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Gilford police investigating report of sexual assault at local hotel

GILFORD — Police are investigating a reported rape of an adult female at an area hotel early Wednesday morning.

A press release issued by the police said the call came in a 12:52 a.m. and Gilford Police were assisted by Laconia Police and the Belknap County Sheriff's Department.

The Sun has learned the alleged rape occurred at the Margate Resort.

At this time the subject has only been identified as male.

Police are asking all residents to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity or cars to the Gilford Police at 527-4737.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 12:46

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Gash on man's head said caused by contact with glass rooster

BELMONT — Belmont Police were called to Brown Hill Road Tuesday night for a report of an alleged assault at 8:33 p.m. that left a man with a bleeding head wound.

Police said it appeared he was struck in the head by a blunt household object — a Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid radio transmission described it as a glass rooster.

Police believe the assault was the result of a domestic argument, however one person in the home told police that the victim had hit himself in the head in an attempt to have police arrest a different man.

The injured man said he was hit with the object by another person.

No arrests were made, however police continue to investigate. Gilmanton Police assisted Belmont with the investigation.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 12:44

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Planning Board votes to ask City Council to change rules governing electronic signs

LACONIA — The Planning Board last night unanimously endorsed the changes to the zoning ordinance recommended by the Zoning Task Force to address the proliferation of electronic signage.
Following the vote,Suzanne Perley, who chairs the task force, said that she arranged with City Manager Scott Myers to present an explanation of the proposal to the City Council when it meets on Monday, May 12, but was unsure whether the council would take a vote that night or at a later meeting.
The amendment to the ordinance distinguishes between two types of "electronic message center" (EMC) — "static" and "dynamic." Static electronic signs are those on which neither the copy nor pictures change during the message while their dynamic counterparts appear to move or change as they present a stream of images or words that fly in, fade out, rotate and scroll across the face of the sign.
Neither type of electronic sign would be permitted in the six residential districts. Where they are permitted the dimensions and heights of signs must conform to those of freestanding signs in the specific district. Moreover, the electronic portion of the signs must not exceed 75 percent of the total area of the sign, a provision that ensures that all such signs are framed.
EMC-dynamic display signs would be confined to the commercial resort district, which includes the Weirs, and permitted there only by special exception.
EMC-static display signs would be excluded from the downtown riverfront district but permitted in the commercial resort district and permitted by special exception in the professional, business central, business central/industrial, commercial, industrial park, industrial and airport industrial districts.
After some discussion the Planning Board accepted the recommendation of the task force that the display, whether images or words, on EMC-static display signs not change more frequently than every five minutes. Steve Weeks, a longtime realtor who served on the task force, noted that in five minutes a driver traveling at 30 miles-per-hour would cover two-and-a-half miles and suggested the frequency be reduced to one minute.
Ben Barr of Watchfire, one of two domestic manufacturers of EMCs, said that signs on federal highways can change every 15 seconds and offered that one minute was "reasonable." He knew of no data that indicated that signs have caused accidents.
"Our concern is the safety of the person operating the motor vehicle and the person walking on the sidewalk," said board member Jay Tivnan.
Don Vachon, his colleague, said that in seeking greater frequency business owners are "asking for more return on their dollar," adding that electronic signs represent a significant investment.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders reminded the board of the Master Plan, which places a premium on "community character." She said that if the board opted for a frequency of one minute and came to regret its decision, it could not be undone.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 12:40

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Council committee recommends doing away wiht primaries for contests with 1 or 2 candidates

LACONIA — The Government Operations and Ordinances Committee of the City Council this week agreed to propose an amendment to the City Charter that would authorize the City Clerk to declare a primary election unnecessary if no more than two candidates file for any particular city office.

The committee also agreed to recommend that the filing period for municipal elections, which currently opens on the first Wednesday in June and close on the following Friday, be moved to August, approximately a month before the primary on the second Tuesday of September.

Mayor Ed Engler suggested changing the rules for write-in candidates in contested primary elections. The two candidates receiving the most votes in the primary are declared the winners and placed on the ballot of the municipal election in November. Engler proposed adding a rider specifying "unless the candidate receiving the second most votes had not filed declaration of candidacy and received fewer than 10 write-in votes."

Engler explained that he seeks to ensure that any write-in candidate who earns a place on the general election ballot has demonstrated an intent to serve by mounting a write-in campaign as reflected by polling a minimum number of votes. He said that for some years individuals with no prior intention of serving have qualified for a place on the ballot with less than handful of write-in votes.

The committee referred Engler's proposal to the city attorney for review.

The committee will present its recommendation to the City Council, when it meets on Monday, May 12. If the council agrees, it will begin the process of amending the charter, which includes a holding public hearing on the proposed changes and placing the question on the general election ballot in November.

The committee stopped short of doing away with primary elections altogether, the alternative proposal offered by City Clerk Mary Reynolds. Laconia is one of three of the state's 13 cities to conduct municipal primary elections. In both the other two — Manchester and Keene —the charters authorize the city clerk to deem a primary election election unnecessary if no more than two candidates file for any particular office.

In a memorandum, Reynolds explained that in 1995 voters eliminated partisan elections, in which party caucuses nominated the candidates for mayor and City Council, and instead introduced primary elections to choose the two candidates who appeared on the municipal election ballot.

Along with the mayor and city councilors, primary elections are also held to nominate candidates for the the seven seats on the School Board, whose members serve staggered terms, requiring a primary every year, and three seats on the Police Commission.
Since the change was introduced, relatively few primary elections have been contested, and very few voters have cast ballots. For example, in 1997, when the first primary was held, only one candidate entered the primary for City Council in each of the six wards and only two candidates entered the mayoral primary. With no contested races, just 7 percent of registered voters went to the polls.
In the eight primary elections between 1997 and 2011 voter turnout has averaged 9 percent. In three of the past eight elections — in 2003, 2009 and 2011 — primary elections were held even though there were not more than two candidates for either mayor or any of the six council seats. In 2011, only 259 of 8,422, or 3 percent of registered voters went to the polls, just 21 of them in Ward 2 and another 22 in Ward 5, at a cost to the city of approximately $39 a vote. Last year when there were three candidates for mayor but no more than two for any of six city council seats the turnout was 6 percent.
Reynolds said that cost of conducting municipal primary elections is approximately $8,600, which does not include about $1,000 for police details at the polling stations at Woodland Heights Elementary School and Laconia Middle School. The cost consists of $3,900 for printing ballots, $1,000 for materials at polling stations and $3,700 in wages of poll workers.

Despite the cost, a majority of the council appears unwilling to jettison the primary election. Without a primary, they fear, more than two candidates could enter the municipal election, creating a risk of splitting the vote so as to ensure the election of a candidate representing a minority of the electorate.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 12:35

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