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7 Belknap County reps join small majority as bill to legalize recreational pot use passes N.H. House

CONCORD — When a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana carried the New Hampshire House of Representatives yesterday by the narrow margin of 170 to 162 on a bipartisan vote, the Belknap County delegation split evenly, with seven members in favor, seven against and four absent.

Among the seven voting in favor, there were six Republicans — Richard Burchell of Gilmanton, Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Charles Fink and Michael Sylvia of Belmont and Bob Greemore and Herb Vadney of Meredith — and only one Democrat — Ruth Gulick of New Hampton.

Five Republicans — Jane Cormier and Stephen Holmes of Alton, Don Flanders and Frank Tilton of Laconia and Dennis Fields of Sanbornton — and two Democrats — Lisa DiMartino of Gilford and Ian Raymond of Sanbornton — voted against the bill.

Representatives Beth Arsenault (D-Laconia), David Huot (D-Laconia), Bob Luther (R-Laconia) and Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) were absent and did not vote.

Modeled after legislation enacted in Colorado and Washington, the bill would allow individuals aged 21 and older to possess no more than one ounce of marijuana for recreational use as well as to cultivate as many six marijuana plants for personal use in a controlled environment. No fewer than 10 cultivation facilities would be licensed while the number of retail outlets would be no less than one for every ten liquor stores. Municipalities would be entitled to prohibit retail marijuana stores altogether or limit their number as well as to enact ordinances regulating their operation.
Marijuana production and sales would be taxed. A tax of $30 per ounce would be levied on marijuana sold or transferred by a cultivator to a manufacturer or retailer while retail sales would be taxed at 15 percent of the over-the-counter price. Supporters of the bill estimated that by taxing the cultivation and sales of marijuana the state could raise $30-million in revenue annually.
The Marijuana Policy Project applauded the House vote as being the first time a legislative chamber has voted to treat the drug like alcohol. "House members made history today and they are clearly on the right side of it," said Matt Simon, the group's New Hampshire-based New England political director.
Lawmakers have rejected decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use in the past, most recently last session. But decriminalization supporters were encouraged when the state — with Governor Maggie Hassan's backing — made it legal for the seriously ill to possess and use the drug last year. Implementing the state's medical marijuana law is expected to take another year.
The bill will be referred to the House Ways and Means Committee then returned to the full House for a final vote. Should the bill carry both the House and Senate, Hassan has vowed to veto it. (The Associated Press contributed to this story).

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 January 2014 01:38

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Where would money to save Gale School come from?

BELMONT — Selectmen were updated last week on an effort by a group of citizens to save the historic Gale School and urged the group to come up with some hard numbers for any plan it develops so that it can receive serious consideration.
''We've got to find a use for it which is beneficial to the town,'' acknowledged former School Board Chair Pret Tuthill, who, along with Ken Knowlton of the Conservation Commission, described the recent efforts of the ad hoc Save the Gale School Committee which they head up.
They said that this was a last ditch effort to save the building and Tuthill said ''if this effort fails it will be our last. The last thing we want to do is burden the taxpayers. We're looking for alternative sources of funding.''
Knowlton said that the building is historically significant and is in better condition than the Belmont Mill was when townspeople decided to save that building in the mid 1990s.
He said that when the town moves its offices into the mill in about five years the Day Care Center and Senior Center will have to move and that the Gale School could provide the space they will need. Or it could be used as a community center.
Knowlton said library trustees recently rejected a proposal to use the Gale School for an addition and that the school district doesn't want the building and has offered to contribute the cost of razing the structure to having it relocated.
He said the likely spot for its relocation would be on a school-owned lot on Concord Street.
Selectmen were sympathetic to the group's efforts to save the 119-year-old building, which is owned by the Shaker School District and sits on the shoulder of Bryant Field behind the Belmont Middle School, but unsure of how any effort to save it can proceed.
''Where is the money going to come from?'' asked Selectman Jon Pike, who suggested at one point that the chances for obtaining support for saving the building might be better at the annual Shaker School district meeting than at a Belmont town meeting.
''You'll get more financial support if it's a school project. If we get 50 people at a town meeting (deliberative session) we're lucky.'' said Pike.
That led Tuthill to point out ''it's not a Canterbury project'' and cast doubt on whether voters from that town would support any effort by the school district to save the building.
Knowlton and Tuthilll have suggested that funding for saving the building could come in the form of Community Development Block Grants, the same method used for saving the Belmont Mill, which led Selectmen Chairman Ron Cormier to say that one problem with getting grants was the question of ownership and whether or not a building which was going to be moved would be eligible for a grant.
''Which comes first, the relocation or the plan?'' asked Cormier.
Town Administrator Jean Beaudin said that she had just learned the night of the meeting that a joint application by the town and the school district could qualify for grant funding.
Linda Frawley of the Belmont Heritage Commission said that grants are available for the planning process for a project and that might be the starting point for developing a public-private partnership to save the building.
Selectman Ruth Mooney pointed out that the building ''has it's limitations,'' and is still basically an old school building with limited potential.
Tuthill said lightheartedly that if he could have his way he would tear down the current town hall and ''put it (the Gale School) right where the town hall is.''
He and Knowlton said they would keep selectmen informed about how plans for saving the building are progressing and would return with more details in the near future.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 02:26

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Marcia Ross retiring as principal at Gilford Middle School

GILFORD — After 40 years as a teacher and administrator in New Hampshire schools, Marcia Ross has announcing her retirement as principal at Gilford Middle School, a post she has held since 2009.

The Gilford School Board accepted her retirement notice at their regular meeting last Thursday.

During those years, the Middle School has flourished, developed specific academic intervention programs, grown extracurricular participation in arts and athletics, and exceptional technology integration through cloud based computing, said Superintendent of Schools Kent Hemingway.

School Board Chair Sue Allen added, " We've been fortunate to have Marcia as principal of GMS for the past five years. The school motto, 'Be Respectful, Responsible, Resourceful and Confident' has had lasting impact on the Gilford community. Under her leadership our students have become motivated learners and better citizens. The entire community wishes her well in her retirement. "

"I have been fortunate to work with Marcia these past three years," continued Hemingway. "During my first year in Gilford with two interim principals, Marcia's experience and counsel helped me tremendously. Her knowledge of our children and families is deep. She has fostered a learning environment at GMS that supports achievement, creativity and collaboration. Her presence will be missed, but she has set GMS on a strong course for the future".

Prior to Gilford Middle School, Marcia was principal of Oyster River Middle School in Durham, and before that Assistant Principal of Gilford Middle High School from 1989-1997.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 02:14

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Property maintenance code won't be on Belmont ballot

BELMONT — A proposed warrant article that would have asked voters to adopt the provisions of the International Property Maintenance Code will not appear as an article on this year's town ballot.

Chair Peter Harris said that Monday night after reading a memorandum from town Code Enforcement Officer Steve Paquin telling him the adoption of the IPMC may be premature and more regulatory than is necessary in Belmont.

"At this time I would be willing to step back and amend the IPMC and bring it back next year reflecting the sections I feel are needed to enforce issues pertaining to life and safety," wrote Paquin.

The creation of some kind of property code maintenance regulations stemmed from a Selectboard conversation late last summer when members noticed there was some garbage and trash issues in the village.

Selectman Jon Pike — who is the board's representative to the Planning Board — said last night the problems stemmed from a few village area tenants but when the board asked how they could address the problem, they learned that they couldn't unless it posed a "distinct health issue." The only other option, said Pike, was to pass some kind of property maintenance code.

"We wanted a way to clean up the garbage," he said, adding the selectmen don't necessarily want the right to mandate but to have an official way to notify property owners of any problems.

"We asked the question but the ordinance as proposed is stronger that what we meant," Pike said.

In the fall, selectmen tasked the Planning Department to develop a code and they brought for the 2009 International Property Maintenance Code that has been adopted by New Hampshire as its standard and is in place in a number of communities including Laconia.

Feedback from town residents to selectmen, Planning Board members, and Paquin indicated that many felt the code as proposed was inappropriate or too much for Belmont.

Harris said he agreed with Pike's recommendation. He also said that because of the limited amount of time given to the Belmont Planning Department to evaluate the proposal, the Planning Board hasn't have enough time to thoroughly examine what would be best for Belmont.

Board members Mike Leclair and Rick Seglin agreed and the vote to table was unanimous.

All agreed that there are portions of the IMPC that would work in Belmont but said the code seemed more designed for urban areas and that parts of it would not work.

The Planning Board will be developing some kind of code in 2014 with a goal of presenting something to the voters in 2015. Harris said he expects there will be focus groups and community input in addition to that of the board.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 02:11

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