City & LRGHealthcare agree to 2 more years of ambulance service agreement

LACONIA — The City Council this week approved a two-year contract between the city and LRGHealthcare to continue the partnership begun in 1997 that City Manager Scott Myers said enables the Fire Department to operate "the best emergency medical service delivery system in the state."

Under the agreement LRGH bears a significant portion of the costs of operating the ambulance service in return for keeping all of the revenue generated. Covered expenses include the salary and benefits of the deputy chief of Emergency Medical Services and four senior firefighter/paramedics as well as $127,000 per year, which represents about half the cost of the four most junior firefighters. In addition, LRGH funds up to 1,000 hours of overtime, based on the average rate of senior emergency medical technicians (EMT)-paramedics to ensure sufficient personnel for special events, like Motorcycle Week, and periods of peak demand.

LRGH also pays for the ambulances, along with the equipment, medications and supplies they carry., the fuel they burn and the maintenance they require. There are currently four ambulances in the fleet, the oldest purchased in 1997 and the newest in 2012 at a cost of $252,000. Recently purchases of three hydraulic lift stretchers, one hydraulic tail gate lift, three cardiac compression devices,three EKG monitors and three medical pumps totaled some $175,000

Noting that the contract does not include the purchase of an ambulance, Myers explained that ambulances are replaced on a five-year cycle and since the last was acquired in 2012, the next would be bought in 2017, the year the agreement expires.

For its part, LRGH sets the rates, bills the fees for ambulance service and keeps the proceeds. In 2014, LRGH paid the city $813,549 in direct costs for the ambulance service. At the same time, LRGH billed $1,154,228 for these services, but, collected just $612,646 and spent $167,551 doing so. In other words, Myers said that LRGH effectively contributed $368,454 to the city.

In 2014, there were 2,646 calls for emergency medical services, representing two of every three calls for service to which the Fire Department responded, and  213 occasions when three ambulances were deployed simultaneously and 510 times when two ambulances were deployed simultaneously. Altogether 1,841 patients were transported, of whom 1,402 received advanced life support measures.

10-year-old wins Colonial student art competition

LACONIA —  A 10-year-old who created a diorama showing the Colonial Theater in its heyday was the winner of the an art contest sponsored by the Laconia Historical and Museum Society.

Emma Juliet Fabian said she wanted to create an old-fashioned feel for her diorama and ''show it the way it was'' when the theater was the pride of downtown Laconia after it opened in the early 20th Century.

Unable to locate red velvet material which would have replicated the color of the seats in the theater, she used a fuschia colored material which gave them a bright pink color and also used material for the headpiece of her mother's wedding outfit for curtains.

Fabian was honored for her creation in a ceremony held at the Laconia Public Library Tuesday evening.

Brenda Kean, executive director of the Historical and Museum Society, said that the idea for the contest, in which the organization worked with the children's librarian, was to celebrate the theater restoration project being undertaken by the Belknap Economic Development Council, with financial support from the City of Laconia. BEDC recently purchased the theater and accompanying buildings for $1.4 million and has announced plays to spend another $13 million on the restoration effort. The city will lease the 800 plus seat theater space for use as a public auditorium upon completion of the project, which is expected to take several years.

"Most kids have never been inside the theater so we provided photos of the interior so they could see what it looked like and create an original piece of art. This is going to be huge for Laconia and we wanted to let children have a sense of participation,'' said Kean.

All participants received certificates of merit and were eligible for entry into prize drawings.




Divided City Council appoints Planning Board chairman to another term

 LACONIA — The City Council this week reappointed Warren Hutchins, the chairman of the Planning Board, to a three-year term on the board, which will expire in June 2018. by a vote of three-to-two. Councilors Ava Doyle (Ward 1), Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) supported his appointment while Councilors Brenda Baer (Ward 4) and Bob Hamel (Ward 5) were opposed. Councilor David Bownes (Ward 5) was absent.

Edwin Bones, a relative newcomer to the city who has worked as a contractor and real estate broker in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for more than 20 years, was unanimously chosen to fill the vacancy on the Planning Board created by the expiration of the term of Larry Guild, who did not seek reappointment.

Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, also applied to fill the vacancy on the board, but failed to win support from a majority of the councilors. Councilors Doyle, Lipman and Bolduc opposed his appointment, which was supported by Councilors Baer and Hamel.

High employee turnover scrambling county budget numbers

LACONIA — Members of the Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee approved a number of 2015 budget transfer requests Monday afternoon after having been told by Belknap County Commissioners that high worker turnover in temporary positions has forced the county to pay more overtime than was originally projected.
Interim Belknap County House of Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray said that in recent months the department has lost four full-time and five part-time workers and that dealing with the turnover has resulted in additional overtime to cover absences due to vacancies and family leaves. So far the department has expended $42,761 of its $60,000 overtime budget.
''At this rate we're going to have the change the way we do business,'' said Gray, who requested the transfer of $15,000 which commissioners recommended be taken from the county's $200,000 contingency budget.
But committee member Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said that he would prefer to see the transfer funds come from another account within the department's budget and the committee tabled that request. Commissioners agreed to submit a new transfer request next month.
Committee members asked County Administrator Debra Shackett how many nursing home employees had left this year and said that at least 20 people had moved on or retired.
The nursing home sought six budget transfers, four of which were for overtime; $8,000 for dietary wages overtime, $25,000 for overtime wages for the nursing home, $1,750 for housekeeping overtime and a separate request for an additional $4,000 in dietary wages overtime. Other transfers included $2,000 for office supplies and $2,000 for medical service supplies.
That request, which totaled $43,700 in transfers, was approved.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that filling part-time positions at the nursing home had proved difficult and there is a high turnover. ''As soon as they get a full-time job somewhere else they leave,'' said DeVoy, who said that he had talked with nursing home Administrator Mathew Logue about the situation.
He said that Logue had told him the high turnover rates are being experienced throughout the entire nursing home industry at both county-owned and private facilities.
''It's hard to keep people when you can't give them a raise'' said DeVoy, when questioned by Rep. George Hurt (R-Gilford) on whether an internal situations was contributing to the high turnover in the county.
Also approved by the Executive Committee were transfer requests of $10,000 for wages in the Sheriff's Department, $800 for overtime wages for training a new billing coordinator. For the county and $8,500 for the training of newly hired employees in the finance office on the financial accounting software used by the county.
Committee Chairman Rep. Herb Vadney supported the requests for training funds, saying ''we need highly trained people in the finance office.''
Commissioners did not bring up nor did the committee members question a projected $80,000 shortfall in the $2.6 million health insurance budget, which commissioners are hoping to close by offering an incentive for non-union workers to switch from a costlier HMO program to a so-called site-of-service plan.