City snow-removal budget pummeled by storms

By DAVID CARKHUFF, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Heavy snow with warming periods in between could force city staff to approach the City Council about the snow-removal budget.
"We're higher than we should be," said Laconia Public Works Director Wes Anderson, in advance of what is forecast to be another snowstorm on Sunday. If the groundhog is right, and six more weeks of winter bring snow and freezing, the city could need more money to clear roads.
"A significant storm system will bring the potential of heavy snow and wind Sunday night and Monday," the National Weather Service reported.
The National Weather Service reported over 11 inches of snow so far in the month and 6.3 inches of snow from Thursday's storm, for a snow depth nearing a foot in the Concord area.
The recent storm wasn't the sole source of city woes, but rather earlier, wetter storms, Anderson said.
"We've had a lot of freezing rain-type storms which generate a lot of time and use a lot of salt. So we are concerned about what is the weather pattern going to be for the rest of the year," Anderson said Friday.
"It really depends on what happens. If everything shuts off after this next week, we could be fine," he said.
At the end of January, about $124,000 was left in the Public Works budget for winter maintenance, Anderson said. The department started with a $355,000 budget for winter maintenance, Anderson said. That budget does not count salaries, he said.
January, February and March tend to be the snowiest months, and if "it looks like we've got the weather pattern where we've got the Pineapple Express turned on for a while," the city could need an extension of funds, Anderson said.

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DeVoy hopes community corrections center tour will sway legislators

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said he hopes that a tour of the Community Corrections facility will convince members of the Belknap County Delegation that the proposed $28 million county budget should not be cut by over $1 million as has been suggested by some members of the delegation.
The delegation is scheduled to tour the facility, which is under construction and scheduled to open in September, at 5 p,m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, prior to its 6 p.m. meeting to again take up the county budget.
At the last budget meeting held by the delegation, DeVoy reacted strongly to a suggestion by Belknap County Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) that the delegation set a budget of slightly under $27 million and that commissioners then decide which line items should be cut.
DeVoy said that the knife wasn't going to be in his hand and that it was up to the delegation to specify what budget lines it wants to cut. He has maintained that the cuts suggested by some delegation members could leave the county without enough money to staff the corrections facility.
He says that all members of the delegation who voted for the $8 million bond issue in 2015 were aware that there would be additional costs for staffing and that it is imperative that the budget not be cut.
Vadney, who said at the time that the bond issue was passed that the county should look at cuts in other departments to offset the increased personnel costs in the Corrections Department, says that the current delegation is more conservative than the one which passed the bond issue and expects that it will still insist on cuts.
Rep. Ray Howard, delegation vice chairman, proposed that the budget be set at $26.8 million, which he said represents an increase of about 4 percent over what actual spending was in 2016.
His proposal calls for cutting at least $220,000 in funding for outside agencies but other cuts were not specified.
Also supporting cuts to the proposed budget are Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) and , Rep. Norm Silber (R-Gilford), who said he won't support any increase in county taxes.
Commissioners have proposed a $28,034,331 budget this year, which will see the amount to be raised by property taxes revert to the $13,837,174 raised in 2015, which is about $875,000 more than was raised last year. In order keep the increase to that level, the commissioners agreed to use $2,183,657 from the undesignated fund balance.
The proposed amount to be raised by taxes is 6.31 percent higher than last year's $12,963,440, a 6.74 decrease from 2015. The bulk of that decrease came in the form of using an additional $605,000 of fund balance to reduce taxes which the delegation adopted over objections by commissioners, raising the amount of the surplus used to reduce taxes to $2,380,000 last year.
The proposed budget numbers will change by the time the delegation meets as the commission will add some $136,000 to budget lines which department heads have asked for in recent weeks, as well as the $17,000 estimated impact of a contract with Teamsters Local 633 which the delegation approved recently.
Members of the delegation have been critical of the budget prepared by commissioners, noting that commissioners only recently announced $850,000 in additional operational savings in 2016, after initially having only $250,000 in that line in the budget.

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Friendship Club thanks police

02-08 friendship cops

The Laconia Friendship Club hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day when it met Wednesday at Leavitt Park in Lakeport. Taking part in the event were Paula Merigan, Laurette Purcell, Capt. Matt Canfield, Lt. Al Graton and Pat Masters. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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