Meredith crematorium gets green light to continue operating

By BEA LEWIS. for The Laconia Daily Sun

MEREDITH — A judge has ruled a local funeral home can continue to offer cremation services as it operations have never been cited for violating air emissions or other regulatory standards.

Peter and Kelley Mayhew, who own and operate the funeral home of the same name at 204 Daniel Webster Highway had initially asked a judge to issue an injunction to stop a neighboring property owner from defaming
them.

Leslyee and Douglas Frederick, who ran the American Police Motorcycle Museum at 194 Daniel Webster Highway next door to the funeral home have voiced repeated public complaints at local meetings of selectmen, claiming the crematorium deposits ash on their property that they believe is the product of cremation.

In July, Judge Amy Ignatius denied they Mayhews' request to gag the Fredericks, finding there was no immediate danger of "irreparable harm to justify the extraordinary step of imposing a prior restraint on
speech."

The Fredericks, in turn, asked the court to either temporarily order the Mayhews to stop using the crematorium, or to prohibit them from using it between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The dispute appears poised to become a showdown between experts. Both sides have submitted reports to the court supporting their respective positions.

According to a report of an industrial toxicologist retained by the Fredericks, testing of a sample of a particulate matter that was allegedly discharged by the crematorium's chimney showed high levels of 19 heavy metals that pose a public health hazard.

A report authored by an expert retained by the Mayhews, however, concluded there were no malodorous emissions or particulates seen during observation of the crematorium in operation.

As neither report had been subject to cross examination, Judge Ignatius said she did not consider them in making her decision denying the Mayhews' request for an injunction.

"After a review of the evidence, the court finds that the (Fredericks) have failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits (of their case) at this time," the judge held.

As the suit continues towards trial, now scheduled to begin this spring, the judge said, the contents of the debris that is allegedly emitted from the crematorium "will be scrutinized."

"The court is not convinced at this stage of a need to compel a significant curtailment of the funeral home's operations," she wrote.

Meanwhile, attorney William Woodbury of Laconia, who represents the Fredericks and the museum, has withdrawn their claims for business related damages, including relocation costs.

The Mayhews had earlier requested that the Fredericks turn over the museum's federal tax returns from 2010-2015 as well as profit and loss statements and related financial records.

On Dec. 15, the court issued a conditional default against the defendants for failing to produce the records.

In asking that the business damage claims be dismissed, Woodbury wrote that action did not diminish the remaining claims that the museum was driven to involuntary closure as a result of the noxious conditions they allege are caused by the abutting crematorium.

A final pretrial hearing is now scheduled for March 30. A jury is to be selected on April 10.

01-11 Mayhew-museum

The Mayhew Funeral Home, right, sits next to what was the Motorcycle Musem in Meredith. The crematory's chimney is almost level with the museum, which closed after the owners said odors and ash from the crematory made operation impossible. (File photo)

Evidence presented in drug sale trial of Brian Watson

01-11 Brian Watson - Mark Sisti

 

Brian Watson, left, and his attorney, Mark Sisti, appeared in court Wednesday. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A detective from the Tilton Police Department spent much of his day Tuesday testifying about evidence obtained from the bedroom of a 21-year-old man who died from a fentanyl overdose in April of 2015, including two syringes with liquid found within the victim's reach that were not tested by the state lab.

Brian Watson, 52, formerly of Northfield, is accused of selling a lethal combination of drugs to Seth Tilton-Fogg sometime before his death on April 2, 2015. His body was found in his bedroom by his mother in the early morning hours of that day.

Police officer Noell Glenn said she was one of the first people on the scene, and she found three needles that were "pre-loaded" with liquid. Detective Bryan Kidd-Keeler found a fourth. All totaled, police said there were about a dozen syringes that were found in the room, but some of the empty ones were destroyed.

Police collected and the state lab tested one plastic bag of brown material and one plastic bag that wasn't tested. The lab was given was given two needles with liquid in them but they were not tested.

Kidd-Keeler described the bedroom as messy and photos showed that Tilton- Fogg was found slumped on his bed with a cell phone at his feet and a "cook spoon" near his body. Many of the syringes filled with something were found within his reach, either on a television stand or in a draw on the stand or under his bed. All but six were discarded.

A coroner was called and an autopsy done later that day determined he died of acute fentanyl poisoning. Kidd-Keeler testified that he and the coroner saw old track marks on Tilton-Fogg's wrists but the state's chief medical officer found a fresh needle mark on one of his ankles.

Under cross examination from Watson's attorney, Kidd-Keeler said he didn't know what was in the two needles with liquid that weren't tested and were introduced as defense exhibits. When asked if there were any cotton balls or cotton-tipped sticks used to filter solid materials out of the heroin/fentanyl, Kidd-Keeler said there wasn't.
Kidd-Keeler also said there was no way to know when Tilton-Fogg ingested the fatal dose of heroin and that there was no way to know when it came into his possession.

He also testified that police took the cell phone into evidence and unlocked it by taking it to the funeral home and using Tilton-Fogg's thumb to unlock it.

Kidd-Keeler testified that they were able to determine that one of Tilton-Fogg's more recent text messages had either come from or had been sent to Watson.

A number of experts in the cyber-technology and cell phone field explained to the jury how they can track text messages with an appropriate search warrant for 72 hours.

Under cross examination, Sisti asked Kidd-Keeler about another known drug dealer who had also been in contact with Tilton-Fogg.

Kidd-Keeler said police dropped their investigation into that man because Tilton-Fogg's most recent contacts had been with Watson.

"He was ruled out as a suspect because of someone who had more recent contact with him," said Kidd-Keeler.

The trial continues this morning (Thursday) at 9:30 a.m. in the Belknap County Superior Court.

Gilford school spending proposal trimmed by Budget Committee

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — Budget Committee members have decided they will not support the proposed School District budget for next year, nor will they support the proposed three-year teachers contract that will add $300,000 to the 2017-18 budget and $1.6 million in salary and compensation over the contract's three years.

The committee recommends that this year's School District's budget contain $25,725,629 for operations, plus an additional $178,065 representing the 2017-18 bond payment on the renovations to the Elementary School.

In a 6 to 3 vote, the Budget Committee approved the total of $25,903,624, which is $115,702 less that the School Board-approved budget and is also slightly less that the default budget of $25,872,000.

The rationale given by the members of the Budget Committee, led by Chairman Norman Silber, was the majority of the school budget is personnel issues and he cannot support a budget that has 10 of 12 administrators making more than $100,000 and 34 of 146 teachers earning a total compensation package of greater than that same $100,000 annually.

Arguing for his entire budget request and the approval of the proposed teachers contract, Superintendent Kirk Beitler said that only teachers with master's degrees and 10 years or more of service to the Gilford School District are earning that level of compensation. He said further that keeping senior teachers, who often mentor younger teachers, is the best way to continue to make Gilford schools successful.

In a separate action, the Budget Committee voted 5 to 4 to against the proposed teacher contract, repeating their contention that members would have liked the teachers to pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs, as opposed to the 10 percent to which they agreed during negotiations.

This year, the School District is operating under a default budget because the recommended budget was voted down at the March 2016 School District Meeting.

At the previous evening's School Board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business Scott Isabelle told the School Board that at the middle of the fiscal year the school budget was on track to finish in the positive. He said that the district so far was $450,000 to the plus on its insurance line, as the dental costs came in lower.

Isabelle added that the special education budget is ahead right now because one outplacement to a private school left the district and two other planned outplacements were able to be served within the district, which saved about $125,000 total in costs. He said there was a little deficit in the middle school summer program.

He said the building maintenance budget is tight largely because of the drainage problem discovered at the elementary school during the renovations. He also said two circulation pumps failed and need to be fixed. Ideally, said Isabelle, they should be replaced.

A Budget Committee public hearing will be held tonight (Thursday) at the Gilford High School Auditorium at 7 p.m. for both the Gilford Town Budget and the Gilford School Budget. The School Board will meet briefly after the public hearings have ended.

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