City gives firefighters modest raise

One-year deal rewards department members with paramedic training


LACONIA — City firefighters will get a 1 percent pay raise in July and another 1 percent hike in January under a contract approved Monday by the City Council.

"Anybody would like to see a bigger increase, but we're happy to have something, given the tax cap limit," Fire Chief Ken Erickson said. "We're all very pleased to have a job."

The current wage schedule gives firefighters with a paramedic certification a 5 percent pay differential over those with an emergency medical technician certification. This grows to 7 percent under the new contract.

Qualified paramedics are in greater demand than emergency medical technicians and are subject to recruitment by other departments. There are more medical procedures they can do and the certification requires more schooling.

"This is a 'thank-you' to the ones we have and an enticement for them to stay," Erickson said. "I watched them work a cardiac arrest on a 76-year-old man. They got the heart muscle restarted and got him to a catheterization lab, where an emergency cath unclogged a blockage. I sit back in astonishment at what they can do."

Erickson said half of Laconia's 36 firefighters are paramedics, which is helpful given that many of the department's calls are for medical service.

City Manager Scott Myers said the new one-year contract makes some changes to medical coverage. The drug plan goes from a three-tiered program to four, and the physician co-pay goes to $25 for primary care doctors and $50 for specialists. The co-pay now stands at $20 for all doctors.

Current wages range from $18.23 an hour for a probationary firefighter with emergency medical technician certification to $25.72 for a sixth-class firefighter with paramedic certification. For fire officers, a captain with a paramedic certification can earn up to $32.97 an hour. 

The pay increase in the contract is similar to the wage hike in an early agreement the City Council approved for the 36 members of the Laconia Administrative and Technical Employees bargaining unit.

Still to be resolved is a contract for Public Works employees. The council must also approve funding for contracts for police and teachers.

Tilton crash suspect has criminal history


TILTON — A man charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated in connection with a two-car head-on crash on Route 3 Monday morning has an extensive criminal record with at least 10 convictions since 2000.
Brian Gage, 33, of Pittsfield, is also listed on the state's sex offender website. He was convicted in September of 2004 in Merrimack County Superior Court on two charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault.
State Police said that Gage was driving his Pontiac Grand Prix on the wrong side of the road when his vehicle collided at 10:02 a.m. with a southbound Chevy Trailblazer being driven by Dennis Bourey, 55, of Sanbornton.
Gage, Bourey and his passenger, 50-year-old Patricia Bourey of Gilmanton, were all taken to Lakes Region General Hospital. Gage was later taken by helicopter the Massachusetts General in Boston and Patricia Bourey to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.
State Police said all three suffered life-threatening injuries. No update on their conditions has been provided and none of the hospitals would confirm that they are still patients.
Gage's most recent conviction was for theft by unauthorized taking in June of 2015, according to information from the state's sex offender website. He has also been convicted of simple assault, resisting arrest and robbery.

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Brian Gage

Gilford woman charged, carfentenil found

GILFORD — A transient woman is being held in lieu of $10,000 cash bail on three felony drug charges after police stopped the car in which she was a passenger because the operator's license and registration were under suspension.
Sonya Spooner, 38, of no given address, originally was taken into custody on an open warrant for failure to appear on a drug-related charge in Belknap County Superior Court. Police say they found what they believe to be heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil in her possession, leading to the additional charges.
Police made the arrest at 12:30 a.m. Saturday after first taking the driver, Chad Belleville, 34, of 59 Danbury Road, Center Barnstead, into custody on the operating after suspension charges.
In addition to the other drugs, which in all weighed more than 5 grams, Spooner had a small amount of methamphetamine, cash and drug packaging materials in her possession, police said.

– Thomas P. Caldwell

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Sonya Spooner

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Heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil with an aggregate weight of over five grams were seized. (Courtesy Gilford Police)