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New county commissioners will be sworn in on Wednesday; first meeting on Thursday

LACONIA — The changing of the guard at the Belknap County complex will get underway next week when the two newly elected county commissioners take office and the county convention outlines the process for filling the third seat on the commission opened by the resignation of Steve Nedeau of Meredith.

On Wednesday, Jan. 7 Republicans Richard Burchell of Gilmanton and David DeVoy of Sanbornton will be sworn in as county commissioners at the Belknap County Courthouse. Burchell, who served one term as a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and Belknap County Convention, defeated incumbent Republican John Thomas of Belmont in District 2 (Barnstead, Belmont, Gilmanton and Tilton) and Devoy, in his first bid for public office, topped Democrat David Pollak in District 1 (Laconia, New Hampton and Sanbornton).

The new commissioners will meet for the fist time on Thursday, Jan. 8 at 9 a.m. Burchell has indicated that the agenda for the meeting will be posted on the county website by Tuesday, January 6.

Both Burchell and DeVoy were critical of the conduct of the prior county commission, particularly of its opinion of its authority over the management of the county budget and its plan to replace the county jail with newly constructed facility that would include a county corrections element. Last month, Nedeau, citing his differences with the incoming commissioners, announced his resignation, leaving two years remaining in his term. State law provides for the convention to fill the vacancy by majority vote until the next biennial election.

Representative Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who chairs the county convention, said that the convention will meet on Monday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m., when it will set a schedule for soliciting and interviewing applicants for the seat in District 3 (Alton, Gilford, Meredith and Center Harbor). He anticipated that the convention would fill the vacancy early next month.

In addition, Tilton said that he expected that the commission would offer the convention an indication of how it intends to approach the 2015 county budget and the issue of the county jail. The outgoing commission has recommended a $27.3-million budget for 2015, which represents a 6.8 percent increase in expenditures and a 10 percent increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes.

The budget proposes expenditures of $27,330,778, which less revenues from sources other than property taxes of $12,296,021, leaves $15,034,757 to be raised by property taxes — or $1,371,443 more than the $13,663,314 raised this year. Personnel costs account for the largest share of the increased expenditures. The budget includes a 3 percent step increase for eligible employees, that is, those not at the top of their pay scale, based on their job performance as well as a 1.4 percent cost-of-living allowance (COLA) for all employees. This would be the first pay raise since 2012. The cost of the health insurance plan in which most employees are enrolled is budgeted to rise by 6.4 percent, and the less popular plan by 4.9 percent.

Tilton said that the convention has appointed sub-committees to review the budgets of county departments, but noted that the entire convention will address compensation and benefits.

The executive committee of the convention will meet before the convention, at 5 p.m. on January, 12, to revisit three requests to transfer funds within the 2014 budget to pay invoices, for water and sewer, electricity and heating fuel, which it declined to approve last week.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 01:47

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Belknap Mill Society to discuss its future at special meeting on Jan. 14

LACONIA — A meeting of the Belknap Mill Society will be held on Wednesday, January 14 at the mill, beginning at 7:30 p.m., to consider the financial challenges facing the society's ownership and operation of the historic downtown building.

There are approximately 150 individual and corporate members of the society.

In October, Chris Santaniello, the president of the society, informed city officials that the society lacks the financial resources to sustain its ownership of the building and is seeking a "partner" to ensure that the mill remains open to the public. At a non-public meeting with the City Council, the leadership of the society offered the mill to the city at an undisclosed price, but councilors declined the offer and urged the society to explore alternative arrangements.

Santaniello said that the meeting is closed to all but the membership of the society. She said that members will be informed of the issues facing the society and invited to offer suggestions for addressing them.

Last month, when the City Council hosted a public forum on the future of the mill, George Roberts of Gilmanton, a past president of the society, voiced his concern that the leadership of the society had entered conversations with city officials without consulting its members.

The society has operated at a loss for a number of years and all but exhausted its reserves as the cost of maintaining the building have continued to rise. Although the society has received grants to fund some repairs, it lacks the funds to finance major capital expenses, particularly the replacement of the boiler.

The use of the building is closely restricted by an easement granted by the society to the state in return for funds in 2004. The restrictions and obligations the easement places on the owner of the mill, especially a prohibition against operating it for private profit, represent strong disincentives for any private party other than a philanthropist to invest in the property.

The declared intent of the easement is "to ensure that the architectural, historical, and cultural features" of the mill are sustained and "to prevent any use or change of the property" that would "impair or interfere" with this purpose. The easement provides that if the society divests itself of all or part of the building, its "restrictions, stipulations, and covenants" shall bind the new owner. Furthermore, the easement expressly prohibits the subdivision of the building and specifies that if sold, it must be sold "as a unit."

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 01:40

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Judge rejects pleas bargain for man accused of repeated sexual assaults on Barnstead children

LACONIA – Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill III yesterday rejected a negotiated plea with Barnstead native Kenneth Day, who allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted his step-niece and step-nephew from the time they were 6 until they were 13, some 20 years ago.

Specifically, the state and the defense had agreed to have the 67-year-old Day serve two consecutive 10-20 year sentences for aggravated felonious sexual assault (rape) with the caveat that he could apply for parole after 16 years of time served, if he complied with all of the other orders.

Day was also sentenced to an additional 20 to 40 years — suspended — for two other aggravated felonious sexual assault charges.

According to Deputy Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern, the two children — brother and sister — lived in Barnstead and Day, who was related to their step-father lived in a school bus on the same property. The alleged assaults took place between 1991 and 1998.

Ahern said he lured the children with Oreos and Pepsi and let them watch movies otherwise forbidden to them. Gradually, she said he began to touch them and have them perform fellatio on him.

She said the abuse escalated to the point where he would sexually assault the boy and force the two children to have sex with each other while he watched.

The two came forward about a year ago and reported the crimes to the Barnstead Police.

He is also accused of fondling a different child who was also a relative.

After hearing the plea deal, Day's alleged female victim told the judge that while she was thankful Day was getting punished, she felt he should never have a chance to see the outside of jail again.

She called him a "monster" and said he was a "sorry excuse" for a person. She said she will never be able to trust anyone again and her pain will never go away.

"I don't feel any program can help a monster like this," she said. "He doesn't deserve a deal."

She said his being in prison with a hot shower, food, and a television seemed like a vacation to her.

Ahern also read a statement from the boy, who stated he has been questioning his own life.  To him the abuse is real and he needs it to be unreal.

The grandmother of the girl who was fondled, who is still a minor, spoke from her wheelchair. She said when the news broke about Day, she questioned her granddaughter who began crying and told her about being groped by him in the woods.

She called Day a "dog," said 16 years was too little time and that he deserves life.

"Throw him in a cage like the animal he is," she said. "Take the key and throw it away and leave him there."

Day's attorney, Wade Harwood, said Day wouldn't be eligible for parole until he was 83-years-old and that if he didn't take the sex offenders class and be on good behavior, he wouldn't qualify for parole at all.

"Prison is not exactly an easy place to grow old," Harwood said.

Harwood said Day was there to take responsibility for his actions and said he needs and wants help. Harwood also said Day faces similar charges in Merrimack County and could face more prison time stemming from them.

He said Day chooses not to put his victims through a trial and is more than just a pedophile. He said he was honorably discharged from the Navy and served three tours in Vietnam. Harwood also noted that Day worked at his own business until he retired at 52.

Day said only that he wanted to apologize for what he's done. He didn't look in the direction of the victims or their families while he spoke.

After Day spoke, the first female victim stood up again and told the court that if Day had really wanted help he could have gotten it. Instead he hunted children "over and over again."

"Absurd," she said describing the recommended sentence.

In rejecting the plea, O'Neill said he normally doesn't make recommendations but said he would accept a plea that didn't involve the potential of Day's release after 16 years.

Ahern and Harwood left the court room to renegotiate knowing the judge's recommendation but were unable to come to a resolution.

Although Ahern said she could be ready for trial by the second week in January, Harwood said he could not, so no trial date has been set.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 02:22

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Snow squall sparks 35-car pileup on I-93 in Ashland

ASHLAND — Dillon Maloney of Hollis, a 21-year-old student at the University of New Hampshire, was headed to Loon Mountain in Lincoln for a day on the ski slopes Friday morning when a snow squall, which he said ''came out of nowhere'', hit Interstate 93 in Ashland less than a mile north of Exit 24, shortly before 10 a.m..
''I came around on a corner and there were 15 or 20 cars piled up in front of me. I hit the brakes but couldn't avoid them and slid into the pile. I was really lucky. I could see a number of people with head and facial injuries. Cars kept coming up behind me and sliding into the pileup,'' said Maloney.
He said that while he was waiting for a tow truck in his car, about 10 minutes after his crash, he heard ''a ping and then a boom'' and that smoke came pouring out of a truck and a vehicle behind it.
''The state police evacuated the scene and it was a while before I could get my car back,'' said Maloney, who finally got to see it again just around noon as it was hauled into the parking area next to Ashland Liquor store by Rusty's Towing of Tilton, where it was picked up by a wrecker and hauled back to Hollis.
He said that State Police handled the situation very well and worked to get everyone whose vehicle was capable of being driven away from the accident scene onto the highway and out of the area as soon as possible.
State Police said there were actually two separate accident scenes spread out over a half mile of highway which is marked by signs giving warnings of high winds in that area. They said the most serious crash involved a vehicle which slid under a tractor trailer. Both vehicles caught fire but the driver of the car escaped. The fire was quickly extinguished by local firefighters.
Ashland Fire Chief Steve Heath said that 11 people suffered injuries, none of which were life-threatening. ''Most were cuts and bruises,'' said Heath.
He said that seven people were taken to Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth for treatment and that four were transported to Franklin Regional Hospital.
The northbound lane of Rte. 93 was closed at Exit 24 for several hours with traffic diverted onto Rte. 3 but I-93 southbound was not affected.
A large number of wreckers responded to the accident scene and the highway's northbound lane was reopened to traffic at 1:30 p.m.

CAPTION: pixslugged 93 driver
Dillon Maloney, a 21-year-old UNH student, was one of the drivers involved in a 35-car pileup on Rte. 93 in Ashland less than a mile north of the Rte. 24 exit Friday morning. Maloney was headed to Loon Mountain in Lincoln for a day on the ski slopes when a blinding snow squall hit the area. His car suffered front end damage in the pileup. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 01:24

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