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SB2 change - New law would make deliberative sessions optional if passed this week


CONCORD — Deliberative sessions could become a thing of the past in official ballot, or SB 2, towns and school districts if a bill passes the New Hampshire Senate this week.

The Senate will vote on House Bill 1375 — which as amended by the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee last week would authorize so-called SB 2 towns to do away with the deliberative session, allowing people to vote on warrant articles without the typical discussion and possible amendments made by a small number of people.

Sen. Nancy Siles (R-Hampton), one of the sponsors of the original bill and an architect of the Senate amendment, said yesterday that the bill began as effort to address problems towns and school districts have encountered in calculating default budgets, which are adopted if voters reject the budget recommended by the Board of Selectmen or Budget Committee.

The default budget is calculated by adding or subtracting debt service, binding contracts and other obligations from the operating budget of the prior year then further eliminating any one-time expenditures. Some critics claim that one-time expenditures are rarely eliminated, while others suggest default budgets should reflect reductions in costs achieved by trimming payroll, energy efficiencies and the like.

The original bill, which easily carried the House of Representatives, would have enabled, but not required, towns to adopt a charter for the sole purpose of changing the the procedure for considering, amending and adopting the operating or default budget. This approach met with reservations from both the Department of Revenue Administration and the Secretary of State.

The Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee abandoned the notion of a charter altogether and instead chose to offer voters the choice of one of two options. Voters could forbid any amendments to the operating budget at the deliberative session. Or they could scuttle the deliberative session altogether. Or they could choose to do nothing at all.

Finally, whether or not they adopt one of the first two options, voters could require that both the operating budget and the default budget appear on the official ballot. Voters would vote on both budgets and whichever carries would be adopted. If both fail, a special meeting to adopt an operating budget.

All three options would require a super majority of three-fifths, or 60 percent, for adoption.

Stiles said the Senate amendment not only addresses the the budget process as intended by the original bill, but also the recurrent complaint that deliberative sessions are poorly attended and often dominated by a small group seeking to serve a special interest by amending the budget.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on HB 1375 when it meets on Thursday, May 12. Scott Dunn, the town administrator in Gilford, said that as the Senate amended the bill last week the Board of Selectmen have yet to have an opportunity to consider it. No other officials could be reached for comment on the proposal.

Meredith man charged with raping ex-wife


LACONIA — A Meredith man is being held on $1,000 cash bail after New Hampton Police said he tried to sexually assault his former wife Thursday morning with a wire brush.

05-10 Alan Marceau

Alan Marceau, 61, of 230 Meredith Center Road is charged with one count of felonious sexual assault, two counts of simple assault, and one count of criminal mischief.

According to affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Marceau went to where the alleged victim was house sitting and tried to assault her around 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. When she realized how much damage had been done to her body, she went to Lakes Region General Hospital the next day and hospital staff called the New Hampton police to report the assault.

Police said the woman told them she awoke when Marceau allegedly tried to insert a wire brush into her. When she realized what was happening, she was able to stop the sexual assault.

During the course of the attack, police alleged he held her down, threw her over a kitchen counter, and took her cell phone away when she tried to call 911. She told police she ran into the bedroom and locked the door. Police allege he put his foot through the door and put a hole in it. The woman was able to get to safety at some point.

While investigating, police learned Marceau had been transported to LRGH for a foot injury. After helping the victim secure a temporary emergency order of restraint, the officer returned to the hospital and found Marceau in the emergency room.

The officer described him as angry, and when she told him that he was under arrest and would be held on $5,000 cash only for the weekend, she said he became very upset.

This is at least the third time Marceau has run afoul of local law enforcement in the past two months. In March he accidentally shot himself in the big toe with a B.B. gun, and about two weeks later he ignited a fire on his property with some kind of combustible material that caused an explosion. The Meredith Fire Department extinguished the fire and said they are seeking to recoup their costs from him.

Gunstock Mountain Resort gets nearly $1M loan from county


LACONIA — After a tough winter, the Gunstock Area Commission needed nearly $1 million to tide the resort over until next year.

The Belknap County Delegation unanimously approved a request by the Gunstock Area Commission for a $950,000 revenue anticipation note following a public hearing held last night at the Belknap County Complex.
The amount approved was $300,000 more than last year ‘s and the increase was due to what Gunstock Mountain Resort General Manager Gregg Goddard said was the poorest ski season in recent memory. He said that the area drew only a little over 120,000 skier visits during the season, down from the 185,000 high of two years ago.
Total revenue from all operations, including skiing, dropped to $9,096,039, down by over $2.35 million from last year, with about $1 million of that loss coming during the Christmas vacation period, normally Gunstock’s busiest time of the entire ski season.
Goddard said that last year Gunstock’s net revenue was close to a half million dollars but that it was nearly a negative one million this year, necessitating the use of reserve funds in order to maintain operations.
Gunstock still receives more than 70 percent of its total revenue from skiing operations in a 100-day period from mid-December to late March, despite the addition of new summer attractions such as its longest in North America zip line and treetop adventure park. Goddard said those attractions raised over $2 million in revenue, which is just 22 percent of the entire revenues for the county-owned resort.
The revenue anticipation note provides a short-term cash flow for Gunstock and is to be repaid by April 1 of next year from profits made during the ski season. Goddard said that $300,000 of the revenues would be drawn down in June, another $300,000 in September and the remaining $350,000 in October.
He also presented the 2017 budget adopted recently by the commission which project 170,000 skier visits next winter with a $12.1 million on total revenues and a net profit of $1.3 million.
Work is progressing at the resort on its newest attraction, a mountain coaster which will carry riders in carts running on rails up to 30 feet above the ground, relying solely on gravity for speed, 2,660 feet downhill, around two circles and through sharp curves, at speeds up to 25 mph.
Originally projected to open in the middle of July, Goddard said that with the short winter and early spring he hopes that it will be up and running by the Fourth of July.