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N.H. Fire Marshall reaches agreement with Groton Wind farm

CONCORD — The Office of the Fire Marshall has resolved its dispute with Groton Wind, LLC and Iberdrola Renewables, LLC, the owner of a 24-turbine, 48 megawatt wind farm in Groton, over its failure to comply with fire and building codes.

The settlement came just weeks after Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) joined a chorus of officials and residents calling for the state to order the facility to cease operations.

The agreement stipulates that except for the installation of fire suppression at the turbines, Groton Wind will bring the facility into compliance with the fire and building codes by May 1 or "immediately and without any demand from the state, shut down any building or structure not in compliance." At the same time, Groton Wind agreed to install fire suppression in "each and every turbine" before the start of fire season, defined as the first day Class 3 Fire Danger Day in Groton and its environs. Alternatively, if fire suppression is not installed, inspected and approved, Groton Wind agreed to shut down those turbines without it and mount a fire watch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at its own expense. If fire suppression is not inl place by June 23, an injunction prohibiting the operation of turbines without it would be filed in superior court.

The agreement was reached amid a series of hearings scheduled by the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), which in November issued a Procedural Order and Notice of Possible Suspension of Certificate of Site and Facility in response to allegations that Groton Wind was operating in violation of the terms and conditions of its original approval in May, 2011.

Earlier, in August, Inspector Ron Antsey of the State Fire Marshal Office informed the SEC that Groton Wind has relocated the operations and maintenance building and two of the 24 turbines without authorization. The building was not inspected and fails to comply with a number of requirements. In addition, the firm failed to install fire suppression in the turbines as required or to ensure that the width and grades of roads leading to the turbines complied with the fire code. Nor were the roads properly maintained. Antsey told the SEC that Groton had failed to provide a complete set of plans for the review and approval of the Fire Marshal Office yet proceeded to occupy the site and operate the facility without the requisite permits.

Groton Wind Antsey testified last month, "refused to comply with the lawful requests of the Fire Marshal and employed an apparent strategy of delay and ignorance to avoid compliance with the law." As of March 21, he said "most of the violations remain outstanding."

Throughout Groton Wind claimed that the changes to its original plan were approved by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and questioned the authority of the Fire Marshal Office to oversee the project or to enforce the terms and conditions of its approval.

Writing to Tom Burack, commissioner of DES, Forrester noted that "the majority of the violations remain outstanding and there is little indication that any efforts are underway to change course," adding "as a matter of public safety, this is of great concern to me and the communities I represent."

Late last month Iberdrola announced that it has placed the planning for its controversial 23-turbine Wild Meadows wind power project in Alexandria and Danbury on hold pending a resolution of issues in Groton.

Groton Wind went online in December 2012.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 01:17

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LPD to put 2 additional cops on weekend patrol who will focus on enforcing drug laws

LACONIA — Police said yesterday at a monthly Police Commissioner meeting they will be using some of their overtime budget to increase patrols on summer weekends to try and stem the tide of drugs use and sales within the city.

Capt. Bill Clary said the decision to increase patrols stems from conversations police administrators have had with city officials who are concerned with reports of the amount heroin available in the state.

He told commissioners that the department plans on teaming up extra patrol officers with members of the detective bureau and working collaboratively toward reducing the presence of illegal drugs.

By placing two additional officers on patrol, but without the responsibilities of regular policing duties, police believe the additional coverage will make a difference.

Chief Chris Adams said he has been talking with state officials about drugs with an eye toward looking at some federal grants that may become available in the future.

Numerous published reports confirm New Hampshire and New England is in the throes of what some politicians are calling a heroin "epidemic."

Last year, three city residents died from confirmed heroin overdoses and neighboring communities also saw a marked jump in the number of heroin-related incidents, arrests and deaths.

In other police commission business, Adams and Sgt. Dennis Ashley presented Christine Vigue with a Citizen's Recognition Award for her vigilance in stopping shoplifting at the Union Avenue CVS store.

Ashley, who headed a recent Problem Oriented Policing project addressing retail theft said that while all merchants in the city have done some great work toward eliminating shoplifting, Vigue has been single-highhandedly responsible for around 90 violations and charges.

"We really appreciate her tenacious attitude toward pursuing people who prey on local merchants," Ashley said while he presented her with the award.

CUTLINE: (vigue) Police Commissioner Armand Maheux looks on as Police Chief Chris Adams (left) and Sgt. Dennis Ashley (right) present CVS shift supervisor Christine Vigue with a citizen's recognition award for her successful efforts at thwarting shoplifting at the Union Avenue CVS store. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 01:08

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Lafond defense wants results of blood tests thrown out

LACONIA — Attorney Mark Sisti, who represents Amy Lafond against charges that her reckless and negligent driving caused the death of one teenage girl and severely injured another on Messer Street nearly a year ago, has asked the Belknap County Superior Court to rule that the results of tests on the blood taken from his client after the incident not be placed in evidence.

No information has to date been made public about the results of those tests.

In a motion filed yesterday Sisti argues that the test results should be suppressed on two grounds. First, he questions whether Lafond "freely, willingly and knowingly" consented to her blood being drawn. Second, in light of the circumstances in which her blood was drawn, he claims that a state statute requiring mandatory blood testing of drivers involved in accidents leading to serious injury or death cannot be invoked to justify introduction of the test results as evidence.

Lafond, 53, is charged with manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide arising from an incident on April 19 when she allegedly drove into two teenage girls on Messer Street, killing Lilyanna Johnson and seriously injuring Allyssa Miner. She is also charged with several drug offenses and traffic violations.

Although Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen has said that toxicology tests found elevated levels of Oxycodone and the presence of Gabapentin, both prescription drugs, in LaFond's bloodstream, she has not been charged with driving while impaired. However, when Lafond was arraigned, Guldbrandsen said, "we are alleging that the accident occurred after she consumed drugs."
Sisti begins by referring to the report of Officer Joseph Marquis of the Laconia Police Department, who wrote that, Lafond was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital where he spoke with her and concluded: "I did not smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage and there was no reason or probable cause for me to believe that she was impaired by drugs or alcohol. Based on my observations and interactions with Mrs. Lafond, it was my judgment that she was able to knowingly consent to my request for a conceptual blood draw."
Marquis reported that he read the Consent-to-Search form issued by the Laconia Police Department, which includes the right to withhold consent, to Lafond, who he said consented to the blood draw. A medical technician then took two blood samples, one to which Lafond consented and another pursuant to the statute (RSA 265-A:15) requiring mandatory blood tests of drivers involved in accidents leading to serious injury or death.

Sisti argues that there is no evidence that Marquis advised Lafond of the consequences of a voluntary blood draw, namely that the test results could be used against her in criminal proceedings. Consent, he maintains, cannot be deemed free, willing and knowing "without a full appreciation of the consequences of such consent" and concludes that her consent "was not fully knowing."

RSA 265-A:16 requires police to conduct blood draws of drivers involved in fatal accidents, "provided that in the case of a living driver or operator the officer has probable cause to believe that the driver or operator caused the collision or accident." Sisti refers to the Attorney General's Law Enforcement Manual, which notes that because the law does not require either a warrant or probable cause to believe the person was driving while impaired, its constitutionality is in question. More specifically, the manual continues, there is a question whether tests results can be introduced as evidence in criminal proceedings.

Sisiti finds that "the statute authorizes a law enforcement officer to compel a blood test, which unquestionably amounts to a 'search' under the 4th Amendment in circumstances where there has been no showing of any likelihood that the evidence will produce any evidence of criminal activity." The Attorney General's manual asserts that nevertheless the statute is constitutional because the search falls within the exception to the require for a warrant or probable cause granted for "special needs;" for example, the necessity to conduct blood tests in a timely manner if the presence of substances, like alcohol and drugs that metabolize rapidly, is to be detected.

However, Sisti cites two New Hampshire cases in which the courts have rejected this rendering of the statute. And he further reminds the court that the Attorney General cautions law enforcement officers that mandatory blood tests "cannot be routinely used as evidence against drivers in criminal prosecutions." Instead, the manual advises "wherever possible, officers should document any facts supporting a finding of probable cause to believe that the driver is impaired, and any exigent circumstances that would justify conducting a warrantless search. This would provide the State with an alternative argument to support the admissibility of the test results at a subsequent trial."

Asking the court to suppress the results of the blood tests, Sisti returns to Marquis's report where he expressly states that "there was no reason or probable cause for me to believe that she was impaired by drugs or alcohol."

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 01:00

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Rising river limits search for body of man presumed drowned in Bristol

CONCORD — The search for the 32-year-old Northfield man who is presumed drowned in the Smith River in Bristol, following a leap into its icy waters on Monday evening is on hold because of rising water, N.H. Fish & Game officials said Wednesday.

On Monday evening the search for Arron Hoyt began, coordinated by N.H. Fish and Game Conservation Officers, with assistance from the Bristol Fire and Police and New Hampton Fire departments. On Tuesday, the recovery effort continued by boat, with Fish and Game, Bristol Police and Marine Patrol officers participating.

Because of quickly rising waters, Wednesday's search was limited to aerial surveys by an Army National Guard helicopter flying over the river.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing water level data, such as flow and water height.

"The river has risen nine feet from yesterday to this morning, and is projected to rise another 14 feet before Thursday morning," said N.H. Fish and Game Lt. James Kneeland. "We will have to take it day by day until workable, safe conditions allow us to get back on the river."

Hoyt is presumed drowned after being observed by two witnesses jumping into the Smith River off a 12 foot high ledge outcropping near Profile Falls approximately 7:30 on Monday evening. He was attired in swim trunks, without a life vest. He was swept downriver and last seen with his head above water, trying to make his way toward shore.

While there is no specific evidence linking Hoyt's actions to a dare challenge related to the "Polar Plunge" Facebook fad, "We believe Hoyt was aware of the Polar Plunge trend, and his likely death from this incident is a tragic reminder of just how dangerous actions such as those promoted by that trend can be," said Kneeland.

"Anyone considering going near any body of water this time of year should take standard precautions such as wearing a life jacket," Kneeland continued. "We are urging the public to use caution around all waterbodies until warmer temperatures — both air and water — arrive, and water levels return to normal. Please give the spring runoff a chance to occur before planning your water activities."

Updates on the search will be posted at http://www.wildnh.com.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 12:37

Hits: 158

 
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