LACONIA — Less than a week after temperatures in the attic space of the Belknap County House of Correction reached 110 degrees and women prisoners housed there were moved to the gymnasium, where mattresses were placed on the floor for them, the space is again being utilized, this time to house male inmates.
''We had to close the attic because it was too hot to have prisoners up there. But we had to open it back up on Monday. We had no choice because our jail population is up to 113 and we needed more space,'' Superintendent Daniel Ward told Belknap County Commissioners when they met Wednesday morning.
Ward said that in an attempt to cool down the attic, a back door was opened in order to allow air to circulate more freely and other steps were taken to try and alleviate the oppressive conditions.
He said that the only space in entire 87-bed facility which is air conditioned is the control center, which is air conditioned to keep the electronics from overheating, and his office, which is located adjacent to the control room.
''There is virtually no air circulation within the entire building,'' said Ward, who said that during the summer months an incredible amount of humidity builds up within the structure, so much he said that it causes all exposed metal to rust.
He said that during the summer the cells heat up and that the air becomes humid whenever showers are used. To compound the problem, the small amount of air which circulates throughout the miles of air lines within the building's control system is contaminated with oil, which entered the system through an air compressor, since replaced.
Ward said that the recent increase in jail population is being created by a number of factors, including seasonal ones such as protective custody incidents. ''We've had 50 people held in protective custody (because they were impaired) in recent months following Meadowbrook concerts,'' said Ward, who said that the most from any one concert was 10 people.
Also contributing to the increase according to Ward are longer pre-trial detention periods and state procedures on parole violations which see violators being held in county facilities to face the new charges brought against them rather than immediately being returned to the State Prison as parole violators.
Commissioner Steve Nedeau said that he understands that some inmates who would normally be sent to the State Prison because their sentence exceeds one year are still being held at the county facility.
Ward confirmed that was indeed the case, noting that one inmate in the Belknap County facility is serving three consecutive one-year terms.
Nedeau noted that after 12 months of holding an inmate, the county can bill the state for its costs if the inmate remains at the local facility.
''We're billing for them,'' said Ward. But Commissioner Ed Philpot noted that it didn't appear as though the state had money set aside to pay the county facilities.
Ward said that ''beds are being filled behind us,'' by actions at the state level and by sentencing practices which see those who might receive more than a year in State Prison receiving nine-month sentences in county facilities instead.
Ward also said that while the Belknap House of Correction is a minimum security facility it is ''still a jail'' and as such is still holding accused murderers and rapists who have yet to face trial.
He said that Laconia ranks as one of the top five in the state in property crimes and violent crimes and those kinds of offenders are being held locally, along with some drug-related offenders.
''We're a minimum security jail, but we're getting more violent offenders,'' said Ward, who said that he has had to create a new classification for inmates and there are now at least a dozen now being held are in the new higher risk category.
County Administrator Debra Shackett questioned Ward about the impact of the increase in prisoner population on this year's budget and Ward said that while he has spent just under half of the budget to this point he can't guarantee that he will be able to continue to hold the line.
He also told the commissioners that there are many other problems with the jail, including basement flooding with water bubbling up into the basement with ''little geysers coming through breaks in the concrete floor.''
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2013 01:25
LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council this week that the tonnage of recyclable materials collected at the curbside has risen 48-percent since the introduction of mandatory recycling on July 1.
During the last four collection cycles, which included Motorcycle Week and the Fourth of July, the total volume of solid waste — both trash and recyclables — collected over two weeks has remained relatively constant between 209.52 tons and 211.21 tons. But, the tonnage of recyclables collected at the curbside has risen from 34.29 tons and 36.05 tons before July 1 to 43.18 tons and 50.68 tons since since July 1.
As a result of removing more recyclables from the waste stream, the cost of disposing of the remaining trash at $150 per ton has fallen from $26,466 and $26,020 in the two cycles before July 1 to $25,179 and $24,079 in the two cycles since July 1.
"Our residents have done a good job," Myers said. "I think people are getting it." Noting that "it's still early," he said that "these are good results, but we still need to get the numbers up." Myers said he had only "a couple of phone calls" from residents with complaints and, in making the rounds of the city, found few households and businesses out of compliance with the requirements to separate trash and recyclables, place trash in firm containers and limit the volume of trash.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 02:45
Still waiting on City Council's plate is proposal to spend $1.3M on additional downtown improvements
LACONIA — While the City Council this week approved the recommendation of the Advisory Board of the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District to fund improvements at the Main Street bridge over the Winnipesaukee River, it deferred a decision on six other projects proposed by the board. City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that he expected the council to address those recommendations by September.
After the so-called "Gateway Plaza" at the bridge, the Advisory Committee, recommended constructing the ramp to carry the riverwalk past the Landmark Inn for $181,000, completing the section of the riverwalk behind Walgreen's for $121,800, building a pocket park at the junction of Water Street and Pleasant Street for $290,000, extending the riverwalk from City Hall to Church Street for $300,000, beginning phase 2 of the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street for $400,000 and erecting a kiosk with signage to the WOW Trail and riverwalk near the library for $25,000. Altogether these projects are estimated to cost $1,317,800.
The effect of these projects would be to complete the stretch of riverwalk along the north bank of the Winnipesaukee River from the Fair Street Bridge to the Church Street Bridge, except for the crossing of Beacon Street West. Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that the connection would be made when Chinburg Builders completes the commercial development planned at the Beacon Street West Condominiums. Ultimately a second stretch of riverwalk is planned to extend along the southern bank of the river and join the first at the two bridges to form a continuous loop.
The Advisory Board proposes to fund these projects with a borrowing serviced by the revenue from the TIF District, which consisted of 287 properties spread over 145.5 acres with an aggregate assessed value of $70.3-million when the district was established in 2004. Tax increment financing consists of delineating TIF districts, then applying half of the future property tax revenues that accrue from the increase in assessed value generated by new construction, expansion or renovation of property in the district to service borrowings used to fund public improvements within it. The downtown TIF account has a current balance of $311,353.
Myers projected the balance to increase by $173,687 in fiscal year 2014 and to grow by 1.5-percent each year thereafter, which he described as a conservative estimate. Over the course of 20 years the TIF district would generate $4,016,280 enough to service a borrowing of $1.5-million at 4.249-percent and leave a balance of $1,922,828 in the TIF account. Alternatively, a borrowing of $2-million for the same term at the same rate would leave a balance of $1,226,115.
Myers said that since the TIF district generates the revenue to defray the principal and interest payments on the borrowing, the debt would have no impact on the amount to be raised by property taxes, which is limited by the tax cap.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 02:27
Judge orders man accused of burning wife's belongings to leave Gale Street home; she had already moved out
LACONIA — After contemplating for nearly 10 minutes in total silence, yesterday Judge Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division ordered a local man accused of burning his wife's belongings Monday afternoon and then assaulting two police officers who came to put the fire out to leave the home until his case can be adjudicated on August 20.
He also ordered John W. Swett, 53, of 53 Gale Avenue to post $1,500 cash bail — $500 to get out of jail immediately and $500 each week for two weeks. Swett is also ordered to surrender any firearms within his control and to report weekly to court until his trial. He must also get professional or pastoral counseling.
Swett is accused of two counts of simple assault (on police officers), criminal mischief (for allegedly burning his wife's belonging), obstructing a government official (for turning off a garden hose being used by a police sergeant to douse the fire), one count of disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest (for allegedly slipping a handcuff and getting into a roll-on-the-ground fight with the arresting officer.)
According to affidavits police filed with the court, Swett's estranged wife had been living away from the home for about six weeks. Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, who was arguing for $15,000 cash-only bail, said she left because she was afraid of him, however to date no paperwork has been submitted to the court regarding domestic violence.
Swett's wife was in court yesterday taking hand-written notes.
According to Sawyer, Swett was convicted of simple assault in 2010 and his wife was the victim. Yesterday Judge Carroll ordered Swett not to contact his wife by any means.
Sawyer also said Swett had substance abuse issues, however the affidavits make no mention of alcohol or drugs during the encounter with police.
Affidavits indicate Swett had allegedly spoken to his wife on the telephone and told her he was going to burn her things. The triggering event, said Sawyer, was her taking money from a bank account.
Sawyer said yesterday when the first police officer arrived, just before 4 p.m. Monday, he found a fire about 4-feet high in a fire pit and what appeared to be woman's shoes and boxes of paperwork nearby.
When the officer asked him what he was burning and if he had a fire permit, he said he was burning wood and he would get a permit. The office said it appeared to him that Swett was burning books and papers, and Swett replied he was burning wood bi-products.
Swett allegedly kept repeatedly telling Officer Kevin Shortt to "get the (explicative) off his property" while Shortt was trying to determine what Swett's problem was.
At one point, said affidavits, Swett turned the hose on the fire, reminded Shortt it was raining, and announced the fire was out. He repeatedly told him to get off his property.
Swett reportedly went inside and Shortt walked to the front door to speak with him. At that point Shortt's affidavit said Swett was initially rude but when he realized Shortt wasn't going away, he "took a breath and stated he was sorry for his behavior but he was very upset with his wife."
When Shortt asked why, Swett alleged that "she stole all the money." Affidavits said he told Shortt, who by this time was joined by two other officers including a sergeant, to go look in the pit for himself if he wanted to know what was burning.
It was, said police, when they went to use the garden hose to put out the fire that Swett allegedly lost his temper and became physically abusive to them.
A man who said he witnessed the altercation called The Daily Sun on Tuesday and said the police were aggressive and one of them over-reacted when Swett called him an "old fart."
"These cops just came looking for a fight," said the witness, adding one of the officers "lost control."
Swett's attorney Allison Schwartz acknowledged that her client had a few misdemeanors in his past but said he was no flight risk, was a contractor with an ongoing and substantial project, and would agreed to any bail terms ordered by Judge Carroll. She said he is a member of a local church.
She said Swett contributes to society by working as a private building contractor and if he were held on cash bail that he couldn't post, would likely loose his current building contract that would trigger a cascade of financial events that could cost him and his estranged wife their home.
She also said he supports his two young adult children — one of whom lives in the home and one who is in college.
Swett has posted the first $500 of his bail and is free tonight.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 02:20
- Committee will make 1 last attempt to save Belmont's Gale School building
- Laconia urges county to take 'affordability approach' to planning new jail
- Budget Committee member sees falsehood in Alton school bond flyer
- Laconia man charged with DWI for 2nd time in a week
- Muskrate star scores inning run as Laconia hosts league All Star Game
- City Council votes to put $382K into downtown 'gateway' project