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5 GOP candidates vying for 4 spots on Meredith & Gilford ballots for state rep

MEREDITH/GILFORD — With the retirement of two of the three incumbent Republicans representing District 2 (Meredith and Gilford) in the New House of Representatives, the GOP primary next week has drawn a field of five candidates vying for the four places on the general election ballot.

Reresentatives Colette Worsman and Bob Greemore, both of Meredith, chose not to seek re-election to a third term. Herb Vadney, also of Meredith who was elected in 2012, is the lone Republican in the district seeking re-election. He is joined in the primary by three candidates from Gilford — Glen Aldrich, Russ Dumais, George Hurt and John Hodson of Meredith.

Michael Hatch of Meredith, the first to file his candidacy, recently explained in a letter to local media that he entered the race to replace Worsman or Greemore and announced that "there are many other candidates on the ballot with more qualifications and experience than me." He said that while his name will appear on Tuesday's ballot, he wished the other candidates good luck and said he would support the winners of the primary.

Vadney was raised in Francestown, studied engineering at the University of New Hampshire and tended missiles in the United States Air Force for 27 years. During his first term in the House he compiled a voting record that earned him high marks from the House Republican Alliance and Americans for Prosperity, both conservative organizations.

"I wouldn't vote for anything that would jeopardize the state finances," Vadney said, explaining his opposition to the plan to extend health insurance to those without it. He also voted against raising the gas tax, explaining that the proceeds would be applied to purposes other than road construction and improvement. Although a former chairman of the Meredith Planning Board and commissioner of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, he voted for a bill to abolish regional planning commissions.

Vadney served on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee and is committed to developing alternative sources of energy from local materials like biomass. He said that limiting the role of government by reducing spending and easing regulation offered the best means of strengthening the economy, while conceding a shrinking workforce remains "a major problem."

Turning to the future of the county jail, Vadney said that "there is no question that something has to be done in the next two years." Skeptical of the plans pursued by the Belknap County Commission, he said that more analysis is required before deciding whether to renovate or build anew.

Hurt, founder of former Hurt & Forbes Insurance Agency of Laconia and a consultant since its sale in 2000, represented Gilford for two terms in the House from 1994 to 1998 and ran unsuccessfully for the New Hampshire Senate in 2010, losing the primary to Jim Forsythe of Stratford. He also served on the state Board of Education, Post Secondary Education Commission and Judicial Conduct Commission.

Hurt emphasized that he is opposed to a personal income or general sales tax as well as any infringement of the right to bear arms. A strong advocate for a return to biennial sessions of the Legislature, suggesting that annual sessions of six months would save about $15 million, which could be added to the "rainy day fund" to improve the state's bond rating. He also intends to join Senators Chuck Morse (R-Salem) and Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) in seeking to ensure revenues from the gas tax are applied solely to roads and bridges. At the same time, he opposed the recent increase in the gas tax. He favors lowering business taxes and offering businesses incentives to promote economic growth.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Hurt said with respect to the Belknap County Jail. He suggested improving and maintaining the existing facility and adding a building to house additional inmates and women prisoners. "We can do this," he declared, stressing that any plan must be affordable to the county taxpayers.

Dumais, who owns and operates the Airport Country Store & Deli in Gilford, has long been engaged in local government, serving three terms as a selectman in Gilford and sitting on the Laconia Airport Authority for 23 years. He also served for eight years on the Water Supply and Pollution Control Commission, the forerunner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. "I'm not happy with what's going on," he said. "You need a permit for anything and everything. Government is too big, too cumbersome and too unresponsive."

Making his first bid for a state elective office, Dumais stressed his experience rather than his positions. "I'm a very sensible person," he said. "I only come to conclusions after doing my homework. That's what you have to do when you hold a public office," he continued, "look at every fact and try to come up with a sound conclusion. It's not brain surgery. It's common sense."

Dumais admitted "I don't know enough about the county jail to take a position, but I intend to delve into it." He described the $42-million figure being tossed about as "a big ticket," cautioning that "the jail shouldn't be a place where people want to be." Alluding to the tensions that have divided the Belknap County Convention and Belknap County Commission, Dumais said that "the dust has to settle" before progressing toward a solution.

Aldrich, the third candidate from Gilford, is a small building contractor who moved to New Hampshire from South Carolina four-and-a-half years ago. This is his first run for office. Describing himself as "very conservative," he said that he had no intention of entering the race, but "the final straw was the gas tax. It's not just the four cents at the pump," he continued, "it's at the grocery store, the hardware store, the drugstore and everywhere else." He is also troubled that "a third of the revenue is siphoned off and should be put back."

Aldrich too believes that lower taxes and relaxed regulation will encourage local businesses to expand as well as attract companies to move or open operations in the state. Excessive regulation, he said, discourages entrepreneurs and stifles competition, which are essential to to a strong economy.

Hodson grew up in Meredith, graduated from the University of New Hampshire then embarked on an academic career on the other side of the country, earning his Masters degree at the University of Alaska and doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. A biochemist, he turned to computer science in San Francisco before returning to Longridge Farm in Meredith in the 1970s. "My father needed me," he said.

"I've been a moderate Republican all my life," Hodson said. He noted that he originally decided to run because of the conflict between the convention and the commission in Belknap County. "The Tea Party got control and really made a mess," he remarked. "Things really fell apart."

Hodson , who has farmed in Meredith for more than four decades, has been involved with the Belknap County Conservation District and New Hampshire Farm Bureau for almost all that time and also served on Lakes Region Planning Commission and Lakes Region Conservation Trust, each for more than a decade. In the House he said he would expect to serve on the Environment and Agriculture Committee, before which he has often testified,

Hodson confessed "I'm not an expert on jail construction," but ventured that the plan proposed by Ricci Greene Associates is "unaffordable." He said that "something can be done for much less that would bring the jail up to standard and provide the programs to reduce recidivism. "

The primary election is on Tuesday, September 9. The four top Republican vote getters will face Democrats Lisa DiMartino, Nancy Frost and Dorothy Piquado of Gilford and Sanra Mucci of Meredith in the general election on November 4.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 September 2014 02:05

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Laconia schools will pay half the cost of reconstructing half-circle drive at LHS

LACONIA — As part of the Union Avenue reconstruction project, the city has offered to pay one-half of the expenses involved in replacing the half-circle school bus drop-off lane in front of the High School.

Business Administrator Ed Emond told the School Board's Budget and Personnel Committee Tuesday night that the estimated cost of redoing the half-circle — which includes widening it and rebuilding the curbs on the sidewalk portion — is between $35,000 and $40,000.

He recommended spending between $15,000 to $20,000 from the School District's contingency fund.

Committee Chair Scott Vachon said he was a little confused because he thought the city had agreed to fix at its own cost whatever damage was done during the course of the roadway construction.

Emond said that was true. However, he noted that the curbs along the side walk portion have crumbled over time and have been beveled. He added that the semi-circle is not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

Committee member Joe Cormier said he thought a student had fallen getting of a school bus within the past few years and had suffered a broken leg.

Committee members said that since it appears the semi-circle needs repairing to become ADA compliant and with the city's help they can get half of it paid for, then it makes sense to do it and do it properly.

However, all decided that the district should wait until the engineering is complete before committing the money to the project.

Emond said he should have more information for the next meeting.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:28

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Laconia schools will pay half the cost of reconstructing half-circle drive at LHS

LACONIA — As part of the Union Avenue reconstruction project, the city has offered to pay one-half of the expenses involved in replacing the half-circle school bus drop-off lane in front of the High School.

Business Administrator Ed Emond told the School Board's Budget and Personnel Committee Tuesday night that the estimated cost of redoing the half-circle — which includes widening it and rebuilding the curbs on the sidewalk portion — is between $35,000 and $40,000.

He recommended spending between $15,000 to $20,000 from the School District's contingency fund.

Committee Chair Scott Vachon said he was a little confused because he thought the city had agreed to fix at its own cost whatever damage was done during the course of the roadway construction.

Emond said that was true. However, he noted that the curbs along the side walk portion have crumbled over time and have been beveled. He added that the semi-circle is not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

Committee member Joe Cormier said he thought a student had fallen getting of a school bus within the past few years and had suffered a broken leg.

Committee members said that since it appears the semi-circle needs repairing to become ADA compliant and with the city's help they can get half of it paid for, then it makes sense to do it and do it properly.

However, all decided that the district should wait until the engineering is complete before committing the money to the project.

Emond said he should have more information for the next meeting.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:28

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Gilford argues officer lawfully ordered Baer to leave school board meeting

GILFORD — In his response to a motion to dismiss three counts against a local man who was arrested during a May School Board meeting, Town Prosecutor Eric Bredbury said Friday that a school board meeting is not an opportunity for a "heated discussion" but rather a chance for those interested in school business to make a brief statements about policy.

In Gilford's case, each person is allowed, by board policy, two minutes to speak their mind.

Bredbury wrote the monthly school board meeting is a business meetings and not an open air political forum and that the stated business of the board would not have continued unless Lt. James Leach removed William Baer, who he said was disrupting the meeting.

Baer's attorney, Mark Sisti argued that the meeting continued and two more residents spoke while Leach was encouraging Baer's to leave. Sisti noted the interruption lasted 27 seconds.

Sisti, had argued that the three charges faced by Baer — two counts of breach of the peace and one count of disobeying a police officer — are unlawful because they violated his client's constitutional rights to speak his mind at a public forum.

Baer was a short-lived media sensation after his arrest for speaking out against the mandatory reading of N.H. author Jodi Picoult's novel "19 Minutes." Baer's daughter was reading the book as part of a class assignment for her freshman honors English class.

In general, the book described the prelude and aftermath of a school shooting in a fictitious New England town. Specifically, Baer objected to a passage that he described as pornographic that graphically describes a rape scene between the book's two youthful protagonists.

When he verbally interrupted another town resident who was speaking at the meeting, Bredbury said the School Board Chair Sue Allen and Superintendent Kent Hemingway motioned to Leach using head nods that Leach apparently interpreted as a request from them to escort Baer out of the room.

Although Allen continually ordered Baer to "desist" or stop talking, she never verbally requested Leach to remove him.

Baer said aloud, "Why don't you have me arrested? Why don't we do that as a civics lesson?" when Leach approached his seat.

Bredbury said Baer disobeyed a legal order from a police officer to leave the meeting. Sisti argues Baer was under no obligation to obey an illegal order from the police because he was in a public forum held specifically to discuss the book.

As to Sisti second argument that Allen was not the "moderator" of the meeting, Bredbury responded that she was the chair of the School Board and empowered to keep order during the meeting at her discretion.

Judge Jim Carroll is reviewing the motions and will be issuing a ruling.

Should the case not survive Sisti's motion to dismiss, presumably it will go to trial.

All three charges faced by Baer are Class B misdemeanors and there is no possibility of incarceration.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:22

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