GILMANTON — Town Administrator Arthur Capello said the state Department of Revenue Administration has set the town's tax rate at $21.15 per $1,000 of valuation which is down $2.27 from last year.
The municipal rate dropped from $5.47 to $4.67 and the local school rate went from $13.93 to $12.36. The Belknap County portion of the rate went from $1.36 to $1.39 and the State-wide Property Tax went from $2.39 to $2.43.
Capello said the selectmen's proposed operating budget for 2014 is down about $50,000 from the 2013 operating budget — or $3,315,218 in 2013 to $3,260,237.
He said yesterday that the board and the department heads also had to compensate for an additional $40,000 for contributions to the state retirement system so, in real numbers, the selectmen eliminated $90,000 from the 2014 operating budget request.
"The department heads were given a direction of flat-lining (their budgets), and that's what they did," Capello said.
As for raises, Capello said none was incorporated in to the 2014 budget. However, he said selectman are considering a separate warrant article that would include some as-yet undermined amount for raises.
Some of the operating budget savings came from switching employee healthcare to School Care, a Cigna Insurance company product that Capello said gives essentially the same coverage but for less money, saving $12,000.
Gilmanton also saved $14,000 by switching their workers' compensation insurance from the Local Government Center to Primex.
At this point, he said selectmen have not finished the capital budget.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 04:14
LACONIA — Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson has promoted fire Capt. Kirk Beattie to assistant fire chief, replacing former Assistant Chief Deb Pendergast.
Beattie started his new assignment yesterday.
Erickson said Beattie has been with the Laconia Fire Department for 16 years and was most recently the captain of the Weirs Fire Station, where he coordinated fire department efforts for Annual Motorcycle Week.
He has two associates degrees in Fire Science and Paramedicine from the Lakes Region Community College and is earning his bachelor's degree in Public Leadership from Granite State College. He was one of the first Firefighter/EMTs in the Laconia Department.
Erickson said Beattie is the first line officer to move into the chief ranks in Laconia since the 1980s.
"This is a great morale boost for the department to see a member of the department excel to command staff," Erickson said.
Erickson said Beattie has knowledge of Laconia's buildings, its hydrant systems, and his good reputation with the other city departments is well established. Beattie lives in Laconia and several years ago developed the Swift Water Training Program for the fire department.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 04:11
LACONIA — A County Jail Planning Committee is looking at a proposed $2.5 million bond issue for installing temporary housing for inmates at the Belknap County Jail and the development of a schematic design for a new jail.
''We need to bite the bullet and get temporary housing next year. This needs to be done and done as soon as possible,'' said Alida Millham of Gilford, a former chairman of the Belknap County Delegation who came aboard only recently as a member of the committee.
She said that the overcrowded conditions at the jail and the cost of outsourcing prisoners to other facilities around the state made prompt action imperative.
Millham made the comments after nearly 90 minutes of discussion on the options before the committee Tuesday night and after Department of Corrections Superintendent Daniel Ward said that he had obtained an estimate of a three-year lease of a 48-bed temporary facility for $1,787,000.
Architect Gary Goudreau said that utilities — water, sewer and power — would have to be connected to the temporary unit, which would also need security fencing, bringing the cost to around $2 million.
The other $500,000 of the bond issue would be used to have a schematic design done of the proposed 94,000 square foot facility the committee has been considering, a design which Goudreau said would provide the basis for cost estimates for the a new facility which would be based on an actual design which would factor in local construction costs, rather than costs designed on programs.
Ward said that the bottom line for the facility proposed by the Ricci Greene consulting firm is actually $37 million, not the much touted $42 million which has been used for months, and County Commissioner Ed Philpot said that he was hoping value engineering based on a schematic design could sharply reduce that cost.
Goudreau said that it is his considered opinion is that any attempt to come up with a program of renovations and additions to the current facility should see only the 1988 addition used and all of the rest of the current building demolished.
''Putting money into rehabbing anything other than the 1988 addition doesn't make sense,'' said Goudreau, who pointed out that the exterior envelope of the current building is cracking and that there is a long list of building defects.
He said that even if the 1988 addition is used it would still need and 4,000 square foot addition to provide the 17,500 square feet of space needed for the community justice program.
Hunter Taylor of Alton, a new member of the committee whose wife was recently named a member of the Gunstock Area Commission, said that he was concerned that the committee was hung up on achieving a goal which didn't command enough community support to pass the County Delegation.
He suggested bringing in a plan with a $15 million price tag which would be capable of winning support to get something done.
''Once the camel's nose is under the tent more things can happen,'' said Taylor, who said that unless something was done to improve the facility ''you can bet a federal judge in Concord will tell us. That's where we will ultimately go.''
But Philpot questioned whether it was wise to put that much money into a project and not do it good enough so that it would have a long, useful life and meet future needs.
Commission Chairman John Thomas said that low-balling the costs would leave the county in the same situation that it is in today and cut out needed programs.
''One of the reasons Steve (fellow Commissioner Steve Nedeau, who like Thomas has a law enforcement background) and I are so strong for this project is that he and I are tired of seeing the grandchildren of the same people we used to lock up being brought in here,'' said Thomas.
The current facility has a capacity of 120 inmates but has had as many as 151 on some days in recent months.
''We're bursting at the seams. We need the space and we need the mental health and substance abuse programs.'' said Ward.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that if the county sticks with the current facility is faces other major costs, including as much as $1 million for new HVAC system for the jail, where ''no air is moving and mold is growing.''
Sheriff Craig Wiggin said that the costs of transporting prisoners around the state was becoming a major burden for the Sheriff's Department and that since mid-July he has already spent an additional $12,000 in salary, put 8,000 miles on the fleet, and incurred $3,000 in additional fuel costs.
''It's just going to get worse. The wheels are going to being coming off our cars and we're going to be exceeding our overtime and auto fleet budgets,'' said Wiggin.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 02:06
LACONIA — A majority of the unit owners at Briarcrest Estates yesterday petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to intervene in pending litigation in an effort to forestall the sale of the manufactured housing park to the Lakemont Cooperative Inc., which was formed by a minority of tenants of the park.
Attorney Philip McLaughlin, representing at least 175 of the 240 residents of the park, claims that the state statute governing such transactions fails to anticipate that a majority of tenants will prefer commercial to cooperative ownership and to provide them with a role in affecting the sale of the property. Nevertheless, they have a "direct and apparent interest" in both the transaction and litigation, namely "their desire not to be forced to assume for themselves or their successors, through an involuntary process, debt associated with the proposed acquisition of Briarcrest Estates by Lakemont Cooperative, Inc."
In July Mark and Ruth Mooney, the owners of the park, accepted an offer from Hometown America Corporation of Chicago to purchase the park for $10 million. In accord with a state law entitling park tenants to make a counteroffer and requiring park owners to bargain in good faith, a group of residents, with encouragement and assistance from ROC-NH, a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, incorporated as the Lakemont Cooperative and matched the $10 million offer.
In response, the Mooneys asked the Belknap County Superior Court to approve the sale of the park to Hometown America. Attorney John Giere, representing the Mooneys, claimed that approving the transaction would be in keeping with the statute, which is is intended to safeguard the best interests of tenants, most of whom oppose cooperative ownership of the park.
The Lakemont Cooperative, represented by Attorney Robert Shepherd of Nashua, asked the court to dismiss the Mooneys' petition. Shepherd told the court that as the owners of the park the Mooneys were in no position to represent the interests of its residents. Shepherd reminded the court that the statute does not prescribe that the cooperative include a specific number or percentage of tenants to make an offer and pursue the transaction. By refusing to sign the purchase and sale agreement, he charged, the Mooneys have wrongfully refused to consider the cooperative's offer and failed to negotiate in good faith, exposing themselves to penalties amounting to $10,000 or 10 percent of the sale price whichever is greater.
In seeking a role for the majority, McLaughlin told the court that "the legislation (RSA 205-A:21) . . . did not contemplate that the Community Loan Fund, or any affiliate, such as ROC-NH, would organize a tenants' organization that represented the will of a distinct minority." At the same time, he noted that nothing in the statute "prohibits Briarcrest tenants from intervening in the present action" or bars the Mooneys from weighing the opposition of a majority of tenants to cooperative ownership when fulfilling their duty to bargain in good faith.
McLaughlin asked the court to conclude that the Mooneys "may, as they discharge their statutory duty to bargain in good faith, take into account, that good faith extends to consideration beyond the will of the minority (whether in an association or not) and should consider the will and the reasons for the opposition of the majority."
McLaughlin filed a petition bearing the signatures of both the 11 original complainants and their supporters from 131 households in the park with the court. Together they represent 59 percent of the 241 sites in the park.
Meanwhile, the Mooneys and the cooperative are at odds about how the litigation should proceed. So far attorneys representing the two parties have failed to reach agreement. Those representing the Mooneys, believe that the issue is a matter of law that can be resolved based on the pleadings and documents before the court, while Shepherd prefers a more traditional approach, including discovery through interrogatories and depositions and perhaps a trial.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 03:38
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