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Selectmen talking about sewer system on Governor's Island

GILFORD — Selectmen agreed to seek a request for quotes (RFQ) for installing a sewer system on Governor's Island — the last area in town's shorefront on Lake Winnipesaukee without one.

Selectboard Chair Kevin Hayes said the first quote for an installation was done in 1975 which was revisted in the 1990s.

"With new technology the original 1975 plan is likely obsolete," Hayes said, giving advanced pump and pressure line technology as examples of what is likely outdated equipment.

He also noted the lake is a resource that belongs to all the residents and its degradation would negatively effect property values and tourist income.

Resident Mike Brien said he was concerned because some people on the island have invested a lot of money in new septic systems.

Brien also said he has gotten conflicting information in the past about who would pay for such a project if it were to be built.

He also noted that previous town sewer projects and discussions about Governor's Island involved residents paying betterment fees as well as to hook up to the new system.

Hayes reiterated that an RFQ was simply to ask interested engineering firms to submit quotes about how much a system would cost.

When Brien asked if there was federal money available, Hayes said there likely was but without a plan, it was impossible for the town to apply for it.

After Brien said that communications between the Governor's Island Association and the residents was not a good as it should be, selectmen said they would also send letters to individual residents asking for their opinions.

Also last night, selectmen approved $161,000 in budget transfers that included adding $125,000 to the legal line item that was initially budgeted at $37,000.

To date, the town has spent $111,445 in legal fees including at least $80,000 during the period of time that led up to the resignation of former Police Chief Kevin Keenan.

A memorandum from Town Finance Director Geoff Ruggles to selectmen and made available last night said he projects the town this year to overspend the legal line by $99,000.

Selectmen also transferred $7,000 to the Public Works Administration to cover a projected shortage there. Other departments with projected shortages included the Gilford Public Library at $7,000, the Town Administration at $14,000, and the Laconia Business Park revenue sharing account for $7,000.

Funds taken from accounts where there are projected overages are the Solid Waste Department — $38,000; the Highway Department budget — $30,000, the Police Department budget — $20,000 and the Fire Department budget — $15,000 each.

There were also savings in the Parks and Recreation Department, the Welfare Department, the Finance Department, and cemeteries.

Ruggles said he anticipates non property tax revenues will be up about $445,000 with the increases in the areas of motor vehicle registrations of abut $97,000, bond proceeds of $158,000, and insurance and other refunds for a total of $181,000.

He said final tax payments are due on December 27 because the bills didn't go out until November 25 when the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration set the town's tax rate.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 December 2013 02:45

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Court Street store held up again

LACONIA — City police are investigating an armed robbery that occurred at 10 p.m. Tuesday night at the Premium Mart on Court Street.

Police said a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt entered the store and brandished a handgun, demanding cash.

A Be-On-The-Lookout Alert heard by someone who spoke with The Sun said the man was described as big, wearing a backpack, and possibly some kind of Halloween mask.

Capt. Matt Canfield said the suspect fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money. He said a Gilford Police K-9 officer and dog along with city police conducted a search of the area.

Premium Mart owner Dave LeClair said yesterday the robber made the clerk go into the office.

He said this is the third suspicious incident in four days at his store.

He said he saw footprints going around his building on Sunday morning, noting he had plowed the parking lot at 4 a.m. and he noticed the footprints when he returned within a few hours to finish cleaning the lot.

LeClair also said that someone tried to pry open his door Monday night into Tuesday with what he thinks was a crowbar.

"I just replaced the door, (Tuesday), he said.

LeClair said Premium Mart has security cameras and police are reviewing the tapes.

City Police verified that this is the second armed-robbery of Premium Mart this year and there have been at least 10 armed-robberies in the city since January.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Man's proposal to build on 53-acre track on Meredith Neck stirs up some old bones

MEREDITH — Within weeks of purchasing property on Meredith Neck, Ron Coburn has found his dream of building a lakefront home haunted by the spectres of prior plans for the 53-acre tract, which came to grief at the hands of neighboring homeowners and pressure of economic recession.

The rectangular property, with for a small panhandle at its northwest corner with 350 feet of shoreline facing Stonedam Island, lies on the west side of the peninsula. There is a four-bedroom farmhouse, built in 1929, and 1,800-square foot barn on the property. Along with the 53 acres, Coburn also acquired a 1.9 lot with a three-bedroom cape built in 1977, the only lot ever sold in 21-unit subdivision of the larger property approved in 1974. The house lot is reached by a private "driveway," a quarter-mile long, known by residents and designated on maps as Cushing Road, which is unimproved.

Coburn paid $1-million for the 53-acres and another $425,00 for the house lot and home built near the center of the tract.

Coburn's property lies within a loop of roads lining the tip of Meredith Neck — Cattle Landing Road to the east and south, Harris Road to the southwest and Happy Homes Road to the northwest. But, the loop is not complete. After leaving Meredith Neck Road, Happy Homes Road, a narrow, gravel track, wends westward then bends southward, crossing Coburn's property to form the panhandle, before coming to a dead end. Originally laid out as a public right-of-way in 1926, Happy Homes Road has never been extended to join Harris Road, the paved stretch of which runs northward from the end of Cattle Landing Road for a tenth of a mile before becoming an unpaved track. This break in the loop blocks the flow of through traffic around the tip of the neck, which is just the way the property owners like it.

This week Coburn, represented by attorney Jack McCormack, approached the Board of Selectmen at a workshop with a proposal to subdivide his 53-acres into two lots, the panhandle of five acres where he would build a home on the water and the remainder,of 48 acres where the farmhouse and barn would either be restored or replaced. The existing house lot would remain. He proposed accessing the lots from the completed portion of Happy Homes Road and asked the board to discontinue the remaining length of the public right-of way encumbering his property. Authority over town roads is vested in the Board of Selectmen.

Community Development Director John Edgar recalled the troubled history of the property, explaining that proposed subdivisions in 1974, 1980 and 2007 were all abandoned. The most recent, Harris Cove Estates, consisting of 13 lots, included developing the public right-of-way to link Happy Homes Road and Harris Road, roused the ire of residents of both roads as well those with homes on Cattle Landing Road. All were opposed to closing the loop, which would open the tip of the neck to through traffic, or as Selectman Herb Vadney put it "tour buses of full leaf peepers."

McCormack the board that Coburn intended "to provide some stability to the property," noting that Happy Homes Road would provide better access than Cushing Road, which intersects Meredith Neck Road at the dangerous junction where it bends at a right angle to become Cattle Landing Road. Discontinuing the public right-of-way, he said, would eliminate the risk of intensive development of the property.

Selectman Lou Kahn, who along with his colleagues Vadney and Peter Brothers served on the Planning Board that considered the last proposed subdivision, recalled that then neighbors "turned out with torches and pitchforks" and said that they would not accept more traffic — "none ever!" In return for discontinuing the right-of-way, he suggested that Coburn undertake to ensure that the property would never be further subdivided, to foreclose the prospect of further development and additional traffic. "If you want help from us, you have to help us by really stabilizing the property," he said.

McCormack called Kahn's suggestion "not proper, not realistic," prompting Kahn to repeat "you're asking us to help you, but you're not helping us."

Vadney agreed "something has to be done out there", while Brothers told Coburn he "must be very, very mindful of the history."

"The last person in here pays the price," McCormack remarked, telling the board "I have never had a board seek assurances about the future." He said that neither he nor Coburn were aware of the history of the property.

Kahn wondered why proposals of this kind seem to be presented between December and March, when most waterfront residents are out of town, and insisted that no understandings be reached or actions taken without hearing from nearby property owners.

"I want to build a house on the lake," Coburn said, noting that he anticipated a lengthy planning and permitting process. "What I don't need," he added, is a second battle over what happened years ago." He referred to Kahn's suggestion as "bait and switch" and repeated that he would not place restrictions on the future of the property. "I'll be dead," he remarked.

"So will I," Kahn replied, "but the town will still be alive."


Last Updated on Thursday, 19 December 2013 01:45

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3 bills drafted to address county budget spat

CONCORD — Three members of the Belknap County Convention — Representatives Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), and David Huot (D-Laconia) — have introduced legislation to address the county budget process, which has put the convention and commission at daggers drawn for the past year.

Throughout the year the Republican majority of the convention has insisted that the convention can rewrite the budget proposed by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. And, in the course of managing the budget, the commission may only reallocate funds from one line to another with the approval of the Executive Committee of the convention.

With equal resolve, the commissioners claim that the authority of the convention is limited to itemizing appropriations in the categories prescribed the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA). Within these categories, the commission contends it can distribute funds among different lines without the approval of the convention as long as expenditures do not exceed the total appropriations of the particular categories.

The issue came to a head when, earlier this year, after the convention stripped appropriations to fund employee benefits, the commissioners shuffled money within departments budgets to fund them. Altogether the commission drew from 91 lines to fund 27 accounts the convention left empty.

The convention retained an attorney in anticipation of bringing suit against the commission, but has yet to initiate litigation. Although the convention must approve appropriations, the commission alone is authorized to approve expenditures. Moreover, the commission has claimed the exclusive authority to retain and compensate legal counsel to represent the county and its officials, including the convention, and consequently has refused to authorize payment of legal fees incurred by the convention.

Of the three bills, House Bill 1373, sponsored by Worsman, who chairs the convention, is the most aggressive and expansive. The bill would apply solely to Belknap County. It would affirm the authority of the convention to itemize appropriations "in detail, including specific lines within each department," and require the commissioners to seek the approval of the executive committee to transfer funds in any amount either between specific lines within a single department or from one department to another.

To overcome the dispute arising from the retention and payment of legal counsel, Worsman includes an enforcement provision in her bill. The bill provides that if any of its provisions "is reasonably believed to have been violated and it becomes necessary for the county convention to seek court enforcement, the commissioners shall timely pay the convention's incurred legal fees. Furthermore, if the court finds the commissioners in violation, her bill stipulates that "they shall be forthwith removed from office for official misconduct."

The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Guy Comtois (R-Barnstead), Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), Bob Greemore (R-Meredith), Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) and Charles Fink (R-Belmont).

House Bill 1120, sponsored by Tilton and co-sponsored by Representative Herb Vadney (R-Meredith), simply mirrors the first section of Worsman's bill pertaining to the authority of the convention to itemize all appropriations and, through its executive committee, to approve all transfers within or between departments. Unlike Worsman, Tilton provides no mechanism for enforcement nor does he address the authority of the convention to retain legal counsel or the obligation of the commission to pay fees it may incur.

Huot, a Democrat, the prime sponsor of House Bill 1370 takes a different approach that's more in keeping with the position of the commission. His bill requires the convention to itemize appropriations according to the "uniform chart of functions and account numbers" prescribed by DRA and report them on the form specified by the agency, together with the "master budget showing the itemized appropriations approved by the county convention." Huot provides that the convention may require authority from the executive committee to transfer all or part of any appropriation, except for transfers within an account.

Huot's bill also requires that the executive committee of the convention include at least one member of the minority party represented in the convention, unless, of course, all the members of the convention belong to the same party.

Representatives Lisa DiMartino (D-Gilfoird) and Ruth Gulick (D-New Hampton) are co-sponsors of Huot's bill.

All three bills have been referred to the House Municipal and County Government Committee chaired by Representative Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsborough). None of the 18 representatives from Belknap County, who compose the convention, serve on the committee.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 10:41

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