New jail is finished but commissioners won't open it without more staff

LACONIA — The new Belknap County Community Corrections Center has a certificate of occupancy but is not yet holding any inmates.
That's because of a disagreement between Belknap County Commissioners and the Belknap County Delegation over the hiring of four new corrections officers.
Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray says that the center can't be operated safely without the four new officers. He has the support of the three commissioners, who last week renewed their request for a $136,500 supplemental appropriation to pay for the officers.
The delegation, which rejected that request on May 22 when a motion to approve a $229,500 supplemental appropriation, which also included $93,000 for the Sheriffs Department, was rejected on a 7-7 tie vote, has not yet scheduled a meeting to reconsider its vote.
Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) said that he will look at holding a meeting by Aug. 10 on the transfer request but is not sure that the votes are there to overturn it.
Several members of the delegation have said that there's enough money in the $27.487 million county budget for the commissioners to find the money to hire the officers without a supplemental appropriation. But commissioners say there isn't, as is shown by the request for another supplemental appropriation of $135,000 for the Health and Human Services budget that was presented to the delegation last week.
Plans called for the $8 million, 72-bed, 18,100-square-foot Community Corrections Center to open in September with the hiring of the new officers to start on July 1. But the opening is contingent on work being completed to the existing jail, which isn't taking place because the work requires that some inmates be transferred to the new corrections center to open up areas of the old jail to construction workers.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that the commission is up against the wall when it comes to being able to open the center on time. He has previously said that the drop dead date for being able to start construction activity in the old jail is Aug. 15.
“We only have about two weeks in order to get this resolved,” said DeVoy.
He said that in the absence of action from the delegation the commissioners will be faced with two options when they meet Thursday afternoon at 5:15 p.m., either approving the hiring of the four officers or approving opening the corrections center without the officers and transferring a substantial number of inmates to other county jails in the state.
Two weeks ago Gray presented an analysis of jail construction alternatives which would allow construction to proceed to its final phase in which parts of the existing jail would be renovated and some parts discontinued.
He said that the county would have three options, hiring four new corrections officers at a yearly cost of $296,550, moving all sentenced inmates to another facility at an annual cost of $1,076,400 or moving all pre-trial defendants to other facilities at an annual cost of $972,900.
The last option would increase the burden of transporting prisoners on the Belknap County Sheriff's Department, which would see its travel time per month increase from 23 hours to 276 hours.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he would support approving the hiring of the additional four corrections officers as the most reasonable and least costly solution for the county, even without delegation approval.
If the delegation doesn't approve those funds, Taylor says it is clear that prisoners should be transferred out of the county.
“The delegation has a responsibility to properly fund those things which the county has a statutory obligation to provide. And that is very clear when it comes to prison inmates. We either provide for them or ship them to another county and pay for them. I am sure that a court would agree with that decision if we went that route. Frankly, it's a lot cheaper to hire the officers and get on with the project,” said Taylor.



Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray holds a certificate of occupancy for the new Belknap County Community Corrections Center, which has been completed but is still not occupied due, commissioner say, to lack of funding for staff. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)

  • Written by Roger Amsden
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Morrill Street reconstruction project almost complete

Morrill Street project nearing completion



GILFORD — The rebuilding of Morrill Street should be essentially complete by the end of the week, according to Gilford Public Works Director Peter Nourse.

The complete reconstruction of the road got underway two weeks ago, with the highway crew going down eight inches and placing structural stone where there have been water problems in the past. This will be the first time the road has had under-drainage, Nourse said, which should alleviate the problems that have plagued that road.

The paving and ditch work should be completed by Friday, leaving only some cleanup to be done next week, Nourse said.

The project is included as part of the town’s paving budget for this year, and covers the area from the routes 3-11 overpass to Stark Street. That section of the road has been closed while the work was in progress.


  • Written by Tom Caldwell
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Gov. Sununu & Executive Council to hold regular meeting at Funspot today

LACONIA — Gov. Chris Sununu and the Executive Council will meet at the Funspot Family Entertainment Center at the Weirs from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday and will recognize several local people.

Each year, the council takes its meeting on the road in the summer to each councilor's district.

District 1 Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney is hosting this meeting in the Lakes Region.

“This year, the Governor and Council will be recognizing four individuals: the matriarch of the Naswa, Hope Makris, for her contributions to the business and veteran communities; Peter S. Karagianis, a long-time local businessman and civic leader will be recognized posthumously, being represented by his family; Robert Lawton of Laconia, owner and patriarch of the Funspot who has helped create the world’s largest arcade with his family for the enjoyment of all families; and Melissa Fifield of Wakefield who is New Hampshire’s only female NASCAR driver on the Whelen Modified Tour and public service announcement presenter for the New Hampshire Department of Safety,” Kenney said.

“Additionally, the first responders of Wolfeboro, Moultonborough and Tuftonboro will be recognized for their cleanup efforts from the March storm of this year.”

He also said Father Marc Drouin of the St. Andre Bassette Parish in Laconia will give the opening prayer and Hallie Day, of Pittsburg, New Hampshire, a former American Idol Contestant, will be “a musical guest.”

In its regular meeting, the governor and council will review more than 120 contracts and preside over nominations and confirmations of various boards and commissions.

  • Written by Rick Green
  • Category: Local News
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