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County Convention Nixes Leadership's Bid to Take Court Action against Commission

LACONIA — A divided Belknap County Convention has rejected a move by its leadership to take its ongoing dispute with the Belknap County Commission over budget matters to court, turning down a motion to file a lawsuit against the commission by an 8-9 vote.
Voting for court action Monday night were Convention Chairman Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), Vice Chairman Rep. Robert Greemore (R-Meredith) and Convention Clerk Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton). Joining the leadership were Reps. Guy Comtois (R-Barnstead), Charles Fink (R-Belmont), Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont), and Stephen Holmes (R-Alton)
All the convention members from Laconia, Republicans Don Flanders, Frank Tilton, Bob Luther and Democrat David Huot opposed the motion. They were joined by Democrats Ruth Gulick from New Hampton, Ian Raymond of Sanbornton and Lisa DiMartino from Gilford, as well as Republicans Dennis Fields of Sanbornton and Herb Vadney from Meredith. Rep. Beth Arsenault (D-Laconia, Belmont) was not present.
The vote came following a closed-door non-meeting the convention held Monday night with Attorney David Horan, who was hired by the convention in April to represent it in its ongoing dispute with county commissioners over budget line-item authority. Commissioners have maintained that they have authority to transfer money from accounts within departmental budgets as long as the amount expended doesn't exceed the bottom line for each department as approved by the convention. The convention maintains that it has authority over each line item and that funds cannot be transferred, even within departments, without their permission.
Worsman defended the attempt to take the commissioners to court, saying: ''At every meeting we have had with them they have shown and said they have no interest in abiding by the vote of the convention.''
She said that she had no idea how the impasse over budget authority would be resolved now that the court action is, for the present, off the table. ''Perhaps they (the commissioners) will have an epiphany,'' said Worsman.
The dispute was triggered by changes made to budget line items by commissioners after the convention cut $600,000 from the $26.7 million budget the commissioners had proposed. Commissioners have maintained that the transfers were made in order to meet contractual obligations for employee benefits, including health insurance, which had been cut in the delegation's budget.
Worsman has charged that since then over 90 accounts have been changed by the commission without any attempt to have the transfers approved by the convention's Executive Committee, as was required in the motion approving the $26,184,616 budget in March.
On Monday, meeting prior to the convention meeting, the Executive Committee turned down two of three budget transfer requests made by the commission, including one which would have increased the amount of funds available to pay for convention meetings from now until the end of the year from $3,500 to $8,000.
Tilton, Executive Committee chairman, said that he voted against taking action in court at the present time but said that doesn't rule out revisiting that decision in the future.
''I totally agree that those were inappropriate expenditures and that the commission violated the law. But I really don't want to go to court and incur legal fees. I think we should give it 60 days to see if we can get some resolution,'' said Tilton.
He noted that two current members of the commission, Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont) and Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) have served as County Convention chairmen in the past and that both served on the Executive Committee and required approval for the transfer of sums as small as $12 which were sought by Belknap County Commissioners.
''There's a new budget cycle coming up in December. Unless the commission comes to terms with us it's going to be very difficult for them to come before us and ask for money in line items and then spend it elsewhere,'' said Tilton.
Vadney, who is a member of the executive committee, said that he voted not to going to court at this time because he thinks some kind of compromise agreement can be reached with the commission and there is still plenty of time before the next budget cycle begins.
''There certainly has to be some recognition by the commissioners that the county convention oversees that the budget process could become even more messy than it has been this year unless some understanding is reached within the next few months,'' said Vadney.
Huot said that he didn't like the non-meeting aspect of Monday's proceedings, saying that, while the procedure is legal, it defeats the purpose of the right-to-know law that the public's business should be conducted in open sessions.
He said that those supporting court action don't seem to realize that they can't get a quick opinion on what procedures should be followed with respect to the budget process.
''When you go to court you have got to consider what you can ask the court to do in terms of relief. State laws aren't clear on county government and are sometimes contradictory. It's like county government is more or less an after thought and it was left to the individual counties. County conventions have never been involved in day-to-day running of county government, but instead have general oversight of the budget,'' said Huot.
He said that any Superior Court decision can only be guided by state statutes, which could mean lengthy litigation, not a quick ruling, and pointed out that there would be no guidance from the Superior Court on the issues involved as only the state Supreme Court can issue advisory opinions.
Huot said the best solution would be to work out the differences through the political process and that ultimately legislation which would clearly delineate the responsibilities and duties of the convention and the commissioners should be passed.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 August 2013 03:12

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Sensing a market rebound, Southworth buildng again in The Weirs

LACONIA — Signaling its growing confidence in the real estate market, Southworth Development LLC , the managing developer of Meredith Bay at The Weirs, plans to add a mid-rise building to its growing inventory along either side of Scenic Road.

North Lodges at Meredith Bay is planned on a 6.7-acre lot at the foot of Brickyard Mountain across Scenic Road from the Town Homes at Meredith Bay, which line the shoreline northward from Look Out Rock. The four-story building will house 24 two-bedroom condominium units, six on each floor. Three elevators serving the building will open directly into each of the six units. Chris Duprey, project executive for Southworth Development, anticipated the units would be brought to market in 2014 and priced "beginning in the low $400,000s," noting that the price with vary with the choice of optional features.

In 2010, Southworth began building the Town Homes, 19 two-bedroom town houses on three levels with garages, divided among five buildings along the shoreline. Duprey said that 11 of the have been sold or are under contract. At the same time, the Planning Board approved plans for three mid-rise buildings on the other side of Scenic Road, known as the Lodges at Meredith Bay. Like the North Lodges each of these buildings would house 24 condominium units on four-stories. Construction of the Lodges, which requires extensive site work, has not begun.

Meanwhile, Duprey expects the pace of sales at Meredith Bay, the 129-lot gated community atop Brickyard Mountain, to quicken. He said that 32 of the 129 lots have been sold, most of them since Southworth Development acquired a significant stake in the project in 2007. He said that prospective buyers are seeking to purchase homes rather than lots and there are currently two model homes at the the site.

Duprey stressed that with the construction of the North Lodges Southworth Development will diversify its inventory to include single-family homes and house lots at Meredith Bay, townhouses on three levels at the Town Homes and condominiums on one level at the North Lodges. He said with the completion of the three remaining mid-rise buildings, which have not been scheduled for construction, development the firm's shorefront properties would be virtually complete, leaving space only for a few single-family homes or duplexes.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 August 2013 01:49

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Laconia Police Captain to attend FBI training academy

LACONIA – Police Capt. Matt Canfield will attend the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., for an 11-week training session this fall.

Police Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to send him after learning the FBI pays for the training and partially reimburses the department for transportation expenses.

Canfield said the FBI offers intensive training for leadership science and development to management-level police throughout the county. He said his application was submitted a while ago and he was recently told he had been accepted for this upcoming class.

Canfield will join a select number of area police officers who have attended the academy including, retired Laconia Police Chiefs Mike Moyer and Bill Baker, Tilton Police Chief Bob Cormier, Gilford Police Chief Kevin Keenan and Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin.

Wiggin, who attended a number of years ago, said FBI National Academy is like going to military boot camp plus earning a master's degree in criminal justice and leadership all in a few short weeks.

In other business, commissioners voted unanimously to promote Master Patrol Officer Robert Cameron to the rank of sergeant and to move Sgt. Thomas Swett to the detective bureau where he will be the ranking detective.

Capt. Bill Clary said the shift will be in the beginning of the year after two new officers are slated to graduate from the N.H. Police Standards and Training academy. He said there are five openings yet to be filled and five conditional offers have been made.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 August 2013 02:07

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Belmont man charged with meth distribution

BELMONT — A Main Street man was ordered held on $1,000 cash bail for alleged possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute after being detained after a traffic stop early Thursday morning.

Michael Lima, 43, is also charged with one count of resisting arrest.

After a scuffle with police, a black container from Lima's pocket ended up on the ground where police allegedly found a scale, six baggies with 0.5 grams each of a substance they believed to be methamphetamine, and a glass pipe.

According to police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Lima was a passenger in a truck operated by a friend and at 12:43 a.m. yesterday. A police officer patrolling on Shaker Road stopped a pickup for defective equipment.

The driver of the truck stepped out and gave the officer permission to look at the inspection sticker. While looking, the officer noticed two spoons with brown matter on them on the driver's seat and ordered the driver to put his hands on the truck, and Lima, who was the passenger, to put his hands on the dashboard.

The officer said he had to continually remind Lima to keep his hands on the dashboard.

When a supervisor arrived, Lima was ordered to get out of the car while the driver was searched. No drugs were found on the driver but he told police the truck wasn't his so he couldn't consent to a search.

When Lima gave his cell phone to the driver so he could call the owner of the truck, police noticed he kept putting his in his pockets and told him to stop.

One officer said Lima would take his hands out but would immediately put them back in.

Police noticed black object in his pocket and asked him what it was and Lima said it was his wallet.

Police said it had an appearance of "Hogue-type" grip and feared it may have been a gun. (Hogue is a manufacturer of gun grips.)

When police told him to remove the wallet from his pocket so they could make sure it wasn't a weapon he did not do so. When one of the officers went to put Lima's hands behind his back to handcuff him, Lima pulled away.

A struggle ensued and police said Lima kept resisting and one of the officers became concerned that the item in Lima's pocket was a weapon.
Police said as Lima continued to struggle with the officer, the supervisor stunned him with a Taser so the officer could bring him to the ground.

At press time, police said they had applied for a warrant to search the truck. Lima is no longer housed at the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 August 2013 02:00

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