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Full steam ahead on jail plan

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners voted last evening to seek proposals from architectural firms to develop a schematic plan for a proposed 64-bed "community corrections" facility which is recommended by a consulting firm hired in January by the commissioners.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy said that he hopes to bring a bond issue for around $7 million to the Belknap County Convention for approval before the year ends in order to build the new facility, which is modeled on a similar one built in Sullivan County (Claremont) in 2008.
DeVoy said that the yearly payment on a bond issue of that size would be around $550,000, which the county could handle without a tax increase as bonds which are currently costing $600,000 a year in principal and interest payments will be retired in the near future.
''The taxpayers won't feel the pain'' said DeVoy, who acknowledged that increased staffing is a major issue but hoped that the commission ''can reshape things around here and make up the difference.''
Questioned by Rep, Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont) on whether the cost of the schematic design would be included in a proposed bond issue, DeVoy said that he anticipated that there would be sufficient funds for the design in a newly created account in the 2015 budget for jail planning. Over $400,000 has been set aside.
Commissioners made the decision after hearing from Kevin Warwick and Ross Cunningham of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., the firm the county hired for $40,000 to develop a program for a community corrections facility that emphasizes rehabilitation.
The plan they presented would see 30 treatment beds, 20 for men and 10 for women, and 34 work release beds, 24 for men and 10 for women. The new facility, which would be built next to the current jail and connected to it through a newly created control room. It would contain 22,327-square-feet and a suggested addition which would include a small 2,500-square-foot gym, 1,500-square-feet of administrative space — all of which would bring the total space to just over 27,000-square-feet.
The facility would be of heavy commercial grade construction and would provide residential minimum security treatment as well as group space for programs.
Staffing requirements would be five correctional staff and a supervisor while program staff would entail three clinicians, two case managers, a full-time administrative assistant and half-time clerical person. But some of those positions would not require new hires as the estimated number of beds being used in the current facility would drop into the mid 40s, which would allow the transfer of some current staff to the new facility.
The consultants recommended that the county look at contracted workers from firms currently providing services for inmates to serve as program staffers, which could result in saving money and could prove to be a more effective model.
Other key considerations include a control room replacement for the current facility with a complete security system for a cost of $350,000, as well as upgrade to the HVAC system for the existing jail — with an eye to also having it handle the community corrections facility as well.
The consultants recommend that the work be completed on the new facility before any renovations are undertaken in the current jail.
Commissioner DeVoy wondered if it would be possible to undertake an upgrade of the HVAC system in the current facility as soon as possible and the consultants said that was a question which the architectural firm which is chosen would be best positioned to answer.

Cunningham, who was superintendent of the Sullivan County Corrections Department when they built the facility in 2008, said the county spent $5.8 million on the community corrections center and $1.3  million in upgrades to the existing jail. He cautioned that those costs came at a time when the economy was in recession and would have been much higher in a stronger economy.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2015 01:42

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Muskrats must complete left field deck by December

LACONIA — The Parks and Recreation Commission has renewed the agreement between the city and the Laconia Muskrats, which will open its sixth season of New England Collegiate Baseball League play at Robbie Mills Field in June.

Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said that the original agreement negotiated in 2010 was for a term of five years and expired after last season. He said that the essence of the agreement remained unchanged.

However, while the agreement specified that an observation deck behind the wall in left field was to be completed by May 30, 2015, Dunleavy said that Noah Crane, general manager of Muskrats, asked for the deadline to be extended. The commission agreed to extend the deadline for completion of the deck until November 30.

Crane explained yesterday that the project will be undertaken by staff and students of the Huot Technical Center at Laconia High School after the season closes. He said that he was very confident that the work will be completed by the deadline.

Dunleavy recalled that in 2012 the commission approved Crane's proposal to sell beer at home games on the condition that the concession would be confined to the the observation deck. He anticipated that once the project is complete Crane will ask the commission to reaffirm its earlier decision to permit the sale and consumption of beer on the deck.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2015 01:05

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City manager's proposed budget funds roads, firefighters

LACONIA — Increased investment in city streets and maintaining four additional firefighter positions are the major features of the 2015-16 city budget that City Manger Scott Myers presented to the City Council last night.

Myers proposed city expenditures of $22,860,061 -- an increase of $8,446 over the current year. However, revenues from sources other than property taxes, including the use of fund balance, are projected to drop by $537,702, or 7.1 percent. A one-time credit from the Concord Regional Solid Waste/Resource Recovery Cooperative of $800,000 represents most of the decrease. But it is partially offset by increases in fees from licensing and permitting, especially motor vehicle registration.

Myers explained that the $800,000 credit received last year was not spent and recommended applying $600,000 of the amount to street repairs in 2015-16, increasing the total appropriation for road work to $1.75 million. He said that he will suggest the remaining $200,000 be carried forward to 2016-17, when again between $1.7 million and $1.8 million would be appropriated for street repairs.

Apart from street repairs, other capital outlays include $25,000 for repair and construction of sidewalks, $40,000 for repair and replacement of guardrails and fences, $100,000 for drainage improvements, $30,000 for bridge repair and maintenance, $28,000 install irrigation at Memorial Field, and $155,000 for portable radios for the Fire Department. Myers also recommends borrowing $300,000 to fund the restoration of Weirs Beach.

Myers said that his proposed budget includes $50,000 in general fund expenditure, which together with funding from LRGH and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants from the federal government ,will enable the Fire Department to retain the four firefighters originally hired for two years with federal funding. The budget also includes 50 percent of the funding for an additional police officer and third motor mechanic, which are two positions that were partially funded in the 2014-15 budget.

The budget includes wage adjustments reflecting increases in steps and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) with all four collective bargaining units representing city employees, three of which have ratified contracts. Negotiations with the State Employees Association (SEA), representing employees at the Department of Public Works, remain ongoing.

Myers said that the city has received a "not to exceed" rate increase of 3.4 percent for employee health insurance. He said that the city spent $3,085,212 for health insurance in 2011-12, but has budgeted $2,270,211 in 2015-16, a decrease of $814,946 over the past four years. Meanwhile, he anticipates the city's contribution to the New Hampshire Retirement System to rise by approximately $200,000 on July 1.

With the decline in revenue from sources other than property taxes, the amount to be raised by property taxes is projected to rise by $546,148, from $15,255,299 to $15, 801,447, a jump of 3.6 percent.  The increase is reflected in an increase the city portion of the tax rate of 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from $8.73 to $8.89.

The School District budget is expected to increase by $1,712,800, from $30,894,058 to $32,606,858 -- or by 5.5 percent -- which represents a 35 cent increase in the school tax rate, from $9.67 to $10.02. The county tax rate is projected to drop a penny to $1.41 and the state education property tax rate by 14 cents to $2.44. Altogether, the municipal tax rate is estimated to rise by 36 cents from $22.40 to $22.76.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 01:07

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Serendipity: Middle schoolers find lost purse at city snow dump

LACONIA — In what can only be called an instance of serendipity, three Laconia Middle School students recently found a lost clutch purse atop a huge pile of snow at the city's snow dump off from South Street.
Defined as a "fortunate happenstance" or "pleasant surprise," the discovery of the lost purse was as much of an accidental event as was its loss over a month earlier.
The clutch, purse belonging to Michelle Plourde, an information technology staffer at Laconia Hgh School, had been lost during a snowstorm on February 2 which caused the cancellation of classes.

''I lost it somewhere between the Irving station and the high school parking lot,'' says Plourde, who had reported it to police and tried searching the parking lot for it only to find all of the snow had been plowed into a large pile, which was later hauled away to the city's snow dumping area near Memorial Park, near the winter sledding area where not long ago a missing earring had been located by diligent young searchers.
On Wednesday, March 11, Middle School nurse Kerri Reynolds, Project EXTRA Winter Survival Club leader and Regina Theberge, administrative assistant for Project EXTRA, were at the South Street Public Sledding Hill with Project EXTRA Winter Survival Club students from grades 6-8.

Sixth-graders Eclipse Warren, Trinity Furtado and Kaidyn Blake, said that they got tired of sledding and the long walk back up the hill after each run.

''It was like being in quicksand,'' said Warren, who along with her friends asked permission from Reynolds to explore the mountains of snow above the hill.

They found lots of items that had been moved there in the snow -- including a trash can, socks and even an automobile tire -- before spying the purse.

'It was soaked and covered with sand and when we opened it the money was all wet.'' said Furtado.

The girls brought the purse, which also contained credit cards and gift cards, to Reynolds, who was able to identify it as belonging to Plourde. Theberge then called Janet Brough in the Superintendent of School's office, and Brough called Plourde to give her the news.

''Michelle was shocked. She had just spoken to another colleague that very same day about trying to find the missing wallet/clutch purse. I brought it over to her after sledding was over and she was amazed that everything was intact,'' said Theberge. ''We praise our students for being so honest and not touching anything in the wallet.''

Plourde said that what bothered her the most was the thought that her license was among the missing items and says that she is very grateful to the students for having found her clutch purse.

She said that among the gift cards was one for a hair cut, which she very much appreciated getting back. She rewarded the girls for their honesty with a trip to Dairy Queen.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 12:19

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