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City argues it enjoys immunity from lawsuit over Opechee Park accident

LACONIA — The city is asking a Belknap County Superior Court Judge to dismiss a civil suit brought against it by a Franklin woman who said she fell after tripping on a mat that led to a swing set at Opechee Park in May of 2012.

Attorneys for the city argued Tuesday before Judge Larry Smukler that he should dismiss the case. They cited provisions of state statutes for recreation and state statutes allowing a city immunity from prosecution.

The disagreement between the two parties is over whether the recreation statute provides immunity from prosecution from anything but raw land. The plaintiff in this case, Margaret Dolbeare of Franklin, said the addition of a mat and a swing set does not equal raw land.

Her attorneys argue the law was meant to protect landowner from suits from recreational activities like hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking and camping. The cited RSA is listed under the Department of Fish and Game heading.

Smukler questioned each attorney as to his argument.

As an example, he asked, what if there is a park and a lake with no improvements and whether it is different once the government builds a swimming pool in the same park.

Laconia argued that it is a "distinction without a difference" saying the Dolbeare and her lawyers want to rewrite the raw land statutes.

"She was recreating, that's what she was doing," the city's attorney, Corey Belobrow, argued.

"So your saying the city had no duty (to maintain its recreation facilities) under RSA 212 and is immunized by RSA 2508?" asked Smukler.

"In this case no duty and immunized," said Belobrow.

Dolbeare, through her attorneys, said her argument was the law cited by the Laconia does not specifically encompass man-made attractions and that its intent is limited to hunting, fishing, hiking, trapping and other recreational activities typically without man-made structures.

"What we see is a list of activities that don't specifically involve a use of things constructed by a landowner," said attorney William Woodbury.

He said the situation at hand is that the city built a swing set with the intention of attracting people to it. He said the mat was curled and twisted and it covered a hole that indicated a lack of maintenance at the park.

Judge Smukler said he would take their arguments under consideration.

Dolebeare is asking for an unspecified amount of money to cover the cost of knee replacement surgery, suffering and lost of enjoyment of life, permanent injury, medical expenses. and lost earning potential.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:50

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Ellacoya drowning victim identified as East Boston man

GILFORD — The New Hampshire Marine Patrol has identified the man who drown Monday at approximately 4:50 p.m. off Ellacoya State Park on Lake Winnipseasukee on Monday evening as Oscar Hernandez Gonzales, 27, of East Boston, Mass.

People at the scene said Gonzales was with a group of work friends who had come to New Hampshire for the day. When his friend reported him missing to the lifeguards he was found an about 7 feet of water about 30 feet from the swim line.

Attempts by lifeguards and responding EMTs to save him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia.

Marine Patrol continues to investigate.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:44

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Lipman suggests City Council play more active role on county jail front; priority should be placed on meeting all state & federal standards

LACONIA — City Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, this week suggested that the City Council take an initiative to loosen the logjam that has stalled discussion of the future of the county jail by calculating what the city can afford to contribute to the project.

In 2013, the city, which budgets within the bounds of a property tax cap, bore 18.9-percent of county tax commitment and would bear the same share of annual debt service carried by the county to fund the cost of a new or renovated jail. When Ricci-Greene Associates presented a proposal for a facility of 184 beds and a community corrections component with an estimated cost of $42.5 million to the Jail Planning Committee, the City Council wrote to the Belknap County Commission expressing concern at the cost.

"We've got to make some progress," Lipman said, "and we've got to get something done." He indicated that the highest priority is to ensure that the facility complies with all state and federal standards by providing a structure that is "safe for both jail inmates and corrections officers."

Addressing his fellow councilors on Monday, Lipman said he considered rehabilitative programming, which requires additional space and personnel, as "step two."

Lipman said that by by reviewing the city's outstanding debt and annual debt service, the council could determine an amount or a range of amounts of additional principal and interest payments the city could carry. "We can say this is what we can afford," he said. "The number would not be an absolute post in the ground, but I think it would help move the ball."

So far discussion about the jail has been largely confined to the Belknap County Commission and its Jail Planning Committee, on the one hand, and the Belknap County Convention, on the other, and has reached a stalemate. Lipman ventured that an initiative by the City Council might change the course of the dialogue.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:42

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Gilford woman awakened by intruder at 3:30 a.m.

GILFORD — A transient 18-year-old broke into a woman's house on Breton Road at 3:30 a.m. yesterday morning, startling her as she was asleep in her bedroom.

The victim said she woke and found a young man she identified as Isaiah Hughes in her bedroom. She said the two briefly struggled and the assailant was able to get away from her. Police said the victim got a small cut on her hand but was able to tear intruder's shirt sleeve.

Police said yesterday that Hughes and the victim are known to one another but declined to elaborate. The victim told police who they were seeking.

Affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said the victim contacted her mother who told her that Hughes was on her porch at an address on Old Lake Shore Road.

Two police officers went to the house on Old Lake Shore Road and made contact with Hughes, who they said had blood on his hand and was shoeless. They told him he was being detained but he ran from them.

The two officers struggled with Hughes who they said was actively trying to get away from them. After a short struggle he was taken into custody.

Police verified his identification by conducting a K-9 track from the victim's house to where he was found.

Police allegedly found Hughes's shoes, two backpacks and a coin jar and food that they believe he allegedly stole from the victim's home.

Hughes was already out of bail after being charge with theft by unauthorized taking on June 2 for allegedly stealing from Walmart, and for unlawful possession of alcohol — a bail violation — from June 21.

Hughes faces one new count of burglary, resisting arrest, and breach of bail.

While he has no criminal record, Gilford Police asked Judge Jim Carroll to hold Hughes on $10,000 cash-only bail because his recent behavior indicates he is unwilling or unable to obey the law and that he is a dangerous threat to the general public.

Judge Carroll ordered him held on $1,000 cash bail for the burglary and $5,000 personal recognizance bail for the misdemeanors.

He is order to stay away Breton Road and Walmart.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 12:36

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