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Smoke from attic ashtray brings firefighters

LACONIA — At 6:40 a.m. Tuesday, firefiighters from three communities responded to a report of smoke in the building at 118 Court St., a multi-family dwelling.

While first responders didn't see any smoke coming from the building, they found smoke on one of the upper floors coming from a plastic container in the attic.

Firefighters learned the container was being used as an ashtray in the attic.

Chief Ken Erickson said had someone not smelled the smoke the fire could have spread.

He cautioned all cigarette smokers to dispose of their cigarettes in either water or sand. He also said not to throw cigarette butts into planters or landscaped area with peat moss or mulch.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 01:17

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Jail planning committee decides to keep powder dry until June 9

LACONIA — The Belknap County Jail Planing Committee will wait until a scheduled June 9 meeting with the Belknap County Convention before placing its plan for spending $2.96 million on improvements, planning and a temporary facility for housing prisoners before lawmakers.
The committee made the decision when it met Tuesday at the Belknap County Complex after Jail Planning Committee chairman Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) asked if the committee should have members attend a May 27 meeting of the convention at which it will discuss the county jail and speak during the public input portion of the meeting.
County Administrator Debra Shackett, who had tried unsuccessfully to obtain a spot on the agenda of that meeting for the committee, said that the purpose of the meeting as explained to her by Convention Chair Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) was for input by the public and that there would be no spot on the agenda for the committee, although its members could have 15 to 20 minutes for a presentation during the public input session.
Shackett suggested that members of the committee could ''go and listen and then wait and respond at the scheduled June meeting'' and that the committee shouldn't make a presentation next week unless the convention specifically asked them to do so.
Two weeks ago the jail committee met and reached a consensus that it should bring its plan for a $2.96 million supplemental appropriation to the convention and have County Corrections Superintendent Daniel Ward make the presentation.
The committee wants $360,000 so that it can begin work on a schematic design plan for a new jail, $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail and $1.6 million for a three-year contract for installation of a 48-bed temporary housing unit at the jail.
Because the supplemental appropriation will require a borrowing, which would also require a public hearing, a two-thirds vote of the convention would be needed for passage.
Architect Gary Goudreau told the committee two months ago that it would take 4-6 months to produce a schematic design, which committee members are hoping will produce major savings over the conceptual design estimate cost of $42.6 million received last year for a 94,000-square-foot, 180-bed facility. Philpot has said that approach could bring the cost estimate for a new facility to $30 million or less.
Committee members have supported the HVAC system replacement as necessary to make conditions at the current facility bearable for inmates and staff during the three years or more t will take before a new facility can be built and noted that many of the components of the upgraded system can be used in a new facility.
The committee last night also discussed cost comparisons with other recent jail projects in other counties in New Hampshire, including Grafton County, which Ward said had built a 90,000-square-foot, 150-bed jail which was completed in 2012 for $31.2 million. He said that Carroll County had built a 40,000-square-foot, 65 bed facility for $9.9 million in 2003.
Ward said that Cheshire County didn't give him an overall number for its jail project several years ago but told him that for every month the project was delayed it had cost the county an additional $100,000.
He also noted that Rockingham County is budgeting $1.3 million a year to house female inmates at other facilities.
Ward and Shackett pointed out that the temporary housing facility which is being requested isn't designed to significantly increase the capacity for housing prisoners but is needed to address the current overcrowding at the jail by freeing up the gymnasium and adding classroom space.
Currently if the jail population reaches 120 people inmates will have to be shipped out to other facilities. With the temporary housing that number would increase to 147 before prisoners were shipped out.
Ward said that the current staff would be adequate for a prison population of 147 and new employees would not be required, which addressed Commissioner Nedeau's concern of what would happen if a bond issue were passed and the commission was suddenly faced with a request for new corrections officers.
''They need to know that won't happen,'' said Shackett, referring to members of the county convention.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 01:14

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Schools needed to cut $642k from original plan to produce tax cap friendly budget

LACONIA — The School Board unanimously passed a $30,924,058 budget last night for which will be presented to the City Council at its May 27 meeting. The plan covers the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The amount to be raised by property taxes is up $568,244 which is the amount of increase allowable under the city's tax cap, or a 1.87-percent increase.

According to a presentation given to the School Board by Budget and Personnel Chair Scott Vachon, the board anticipated increases totaling $1,210,462 for next year and needed to cut $517,218 from the initial proposal and use $125,000 in contingency money.

The cuts were made by laying off two teachers, not hiring at least one position to replace teachers who are retiring, and by shifting some employees to different roles within the district. There was a reduction of one guidance councilor position at the middle school.

Major drivers of the original budget were an increase in the number of students entering kindergarten and going into the first grade and an increase in the number of students in the district who are eligible for the federal free-and reduced-price lunch program.

"Those students generally need a higher level of services," said Vachon who noted that in the last seven years there has been an increase of 19-percent in the number of students eligible for the program.

Some of the things the district was able to add were additional honors and Advanced Placement classes at the high school, two additional programs at the Huot Technical Center including Law Enforcement and a Resort and Recreation Management program.

The district increased the amount of on-site training for teachers and increased the capacity to integrate new technology.

After the budget is presented to the City Council, said Emond in the Budget and Personnel meeting, any changes requested by the council will come back to the Budget and Personnel Committee for discussion and revision.

The council does not have line item authority over the budget but must approve the bottom line.

In other school news, the school transferred a projected $126,105 savings in health insurance for this fiscal year into areas that were running short of money.

The two big drivers were a $20,000 natural gas overage and a $13,500 electrical overage at the high school. Money was also moved into special education and salaries for tutors.

Emond said the district underestimated the amount of natural gas the high school would use but noted that it was an unusually cold winter and there was no left over money in any of the school heating accounts.

He said he expected the increase in the electrical accounts because of the new Huot Technical Center but said it was less than the district thought it would be.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 01:00

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Rep. Cormier moving to Hooksett

ALTON — Rep. Jane Cormier, a Republican, announced yesterday that because she and her husband, Carlos Martinez, are moving to Hooksett she will be resigning her seat representing Alton, Barnstead and Gilford in the House of Representatives.

Cormier, who has lived in Alton for the past 16 years, said that the couple has grown weary of commuting to back and forth from Alton to Manchester, an expensive round trip of two hours and 20 minutes. Together they teach music and voice in Manchester and have been commuting for much of the past 22 years. Moreover, Cormier said the move will enable her son Christopher, himself a promising musical talent, to enroll in the exemplary music program at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

Martinez, a member of the Alton School Board, will also be resigning his position.

Cormier was elected in 2012 and has served as the clerk of the Belknap County Convention for the past two years. Last year she co-founded Belknap County Conservative Republicans with the stated intention of recruiting conservative candidates to seek elected and appointed positions in municipal government. As a legislator she spent of the current session campaign against the Granite State Future project and filed a bill to abolish the nine regional planning commissions, which the House rejected by a vote of 238 to 91.

A regular columnist in "The Weirs Times," Cormier has been a strident critic of Common Core.

"Have I considered running for the state legislature from my new home district?" Cormier asked rhetorically in a prepared statement, answering "absolutely, I have and I am because the voters in my new district deserve an elected official who respects their liberty as much as I want mine and my family's defended."

However, she stressed that she has made no formal announcement other than to reveal that she is contemplating forming an exploratory committee to run for the State Senate in District 16, the seat held by incumbent Republican David Boutin, who won the seat in a special election in February 2010 and has twice been re-elected. Cormier said that her interest in the Senate seat "apparently has Democrats and Progressives all atwitter, literally and figuratively."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 12:50

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