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Board sends $13.9M budget to Meredith voters

MEREDITH — Following a public hearing yesterday the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to recommend a town budget that would appropriate $13,902,674 in 2014, which represents an increase of $275,005, or two-percent.

With revenues from sources other than property taxes virtually flat for the sixth consecutive year, the amount to be raised by property taxes would be $8,352,424, which represents an increase in the town portion of the tax rate of 25 cents, or 5.5 percent, from $4.55 to $4.80.

The selectmen applied $1,250,000 from the town's undesignated fund balance to supplement revenues and offset property taxes.

Town Manager Phil Warren said that once again "fiscal restraint" was the overriding theme of the budget, which includes no new positions or job reclassifications and neither expands nor reduces programs and services. However, the budget funds a "salary adjustment" of 1.25-percent and a 2.5-percent upon a successful performance review.

At a workshop yesterday the Selectboard reversed its earlier decision to withhold funding to install copper gutters at the library after learning that the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage awarded the town a grant of $70,000 for the project. Other capital investments include funds to purchase to pickup trucks, a police cruiser, rescue van, a crane truck and a chipper along with applying $100,000 to an expendable trust fund for equipment for the Department of Public Works.

When the floor was opened to the public, David Sticht expressed concern about the growth in the Parks and Recreation budget, which he said has risen from $788,766 in 2006, when it included the first annual bond payment of $254,000 for the construction of the Community Center to over $1-million in 2007 and nearly $1-million again in 2014.

"The costs are going up and up and up," Sticht said, recalling that when the Community Center was built revenues from programming were expected to defray operating costs. "Something is wrong somewhere," he continued. "This sure isn't what we were promised in 2004.

Selectman Peter Brothers said that "the numbers by themselves don't mean that much," explaining that there was a strong commitment to the department, the building and its programs in the community. He said that the selectmen have looked for ways to increase revenues, which were at $149,055 in 2013, and control costs. The center, he noted "is close to being overused." While acknowledging Parks and Recreation is a significant cost center, Brothers remarked "I don't see it in quite the same way as you do."

"I agree with both," gegan Selectman Herb Vadney, "but I think Mr. Sticht makes a very good point." He suggested undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of the Community Center, stressing that school enrollments have declined "substantially."

Warren said that when the Community Center was planned and constructed the projected operating costs were "not as accurate as they should have been."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 February 2014 02:09

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Heroin arrest in Belmont quickly follows release for meth possession in Manchester

BELMONT – A local man who police charged with possession of heroin last Tuesday at 9:15 p.m., five hours after he had just been released on personal recognizance bail after being arrested for methamphetamine possession in Manchester earlier.

Aaron Rae, 24, of 26 Lincoln Street in Laconia is also charged with one count of resisting arrest, one count of falsifying evidence and one count of breach of bail.

According to affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Rae was a passenger in car on January 27 that police noticed had stopped at the Irving Station/Circle K on Route 106. The officer said it was unusual because the car stopped at the store but no one got out of it.

Police said the officer smelled marijuana and saw a pill bottle in the door without the white prescription label on it when he approached the car. He told the three occupants to put their hands where he could see them, Rae looked like he was trying to hide something between the seat and the console. He repeatedly disobeyed the officers request that he keep his hands on the dashboard.

Once the driver was out of the car, police said Rae was told to get out of the car. When he did, the officer saw a plastic baggie sticking out from where the console meets the seat.

When he asked Rae what was in the baggie, Rae allegedly said he didn't know. The officer said he tried to move Rae to the outside quarter panel, Rae kept trying to get back near the seat. He described Rae as "tense."

As the officer went to put Rae's hands behind his back, he allegedly started to resist, getting one hand away. When his other hand came free, affidavits said Rae nearly stuck the officer in the face.

While the two were struggling, Rae broke free and began to run. The officer called for assistance and chased Rae, who allegedly ran down the drive way of a neighboring house.

Eventually Rae crossed Route 140 into the Broken Yolk restaurant parking lot and ran behind the dumpsters with the officer in pursuit. Rae fell and the officer was able to get him in handcuffs.

Police got permission from the car's owner to search it and found a black bag inside the passenger door which was the area that Rae had tried to keep the police from looking.

In the black bag they found a smaller bag with four packages of heroin. Police also found four hypodermic needles in the door along with the paperwork from the Manchester Police detailing Rae's arrest and release earlier in the day for possession of methamphetamine.

Police also found a machete in the car.

The driver of the car, who is from New Hampton, was charged with possession of drugs and released on personal recognizance bail.

Rae is in the Belknap County House of Corrections being held on $2,500 cash-only bail.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 February 2014 03:06

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Newfound voters restore BudCom cuts to 201402105 school budget

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — Newfound Area School District voters at the Feb. 1 deliberative session restored funding that the budget committee had cut from the school board's proposed spending for 2014-2015 but would not agree to increase it further to support a football program at the middle school level.

Those attending the Saturday morning meeting at Newfound Regional High School also failed to support a warrant article that would have funded a school resource (police) officer. With neither the school board nor the budget committee recommending passage of the article — the school board had a 3-3 tie with the Hebron member abstaining from the vote, while the budget committee unanimously opposed the article — voters amended the appropriation to zero, effectively killing the position.

The operating budget and the proposed teacher contract generated some discussion, but a recurring issue during the two hour and 45-minute annual meeting centered on administrative changes that have little impact on the budget. Several speakers took issue with the superintendent's plan to eliminate 19.5 paraprofessional positions, most of which are devoted to special needs students, replacing them with three certified teachers who would work directly with students. Superintendent Stacy Buckley said, "I believe we can meet the needs of all students by utilizing our resources better," and she explained that some of the reductions are a result of changes in students' individualized educational programs. Philosophically, she said, she believed in shifting resources to the students and away from teacher assistants.

Newfound Area School Board Chair Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater defended the superintendent's actions, saying the board had directed her to review all personnel and support positions and to make recommendations for re-alignments, reductions, or increases to better meet students' needs. "We used factual, not anecdotal data," he said, "and our decisions were made with a lot of deliberation."

Hinting of serious problems uncovered during the review process — "I wish all of you could sit in on our school board meetings, or better yet, our nonpublic sessions" — Migliore said, "We've come across many things to be addressed and done. ... The superintendent is trying to get things under control in a variety of ways."

In discussing the proposed collective bargaining agreement with the teacher's union, Vice-Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury said the district sought a three-year contract that would result in teachers spending more time with students. The new contract would eliminate 19 days of authorized leave while granting wage increases of two percent in the first year, two percent in the second year, and 2.5 percent in the third year of the contract. Teachers also would receive the so-called step increases that are built into the pay scales, based on longevity. The agreement also provides a cost-of-living adjustment to those at the top of the pay scale who do not receive step increases, and a two percent increase for co-curricular stipends.

Fran Wendelboe, chair of the Newfound Area School District Budget Committee, explained why that body did not support the agreement. She said that, between the step increases and the COLAs, a teacher on Step 1 who now makes $34,370 a year would be earning $39,625 by the third year of the contract, an increase of $5,255. A teacher on Step 10 earning $46,313 would be earning $54,485, a raise of $8,172 in three years' time, she said. The total three-year cost to the district would be an additional $861,451.

"We felt that most of our taxpayers would not see that much of an increase in their wages," Wendelboe said. "The give-back on leave time did not come anywhere near making up for that, so there are no projected savings at this time."

Retired teacher Natalie Murphy of Bridgewater said Newfound teachers are in the bottom third in terms of earnings among educators in the state. "Don't punish our teachers because they're the only salaries you have control over," she pleaded.

In discussing the hiring of an SRO for the district, Migliore said, "There is no more important personal goal than providing for the safety of our students and employees."

Buckley said a school resource officer would be responsible for safety workshops and protocols, would be able to handle crime and drug issues in the schools, and serve as a liaison between the police department and the schools.

Wendelboe said the budget committee did not support the position, noting that previous times the district has had an officer in the schools, "It didn't work out very well." She also noted that the high school is a mere two miles from the New Hampton Police Department, should an emergency occur. "We haven't seen any need for this position," she concluded.

Lloyd Belbin, the school board member from Bristol, had been among those voting against the position. "I've worked in all phases of law enforcement," he said, "and this doesn't affect the safety of our students. ... We've just spent $90,000 for a surveillance system," he added, saying that is a more effective way to provide protection.

Archie Auger of Bristol who has retired as a school district official moved to "zero-fund" the position, and the amendment passed on a voice vote.

Voters did not go along with the budget committee's recommendation to reduce the budget from the school board's version by eliminating two guidance positions, even though the superintended had recommended one of the cuts. Newfound currently provides 7.8 guidance positions while state standards call for 3.3, based on current enrollment. Wendelboe pointed out that, even if the two positions were cut, Newfound still would exceed the state requirements.

The budget committee also had eliminated $5,000 in administrative stipends, $2,000 in equipment replacement, $2,674 in miscellaneous board expenditures, and $9,999 in legal expenditures.

Hebron school board member Don Franklin pointed out that the school board's original budget proposal, although higher than the budget committee's budget, was still less than current-year spending and it is $200,000 below what the tax cap allows.

A motion to restore the school board's appropriation passed on a 124-68 hand vote.

With those amendments, the warrant now will go onto the ballot for a decisions at the polls on March 11.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 February 2014 01:42

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Sponsor takes one for the team, which goes on to claim 'Just For Fun U35 crown at Pond Hockey Classic

MEREDITH — Sponsoring a pond hockey team can be a painful experience, even if you're not on the ice and your team wins.
That's what Michael Bourgeois found out Sunday when he and his wife, Julie, were watching Broots Magoots, the team sponsored by their restaurant, Giuseppe's Pizzeria-Ristorante, play in semifinal action in the Just for Fun Under 35 bracket of the 5th Annual New England Pond Hockey Classic.
Bourgeois, better known for his guitar playing at the restaurant than his hockey skills, was dinged on his right cheek by an errant puck launched by a member of the opposing team that jumped over the boards, and spent the rest of the game holding a cold, ice-filled compress to his face as he cheered on his team.
''We won some early games by lop-sided scores but we're meeting some good teams today,'' said Bourgeois.
He was rewarded with a 7-5 victory in a game which only got close near the very end, and, later in the afternoon was able to cheer the Magoots, all of whom are originally from the Manchester area, on to a 4-3 win which gave them their second straight Pond Hockey Classic title in their bracket.
''They're a great bunch of guys who stop by our place a lot. When they asked us to sponsor them we were glad to do it. We bought them shirts and we've been working to build a little fan base for them,'' said Bourgeois.
Nate Gagne, team captain, hails from Manchester and is a Trinity High School graduate who has ties to the Lakes Region.
''My brother-in-law lives on Cummings Cove, not that far from right where we're playing,'' says Gagne, who says that this is the Magoots third year playing in the classic, which this year had more than 220 teams taking part.
He and his teammates rolled over their early round opponents and played what they call ''spirited'' hockey along the way.
''It's a great way to get out and have a fun weekend,'' said Ben Courchesne of Boston, who along with his brother, Matt, of Litchfield, now are two-time champions in the pond hockey classic.


CAPTION (Pond Hockey1.2)

Broots Magoots (white tops) defeated the Sweater Kittens (dark tops) 7-5 in the Just for Fun Under 35 semifinal bracket Sunday at the New England Pond Hockey Tournament and went on the win the division with a 4-3 victory in the final. The team is sponsored by Giuseppe's Pizzeria Ristorante of Meredith. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 February 2014 01:37

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