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Gilmanton voters hear from 3 candidates vying for seat on school board

GILMANTON — Gilmanton voters packed the school gymnasium Tuesday night for candidates night hearing from the three candidates for School Board. One seat is available.

Dr. David Strang introduced himself as a "fiscal conservative" who said he considers education one of the most valuable things society does but said it is the responsibility of the School Board to spend taxpayer money wisely.

He said if elected he would work toward a long-term plan for the School District so it wouldn't find itself needing a modular unit to combat over-crowding that the district should have seen coming.

Strang also said now is the time to be discussing the contract with Gilford that is slated to expire in 10 years.

Identifying himself as a "fiscal conservative" opened Strang up to a line of questioning from one man who wanted to know if he was member of the Tea Party — something the questioner said fostered a "destructive environment."

"Are you fiscally conservative or our you fiscally responsible," the man asked Strang who replied that he could make an argument that the two terms are synonymous.

Strang said he supports the ballot question, Article 14, that raises and appropriates the $133,661 dollar for the modular because at this point in time the School District has no choice. His point was the district needed better planning.

He didn't say if he was a member of the Tea Party.

Incumbent Michael Hatch is running for his third term on the School Board and described himself as "fiscally responsible."

He said in his six years of service, Gilmanton School has improved under the soon-to-be retired tenants of No Child Left Behind and that the district has addressed many of its former deficiencies.

Hatch said there is a Space Needs Committee that is being formed to discuss the growth of Gilmanton and its expanding student population. He also explained that the School District budget contains many items that are beyond the control of the School Board — like Gilford tuition rates and Special Education costs — and said the board did the fiscally responsible thing by returning the excess in those two line items last year by returning the money to the taxpayers.

He also said the district has come a long way with regard to maintenance and repairs within the school property. He noted the improvement to the facility, including some security updates, that have made it a better place for teachers to teach and a safer place for students to learn.

"I think this School Board has done a good job," he said.

He also said townspeople should put an end to the personal attacks against members of the towns governing boards. "I've seen them written in the newspapers and it should stop," he said.

Hatch replied to one man who kept asking why the School District didn't foresee the student increase "bubble" by saying it did foresee it but when any talk of expansion was raised at a district meeting a few years ago, it was "shot down" by the body.

"People have short memories," he said.

Frank Weeks has served on the School Board in the past but did not serve last year.

He said he didn't want to characterize himself as a fiscal liberal or a conservation but as someone who doesn't want to make cuts that would effect the students or their ability to learn.

He said he likes sending Gilmanton's students to Gilford and, if elected, supports continuing in that direction, noting the only other choices are to build a school, go to another district, or splitting up the children and sending them to a variety of neighboring districts.

Weeks said he doesn't like to make rushes to judgment and that if he is elected will "listen without judging."

He also put in a plug for the Gilmanton Year-Round Library saying it was an invaluable tool for the children in Gilmanton.

Election Day is March 11 at the Gilmanton Academy upstairs in the auditorium. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 01:53

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Council Glimpses Cost of County Jail

LACONIA — Although the city dodged a bullet when the Belknap County Convention adopted a 2014 county budget that will not place undue stress on the tax cap in 2014-2015, Mayor Ed Engler reminded the City Council last night that county officials left the future of the county jail unresolved.

Engler reminded the councilors that the Belknap County Commissioners have been wrestling with the recommendation of Ricci Greene Associates to construct a correctional facility at an estimated cost of $45 million, which would require additional staffing and an increased operating budget. Although the commissioners insist that the cost can be significantly reduced, in light of the hostile relationship between the commission and the convention, they have yet to offer a formal proposal, apparently preferring to await the outcome of the general election in November. The mayor ventured that a project costing between $20 million and $25 million could muster sufficient votes to carry the convention.

"I don't think we can afford not to be involved in these conversations," Engler told the council. He explained that he calculated that the city's annual share of a $20 million borrowing over a term of 20 years would be approximately $380,000, which would have to be fitted within the bounds of the tax cap. If the city had to bear the cost this year, it would represent 40 percent of the $929,000 increase in the amount to be raised property taxes permitted by the tax cap and require a corresponding reduction in other municipal expenditures.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, warned that if federal officials found conditions at the county jail failed to comply with standards, the county could be compelled to correct them this year. He suggested the council advise county officials "what we can reasonably work with" in the course of preparing the city budget. "It would be a mistake not to let them know," he said.

Engler replied that the 2014-2015 city budget was not likely to be affected, but warned "it will affect our budget in 2016."


Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 01:39

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Look online for up-to-date results for local elections

Election results for the District 1 Executive Council race and various township races and referendums may or may not be available tonight in time to place in Wednesday's newspaper but they will be available online (www.laconiadailysun) as we have them, starting at 10 p.m.  

— The editor

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 01:05

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Man who kicked roomate to death wants work release

LACONIA — A former local man who kicked one of his friends to death in May 2011 is seeking work release or a half-way house, according to a motion filed in Belknap County Superior Court.

Pleadings filed on behalf of Jason Durgin, 40, by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections said he has had no disciplinary record since he was sentenced to a single 3 1/2-to-7 year sentence for negligent homicide in June of 2012 for the May 2011 death of his house guest Leo LaPierre.

At the time of his sentencing, Durgin was credited with 406 days of pretrial confinement, and he will have served the minimum portion of his sentence in August 2014.

The state has asked for 30 days to file a reply, saying it asked the DOC for Durgin's records, but has yet to get them. The state also wanted a chance to speak with LaPierre's family.

The DOC said Durgin has completed a co-occurring disorders group and the Prison Classification Board believes the "likelihood of rehabilitation will be enhanced by participation in the work release program."

In May 2011, Laconia Police got a phone call from a trailer behind Quik Laundry and Cleaners for an unconscious man. The call was made by Tracy Hebert — one of two people living in Durgin's trailer.

Durgin and Hebert initially didn't come out of the trailer when police arrived and Hebert testified that Durgin had held her down in her bedroom and prevented her from answering the door. She also testified that Durgin had beaten and kicked LaPierre during an argument in the home but that she had gone back to her bedroom because she was afraid.

LaPierre, who had suffered severe head trauma, was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital and then transferred to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center where he died of his injuries. He never regained consciousness.

In December 2013, the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld Durgin's conviction. He had appealed it arguing that his defense team had been unable to present the alternative theory that someone else could have committed the crime, that one of the witnesses against him had unlawfully used his EBT card, and that judge refused to set aside the verdict.

The court ruled that Durgin's trial was a "classic" jury case in which the jury weighed the evidence, determined for itself the credibility of witnesses, and came to a just conclusion.

Asst. N.H. Attorney General Benjamin Agati prosecuted Durgin.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 01:34

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