Sunday fire leaves Laconia family temporarily homeless

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A fire caused by teenaged boys smoking in the attic caused about $50,000 in damage to a home on Old North Main Street Sunday around 5 p.m.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said the boys, who were about 16 years old, had left the three-story house and later noticed some smoke coming from the attic. One of the boys ran back into the house and took a little girl who was on the first floor to safety.

The children's mother had just left for work, but returned immediately after her son called her. She stayed in her car with the young girl while firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Erickson said the there was a lot of fire in the attic but because it was unfinished, it was extinguished fairly quickly. He said most of the damage to the rest of the house, primarily on the second floor, was from the water used to put out the fire.

"Even though there was a significant amount of fire, not all of the water we use turns to steam," she said.

Erickson said there were multiple phone calls initially made to the 9-1-1, so the lieutenant in charge called immediately for a first alarm that brought crews from Gilford and Belmont to the scene.

He said when Assistant Chief Kirk Beattie arrived, he called for a second alarm when he saw the size and age of the home, but most of those departments were canceled immediately. Meredith firefighters stayed to assist.

Erickson said it took a long time to overhaul the attic and make sure the fire was completely extinguished.

He said the family was assisted Sunday night by the New Hampshire Red Cross but is insured. There were no injuries.

06-06 attic fire

Boys smoking in the attic of this home at 1420 N. Main St. accidentally caused a fire Sunday. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

Belknap County considers overseer for inmate workers at county nursing home

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Belknap County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) has proposed hiring an additional employee for the Belknap County Department of Corrections whose primary responsibility would be to oversee inmates who work in the kitchen at the Belknap County Nursing Home.
DeVoy made the proposal at Friday's meeting of Belknap County Commissioners saying that he was "concerned about the path we're being led down to hire more full-time employees to work in the kitchen at the county home."
Last month commissioners approved hiring four part-time workers for the county home kitchen after receiving a report that the use of inmate labor as dishwashers in the kitchen is not working out well.
Carolee Sliker, dietary manager at the nursing home, said at that meeting that a pilot program in which inmates are being paid $3 a day for work in the kitchen has seen "a parade of inmates coming through the kitchen who have behavior issues and do not want to work."
She proposed replacing the inmates who work in the kitchen with her own staff from 4 to 7 p.m. and hiring four part-time dishwashers who would be cross-trained as dietary aides so they could help serves the residents at supper.
She said that hiring the part-timers would cost $40,000 a year, which translates into an additional $20,000 for the rest of this year and that funds would have to be transferred for that purpose. Commissioners approved that proposal.
She also said that s that in the future the county needs to look at replacing other inmates who work in the kitchen with four full-time staff members, which she said would cost $208,000 a year.
But DeVoy says that he thinks that having inmates work in the kitchen is an important part of changing their behavior so that they can learn responsibility and prepare themselves to re-enter the community once their sentences have been served,
"Having a corrections officer there would increase their efficiency and help get better job performance from the inmates," said DeVoy.
Sliker has said that those who do want to work and do a good job are quickly lost as they qualify for work release programs, requiring the cooks to constantly train new inmates, which she said involves paying overtime for the cooks.
She also wrote in her report that "Using inmates in the kitchen is not working. My staff and I are not trained correctional officers and the kitchen is not a rehabilitation center."
DeVoy said that he is determined to see that inmates do work and that a trial program approved earlier this year by commissioners in which inmates who work at county facilities and are paid $3 a day works out.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he thinks that hiring an additional corrections officer to make sure inmates are performing their work correctly in the kitchen "is money well spent."

Belmont selectmen upset at decision of DOT not to widen shoulders along a part of Route 106

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Selectmen expressed their anger Monday night at the state Department of Transportation's decision not to widen the shoulders along the section of Route 106 between Farraville Road and Wildlife Boulevard.

The decision to redo the long-planned intersection at Seavey Road and to only widen the shoulders in the immediate area around Brown Hill Road went against what selectmen, police and fire officials understood would be done.

"This is a complete obliteration of what (Assistant DOT Commissioner William Cass) said," said Selectman Jon Pike. "This is not at all what was explained (to us) would happen."

Pike was referring to a site visit and meeting held at the intersection in the autumn of 2015 where Cass and other members of the DOT met with selectmen, local public safety officials and District 7 Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia).

The meeting was triggered when selectmen opposed a DOT plan to use state property at the corner of Brown Hill Road and Route 106 for a fuel depot. After selectmen told the DOT that its proposed plan was unwieldy, in part because of the road safety hazard and in part because the area was too wet, board members approached Hosmer with a request that he approach the DOT on Belmont's behalf to address the safety issues on that section of highway.

Selectmen, as did others, left the meeting with the understanding that the shoulders along the section would be widened for safety reasons.

According to a letter sent to Hosmer on June 3, Cass said the "discussion and concern then focused on should and safety improvements at the intersection with Brown Hill Road and we included shoulder widening to bypass turning traffic at this limited area."

Cass went on to explain that the primary project for the 5 miles from Belmont Village to the Laconia Bypass is pavement rehabilitation and the widening of the shoulders at Brown Hill Road was added to this project. The improvement of the Seavey Road intersection has been planned for about three years and is being funded through the Highway Safety Improvement Safety Program.

"While we, too, would like to see these shoulders widened for consistency, such work would entail several additional impacts (right of way, utilities, environmental) that are beyond the scope and intent of this pavement project," wrote Cass.

He added that he knows the shoulders in the controversial area are in poor condition but said that repaving them should help a great deal.

Pike said Monday that he would like to send a letter to the state explaining how angry and let down the board is, but Selectman Ron Cormier said he is concerned about how hard the town should push back. He said he feared that if they object too strongly, any Belmont project would end up on the state's 40-year plan as opposed to the 10-year plan.

"There's just going to be more people in the ditch," said Pike. "I just don't get it."

"We all feel it's not what we expected," said selectmen's Chairman Ruth Mooney. "I feel like we're barking up a tree."

Selectmen agreed to notify the police and fire department to chronicle any incidents within that stretch of road and report periodically to the board.

"If our concerns come to fruition we can say 'I told you so,'" said Cormier.