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Lipman suggests City Council play more active role on county jail front; priority should be placed on meeting all state & federal standards

LACONIA — City Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, this week suggested that the City Council take an initiative to loosen the logjam that has stalled discussion of the future of the county jail by calculating what the city can afford to contribute to the project.

In 2013, the city, which budgets within the bounds of a property tax cap, bore 18.9-percent of county tax commitment and would bear the same share of annual debt service carried by the county to fund the cost of a new or renovated jail. When Ricci-Greene Associates presented a proposal for a facility of 184 beds and a community corrections component with an estimated cost of $42.5 million to the Jail Planning Committee, the City Council wrote to the Belknap County Commission expressing concern at the cost.

"We've got to make some progress," Lipman said, "and we've got to get something done." He indicated that the highest priority is to ensure that the facility complies with all state and federal standards by providing a structure that is "safe for both jail inmates and corrections officers."

Addressing his fellow councilors on Monday, Lipman said he considered rehabilitative programming, which requires additional space and personnel, as "step two."

Lipman said that by by reviewing the city's outstanding debt and annual debt service, the council could determine an amount or a range of amounts of additional principal and interest payments the city could carry. "We can say this is what we can afford," he said. "The number would not be an absolute post in the ground, but I think it would help move the ball."

So far discussion about the jail has been largely confined to the Belknap County Commission and its Jail Planning Committee, on the one hand, and the Belknap County Convention, on the other, and has reached a stalemate. Lipman ventured that an initiative by the City Council might change the course of the dialogue.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:42

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Gilford woman awakened by intruder at 3:30 a.m.

GILFORD — A transient 18-year-old broke into a woman's house on Breton Road at 3:30 a.m. yesterday morning, startling her as she was asleep in her bedroom.

The victim said she woke and found a young man she identified as Isaiah Hughes in her bedroom. She said the two briefly struggled and the assailant was able to get away from her. Police said the victim got a small cut on her hand but was able to tear intruder's shirt sleeve.

Police said yesterday that Hughes and the victim are known to one another but declined to elaborate. The victim told police who they were seeking.

Affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said the victim contacted her mother who told her that Hughes was on her porch at an address on Old Lake Shore Road.

Two police officers went to the house on Old Lake Shore Road and made contact with Hughes, who they said had blood on his hand and was shoeless. They told him he was being detained but he ran from them.

The two officers struggled with Hughes who they said was actively trying to get away from them. After a short struggle he was taken into custody.

Police verified his identification by conducting a K-9 track from the victim's house to where he was found.

Police allegedly found Hughes's shoes, two backpacks and a coin jar and food that they believe he allegedly stole from the victim's home.

Hughes was already out of bail after being charge with theft by unauthorized taking on June 2 for allegedly stealing from Walmart, and for unlawful possession of alcohol — a bail violation — from June 21.

Hughes faces one new count of burglary, resisting arrest, and breach of bail.

While he has no criminal record, Gilford Police asked Judge Jim Carroll to hold Hughes on $10,000 cash-only bail because his recent behavior indicates he is unwilling or unable to obey the law and that he is a dangerous threat to the general public.

Judge Carroll ordered him held on $1,000 cash bail for the burglary and $5,000 personal recognizance bail for the misdemeanors.

He is order to stay away Breton Road and Walmart.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:36

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City orders evacuation of 'deplorable' apartments

LACONIA — City officials yesterday shuttered a four-unit apartment building at 145-147 Union Avenue, displacing five adults and eleven children, where Fire Chief Ken Erickson, who serves as the city's health officer, said they found numerous violations of the fire code and sanitary conditions he described as "deplorable."

Erickson, who spent several hours in the building with Code Enforcement Officer Steve McClusker, said that smoke detectors were not working, while corridors and doorways were obstructed, in some cases by clothes dryers that were installed in hallways. He said that garbage and debris was strewn about the four units and common spaces, which were "infested with flies."

Erickson said that officials were drawn to the building by complaint from the mother of a male tenant who lived there with his father. The building was immediately evacuated, its power disconnected and posted as "uninhabitable," Erickson said.

Residents of two of the four units received rental assistance from the Laconia Housing Authority (LHA) under the federal government's so-called Section 8 program. Erickson said that Dick Weaver, executive director of the LHA, "was shocked to see what his agency was paying for" after walking through the building.

Although the city welfare officer was on hand to arrange shelter for the residents, Erickson said that some chose to stay with friends or relatives and two went to the Carey House, the nearby shelter operated by the Salvation Army, but none sought assistance from the city.

Erickson said that repeated attempts to contact the owner of the building "came to no avail."

According to city records the building has been owned by Walter and Janet Hutchinson doing business as WJK Realty Corporation, with the address of a post office box at Winnisquam, New Hampshire, since June, 2004.

WJK Realty also owns a property at 322 Union Avenue and a building with commercial space and residential units at 322 South Main Street. Walter Hutchinson is listed as the owner of a single-family home at 34 Doloff Street and Janet Hutchinson as the owner of a three-unit residential building at 46 Winter Street.

"We're forming a task force to go after the irresponsible landlords aggressively," Erickson said. He noted that city officials will work closely with the LHA, which intends to withhold rent assistance for housing units that fail to pass inspection by the city. "We're going to make sure they clean up or have no tenants."

Noting that that there are many conscientious and responsible landlords in the city, Erickson said "if you're going to be a property owner in the city of Laconia, "you're going to have to do it the right way.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:29

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Wind farm company reps met by small army of protestors

by Thomas P. Caldwell

ALEXANDRIA — Well in excess of 100 sign-carrying opponents of wind power from five local towns lined the road in protest when the project developer and attorney for EDP Renewables arrived July 15 at the Alexandria Town Hall to seek a building permit for a meteorological tower.
Jennifer Tuthill of Alexandria, wife of Selectman George Tuthill, said she and the other protesters were there "to show this multinational company that we want no part of it".
Residents had voted against allowing wind farms in the town in 2013 and, this year, they passed a "rights based ordinance" or RBO that claimed the authority to regulate what happens in the town, specifically banning "unsustainable energy systems".
EDP Attorney Mark Beliveau told the Board of Selectmen, "We don't believe the rights based ordinance is enforceable ... but even if it is, it addresses a wind farm, not a meteorological tower, which is a passive collection structure." He went on to note that the RBO refers to projects controlled by state and federal authorities, while the 80-meter tower EDP is proposing does not fall under those jurisdictions.
"We applied for a building permit," he reminded the town fathers.
Later in the meeting, resident Bob Piehler, a strong opponent of wind power, contradicted the attorney, saying they also had applied for a permit from the Federal Aviation Authority, proving there is federal oversight.
"This is Trojan horse," Piehler said. "Once this is in, they will have control of the road, and they're looking to take out local control."
Beliveau's argument centered on the conditional approval the selectmen had given a year ago, subject to five conditions. The company had met four of the conditions prior to Tuesday's meeting and the final condition — the posting of a $34,000 decommissioning bond — was what brought the company to town this week.
"Now that you have the bond, we believe that satisfies all five conditions," Beliveau said.
When Selectman Tuthill said it troubled him to say so but he agreed that the company had met its obligations, Beliveau commented, "I understand the opposition to the wind farm, but this is a small, passive, data collection structure, and I suggest you review it for what it is: a meteorological tower. The decision is really administrative, and personal opinions should not play a part."
Selectman Michael Broome, who came on board this year, said that, in light of the citizens' opposition and the RBO, he would not sign the permit. When Tuthill made a motion calling upon the selectmen to affirm that the five conditions had been met, he did not receive a second, and the hall erupted in applause.
Beliveau responded with a remark indicating that the decision would be challenged on the basis of members' bias.
The meteorological tower had been proposed to determine the viability of a wind project on the private property for which EDP had entered into a seven-year lease agreement last year. Known as the Spruce Ridge Project, the proposal would cover land in Alexandria, Groton, Hebron, and Orange and involve 15 to 25 turbines at a proposed cost of $140 million, producing 60 megawatts of power.
Project Manager Derek Rieman said all talk of a wind farm is premature, as they first need to determine the project's viability; but when challenged on why they would pursue the matter in the face of so much local opposition, Rieman said, "We're pursuing a clean energy project here."
Sue Cheney of Alexandria commented, "You say the met tower is passive, but it's here for one purpose, and that's not passive."
Carl and Paul Spring of Groton, who live on Groton Hollow Road which has become the access road for the Groton Wind Farm, already in place, said before the meeting that wind energy is not clean at all.
"We saw that project from Day 1," Carl Spring said. "Our quiet, country road is now as busy as the Hooksett toll booth, almost. Every day, there are trucks going by, doing everyday business, troubleshooting the problems the wind farm has had, and there are garbage, linen, and FedX trucks going by four to five times a day. It has opened up the mountain to logging. I'm a logger myself, but they're going clear into the wilderness area. There goes our forest canopy. And the water in the streams is black, or like chocolate milk. They say, 'It wasn't us,' but those of us who have lived there for a while never saw that kind of sediment in the streams before."
The Springs also spoke of the noise of the turbines. "They say it's low-decible, and it is, but so is a mosquito, and they can keep you awake. We can't sit in the front yard without hearing the whoosh or the jet engine noise. You hear it continually, and it's never going to go away."
Jim Lawrence, a former representative to the N.H. House from Hudson, who is running for U.S. Congress, took the public comment period as an opportunity to state his continued opposition to wind farms. "If I'm elected," he said, "I will continue to fight this every step of the way."

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:22

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