Gilmanton selectmen end audio recordings of meetings

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — Official records of Gilmanton's selectmen's meetings will only exist on paper, no longer as audio recordings.

After attending a regional Right To Know meeting on May 4 in Meredith, five days later selectmen voted unanimously not to continue recording their meetings.

Within the past six months, the actual recorded minutes that have been routinely released by the board, have taped an ugly dispute between former selectmen Don Guarino and Rachel Hatch and, more recently, an instance where selectmen likely thought they were in a nonpublic session but were still being recorded. In that meeting, board members and the town administrator made disparaging and hurtful comments about staff members, leading to one of them to take an extended leave of absence.

Selectmen's Chairman Michael Jean said Thursday the decision was based on the recommendations of town counsel after board members learned that recording meetings is not a requirement of the state Right to Know Law.

"Minutes are not required to include stenographic or verbatim transcripts," reads the 2015 Attorney General's 138-page report on RSA 91:a which dictates the states open meeting laws. This decision was based on a 1968 state Supreme Court ruling.

The decision was made by Selectmen Steve McWhinnie and Marshall Bishop as Jean was unavailable due to an unforeseen medical issue. In his absence, McWhinnie has been acting as chairman.

Nothing in the board's decision can prevent a member of the audience from recording the activities during the public sessions of the board and later disseminating them. However, by law, the official minutes of any board are those that are written and later approved by the board.

At the most recent meeting, according to Brenda Currier, who was on the agenda, there were about three people in the audience recording the meeting.

Gilmanton selectmen meet at 5:30 p.m. on Monday nights. Meetings are generally held in the selectmen's meeting room on the first floor, but with overflow crowds are often relocated to the second floor auditorium.

BRATT members tour finished portions of Winnisquam Scenic Trail

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Members and guests of the Belmont Recreational Alternative Trail Team took a tour last evening of the portions of the trail that have been completed so far.

When finished, the Winnisquam Scenic Trail will connect with Laconia's WOW trail at the Belmont/Laconia line.

Belmont Land Use Technician Rick Ball, who serves as an adviser to BRATT, said the trail should be completed by midsummer and will be 1.8 miles in length, running from the Agway store to the Laconia line.

Ball said that the difficult-to-construct portions of the trail are nearly completed and the balance should progress quickly from this point on.

At a gathering in the parking lot of the Leslie Roberts Town Beach, a man who lives at Sun Lake Village said he and a few of his neighbors object to the trail cutting through their development.

The unidentified man said he feels it would be a violation of their privacy, however the developers of Sun Lake Village have already given an easement to the town for the trail.

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Donna Hepp and an unidentified man walk near the beginning of the Winnisquam Scenic Trail which is under construction. The town expects the project to be completed by mid summer. (Gail Ober photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

Hosmer says education, not business tax cuts, should be state’s top priority

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — State Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) told residents of the Taylor Home who turned out for a town hall meeting with him last evening that he thinks that a well-educated work force is the key to a healthy economy for New Hampshire.
Hosmer, who is completing his second term as District 7 senator, said that trying to bring new businesses into the state by cutting business taxes is not the best way to grow the state's economy.
"My priorities are investing in education,'' he said, noting that with unemployment in the state below three percent that the main thing businesses need is an educated work force.
"They can't find qualified workers. We've got to make the investments in people that will create jobs here and keep our graduates here," he said.
There were about a dozen people at the meeting and Hosmer asked them to sit in a semi-circle close to him as he avoided the podium and took a seat in front of the gathering.
He said that major accomplishments in the current legislative session from his standpoint were passage of the New Hampshire Health Protection Act, which has enabled 50,000 people who previously lacked health insurance to obtain coverage, and investing more money in mental health.
"We used to be a world leader in mental health. Now we find ourselves in situations in which adolescents find themselves in the emergency room rather than being treated at a community mental health center. And we're losing mental health professionals because we can't pay them enough," said Hosmer.
Much of the conversation centered the around the epidemic of heroin-related drug death in the state, which topped 500 last year. "Everyone knows someone whose life has been touched by the drug crisis," he said, pointing out that a new approach of treating drug problems as an illness rather than as a crime can make a difference.
Police Officer Eric Adams of the Laconia Police Department described how the the department tries to make as many services as possible available to those who show up at the hospital with overdoses to try and get them the help they need to deal with addiction problems.
Both Adams and Hosmer said that they are confident that recovery center will be coming to Laconia in the near future and said that the Community Corrections facility which is being built by Belknap County will offer the kind of programs and community support system that inmates need to deal with their addictions.
Hosmer also said that he thinks the Northern Pass project will eventually get done through compromises by EverSource and that it will provide a much needed economic benefit for the city of Franklin, which in one of the communities he represents in District 7.

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Peter Millham, left, and Alida Millham, right, chatted with State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) prior to the start of a Town Hall session with residents of the Taylor Community Thursday night. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)