Republican & Democratic committees struggled to find candidates to run for all 18 Belknap County House seats
LACONIA — When the filing period closed yesterday seven of the 13 incumbent Republican members of the Belknap County delegation and all five Democratic members had filed for re-election to the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
Altogether, the GOP has fielded candidates in all nine electoral districts in the county, but only one candidate in Belmont (District 6), which elects two members. The Democrats have mustered candidates in eight of the nine districts, but have fallen short of a full slate in four of them.
Under state law, both party committees may nominate candidates to fill the vacancies on the primary ballot on or before Wednesday, June 18.
In Laconia, District 3, where there are four seats on the ballot, incumbent Reps. Don Flanders, Bob Luther and Frank Tilton — all Republicans — are seeking re-election. Rep. David Huot, who is running for a second term, will be joined on the Democratic ticket by Mo Baxley, a former representative and executive director of the Freedom to Marry Coalition, and Tom Dawson, a retired fire science instructor at Lakes Region Community College.
In District 9, where the voters of both Laconia and Belmont elect one member, the incumbent Democrat Rep. Beth Arsenault has filed, along with Republican Robert Fisher. Two years ago Fisher, who works at Same Day Computer, ran as a Democrat. However, he said that his misgivings about the Affordable Care Act prompted him to switch allegiances and join the GOP.
In District 1, consisting of Center Harbor and New Hampton, Rep. Ruth Gulick of New Hampton, the incumbent Democrat, will be challenged by Republican Valerie Fraser, also of New Hampton, where she serves on the Board of Selectmen.
In District 2, the towns of Gilford and Meredith, five Republicans have filed for the four seats. Rep. Herb Vadney of Meredith, the only one of three incumbent Republicans to seek re-election, is joined on the GOP ticket by Michael Hatch and John Hodsdon, owner of Picnic Rock Farm, both of Meredith, and George Hurt, a former representative, and Glen Aldrich, a contractor, both of Gilford. Two Democrats have filed — Rep. Lisa DiMartino of Gilford, who is seeking her second term, and Sandra Mucci of Meredith, who ran unsuccessfully in 2012,
In District 4, the towns Sanbornton and Tilton, three Republicans have filed for the two seats — incumbent Rep. Dennis Fields of Sanbornton, seeking his 15th term in the House, as well as Richard Brothers and Brian Gallagher, both from Sanbornton. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Ian Raymond of Sanbornton has field for re-election and will be joined on the ticket by Jane Alden of Tilton.
In District 5, the towns of Alton and Gilmanton, two Republicans, former Gilmanton fire chief and state representative David Russell and Joel Lambert of Alton have filed for the two spots on the ballot. The only Democrat to file is Deb Chase, who was beaten by Russell for the seat representing Gilmanton in 2010.
In District 6, the town of Belmont elects two representatives. Republican Rep. Michael Sylvia is expected to seek a second term. Democrat George Condodemetraky, who has been a candidate for federal and state office in the past, has entered the race.
In District 7, the town of Barnstead, incumbent Republican Guy Comtois and Democrat Bruce Marriott will vie for the one seat. The same two contested the seat in 2012, when Comtois edged Marriott, 1,255 to 1,003.
In District 8, consisting of Alton, Barnstead and Gilmanton which together return one member, Republican Elaine Swinford, who served two terms in the House and chaired the Criminal justice and Public Safety Committee, is the only candidate to file.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 11:05
Gilford still wrestiling with how to deal wiht excessive speed on Potter Hill Road; 'humps' a possibility
GILFORD — Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan told selectmen Wednesday night that a possible response to complaints of speeding on Potter Hill Road are "bumps, humps, or tables" that are used to slow traffic.
Morgan explained there are speed bumps that are typically three inches high and generally cause traffic to stop or come close to stopping, speed humps that are one to two inches high and can slow traffic to about five to 10 mph, or speed tables that rise gradually, level off, and then decline.
He said if a speed table is installed correctly, plows can go over them in the winter. The downside, said Morgan, is the tables are very expensive.
As for bumps or humps, they are not able to be plowed and must be removed in the winters. Morgan said because of frost heaves they almost never fit property when reinstalled.
The discussion occurred in the wake of more complaints about cars speeding on the roadway. Police have been grappling with the complaints for years and in 2010 produced a traffic study that showed about 27 percent of all traffic exceeded the posted 30-mph speed limit.
About two years ago, also in response to complaints from residents, selectmen lowered the speed limit to 25 mph and have routinely conducted directed patrols, which mean that during a typical day shift a patrol officer will spend at least one 20 minute long session performing radar patrol on Potter Hill Road.
At Wednesday's meeting, resident Deb Haskell told selectmen that it still wasn't enough.
She said she walks the length of the road daily and has her grandchildren on weekends and fears for their safety. She said she's almost been hit a few times and said to her it seems like drivers are traveling at least 40 mph routinely. Haskell asked that speed bumps be installed.
Morgan and Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee both said they wouldn't recommend speed bumps because bringing traffic to a compete stop would likely result in an increase in rear-end accidents.
Bean Burpee and Morgan recommended that until the Police Department could conduct another traffic study, the Public Works Department would paint "SLOW" on the road in three places on each side of the .7-mile road. Morgan said each "SLOW" painting would cost about $20.
Selectmen said they wanted more traffic information from Potter Hill Road before deciding to install any kind of quasi-permanent bump, hump or table although they indicated that speed humps would likely be the preferable option should the traffic study support it.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 10:57
LACONIA — A former homeless man who robbed the downtown branch of the Bank of New Hampshire on Pleasant Street January 4 has negotiated a guilty plea in exchange for a 3-to-6 year sentence in the N.H. State Prison.
Johnathan Ellinger, 43, has also tacitly agreed to pay restitution and to never enter any Bank of New Hampshire facility again.
Ellinger is accused of entering the Bank of New Hampshire and going up to a teller and saying "I have a gun and I am cashing my paycheck. If you set off any alarms or dye packs, I will get you" or words to that effect.
Ellinger left the bank with an undisclosed sum of money and was found within a few hours by Laconia police, who recognized him from the video surveillance tape provided to them immediately after the robbery.
Police said they found him by checking in the places most frequented by the city's transient and homeless population.
According to affidavits filed at the time with the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Ellinger told police at the time of his arrest he "did what he had to do".
At the time, Capt. Bill Clary said the FBI typically investigates bank robberies however because this appeared to be an isolated case and not related to any other bank robberies in the area, the agency decided to let Laconia handle the investigation. He said bank robbery is a federal crime.
Although no one was injured, Clary said the teller was very shaken up by the ordeal.
Ellinger is being held on $100,000 cash only bail at the Belknap County House of Corrections.
According to the N.H. Circuit Court call center, Ellinger has a conviction for burglary and unauthorized taking in 2002. He had also failed to appear in circuit court on December 23 for a bail review for a shoplifting conviction.
Ellinger is scheduled to plead guilty next week in Belknap County Superior Court. Judge James O'Neill is not obligated to accept his plea and should he not, Ellinger can either go to trial or negotiate a different plea arrangement.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 10:51
LACONIA — Members of the Belknap County Jail Planing Committee plan to argue that the proposed $2.96 million borrowing they are seeking is an essential step towards reaching a solution to the problem of crowding at the Belknap County House of Corrections when they make a presentation at a public hearing Monday night before the Belknap County Convention.
The committee wants $360,000 so that it can begin work on a schematic design plan for a new jail, $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail and $1.6 million for a three-year contract for installation of a 48-bed temporary housing unit at the current jail.
''We're talking about moving the process forward by getting a schematic design. Whether or not the final projected cost is $10 million, $20 million or $30 million, we need that design so we can get a cost estimate,'' Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett told the committee when it met last week.
County Corrections Superintendent Daniel Ward, who will make the presentation on behalf of the committee, says that all three elements in the bond issue are important, and need to be implemented as soon as possible.
He says that the schematic design part has the most ramifications as it will be a key to determining the final cost of the jail project, but the other parts are equally important.
''We're going to be spending three more years using the current facility no matter what happens. The temporary housing may be the highest priority because that gives us space we badly need for additional inmates and programs.'' He says the HVAC system replacement as necessary to make conditions at the current facility bearable for inmates and staff during the time it will take before a new facility can be built and noted that many of the components of the upgraded system can be used in a new facility.
How well the committee's proposal will be met by the Belknap County Convention remains to be seen. The last time the convention voted on any jail planning issue was in the summer of 2012 when it approved $160,000 to hire a consultant for developing a conceptual plan for a community corrections facility. It passed by a 9-8 vote of the convention, which at that time was composed of 18 Republicans. The only members of the current convention who voted for that project were Frank Tilton and Don Flanders of Laconia and Dennis Fields of Sanbornton. Three members of the current convention, Bob Greemore and Colette Worsman of Meredith and Bob Luther of Laconia voted against it.
Commissioners proceeded to hire Ricci Greene Associates of New York, a firm that assisted Merrimack and Strafford counties in reconfiguring their correctional programs and redesigning their correctional facilities. The firm produced a conceptual plan which called for a 94,000-square-foot, 180-bed facility which carried an estimated cost of $42.6 million, a number which produced ''sticker shock'' around the county, particularly in Laconia where the City Council called on the county to reduce the cost of the proposal.
In recent months the committee has looked at ways of cutting the size and cost of the proposed facility with an eye to reducing its cost below $30 million and has maintained that the schematic design process will achieve that goal.
Jail Planning Committee Chairman Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) said the schematic design process ''begins to get us to a real number and refines what the facility will look like.''
Architect Gary Goudreau, a member of the planning committee, said that if the convention hasn't bought into the program developed by the committee that there is little likelihood of getting to the next step and asked if there was some way to get them involved.
He said there had to be a ''buy-in'' by the legislators, but it could result in a plan for a $15-$20 million, 100-bed facility which wouldn't meet the county's needs.
Philpot said the committee had tried to involve the lawmakers but was rebuffed and that legislators have not been a part of the jail planning process.
Former Meredith Selectman Miller Lovett asked what the committee might offer to get some buy-in and said ''the real problem is not the jail. It's that people don't talk to one another.'' He said that the committee might eventually have to come up with a smaller plan and then build an addition 10 or 20 years down the road.
The county convention recently held a public input session about the jail and heard many people express opposition to the committee's proposal along with calls for rejection of the Ricci Greene plan and going back to the drawing board for jail designs.
Among the critics was Hunter Taylor of Alton, who briefly served on the jail planning committee and said that the county should be pursuing a plan like that being implemented in Wilkes County, North Carolina, where a 52,000-square-foot jail which will hold 256 inmates is being built at a guaranteed price tag of $10.63 million.
County Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont) said that the plan being developed is for Belknap County, not North Carolina, but was told by former Belknap County Convention chairperson Alida Millham of Gilford ''that's not a viable response. You have to articulate what the needs are.''
Shackett said that she was concerned that even if the schematic design is approved that many of the current members of the convention won't be around when it is finalized as they are stepping down from the legislature.
''After all the effort we've put in, they'll be gone,'' she said, expressing hope that the three years the committee has put in on jail planning won't go for naught.
The convention is scheduled to vote on the proposed bond issue immediately after Monday night's public hearing, which gets underway at 6 p.m. It will require a two-thirds vote for passage.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 01:09
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