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Chemung brush fire results from chain reaction started by high winds

MEREDITH — Firefighters spent nearly three-quarters of an hour corralling and dousing a brush fire that broke out shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday on steep slopes and rough terrain off Swain Road in the Chemung.

Fire Chief Ken Jones said that the fire appeared to have started when wind snapped a tree limb, downing power lines and setting the abundant dry tinder alight.

"We had two separate fires," he said, adding that together they burned about an acre. The challenge for firefighters, Jones said, was stretching hose over steep ground littered with fallen limbs and strewn with rocks.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 April 2014 12:35

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Union planning to make itself heard prior to lawmaker's vote on contract

LACONIA — By rallying at the Belknap County Complex on Monday afternoon, officials and members of the State Employees Association (SEA) hope to bring pressure to bear on the Belknap County Convention when it meets that evening to consider funding a new contract negotiated by the union on behalf of 80 employees of the county nursing home.
Earlier this month the Belknap County Commission ratified the one-year collective bargaining agreement, but the convention must authorize a supplemental appropriation of $336,170 to fund the cost items in the contract.
Beth D'Ovidio of the SEA said that union officials, including President Diane Lacey of Belmont, will join county employees at 3:30 p.m. to urge the convention to fund the contract when it convenes at 6 p.m. In addition, a petition in support of the employees and the contract is posted on the SEA's website, www.seiu 1984.org/2014/04/21support-belknap-county-nursing-home-residents-and -employees/.
Yesterday the SEA issued a statement recounting the experience of Thea Aloise, whose husband Dana, a veteran suffering from dementia, became a resident of the Belknap County Nursing Home just over a year ago. Thea praises the staff of the facility for care and affection they have shown her husband, whose strength and mobility has grown since entering the home.

"It would be a shame for those workers not to get their raise," she is quoted to say. "They definitely deserve it."

Aloise notes that the contract will cost each household in the county $2 over the course of the year.
The 2014 county budget adopted by the Belknap County Convention level funded the employer share of health insurance benefits at $1,272,449 but provided nothing for wage increases or associated payroll costs.

The costs of the new contract include $267,343 more for health insurance, $22,361 for a cost of living adjustment of 1.6 percent, $35,759 for merit increases for eligible employees and $10,705 for associated payroll costs, for the total of $336,170.
The agreement provides for the employees' share of health insurance premiums to increase from 6.5 percent to 16.5 percent for a single person plan, from 5 percent to 15 percent for both a two-person and a family plan. However, the contribution would remain unchanged for employees who participate in three health management programs that include the health assessment, biometric screening and health awareness programs as defined by HealthTrust. In the same vein, the contract would forbid smoking or any other use of tobacco products throughout the Belknap County Complex, beginning on July 1 of this year.
The contract provides a cost-of-living-adjustment of 1.6 percent, equal to the rate of inflation, together with merit increases averaging 2.1 percent, for which some 60 employees are eligible.

D'Ovidio said that the largest group of employees are at labor grade five, which carries a pay scale ranging from $12.07 per hour to $16.71 per hour in 12 steps. O'Neil said that since employees went without wage increases in 2013, the raise represents an increase of 1.85 per year for the two-year period.
The agreement also includes an incentive to reduce the use of sick time from 52 hours per year per employee to 40 hours. If the 80 employees together meet the target, each employee would would receive up to three days to care for an ill or injured family member. collectively meet the target, or two years.
For the past two years, trimming personnel costs, particularly reducing the employer's share of health insurance premiums, has been the highest priority of the Republican majority of the county convention.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 April 2014 12:04

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Variety of roundabout plans reviewed in Meredith

MEREDITH — After discovering last month that nothing less than a two-lane roundabout offered the most likely means of hastening the flow of traffic through the intersection of Routes 3 and 25 at the top of Meredith Bay, the committee of local stakeholders planning the project yesterday got a glimpse of eight different designs.

Since the process of addressing congestion began in 2006, the scope and budget of the project have shrunk. In 2009, McFarland Johnson, Inc. , the project manager for the N.H. Department of Transportation, prepared half-a-dozen plans for easing the flow of traffic from the junction of Rte. 3 and Rte. 104 to Center Harbor, a distance of 4.2 miles. However, with a budget of only $5-million, the committee decided to direct its efforts to the major bottleneck.

Along with the scope and budget, patience has also dwindled. Opening yesterday's meeting, Chairman Lou Kahn declared "we've got to fish or cut bait. We've been cutting bait for years. It's time to fish. We need to make some choices."

Last month, the committee weighed three options for the intersection — a one-lane roundabout, a two-lane roundabout and an elliptical roundabout open to to two-lanes of traffic from US 3 at its southeast corner. The committee preferred the one-lane roundabout, which would have the least impact on surrounding properties. But, when the flow of traffic was simulated by DOT, the queues either side of the intersection lengthened.

Although the two-lane roundabout significantly lessened the congestion, a majority appeared to share the concerns of Rusty McLear that its "more pavement than we need as a town" and that it would limit commercial development around the intersection.

Yesterday Gene McCarthy of McFarland Johnson returned with the original design of a two-lane roundabout centered on the existing intersection along with alternatives to indicate the impacts on neighboring properties. He explained that with a diameter of 170 feet, the roundabout was the smallest that would enable trucks to negotiate the intersection, and even then 18-wheelers would need both lanes to go around the circle. Centered on the intersection, the roundabout would encroach on the building housing Bootleggers shoe store.

One alternative was to shift the center of the roundabout eastward. McCarthy offered two designs, one with one lane entering the roundabout from Rte. 3 and exiting to Rte. 25 and another with two lanes for the same maneuver. Both options would have extensive impacts on abutting properties.

A second alternative was to shift the center of the roundabout north of the existing intersection. One design would eliminate access to and from the roundabout from Main Street and instead funnel westbound traffic to Plymouth Street, which would require significant improvement to handle the volume. A variation of this design would expand the roundabout to 200 feet in diameter to accommodate a dedicated slip lane from northbound traffic on Rte. 3 turning onto Rte. 25.

Finally, McCarthy presented three versions of a three-legged roundabout, centered north of the intersection, which would carry traffic north on Rte. 3 or east on Rte. 25 but provide no direct exit to Main Street. However, traffic from Main Street would be able to enter the roundabout and proceed either north or south on Rte. 3 or east on Rte. 25.

"We have a traffic problem, a parking problem and a lack of business problem," said McLear, repeating his concern that the reconfiguration could foreclose development of properties around it, particularly those on the northeast and northwest corners. He suggested that if a roundabout were centered on the intersection, the building housing Bootleggers could be relocated on the same lot and the two-acre lot on the opposite corner, owned by Meredith Village Savings Bank, spared.

Meanwhile, Planning Director John Edgar said that he believed improving and adjusting the signalization at the intersection remained a possible solution. McCarthy reminded the committee that it rejected this option in 2009 and consequently, it has not been thoroughly explored. He said he would present information about the extent to which changes in signalization could improve the flow of traffic at a future meeting.

The committee is next scheduled to meet on Thursday, May 29.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 12:45

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GPD seeks owners of recovered property

GILFORD — After serving a search warrant at the Gilford residence of two men — one of whom is charged with two counts of burglary — police are seeking the rightful owners of some items they recovered.

Police said that during a search warrant executed at the home of Christian St. Cyr they recovered evidence of two burglaries — one on Longridge Drive on February 4 and on Escarol Lane between the dates of December 21 and 26, 2013.

St. Cyr, 21, is charged with those two burglaries and is free on $5,000 cash bail. Affidavits related to his arrest and the search of his home were sealed by a judge.

Also found during the search included a distinctive tie clip, watches — one of which is an anniversary Waste Management watch, a gold pin with birds on it, necklaces and other items.

Police thinks these items were stolen some time between the summer of 2013 and the spring of 2014.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Gilford Police at 527-4737 and speak with Officer Denise Parker.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 12:36

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