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Belmont and Laconia agree to share one fire chief


BELMONT/LACONIA— Belmont selectmen have agreed with the Laconia City Council that fire chief services for both communities should be combined, meaning that Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson and Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Beattie will assume management control of the Belmont Fire Department.

The agreement was supported in a nonpublic session by Belmont Selectmen on Monday and by the Laconia City Council in a nonpublic session later that evening. Selectman Ruth Mooney said the selectmen met with acting Fire Chief Sean McCarty on Tuesday and with the entire Belmont Fire Department staff Wednesday morning. She said Erickson met with all of the Belmont staff after their meeting.

"I couldn't be happier or more supportive," said Mayor Edward Engler. "Hopefully, this is the first step toward a much greater level of inter-municipal cooperation with the delivery of essential services."

It's been about three weeks since former Belmont Fire Chief David Parenti resigned to take a job in Massachusetts. Selectman Jon Pike said that Laconia City Manager Scott Meyers initially reached out to Belmont Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin about the idea of consolidating chief services.

At a subsequent meeting between Engler, Mooney, Beaudin and Meyers, they agreed to bring it to their respective boards, who supported the idea.

"This is the greatest thing that ever happened," said Pike, who said in the long run this agreement could save both communities a great deal of money. "I hope it works out the way it's intended."

Although the actual agreement has not been completed by both legal teams, Engler and Pike said that the Belmont Fire Department will still be the Belmont Fire Department and the employees will still be Belmont employees, members of their own union and Belmont selectmen will still control hiring and pay.

He said the highest ranking officer will report to Erickson and Beattie.

"We think it's a positive for both communities," said Mooney, who went on to say that she thinks it will broaden training and diversification for the Belmont employees and that it will be a good thing.

"I think it's a positive move forward," Mooney said alluding to the fact that different consolidations of services have been discussed in "back rooms" for 30 years.

Mooney called the arrangement "groundbreaking" and said she thinks each department will benefit from the arrangement.

Engler said he wanted to "congratulate Ruth Mooney and her fellow selectmen for them being brave enough to think outside the box. They're doing all of us in the Lakes Region and great service."

"The shared goal her is more efficient and cost effective delivery of essential services.," he said.

Engler and Mooney said that once the inter-municipal agreement is hammered out, both the Belmont selectmen and the Laconia City Council will have to approve it before it can go into effect.

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Laconia Police restructure department


LACONIA — The city police department has reorganized its command structure by eliminating one of two captain positions and splitting the quasi-department heads into four separate commands, three of which will be headed by lieutenants and one of which will be led by the city prosecutor.

The previous organization had two captains, one of whom ran the administration and detectives and the other who ran the operations or the patrol division. The city prosecutor has always been the head of prosecution.

Capt. Matt Canfield is responsible for budgeting, capital improvements, internal affairs purchasing, personnel reviews and major special event planning for things like the Motorcycle Week and the Pumpkin Festival. He is also responsible, along with the chief, for general oversight.

Patrol Lt. Rich Simmons is responsible for patrol scheduling, communications or dispatch, supervisor shift coverage, monthly details, animal control and for reviewing felony cases that come from the patrol division.

Patrol Detective Lt. Tom Swett is responsible for detective scheduling, and the Prevention, Enforcement and Training officer who coordinates drug enforcement with treatment agencies. He reviews felony cases prepared by detectives, is the liaison between the department and the Belknap County Attorney for grand jury and indictment purposes, manages grants and supervises the many who volunteer for the Laconia Police.

Support Lt. Allen Graton is responsible for departmental training, automotive maintenance, uniforms, the police station maintenance itself, policy development, Right-To-Know requests, community resource officers and managing the department's computer system.

Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said that the change makes for better communications and a cleaner and more direct chain of command. For example, he said that he thinks having the patrol lieutenant and the detective lieutenant sitting in adjoining offices can better coordinate investigations that are triggered by activities by each division.

The old way has a detective sergeant responding to a captain who each had different responsibilities in different parts of the building and sometimes the communications weren't that fluid.

"The common theme is mixed messages," he said.

Adams also said that should things not work as he expects, the department always has the option to return to the two-captain model.

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Ashland asks to turn historic school into town library


ASHLAND — Trustees of the Ashland Town Library are asking voters to approve a petitioned warrant article which calls for spending $800,000 to purchase and renovate the former Ashland Elementary School as the town's new library.
It will mark the second time that the issue has come before voters. Two years ago, a proposed $950,000 bond issue was opposed by the budget committee and lost 149-299 as it would have exceeded the budget committee's recommended budget by more than 10 percent.
This year, the budget committee voted 6-3 against the the warrant article but selectmen voted 3-1 on Jan. 25 to place it on the ballot with necessary language informing voters that passage of the article would exceed the 10 percent limit.
The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1877-78 and served as a school until 1990. It is currently owned by the Tri-County Community Action Program, which purchased the three-story brick building from the Ashland School District in 2008, paying $1 plus a $44,000 reimbursement to the school district for the demolition of the former high school building.
Community Action then spent $1.25 million for restoration and improvements to the school, bringing the building up to code, installing new heating and cooling systems and a zoned sprinkler system, and putting in energy-efficient lighting and windows, as well as building a handicapped entrance and installing an elevator to provide access to all floors.
The current library is housed in a two-story clapboard building owned by the town and managed by the Scribner Trustees. Library Trustee David Ruell says that, with 1,245 square feet of space, all shelving is full and adding new materials requires dispensing with older, still-valuable materials. Although the library has a ramped entrance, it is not fully handicapped-accessible, with the second floor inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair, and it has only on-street parking.
The school, by contrast, has a dedicated parking lot with space for 15 vehicles. With 7,920 square feet of space, it would give the library six times the amount of room for its collections, activities and storage.
Ruell says that one of the big advantages of moving the library into the historic building is that the new Ashland Elementary School is located on adjacent land and is a short, safe walking distance from the elementary school so students could use the library for in-school visits and after-school activities.
In addition to the main circulation area on the first floor, there would be three office spaces that could serve as rooms for study and tutoring. There would be triple the current space for a children's room, the Scribner Library has room for only 12 children and when the library holds a reading program, they have to remove the furniture from the room. There also would be a computer lab with space for laptop users.
Plans also call for a young adult area on the second floor, with space for the storage of historical records and volumes. The main collection also would be on the second floor, along with the library's audio-visual collection, work tables, and comfortable seating.
The third floor has a large space with original woodwork, blackboards, and a divider that could accommodate large and small community and governmental functions.
Ruell says that TCCAP has reduced the sale price by $150,000 from two years ago and that trustees would apply $25,000 from a capital reserve fund towards library shelving, which would reduce the amount of bond issue to $775,000.
He says that library trustees are planning open houses for the public from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1 and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 5.
The bond issue will appear on the town ballot on March 8 as article 4 and requires a three-fifths vote for passage.

Ashland voters will be asked to approve a bond issue to purchase the former Ashland Elementary School from the Tri-County Community Action Program and renovate it for use as the town library. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Ashland voters will be asked to approve a bond issue to purchase the former Ashland Elementary School from the Tri-County Community Action Program and renovate it for use as the town library. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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The Ashland Town Library has only 1,245 square feet of usable space and all of its shelves are full. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

The Ashland Town Library has only 1,245 square feet of usable space and all of its shelves are full. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

02-19 ashland town library

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