Olmstead challenges Nickerson in Sanbornton for selectman


SANBORNTON — Seeking a fourth consecutive term on the Board of Selectman, Dave Nickerson squared off against his challenger, John Olmstead, the chairman of the Budget Committee, when the two fielded questions from some 40 voters at the library Monday night.

After serving as a drill instructor in the United States Army, Nickerson spent 42 years with what is now Verizon, half of them as as a contract work inspector and since retiring has managed a yacht club in Moultonborough. Referring to his colleagues on the selectboard, he was running because "We've got quite a team going right now," and several challenges, including economic development and road improvements, on the agenda.

Olmstead, whose great uncle Frederick Law Olmstead was the dean of landscape architecture, served in the United States Air Force for 21 years, worked in information technology and owned a business before moving to Sanbornton eight years ago. "I've seen some things that don't make me too happy," he said of his decision to enter the race, "and I want to make some changes."

Nickerson quickly found himself defending the selectboard's decision to not recommend reconstruction of the recreation building, which collapsed last year. He said the board asked for plans, but the Recreation Commission replied with a request for $98,000, but no plan.

"We didn't know what they wanted to do for $98,000," he said. "It's not about the building. We need it, but without a set of plans we couldn't approve it."

Then Nickerson was asked why he alone among the selectmen chose not to recommend adding two full-time firefighter/EMTs. "I listened to the chief," he said, "but I don't believe we need it."

Instead, he said that additional personnel was needed at the Department of Public Works.

"Do you want to fund full-time firefighters and have your roads deteriorate more?" he asked. "There's not the money to keep this infrastructure up."

Olmstead said that as chairman of the Budget Committee he faced a dilemma, explaining that on one hand he was inclined to trim the town budget and on the other he was concerned about public safety.

"I'm not 100 percent sure," he said.

Both candidates expressed support for regionalizing municipal services, an issue brought to the fore by the announcement that Laconia and Belmont would share one fire chief.

"I'm all for it," said Olmstead. "Regionalization is the way to go," echoed Nickerson, who said an opportunity was lost when the Winnisquam Fire Station was closed.

Asked to describe his objective in one word, Nickerson spoke about the success of the selectboard then, pressed as his time expired, remarked "continuity."

"Communications," Olmstead answered, explaining that he believed the selectboard could do better job of keeping residents informed as well as providing opportunities for residents to address the board. Nickerson took exception to these remarks, reminding Olmstead that the selectmen provided ample opportunity for residents to speak at their meetings.

One questioner noted that the property tax rate in Sanbornton is the second highest in Belknap County and asked the candidates about their plans to lower it. Nickerson said that the town has convened an economic development committee, which is developing a plan to expand the commercial tax base. At the same time, he noted that many residents wish to preserve the rural character of the town and are opposed to expansive commercial development. He indicated that small family businesses, operating in existing properties placing few if any demands on town services offered the most promising option.

Olmstead said the school budget is the largest component of the tax rate and pointed out that reducing expenditures by $100,000 would lower the tax rate by only 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Without offering specifics, he said that spending could be reduced, but warned against "balancing the budget on the backs of town employees." He also said that it would be self-defeating to waive property taxes in order to attract businesses.

"That idea doesn't work for Sanbornton," he said.

Both Nickerson and Olmstead said they would open to changing the time of meetings of the Board of Selectmen to enable working people to attend them. Nickerson noted that the board has met at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. and now meets at 5 p.m. "It's easy for some and harder for others," he said.

Olmstead or Nickerson John Olmstead

Nickerson or OlmsteadDavid Nickerson

Sanbornton chief bids for fulltime firefighters


SANBORNTON — Voters will again be asked to add two full-time firefighter/EMTs to a department staffed by on-call and per diem personnel, which Fire Chief Paul Dexter said is increasingly hard pressed to ensure the town of the emergency services it requires. A year ago, the proposal fell just four votes short of the required majority.

"We schedule according to the availability of our members," Dexter, the lone full-time member of the department, said Tuesday, "not the needs of the community or the department. I can't tell my volunteers when to work."

A proposed warrant article requests $135,200 for the salary and benefits of the two firefighter/EMTs, which would increase the department's operating budget by more than a third. The additional personnel would enable the department to staff a 12-hour daytime shift from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week, with one full-time firefighter/EMT and one part-time per diem firefighter/EMT. Dexter said that ideally he would like to hire two full-time firefighter/paramedics.

Dexter explained that currently the department runs four shifts: a daytime shift from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; an evening shift from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; a nighttime shift 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., and a morning shift from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. He said that the department can guarantee coverage only for the daytime and nighttime shifts and even then only one per diem firefighter/EMT and the chief or the chief alone may be on duty during the day.

The morning and evening shifts, when on-call firefighters are leaving and returning from work — often from outside the town — may or may not be staffed. Together these shifts represent nearly a third of the department's call volume. "Our response time on these shifts may be 20 or 30 minutes," Dexter said, adding that "30 minutes for a cardiac patient is death."

About half of all calls for service, the overwhelming majority for medical emergencies, occur during the daytime shift, a reflection of the aging demographic of the town. Dexter said that while Sanbornton has always been predominantly a residential community, it has increasingly become a retirement community as seasonal second homes have been converted to year-round primary residences by older homeowners.

"We're seeing more slips, trips and falls as well as congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)," Dexter said. "people who are really sick and need to go to the hospital. It's not the overuse of emergency medical services."

Dexter said that last year he predicted "a landslide either way" and was surprised by the margin of four votes and this year has simply sought to make the best case based on the numbers.

The Board of Selectmen recommended the warrant article with Karen Ober and Johnny Van Tassel voting in favor and chairman Dave Nickerson dissenting, while the Budget Committee recommended against it.

Reeling in the dough - Ice fisherman's winning catch came in shallow water

Josh Philbrick reacts as his name is drawn for the grand prize of $15,000 for his 4.26-pound rainbow trout caught Saturday morning in Alton Bay during the awards ceremony held on Sunday afternoon at Derby Headquarters in Meredith. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


Josh Philbrick reacts as his name is drawn for the grand prize of $15,000 for his 4.26-pound rainbow trout caught Saturday morning in Alton Bay during the awards ceremony held on Sunday afternoon at Derby Headquarters in Meredith. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


MEREDITH — The winner of the Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby said his winning 21.5-inch-long, 4.26-pound rainbow trout was landed early Saturday morning in Alton Bay in less than 6 feet of water.
Joshua Philbrick of Kittery, Maine, said he and his four fishing companions had scouted out Alton Bay on the previous weekend and experienced some problems with less than ideal ice conditions when they got on the ice Saturday morning.
"We came pretty close to breaking through and going in the water," said Philbrick, who landed what proved to be the winning fish in the derby at 6:45 a.m. Saturday.
He took home the $15,000 prize when his name was the last of the three drawn at Derby headquarters in Meredith Bay Sunday afternoon.
A home builder who has been taking part in the derby for the last four years, Philbrick said Sunday that he had no idea what he was going to do with his derby prize.
The grand prize winner is chosen at random from the seven anglers who land the largest fish of the weekend in their respective categories.
The second place prize of $5,000 went to David Young of Boylston, Massachusetts, who landed a 15-inch, 2.61-pound black crappie. The third place winner was Elijah Pitkin of Fremont, who won $3,000 with a 14.5-inch, 1.6-pound yellow perch.
Others eligible for the prizes included Wyatt Buhrman of Center Harbor with a 15-inch, 2.86-pound white perch; Chris Dopp of Loudon with a 27-inch, 5.16-pound pickerel; Jay Hubbard with a 32-inch, 11.2-pound lake trout and Pat Carberry of Sanbornville with a 31-inch, 7.09-inch cusk.
Buhrman, only 8 years old, said that he was fishing on Squam Lake with his brother, Van, who is 11 years old, and his father, Chuck.
Both boys had gotten up at 4:30 Sunday morning to go out to the bob house with their father, who had prepared them a breakfast sandwich and both landed white perch around 7 a.m. Van's catch, which weighed 2.46 pounds, ended up in third place on Sunday's leader board.
Ticket sales were down from last year, according to Anthony Avrutine, chairman of the 2016 derby, due to the uncertain ice conditions around the state caused by a winter that has been much warmer than normal. But derby officials have not yet released final ticket sale numbers,
The derby, originally scheduled for Feb. 13-14, was postponed for two weeks, marking only the second time is 37-year history that the derby has been postponed.
There were no bob houses in Meredith Bay, site of derby headquarters, for the first time since the event was started, and a temperature sign at a Meredith Bay business read 57 degrees at 3:30 Sunday afternoon.
Ice fishermen were philosophical about the warmer-than-normal weather. Greg Stefan of Gilford and Matt Bickford of Meredith said that they switched to fishing on Squam Lake rather than Lake Winnipesaukee this year.
"It was still fun with the nice weather. I'm all for not freezing, and it was nice to be able to wear sweatshirts and not have to put on long johns," said Stefan.
Stephen Delendick of Moultonborough said he fished near the Long Island bridge over the weekend and didn't see nearly as many ice fishermen as he normally does during the derby.
"There are still a lot of fish on the leader board so it looks like people were catching some good-sized fish," he said.
Adam Clancy of Portsmouth said this was his fourth year at the derby and that he was happy to get on the leader board Sunday with a third-place catch of a 22-inch, 3.7-pound rainbow trout from Merrymeeting Lake.
He said he works as a landscaper and does snow removal work in the winter.

"With it being so warm so far, it hasn't been a real busy winter for me. So it was good to be able to get in some ice fishing," said Clancy.

Fishing buddies Travis Ouellette, Josh Philbrick – the $15,000 winner, Ryan Clauson and Tim Ester celebrate in front of the “wall” Sunday afternoon after Philbrick wins the 2016 Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby with a 4.26-pound rainbow trout that he caught in Alton Bay at about 6:30 Saturday morning.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Fishing buddies Travis Ouellette, Josh Philbrick – the $15,000 winner, Ryan Clauson and Tim Ester celebrate in front of the "wall" Sunday afternoon after Philbrick wins the 2016 Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby with a 4.26-pound rainbow trout that he caught in Alton Bay at about 6:30 Saturday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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