Snowmobilers hope to change minds on trail closure plan


TAMWORTH — The president of the Ossipee Valley Snowmobile Club is still hopeful that a landowner who is closing her property to snowmobiles at the end of the current season will reconsider her actions.
“The future of the snowmobile trail system is up in the air. We’d like to see an agreement reached which is agreeable to both parties,” said George Kaye.
He said that ever since the club was informed by letter in July of the pending trail closure, he has been hopeful that direct discussions could lead to a solution that would keep the trails open.
He also objected strongly to statements made by a spokesperson for the landowner regarding the conduct of snowmobilers on her property.
“At no time in the past has the OVSC received any complaints from landowners regarding off-trail riding, trespassing, or otherwise abusing the rights of landowners.
“We have certainly never been informed of anyone ‘peering into windows’ or intruding on anyone’s privacy. In fact, the vast majority of our trails wind through wooded areas and does not encroach on anyone’s residence. We have also not seen any trash of any kind being left on trails. We strive to maintain a good relationship with our landowners, and would expect to be informed by them directly if there were any incidents, and not by a third party. Yet, we have not received even one complaint,” Kaye said.
In an article published in the Feb. 16 Laconia Daily Sun, Alex Moot, president of the Chocorua Lake Conservancy, said one of the reasons for closing the trails was that “the property owners have been experiencing increasing problems with snowmobile users on their property straying off the trails, leaving trash behind, peering into the windows of their house, and intruding upon their family’s privacy in various ways.”
Moot made the comments in response to an earlier article in The Laconia Daily Sun on Feb. 7 that said that the closing of the trail could lead to the end of sled dog races starting on Lake Chocorua.
He said that the landowner, who wished to remain anonymous, is a strong supporter of sled dog races and is working on arrangements with the Tamworth Outing Club for sled dogs to be able to use the trails and local snowmobilers to be able to groom them in preparation for the race.
Kaye said that the 500-member snowmobile club is responsible for maintaining 60 miles of trails and that the closure of a section of the Corridor 19 trail has cut the trail in half, with the club’s grooming equipment at White Lake Park unable to directly access the rest of the trail.
He also said that removal of the trail from the New Hampshire Trails Bureau map has a consequence of removing the liability insurance coverage provided through the state, making it unlikely that local snowmobile club members would be working on or grooming the trail.
“Volunteers from the club work throughout the year to clear brush and otherwise maintain the trails, which are then available for year-round use.  In the winter, the club grooms the trails for use not only by snowmobilers, but also by snow-shoers, hikers, cross-country skiers, and, of course, dog sleds,” Kaye said.
He said that the cub groomed the trail for the local sled dog race last weekend but he is not sure if trail conditions will hold up for this weekend’s New England Sled Dog Club race which will be held Saturday and Sunday, conditions permitting, starting each day on Lake Chocorua.


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Three alternatives for Belknap County spending to be presented tonight


LACONIA — The Belknap County Delegation, which unanimously rejected the Belknap County Commission’s proposed $29 million budget on Jan. 22, will be looking at three alternative options proposed by legislators when it meets today at 7 p.m. at the Belknap County Complex.
The alternative budgets, from Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont), Rep. Marc Abear (R-Meredith) and Rep. Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton), were first presented to the delegation on Jan. 29, when legislators met for a public hearing on the budget.
Sylvia’s budget calls for almost $28 million in spending, about $1.3 million lower than proposed by the commission, but 3.7 percent more than the current-year budget. It would use $1 million from the fund balance to reduce the amount to be raised by property taxes to $14.38 million, nearly $3 million less than proposed by the commission.
Abear’s budget would see almost $28 million in spending, an increase of $1 million from 2017 spending, with $14,920,000 raised from taxes. He also projects using $1 million in fund balance.
Lang’s proposed budget would see spending set at $28 million, which is based on previous spending with some increases for a grant-funded second victim witness advocate in the County Attorney’s office. It calls for $15 million raised through taxes with $750,000 of the fund balance used to reduce taxes.
Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray said that, of the three budgets, only Lang’s would provide enough funding to keep the CORE program at the Belknap County Community Corrections Center in place.
The program, which emphasizes treatment rather than incarceration for prisoners with drug dependency problems, was strongly supported at a public hearing on the budget.
Gray said the CORE program is modeled on one in Sullivan County, which he said is very successful and has reduced drug deaths and drug overdoses to the lowest per capita level in the state.
He also said the cuts to part-time and overtime wages in the Sylvia and Abear budgets would lead to staffing shortages and that none of the proposals adequately funds grant programs.
Nursing Home Director Shelley Richardson said that the Sylvia and Abear budgets do not provide adequate staffing levels in the nursing department, nor fund adequate training for the entire department.
Cuts to the Sheriff’s Department would eliminate an additional dispatcher position and would result in the layoff of a part-time deputy. None of the three proposals would fund the four replacement cruisers, as the increased funding in that budget line would be needed to cover other shortfalls.
Belknap County Commissioners say none of the three proposed alternatives to their proposed $29 million budget provides adequate funds to maintain essential county services.
County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that some of the cuts legislators have proposed for the commission budget would result in staffing shortages in the Corrections Department, Nursing Home and Sheriff’s Department.
He also said that some of the proposed cuts for contracted services don’t make sense. The contract for information technology, for instance, requires a set payment, and funds would need to be transferred from other budget lines or departments to preserve the service.
The delegation decided to post the three alternative budgets on the county website so the public could view them before tonight’s budget meeting.
It also will hear directly from department heads about the impact of the proposed budget cuts.


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Meredith gun protest

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A group of people came out in support of gun control on Saturday in Meredith. (Courtesy photos)

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