Belmont police may get a generous raise

Fire Department, Public Works employees could also see a pay bump

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — The selectmen's proposed 2017 town budget included a 6 to 12 percent across-the-board increase for the town's union police officers after a study showed they are among the lowest-paid police officers in the area.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin told the Budget Committee in her presentation of the proposed budget that the town negotiated the 10-step pay plan modeled after the one in the Gilford Police Department as part of their recent three-year contract.

She said the two non-union sergeants had some upward adjustments made to their pay plans and the balance of the non-union employees in the department will get a 1.5 percent cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) raise plus a 2 percent pay increase, which is the same increase all non-union town employees will get if the budget passes as proposed.

The town also negotiated a 1.5 percent COLA increase and a one-step increase for the Fire Department union employees and a 5 percent increase with no COLA for the unionized Public Works Department employees.

All union contracts have eliminated Blue Choice as an option for health insurance except for those employees who are already enrolled. Beaudin said should an employee change his or her status, for example get married, then the Blue Choice is no longer available.

Other significant changes in the proposed 2017 budget include a 10.9 percent increase in the cost of health insurance, and the removal of the Building and Grounds Division from the Public Works Department line items to the General Administration line items, although the overall budget amount for the division remains consistent with 2016.

Other cost increase drivers for the 2017 budget are the increased contributions of the towns to the state retirement system that included a 3.05 percent increase for police officers and a 2.73 percent increase for firefighters/EMTs. The increase for all other town employees is 0.17 percent. The 0.17 percent doesn't include teachers, who are employed by the school district and not the town.

Overall, the proposed amount to be raised by taxes, excluding warrant articles, is $9,796,465 which is up 1.04 percent from this year's local budget of $9,758,540.

Meredith Village Savings Bank gives $350,000 to Colonial Theatre project

LACONIA — Meredith Village Savings Bank (MVSB) has committed to a $350,000 donation to the Belknap Economic Development Council (EDC) for the Colonial Theater Redevelopment Project in Laconia. The bank's investment is a significant contribution to the renovation of the Colonial Theatre and its transformation into a civic auditorium.

Of that donation, $200,000 is through the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority's tax credit program.

Located at 609 Main St. in the heart of downtown Laconia, the Colonial Theatre has long been of great interest to city and business leaders.

"We are thankful to the Belknap EDC and the local leadership who are committed to the hard work of renovating a once beautiful theater back to its former glory," said Rick Wyman, president of Meredith Village Savings Bank. "Having a civic auditorium in the heart of downtown Laconia will continue to spur people to live, work and play in the Lakes Region."

The Colonial Theatre has entered its first phase of rehabilitation, beginning with the demolition of a movie cinema partition that was installed in 1980s, though the theater had once hosted circuses and vaudeville acts when it first opened in 1914. The movie theater closed in the early 2000s.The project will turn the 101-year-old structure into a civic auditorium.

"We're so thankful for the generous contribution of Meredith Village Savings Bank," said Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap EDC. "This is a major investment in both the theater's and city's revitalization. Our goal is to eventually fill the entire space with businesses and services that complement its role as a civic auditorium."

The renovation consists of rehabilitating 38,000 square feet of space, which includes a 20,000-square-foot theater, as well as commercial and residential spaces in front of the building.

11 02 MVSB-Colonial Theatre

Celebrating the donation of $350,000 in money and tax credits to the Colonial Theatre redevelopment project Wednesday are, from left: Ed Engler, mayor of Laconia and Belknap Economic Development Council director; Gracie Cilley, vice president, commercial loan officer for Meredith Village Savings Bank; Justin Slattery, executive director of Belknap Economic Development Council; Rick Wyman, president of Meredith Village Savings Bank; and Randy Eifert, Belknap Economic Development Council chairman.

Commissioners OK tentative agreement with nursing home workers

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners Wednesday morning unanimously supported a two-year contract with the 81 unionized employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home which will provide a one-time $2,000 health incentive bonus and replaces the current HMO health insurance plan with a site-of-service plan.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that the contract with the State Employees Association local 1984 bargaining unit was recently approved by what the union representatives told him was "a clear majority." Earlier this year, the union rejected a proposed contract by a 33-14 vote.
Taylor, who represented the commission during negotiations with the union, said the contract will increase costs by $61,029 in the first year but reduce them by $60,735 in the second year.
"Going forward this saves us money," said Taylor, who said that the agreement also provides for $500 health savings plan and step increases but no cost of living increase in the first year of the contract.
He said that the switch to a site-of-service health insurance plan "gets rid of the Cadillac insurance plan," which in the future would have resulted in the county paying taxes on health insurance because premiums would exceed federal guidelines.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that the plan is "a good deal," and that it will have to go before the Belknap County Delegation for approval. Two years ago the delegation turned down a tentative agreement with the union which had been approved by commissioners.
The commission's offer mirrored the collective bargaining agreements negotiated with Teamsters Local 633 representing managerial and administrative employees and the Belknap County Sheriff;'s Department and the State Employees Association representing Belknap County Corrections Department officers, all of which have been ratified by the members of both unions and approved by the Belknap County Delegation.

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