Storm knocks out Internet, phones, cable TV

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Angry customers of MetroCast, which provides digital telephone, Internet and cable television services, gathered in its regional office Wednesday to ask not only why their service was out but why they couldn't report the outage.

They were told that Tuesday's storm disrupted the services MetroCast provides and knocked out its own ability to take trouble calls.

Andy Walton, a spokesman for Pennsylvania-based Harron Communications, MetroCast's parent, said that by Wednesday evening the call system had been repaired.

He also said service has been restored in Bridgewater, Alexandria, Bristol, Center Harbor, Franklin, Hebron, Laconia, Gilford, Meredith, New Hampton, Sanbornton, Northfield, Tilton and portions of Belmont.

Service was still out in Deerfield, Barnstead, portions of Belmont, Epsom, Gilmanton (including Gilmanton Iron Works), Northwood, Pittsfield, Alton, Alton Bay, New Durham, Wolfeboro and a portion of Strafford.

He said services in these areas will be restored gradually.

Some customers wanted to know if they could get credit on their bills for the time period they were without service.

"Billing issues are handled on a customer-by-customer basis, as impact can vary by customer and location, and our customer service representatives stand ready to assist if a customer has a billing concern," Walton said.

"We know that our customers rely on our services and we have been working around the clock under adverse conditions to restore services as expeditiously as possible."

He also explained why service went out.

"Multiple uprooted trees pulled down poles and cut our fiber facilities on Middle Route, off State Route 107," he said.

"A second incident occurred when a fire in a manhole damaged a third-party's facilities which connect MetroCast to a Boston Internet peering center."

He said repair efforts involved multiple parties and work could not be performed until crews had safe access.

North wins Sanbornton selectman’s seat in Tuesday’s voting

By DAVID CARKHUFF, LACONIA DAILY SUN

SANBORNTON — A fixture in local politics, Katy North won a selectmen's seat in a town divided over its funding of emergency responders.

North and Dave Nickerson ran for a single three-year term on the Board of Selectmen in Sanbornton. North said for about 20 years, she has been involved in local government. She was a Budget Committee member for about 18 years. In September, she was appointed to the selectboard. And in the process of joining the board, she became the selectmen's representative to the Budget Committee and the Capital Improvement Committee.

In Budget Committee voting, the town gave top votes to Ralph Rathjen, chairman of the Budget Committee, with 273 votes. Next was John Vorell, with 270 votes. Candidate Roger Grey received 193 votes in a failing bid for re-election. Grey was a major proponent for a petitioned article to discontinue the town's Emergency Medical Services Fire and Rescue Apparatus, Equipment and Vehicles Special Revenue Fund.

Results of Tuesday's voting included:

• Selectman — North over Nickerson, 261-191.
• Budget Committee, one position, three years — Rathjen, 273; Vorell, 270; Grey, 193
• Budget Committee, one position, two years — Justin Barriault (appointed to fill vacancy

until the election), 271; Bill Whalen, 155.

• Cemetery trustee, one position, three years — Top vote was from write-ins: Branden Morrison, 16.

• Library trustee, two positions, three years — Audry Barriault, 307; Marjorie Bray, 237.

• Town clerk, three years — Marla Davis, 392.

• Trustee of the trust funds, three years — Abigail Mercer, 346.

• Town moderator, three years — Timothy Lang over Tom Salatiello, 308-128.

Winners for school board are to be determined by the Winnisquam Regional School District, but the vote count was as follows:
• WRSD moderator, one year — Kent Finemore, 361.

• Northfield seat, WRSD School Board, three years — Jon Cilley, 186; Nathaniel Bragdon, 113.

• Sanbornton seat, WRSD School Board, three years — Sean Goodwin, 219; Amanda Champagne, 169.
• Tilton seat, WRSD School Board, three years — Kevin Washburn, 292.

• Northfield seat, WRSD Budget Committee, three years — Misc Write-ins: 28.

• Sanbornton seat, WRSD Budget Committee — Dana Nute, 353.

• Tilton seat, WRSD Budget Committee — Wayne Brock, 280.

The annual School District Meeting is 9 a.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Winnisquam Regional High School Gymnasium.

On Wednesday, Sanbornton held its Town Meeting. Results were not available at press time.

New county jail won’t open without money for staff

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray said he will not open the new 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed Community Corrections Center this September unless he has the money to adequately staff it.
"I will not open that building. Without enough staffing, both the staff and inmates will be at risk," said Gray, adding that the county delegation has known for over two years what the staffing needs are but has cut his proposed budget so that he will not be able to hire the staff he needs.
His comments came after the Belknap County Delegation rejected by a 7-5 vote Monday night a motion from Rep. Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton) to restore $95,400 which had been cut from the proposed Corrections Department budget by the delegation when it approved a $27,487,463 county budget Friday night.
Lang said Gray has maintained that he cannot safely open the annex without two additional staffers and moved to restore the $55,400 for the two positions and $40,000 for dietary department at the jail, which Gray had added to his original $3.964 million budget request.
Lang also proposed restoring $126,736 which had been cut from the Sheriff's Department budget, $96,900 for outside agencies and $44,000 for a nursing home activities staffer. He recommended paying for the budget items by using an additional $380,000 from the county's fund balance.
His motion lost 7-5 with Commission Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) opposed, along with Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton), Rep. Barbara Comtois (R-Barnstead), Rep. Peter Varney (R-Alton), Rep. Marc Abear (R-Meredith), Rep. Norman Silber (R-Gilford) and Rep. Glenn Aldrich (R-Gilford).
Supporting the motion were Lang, Rep. John Plumer (R-Belmont), Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), Rep. Don Flanders (R-Laconia) and Rep. Dave Huot (D-Laconia).
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) told the delegation Monday night before they voted on Lang's motion that Gray would not recommend opening the facility without at least two additional staffers. He also pointed out that the county delegation knew when it unanimously approved an $8 million bond in November 2015 for the corrections center that additional staffing costs were estimated at $650,183 annually.
The 2017 budget proposed by commissioners included funds for four new corrections officers a well as instructional personnel and was far less than had originally been projected according to Taylor.
During budget discussions earlier this year when Gray was asked by Rep. Peter Spanos (R-Laconia) what the ideal staffing ratio would be, he said that he would like to have at least six more corrections officers and as many as 10 more when the new community corrections facility opens this fall.
But he said at the time he would deal with what was realistic and would "take what I can get," adding that he is grateful for getting two new officers last year and four more this year.
He said he has a staff of of 25 full-time officers and seven part-timers for the 100 or so prisoners which are held at the jail on a daily basis, half of whom are awaiting trial. He sought additional funds for meals for prisoners after the number of prisoners being held at the facility continued to remain higher than normal, which he said appears to reflect the seriousness of the county's opioid crisis.
Commissioner Taylor criticized the delegation's approach to the budget, saying that the the majority of the members were interested only in holding the line on taxes at last year's level and not in meeting the real needs of the county. He pointed out that consultants have said that the county jail is seriously understaffed and that the county raises less revenue per capita to fund county operations than any other county in the state.
He also was critical of the revenue estimates provided by Rep,. Marc Abear (R-Meredith), pointing out that in six instances the higher estimates were made despite declines in those revenue lines from 2015 into 2016. Abear has said that he based his budget proposal on historical averages.
Abear's proposal calls for using $1.6757,853 from the fund balance to reduce taxes, compared to the $2,183.657 proposed by commissioners for their proposed $28 million budget.
Commissioner Glen Waring (R-0Gilmanton) also questioned the $175,000 that Abear had in the budget as a revenue from Gunstock, noting that a proposed memorandum of understanding with Gunstock shows only a $100,000 figure. "You're starting out $75,000 in the hole," he said.
After Commissioner Howard said that negotiations are still ongoing and it is "a game of cat and mouse," Vadney expressed confidence that a new agreement with Gunstock would include at least $175,000 in the first year.
Also questioned was a $290,810 revenue Abear had included in his budget from legislation which has not yet passed on retirement program costs in which the state would pay part of what is now being paid by counties and local governments. Rep. Huot said it should not be shown as a revenue, but as a credit in the retirement line.
After the delegation voted 9-6 to approve the $14.5 million in revenue estimates outlined by Abear, Rep. Plumer proposed a motion to take $100,000 from the fund balance to fund Sheriff's Department and Department of Corrections budgets his motion was ruled out of order by Vadney, who said the budget had been finalized by the delegation's vote and is no longer a work in progress.

03-14 County Jail Construction Site

The Belknap County Community Corrections Center is scheduled to open in September, but Superintendent Keith Gray says he won't open it without adequate staff. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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