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Rep. Tilton files bill that would make clear Belknap Convention's right to control budget transfers from line to line

CONCORD — State Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) has become the second member of the Belknap County Convention to file legislation intended to clearly delineate the respective authorities of the convention and the Belknap County Commission over the county budget. Earlier this month Representative Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) submitted a similar proposal for drafting.

Tilton said yesterday that his bill closely follows a statute prescribing the budget process to be followed in Hillsborough County. He emphasized that he believes the existing law vests the convention with the authority to specify line-item appropriations within the department budgets as well as to approve any transfer of funds from particular line items either within or between departments.

However, Tilton said that his bill "spells it out even more clearly than the existing statutory language." He explained that where the law applying to Hillsborough County requires that appropriations "shall be itemized in detail," he added the phrase "including specific line items within each department." His bill would enable the convention to permit the commission to transfer funds of specified amounts without the approval of the Executive Committee of the convention. "Hillsborough County makes no exceptions, but Rockingham County sets a limit of $300," he said. "This year we made no exceptions."

Although Tilton expected the legislation would be enacted, he said "this isn't a bill that's going to rush through." As long as the bill is adopted and made effective in 2014, he believes that it would apply to next year's county budget. But, he stopped short of saying that that legislation would forestall the convention and commission seeking to settle their differences in court. "We haven't resolved what we're doing now," he said, noting that the commissioners have shuffled funds within the 2013 budget adopted by the convention without the approval of its Executive Committee.

Last month, the convention, against Worsman's recommendation, voted not to file suit in Belknap County Superior Court against the commission in an effort to resolve the dispute. Tilton, who was among those voting against litigating, said that "it would be a long, slow, expensive proposition" while acknowledging "litigation is not off the table and is certainly a possibility."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 03:16

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Lower Liberty Hill cleanup plan to be detailed tonight

GILFORD — Officials of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) and GEI Consultants, Inc., representing Liberty Utilities, will present plans for removing the toxic coal tar burried on Lower Liberty Hill Road at an informational meeting at Town Hall this evening, beginning at 6 p.m.

Michael McCluskey of DES said yesterday that earlier this year the agency approved the approach proposed by GEI on behalf of Liberty Utilities, the last of several corporate successors to the firm responsible for dumping the coal tar in 1952 following the explosion of gas plant in Laconia. He said that GEI will outline the scope of the project and schedule of work, which has been estimated to require trucking approximately 45,000 cubic yards of tainted soil from the site and returning a commensurate volume off clean fill to it over the course of two construction seasons.

McCluskey said that GEI recently submitted its plan to DES for its final approval in anticipation of putting the work out to bid in the coming weeks and starting work in the spring of 2014.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 03:06

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LRPA televisison urged to look at streaming on-demand programming online

LACONIA — Members of the board of directors of Lakes Region Public Access television held a free-ranging discussion of the organization's future at last night's meeting as they grapple with changes which will be coming next year when a new 10-year contract, still being negotiated with MetroCast Cablevision, takes effect.
No clear picture emerged of that future, as only three of the eight board members were present, but there were indications that LRPA may be headed in the direction of a web-based, on-demand delivery for all three of its channels, 24 (education), 25 (public) and 26 (government) and sees the first six months of 2014 as a time of transition and opportunity.
One of the major changes, already taking place, will see local communities handling broadcasts specific to their community only, which will be aired on Channel 26.
Board member Kent Hemingway, superintendent of schools in Gilford, wasn't at the meeting but sent an e-mail in which he said that the current model of public access cable television produced, scheduled and delivered to homes is rapidly becoming extinct.
''On demand media will rule the airwaves and will be delivered to every mobile device wherever and whenever the user wants,'' he wrote, noting that the shift does not yet reach all households or consumers.
Board member Joe Jesseman of Tilton said he agreed in part with Hemingway's analysis but noted that LRPA-TV still has an obligation to elderly viewers who are not Internet savvy and rely on cable. He said that there will need to be a mix of approaches in order to satisfy traditional viewers.
LRPA Chairman Ken Curley of Northwood said that one thing which will be lost as the local government channel is devoted solely to one community is the opportunity for viewers to compare what is happening in other communities with approaches being taken to similar problems in their own town.
Curley and LRPA station manager Denise Beauchaine said that lack of regional programming on Channel 26 could be addressed by LRPA on Channel 25, which will be the regional channel for all of the towns.
''The towns will find it difficult to run their own programming and will find out that you can't do it with a laptop computer,'' said Beauchaine.
Curley said that the towns will find there are high overhead costs and that it is labor intensive to provide programming that local viewers will want to watch and that an opportunity exists for LRPA to dominate the local government news niche, even if it means sending volunteers of their own to tape the meetings.
Curley said the board will have to make a decision on additional personnel and equipment if it wants to move in that direction and said the board will call a special meeting sometime in the next month in order to reach a decision on what its future business plan will be.
Prior discussions have centered around a fee for service model which takes into account the changes in recent years which have seen towns retain a large portion of the franchise fees they receive from MetroCast rather than turn it over to LRPA-TV, which they are not obliged to do.
Beauchaine said that prior to the recent recession 13 municipalities, including the 11 in Belknap County, contracted with LRPA-TV and paid their agreed upon share the station's overhead. However, the number of contracting municipalities has shrunk to a half-dozen — Alton, Belmont, Gilford, Meredith, Laconia and Northwood — which Beauchaine said share less than a third of the franchise fees they collect from MetroCast with LRPA-TV.
Also deferred by the board due to the lack of quorum at last night's meeting was a proposal to purchase new switching equipment at a cost of $15,000 to $18,000 for broadcasting the annual WLNH Children's Auction.
At last month's meeting, technical consultant Shane Selling told board members that the aging equipment used for last year's auction is no longer serviceable and that a new switcher, which could also be used in the studio year-round, would be a good investment.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 02:22

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Inter-Lakes School Board sits down for discussion with high school student council

MEREDITH — For the first time in living memory, the Inter-Lakes School Board met with representatives of the high school student body last night when they hosted a roundtable discussion with members of the Student Council.

Chairman Richard Hanson of Center Harbor explained that the board had begun reaching out to its different constituencies by holding its second meeting of the month in a different one of the three towns of the district — Meredith, Center Harbor and Sandwich. While a student, senior Robert Euler, has a non-voting seat on the board, he said that hosting the Student Council presented an opportunity to sound a broader cross-section of student opinion.

"The rules," began Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond with a smile. "We don't see this as gripe session. It's a dialogue. You can't complain about a teacher," she continued. Turning to her administrative team, she remarked "you can't complain about me. We're going to have a conversation." She reminded everyone there were pizzas, drinks and cookies, then said "tell us what's working and what's not working so well."

John Findlay, president of the Student Council and three-sport athlete, drum major and accomplished student, immediately questioned the scheduling of classes, which he said has left him with difficult choices between mathematics and Spanish while shrinking rehearsal time for the band. He was echoed by Trevor Colby, who also wanted to take more courses than fit his schedule.

Ormond reminded them that between his classes, sports and activities he probably did not reach home much before 7 p.m. and, allowing an hour to shower and eat, began his homework at 8 p.m. and did not not get to sleep much before 10:30 p.m.
Findlay agreed, noting that he knew of students who rose at 3 a.m. to complete their homework for the day.

"We can make the schedule what you want," Ormond said, but explained that in a relatively small school with declining enrollment any system of scheduling was bound to pose hard choices for curious, ambitious students. She suggested that online learning or even taking classes offered at schools in neighboring communities might expand the range of opportunities.

Ormond asked the students what could be done to bring more spirit into the school. Findlay said that there have been dances and movie nights, but suggested more activity like homecoming or winter carnival that engaged all students. Euler proposed drawing up a list and inviting the students to vote their preferences.

When it was the board's turn to question the students, Mark Billings said he wanted to assign them a "task," namely to address "texting and driving." He confessed that "we don't know the rules of the digital world as well as you do."

Colby cautioned that "scare tactics" would have little effect, but Euler disagreed. He recalled a scenario in which, unknown to the student body, two or three well-known, popular students became victims of a mock accident that interrupted the school day. He said that students were "shocked" and the effect was profound.

Howard Cunningham, vice-chairman of the board, asked if electronic devices distracted students. Findlay said that teachers permit students to use their devices to find information in class, but conceded that some students simply took the opportunity to text friends.

When the discussion closed, the students shook hands with members of the board, who along with Ormond were pleased with the outcome of the roundtable, which promises to become a staple of the board's proceedings.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 02:46

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