Gilmanton taps new town administrator

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Heidi Duval, assistant town administrator in Gilmanton, pauses from working in the selectmen's office at the town hall Monday. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

Heidi Duval was assistant for two years


GILMANTON — Heidi Duval, assistant town administrator in Gilmanton, has been contracted by the town to serve as town administrator for two years, effective March 10.
Duval, who works in the selectmen's office at Gilmanton Town Hall, replaces Paul C. Branscombe, who is retiring. She also wades into a budget process that has seen its share of turmoil in recent months.
Selectman Michael Jean said the board voted last Monday night, Jan. 23, to officially choose Duval for the job.
"She's been training under Paul for the last year and a half roughly and going to different classes. I think when she gets into it, she will be fine. She has been to the budget hearings and the budget workshops. She's been with the town for quite a few years," Jean said.
"She should do a great job at it."
Town leaders brought her over to the assessing department to help out there and start training her roughly a year and a half ago, he said.
Brian Forst, chairman of the budget committee, agreed that Duval has the experience to fill the position.
"I wish her well. I hope she does a good job. She's been involved in the town now for a while. I think this all came on a little quicker than expected, but hopefully she's ready for it," Forst said.
"I started as the deputy town clerk/tax collector," Duval said Monday, "and I was there for five and a half years estimated, and then I came over to this area to touch everything I could touch over here," she said, referring to the selectmen's office. Duval said she has spent the last year and a half shadowing Branscombe to "learn what I could."
Branscombe, outgoing town administrator, preferred not to comment on town issues or the upcoming deliberative session of Town Meeting, which is Saturday, Feb. 4, at 10 a.m. at the school. Voting day is Tuesday, March 14.

"I've been here since July 2015, but I'm heading off into the horizon," Branscombe said, deferring to Duval on questions of the upcoming budget vote. On Monday, Branscombe said he had 29 days left on his contract.
When Branscombe arrived in September 2015, he did so amid contentious debate and a divided board of selectmen. The board voted 2-1 to grant him a four-year contract starting at a salary of $55,000 in 2016 and including three annual increases of $5,000 through 2019.
Now, he is departing amid questions of town budgeting and taxation.
In late 2015-16, the town tax rate rose sharply when the town neglected to transfer some of its unexpended fund balance into the revenue line, which is commonly referred to a "buying down the rate." Later, selectmen voted to move $171,000 from the undesignated fund balance into the revenue side, which helped dampen the tax rate.
During town budget review at a Jan. 7 Gilmanton Budget Committee meeting, Chairman Brian Forst reported a new bottom line in the committee's amendment of the town budget of $3,614,691. "The budget committee reduced the town budget by $23,895 from the original proposed number brought forward by the board of selectmen," the minutes reflected.
Forst noted that the proposed operating budget, not including the warrant articles that the Budget Committee will be bringing forward, totaled $3,614,691, which represents an estimated tax impact of $4.83 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the minutes reported. The Budget Committee also supported a budget line for the executive office, including town administrator budget, in the amount of $175,724. In March 2016, voters approved an operating budget of $3,576,702.

In an interview, Forst called the proposed town budget "fairly solid" and "a pretty tight budget."
Regarding the discrepancy over the tax rate and unexpended fund balance, Forst said, "My opinion was things weren't figured quite correctly a year ago and there was a spike in the tax rate. There are a lot of different theories about why that happened." But he added, "The past is the past, and what we've got to do is make sure these things don't happen again in the future."
A former selectman, he recalled bearing the responsibility of setting the tax rate.
Jean said, "I still have questions on the revenues and all of it."
Resident Ralph Lavin has filed requests for information from the town, but he said he has not received answers regarding the past tax-rate spike and what he has described as a half-million-dollar overtaxation.
"I guess I've just given up," he said Monday. "I didn't like the idea these people were getting applauded for lowering the taxes, and all they had to do was give us back the taxes the selectboard took from us the previous year."
Lavin said he doesn't think town officials are "intentionally trying to hide anything," but he said, "I still have not received an answer to that question. I can't even get them to tell me what the exact number was that the town was overtaxed."
Jean said, "We hire people to track it and do it, we've got to depend on them to do their job."
As for this year's proposed budget, he said, "I wanted to start the whole budget season earlier in the game, and then they decided to start later, and then they had the budget workshops when I couldn't attend them. We'll see what happens Saturday."

3 nabbed in LRCC shed

Men admitted to police they were trying to steal metal


LACONIA — Three local men managed to lock themselves into a storage shed while attempting to steal metals in an alleged burglary at Lakes Region Community College early Monday morning.

Jason Labonville, 21, of 47 Merrimac St., Bradley Cyr, 25, transient, and Shaine Beaulieu, 23, of 21 Gilbert St. were all found hiding inside a storage shed after an alarm alerted police and maintenance staff to a possible break-in.

The three were ordered held on a small amount of cash bail or corporate surety, although by 5 p.m. Beaulieu was the only one who remained in the Belknap County Jail.

Whether by accident or design, all three were wearing camouflage in their mug shots. Police said two of them had headlamps and gloves.

Police said they found a 2016 Volkswagen parked next to the shed. They said it was still warm, one of the doors was open and the keys were in the car.

Police said a maintenance man unlocked the shed and one of the officers saw one man, but when he ordered him to put his hands up, two different hands rose from the opposite side of the shed.

All three surrendered to police and taken to the police station where, according to affidavits, they turned on each other without hesitation.

Police said Cyr told them that Beaulieu picked him and Labonville up around 7:30 p.m. but that he fell asleep and never woke until the car they were in was parked next to the shed. Cyr told police it was Beaulieu's idea to break into the shed and said it was because he needed money to buy his stepchildren some food and himself some cigarettes.

Cyr said Beaulieu used a knife to break into the shed, stood there with a flashlight and told him and Labonville what to take. He also told police that Beaulieu was high on methamphetamine and that he and Labonville were afraid he would become violent if they didn't do what he said, according to the affidavit.

Labonville admitted to police to being the one who pried open the shed. Later Cyr said he told police Beaulieu did the prying and said it was because Beaulieu didn't want Labonville to get in trouble.

Beaulieu initially told police the burglary was Cyr's and Labonville's idea but changed his tune and said it was his and that he had committed about 100 thefts of scrap metal since August of 2016 in communities that ranged from Concord to Plymouth, Meredith to Laconia.

Beaulieu also said he had used methamphetamine within the past 24 hours and that there was two plastic bags of it in the center console of the car. He also said he had piles of scrap metal in his home back yard.

Police said they were in the process of getting search warrants for both the car and Beaulieu's home.

LRCC president Scott Kalicki said Monday that because of some obscene graffiti spray-painted on one of the storage sheds, he hoped none of the three are enrolled at the college. He said that there were small piles of metals within the storage shed that the three had allegedly made.

Kalicki said that while the college was doing some recent construction, there were some thefts of metal from the construction site. He also noted the price of metal is quite low now, compared to where it used to be.

01-30 Jason Labonville Jason Labonville

01-30 Shane Beaulieu Shane Beaulieu

01-30 Bradley Cyr Bradley Cyr

Laconiafest organizer under court order to pay worker's wage claim

By BEA LEWIS, for The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — Seven months after efforts to stage a multi-artist rock concert as part of Motorcycle Week went belly up, a judge has ordered the organizer to pay a city woman for working during the event.

On Jan. 9, Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, sitting in Belknap County Superior Court, approved an order that Janelle Martinez be paid $705 in wages, $100 in court costs and 36 cents in interest. The judgment was award against Mike Trainor, Vesslar Global Partners Inc., P.O. Box 7045, Gilford.

On Sept. 19, the New Hampshire Department of Labor found that Trainor, who organized and promoted Laconiafest, was liable for Martinez' wage claim. In October, the Department of Labor notified Martinez that if Trainor failed to
comply with their order to send payment to the state within 20 days, they would forward information about how she could file an appeal with the Superior Court to enforce their decision.

Martinez filed a request with the court to enforce the Department of Labor's decision on Dec. 23, after Trainor failed to challenge the decision. Trainor must return the writ to the court no later than July 8, 2017, with a record of his payment.

If he fails to comply, he could be held in contempt of court and jailed until he settles the debt.