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Gilford will once again consider change to fireworks ban

GILFORD — Selectmen let off a few verbal explosives of their own last night while discussing whether or not to review the town ordinance that bans fireworks unless they are being launched by a professional company. But no action was taken.

Selectman Richard "Rags" Grenier said he was at the meeting held last year when the board put some teeth into the existing ban and was more inclined to agree with Selectmen Gus Benevides, who opposed a ban.

"I feel it's onerous for something that's legal," said Grenier.

Selectman John O'Brien, who has been the most vocal supporter of the ban as it exists now, said his position stemmed from a personal encounter with some Boston firefighters who rented the house next to him and they fired Roman candles over his house and property.

O'Brien said his biggest concern is fire and said "renters" come to Gilford and blow fireworks into dry woods.

He said several fire chiefs and the N.H. Fire Marshall have said a fire could spread very quickly in Gunstock Acres (where O'Brien lives) as well as in other parts of town where the buildings are very close together.

He also said some people go to bed early. At one point, he said that when he was 12, he thought fireworks were fun but as an adult he thinks using them unprofessionally is "immature."

Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee said there was one summons issued of the 11 complaints he's gotten this year. Last year there was 26 calls and that was the highest amount in the few years of records he reviewed. He also wanted it noted that it rained on Fourth of July weekend this year.

He said the summons from this year occurred when police responded to a complaint and told the person to stop. Once police left, he said the person started firing them again so a summons was issued.

He said some of the people who use fireworks are not from the area and don't know Gilford has a ban. He had included a link on the Gilford website about the ban, hoping more visitors will understand the ordinance.

Bean Burpee also noted that enforcement is problematic and often times the police can't find the source of the complaint.

"My frustration is not being successful," he said.

Fire Chief Steve Carrier reiterated his position about the general danger of fireworks in non-professional hands and said he also would be somewhat uncomfortable with an ordinance that requires a permit because he wouldn't want to sign off on something that he, as a public safety officer, feels is dangerous.

Benevides sat quietly until the end of the discussion when he said his position on fireworks in Gilford is clear and he still opposes a ban.

"It's just the reality," he said, noting that when the Fourth of July comes around there are going to be fireworks.

"I'm not going to insult renters who bring a lot of money to town... and I'm not going to call them immature because they chose to light fireworks," he continued.

Twice O'Brien tried to interject something and twice Benevides reminded him he wasn't done speaking.

Benevides also reiterated his position that he wants the police on Friday and Saturday nights to be on the road preventing more serious crimes than shooting off fireworks, which he said are legal in the state and sold by in-state merchants to Gilford residents and visitors.

After going back and forth about what Grenier really wants to do, the board decided that there are a number of draft ordinances already prepared regarding fireworks, including some that allow them on certain days during certain times and others that would require a permit.

At Town Adminstrator Scott Dunn's urging, the board decided against forming a committee but chose to let Dunn and his administrative team review some of the previous suggested ordinances and bring one back to the board that could allow fireworks under certain circumstances.

At that point, selectmen said they would review the administration's suggestion and decide whether or not to hold a public hearing on a revised ordinance.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 August 2014 01:22

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Gilford selectmen will again address fireworks issue, tonight

GILFORD — For the second time in as many years, tonight selectmen will be discussing whether or not the town should amend its current ordinance that bans fireworks.

Newest Selectmen Richard "Rags" Grenier said yesterday that supports allowing fireworks in Gilford but wants their use tied to a noise ordinance and not be absoutely prohibited.

"I'm not a big fan of government control," Grenier said yesterday.

Fireworks are banned in Gilford and have been since 1988. Last year, selectmen voted two-to-one to continue the ban and to increase the penalties for violations to $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense.

Selectmen Gus Benevides voted against the ban. He said he wasn't comfortable banning something in Gilford that was sold legally in the state of New Hampshire.

He said he feared legal challenges from someone who is penalized and doesn't want what he considers an already over-burdened police department to use its valuable resources on fireworks when the town faces more serious issues like drug abuse, drunk driving, domestic abuse, and property crime.

Benevides also said there was no way for the police to enforce the rules for the island residents which, in a sense, creates a two-tiered society. He also said that many summer residents wouldn't know about the ban.

Selectman John O'Brien is a strong supporter of banning fireworks. He said he considers it to be a public safety issue and that the role of government is to enact ordinances that keep the public safe.

O'Brien said people who are using fireworks are often consuming alcohol and "common sense and beer don't go together." He said fireworks are a distraction for people who don't use them and can present a fire hazard when used improperly.

Retired Selectmen Kevin Hayes said the phone calls he received concerning fireworks were from residents who felt they were dangerous. He supported O'Brien and the ban stayed in effect, along with the harsher penalties.

Now that Hayes is retired, Grenier becomes the swing vote in what was last year a clearly polarized board when it came to fireworks.

Fire Chief Stephen Carrier said as a public safety official he could not support lifting the ban on fireworks.

"They're dangerous and can often get into the hands of people who shouldn't have them," he said.

Fireworks are also banned in Alton but are allowed with some restrictions in Belmont, Laconia and Meredith. Those restrictions are usually consistent with noise regulations except in Meredith where those using fireworks are expected to get a permit.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 12:45

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Wanna buy a Caterpillar, cheap?

LACONIA — City police are investigating two separate reports of a scam that involves the fraudulent sale of nonexistent construction equipment.

Police said that twice within the past few days, victims have gotten phone calls from a male offering them a great deal on a piece of construction equipment. Sgt. Bob Cameron said the price is usually around $400 dollars for an excavator or similar type piece of equipment.

He said the caller makes arrangements for the victim to meet him or one of his associates at a location in Laconia where the two exchange cash for what ends up being a false bill of sale with a fictitious Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

The agreement is that the seller will have the equipment delivered to the buyer's home later in the day.

He said the victims so far have not lived in Laconia.

Cameron asked that anyone who has any information or who has received one of these phone calls should contact the Laconia Police at 524-5252 and ask for Officer Kevin Shortt at ext. 560 or Officer Anna Croteau at ext. 529.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 12:41

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Council directs pointed questions at zoning board members

LACONIA —Two members of Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) found themselves under close questioning this week when they appeared before the City Council seeking reappointment.

Steve Bogert, chairman of the ZBA since 2007, and Suzanne Perley, who has served one term on the board, were asked about decisions to deny the requests of John Ganong and Charles Gulbicki to sell used cars on their properties in the Commercial Resort district, where the use requires a special exception. Earlier the board granted a similar request by Benson Auto, Inc. to operate a used car lot on property near the intersection of Route 3 and Rollercoaster Road, which is also in the Commercial Resort district. When Ganong brought his concerns to the council last month, Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) said he was "flabbergasted" by the ZBA's decision.

Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) asked Perley why, after allowing used car sales at one location in the district the board chose not to approve the same use at two other locations. Without naming either Gulbicki or Ganong, Perley said that in both cases "we were dealing with a scenic drive," a reference to the location of the two properties on Weirs Boulevard. Gulbicki operates a repair shop and towing service on a 0.22-acre lot near the roundabout at The Weirs and Ganong has a home and office on .52 acres further south on Paugus Bay.

Perley stressed that both properties overlooked the water and that after denying Ganong's request could not grant Gulbicki's without treating the two inconsistently. She said although the lot where Benson Auto was permitted to operate is in the same district, it does not overlook water and is adjacent to other commercial uses. Returning to the properties on Weirs Boulevard, she noted that "used car sales are not in the Master Plan's vision of that scenic road."

Mayor Ed Engler pressed Perley to show where the zoning ordinance distinguishes between the property at Route 3 and Rollercoaster Road and those on Weirs Boulevard or where it requires that properties with views of water must be treated differently from others in the same zoning district.

"We're volunteers doing the best we can with the information we have," she replied, repeating that the ZBA agreed that used car sales are not an appropriate use on a street bordering Paugus Bay.

"Zoning is a unique little monster," remarked Bogert, who voted to grant Ganong a special exception but to deny Gulbicki's request. "Each property requesting a special exception or variance must stand on its own," he said, adding that the ZBA made three decisions based on whether the three different properties could meet the five criteria required for a special exception.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) questioned Perley about the response to the sign ordinance drafted by the Zoning Task Force, which she chairs. Although the council approved the ordinance in May, Lipman expressed concern that by requiring a special exception for electronic signs it was unnecessarily restrictive. He asked how many applications had been submitted. "Not one," Perley answered.

Council is expected to vote on the requests for appointment at its August 25 meeting.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 12:39

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