DES authorizes repairs to cemetery damaged by erosion

LACONIA — At the request of the Department of Public Works, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) has authorized the Union Cemetery Association to address the damage caused by high water in Meadow Brook and Durkee Brook during the heavy rainstorm last week.

A five-foot culvert carrying Meadow Brook underground along the south side of the cemetery failed, opening a large sinkhole, and rising water collapsed a stretch of bank on Durkee Brook on the north edge of the cemetery. At both locations, measures are required to protect adjacent burial plots and mausoleums placed at risk from further erosion.

The emergency authorization will enable the association to replace about 60 feet of the failed culvert on Meadow Brook and stabilize some 90 feet of stream bank on Durkee Brook. John Perley, president of the Union Cemetery Association, said Steven J. Smith & Associates will engineer the project and Lyman Construction will perform the work.

Suzanne Perley, who manages the association's accounts, anticipates that the cost of the two projects will exceed $50,000. She said that funds have been set aside in anticipation of improving the roadways through the cemetery and expected they would now be applied to defraying the cost of the repairs.

In authorizing the work DES required the association and its contractor to adhere to a number of conditions intended to forestall further adverse impacts to the brooks and their surroundings.

Video Shows no Option on Lakeport landing

LACONIA — Amid the controversy aroused by the decision of the City Council to sell the lot on Union Avenue owned by the city and leased to Lakeport Landing, it was learned that the Laconia Daily Sun reported on September 27, 2005 that the council, when it met the night before, granted the late Paul Blizzard, then owner of the marina, a right of first refusal to purchase the property. However, a recently discovered video recording of that meeting indicates that the council took no such decision.

The property, a 0.81 acre strip between the roadway and railway was leased to Lakeport Landing in 1985 for 10 years with two 10-year renewal periods. The lease will expire on October 31, 2015 and the tenant has no renewal rights. In 1987 Lakeport Landing constructed a 9,840-square-foot building on the lot. Under the terms of the lease, ownership of building will pass to the city when the lease expires.
A year ago Erica Blizzard, who succeeded her father as owner of the marina, first inquired about the future of the property. Meanwhile, Irwin Marine, which abuts Lakeport Landing, expressed its interest and insisted the land and building should be sold by an open, competitive bidding process. After wrestling with the issue for months, the council in June voted four-to-two to sell the property to Irwin Marine for $528,000.
In August, Blizzard filed suit in Belknap County Superior Court charging the process sale of the property was "arbitrary and capricious" and disregarded the right of first refusal held by her father. She asked the court to rescind the council's decision to sell to Irwin Marine and refer that matter back to the council with instructions to proceed in accordance with the City Charter, Right-to-Know Law and requirements of due process.
Soon after discussion of the property began Blizzard produced the decade-old newspaper article. However, she found no paperwork indicating her father had an option to buy the lot. City officials found no reference in the minutes of the council meeting on September 26, 2005 to an option. Nor were city officials able to find any firm evidence that such a transaction was contemplated.
This week City Manager Scott Myers informed city councilors of the video, which was discovered by chance in a box in the basement of City Hall. "We have viewed the video in its entirety and followed along with the recorded minutes from that City Council meeting," he wrote."The minutes that were approved accurately reflect the content of that meeting," he continued. "There was no vote taken by City Council on any matter associated with an option or right of first refusal for the parcel located at 21 Elm St."
Blizzard could not be reached for comment.

Commissioners to pay for chair’s defense against Burchell

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners yesterday agreed to pay a $3,640.50 bill from Attorney Paul Fitzgerald for representing Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) in a court case brought by fellow commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) against the other two commissioners challenging their ouster of him as chairman in early March.
The commission also voted to reimburse DeVoy $1,000 for the retainer he had paid to have Fitzgerald represent him in the court case. Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), who is himself an an attorney and was also named as a defendant, represented himself in the case. The total legal expenses for the county amounted to $4,640.50.
Burchell was elected chairman of the commission on January 8 of this year, but soon found himself at odds with his colleagues, who not only questioned his approach to managing the affairs of the county but also said that his temperament crippled the work of the commission. At a stormy meeting on March 2, DeVoy and Taylor voted to reorganize the commission by replacing Burchell as chairman with DeVoy and elected Taylor as vice-chairman and Burchell as clerk. Burchell turned to the court seeking reinstatement.
Burchell's request to remain as chairman was denied by Judge James D. O'Neill III, who ruled in early April that the county commission is bound by majority rule and that the power to appoint carries with it the power to remove, concluding that the election of new officers complied with the law.
DeVoy earlier this year said that it was not his point to have to go to court to defend his action in ousting Burchell as chairman and that it had been brought about by Burchell's own action in refusing to acknowledge the right of the majority of the commission to change chairmen.
During yesterday's meeting at the Belknap County Complex, at which Burchell was not present but participated by speakerphone, Burchell continued to maintain that there was no basis in law for the decision ousting him and said that his legal fees should also be the responsibility of the county.
But Taylor said ''one of these bills is a legitimate'', pointing out that DeVoy's defense was authorized by a majority vote of the commission while Burchell's was the result ''of one commissioner acting alone.''