LACONIA — When the City Council meets on Monday to tackle the 2014-2015 municipal budget, reducing the total appropriation to trim the projected increase in the property tax rate by six cents while providing the Police Department with additional resources to address drug trafficking and abuse will apparently be high priorities.
In a memorandum sent to councilors this week City Manager Scott Myers outlined a number of adjustments to the original expenditures and revenues included in the budget he proposed in March, which taken together represent a net gain of $80,000. He recommended raising the projected revenues from motor vehicle registrations by $30,000, from $2,150,000 to $2,180,000, reducing the appropriation for the employer's share of health insurance premiums by $30,000 and eliminating a $20,000 appropriation for preparing the Master Plan to reflect receipt of a grant for the purpose.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, said yesterday that he aims to reduce the projected 31 cent increase in the property tax rate to 25 cents by reducing expenditures by $100,000, with the cuts shared evenly between the city and the schools.
Earlier this week the Budget and Personnel Committee of the School Board resolved to urge the council against further reductions in the district's budget. The committee contends that it has already cut the school district's budget by $517,000 to comply with the limits of the tax cap while absorbing an increase of $1.2 million in obligatory and mandated costs beyond its control.
Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) said that she would prefer to cut $100,000 from the school district budget, which she noted is set to rise from $34,967,696 this year to $36,293,552 next year. "I'm willing to compromise," she said, "but I think it's time for the schools to take more responsibility for controlling spending."
The council is also considering eliminating $25,000 for a study of the intersection of Court Street and Fair Street from the capital outlay budget and instead drawing the money from the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund, which would not affect either the amount to be raised by property taxes or the property tax rate. Baer suggests eliminating a $15,000 appropriation for the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail while Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) proposed cutting some or all of the $39,500 appropriation for Lakes Region Public Access television.
Baer said that she favored eliminating the $32,000 appropriated to fund the salaries, benefits and related expenses of four firefighters for five weeks at the tail end of the coming fiscal year. The firefighters were hired with a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant of $642,028 from the federal government, which expires in April 2015. Baer said that since there is no plan for funding the positions once the grant expires and the additional personnel have not led to a significant reduction in the cost of overtime, she believes the positions should be eliminated.
Myers noted that if the positions were eliminated, the budget could be reduced by $32,000, but cautioned the savings may prove illusory since with eight instead of nine firefighters on each shift for those five weeks overtime expenses could increase.
The $80,000 in adjustments to the budget and reductions of between $79,500 and $161,500 represent sufficient funds to reduce the property tax rate and address the growing drug problem.
In May, at the request of the council, Police Chief Chris Adams, presented a several options for pursuing a community based strategy to reduce the distribution and consumption of street drugs, particularly heroin. These included adding a full-time patrol officer and assigning an experienced officer to coordinate the resources in the city, which would cost $72,000, hiring a part-time officer or civilian employee to shepherd the recovery court and coordinate specific projects at a cost of $20,000 and increasing overtime to strengthen enforcement at $30,000.
Lipman said that he would prefer a comprehensive, collaborative approach, engaging law enforcement, social service agencies and community organizations, aimed at shrinking the demand for illicit drugs.
The council will consider these issues when it meets on Monday, June 23 beginning at 7 p.m.
Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 12:34
BELMONT — ClearChoiceMD has filed an application with the town's Planning Department to open a urgent care facility in the Belknap Mall.
The independent health care provider proposes to employ two full-time practitioners and five support staff members. If the application for a site plan is approved, the new agency said it will use a state-of-the-art X-ray technology called Image Wisely/Image Gently that measures the dose according to patient size and age.
According to its application, ClearChoiceMD chose the Belknap Mall because of its location in a commercial corridor that provides a convenient location and abundant parking for area residents in need of urgent care.
ClearChoiceMD is a New Hampshire-based physician-owned and operated urgent car organization that was founded by Dr. Marcus Hampers who is on the clinical staff in the emergency department of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
The company hopes to open facilities in New Hampshire and Vermont. A ClearChoiceMD facility opened in Berlin last week and one is slated to open soon in St. Albans, Vt.
ClearChoiceMD President Michael Porembski said if they get approval at the July 28 Planning Board meeting, they hope to open in Belmont in late August or early September.
He said New Hampshire requires a license submission around 60 days before construction is complete but because it is defined as a physician's practice, the company is exempt from the requirements of a state-issued certificate of need.
Porembski said they typical patient walks in and out of a ClearChoiceMD facility for less than $200. He said the maximum cost to a self-paying customers is $250. He also said the agency accepts Medicaid and will be negotiate individual reimbursement rates for the various insurers within the state.
"We are open to everybody," he said.
When asked about people who come to the facility who need immediate emergency care, Porembski said it would be like any other doctor's office — an ambulance would be called.
"It happens all the time," he said. "A patient complains of indigestion but they are having a cardiac emergency. They go to the emergency room."
But, said Porembski, 90-percent of the people who arrive at a doctor's office drove themselves there and 90 percent of those people can drive themselves to the hospital should their needs be beyond those of ClearChoiceMD or any other non-hospital affiliated office.
The application said the according to studies, unnecessary ER visits waste $14 billion annually and delay critical care to those who need it. The company also said that a recent study in rural New York showed 44 percent of emergency room visits could have been handled in a physician's office and 70 percent of the emergency room visits from people with employee-sponsored health insurance were unnecessary.
He said the company has reached out to LRGHealthcare, operators of Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia, about some co-operation with electronic medical records and similar things but said the reception so far has been "lukewarm."
"We gave them some options but as of now they haven't chosen any of them," he said.
A LRGHealthcare spokeswoman said they were aware the application was forthcoming and would be preparing a statement.
LRGHealthcare currently operates a walk-in care clinic called Convenience Care at the Laconia hospital. The clinic is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day.
Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 12:26
LACONIA — Known as "The Seat Doctor", Mike Miller has restored and replaced motorcycle seats for the past 25 years, using the hides of a handful of exotic animals.
Miller, who works out of Newark, Delaware and Melbourne, Florida when he is not on the road, said his family was among the first to settle in the Sunshire State, when it was swampy wilderness. His grandfather began hunting alligators and selling hides around 1900 and his father owns and operates a tannery.
Miller said that he began with riding saddles and leather products, but soon specialized in motorcycle seats. He offers seats covered with the hides of alligator, crocodile, ostrich elephant, shark and stingray, stressing that all his materials are acquired in compliance with the "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora," known for short at "CITES."
The alligator comes from Florida, crocodile from Columbia, elephant and ostrich from South Africa and shark and stingray from the Gulf of Mexico. He said he uses both the belly and back of alligators and crocodiles, along with the back, belly, ears and trunk of elephants. Prices for the exotic seats begin at $1,000. Apart from the exotics, Miller also fashions seats from medical gel, molded and fitted to the shape, size and weight of individual motorcyclists. When working at rallies, Miller finishes a seat in two or three hours and returns seats from his workshop within 48 hours.
"I get to all the major rallies — Daytona, Sturgis, Johnstown — all of them," Miller said, adding that the 91st running of Laconia Motorcycle Week is his 14th rally, most of which he has spent at the same spot at the top of the hill behind the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound. "This is one of my favorite places," he said.
CAPTION: Mike Miller, who has fashioned motorcycle seats from the hides of exotic animals at the lat 14 rallies, stands alongside a rack of alligator skins at his stand at the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)
Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 01:37
LACONIA — The History Channel chose Motorcycle Week as one of five stops for its "cross county cookout, featuring the "Ultimate Smoker & Grill," to promote its programming by offering barbecue, games and prizes."We brought this fine weather with us," drawled Trace Arnold, known as "The Rib Whisperer" because wherever he goes everywhere and shares his barbecue someone can be heard asking a friend "have you tried the ribs?"
"We brought this fine weather with us (from Texas)," Arnold said. "They told me it rained up here and to bring my slicker and boots. I knew if I brought 'em I wouldn't need 'em, so I brought 'em."
Arnold said he had cooked for 30 years, but conceived of what became the "Ultimate Smoker and Grill" while working on a dude ranch in Justin, Texas in 1997. He built a large smoker and five years later, enlarged and improved, it took to the road. The trailer carrying the smoker and grill is 55-feet long and with the tractor makes an 80-foot-long rig. Arnold said that the smoker and grill can cook up to a ton of meat at one time, which amounts to 1,000 hot dogs, 500 hamburgers or 200 16-ounce rib-eye steaks. "It'll feed a whole bunch of people," he said, describing his team of five as "very efficient.".
Brandishing a tray of warm jalapeno peppers stuffed with pulled pork and wrapped in bacon, Arnold said "try one. They're fat free. They're full of fat and they're free." He said that sausages from the smoker are served between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the rally.
While Arnold and his smoker are the centerpiece of the History Channel promotion, they are accompanied by a claw game for American Pickers and Gator Tag for Swamp People and a raffle for a custom chopper.
Arnold said he was enjoying his spell in Laconia and exclaimed "the worst time is always the best we've ever had."
The Ultimate Smoker & Grill is located at the top of the Lobster Pound complex at Weirs Beach.W
CAPTION: Trace Arnold, "the Rib Whisperer," fishes a rack of ribs from the "Ultimate Smoker and Grill," centerpiece of the cross country cookout sponsored by the History Channel. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).
Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 01:26
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