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Public hearing scheduled in Belmont for Route 106 and Seavey Road intersection improvements

BELMONT — The N.H. Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing regarding proposed improvements to the intersection of Route 106 and Seavey Road April 29 at 7 p.m. at the Belmont High School.

The costs of improvements to the intersection will come from a federal transportation grant that funds the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

According to DOT Engineer William Dugas, the program provides money to improve intersections that are considered some of the most dangerous in the country.

Selectmen were made aware of the program in spring of 2011 during a meeting held with DOT officials and the local police department.

Dugas said Monday that from the years 2003 through 2012 there have been 16 motor vehicle accidents at the intersection and 15 within 750 feet of it. Fifteen of those crashes resulted in injuries.

During the 2011 meeting, DOT Engineer William Oldenburg reported that one of the problems is that there is no safe place to pass vehicles that have stopped to take a left onto Seavey Road.

Oldenburg also observed that because the high school is on Seavey Road, a number of the drivers on Route 106 and Seavey Road during certain times of day are younger and somewhat inexperienced.

At the public hearing DOT Engineers will present the plans they have made to address the safety issues and take input from the public.

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 April 2014 01:06

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How much jail can Belknap County afford?

LACONIA — The new county jail contemplated by the Belknap County Commission would be the first major capital project undertaken by the county in a generation and while there is little question a new facility is needed, the cost of the project is a source of concern.

The Jail Planning Committee, convened by the commission, is contemplating a facility of some 94,000-square feet with 180 beds, which it seeks to build for not more than $30-million and preferably less. The committee notes that in 2005 Merrimack County constructed a 112,000-square foot jail with 237 beds for $24.3-million and in 2012 Grafton County completed a facility with 150 beds at cost of $30.5-million.

With one city and ten towns, about 60,000 residents and a total assessed valuation of approximately $10-billion, Belknap County is significantly smaller with less fiscal capacity than either Merrimack County or Grafton County. The population of Merrimack County exceeds 146,000 spread among two cities and 25 towns while Grafton County counts more than 89,000 residents in one city and 38 towns. The total assessed valuation of Merrimack County and Grafton County exceeds $15-billion and $13-billion respectively. Moreover, commercial and industrial property — land and buildings — represents 20-percent of the total assessed valuation in Merrimack County and 17-percent of the total assessed valuation in Grafton County compared to 12-percent in Belknap County, where households bear a relatively greater share of the property tax burden.

Consequently, the cost of county government, particularly a major capital project, in Belknap County is born by a smaller population and tax base and distributed among fewer municipalities than in larger counties like Merrimack and Grafton.

The average annual principal and interest payments for a facility costing $30-million to construct, financed by borrowing the cost at 4.25-percent for 20 years, would be about $2.2-million. In Belknap County, the cost of debt service would be born by the eleven municipalities in proportion to their share of the total assessed valuation of the county.

Together the five lakefront municipalities — Laconia, Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford and Meredith — represent 70-percent of the total assessed valuation of the county and would share about $1.5-million of the annual average debt service of $2.2-million. Laconia and Meredith, with assessed valuations of more than $1.8-billion, would contribute more than $400,000 while the shares of Alton and Gilford would top $300,000.

With its tax cap Laconia's situation is unique. Any increase in the city's county apportionment counts against the tax cap and must be offset by commensurate reductions in municipal expenditures in order to budget within the bounds of the cap.

By contrast, if the same amount of debt service were carried in Grafton County, Lebanon and Hanover, with the largest property tax bases comparable to those of Laconia and Meredith, which bear 36-percent of cost in Belknap County, would bear 28-percent of the cost, or about $300,000 apiece. The balance would be distributed among 36 towns, whose share of the county budget ranges from 0.1-percent in Ellsworth to 5.7-percent in Littleton. Similarly, in Merrimack County the cost of county government is born by tax base a third greater than in Belknap County as well as more than twice the number of municipalities and residents.

These numbers underpin the perception in some quarters that comparisons with jails built recently in other counties are misleading and that the taxpayers of Belknap County cannot afford a comparable facility.

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 April 2014 12:10

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Jenkins Faces VanTassel in Sanbornton selectman's race

SANBORNTON —  A long time member of the Budget Committee will be squaring off against the former head of the Public Works Department in this year's race for selectman.

On May 13, voters will chose between Jeff Jenkins and Johnny VanTassel for the three-year term. Incumbent Guy Giunta is not seeking reelection.

Jenkins is a member of the town's Budget Committee and has often been very vocal at selectman's meetings about how the town's highway crews should maintain the roads and bridges in town.

VanTassel was the head of the Department of Public Works until late last year when he resigned to take the job as the head of the Northfield Public Works Department.

Both are members of a committee established by selectmen to see if the town should subcontract the work currently being done by the highway department to a private subcontractor.

The will be a candidates night on May 2 at 7 p.m. at the Sanbornton Public Library. Tilton resident Pat Clark will moderate.

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 April 2014 12:25

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Laconia to lay off two teachers to stay within tax cap

LACONIA  — Superintendent of Schools Terri Forsten said yesterday that the Laconia School Board needs to reduce its proposed budget by about $300,000 to satisfy the terms of the city's tax cap of $36.3-million.

To do that she said two teachers have been laid off and the district is potentially looking at not replacing some retiring employees.

The School Board had been slated to present their 2014-2015 budget to the City Council on April 28. City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday the School District's new presentation date is May 27.

Members had scheduled a vote on the entire $36.6-million budget at their meeting last Tuesday. However, they delayed the vote without discussion. When asked why, Budget and Personnel Committee Chair Scott Vachon said the committee hadn't had the opportunity to review the final details of the proposed budget. After a non-public session, the board apparently agreed to lay off two employees.

Forsten said in years past the district has been able to save some money by not replacing some elementary school teachers as they retire because of dwindling school enrollments. However, she said in the past two years, the district has seen an increase in enrollment at the kindergarten and first grade levels and can no longer eliminate elementary school teacher positions through retirement and attrition.

Forsten also said at this point in time, the district doesn't know how many new kindergarten students there will be in August.

She said the administrators will also eye moving around some programs to get better use out of their existing resources and that could involve asking some teachers to teach different classes than they now teach.

She said it's only fair to the teachers to discuss this as soon as decisions are made in order to give them time to prepare.

Forsten said they are also seeing some other shifts and, despite two resignations, will maintain the current level of guidance counselors. She said the district is also hoping to add a world languages teacher at the Laconia Middle School.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 11:30

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