Hosmer commits to sponsor bill to establish special MC Week license plates

CONCORD — Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) said yesterday that he will introduce legislation to issue a commemorative license plate marking the 100th anniversary of Laconia Motorcycle Week, proceeds from the sale of which would be applied to promoting the annual rally.

Hosmer said that a legislative committee, consisting of himself and Representatives Russ Dumais (R-Gilford), Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) and Pamlea Brown (D-Nashua) convened to study the proposal met for the first time earlier this week and has scheduled a second meeting next month in anticipation of issuing its report by November 1. Hosmer said that he is hopeful the committee will recommend creating the plate.

Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said that "it is early in the process, but I'm encouraged. It was a positive meeting from my perspective." He said that although the proposal has been discussed in the past, "it has never gotten this far and as far as I know a bill has never been filed."

Hosmer said that several issues were raised when the committee met. Law enforcement officials are concerned about the growing number of specialty plates, which can challenge patrol officers seeking to identify a vehicle. The committee also questioned the precedent of issuing a plate to mark one single event, wondering how many other events would seek similar plates. Altogether New Hampshire issues more than 30 specialty plates, many of which are also available as vanity plates.

Hosmer expected that the proceeds would be earmarked for the Division of Travel and Tourism at the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development and added to the approximately $30,000 the agency annually applies to supporting Motorcycle Week. He stressed that the economic impact of the rally benefits the entire state and generates tax revenue for its general fund. A commemorative plate would provide a source of revenue for the state to invest in the success of the rally. "Motorcycle Week needs more advocates in Concord," he said.

Officials of the Department of Motor Vehicles were asked to present the costs of issuing a specialty plate when the committee meets again next month.

St. Clair said that he envisions a plate bearing the logo of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association and the year 2023, marking the 100th running of the rally. "New Hampshire is home to the oldest motorcycle rally in the world," he said. "It should be a selling point for the whole state."

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Warren's Budget Guidelines

MEREDITH — After eight years of relative austerity aimed at limiting increases in the amount raised by property taxes, Town Manager Phil Warren told the Board of Selectmen last evening that in preparing the 2016 budget consideration must be given to changing course.

Warren noted that along with controlling expenditures, budgets have drawn from the town's undesignated fund balance, or accumulated surplus, to supplement revenue from sources other than taxation and minimize increases in the tax commitment. In a memorandum to the board Warren declared "it is clear that the continued use of available fund balance is not a sustainable practice. Therefore," he continued, "consideration must be given to increasing the amount to be raised by taxation" to fund capital projects, road maintenance and equipment purchases to "ensure the long term sustainability of our capital assets."

Fiscal conditions beyond the control of the town, Warren said, "have not improved significantly in the last year." Repeating what has been a refrain for several years he said "the bad news is that revenue are flat and the good news is that revenues are flat."

Warren recommended maintaining levels of service, which he said represented a reduction of services from prior years. Once again he proposed reviewing all vacancies occurring from retirement or resignation before filling positions. However, he also suggested that consideration be given to restoring part-time positions in Town Hall to full-time positions. As in prior years, he found no reason to reclassify any full-time positions.

At the same time, Warren recommended there be no further reduction in municipal services, continuing to fund the capital improvement program and considering replacing equipment at the end its useful life.

While declining to propose new programs or services, Warren advised the selectmen that the feasibility study for a new Public Works facility should be completed and a decision made where to put it. Deferred capital projects, both replacement of equipment and improvements to roads and streets, should be considered for inclusion in the budget.

Warren will present his recommended 2016 budget to the Selectboard on November 2.

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Decreasing traffic fine revene means police departments will have to start picking up cost of more training sessions

LACONIA — The Police Commission learned last week that the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Academy in Concord will be reducing the number of classes it offers for free to the state's police departments.

According to Capt. Bill Clary, classes no longer being offered for free are some of the advanced training classes that some of his senior officers are inclined to take.

Clary told the commission any class offered by local staff will still be free to all departments but when the academy has to bring instructors from vendor agencies, those classes must be paid for by the individual departments who send officers to them.

He said Laconia's annual training budget is $20,000 annually and, along with training, the fund is used for ammunition, for firearms certification for 41 sworn officers, twice a year ,and for Taser lances, and less-than-lethal ammunition.

According to a memorandum sent by the commander of the academy to the chief of each law enforcement agency in the state, the funding for the police training academy comes from the penalty assessment assigned to a guilty finding in most criminal and traffic cases.

"Unfortunately, continued declines in revenues combined with the transfers from the training fund over the last decade or more by the Legislature have put the balance of the fund at a critically low level," wrote NHPST Commander Anthony F. Colarusso, Jr..

One of the cuts that will affect many local department is accident reconstruction classes, beyond that which is taught during every officers' time at the basic police academy, will cost participating departments.

Belmont Police Chief Mark Lewandoski is the commander of the Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team and said the effects of the costs of these training classes on the existing teams members may initially be minimal but as some of them retire or decide they no longer want to participate for one reason or another, it will cost individual departments a lot of money to replace them.

To become a certified accident reconstructionist, said Belknap County Sheriff Sgt. Bill Wright, a member must complete three separate classes which amount to six weeks of training. The accident reconstruction team consists of a number of "specialists" who are called to the scene of a deadly or extreme personal injury crash to determine, among, other things, whether or not criminal charges could or should be brought. For example, much of the evidence that was used to get secure a guilty plea from the woman who killed a Laconia Middle School student and seriously injured another with her vehicle was gathered by BRAIT.

Other classes that will not be provided according to the N.H. Police Standards and Training website include field training for internal training officers, the deadliness of stress and police work, "dust and bust" (advanced forensic training for detectives), conflict resolution, anger management, advanced interview and interrogation, basic police photography and advanced gang training.

New Hampton Police Chief George Hawkins said smaller departments like his will be negatively affected more so than the larger departments because of the relative size of the training budgets and the limited number of employees who can be trained.

This year, he said the department has $1,000 for training. He said he was ready to send one of his sergeants to field training officer class — this is the officer who trains new employees in a department and every department has one — and the cost of the class — $575 — will put a big dent in his training budget.

Hawkins said he is asking his Selectboard to increase his training line from $1,000 to $2,500 to allow him to get some of his officers some advanced training.

Lewandoski said he won't ask for more than the $10,000 for 18 sworn officers he is already allocated — at least for 2016. He also said that like Laconia Police, his training line is used for firearms qualifications as well. Hawkins said New Hampton has a separate line item for that.

"I'll just have to be more selective in what classes I send my officers to," Lewandoski said, adding he is talking with other area chiefs about how to maybe combine some resources and have some staff train other staff in some of the advanced disciplines.

He said he likes to train his people but there is also a chance he'll loose them to another agency or to retirement.

All of the chiefs interviewed said an additional expense for out-of house training includes shift coverage and that could include overtime. In Laconia and Belmont, the top administrators who are salaried employees often cover training shifts so as to keep overtime down.

Academy Capt. Benjamin Jean said the revenue going into the fund has never come from a legislative appropriation but only from the penalty assessment. He said one of the reasons the fund balance is dropping is because of fewer citations and because in many negotiated dispositions the penalty assessment is waived. In addition, many people don't pay their fines much less the penalty assessment and more and more judges are waiving the penalty assessment because of an inability of some to pay.

"We've been saying we have problems for years," he said, adding reductions to staff have been made over the past four years that the only things left to do is to charge independent departments for certain specialized training.

Jean said a second source of revenue is a penalty paid by those on probation or parole of $5 per month that comes to the academy but noted it is only $63,000 annually and represents a small fraction of what it costs to operate.

Jean agreed with Lewandoski that it is the classes for officer with five or more years for which they are charging. "Certification will still be performed at no cost to the department," he said.

Jean also said that he and the rest of the NHPST Council have decided that its time to find a more effective way of funding the academy and have begun some plans that he hopes will be presented to the N.H. Legislature at some point before the next budget cycle in two years.

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