Weirs storage variance request hearing postponed

LACONIA — Peter Morrissette, the principal of PEM Real Estate, LLC, the owner of the former St. Helena Mission Church at The Weirs, asked the Zoning Board of Adjustment to defer for a month further consideration of his request for a zoning variance entitling him to use the property as a storage facility.

The ZBA was expected to consider the issue discussion when it met this week, but continued the item until September at Morrissette's request.

Neither "indoor storage" or "warehousing, as defined by the zoning ordinance, are permitted uses in the Shoreftont Residential District where the property is located.

Last month Attorney Paul Fitzgerald, representing Morrissette, told the ZBA that the ground floor and basement of the building each provide 5,200-square-feet of undivided space. He assured the board that the exterior of the building would be maintained without change. Nor would there be an office, signage or outdoor storage on the site. Instead, Fitzgerald explained, the space would be leased to one or two commercial entities for a relatively long-term to store seasonal inventory, like motorcycles, jet-skis and snowmobiles. He said that there would be very infrequent comings and goings to and from the site. In particular, Fitzgerald stressed that the building would not be divided into a multiplicity of individual storage units for household belongings with round-the clock access.

However, several residents of the adjacent Pendleton Beach neighborhood, including Warren Hutchins of Boathouse Road, the chairman of the Planning Board who spoke as a private individual, urged the ZBA to deny the request, which they said would have adverse impacts on the character of their neighborhood and the value of their properties.

Motorcycle Week vending fees opposed in Meredith

MEREDITH — The Board of Selectmen this week tabled a proposal to levy a fee on vendors during Laconia Motorcycle Week when it met with resistance from Laconia Harley-Davidson, Hart's Turkey Farm restaurant and the American Police Motorcycle Museum, the major hosts to vendors during the rally. The earliest fees could now be introduced in the town would be 2017.

Following the precedent of Laconia, the ordinance would require all transient vendors, other than non-profit organizations soliciting donations toward a charitable purpose, to be licensed by the town at a fee of $450, which would entitle them to operate from noon on the first Friday until midnight on the last Sunday of the rally. Vendors operating without a license would be liable to a fine of failure to obtain a license would carry a fine of up to $500 for each day of unlawful operation.

Town Manager Phil Warren told the board that this year the town incurred expenses of $18,017 during the event, which consisted of $7,149 for police overtime, $5,868 for fire service and $5,000 in dues for the town's membership in the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association (LMWA). Revenues amounted to $660, which represented special use permits issued to Laconia Harley-Davidson and Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant at $330 apiece. The license fees, he said, were intended to offset the cost to the town of providing police and safety services for the event.

Anne Deli, president of Laconia Harley-Davidson, warned that if the town levied a vendor fee "we will lose vendors" and asked "does Meredith really want to put one more nail in the coffin of Motorcycle Week."

She explained that the dealership doubles its payroll to 150 during the rally, stressing that all but 30 of the employees are residents of the Lakes Region.  Deli said that since she and her husband acquired the business in 2008, it has contributed more than $225,000 to local and regional charities.The dealership, she said, paid for hotel rooms in Meredith and a per diem food allowance for those 30 employees. In addition, Deli said that the company invests about $220,000 a year providing the infrastructure and marketing for Motorcycle Week, but collects $145,000 in rents from vendors. She said that vendor fees have not been increased because "vendors would go elsewhere," adding there are many competitors for vendors "ready to pounce on us".

Deli said that if vendors fees sapped income from the dealership, the costs would have to be upset by reducing employment, charitable contributions or marketing expenses, all of which would adversely impact the rally itself.

Doug Frederick of the museum said that he offers space without charge to non-profit organizations and veterans' groups. He said that they are welcome to make donations to the museum, but rent — let alone a $450 licensing fee — would be a significant burden to small operators. He noted that their presence at the site is not intended as a source of income but as an added attraction that draws visitors to the museum.


Pilot 'community corrections' program approved

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have approved a pilot program for a comprehensive substance abuse/behavioral health assessment and treatment and offender case management program as a first step towards a planned "community corrections" center.
The program was developed by a committee of county agency representatives working with consultant Kevin Warwick, whose firm was hired to develop programs for a community corrections facility for the county, and calls contracting with a private community-based treatment contractor at a proposed cost of $46,564 for six months of services provided by equivalent of 1.5 full-time workers.
Commissioners said yesterday that they are looking at paying for the program through the use of some of the $400,000 remaining in the jail planning fund in the Department of Corrections budget.
The program, as outlined by Warwick and Jacqui Abikoff, Horizons Counseling Center executive director, would provide early intervention and screening assessments which would classify and target offenders appropriately and identify low risk offenders, who could be considered for alternative programs and move out of the jail, as well as high risk offenders, who would be targeted for intensive treatment services at the jail.
Warwick said that currently the assessments are not done early enough in the process to help provide information to the courts resulting in decisions on treatment being made by judges rather than clinicians.
He said that currently 70 percent of those incarcerated at the Belknap County Jail have been there previously and unless intensive treatment is provided they will be back.
''Many have serious substance abuse problems and only get two hours of treatment a week. In many cases they need at least 200 to 300 hours of service over a nine-month period,'' said Warwick.
He said that Sullivan County, where he served as a consultant for their community corrections facility, has experienced a decrease in repeat offenders from 65 percent to 18 percent, resulting in substantial savings to the cost of housing prisoners.
The plan calls for a three track system to identify the treatment and transitional needs of offenders, an intensive treatment program for those serving a minimum of 90 days who have been identified as high risk, which would see 12-15 hours a week of treatment; a second track for short-term offenders identified as low risk and a third track for pre-trial inmates.
Abikoff said it is important to realize that addiction is a disease and not a behavior and said that she does not initially see any large increase in the numbers served over the 10 or so which currently take part in the Recovery Court program, which she said has already resulted in savings of about $350,000 over three years even though the program has received no county funding.
Warwick said that initially there might be a 10 percent reduction in recidivism, which could increase in a few years to a 30 percent reduction.
Warwick said that another New Hampshire county which 56 people in its drug (recovery) court program has realized a savings of $1 million a year in jail costs.
Members of the committee which came up with the pilot program included Acting Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray, Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, Public Defender Jesse Friedman, Restorative Justice Director Brian Loanes, Sheriff Craig Wiggin, Department of Corrections Program Director Tamara McGonagle, and Abikoff.
Guldbrandsen, who could not be present for yesterday's meeting, sent a memo to the commission expressing her support for the pilot program in which she said ''the financial benefits of supporting this program should be clear to the county.''
The Belknap County Jail Planning Committee, which is headed by Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), is working on a proposal for a 64-bed community corrections facility which is estimated to cost $7 million.
Warwick recently told the committee that the cost of staffing the new facility with six new employees is estimated to add $454,193 in first year costs to the current Belknap County Corrections Department budget. That number doesn't include program provider costs.
DeVoy says he he is hopeful that grant funding will be available for the program provider positions, which are estimated at $60,000 a year per provider, which would add $240,000 a year to staffing costs, pushing the total increase in staffing costs to around $700,000.