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4 men indicted for 'rioting' at Belknap County Jail

LACONIA — Four area men were indicted by a Belknap County grand jury last week for "rioting" for their roles in an assault on a fifth man while all five were incarcerated in the county jail. Rioting is defined by state law as two or more persons assembling for the purpose of engaging in tumultuous or violent conduct.

Jason Fournier, 23, whose last known address was in Meredith; Zackarie Lesko-Lebeau, 22, whose last known address was in Belmont; Andrew Soboleski, 20, whose last known address was in Laconia; and Zacharie Farrell, 21, whose last known address was in Gilmanton are also charged with one count each of assault by prisoners.

All of the new charges are felonies.

According to Superintendent Daniel Ward, all four of the accused and the victim were incarcerated in the same medium security ward at the Belknap County Jail on or about June 7 and all were accused or convicted of a variety of crimes.

According to a Department of Corrections spokesman, Fournier was awaiting trial for theft, Soboleski was awaiting trial for burglary, Farrell was awaiting trial for burglary, and the victim was awaiting trial for armed robbery. He had no record for Lesko-Lebeau meaning he had likely never been sentenced to the N.H. State Prison.

As of yesterday Soboleski is in the N.H. State Prison in Berlin and the victim is in the N.H. State Prison in Concord. Fournier and Farrell are on probation and there is no record of Lesko-Lebeau.

Ward said it appears that on June 7, 2013 the four ganged up on the victim, who he said was not seriously injured. He said guards were able to break up the fight without calling the Sheriff's Department or the Laconia Police for assistance.

Ward said he doesn't know what triggered the fight and fighting is a rather common occurrence. He said the four alleged aggressors appeared before an internal disciplinary board and all were punished.

He said the victim was relocated to a separate unit for his own safety.

"Our job is to keep them secure and safe until release," he said, saying the Department of Corrections has zero tolerance for fighting.

He said other inmates just stood around and watched.

"They generally don't want to get involved," he said "although they will occasionally call the control room to report the fight."

He said each mens' medium security wards houses 16 prisoners.

As of yesterday, Ward said he had 154 men and women incarcerated through Belknap County. He said 25 of the men had to be transferred to different county jails in order to avoid crowding and the ones who were transferred are serving sentences. The jail was built to hold 87 people.

Ward said he doesn't like to have people who are awaiting trial leave Belknap County because it's too expensive to transport them to and from the courthouses in Laconia.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 02:05

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Police Community Room should be open in a few weeks - 310

LACONIA — The Laconia Police Community room should be open again within the next two weeks, said Parks and Recreation/Facilities Director Kevin Dunleavy yesterday.

Dunleavy said Controlled Technologies, the company that the city uses for all its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) needs, installed a re-heat coil valve in the system on Monday.

"Now all we have to do is replace a few ceiling tiles and have our janitorial service clean the room," Dunleavy said.

The Community Room has been closed to police and the general public since July, when an air quality test indicated there were some significant humidity-related problems.

The station was built about 10 years ago and the northwest corner of the building is on a cement slab that is near the water table level. Like many other buildings in New England, the extreme high amounts of humidity this past summer, coupled with excessive amounts of rain, contributed to the poor air quality test results and, in some cases, mold problems.

Dunleavy said a few of the ceiling tiles in the room showed some dampness as did the carpet on the floor.

He said the city decided not to replace the carpet with a special type of flooring this year but chose to wait until next spring and summer to see if the problem recurs with the spring rains and summer humidity. He said the city was hoping the work Controlled Technologies did on the HVAC system can control the problem.

Typically, once air temperatures and relative humidity drop in autumn and winter, most dampness issues resolve themselves.

The Community Room is used by the Police Commissioners for their monthly meetings and the Citizen's Academy and other agencies in the city use it for meeting space. Fortunately, said Dunleavy, there have been other meeting spaces in the city that juggled their schedules to compensate for the Community Room.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 02:02

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Pickleball proving popular

LACONIA — Pickleball, a sport which combines the elements of tennis, ping pong and badminton, has proved increasingly popular at the Laconia Community Center, where it was introduced this summer and has developed a loyal following in the last several months.
''It's been very well received. We have two sessions each week and the number of people playing keeps growing'' says Amy Lovisek, assistant director of the Laconia Parks and Recreation Department.
The sport is played on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court. The net is similar to a tennis net, but is mounted two inches lower. The game is played with a hard paddle and a polymer, smaller version of a whiffle ball.
A pickleball ball typically moves at one-third of the average speed of a tennis ball and the court is just under one-third of the total area of a tennis court. The net is hung at 36 inches on the ends, and 34 inches in the middle. The court is striped like a tennis court, with no alleys; but the outer courts, and not the inner courts, are divided in half by service lines. The inner courts are non-volley zones and extend seven feet from the net on either side.
The ball is served underhand from behind the baseline, diagonally to the opponent's service zone and points are scored only by the serving team when their serve is not returned or is hit out of bounds. The winner is the first team or player to reach 11 points and have a two-point lead at that point.
''We have pickleball from 6:45 to 10 p.m. on Monday nights and on Thursdays from 8;45 to 11;45 a.m. One of the best things is that the players are really friendly and eager to teach people new to the game how to play,'' says Lovisek.
She said that equipment and a paddle are available for new players and that the cost is $2 per person for each session of play.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 01:55

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Feud between county commission & convention continues to boil; transfers again denied

LACONIA — There was no sign of a thaw in the relationship between the Belknap County Convention and the Belknap County Commission yesterday when the Executive Committee of the convention flatly rejected the commissioner's requests to transfer funds to address budget overruns.

The commissioners asked to transfer funds from contingency, $52,000 to defray unforeseen expenses in the Corrections Department and another $5,000 to meet an overrun in the expenses of the convention itself.

County Administrator Deborah Shackett described the Corrections Department as "in dire straits" as the number of inmates has swelled to as many as 151, well over the capacity of the jail. She said that Superintendent Dan Ward has been compelled to place inmates in three other county jails, which have begun to present their bills. At the same time, she noted that the cost of transporting inmates to and from facilities for court appearances has strained the budget of the Sheriff's Department.

Rep. Colette Worsman, who chairs the convention, reminded Shackett that there would be no shortfall if the commissioners had not shuffled funds appropriated by the convention to fund benefits for employees, which the convention struck from its 2013 budget.

Likewise, Worsman questioned the commissioner's decision to invest $60,000, which was originally appropriated to the Sheriff's Department but since rendered unnecessary by receipt of a grant, in a timekeeping system. "Another year we will have wasted taxpayers' money, hard-earned taxpapyers' money, on something foolish," she snapped.

Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of the Executive Committee, asked if the commission intended to present its plan for the timekeeping system to the convention. "We will definitely tell you what are plans are," replied John Thomas, chairman of the commission, who explained that the system would enhance efficiency.

Shackett told the Executive Committee that the convention "will overspend its budget with every meeting you have, starting with this one." She said that the commissioners are bound by law to pay members of convention $25 per day for each meeting they attend.

In refusing to approve the requested transfers, Tilton said that the commissioners failed to provide the Executive Committee sufficient notice. "We're not going to be acting when you drop it on us like this," he said. Shackett reminded him that the commissioners requested the $52,000 for the Corrections Department during the budget process and in August advised the convention it would overspend its budget.

Shackett said that she would recommend the commissioners charge the convention's expenses to the contingency account, which now has a balance of $202,000. She explained that one statute required them to pay the expenses while another forbid them to spend more than was appropriated. At the same time, she said that when other counties submit bills for housing the county's inmates, she will propose charging them to contingency.

Meanwhile, when the Executive Committee conducted its quarterly review of revenues and expenditures, Worsman again questioned the budgeting of administrative salaries, particularly those of Shackett and Finance Director Glen Waring, which are charged to both the administrative and nursing home budgets. "Transparency is critical," she insisted, explaining that is why the convention assigned the salaries entirely to the administrative budget.

"It should be apparent that you got a $26,000 raise over the last four years," Worsman told Shackett. "The commission didn't like the budget we adopted so they found a way around it."

"That's absolutely not true," countered Thomas. "I take exception to that."

Shackett said that administrative salaries were shared between the two departments to accurately reflect the costs of operating the nursing home and ensure appropriate reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. "This is proper accounting according to our auditors," she added. Shackett said that the salary schedule is a public document, which has not been withheld from either the county convention or the general public.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 01:50

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