Disparate nursing home budget numbers lead to delay in transfer request

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners put off until today a decision on the total amount of funds they will request be transferred within the 2015 Belknap County Nursing Home budget to cover projected shortages in different accounts.
The commissioners on Wednesday were presented with a proposed transfer of $43,750 by Belknap County Administrator Deb Shackett, which differed with numbers discussed in an e-mail Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue had sent to them.
''I'm totally confused about what we're looking at,'' said Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), who sought an explanation for the differences.
Shackett said that she and Logue were working off from different documents and that hers was based on the most recent county budget report, which she said was available electronically to all department heads, while Logue's reflected an older report.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that he would like to see an agreed on number reached so that commissioners could act on it a meeting which will be held at 1 p.m. today.
Shackett said that was possible and said she would show Logue how to access the latest budget report so that they would be working on the same page.
Shackett said that it was important that the transfers, which must be approved by the Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee, be handled promptly. ''We've been putting transfers off and we're already over-expended.''
Taylor said ''we're in violation of a court order and need to do something'', a reference to last fall's ruling in Belknap County Superior Court as a result of a lawsuit brought by the county convention against the previous commission which prohibits transfers of more than $300 between budget lines without prior approval of the Executive Committee.
He said that he thought it very important that commissioners meet as soon as possible with the Executive Committee, noting ''if we don't get some relief, there will be a need for layoffs.''
A pressing concern for the commissioners is a projected $80,000 shortfall in funding for health insurance for employees, which DeVoy has said could be met by using some of the $200,000 in contingency money in the county budget.
Taylor points out that that transfer will require Executive Committee approval and says ''we need some direction from the Executive Committee shortly.'' He has said that the longer it takes for the county to act on the situation, the more severe ant staff reductions would have to e.
Commissioners approved a three-year physician services agreement for the Department of Corrections with American Institutional Medical Group LLC with service fees of $8,013.16 monthly in year one, $8,253.36 per month in year two and $8,501.10 a month in year three.
They also approved a request from Sheriff Craig Wiggin to hire a full-time Deputy Sheriff and awarded a contract for installing a new 3-ton air handler on the roof of the sheriff's dispatch center to the Eckhardt and Johnson firm, which had submitted the low bid of $9,892 for the project.

State officials make plea for safe 4th

CONCORD — After seven deaths by drowning in the past six weeks and about two dozen hikers billed for their rescue each year, officials from the New Hampshire Marine Patrol, Fish & Game Department, Division of Parks and State Police met with the media yesterday to sound a caution to those intending to enjoy the water and outdoors over the 4th of July weekend.

As five of the seven drownings occurred in rivers, Sergeant Joshua Dirth of Marine Patrol warned swimmers of high water, strong currents and dangerous undertows following heavy summer rainfall. Boaters, he said, should ensure that all required safety equipment, which varies with the size of the vessel, is on board before taking to the water. In particular, life jackets should be properly sized and in good condition. Dirth also urged boaters to check that their lights and horns are in working order and that the lanyard controlllng the emergency sut-off is always attached to the wrist of the person operating the boat.

Dirth urged boaters to visit the Marine Patrol website at www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/nhsp/fob/marine-patrol for further information about how to ensure that time spent on the state's waters is spent safely.

Tom Dakai of the Fish & Game Department noted that hiking poses all kinds of safety issues, most of which can be addressed by taking care to plan a hike of distance and difficulty that is within the limitations of the hikers. He noted that in the mountains conditions, particularly temperatures, can change quickly and significantly at higher elevations and urged hikers to have appropriate clothing for cold, wet weather. He also stressed the importance of carrying adequate food and water. He reminded hikers they can indemnify themselves against being charged the expense of their search and rescue should they be deemed to have acted negligently by purchasing a "Hike Safe Card," which is available on the department's website at www.nhfishandgame.com/HikeSafe.aspx.

As many as 60,000 people may line the one-and-half mile strand at Hampton Beach on the holiday, said Jeff Kelley of the Division of Parks and Recreation. He said that ocean currents and undertows present risks, especially to children, who he stressed should be kept under close supervision. But, he added that experienced swimmers should be aware of their capabilities and avoid unnecessary risks. He said that 18 lifeguards are on duty at the beach and red flags where red flags are flown to signal dangerous conditions.

Currier will be next police chief in Gilmanton

GILMANTON — Selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday night to name Sgt. Matthew Currier as the next chief of police. His promotion will take place when current Chief Joe Collins retires on December 31, 2015.

At Gilmanton native, Currier, 32, has worked for the Gilmanton Police for 13 years, earning his associates degree in criminal justice while he was on the job. He was promoted to sergeant in 2012.

"This is a great thing for the town," said Town Administrator Arthur Capello. "We have a wonderful chief now and will have a wonderful chief moving forward."

Capello said the board decided to make Currier's promotion public now. In the three years since Collins became chief, he said Currier has worked closely with him learning the administrative side as well as the management side of policing.

"Right now the department is running very well," said Capello, noting he expects nothing will change once Currier takes over a chief. "He's got all of the qualifications."

The Gilmanton Police Department has five full-time officers, one part-time officer and a full-time administrative assistance.

The total department budget is $541,561.

Capello said Currier will earn $65,000 in his first year, which is less than Collins earns. Like Collins, Currier will not be paid overtime but will receive a call-out stipend.

2 huge cranes team up to move embattled caboose

LACONIA — After sitting on a sidetrack alongside Pitman's Freight Room for 16 years, the caboose, long retired from the Maine Central Railroad, was moved yesterday to a nearby, short-stretch of track laid by Richard Mitchell, the owner of the entertainment venue.

The caboose, weighing 69,000 pounds (345 tons) and stretching 49 feet from coupling to coupling, was lifted off one set of rails, jockeyed into position, gently set on the other track and winched into place by two towing companies — John's Wrecker Service of Concord and Coady's Towing of Lawrence, Massachusetts — working in tandem in a confined space. Each firm operated a wrecking truck fitted with a rotating crane capable of lifting 75 tons. "It was like mutual aid between Fire Departments," remarked John Dapergolas of John's Wrecker Service.

Mitchell has dubbed the caboose "The A Train" after Duke Ellington's classic to echo the character of Pitman's Freight Room as a popular jazz venue. He said that he intends to paint it red and renovate its interior then use it for small events, mainly private events, like birthday parties and wedding receptions.

The caboose was moved at the insistence of the Bureau of Rail & Transit of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, which for the past 11 years had overlooked its presence on the state-owned railroad track without a required lease. The bureau was prodded to act by David Gammon, who with his sister owns the abutting property. The two buildings are attached by a brick wall that serves as the lot line dividing the properties. Where the two lots meet, the sidetrack runs to the rear of Gammon's lot, ending at the corner of his property where the caboose has been parked within two feet of his building since 1999.

Off and on since the caboose appeared Gammon has pestered the bureau. In 2004 he reminded the bureau that Mitchell's lease of the sidetrack had expired to no effect and in February renewed his efforts to have the caboose moved. In April Shelley Winters, administrator of the bureau wrote to Mitchell, reminding him that in July 2004 he was informed that his lease of the sidetrack had expired and directing him to remove the caboose from it. Subsequently Winters asked the Belknap County Superior Court to order Mitchell to move the caboose.

"If it weren't for his wizardry, I never would have dreamed of this," Mitchell remarked of Gammon while he gazed at his caboose sitting comfortably and legally on its own track, just a few yards from the old one.