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County Convention level funds health insurance, grabs grant oversight

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention voted last night to level fund spending for health insurance benefits for county employees at the 2013 level, about $2.6 million, which is more than $500,000 less than the amount sought for health insurance by Belknap County Commissioners in their proposed $26,570,000 2014 budget.
The convention also voted to hire two additional corrections department officers while cutting two vehicles, at a savings of $20,000, from the Belknap County Sheriff's Department budget.
It also supported a move to cut back a proposed full-time position in the Restorative Services Department to part-time and voted to take control over the grant process by requiring that all state and federal grant requests go through the budget process and gain convention approval.
Rep. Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) said that the county needs to assume control of the grant process in order to protect taxpayers. "It puts the delegation as an oversight group of the county so that we don't accept money from nefarious sources.''' He maintained that the county's acceptance of federal stimulus funds had created a level of spending which the county couldn't sustain.
He was joined in support for the grant proposal by Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton), who said that federal funds come with ''mandated outcomes'' which take away local control. Convention Chair Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), said that this provided a way for the county officials to look out for the interests of local taxpayers ''who pay this money to Washington, D.C.''
Rep. Ruth Gulick (D-New Hampton) asked if those supporting the county's assumption of control over grants were suggesting ''that there are some secret grants out there that on which information is not available on to the public'' and said ''we're exceeding our power.''
Gulick said that the county oversight of grants has always been ''retrospective rather than prospective'' and that the current process provides adequate review of grants and establishes accountability.
County Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) pointed out that in recent years the commission has applied for $1.5 million worth of grants for projects in the city of Laconia and that many were up against tight deadlines which could have been lost if the process had been needlessly extended.
The convention also approved a request from commissioners for a $10 million tax anticipation note but not before making it contingent upon passage of a county budget.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said the condition wasn't needed and that unless legislators acted by mid to late March the county could run out of money,

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 02:30

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Police arrest 2 men wanted in Belmont stabbing case

BELMONT — Police have charged a Laconia man and a former Laconia man with allegedly stabbing two people in an apartment located upstairs from the Lakes Region Dock company at 252 Daniel Webster Highway early yesterday morning.

John J. Drouin, 27, of Laconia is charged with two counts of first-degree assault involving a deadly weapon, and one charge of simple assault. Robert Rama, 21, now of Concord, is charged with one count of criminal liability for another and one count of second degree assault.

The two were located yesterday by Belmont Police working with the US Marshall Joint Fugitive Task Force in an apartment on Union Avenue.

Drouin refused bail and Rama was held on $50,000 cash.

Police are releasing few details of the crime.

A statement they released to the media said police were called to the Daniel Webster Highway address at 1:05 a.m. after receiving a report of a stabbing.

Once they arrived they found two victims. The first is Corey Cromwell of 252 Daniel Webster Highway who police said had multiple stab wounds to his neck, throat, and upper body. He was taken by ambulance to Lakes Regional General Hospital and then transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for treatment.

The second victim was identified as John Hynes of Laconia. Police said he was stabbed in the waist and was transported by a Laconia ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital.

Police said a third victim, an unidentified female, received a small cut on her hand.

Police said they stopped a car being driven by an unidentified man and woman and impounded the car as evidence. The driver and passenger were not charged and were later released.

Police Chief Mark Lewandoski said yesterday that both Drouin and Rama are known to area police. He said that both victims are expected to survive, but declined to comment further on their injuries.

He said that Cromwell lived in the apartment upstairs and Hynes was visiting him when the stabbing occurred.

A person who works nearby said he had been seeing a lot of traffic coming into and out of the building recently. He said he thought it was unusual because Lakes Region Docks is closed for the season.

When asked what kinds of cars, he said they were mostly just regular cars, meaning nothing extraordinary, but said he did notice two women recently who got into a pretty nice Volkswagen GTI.

"They'd pull in here once, twice, three times, he said. "It's almost like they were watching for something."

The building is owned by Faoud Youssef. His son Josh Youssef said yesterday that he ran his business Same Day Computer from the site but it had been about eight years since he was there.

He said he thinks there are two small apartments upstairs that share a bathroom which is consistent with what Lewandoski described.

While Josh Youssef said he didn't know Cromwell, he said his father had only recently been renting to him and that he came with some good recommendations.

Lewandoski said the case itself is still under investigation but there is no ongoing danger to the general public. Anyone with any information is asked to call Det. Raechel Moulton or Sgt. Adam Hawkins at 527-8350.

Assisting Belmont Police with their investigation are police from Laconia, Tilton, Northfield, Gilford, and the New Hampshire State Police.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 02:22

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Gulick Says County Budget Has Already Passed, Maintains Phone Vote Was Illegal

LACONIA — State Rep. Ruth Gulick maintains that the Belknap County Convention has already passed a county budget of $26,570,997, and says that she will be asking the New Hampshire Attorney General's office to rule that Rep. Guy Comtois' vote by telephone at last Tuesday night's meeting that resulted in a 7-7 tie vote on the motion to pass the budget should be disallowed.
Gulick, D-New Hampton, raised the issue at last night's meeting of the convention and cited a statement by Assistant NH House Clerk Paul C. Smith on absentee voting which said, ''No member can vote who is not present when the question is put.''
''Comtois' vote doesn't count. Mason's rules of order, which the chairman claims we are following, doesn't allow it. And it that's not the rules we're following, then the state Right to Know law says the minutes of the meeting must specify the location from which the vote is being taken, and they don't. At the very least we should have taken a vote on his ability to vote. Therefore, his vote is improper and the budget actually passed by a 7-6 vote,'' said Gulick.
Last week's vote came during a heavy snowstorm after a 30-minute wait for a quorum of 10 members to arrive. Rep. Colette Worsman, R-Meredith, convention chairman, had proposed recessing the meeting. But after the number present climbed to 13, members voted to proceed and Worsman allowed Rep. Guy Comtois, R-Barnstead, who was tending to a failing roof, to join in by telephone.
All five Democrats voted for the the motion by Rep. Beth Arsenault, D-Laconia, to approve the budget as submitted by the commissioners, which the county convention majority had already trimmed by $850,000, and were joined by Republicans Don Flanders and Bob Luther of Laconia.
The Six Republicans present at the meeting were joined by Comtois in voting against the motion to pass the budget.
At the conclusion of last night's meeting Gulick invited any representative with a view of opposite hers to give their input to the Attorney General's office.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:55

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Correction: McCormack worked for N.H. State Employees Association

CORRECTION — Gilmanton's selectman candidate Stephen McCormack does not think the current selectmen are listening to the town residents and employees. Due to a typographical error, McCormack's position was misstated in a story that ran on February 22 on Page 9. In addition, McCormack was not a state employee but spent 21 years working for the N.H. State Employees Association.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 01:13

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