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Belmont Rec. Trail almost ready for bids

BELMONT — After 14 years of planning, town land use technician Rick Ball said the Belmont Recreation Trail is a few steps away from going out to bid.

Ball said yesterday that they are waiting for all the snow to melt at which point the state will finish the "categorical exclusions" or historical and environment impact study. He said he expects no issues.

He said a minor design change need to be made behind the Agway Store on Rte. 3 because the owners of two abutting properties would like to see a bank of mature oak trees saved — something Ball said was preferable to cutting them down.

"As soon as those things are done we can negotiate money to pay for the easements," he said.

In March, voters approved the final chunk of town money needed to complete the $960,000 first phase of the trail by allowing money held in a special purpose fund for a different segment of the trail to be used for this one.

This segment will run from the Mosquito Bridge on the Belmont-Tilton-Sanbornton line to the Laconia city line. Laconia continues to design its section that will connect the existing Laconia portion with Belmont's.

Ball said federal law prohibits the town from discussing easement payments with trail abutters at this point but once the state determines there are any historical or environmental issues and a new route around the oak trees is determined, he can begin the negotiations.

After negotiations with land owners, he said the trail will be preliminarily designed with preliminary specifications and an estimate. At that point Ball said the Department of Transportation will issue the final plan specifications.

If the construction and engineering comes in under budget, the project will go to bid.

Ball said at this point in time, the project appears to be well within the allocated budget.

For those who would like for information the BRATT (Belmont Recreation Alternative Trail Team) is hold a meeting on April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Corner Meeting House.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 11:49

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Hard winter drills $95k hole in public works budget

LACONIA — With another eight snow events to deal with in March, the Department of of Public Works overspent its winter maintenance by almost 25 percent.

City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council this week that the DPW had spent $502,639 through the end of March against its budget of $407,500, leaving a deficit of $95,139.

This winter the department spent $376,880 on salt and sand purchases, which was $46,880 more than budgeted. Myers noted that because much of the snow fell outside working hours, the cost of overtime was double the $50,000 projected. Only the appropriation for private contractors of $27,500, which showed a balance of $1,763, proved sufficient.

The deficit all but equaled the balance of $95,222 in the winter maintenance reserve account, which was established two years ago to offset unanticipated expenditures for winter maintenance. Myers said that before drawing on the account he will seek to apply unexpended fiscal year 2014 appropriations against the deficit in order to maintain a balance in the reserve account.

NOTE: City Manager Scott Myers reported that as of April 15 the net increase in the value of new construction was $19.8 million, $800,000 than projected in preparing the 2014-2015 budget. The value of construction, which represents the difference between the value of building permits and demolition permits issued between April 1 and March 31 multiplied by the current property tax rate, together with the rate of inflation is used to calculate the property tax cap.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 01:47

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BHS Indian logo alternately described as 'offensive' & symbol of 'pride'

BELMONT — Once a Raider, always a Raider.

About 60 people, including students, teachers, parents and alumni, came to a Belmont High School Student Council forum last night to air their views about changing the Red Raider mascot from a chiseled silhouette of an American Indian to something else.

But a majority of those who spoke said they wanted to keep the school logo — including a number of students who said they took pride in being represented by the American Indian symbol.

"I'm not in favor of a change," said Belmont resident Tina Fleming, who said the mascot to her represents strength, pride and loyalty.

"We take pride in being Red Raiders," said one student athlete who said the school has never had costumed mascots or "paraded" around an American Indian. He said to him the symbol means the Red Raiders work hard and play hard.

The subject of changing the logo stems from a discussion held in a social studies class that led to the topic being discussed at recent Student Council meeting. Student Council member Andrew Bragg said he spoke with three students who came to Belmont High from a reservation and one of them told him he felt uncomfortable about the Red Raider logo.

The members of the student council decided that the logo — not the name of the team — was "unfeeling" and "offensive", said Principal Dan Clary.

He also said the student council said that keeping the American Indian as a symbol meant the school could not have a live mascot or paint the logo on the gymnasiums floors or playing fields. In the school, the only noticeable replica of the silhouette that had the name Red Raider on it was the message board in the cafeteria that was a gift to the school from the class of 2010.

Yet others said they were offended by the logo and wished it would change.

"It's just ugly," said one Canterbury man, who said he didn't think the logo was meant to be disrespectful but over the march of time has become so.

One woman who initially addressed the Student Council in Navajo said she was proud of them taking on such a difficult conversation and it made proud to be a citizen of Belmont.

The students began the meeting with two short videos produced by the National Congress of American Indians that showed American Indians saying they were offended by being portrayed as mascots.

Bragg explained that the words "red" and "raider" individually were not offensive nor were they offensive together. He said coupling the team name of Red Raiders with the American Indian head was what was offensive.

Student Council Historian Ashley Fenimore — who is a descendent of James Fenimore Cooper — said this is not the first time the logo has come under negative scrutiny. She also provided lists of colleges and school districts that have changed their logos and mascots and cited a ruling in 1998 by the NCAA and one in 2002 by the New Hampshire School Board Association saying that schools should not have mascots or logos that seemingly offend any national heritage.

Fenimore also noted that Lebanon High School recently voted to change their symbol from an American Indian to a "Raider Bird" however Spaulding High School, also the Red Raiders, voted against change. A dozen years ago and after a similar discussion, the Laconia Sachems changed their logo and stopped having a faux Indian lead cheers at football games.

The next step in the process is for the Student Council to compile the information gathered at last night's hearing and present it to the teachers and administrators for comment.

After that, and if they choose to continue with their efforts to change the logo, the matter will go before the Shaker Regional School Board, which has the final say.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 01:43

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Commissioners express frustration that lawmakers haven't acted on union deal

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners expressed frustration yesterday that a date has not yet been set by the Belknap County Convention for a vote on the one-year collective bargaining agreement they ratified two weeks ago with the State Employees Association (SEA) on behalf of 80 full-time employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home.
When Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett said at yesterday's meeting at the Belknap County Complex that she had already made a verbal request of convention Chairwoman Collette Worsman for such a meeting and that Worsman had said she wanted to wait until there was an updated report on the budget, Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) said ''that has nothing to do with the contract'' and charged that she was trying to keep the commissioners from governing.
Shackett said that she has since submitted a formal written request to the convention that it meet to act on the contract and noted that the applicable state law says that ''upon written request of the commissioners, the convention shall schedule a meeting to act upon the request.''
The costs of the contract total $336,170 and include $267,343 more for health insurance, $22,361 for a cost of living adjustment of 1.6-percent, $35,759 for merit increases for eligible employees and $10,705 for associated payroll costs, for a total of $336,170.
The 2014 county budget adopted by the Belknap County Convention level-funded the employer share of health insurance benefits at $1,272,449 but included nothing for wage increases or associated payroll costs. Funding will still have to be approved by the Belknap County Convention in the form of a supplemental appropriation.
The agreement provides for the employees' share of health insurance premiums to increase from 6.5 percent to 16.5-] percent for a single person plan, from 5-percent to 15-] percent for both a two-person and a family plan. However, the contribution would remain unchanged for employees who participate in three health management programs that include the health assessment, biometric screening and on health awareness program as defined by HealthTrust.
Commissioners agreed to a request from the employee union that workers be allowed to use the four parking spaces allocated to county officials at the entryway to the county complex on the date the convention meets to vote on the collective bargaining agreement. Shackett said the workers intend to carry signs urging support for the recently negotiated contract.
The commissioners agreed to park their vehicles in a different location on the day of the vote.
The commissioners also heard that there has been a delay in receiving a Community Development Block Grant for the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region due to a request for a historic inventory of the former Saint James Episcopal Church building which the club is acquiring.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 01:14

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