Traffic stopped as brush fire burns acres

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — The first major brush fire of the year in Belknap County charred about 6 acres of grassland along Route 25 yesterday before it was extinguished by firefighters.

Deputy Chief Andre Kloetz said the cause of the fire is unknown but said it appeared there were two fires burning simultaneously. He said the blaze went to a first alarm because of the size of the area burning and that at one point, some outbuildings on a neighboring lot were close to the blaze.

"We don't know if it was a cigarette or if it was set intentionally," Kloetz said.

The fire was initially reported around 1 p.m. and Kloetz said the first responding lieutenant saw how close it was to an outbuilding and called for a first alarm that brought firefighters from neighboring communities to assist.

He said it took about 30 people to extinguish the blaze.

Police said Route 25 was shut down for a period of time during the earlier moments because the fire departments had to get all of their apparatus through the busy highway to reach the scene. The fire burned most of a field that is about half a mile from the Inter-Lakes Regional High School.

By abut 1:30 p.m., Meredith Police opened one lane of traffic though it was slow going through the area until the firefighting units left the scene.

Kloetz said that this time of year is usually very dry, not very humid and nothing has turned green yet. He said despite the snow and rain of the past weekend, it takes just a few days like Thursday – dry, sunny, and with a little bit of wind – to dry out grass and underbrush to the point where it burns very easily.

He said permits are required for all burning and no one is supposed to burn until after 5 p.m. Kloetz said that until the greening, fire permits are issued on a day-to-day basis and anyone considering an outside fire should contact their local fire department before burning.

04-15 Meredith brush fire 002

Two firefighters brandishing rakes and shovels head into a six-acre charred field along Route 25 in Meredith yesterday to extinguish an out of control brush fire. No one was injured but traffic through the area was slowed for about two hours. (Gail Ober photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

Gilford police now at full force - Two detectives added, second SRO duty to be shared by several officers

BY GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — A unanimous board of selectmen agreed last night that the police department can move forward with having one full-time school resource officer in the school district and adding a third detective.

To supplement the lack of the second SRO, Police Chief Bean Burpee said that officers and supervisors on day shifts will spend time at the schools as part of their routine assignments, especially during opening and closing times when traffic is heavy and during special events.

"Officers will stop by, visit classrooms and eat lunch with the students whenever possible," he said, adding that the overall police presence at the schools will be about the same as it is now.

"I was an SRO for four years," said Bean Burpee continued. "I remain committed to the program."

During the past two years, the department has had one full-time SRO and one officer who was a detective, an SRO two or three days a week, and the DARE officer. Bean Burpee explained to the board he felt the DARE officer was being pulled in too many directions. With the change, she will be assigned to the detective bureau permanently but will keep her DARE certification up to date so she can assist the full-time SRO/DARE officer as needed.

He also told the board he is advertising in house for a third detective now that he has successfully hired an 18th officer, which is a position added to the department about three years ago. Until now, the department had been operating with one open position because of staff turnover.

Bean Burpee said the number of thefts, drug cases and other felonies has risen dramatically over the past five years, emphasizing that in 2012 the department handled 139 felonies and so far this year they have already handled 49, which is about a 70 percent increase.

"The (bureau of criminal investigations) is barely holding its head above water," he said.

He said detectives are responsible for investigating many misdemeanors, all felonies, all referrals to the Division of Children, Youth and Families, and with working with the Belknap County Attorney to process criminal cases for indictment.

Selectman Gus Benavides said the town has had a long history of having two full-time SROs in the school and it was at the behest of the Gilford School Board.

"The priority has to be balancing the need to have our children protected (and) hear the needs of the families while (being aware of) your staff needs," he said.
Benavides said that he was amenable to the idea but warned that if there was any push back from the parents the selectmen might have to revisit the decision.

Bean Burpee said he was also concerned about push back from crime victims. He said he and Superintendent Kent Hemingway have discussed the change and said he will make stopping by the schools without the SRO that day part of an officer's routine duties.

Rubens challenges Ayotte, calls himself the ‘insurgent’ candidate for US Senate

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Speaking to the the Belknap County Republican Committee this week, Jim Rubens, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in the Republican primary, described himself as an "insurgent" candidate this week.

In a mercurial political career that has careened between both ends of the spectrum for more than two decades, insurgency has been the the persistent theme of Rubens' political persona. A Dartmouth graduate and Hanover businessman, he backed Ross Perot's independent bid for the presidency in 1992 and a year later as a "radical centrist," teamed with Democrats Arnie Arnesen and John Rauh in an ephemeral third party initiative.

In 1994, Rubens, running as Republican, whipped the sitting president of the New Hampshire Senate in the GOP primary and won the first of two terms in the Senate, where he contributed to the deregulation of electricity generation and the passage of official ballot voting (SB-2). Leaving the Senate, he ran for governor in 1998, but finished a close second in the Republican primary. Two years later his bid to return to the Senate fell short.

For much of the next decade Rubens was best known as the leader of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling as well as a consultant with the Union of Concern Scientists and spokesman for the Carbon Coalition who championed a carbon tax to counter climate change as well as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. However, when Rubens ran for the United States Senate in 2014 signed the pledge hawked by Americans for Prosperity to oppose a carbon tax and instead called for end to all federal energy subsidies while making campaign finance reform this top priority.

After losing his first bid for the Senate, when Scott Brown won the GOP primary by a two-to-one margin, Rubens, who endorsed Donald Trump soon after the last ballots were cast in he New Hampshire Presidential Primary, is now seeking to outflank Ayotte from the right.

"We are the conservative party," Rubens told the county Republicans, referring to the anger and frustration of rank-and-file Republican voters, which has fuel the popularity of insurgent candidates. He said that the Senate race between Ayotte and Democrat Maggie Hassan "offers no choice" and proclaimed "I'm giving you a choice of an insurgent, grassroots candidate."

Repeatedly referring to "crony capitalism," Rubens called for "pro-American trade deals, fixing the tax code and sunsetting federal regulations. He favors closing the borders, building a wall and denying work permits and citizenship to illegal immigrants while deporting all those who have committed felonies.

Rubens dubbed Ayotte "a cheerleader" for Hillary Clinton's "failed policy of national building that has led to more chaos and less security" and advocated "cutting off money to terrorists" by withholding support for countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey that promote and facilitate terrorism.

Scolding Ayotte for "adding $1.1 trillion to the national debt by voting for budget bills and raising the debt ceiling, Rubens warned "the clock has run out, we're at the end of the craziness" and said he would chart "a glide path to fiscal sanity."

Questioned about climate change, Rubens replied that he favored a free market in energy, without subsidies or regulations, claiming that "if global warming is a problem, it will solve it and if it isn't jobs will be created by exporting energy technology."

Rubens has been endorsed by Stark 360, a political action committee headed by Aaron Day, who as chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus backed Rubens when he ran for the Senate in 2014. In announcing the endorsement, Day said if Rubens loses the primary, Stark 360 will support the independent candidacy of Andrew Hemingway in the general election. Hemingway of Bristol finished second in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2014.