Room for Lila at Meredith beach?

Selectman wants to review policy after disabled girl couldn’t use floatation device

MEREDITH — Selectman Ray Moritz stands by municipal lifeguards’ decision to turn away a disabled child wishing to use a flotation device at the public beach, but he said he will pursue the matter to see what the town might do to accommodate those with disabilities.
“This issue has never come up before with a disabled person,” he said.
The child’s mother, Melissa DeLeon, complained in a letter to the editor of the Laconia Daily Sun that the lifeguards would not allow her to use the Otteroo float she had purchased to allow Lila, who is nearly 3 years old and has cerebral palsy, to enter the water. The float circles the child’s head, keeping it above the water.
“She is beginning to become heavy,” DeLeon wrote, “so holding her in the water is impractical and doesn’t allow her to be independent.”
Cerebral palsy has left Lila without the ability to walk, sit, or eat independently, DeLeon said, adding that she explained the problem to the lifeguards, but they would not make an exception to the rule prohibiting floats. They said that, if they did, they then would have to let other children use floats, as well.
Moritz said, “I can understand the position the lifeguard took and has to take. It’s the town’s rules, and I wouldn’t want lifeguards inventing their own rules or making exceptions without them being given some guidelines, so I don’t fault the lifeguard in any way.”
DeLeon questioned the rule prohibiting floats, saying, “I would worry about any child in the water. It’s more of a safety issue. We were there with her, but the fact that she cannot support herself is a problem. It’s very necessary.”
Moritz said the rule prohibiting flotation devices is not uncommon among municipalities.
“Most are inflated toys and the conventional wisdom, including from sources such as the Red Cross and the Coast Guard, is that they present more of a hazard than not having them at all,” he said. “It’s fairly common that these are banned.”
He said some places make exceptions for U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices.
“On the surface, it makes a lot of sense,” he said, “but it requires lifeguards to read labels and make sure they’re certified, and particularly on busy weeks in the summer, we don’t want them paying more attention to what kind of life jacket it is and not be watching the people in the water.”
He said the town has received complaints about the ban from other parents who want to use water wings and other flotation devices, but the concern is that they relieve the parent of some of the burden of watching children they think are safe.
“I think it’s a good rule, but I do think we should explore an exception for the disabled,” Moritz said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires public accommodation for those with disabilities, but Moritz said he has been unable to find any reference to flotation devices at public beaches. “They’re silent on this as far as I can tell,” he said, adding that there was consideration of a requirement for pools to provide lifts to assist in getting people in and out, but he didn’t know if that regulation was ever passed.
“I intend to at least pursue this with our director of parks and rec, to have him look at the issue and see if perhaps an exception for disabled people would be appropriate,” Moritz said, “and what the pros and cons would be.”
Upon learning of his response, DeLeon said she can understand the concern about floating toys, but she said the neck float is not a toy.
“I just feel, in Lila’s case, this is the best thing for her,” DeLeon said. “If she wiggles out of my arms, she’s gone under. It’s really just a safety thing.
“I want to be able to go to the beach with her and have a good time and do what our pediatrician would recommend.”

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Melissa DeLeon of Meredith is disputing a rule prohibiting flotation devices at the public beach, arguing that her 3-year-old daughter, Lila, shown, is safer with a floatie due to her cerebral palsy. (Courtesy photo)

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
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Paving begins on Route 106

08 10 Belmont 106 road work 4 Karen B

The paving crew began putting down the base layer on Route 106 yesterday morning.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

 Project expected to take four weeks

BELMONT — A road project that includes pavement rehabilitation, bridge decking and intersection safety improvements moved into a new phase on Wednesday with the application of a base layer on the south end of the work zone on Route 106.
Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) toured the project yesterday with Paul Busby of Busby Construction Co., Inc., of Atkinson, the general manager of the project, and Larry Major of Pike Industries, which is supplying the aggregate and paving material.
The project, which was part of the state’s 10-Year Highway Plan, got underway in June 2016, with federal and state funding. Revenue from the state’s four-cent gasoline tax increase accelerated the project, and Sylvia, who did not favor the tax, acknowledged that the gas tax is probably the best option for funding such infrastructure improvements.
As vehicles have become more fuel efficient, gas tax revenues, which fund both highway improvements and the Department of Safety, have declined. To make up for the shortfall, legislators have discussed special assessments for electric and hybrid vehicles which use less – if any – gas but still utilize state highways.
Opponents of the targeted assessments point out that those vehicles tend to be lighter and cause less damage to roads that the larger gas-guzzling vehicles. As the owner of a Toyota Prius, Sylvia also did not favor that approach to raising the revenue for highway improvements.
He said he would like to see all gas tax revenue going for infrastructure improvements and have the Department of Safety operate from a separate funding source.
“I only have to convince the other 399 members of the House,” he said.
Busby said the project, which includes part of the Laconia Bypass as well as a section of Route 106, involves six miles of pavement rehabilitation and deck repairs to three bridges. Up to this point, the company has been doing preparatory work, including upgraded drainage and cutting back the slopes to allow for widening the highway. Some utility poles also had be relocated as part of the project.
Roadway prep work included grinding down the old pavement and mixing the material with gravel for a new foundation. Busby explained that the pieces of old pavement provide a denser mix which, when packed down, is almost as firm as the road surface will be.
R.M. Piper, Inc., of Plymouth is handling the bridge work, which consists of deck repairs and painting the underside of the bridges on the bypass. Busby said the bridges were fine structurally and just needed new decks.
Wolcott Construction, Inc., of Gilmanton is handling the paving, which consists of a base layer and then a thinner top layer. The paving will take approximately four weeks to complete.
CWS Fence and Guardrail of Andover is providing the guardrails needed for the project.
The project is running pretty much on schedule, Busby said, noting that there were a few bad-weather days, but by working some Saturdays, they were able to make up for lost time.
Heavy traffic has complicated the job but he said they have mostly been able to maintain traffic flow.
“Hopefully, the end product they’ll be happy with,” he said.
Sylvia asked whether government regulations had been a problem, but both Busby and Major said the permitting, while it took a while, had been completed prior to starting the job. Busby said they did need to seek some routine federal stormwater permits during the project, but they did not hamper the job.


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Speed limits were reduced through Belmont on Route 106 as paving crews worked yesterday morning.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


  • Written by Tom Caldwell
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Jail finally gets funding

County also approves Sheriff, nursing home request


LACONIA — The Belknap County Delegation has approved funding for four corrections officers, assuring that the 18,1000-square-foot, 72-bed Community Corrections Center will be able to open this year.
The delegation approved three supplemental appropriation requests totaling $256,852 when it met Tuesday night, with all of the money coming from the county’s fund balance, rather than increased taxes.
Approved were $95,000 for the Corrections Department, $26,000 for the Sheriff’s Department and $135,852 for the Health and Human Services budget, which pays for private nursing home care for county residents.
Belknap County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) thanked the legislators for their action, particularly with regard to the Corrections Department, saying that it ensures that the $8 million Community Corrections Center will be able to open with sufficient staffing and that legislators “can all take a victory lap.”
Commissioners had delayed work on the project due to uncertainty over whether or not the delegation would approve funding for the four corrections officers Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray deemed essential for security of the staff and inmates. Three weeks ago they authorized Gray to hire the new officers, even though they were not assured that the additional funds would be forthcoming.
Following the vote, both Gray and Belknap County Sheriff Mike Moyer thanked the delegation for approving the additional funds.
Key to overturning a 7-7 vote on May 22, in which a larger supplemental appropriation request for the two departments was defeated, were switches in votes by Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) and Delegation Clerk Marc Abear (R-Meredith).
The Corrections Department’s request, which was reduced from the May 22 request by $41,500, passed 9-5. Also supporting the increase were Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), Rep. Donald Flanders (R-Laconia), Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia), Rep. Peter Varney (R-Alton), Rep. Peter Spanos (R-Laconia), Rep. Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton) and Rep. John Plummer (R-Belmont)
Opposing the request were Rep. Glen Aldrich (R-Gilford), Rep. Barbara Comtois (R-Barnstead), Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton), Rep. Norman Silber (R-Gilford) and Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont).
The $26,000 appropriation for the Sheriff’s Department passed 13-1 with only Sylvia opposed, and the Health and Human Services request passed 11-3 with Sylvia, Silber and Howard opposed.
Both Sylvia and Howard maintained that there was enough money in the budget passed by the delegation in order for the corrections officers to be hired without a supplemental appropriation.
Belknap County Commissioner Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton) said that while taxes won’t increase this year, the result of the delegation’s action is to create a $2.2 million problem next year due to the decline in the fund balance, which has been used in recent years to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes.
“We’re kicking a bigger can down the road, which will come back to bite us all,” said Waring. It is projected that only $500,000 will be available to reduce county taxes next year. The additional funds approved Tuesday night raise the amount to be be used to reduce taxes in this year’s $27.487 million budget to just over $1.9 million.
The impact of the additional spending will further reduce the projected $984,826 in the fund balance at the end of 2017, which is a sharp drop from the $3,169,081 balance at the beginning of 2017.
Newly appointed Belknap County Attorney Andrew Livernois expressed his support for the supplemental appropriation for the Corrections Department, saying that it was very important to get the new center open and provide more programs for people dealing with drug abuse problems.
He said that other counties in the state have had seen major reductions in their jail populations due to the success of programs like those which will be offered at the center, which is now slated to open in late October.
A grand opening ceremony for the Community Corrections Center is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Aug. 17.
Gray said work will start on the second phase of the project, which entails work on the current jail, next week. The gymnasium area, which currently houses female inmates, will be closed and serve as a staging area for renovations to the jail. He said some female inmates and a few male inmates will be transferred temporarily to Carroll County, which is charging $10 a day, which is basically what it costs to feed them. He expects those inmates to be returned after Labor Day weekend, when the training will have been completed for the new control center and staff will be working in the new corrections center.

  • Written by Roger Amsden
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