Gilford officials deny connection to letter from Gilford Taxpayers Association


GILFORD — A letter that the Gilford Taxpayers Coalition mailed to residents has no connection with town officials, according to the Town Administrator Scott Dunn.

He said the town has received several inquiries about the mailing, which recommends which individuals and articles to support on March 13.

“Please be advised the information being distributed IS NOT AFFILIATED with the Town of Gilford or the Board of Selectmen or the Office of the Town Clerk-Tax Collector,” Dunn wrote.

“Accordingly, the Town neither endorses nor condones the content ot the mailing. The official recommendations of the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and the Budget Committee are set forth in several warrant articles as noted on the ballot. No other positions have been expressed and no mailings have been sent by any Town of Gilford government officials.”

The coalition’s “Election Edition” reminds voters that March 13 is election day, with polling hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in the Gilford Youth Center at 19 Potter Hill Road.

It then goes to say, “Please remember that because so many voters failed to vote last year because of the snow storm, their missing votes cost all Gilford taxpayers lots of money.”

The letter also describes the procedure for obtaining an absentee ballot.

Noting that nearly every seat is uncontested this year, the coalition wrote, “The most important contested race is for the 4 positions on the Gilford Budget Committee,” and said, “this year the School Establishment has fielded a full field of candidates in an effort to swing the makeup of the Budget Committee away from scrutiny of school over spending.”

It then endorses Jack Kelley, Norman Silber, and Harry Bean for the three-year seats and Priscilla Bean for the two-year seat.

The letter urges residents to vote against several articles on the ballot, but to support Article 34, which it says would prohibit using tax money for lobbying activities.

Article 34 is a petitioned article prohibiting the town from paying membership dues to the New Hampshire Municipal Association, but allowing the town to take advantage of the association’s educational seminars.

The article was submitted before the selectmen removed the dues funding from the operating budget, which amounts to the same thing.

Membership privileges

During the town’s deliberative session, supporters of membership in the association spoke of the value of the training seminars it offers and said, without joining, town officials would not be able to attend the seminars.

Judy Silva, executive director of the Municipal Association, confirmed that statement. “Membership has its privileges,” she said.

Part of the justification for dropping membership is the lobbying that the Municipal Association does in Concord.

Budget Committee Chairman Norman Silber said, “The New Hampshire Municipal Association lobbies the legislature using taxpayer money to obtain taxpayer money, and not every town may agree with a particular position.”

Silva said a particular municipal official may not like a particular position the association takes, but those decisions are member-driven.

Any member may offer policy ideas to the legislative policy committee, which has three appointed and three elected officials, she said. The committee members vet the recommendations and send them to all member communities to review. Those municipalities then send a voting delegate to the Municipal Association’s legislative policy conference where it takes a two-thirds vote to proceed.

“If it’s something that is going to pit one member against another, we stay out of it,” she said.


Nursing home head pitches in to wash dishes during shortage


LACONIA — Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Shelly Richardson has been doing double duty in recent weeks, washing dishes and folding laundry along with her other responsibilities.

She said that she and other members of the administrative team have been taking on those extra chores due to a temporary shortage of workers in the dietary and laundry departments, as well as the lack of inmate labor from the Corrections Department.

She said it was the shortage of labor that led to the use of paper plates and cups for breakfast and to members of the nursing staff having to deliver clean laundry to residents.

Those incidents were discussed in a letter that appeared in Wednesday’s Laconia Daily Sun, signed by four residents of the nursing home.

Richardson said it was a temporary situation, brought about by a dietary worker being out sick and another on leave due to a death in her family.

She said she is no longer doing dishes or folding laundry, having recently hired four people in the dietary department. Richardson said she still has two vacant positions in the dietary department, one of which is part-time, that she is hoping to fill.

She normally has two workers in the laundry department but had only one for a short period of time, creating a shortage there.

The nursing home hasn’t had any inmate labor from the Department of Corrections since Feb. 14 and she said the issue of using inmate labor, which the nursing home has relied on for years, is still unresolved.

Richardson told Belknap County Commissioners when they met last week that she was informed that the county needs to conform to state policies on the use of inmate labor or seek a waiver to continue its past practices.

Commissioner Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton) said that, while it might be a less-than-ideal situation to have inmates working in the nursing home kitchen and laundry, it was something the county needs to do, given the constraints imposed by the budget that the Belknap County Delegation recently approved.

Richardson offered three options to the commission last week, one of which called for spending $154,000 to hire three full-time employees — two in the dietary division and one in the laundry division — while the other two proposals called for assigning the laundry division to the Corrections Department and using inmate labor to supplement the work of the supervisor and one full-time employee or having the supervisor alone directing the inmate labor pool. Since then, another option has been developed, calling for the hiring of two people in the dietary division and leaving the laundry division in the county home.

The use of inmate labor has been a bone of contention in recent years, with Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) supporting the practice and Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Aton) questioning its value.

Two years ago, the county approved a pilot program to pay $3 a day to inmates who worked in the county home kitchen, laundry room or on the grounds. The program was dropped last year after both Carolee Sliker, the dietary manager at the nursing home at the time, and Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray said it wasn't working as intended.

Sliker said at that time that the program had produced “a parade of inmates coming through the kitchen who have behavior issues and do not want to work.”

She said those who do want to work and do a good job are quickly lost, as they qualify for work release programs, which forced the cooks to be constantly training new inmates, which she said involves paying overtime for the cooks.

Sliker resigned her post last fall.

Gray warned last fall that the county faced an inmate labor shortage. He said that many of the inmates who were qualified to work would no longer be available during the week, as they would be taking part full-time in the CORE program at the newly opened Belknap County Community Corrections Center.

Commissioners are expected to take up Richardson’s recommendations when they meet Tuesday, March 13, at the Belknap County Complex.

Prognosis for giant Indian statue uncertain after examination

LACONIA — Tests have been done to determine how badly the huge sculpture in Opechee Park — “Giant Indian: The Defiant One” — has deteriorated and the news is not good, but the final prognosis awaits expert analysis.
City Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunleavy said a company that assesses the condition of power poles examined the 36-foot, 12-ton red oak piece depicting the face and headdress of a Native American man.
Equipment used to test the wood featured a long thin blade that bores tiny holes to a depth of about 2 feet. The resistance to the boring is measured to determine the integrity of the wood.
“As we expected, the testing indicated that there is significant rot on the interior of the sculpture with a thin shell of wood on the outside that is intact,” Dunleavy said. “The thickness of the shell varies. I am awaiting a report on the boring test results which should give us a better understanding of the overall condition.”
He said he’s not sure yet whether it would be feasible to restore the statue.

The city has collected about $800 in public donations to preserve the statue, but the entire job would cost upwards of $7,000.
If it can be saved, another plea would be made for public donations, or a request could be made to see if the project could be funded out of city funds, Dunleavy said. If it's beyond saving, the donations would be returned and the structure would be torn down.
The city has attached a pole to the back of the wooden sculpture to prevent it from falling over. The city has put a fence behind the statue as a precaution to keep people away.
Peter Wolf Toth, the artist who created it 33 years ago, has agreed to donate his services to supervise any potential repairs, which would include hollowing out the back of the statue, installing more interior supports and replacing rotten material with wood-colored fiberglass.
He has done similar sculptures in every state as part of his “Whispering Giants” series, and has had to make such repairs elsewhere.
Toth fled his native Hungary as a child. He has said he views his art work as a gift to America in return for the gift of freedom he received from this country. A sculpture he created in Hawaii in 1988 allowed him to complete his goal of placing one in each of the 50 states.