CONCORD — Of the 18 members of the Belknap County House Delegation — all Republicans — 17 voted with the majority yesterday to amend the rules of the New Hampshire House of Representatives to allow representatives and visitors to carry, but not display, firearms in the chamber, anteroom, cloakrooms and gallery of the House. One was absent.
In 2010, the Republican majority lifted the longtime ban on deadly weapons only to have the Democratic majority reimpose it two years later. With the GOP again in the majority, the ban was lifted once more yesterday by a vote of 228 to 149 as the House divided along party lines.
The members of the county delegation voting with the majority were: Glen Aldrich, Russ Dumais and George of Gilford,'Dennis Fields and Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, Don Flanders, Peter Spanos, Bob Luther and Frank Tilton of Laconia, Valerie Fraser of New Hampton, Ray Howard and Peter Varney of Alton, Shari LeBreche and Michael Sylvia of Belmont, Dave Russell of Gilmanton and Herb Vadney of Meredith. Robert Fisher of Laconia was absent and did not vote.
Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 12:39
LACONIA — Charges against a Laconia man for aggravated felonious sexual assault and second degree assault have been dropped by the office of the Belknap County Attorney.
Fatmir Gasi, of 72 Batchelder St. was arrested on January 19, 2014 and indicted by a Belknap County grand jury in March of 2014. Gasi is an Albanian-speaking immigrant from Bosnia.
His attorney, Steve Mirkin, had filed a motion to suppress or exclude the evidence taken from Gasi's statements to police because it was clear that Gasi didn't understand enough English to understand his waiver of his Miranda rights.
In addition, the police didn't record the initial part of the interview when Gasi was allegedly having his rights explained to him. The tape only began with the arresting officer asking him if he he understood them.
The Belknap County Attorney's Office did not respond to Mirkin's motion but both of the charges were dropped sometime yesterday.
Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 12:36
GILMANTON — Selectmen have recommended 2-to-1 that the position of road agent be switched from an elected position to a position to be appointed by themselves.
An article to that effect will appear on the 2015 town warrant and will likely be discussed at the annual SB-2 deliberative session.
If the measure were to pass, the change to appointed road agent will take place in March of 2016.
Selectman Don Guarino voted against putting the warrant article on the ballot. He said he prefers to keep the road agent as an elected person and use the recently created Road Committee to provide direction to the road agent.
Guarino also said the selectmen have made a recommendation to commit $50,000 to have an independent contractor to come in and do some ditching.
"(Selectman) Brett (Currier) thinks that it's time to put it (highway department) only in control of selectmen," he said.
"We're doing this so we can have some say," said Currier, who said with an elected road agent there is no accountability but it's the selectmen who get the phone calls when someone is unhappy with their roads.
"We have to keep telling people that we have no control," Currier said.
"When the selectmen are taking the heat, they can at least take the heat back to the road agent," he said.
Long-time elected Road Agent Paul Perkins has easily survived the past three elections. In 2006 he defeated Israel Willard by a vote of 502 to 47. In 2009 he defeated Richard Emmons, who was also employed by the highway department but a vote of 391 to 42.
In 2012, Perkins defeated Tony Botten by a vote of 610 to 210 in an election that saw a 38-percent turnout largely attributed to the controversial funding for the Gilmanton Year-Round Library.
Perkins is up for re-election for another three-year term in March and as of yesterday hasn't decided if he will run again for a new term.
Perkins said he didn't want to say much about the warrant article other than he is "up in arms" and it "takes away the people's choice."
Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 12:30
LACONIA — The Planning Board this week unanimously endorsed a proposal to accelerate the acceptance of new, privately built city streets, which will be presented to a public hearing at the regularly scheduled meeting of the board on February. While loosening the current standard somewhat, the proposal still requires that 20 percent of the house lots on a street be built on and occupied before acceptance can be considered.
Until a roadway — constructed to serve a residential subdivision, for example — can be maintained and plowed by the city and its residents served by trash collection and school buses, it must be accepted as a city street. To be accepted as a city street, the roadway must be built to municipal standards.
The process begins with the Department of Public Works (DPW), which determines that streets are built to the required standards., then proceeds to the Planning Board. The Planning Board makes a recommendation to the City Council, which is vested with the authority to accept a street.
The current subdivision regulations prescribe that a newly built street must undergo a "performance observation period" of one year after the base pavement is laid before it can be accepted. During the year, the street goes through a complete cycle of freezing and thawing, which reveals any deficiencies in its construction, which can be corrected before its acceptance. At the same time, approximately half the house lots must be developed and occupied prior to acceptance to provide the tax base to support the extension of municipal services.
The proposal approved by the Planning Board would retain the 12-month "performance observation period" and require that certificates of occupancy be issued for 20 percent of the proposed homes on the roadway before the DPW could evaluate the street for acceptance. However, the board provided that a developer could expedite the process by retaining a third party inspector reporting to the DPW.
In November, the City Council asked the Planning Board to consider a plan to foreshorten the acceptance process by enabling a developer to forego the "performance observation period" as long as the roadway satisfied nearly a dozen other criteria specified by the city.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders told the board that she consulted with officials of Frankilin, Rochester, Dover, Belmont, Gilford, Meredith, Derry, Barrington and Bow and found most required a 12-month observation period. Only Franklin, she said, allowed a waiver. Both Meredith and Gilford required the development and occupancy of half the house lots prior to acceptance.
Planning Board member Hamilton McLean suggested that to expedite the process the observation period could be waived in return for posting a performance bond in an amount equivalent to the value of the road. He explained that if the road fails during the 12 months, the bond would defray the cost of repairs. If it fails after 12 months, he remarked "you're shot for a sheep or a lamb either way. Twelve months is an indicator, not a guarantee," he continued. It's just an option."
Saunders said that the city has found performance bonds a cumbersome means of providing performance surety, particularly if the bondholder operates in another state, and prefers to require escrow in the form of cash or letters of credit. At the same time, the board showed no interest in relaxing or foregoing the "performance observation period."
The board originally proposed requiring half the lots be developed and occupied prior to acceptance. But, Kevin Morrissette, the local developer who initiated the proposal to accelerate the acceptance process, said while he did not object to the 12-month observation period, the 50-percent threshold would undermine the effect of the proposal. He pointed out that vacant lots generated tax revenue for the city without imposing corresponding costs. As the lots are developed and their occupants receive services, the cost to the city rises, but at the same time the property values increase and with it the tax receipts to the city.
Morrissette said it could take four or five years to sell and develop half the lots in a subdivision, or even longer in a sluggish market. Early acceptance of the street, he explained, represents a selling point to potential homebuyers.
City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), who represents the council on the Planning Board, said "I'm not seeing any downside to eliminating the 50 percent." The requirement, he explained, effectively eliminates any opportunity to expedite the acceptance of the street. "It makes no sense to me," he remarked.
Saunders stressed that all the cities and towns she consulted required a share of the lots to be developed and occupied before acceptance and noted that the New Hampshire Municipal Association considered some threshold essential to ensure that residents of the street paid their fair share of the cost of the municipal services they enjoyed.
Although Bownes's motion to reduce the 50-percent threshold to 10 percent failed on a tie vote, Bill Contardo's motion to reduce it to 20 percent carried five-to-three.
NOTES: The city's Zoning Task Force will discuss a proposed zoning ordinance to regulate a medical marijuana dispensary when it meets on Thursday, February 15 at 11 a.m. at City Hall. Planning Director Shanna Saunders explained that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has invited requests for proposals to operate facilities in four geographic zones, one of which consists of Belknap, Strafford and Rockingham counties. She said that there was a small chance an applicant would seek to operate in Laconia, but she recalled that in 2008, when Metro Treatment of New Hampshire sought to operate a methadone clinic in the city, "we found ourselves behind the eight ball." Saunders said that DHHS has issued 70 pages of rules governing the ownership and operation of the facilities, but where and under what conditions such a facility could operate are questions for the city to address.
Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 12:18
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