Jean ousted as head of Gilmanton selectboard


GILMANTON — In a second overthrow in as many years, two selectmen voted Monday to oust Michael Jean as chairman, installing Selectman Steve McWhinnie as the new chairman.

Jean was the one who engineered a similar take down of former chairman Don Guarino in 2015 after a screaming match between Guarino and former board member Rachel Hatch.

Jean said Tuesday that he will continue as selectman until his term ends in 2018.

According to Jean, the ongoing complaints made by Brett and Brenda Currier about the way the selectmen handle themselves and their accusations against Selectman Marshall Bishop and the Gilmanton Winery are behind the recent push.

Jean said that while he agrees that Bishop, who owns the Gilmanton Winery, has the necessary permits he needs from the state Department of Environment Services to continue operating his business, he still supports the Currier's rights to address the board about what they think are inconsistencies in Bishop's business.

"When they make appointments to appear on the agenda and stay within their allotted time, they should be allowed to speak," Jean said.

Jean said Marshall, who made the motion to oust him, was tired of being "beat up" in public by the Curriers, but Jean said he thinks getting tossed around a little bit is part of being a selectman and a publicly elected official.

Bishop said the reason he made the motion to oust Jean was not because he didn't like him but because "We need a person to make the meeting run smoothly."

"I had to think about this for a long time," said Bishop, who added that he thinks Jean is a smart man but thinks McWhinnie will make the meetings more productive.

He said he is trying to keep his personal opinions about the things the Curriers say publicly about his business to himself but that the "last two weeks have been pretty tough on me."

Bishop said he agrees that the Curriers or any residents should be allowed to address the board but says it should not be a rehash of old business and that it should be done respectfully.

When asked if he consulted with McWhinnie about Jean's ouster, he said he hadn't but had told McWhinnie he was very tired about a month ago.

"I have seven months left and then I'm done," he said, adding the selectmen are there to help the taxpayers, not the "groups of taxpayers."

Fatal crash - Northfield woman killed in head-on collision on Route 3


TILTON — A Northfield woman was killed in a head-on collision Monday at 4:40 p.m. after her car, headed east, collided with a westbound Ford F-450.

Police said Josephine Lepelley, 72, was trapped in her car and died from serious injuries sustained in the crash. She had two small dogs who were in the Dodge Caravan with her, which were later reunited with her family.

The truck was driven by Matthew Otto of Belmont. Police didn't say if he was injured in the crash.

Police said just prior to the crash, the Tilton Police received a call from On Star that came from E911 saying a vehicle was driving erratically in the eastbound lane and that it has just been in a collision near the Rodeway Inn.

The Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team responded and assisted the Tilton Police with their investigation, which is ongoing.

Route 3 between Laconia and Tilton was closed for a significant amount of time and all traffic was rerouted through Sanbornton.

Anyone who may have witnessed the crash or who has any information is asked to call the Tilton Police Department at 286-4442.

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The sun sets as rescue workers attend to a head-on collision on Route 3 in Tilton that claimed a Northfield woman's life. (Courtesy photo)


Fire ’N Stone catches fire

Tilton business damaged when truck snags power line


TILTON — A Route 3 business's showroom was seriously damaged by fire late Tuesday morning after a tractor trailer appeared to hit an electrical wire that sparked an attic fire.

Tilton-Northfield Fire Chief Michael Sitar said the fire at Fire 'n Stone on 539 Laconia Road in the Lochmere section of town causes extensive damage to the building, while the water used to fight it caused extensive damage to the ceiling and the showroom below.

"It caught the whole attic on fire," Sitar said. "The fire scene was very dangerous at first due to the live electrical wires arcing and the delivery truck being energized with live wires upon it. Eversource was able to cut power to the wires within about a 40-minute time frame from the initial crews arriving on scene."

Sitar said the tractor trailer "caught" the down wire, or the wire that runs between the pole and the building, and he thinks it arced and sparks set some of the insulation on fire.

He said the first responding truck was actually called to examine the area where the wire sparked near the building. He said Deputy Chief Timothy Joubert called Eversource to come to the scene but took the time to walk around the building and use a thermal imager that showed there was a fire in the attic.

He said there was nothing showing when the first truck arrived.

Sitar said firefighters had to cut a few holes in the roof of the building and also had to pull down the many of ceiling tiles to access the burning attic. Since there are no fire hydrants in that section of Lochmere, water was drafted from the Winnipesaukee River at the end of Church Street.

"The building is intact," he said, but added that the damage to the interior is extensive and it could be a while before they are able to reopen.

"This was a good stop," Sitar said. "That building could have completely burned down."

Sitar said the Tilton Police and the New Hampshire State Police were able to keep two-way traffic moving through the area, although one lane had to be closed for fire equipment.

Sitar estimates there were 25 firefighters from Tilton-Northfield, Belmont, Laconia and Franklin.

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Firefighters work to put out a fire in the attic space at Fire 'N Stone in Lochmere after a truck caught on a power line, creating sparks. (Courtesy photo)