Smoke, ash and smells - Neighbor to crematorium tells Meredith selectmen situation is intolerable

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — "Imagine if you are me," Doug Fredrick, owner of the American Police Motorcycle Museum, told the selectmen this week, "and you have to listen to this for seven days a week, ten hours a day and smell it. It's beyond disgusting."

Frederick was referring to the sound, smell and ash from the crematory at the Mayhew Funeral Home, owned and operated by Peter Mayhew, abutting his property on US Route 3 across from McDonald's.

"We simply want this situation corrected," he told the board.

He explained that because the crematory is 15 feet down slope of his lot, its chimney reaches only to the second story of the building housing the museum, causing emissions to collect and ash to fall on his property. He suggested that adding 15 or 20 feet to the chimney would enable emissions and ash to clear his property and disperse in the air.

Town Manager Phil Warren said the town has no authority to address Fredrick's complaints since crematories are regulated by state agencies. The construction and operation of crematories are licensed and overseen by Board of Registration of Funeral Directors and Embalmers while the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services enforces emission standards.

"To the best of my knowledge," Warren said, the Mayhew Funeral Home has a clean bill of health from them both."

Nevertheless, Warren said that he visited the funeral home to witness a cremation at 7 a.m. yesterday. "There was no smoke, no ash and no smell," he said, "and the ambient noise level was below that of the traffic on Route 3." He acknowledged that the effects of emissions from the crematory are dependent on the prevailing atmospheric conditions, recalling that a week earlier, when the ceiling was low and the humidity was high, smoke from a nearby wood stove hovered over both the funeral home and the museum.

Likewise, Warren said the funeral home performs some 220 cremations a year, usually two and rarely three a day. Because the crematory operates at 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, which is generated by 1.95 million BTUs, the unit requires a lengthy period to cool down.

Frederick expressed his concerns to the Board of of Registration of Funeral Directors and Embalmers on Sept. 9, 2015. On Oct. 21, the executive director of the board informed him that "the Board reviewed the documents and photos you submitted, as well as information and photos supplied by Peter Mayhew. Based upon the investigation conducted by the Board," the letter continued, "no violations of administrative rules or state statutes that govern funeral homes or crematories were found."

Frederick questioned the board's findings, pointing out that he had surveillance videos, numerous photographs, ash residue and a daily log, none of which were analyzed in the course of its investigation. Nor, he said, did anyone from the board visit his property. He called the board "an absolute perversion of government, as it is blatantly self-serving."

Frederick, who only learned of the crematory after he acquired the abutting property in 2010, has also challenged the process by which it was approved, claiming it "was done in secrecy," contrary to local zoning ordinances and state law. In 2010, the Meredith Code Enforcement Officer, the late Bill Edney, approved the project in an administrative decision that required neither notification of abutting property owners nor a public hearing before the Planning Board.

Planning Director Angela LaBreque said that when Edney received Mayhew's application for the crematory consulted with other funeral homes and state agencies and concluded that crematories were common accessory uses at funeral homes. Although the crematory required extensive modification to the interior of the building, the footprint remained the same. The addition of the chimney, essential to the operation of the crematory, was the only change to the outside of the building. LaBrecque informed Mayhew that she and Edney agreed "it is not necessary for you to appear before the Meredith Planning Board for a site plan amendment to provide cremation services."

Warren said that administrative decisions can be appealed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, but by the time Frederick became aware of what transpired, the time for lodging an appeal had expired.

At the same time, in 2010 the rules of the Board of Registration of Funeral Directors and Embalmers required those applying to operate a crematory to include the notice of any required public hearing with their application. The rule has since been repealed, but at the time the board found that it did not apply to Mayhew's application since the town required no public hearing.

Warren said that he could find no case law in New Hampshire bearing on Edney's decision, but did discover a ruling by the Tennessee Court of Appeals. When petitioners sued the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, which permitted a crematory over their objections, the court of appeals upheld the city's decision, ruling that "a crematory is properly considered an accessory use to a funeral home."

Warren said that he would like to resolve the issue, but repeated that the town has no authority over either the operation of the crematory or its emissions. However, he has recommended that Frederick test the ash residues he has collected from his property. Frederick said that the $5,000 cost of testing is prohibitive, but Warren said he is seeking a less expensive alternative. Meanwhile, Warren said he will continue to monitor the property from time to time and urged Fredrick to immediately report any adverse effects of emissions from the crematory to him.

Sign Language Club - GHS students tour school for deaf and blind

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — Imagine not being able to hear and having to ask for directions. Luckily, that was not a problem for Gilford High School student Clara Jude on a trip to the Perkins School for the Blind and Deaf.

Members of the American Sign Language Club at Gilford High School last week visited the school in Watertown, Massachusetts, a trip which club president Jude said was both inspiring and informative.
"When we arrived and were looking for the visitors office, I used sign language to ask directions and one of the students signed me right back and gave us directions. He actually thought I was deaf, too," said Jude.
She said that eight members of the club, which she helped form last year, and three adults who accompanied them, took a two-and-a-half hour tour of the school, which is famous worldwide as the institution where Helen Keller learned to communicate despite being blind as well as deaf.
"There were some interactive activities, like being blindfolded and having to relay on a partner for directions on where to walk and what objects and obstacles were ahead that were really interesting," Jude said.
She said that her interest in learning sign language started when she was a sixth-grader at Holy Trinity School in Laconia when she and her younger sister Lucy were looking for new challenges.
"We both were taking dance lessons and wanted something to do with movement. So we decided to learn sign language and got books for Christmas to help us learn," says Jude, who points out that sign language is the fourth most-used language in America.
When she started attending Gilford High School, she was disappointed that there was no American Sign Language club and took it on herself to organize one in her sophomore year. She said the plan was supported by school administrators and that the club, which usually meets twice a month, has now grown to about 15 students.
"We teach each other new words and phrases, and when there was an open mic night at the school's coffee house we even did a song and signed it to other students as we sang," she said.
Jude, who skipped her junior year and is now a senior at Gilford High, said she is confident that the club will continue at the school under the leadership of Kelli Vieten, a sophomore who became vice president of the club this year, as well as her sister, Lucy, who is now an eighth-grader at Gilford Middle School.
After she graduates in June, Jude will be taking a year to do community service before going to college and will be spending 24 weeks in Guatemala and another 24 weeks in Colombia over the next year.
And she knows what she wants to do for a future career. She's planning on becoming a sign language interpreter, which opens up worlds of possibilities for her.

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Members of the American Sign Language Club at Gilford High School last week toured the Perkins School for the Blind and Deaf in Watertown, Mass. (Courtesy photo)

Deaf students tour

Gilford High School’s American Sign Language Club visited the Perkins School for the Blind and Deaf in Watertown, Mass., last week. Shown on the tour are students Kelli Vieten, Erin Gately, Erica Mosher, Emily Curtis, Sienna Remick, tour guides Linda Oleson and Mike Cataruzolo and students Clara Jude, Josey Curley and Olivia Salesky.  (Courtesy photo)

Hard choice - Union workers at nursing home may have to choose between health plan, raises

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Unionized employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home will be asked to make a choice between switching their health insurance provider to a lower-cost plan and qualify for pay raises, or sticking with the current HMO plan and passing up pay raises. Belknap County Commissioners voted two to one Wednesday morning to approach the union representing employees with that choice.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that the recent rejection of a proposed contract by a 33-14 vote of the union members seemed to be centered on the $3,000 deductible for family plans in the new health insurance plan in the contract. He said employees would have gotten an increase in compensation due to the raises in pay and wellness benefits and reduced health insurance costs over the two years of the contract and that those increases are far more beneficial to employees than sticking with the current HMO plan.
A letter to the editor in yesterday's Laconia Daily Sun maintained that average earnings for employees of the bargaining unit would increase, as well as their retirement benefits, and that "the certain pluses outweigh the dollar risks" and that "if the status quo continues, everyone loses."
The letter, which was signed by Taylor and fellow members of the county's negotiating team – Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton); Roger Grey, a member of the public from Sanbornton; and County Administrator Debra Shackett – noted that 23 employees who would be covered by the contract are not entitled to vote because they do not pay union dues.
The commission's offer mirrored the collective bargaining agreements negotiated with Teamsters Local 633 representing managerial and administrative employees and the State Employees Association representing corrections officers, which have been ratified by the members of both unions and approved by the Belknap County Delegation.
The two-year agreement includes a 1.4 percent cost-of-living adjustment for year one and 2 percent in the second year, as well as step increases of 3 percent a year. In addition, the county would have paid the full cost of the site-of-service health plan and employees would receive a a $1,000 bonus for changing their health insurance plan. Currently, employees pay 5 percent of the HMO health insurance plan, which amounts to $1,315 a year for a family plan.