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Center Harbor settles lawsuit brought be former fire chief John Schlemmer

CENTER HARBOR — The town has settled its dispute with former Fire Chief John Schlemmer, who filed suit alleging wrongful dismissal and claiming back wages after the chief and selectmen abruptly parted company in June 2013.

Without either party admitting wrongdoing, the settlement provides for the town to pay Sclemmer a series of payments totaling $135,000 for damages and wages during the next three years. In addition, attorney Anne Rice, who represented Schlemmer, received $49,137 in fees and costs. According to the settlement, after two years Schlemmer can apply to rejoin the Fire Department, but if he is not hired, he may not claim the decision was motivated by the litigation.

Sclemmer joined the Fire Department as a call firefighter in 2006 and a year later was appointed chief. The position was classified as part-time and budgeted at 20 hours per week. However, Schlemmer claimed that with his administrative responsibilities, fire inspections, training exercises and fire calls he regularly worked more than 20 hours a week. He claimed that he was not paid for all the hours worked or paid time-and-a-half for overtime. Nor did the town enroll him in the New Hampshire Retirement System or make contributions towards his benefits.

After several failed attempts to resolve the issue, Schlemmer approached the selectmen in June, 2013 and was directed to limit his hours to 28 per week. He went directly to the secretary of the Selectboard, told her he could not work under those conditions and requested an immediate meeting with the selectmen. At an emergency meeting later the same day the selectmen wrote Schlemmer to "confirm your verbal resignation as fire chief".

That same evening, after accepting what they took to be Schlemmer's resignation, the selectmen met with a dozen call firefighters who urged them to resolve their differences with Schlemmer. Selectman Harry Viens spoke with Schlemmer who informed him that he had retained an attorney.

"The threat of a lawsuit has thrown a blanket on the whole thing," Viens told the selectboard.

Within a week the selectboard named Leon Manville interim chief.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:56

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Caboose does not make for good neighbors

LACONIA — With construction of the second phase of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail about to begin, a caboose that has sat on a spur line behind 100A New Salem Street for the past 16 years may finally find a new home.

"This may be the last opportunity to get that thing out of here," said Dave Gammon, who with his sister owns the property at 100A New Salem Street, which houses a consignment store.

The caboose is the property of his neighbor, Richard Mitchell, who owns and operates Pitman's Freight Room, next door.

"I realize I have to do something with the caboose ," Mitchell conceded yesterday.

The second phase of the recreation trail, from the Laconia Public Library to the Belmont Town Line, will follow the railway through a narrow corridor from Veterans Square, along New Salem Street and past Pitman's.

Long at odds over the presence of the caboose, Gammon and Mitchell are as close as neighbors can be. Their buildings are attached with a shared brick wall. The railroad line runs southwest, along Mitchell's lot, then, where the two lots meet, a spur line runs westward at the rear of Gammon's lot, ending abruptly at the corner of his building.

In 1999, Mitchell, who uses the railroad right-of-way adjacent to his building for parking, placed the caboose on the spur line along side Gammon's building. It has remained there ever since. Gammon said the caboose sits just five feet from his building and within two feet of its roofline. Stormwater run-off from the caboose, he said, has damaged the brickwork on the corner of his building. Gammon calls the caboose a "grudge fence".

Earlier this month, plans for the WOW Trail presented to the Planning Board indicated that what remains of the spur line would be removed, which would require moving the caboose, which would otherwise be stranded on isolated track.

Fearing the WOW Trail will have an adverse impact on his business, Mitchell said that "if I can stop it going through there, I will." However, at the same time, he said that he has spoken to officials of the N.H. Bureau of Rail and Transit about keeping the spur open. Brian Lombard, an engineer with the bureau, said yesterday that the design of this stretch of the WOW Trail, which will require the city to secure a lease from the bureau, has not been completed and the future of the spur has not been determined.

Meanwhile, Jay Poulin of HEB Engineers, Inc., who is designing the trail, told Lombard that Mitchell "has expressed an interest in keeping the siding track in place so that he can move the caboose out from the back of his building if and when he needs to." Likewise, Gretchen Gandini, executive director of the WOW Trail recalled discussion of leaving the spur line in place and accommodating the trail to it.

According to Gammon, Mitchell's lease with the Bureau of Rail and Transit to use the track to house the caboose expired in 2004 and the Governor and Executive Council declined to renew it. On two occasions, in 2004 and again in 2006, Gammon said that Carol Murray, then commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, found that Mitchell had no legal agreement to use the track and referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office, apparently without result. Gammon also claims the Bureau of Rail and Transit informed him that there is no record of Mitchell paying the annual fee of $986 to lease the track since his lease expired.

"He's trespassing (on state land)," Gammon said.

Mitchell declined to comment about his relationship with the Bureau of Rail and Transit, but repeated that he must make arrangements for the caboose, while adding that he has "no immediate plans to move it".

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:53

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Blasting along Rte. 3 in Belmont necessary to make way for construction of new Goodwill store

BELMONT — Police are warning residents who will be traveling along Rte. 3 near the Belknap Mall that there will be blasting during the week, beginning Thursday morning and ending on May 29.

Hiltz Construction Co., which is the general excavating contractor for a project that will ultimately see a new 13,000-square-foot Goodwill Store and a second 8,400-square-foot-retail store that is yet to have a tenant on the site of the former Belknap Subaru dealership, is leveling the property.

During the blasting times, police said there will be temporary stoppages for about 5 to 7 seven minutes around 10 a.m. in the morning and again around 3 p.m. in the afternoon.

The roads that will be affected are Rte. 3, Ladd Hill Road, Durette Road and Old State Road. The shut down, said police, is to ensure no errant debris affects passing motorists.

Uniformed officers along with flaggers will bring traffic to a stop a few minutes before the blast and reopen the road way immediately after getting the all clear signal.

Advisory signs have been posted and motorists are encouraged to seek other routes.

According to Belmont Planning Director Candace Daigle, the blasting is to remove enough ledge to allow the company a level footprint for the new building.

She said Hiltz also plans on boring its way under Route 3 to the Belmont Mall to connect to electrical services.

"The boring is going to be pretty cool," she said. "They believe with the newest technology they have they can do it in one day."

 

CUTLINE: Excavators and dump trucks from Hiltz Construction remove rock and soil from the site of a new 16,000-square-foot Goodwill building yesterday afternoon. Beginning tomorrow, there will be blasting and motorists can expect delays around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:40

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2 men arrested for inent to distribute heroin

LACONIA — Concluding an investigation it says took several months, the Police Department on Wednesday afternoon executed simultaneous search warrants that resulted in the arrest of two local men on drug charges, including possession off and intent to distribute heroin.

David C. Hobbs, 29, of 742 Union Avenue, and Jeramiah M. Proulx, Sr., 38, of 740 Union Avenue were stopped and arrested on Rte. 106 on Prescott Hill at about 4 p.m. At the time, Proulx was a passenger in a car being driven by Hobbs. The court-authorized search warrant's also covered the suspects' homes.

In all, police say they seized in excess of $6,400, along with a "significant" quantity of heroin, pills and marijuana, as well as electronic surveillance and recording equipment.

Proulx is charged with possession of a narcotic drug and conspiracy to distribute a narcotic drug. Hobbs was charged with conspiracy to distribute a narcotic drug.

Police say both men refused the services of a bail commissioner and are scheduled to be arraigned in Fourth Circuit Court-Laconia on Thursday.

Commenting on the arrests, Detective Sergeant Thomas Swett said, "The Police Department aggressively investigates drug crimes and anyone having further information about this case, or other incidents to illegal drug activity, is encouraged to contact police at 524-5252 or call the Crime Line at 524-1717.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:06

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