NORTHFIELD — The Tilton-Northfield Fire Commission last night appointed Deputy Chief Michael Robinson Acting Chief and Captain Tim Joubert Acting Deputy Chief as of October 18, when Chief Brad Ober leaves the department to become deputy chief in Gilford.
The commissioners reached their decision at a special meeting convened to consider how to address the interim between the departure of Ober and the hiring of his successor. Captain Dave Hall told the commission that all members of the department discussed the situation and agreed that "every option in-house should be exhausted in the interim."
"I want Brad (Ober) back, but we can't have that," said Robinson, who added that every member of the department had urged the chief to stay. "Will I do it?" he continued. "Yes, on my terms and with inside help. It's got to be a team effort," he stressed, explaining that his full-time job occupied him from 5:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays and he owed time to "the new woman in my life," his granddaughter.
He also expected the commission would "move rapidly with a replacement.
Paul Auger of Northfield, who chairs the commission, said "we have other options," referring specifically to retired chiefs. "I'm not saying we go that way, but it's an option. You've (Robinson) made us an offer and it's a good offer."
The commission held a non-public meeting to discuss personnel issues and emerged after more than half an hour to announce the appointments of Robinson and Joubert. Hall told the commissioners that he appreciated their decision as well as the timeliness in which they made it. "There will be zero ripples in this water," he assured them. "It will be a seamless transition."
Earlier the commission accepted Ober's resignation and thanked him for his eight-and-a-half years of service with the department, after which he left the meeting.
After succeeding Steve Carrier in 2010, Ober became the second chief to leave the Titlon-Northfield Fire Department to become deputy chief in Gilford in the past three years. Both Carrier and Ober had trying relationships with the commission. Carrier found himself in the midst of a dispute between the two towns over the prospect of constructing a life-safety building to house the Tilton Police Department and elements of the Fire Department, which led the Northfield selectmen to force a vote to dissolve the fire district that was soundly rejected in 2010.
Ober's tenure was dogged by his difficulties in complying with the commission's requirement that he establish residency within the district. Unable to sell his home in New Hampton, he rented an apartment in Tilton on the eve of the deadline on January 2 to avoid the risk of dismissal. But, the issue lingered, emerging again in June when, according to minutes of a commissioner's meeting, Clark said that "people have complained the chief is coming in to work from up north on a regular basis" and he "invited them to come into talk about it." Clark said that without a formal complaint it would remain a "non-issue," but, echoed by Commissioner Les Dolecal, recommended monitoring the mileage on the chief's car.
Yesterday Pat Consentino, chair of the Tilton Board of Selectmen, reminded the commission that "under the regime of Pat Clark" the department had lost two chiefs and three firefighters as well as a commissioner, Tom Gallant, who resigned abruptly citing his differences with Clark.
"How much money, taxpayer money, are we going to spend before we realize this is a personal agenda?" Consentino asked. Again referring to the resignations, she said that "the common denominator is obvious." Hiring chiefs and firefighters, she noted, "costs a lot of money" and legal expenses in the Fire District budget, she noted, have more than tripled, from $5,000 to $16,000 since Clark joined the commission. "I'm just looking at the money," she remarked.
When Auger asked Judy Tilton, whose apartment Ober rented to establish residency in the district, she replied "you don't wanrt to hear what I have to say." Encouraged to speak, she said "you've systematically harassed Brad (Ober) to this point", then cut herself short.
"It happens all the time," Auger said of Ober's resignation, "whether it's here or there."
Clark said that the decision of the state to cease funding its share of pensions for firefighters severely strained the district's budget and conceded that the residency requirement was "a source of controversy, a big issue." Carrier's departure, he said "had nothing to do with me" while adding "is it fun to go through? No. It's lots of work."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 02:28
LACONIA — The Laconia School District is eying an additional interest-free federal loan for $1.8-million dollars that could be used for more renovations within the district's buildings.
The QZAB or Qualified Zone Academy Bond was the federal program that made $6.5 million available to the district for the Huot Regiona Technical Education Center expansion/renovation.
Business Administrator Ed Emond told the School Board's Budget and Personnel Committee last night that he was approached by the N.H. Department of Education about a month ago and told that no school districts had come forward to apply for the balance of the federal loan fund. The loan program is limited to inside upgrades and doesn't allow for new construction.
In order to qualify for QZAB, Emond said a school district needs three things — an "academy", a 10 percent local match, and a viable working collaborative with community partners. In Laconia's case, the district has already started a Wellness Academy and it has raised $1,050,000 in either money or in-kind donations from its community partners.
Emond said the 10 percent match for the first QZAB will take $650,000 of the million already raised, leaving $355,000 — $180,000 of which can be used for the 10 percent match for a new zero-interest loan.
The drawbacks, said Emond, are the payments on a new bond will add $78,260 per year in additional expenditures to the school district's bottom line for 23 years, which may or may not be viable under the city's property tax cap and self-imposed debt service restrictions.
The next step, said Emond, is to have the School Board Facilities Committee meet and set the priorities for any additional renovations.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Terri Forsten said she would be meeting with City Manager Scott Myers to assess what is possible and practical as far as the city and its other departments are concerned.
Like the QZAB grant that partially funded the Huot Center project, a new application for long-term debt, including QZAB, must be approved by the City Council — which may have other priorities for capital improvements and/or debt service in other city departments.
The other option is for the School District to stay within its existing budget by saving $78,000 annually from its operating budget.
Some of the ideas for renovations and upgrades floated at last night's Budget and Personnel meeting include ventilation and heat distribution at the high school, air conditioning in the high school library and auditorium and fire protection and a sprinkler system at the high school.
Emond said the Facilities Committee will be scheduling a meeting within the next two weeks so it can prioritize any suggested renovations and return to the next School Board meeting with a solid list for its consideration.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 02:22
LACONIA — The Police Department's community room has out of service since July, when it flunked an air quality test performed throughout the building.
The test was in response to some concerns, said Parks and Recreation Department Director Kevin Dunleavy, who administers the city's building maintenance effort.
Lt. Al Lessard said the community room, in the northwest corner of the building, was built on a cement slab that is near the water table level. Like many other buildings in New England, the extreme high amounts of humidity this past summer contributed to the bad poor test results.
"It was like Florida in New Hampshire," Lessard said when commenting yesterday on this past summer's humidity.
He said that when the police station was constructed about 10 years ago, it was not part of the then building codes to insulate the concrete, which this summer led to damp carpets and a few drooping ceiling tiles.
"Until we figure out what we need to do, we decided not to use the community room," Lessard said.
The Police Department community room is used by many different clubs and agencies in Laconia. All of the other spaces in the Police Department are secure and not routinely available for non-police use.
Lessard said that other spaces in the city, like those at the Laconia Public Library and in the Laconia City Hall have hosted the programs that traditionally use the community room.
The Laconia Police Commission typically meets in the community room. Since July, the commission has met in the City Council chambers as it will tomorrow at 3 p.m.
The Laconia Police Community Room was not the only victim of an unusually rainy and humid summer season. The agency with the most severe case of the "humidity blues" is the Winnisquam Regional Middle School that had to delay the start of school by two weeks. One wing of the three-wing school remains closed while the mold and humidity problems are fixed.
So far the city has spent about $6,000 diagnosing the problem in the Police Department and adjusting the the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to improve the air quality in the entire building said Dunleavy. The funds came from the department's building maintenance line.
Three-thousand dollars went to Rist-Frost, Shumway Engineering to diagnose the problem and so far, $3,000 has gone to Central Controls, the company the city uses for all its HVAC-related needs.
Dunleavy said the entire police building is prone to humidity challenges because of the high water table upon which it is built, but the community room is the only place where there was an acute problem.
"We're going to try and clean the rugs and the ceiling tiles," Dunleavy said. "If that doesn't work, we'll look at a different floor."
He said the police department may not know if the adjustments made to the HVAC system work until next spring and summer when the rain and humidity returns.
He said they'll retest the air as the weather cools and dries to determine if they'll use the community room throughout the winter.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 02:18
LACONIA — New Hampshire's first ever coffee festival held downtown on Saturday afternoon proved a big hit with the hundreds of people who turned out, as well as the coffee roastery vendors, who passed out thousands of samples of their special brands.
''We've been crazy busy. We're brewing non-stop to keep up with the lines,'' said Jessica Littlefield of Woodshed Roasting Company of Laconia, whose owner Brad Fitzgerald, said that he was more than pleased with the large turnout and the opportunity for coffee roasters from all over the state to introduce their coffee to the public.
''This is great for downtown Laconia. It's a wonderful atmosphere with all the stores open and the excitement in the street. They should do something like this once a month,'' said Debbie Welch of Meredith, who was sampling as many coffees as she could along with her friend, Carol Reale, also of Meredith.
Kevin Halligan, chef/owner of the Local Eatery restaurant, who was serving up sandwiches with thick slices coffee roasted steamship round of beef, which he had said took him 13 hours to roast, said it looked like he was going to use up the entire roast before the day was over.
''It's been a good day and a good experience for the people who have shown up. I'm sure this is going to be back again next year.''
John Morin of My Coffee House, had Jim Clark from Black Bear Roastery of Tuftonboro standing alongside him as he served up coffee and hand-made pastries.
Clark, who has been roasting coffee beans for about 15 years, is well-know nationally for his long-standing copyright battle with the coffee house giant Starbucks over his use of the name "Charbucks" for one of his roasts. Clark has won the copyright fight several times in U.S. District Court in New York City.
''This is a picture perfect day. We couldn't have asked for anything better and it's great to see Main Street so alive,'' said Morin.
Sam Delay and Kiley Sullivan of A&E Roastery of Amherst, which has been in business for 10 years and has won polls as the state's best roastery, were doing single cup pour-overs and were kept busy answering questions about their coffees and the best way to prepare them.
''It's an exciting day, lots of people and lots of fun things to do. A lot of the people here have never seen coffee prepared this way and it's been interesting to explain to them what we're doing and teach them new ways of enjoying coffee and bringing out the unique characteristics of different roasts,'' said Delay.
Brooke Sheeran Demers of D Squared Coffee of Exeter said that there was a state of panic at the start of the festival as the electrical power which had been extended up and down the street for the vendors blew out.
''We found our right away that it was a problem with an outlet and solved it real quick,'' said Randy Bullerwell of the Main Street Initiative, which organized the festival.
Main Street, between Hanover Street and Church Street was blocked off to vehicular traffic, during the festival.
Kevin Halligan of the Local Eatery slices a coffee roasted steamship round of beef at the New Hampshire Coffee Festival in Downtown Laconia Saturday. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 03:44
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- Truck stolen from stove store in Tilton found in Laconia
- Meredith selectmen all for fast-tracking safety improvements to 1/4-mile stretch of Rte. 104
- Proposed fee of $125 to keep chickens in Laconia challenged as too expensive
- Divided Alton School Board rejects Common Core
- Franklin man arrested for DWI was on parole for 1981 murder conviction