LACONIA — The idea of a stand-alone vote for installing a new HVAC system at the Belknap County Jail is still alive but one of the key conditions sought by members of the county convention for reconsideration, namely more detailed information on the $1 million cost estimate, is unlikely to be forthcoming.
''I can't believe any contractor will take a look at it until a bond is passed,'' Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) told Dave DeVoy at yesterday afternoon's meeting of the commissioners.
Two weeks ago DeVoy, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the County Commission seat currently held by Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), who is not seeking re-election, broached the idea of a second vote on that part of a $2.96 million bond issue which was rejected by a 9-7 vote of the County Convention last month.
DeVoy said he had talked with convention Chair Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) and other members of the convention about a new vote and that Worsman had said that if the commissioners requested a hearing on just that part of the bond the convention would take it up. He said that other members of the convention told him that they wanted a more detailed description of the work which would be done and a more precise cost estimate before they would vote to support it.
Commissioners have said that the million dollar estimate was reached in consultation with Maintenance Superintendent Dustin Muzzey and was based on the cost of a similar project which was completed three years ago at the Belknap County Courthouse.
DeVoy said that some county legislators had suggested that the commissioners might want to consider including the HVAC system as part of next year's operating budget rather than as a stand-alone bond issue.
Other elements of the defeated bond proposal put forth by the Jail Planning Committee, which required a two-thirds majority vote from lawmakers for passage, included $360,000 for a schematic design for a new county jail and $1.6 million for a three-year lease of a 48-bed temporary housing unit.
Commissioners are unlikely to take any action on the proposal until after the next scheduled meeting of the Jail Planning Committee, which will take place on September 10, the day after the primary election, and which will be attended by Kenneth Ricci, president of the Ricci Greene firm which provided the conceptual plan for a 94,000 square foot Community Corrections facility for 184 inmates which carried an estimated $42.6 million price tag which proved widely unpopular with legislators and many local officials across the county.
County Administrator Debra Shackett says that Greene will present alternatives and options to the plan to the committee, which has been looking to bring the cost of the project to $30 million or less and postponed further meetings until it had a chance to meet with him.
Commissioners declined to comment on the lawsuit filed last week by the Belknap County Convention against them which seeks to affirm the authority of the convention over line items in the county budget. They said they were in consultation with their attorney over the law suit, which was authorized by the convention in October of 2013 but not filed until last week.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:41
LACONIA — After wrangling over the last two county budgets, the Belknap County Convention yesterday brought suit against the Belknap County Commission, asking the Belknap County Superior Court to affirm its authority over each of the individual line items within the budget and prohibit the commission from spending more from any line item than it appropriated.
Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, and the clerk of the convention, Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), together with attorney David Horan, filed the suit almost 10 months after the convention, by a vote of 10-4, authorized it in October 2013. Ten Republicans voted to bring the suit, while four Democrats were opposed and four other members — three Republicans and one Democrat — were absent and did not vote.
"It was filed when it could be done," Worsman remarked, explaining that when the convention voted to litigate the 2013 county budget had been virtually expended.
"This is something that should be resolved regardless of who is in office," Burchell added.
Apparently Worsman did not inform members of the convention that she was taking this action. "This is the first I've heard of it," said Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) on being told of the lawsuit.
The county commissioners — John Thomas (R-Belmont), Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) and Stephen Nedeau (R-Meredith) — who were being served late yesterday afternoon, could not be reached for comment.
The differences between the convention and commission over their respective budgetary authority persisted with the preparation and adoption of the 2014 county budget in March, prompting Worsman to go to court.
First in 2013 and again this 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 13 categories. 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.
In its petition, the convention cites the state statute governing the county budget (RSA 24:14), which provides "Appropriations by the county convention shall be itemized in detail and a record thereof shall be kept by the clerk of the convention." It goes on to stipulate that the convention may require the commission to report "the expenditures of the county as compared to the budget as voted, in such detail as determined by the convention." Finally, the convention may require the commission to obtain the written approval of its executive committee "before transferring any appropriation of part thereof."
After convention adopted the 2014 county budget on March 4, it approved a motion "that all funds appropriated for all line items of the 2014 Belknap County Budget shall be non-transferrable without prior approval of the Executive Committee in accordance with RSA 24:14." The convention authorized the commission to transfer up to $300 from one line to another within each department, requiring that these transfers be reported monthly.
The petition claims that on March 27 the commission approved 121 changes to particular line items and 11 changes in departmental budget totals recommended by County Administrator Debra Shackett. All of the 132 changes exceeded $300. Nor did the commission present these transfers to the Executive Committee for approval.
The commissioners transferred the funds to meet the increase in the employer contribution to health insurance premiums, which the convention eliminated from the budget. They contended that they were obliged to pay the increase by the terms of collective bargaining agreements with the unions representing county employees.
The convention counters by referring to RSA 24:15, which reads, "No county commissioner, or elected or appointed county officer, shall pay or agree to pay, in cur any liability for the payment of, any sum of money for which the county convention has made no appropriation." Consequently, the convention charges that 132 changes the commission made to budget adopted by the convention were "illegal."
The convention asked the court rule that the commission must obtain the written authority of the Executive Committee before transferring funds from one line item to another and to schedule a hearing to enjoin the commission from spending more from any line item than the convention appropriated.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:05
LACONIA — Police are investigating the death of a 30-year-old man who was found dead in his bedroom at 708 Union Ave. #6 at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The man has not been publicly identified.
People who were there said the deceased returned to the apartment sometime after midnight but those in the home became concerned when he hadn't left his bedroom by mid-afternoon the following day.
The owner of the building said he has rented the apartment to the dead man's father for a number of years and was under the impression the son was just visiting him.
Police said there was no immediate evidence of foul play and the cause of death is unknown.
A person from the N.H. medical examiner's office said the autopsy had been completed.
Police are withholding his name pending the official notification of his relatives.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 12:41
GILFORD — Alert beach-goers and life guards saved the life of a little girl at Ellacoya State Park Saturday morning said Fire Department administrators.
Capt. Rick Andrews said the 2 1/2-year-old girl was playing in the water while her parents were on the beach. He said another couple was keeping an eye on the girl when they saw her trip and fall.
He said they went into the water and got the girl who was not breathing when they reached her.
He said they brought the child to life guards who performed CPR and resuscitation.
Andrews said responding EMTs were very relieved to hear the second call come over the radio that the child was now crying and breathing but said they took her to Lakes Region General Hospital by ambulance where she was admitted for a time for observation.
He said they checked up on her a few times during the day and that she was doing fine.
Two weeks ago, a man visiting the beach from East Boston drowned at the park.
Marine Patrol said the man's friend reported to life guards that he was missing and the lifeguards found him in about 7 feet of water. Life guard and EMTs were unable to resuscitate him and he was pronounced dead at the Lakes Region General Hospial emergency room in Laconia.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 12:38
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