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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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'Day of Play' kicks off Advanced Manufacturing Week in Lakes Region

NORTHFIELD — Lakes Region manufacturers are opening their doors to the public this week with a series of open houses to showcase their advanced manufacturing capabilities.
The week-long celebration kicked off on Saturday with the "Day of Play at EPTAM Plastics," a fun event designed for families in which children were provided with all kinds of recycled materials and craft supplies to create whatever their imaginations envisioned.
Eptam Plastics is a leading manufacturer of machined plastic components for industry and medical equipment device manufacturers.
Among those taking part were Forrest Weaver, 6, and his brother, Charlie, 5, who were there with their parents, Brian and Cori, of Concord.
Forrest was building a glider while Charlie was fabricating a popcorn machine.
Brain Weaver said that his family was there to participate in the cardboard challenge, an international event being held in 43 countries, and hold found out from the Internet and a YouTube video that a regional event was being held in Northfield.
The art director for MAARK, a Boston strategic marketing firm, Weaver said that the worldwide event was organized by the Imagination Foundation, which is working to build project-based learning and STEM-focused curriculum in schools.
''They were inspired to start this by a 9-year-old boy who spent all of his summer in 2011 building a cardboard arcade in his dad's used auto parts store. Somebody put together a YouTube video of it calling it Caine's Arcade. It became a big hit and inspired what you might call a flash mob of visitors, which has since led to the Global Cardboard Challenge and the Global Day of Play.'' said Weaver.
He said that his children, both of whom are bring home schooled have been inspired by ''Caine's Arcade'' and that it has helped them feel comfortable in being creative.
On Monday Titeflex Aerospace and Aavid Engineering in the O'Shea Industrial Park offered tours and today, 3M in Tilton, which manufactures electrical insulation papers, and NH Ball Bearings, Inc. (NHBB) a leading manufacturer of precision bearings and complex bearing assemblies for the aerospace, defense, medical, dental, and high technology markets, will offer tours.
On Wednesday, Scotia Technology will offer tours of its plant in the Lakes Business Park in Laconia at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Scotia Technology is a supplier of tube assemblies for the aerospace and aircraft industries.
Anyone interested in learning about local educational programs in the advanced manufacturing field can attend two open houses on Wednesday, October 9. At 8 a.m. the Huot Regional Technical Education Center (located at Laconia High School) will showcase its Pre-engineering and Manufacturing Engineering Technology programs. From 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, Lakes Region Community College will run an open house for their new Advanced Manufacturing certificate and degree programs, which just launched in September.



Six-year-old Forrest Weaver of Concord works with his dad Bryan on building a glider and his brother Charlie, five, works with his mother, Cori, building a popcorn machine in the cardboard challenge competition held at Eptam Plastics in Northfield as part of the Day of Play held worldwide to celebrate children's creativity. (Roger Amsden/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 03:03

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Laconia candidates for mayor square off in debate for Channel 9 audience

LACONIA — Kailief Mitchell and Ed Engler, the two candidates vying to succeed Mike Seymour as mayor, squared off before the television cameras on Sunday morning in the first of a series of mayoral debates scheduled on "Close-Up," the weekly political program aired by WMUR-TV (Channel 9).

In responding to a series of questions posed by Josh McElveen and James Pindell, the candidates offered different perspectives and priorities without entering into sharp disagreements.

Mitchell, a native of Laconia, U.S. Navy Reservist and assistant teacher at Spaulding Youth Center, described his candidacy as "a natural progression" from his commitment to the community. By contrast, Engler, co-founder, president and editor of The Laconia Daily Sun, confessed he had not dreamt of running for mayor, but once asked to enter the race quickly decided "I'm all in" and pledged to "work tirelessly."

Apart from serving as the presiding officer, Engler spoke of the mayor as "the facilitator, the conversation starter and keeper," who should provide "focus" to municipal government. He said that his experience in both business and government, along with a record of civic engagement, equipped him for the job. Mitchell, the younger candidate, said he looked to be "the eyes and ears of the people," serving as a "liaison" between the residents and their government while "networking" throughout the community. He stressed his leadership experience gained in his career in the Navy and as president of state Board of Opticians.

Several questions bore on the aging demographic and slack economy of the city. Noting that tourism represents a significant sector of the local economy, Mitchell emphasized the importance of becoming a year-round destination less dependent on the vagaries of the weather, which he suggested could be furthered by attracting big-box retailers and a resort casino. Both, he said, would provide employment opportunities that reverse the shrinking of the population by keeping more young people from leaving the city as well as drawing new residents in.

Engler said that population growth was essential for a dynamic economy. He said that manufacturing firms in the area like New Hampshire Ball Bearing, Eptam Plastics and Titeflex Aerospace, had well-paid jobs available, but struggled to find applicants with the required aptitudes and skills. He supported efforts at the Huot Technical Center and Lakes Region Community College to develop a skilled workforce while also stressing the need to generate more professional and white-collar employment. "We must broaden general prosperity," he said.

Both candidates expressed strong support for the city's property tax cap. Mitchell recalled that he not only signed the original petition but also encouraged others to do so.

"It's been great," said Engler, explaining that it has forced the City Council to set its priorities and manage its resources. When Pindell wondered if the tax cap stifled investment, Engler pointed to the expansion of the Huot Technical Center and improvements to the Laconia schools undertaken without skimping on annual roadwork and other projects.

For Engler, the incidence of drug abuse and trafficking was primarily a socio-economic problem and until that is overcome "we must rely on law enforcement". Mitchell said that a solution would depend on "what the rest of the community can do," adding that he thought that the citizens' police academy, now in its third year, was a step in the right direction.

The general election will be held on Tuesday, November 5.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 02:58

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Laconia man accused of throwing knife at woman

LACONIA — A local man who allegedly threw a knife at a woman as she was running away from him early Saturday morning is being held of $10,000 cash-only bail after appearing by video in court yesterday.

Police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division say that Phineas A. Brandon, 26, of 103 Blueberry Lane, after spending the evening at a bar, went into the woman's bedroom around 3 a.m. and jabbed a knife into the wall.

She told police that she left the house to go to a friend's. She said that once she got outside, she tried to call the police but Brandon allegedly grabbed her wrist and twisted it until she dropped the phone.

The victim told police that Brandon allegedly stomped on the phone after it fell from her hand.

She said as she was walking away from him he allegedly threw a knife at her.

Police said they she gave them her cell phone, which had a "spider web-like" crack on the screen. When she took police to the spot where he allegedly threw the knife, they found a steak knife with a black handle lying in the grass.

Brandon also allegedly ran into the woods when police arrived but the officer and his supervisor were able to apprehend him.

Brandon is charged with one misdemeanor count of simple assault, one misdemeanor count of obstructing the reporting of a crime, one felony count of criminal threatening (for stabbing the knife into the wall) and one felony count of reckless conduct (for throwing the knife) and one count of resisting arrest.

Police said Brandon's prior convictions include hindering apprehension in 2010, theft and burglary in 2009, and simple assault in 2006.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 02:49

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