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Forrester could be in line for chair of powerful Senate Finance Committee

CONCORD — Midway through her second term in the New Hampshire Senate Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) could find herself chairing the powerful Senate Finance Committee with the reshuffling of the Senate leadership following the decision of Senator Peter Bragdon (R-Milford) to resign as President of the Senate.

Bragdon resigned the presidency amid controversy triggered by his original decision to keep the position while simultaneously serving as executive director of the Local Government Center (LGC). Almost at once Senator Chuck Morse (R-Salem), chairman of the Finance Committee, announced his bid to succeed Bragdon and was immediately endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), who equally quickly endorsed his candidacy. Morse is serving his fourth term in the Senate and his third as chairman of the Finance Committee.

Forrester, who was the lone freshman to serve on the Finance Committee in her first term became vice-chairman in her second. Yesterday Forrester acknowledged that she has been the subject of speculation, but declined further comment.

Meanwhile, Harrell Kirstein, communications director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, charged that Forrester was tied to controversy surrounding Bragdon's acceptance of the post with the LGC. According to Kirstein, Bragdon, speaking on WMUR-TV last weekend, indicated that he began considering the position with the LGC on July 12 while flying to a conference in Seattle. A week later he appointed Forrester to committee studying the LGC and the statute governing the management of risk pools.

"Why, days after he decided to seek the LGC job did he abuse his powers as Senate President to stack an oversight committee with Senator Forrester?," Kirstein asked. "What promises did Forrester make to Bragdon in exchange for being appointed to a committee overseeing the LGC?," he continued. "Did she know that he was seeking a publicly funded $180,000 per year job with the organization at the time?"

Forrester flatly denied suggestions that there was anything improper about her appointment. She said that that she was not aware that Bragdon had taken an interest in the job with the LGC when he appointed her to the study committee. As the vice-chair of the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee and a former town administrator in Tuftonboro and New Durham, she considered the appointment appropriate. She said that she had a significant interest and extensive experience of the controversy surrounding the LGC and during the summer hosted several roundtables in her district with George Bald, the LGC's interim executive director.

"The LGC did some things that must be corrected," Forrester said, recalling that the issues by the Bureau of Securities Regulation, especially the refund of excess premiums to municipalities, were raised when she was a town administrator. However, she added: "If these problems can be corrected, I don't want to to see the LGC go away." Likewise, she insisted that the New Hampshire Municipal Association provides valuable services to cities and towns and is no longer bound to the LGC.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 03:05

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Petition drive under way in Moultonborough to support Planning Board members

MOULTONBOROUGH — Paul Punturieri, a member of the Planning Board who as "Moultonboro Blogger" operates the website "Moultonboro Speaks," has begun soliciting signatures on a petition urging the Board of Selectmen to abandon removal proceedings against two members of the Planning Board — Josh Bartlett and Judy Ryerson.

The petition, posted on-line at "Moultonboro Speaks," reads: "We the undersigned citizens of Moultonboro, New Hampshire hereby petition the Moultonboro Board of Selectmen to cancel the scheduled public hearings to remove two elected Moultonboro Planning Board members and immediately refer the matter directly to the Moultonboro Planning Board for any action they so choose."

By press time, there were 31 signatories to the petition. Punturieri's goal is to collect 500 signatures.

On July 18, after conferring the town counsel Peter Minkow, the selectmen agreed to exercise the authority granted them by statute to remove elected members of the Planning Board after a public hearing. After Bartlett and Ryerson declined an offer to resign, the selectmen scheduled a public hearing on Sept. 9 to determine if there is sufficient cause to remove them for "inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office."

Last week the Planning Board, after a lengthy discussion at a special meeting, approved a resolution not to support the removal of Bartlett and Ryerson by a vote of three-to-one.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 02:37

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Mass. man accused of sexual assault at New Hampton campground

NEW HAMPTON — A Massachusetts man was ordered held on $5,000 cash only bail in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday after allegedly sexually assaulting two girls during a camping trip to  Yogi Bears' Jellystone Park.

Police Chief Merritt "Doug" Salmon said yesterday police were called to the campground around 10:50 p.m. on Friday by the girls' father.

He said police interviewed everyone involved and determined there was enough probable cause to arrest Irving Small, 69, 14B Meetinghouse Lane in Hanson, Mass. The alleged victims are from neighboring Whitman, Mass., and Small knows the family.

Hanson and Whitman are neighboring communities south of Brockton, Mass., in the southeastern portion of the state.

In court yesterday, New Hampton Police Sgt. Monica Cunningham testified that she separately interviewed both girls, who are in their early teens, as well as other members of the family. She said the disclosure of the alleged assault initially came from the girls' older sister who reported it to her father.

The father called New Hampton Police.

Salmon said Small faces two separate felony counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault — each offers a different theory of the case — and one felony count of indecent exposure.

Salmon said the case centers around alleged activity over the past week but said his department is also working very closely with Massachusetts police and community resources in both states.

Judge Jim Carroll ordered Small to sign a waiver of extradition and to stay away from the family and the communities in which they live.

As of 10 p.m., Small had not posted bail. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 02:19

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Belmont to hold off on decision to stop maintaining a portion of Jefferson Road

BELMONT — Selectmen voted unanimously last night to continue servicing what they consider to be the private portion of Jefferson Road and all of Lakeside Drive until Oct. 20, 2014.

With about 60 people packed into the Corner Meeting House, the board told residents to research their property records to see if there is any proof the town was responsible for the portion of Jefferson Road west of the railroad tracks.

"It just doesn't make a lot of sense," said one woman whose family has owned property for years and has had town sewer since the 1980s. "We don't want to get an attorney but we certainly will."

Last night's public hearing was really to discuss declaring Bayview Road and Wakeman Road emergency access roads, but most who came were residents of the west portion of Jefferson Road who also want an emergency declaration. As a result of the decision to wait, there will be no change in services until October 2014 although selectmen had initially planned to stop services much sooner.

Many who spoke at last night's public hearing said not maintaining or plowing that portion of road should fall under the same emergency clause as Bayview and Wakeman Roads because not maintaining them will create a safety hazard.

One man said his home burned down in 2006 and, had it not been raining or had there been too much snow for firefighters to access the area, it's possible that many of the other homes would have burned as well.

Many also reminded selectmen they have town sewer and pay fairly high property taxes.

The town is undertaking a road inventory to gradually determine the legal status of all the roads in Belmont. The inventory began in 2009 and, according to state law, it is illegal for a municipality to spend money or resources maintaining private roads.

The standard for a public road is set by state law and states a road must have been prescriptively used or used without the permission of the owner since 1948 in order to be "grandfathered." The only other way a road can be public is if the town builds it, if it is part of a designated subdivision, or if the road is brought up to a minimum standard and the town votes to accept it as a public road.

The east portion of Jefferson Road from Tucker Shore Road to the railroad tracks was built by the town in 1937 and will continue to be a public road. The westerly section, said Land Use Technician Rick Ball, "is not that clear-cut."

The earliest record regarding plowing and regular maintenance of Jefferson Road west is in 1973 when the Board of Selectmen told the former road agent to plow it.

Selectman Chair Ron Cormier told the crowd that the town is not trying to take something away from them but must definitively prove the west portion of Jefferson Road is public in order to legally continue plowing it. He encouraged them to check their deeds and bring any available information to the town for review.

Selectmen said last night that as a result of road inventory, the town has stopped maintaining other private roads in Belmont.

Cormier said the westerly portion of Jefferson Road — or Jefferson Loop — is not the only private road to lose services, but it is one of the private roads in town that has the most homes and residents.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 03:40

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