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As privatization talk heats up, Sanbornton DPW chief leaves for Northfield

SANBORNTON — Johnny VanTassel is resigning his position as the Director of Public Works and will be taking a similar position in the town of Northfield. His last day on the job here is November 22.

Northfield Town Administrator Glenn Smith said yesterday that VanTassel will be the highway superintendent, with supervisory responsibilities over highways and sanitation, roads, the transfer station, the parks, and the cemeteries.

VanTassel said yesterday that he will continue to live in Sanbornton and will continue to contribute to the community. He said he was very grateful to the town for the opportunities it has given him and enjoyed his time working there.

Van Tassel started with the town as a part-time employee at the transfer station and worked on weekends as a backhoe operator, becoming the operations managers. Under previous Public Wroks Director John Thayer, VanTassel became the highway foreman and he took over as director when Thayer left about 18 months ago.

In the 10 or so years since Gene Auger retired as the elected road agent and the position went from being elected to being an appointment by selectmen, the town has had five directors: Ralph Carter, Lenny Boudrias, John Hubbard, John Thayer, and VanTassel.

Over the same period of time, selectman's meetings have often been dominated by people who have come to the board to complain about the work being done by the Highway Department and its employees.

That, plus the ability of trained heavy equipment operators to earn more money in larger communities, has led to a reasonably high turnover rate.

The town has also completed a nearly $1 million DPW building.

Within the past month, Sanbornton selectmen have decided to seek information about whether or not it would make sense to privatize the Highway Department. To that end, they created a committee to examine all of the possibilities.
On October 15, Selectmen named Jeff Jenkins of the Budget Committee, Fire Chief Paul Dexter, retired finance director Curt McGee, Andy Sanborn, Mark Thurston, and Ralph Rathjen to the Highway Privatization Committee.

Draft minutes of last week's meeting say that Planning Board member Bill Whalen declined to serve on the committee and selectmen, by a 2-to-1 vote, added Evelyn Auger as the seventh member. Selectman Karen Ober voted against Auger's appointment.

According to the draft minutes of the October 23 meeting, VanTassel said he will still serve as a non-voting adviser to the recently created committee.

The committee is tasked with exploring all possibilities for the future of the DPW and is expected to take as much as a year to complete its work. Selectmen have said that the earliest any possible change to the DPW structure would be the 2015 annual Town Meeting.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 02:09

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Belknap Mountain Road to be closed for Trick or Treating on Thursday evening

GILFORD — To ensure the safety of pedestrians during Trick or Treating activities, Belknap Mountain Road will be closed to vehicular traffic, between Potter Hill Road and the Gilford Elementary School, police announced on Monday.  The street will be closed between the hours of 4:30and 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 31st.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 03:29

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Laconia candidates for mayor to debate on Wednesday night

LACONIA — Mayoral candidates Kailief Mitchell and Ed Engler will meet for an hour and one-half long debate at the Belknap Mill on Wednesday night. The event will be held in the third floor Rose Chertok Gallery and will be open to the public.

Voters will have an opportunity to ask their own questions of the two candidates.

The Laconia general election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 03:27

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Ashland police think store bandits may be same 2 men who robbed Circle K in Gilford on Sat. night

ASHLAND — Police are investigating the attempted robbery of the Circle K on West Street convenience store that occurred Sunday morning at 6 a.m.

Lt. Don Marin said two people wearing masks went into the store but the lone clerk was in a back office.

He said the two apparently got scared and ran off.

Marin said he has been in contact with the Gilford Police because the description of the masks used in Ashland's attempted robbery were similar to those used in the armed robbery at midnight Sunday of the Big Apple Convenience Store on Country Club Road.

In the Gilford case, police said two masked people entered the store and pointed a handgun at the clerk who gave them all of the money. The clerk called 9-1-1 immediately after the bandits left and was unharmed.

Police in both communities said the clerks were working alone during the Gilford robbery and the Ashland attempted robbery.

Marin said the video cameras showed the two who intended to rob the Circle K may have been driving a gray 2000 to 2005 Volkswagen Passat.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Ashland Police at 968-4000 or the Gilford Police at 527-4737.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 03:24

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