No challenge - Toplessness at Gilford beach won’t be fought in court but is still not going to be tolerated, say selectmen

GILFORD — Toplessness by women at the town beach will not be legally challenged, said Town Administrator Scott Dunn said yesterday, but is still not going to be allowed.

Selectmen will not fight a ruling made by 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll regarding the legality of its ordinance banning female toplessness at the town beach, said Dunn.

He said the only place the town could have gone to appeal the ruling is to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and that it would have cost about $10,000 in legal fees to do so.

Dunn said that, at this point in time, selectmen are not changing the ordinance and that female toplessness will not be allowed at Gilford Beach. When asked how the town was going to enforce it, he declined to speculate.

The town of Gilford was brought into the Free the Nipple campaign on Labor Day in 2015 after a group of women sunbathed for the day at Weirs Beach in Laconia but left for Gilford Beach after Weirs Beach closed early to set up the fireworks display.

While there were no complaints from Laconia, once in Gilford, the women were met with immediate rebukes and the Gilford police were called.

Police cited two of the women, Heidi Lilley and Barbara McKinnon, with violating the town ordinance. The two challenged the citations, and Carroll determined that because there is no law banning female toplessness in the state criminal code, there could be no local ordinances that criminalize exposing female nipples in public. The town asked Carroll to reconsider his ruling, but he declined.

A bill sponsored by three Belknap County state representatives to ban female toplessness statewide was killed in a New Hampshire House subcommittee after its members learned that, as written, a second offense would be a felony and could require those convicted to register as sex offenders.

Free the Nipple is an equality movement based on a movie by the same name that wants women to have the same rights as men when it comes to toplessness.

The city of Laconia also has an ordinance that forbids female toplessness and theo encouragement or harassment of women into going topless that was enacted more as a safety measure for the annual Motorcycle Week.

Traffic stopped as brush fire burns acres


MEREDITH — The first major brush fire of the year in Belknap County charred about 6 acres of grassland along Route 25 yesterday before it was extinguished by firefighters.

Deputy Chief Andre Kloetz said the cause of the fire is unknown but said it appeared there were two fires burning simultaneously. He said the blaze went to a first alarm because of the size of the area burning and that at one point, some outbuildings on a neighboring lot were close to the blaze.

"We don't know if it was a cigarette or if it was set intentionally," Kloetz said.

The fire was initially reported around 1 p.m. and Kloetz said the first responding lieutenant saw how close it was to an outbuilding and called for a first alarm that brought firefighters from neighboring communities to assist.

He said it took about 30 people to extinguish the blaze.

Police said Route 25 was shut down for a period of time during the earlier moments because the fire departments had to get all of their apparatus through the busy highway to reach the scene. The fire burned most of a field that is about half a mile from the Inter-Lakes Regional High School.

By abut 1:30 p.m., Meredith Police opened one lane of traffic though it was slow going through the area until the firefighting units left the scene.

Kloetz said that this time of year is usually very dry, not very humid and nothing has turned green yet. He said despite the snow and rain of the past weekend, it takes just a few days like Thursday – dry, sunny, and with a little bit of wind – to dry out grass and underbrush to the point where it burns very easily.

He said permits are required for all burning and no one is supposed to burn until after 5 p.m. Kloetz said that until the greening, fire permits are issued on a day-to-day basis and anyone considering an outside fire should contact their local fire department before burning.

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Two firefighters brandishing rakes and shovels head into a six-acre charred field along Route 25 in Meredith yesterday to extinguish an out of control brush fire. No one was injured but traffic through the area was slowed for about two hours. (Gail Ober photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

Gilford police now at full force - Two detectives added, second SRO duty to be shared by several officers


GILFORD — A unanimous board of selectmen agreed last night that the police department can move forward with having one full-time school resource officer in the school district and adding a third detective.

To supplement the lack of the second SRO, Police Chief Bean Burpee said that officers and supervisors on day shifts will spend time at the schools as part of their routine assignments, especially during opening and closing times when traffic is heavy and during special events.

"Officers will stop by, visit classrooms and eat lunch with the students whenever possible," he said, adding that the overall police presence at the schools will be about the same as it is now.

"I was an SRO for four years," said Bean Burpee continued. "I remain committed to the program."

During the past two years, the department has had one full-time SRO and one officer who was a detective, an SRO two or three days a week, and the DARE officer. Bean Burpee explained to the board he felt the DARE officer was being pulled in too many directions. With the change, she will be assigned to the detective bureau permanently but will keep her DARE certification up to date so she can assist the full-time SRO/DARE officer as needed.

He also told the board he is advertising in house for a third detective now that he has successfully hired an 18th officer, which is a position added to the department about three years ago. Until now, the department had been operating with one open position because of staff turnover.

Bean Burpee said the number of thefts, drug cases and other felonies has risen dramatically over the past five years, emphasizing that in 2012 the department handled 139 felonies and so far this year they have already handled 49, which is about a 70 percent increase.

"The (bureau of criminal investigations) is barely holding its head above water," he said.

He said detectives are responsible for investigating many misdemeanors, all felonies, all referrals to the Division of Children, Youth and Families, and with working with the Belknap County Attorney to process criminal cases for indictment.

Selectman Gus Benavides said the town has had a long history of having two full-time SROs in the school and it was at the behest of the Gilford School Board.

"The priority has to be balancing the need to have our children protected (and) hear the needs of the families while (being aware of) your staff needs," he said.
Benavides said that he was amenable to the idea but warned that if there was any push back from the parents the selectmen might have to revisit the decision.

Bean Burpee said he was also concerned about push back from crime victims. He said he and Superintendent Kent Hemingway have discussed the change and said he will make stopping by the schools without the SRO that day part of an officer's routine duties.