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Ad hoc committee going down other path on jail planning

LACONIA — While the Belknap County Commission continues to plan for construction of a new county correctional facility, some members of the Belknap County Convention have begun exploring alternative mean of addressing the shortcoming of the county jail.

Representatives Bob Greemore (R-Meredith), Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) and Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont), together with David DeVoy of Sanbornton, who ran unsuccessfully for the commission in 2012 , and George Hurt of Gilford, a former state representative, have been meeting as an ad hoc committee to consider how to ease the most severe shortcomings of the existing facility.

"The commission is going down one path," Greemore said yesterday, "and we're saying no, no no. We understand there is a problem and we want to solve it," he stressed, "but not with the Cadillac of all jails."

In a letter printed in yesterday's edition of The Daily Sun, in quintet presented five options, in no order of preference, aimed at improving conditions for housing women, who are held in attic with inadequate heating and cooling systems and insufficient bathing and toilet facilities. They suggest building a free-standing pod as temporary quarters or a new wing separated from the main building by a fenced exercise yard or an extension on to the rear of existing jail. Alternatively, the county commissioners and administrators could be relocated to rented space until a wood frame building could be built to house them and their original quarters occupied by women inmates. Or, the county could lease space on the site of the former Laconia State School from the state to house female inmates.

"Each option will have strengths and weaknesses," the group wrote, "and these, together with associated costs, will to be weighed."

Burchell said that the county convention is concerned by the deficiencies at the jail and the lack of progress in addressing them. He said that the commission has spent "several hundred thousand dollars on analysis and planning" and presented a plan for a new facility estimated to cost $42.5 million that met with widespread disapproval. "The commission has not given serious thought to alternatives," he said. "We are where we are because of the actions and inactions of the commissioners."

"We have to do something," said DeVoy, who intends to run for commissioner again. "If I am elected this is something I'd have to deal with. To make happen.
The commissioners can't seem to get the ball moving."

Burchell said that the ad hoc committee came together for lack of a formal means of participating in the process. He said that the Jail Planning Committee convened by the commissioners included "stakeholders," who he described as "everyone who had a stake in building a new jail. The stakeholders didn't include the convention or John Q. Public." Although the committee has since been expanded to include members of the public but not of the convention.

Burchell recalled a meeting of the county convention in August when Representative Lisa DiMartino (D-Gilford) wondered what role members could play in the planning process, he suggested forming a study committee,. But, he said he was "shot down" by Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who said that planning county facilities was not the responsibility of the convention.

Greemore said that he and his colleagues have been through the jail, some more than once, and met with Dan Ward, the Superintendent of the Corrections Department. "We've done a lot of homework, individually and together," he said. "We're trying to get a dialogue going with people outside the Jail Planning Committee to see what we can to get this thing moving."

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 12:14

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Belmont selectmen want second opinion on Engine 2 before refurbishment

BELMONT — Selectmen have asked Fire Chief Dave Parenti to get a second opinion about the condition of a fire engine before any decisions are made to refurbish it.

Parenti told selectmen during his budget presentation last month that he may ask for about $200,000 to refurbish Engine 2, but wanted to make sure that it would last eight to 10 years before the town spent the money.

Saying body rust was one of the key problems, he suggested taking it to Repair Service of New England — or RSNE — of Gilford to make sure the frame rails were not rusted and selectmen agreed.

On Nov. 4, selectmen were forwarded a letter sent by RSNE owner Rick Gagnon which concluded, "In our opinion, it isn't likely this unit will be reliable for the next 10 years."

RSNE expressed concerns about the integrity of the frame air system, the brakes, the air lines, the radiator, the water piping and the injectors. They tested the transmission and engine oil but said the results weren't back yet.

What was not in the report, said Selectman Jon Pike, was any mention of the condition of the frame rails.

"I don't like this letter," Pike said.

His interpretation of the RSNE letter was that Parenti, who was not at Monday's meeting, was against refurbishing the truck.

Pike also said that for years the Fire Department used Winnipesaukee Truck Repairs and said he was under the impression the selectmen were going to get an evaluation of the frame rails from RSNE.

"I think we need two opinions," Pike said.

Selectman Ron Cormier and Selectman Ruth Mooney agreed.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 04:20

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Sanbornton tax rate climbs 13% to $22.97

SANBORNTON — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has set the 2013 property tax rate at $22.97 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of $2.64, or 13 percent, over the the 2012 rate.

The amount to be raised by property taxes grew by $103,303, of 1.2 percent, from $8,676,001 to $8,779,304 while the total assessed valuation dropped by $45,173,395, or 10.4 percent, from $432,619,969 to $387,446,574.

The town tax rose from $7.68 to $8.72, the local school tax from $8.96 to $10.25, the state education tax from $2.40 to $2.56 and the county tax from $1.29 to $1.44.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 04:17

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Gilmanton tax rate drops by $2.27

GILMANTON — Town Administrator Arthur Capello said the state Department of Revenue Administration has set the town's tax rate at $21.15 per $1,000 of valuation which is down $2.27 from last year.

The municipal rate dropped from $5.47 to $4.67 and the local school rate went from $13.93 to $12.36. The Belknap County portion of the rate went from $1.36 to $1.39 and the State-wide Property Tax went from $2.39 to $2.43.

Capello said the selectmen's proposed operating budget for 2014 is down about $50,000 from the 2013 operating budget — or $3,315,218 in 2013 to $3,260,237.

He said yesterday that the board and the department heads also had to compensate for an additional $40,000 for contributions to the state retirement system so, in real numbers, the selectmen eliminated $90,000 from the 2014 operating budget request.

"The department heads were given a direction of flat-lining (their budgets), and that's what they did," Capello said.

As for raises, Capello said none was incorporated in to the 2014 budget. However, he said selectman are considering a separate warrant article that would include some as-yet undermined amount for raises.

Some of the operating budget savings came from switching employee healthcare to School Care, a Cigna Insurance company product that Capello said gives essentially the same coverage but for less money, saving $12,000.

Gilmanton also saved $14,000 by switching their workers' compensation insurance from the Local Government Center to Primex.

At this point, he said selectmen have not finished the capital budget.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 04:14

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