotted by Dawson and Det. Nathan Buffington while he was a passenger in a vehicle in April of 2013. Tilton police had gotten two arrest warrants for him for possession of oxycodone and conspiracy to sell narcotics.
According to court documents, once in the interview room at the Tilton Police Department, Dawson said Jones began yelling for him so he grabbed the two files, went into the interview room, and began presenting him with paperwork — including some information that included some evidence from the state lab.
Dawson also discussed some elements of the case with Jones that involved a co-defendant and Jones responded by discussing his role in that case.
O'Neill ruled that Dawson didn't properly ensure that Jones was informed of his rights. He said Dawson's acts went beyond simply informing him of the charges against him.
In the same case, a memorandum was filed by an assistant Belknap County attorney saying that when she spoke to Dawson on October 15 about the case, she noticed he didn't include in his written report any reference to a conversation he and Jones had had in the cruiser at the time of his arrest about a confidential informant.
Atty. Roni Karnis wrote that when she asked Dawson why he didn't include it in his report, he said it was because he didn't want to confirm for Jones the name of one of his informants.
She wrote that during the conversation, she learned that Jones allegedly told Dawson that another person had tipped him off about the confidential informant and that he had called her to ask her why she was setting him up.
"Dawson also stated that there 'was a bunch more to it,'" Karnis wrote. She relayed the new information to Jones attorney later that day.
During a hearing to suppress evidence held on October 16, Dawson was also asked why Jones would have been yelling for him while he was in the interview room.
Dawson said Jones may have been under the impression that he (Dawson) was going to "help him out of some of his charges".
When she asked Dawson if the two of them had any conversations about that while they were alone in his cruiser, Dawson said, "I may have. I don't recall. It may have been explained to him that, you know, (he) would have an opportunity to help himself out."
On October 22, the prosecutor filed a notice of full disclosure informing the court that the above conversation had not been included in Dawson's report nor during their conversation on October 15.
On October 28, Jones's attorney filed a second motion to suppress all of the evidence obtained from the tape recordings made at the Tilton Police Department.
He said that on October 23, Dawson got a memorandum of approval for a one party interception — or permission for a confidential informant to wear a recording devise — from former Assistant Belknap County Attorney Stacy Kaelin so he could use a confidential information to by $35 worth of marijuana and the target of the investigation was Jones.
The confidential information was allegedly told by Dawson to buy opiates from a woman and the tapes between the confidential informant and the woman formed the basis of the conspiracy charge against Jones.
Jones has argued Dawson never returned to the county attorney to tell her there was a reasonable suspicion that narcotics and not marijuana would be purchased. He has also argued that the limited information given to Kaelin didn't provide enough information about the confidential informant's relationship to Jones and why police could expect he would sell drugs to her.
O'Neill has not ruled on that motion.
For reasons unknown to The Daily Sun, Dawson was placed on paid administrative leave on or about November 1. It is not known if the two incidents are related.
Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 01:53
CONCORD — Republican Christopher Boothby of Meredith has raised more than twice as much money than any of the other three candidates vying to succeed the late Ray Burton as the executive councilor in District 1.
According to financial reports filed with the New Hampshire Secretary of State this week, Boothby raised $43,795 while Joe Kenney of Wakefield and Mark Aldrich of Lebanon, his opponents in the Republican primary, raised $20,060 and $84.99 respectively. Michael Cryans of Hanover, the lone Democrat in the race raised $18,110.
"I am extremely gratified to have this wide base of support," Boothby said yesterday, adding that "although fundraising is only one measure of support, I am very encouraged that 'so many people are "willing to invest their hard-earned money in my candidacy."
Boothby, a former Belknap County Commissioner, who with his wife Maren owns and operates Boothby Therapy Services in Laconia, contributed $20,000 to his own campaign and raised the balance from 67 donors, 23 of whom contributed $500 or more. To date Boothby has spent $8,378 and has $35,417 in hand.
Kenney, a colonel in the United States Marine Corps who served 14 years in the New Hampshire Legislature and was the Republican candidate for governor in 2008, contributed $10,000 to his campaign and received another $8,200 worth of in-kind contributions, including $5,000 from his campaign manager Casey Crane. The remaining $1,860 of his funds was drawn from 18 individual contributors. Kenney has spent $3,723 and has $16,337 in hand.
Aldrich spent the $84.99, which came from his own pocket, for postcards.
Cryans raised all his funds from some 175 individual donors. Without a primary, Cryans has spent only $196 and has $17,914 in hand.
The primary election will be held on January 21 and the top Republican voter getter will face Cryans in the general election on March 11, town meeting day.
Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 01:47
LACONIA — Eagle Creek Renewable Energy of Morristown, New Jersey, is the new owner of hydroelectric power generation facilities on the Winnipesaukee River at the Lakeport Dam, as well as hydro plants in Lochmere and Franklin.
The hydroelectic plants were purchased in September as part of a portfolio of 10 hydroelectric power generation facilities in the Northeast that Eagle Creek purchased from Algonquin Power. The 10 facilities have a total generating capacity of approximately 29 megawatts, producing approximately 100 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy in a typical year.
The three run-of-river hydroelectric facilities on the Winnipesaukee River together supply the New England power grid with 14 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy a year.
The Lakeport power station is a 600-kilowatt hydroelectric located on the state-owned Lakeport Dam, which regulates the water level in Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire. The state directs operations of the facility in order to manage lake levels. The facility's three turbine/generator units produce approximately 2.4 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy in a typical year.
The Lochmere power station is a 1,200-kilowatt hydroelectric plant located at the outlet of Winnisquam Lake on the State of New Hampshire's Lochmere Dam. The facility is equipped with four Flygt submersible turbine/generator units producing approximately 4.1 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy in a typical year.
The Franklin facility is a 1,800-kilowatt hydroelectric plant located on the Winnipesaukee River. The facility comprises two independent powerhouses. The first, known as the River Bend power station, contains one turbine generator rated at 1,700 kilowatts. The second, known as the Stevens Mill power station, contains one turbine generator rated at 220 kilowatts. Stevens Mill discharges immediately downstream of the dam and maintains water levels in the river through the city of Franklin, while River Bend uses excess flows at the dam and discharges downstream of the center of town. Collectively, the Franklin facility produces approximately 7.4 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy in a typical year.
"We are extremely pleased to complete this important strategic acquisition which solidifies our position as a leading Northeast hydropower generator," said Bud Cherry, CEO of Eagle Creek. "Eagle Creek's growth began with our first purchase of hydro facilities in 2010, and we look forward to continuing our expansion into the future."
Under the management of an experienced team of Eagle Creek and former Algonquin employees, the 10 facilities will be integrated with Eagle Creek's existing hydroelectric power plants in New York. With the addition of the 10 new facilities, Eagle Creek's portfolio now consists of 39 operating hydro plants in seven states with a combined generating capacity of approximately 90 megawatts and an annual production of approximately 320 million kilowatt-hours of clean renewable energy. Eagle Creek is also constructing three new projects in the Northeast that will add four megawatts and 16 million kilowatt-hours to the portfolio.
Eagle Creek was founded in 2010 with Bud Cherry as its CEO and Hudson Clean Energy Partners as its founding investor. The company acquires, develops, owns, and operates small-scale hydroelectric generating facilities throughout North America.
Last Updated on Friday, 03 January 2014 02:01
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