Several locals honored as Governor & Executive Council bring 'road show' meeting to Laconia's Funspot


LACONIA — A tabletop was placed on tavern pool tables at the Funspot Wednesday for a meeting of Gov. Chris Sununu and Executive Council that included honors for local dignitaries such as the entertainment center's owner, Robert Lawton, and Hope Makris, who owns the NASWA resort.

Amid the sound of crashing bowling pins, Sununu gave commendations to a series of people before the Executive Council reviewed more than 120 contracts and presided over nominations and confirmations of various boards and commissions.

Every year, the governor and Executive Council take their meetings on the road to each councilor's district, in this case Councilor Joseph Kenney's District 1.

Tuftonboro Police Chief Andrew Shagoury accepted a commendation from the governor on behalf of Lakes Region first responders and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative.

A blizzard hit the Lakes Region hard on March 14, causing hundreds of traffic accidents and cutting power to more than 140,000 homes and businesses. There was $1.8 million in damage in Carroll County.

Utility crews worked around the clock to clear downed trees from power lines and restore electrical service. Police, fire and medical crews responded to numerous emergency calls.

“Emergency responders in the Lakes Region were operating under extremely dangerous conditions including rapid snowfall rates, strong winds and wind gusts, quickly changing conditions, low to no visibility and falling debris,” Sununu said.

“These brave men and women put their lives on the line in order to help people of the Lakes Region during this winter storm emergency.”

Sununu also gave a commendation to NASCAR driver Melissa Fifield of Wakefield, who also assists the state with traffic safety messages.

He said she is an inspiration to young girls.
“One of the best race car drivers in the world, and one of the top few female race car drivers in the world lives right here in New Hampshire and she doesn't get nearly the recognition she deserves,” the governor said.

Sununu gave a commendation to Hope Makris, who has run the NASWA resort for more than 60 years, and continues to help her daughter, Cynthia, provide lakeside hospitality to the region’s visitors.

The resort was started in the 1930s by her parents, Jim and Fannie Salta, immigrants from Greece, who first purchased the property for a natural water spring located there. They founded the Natural Spring Water Company, hence the name of the resort.

“She is known not only for her hospitality but for her generous spirit in maintaining many charitable causes including Easter Seals of New Hampshire, the Laconia Fire Department's Life Saving Fund and the Peter Makris Memorial Run,” Sununu said.

He also honored Robert Lawton, whose 70,000-square-foot Funspot hosted the event. Funspot bills itself as the “largest arcade in the world.”

His family established the Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society. He was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in the 1960s and introduced a bill that resulted in the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” appearing on vehicle license plates.

“Here's another great example of someone from the Lakes Region not just helping the community, but going above and beyond in every which way over a period of years and decades, constantly evolving with the times and constantly making sure the 'Live Free or Die Spirit' is not just a few words on a license plate but something we really and truly live by.”

Sununu also honored Bruce Cheney, former director of the Division of Emergency Services and Communications in the New Hampshire Department of Safety, father of the state's 911 system and former Laconia police chief.

The governor gave a posthumous commendation to Peter S. Karagianis, a long-time local businessman and civic leader.

Sununu also recognized Cathy Merrill, a world champion arm wrestler from Newport. She's preparing to go to Budapest, Hungary, for the the 2017 championship competition.

“We're raising money to pay some of the costs so that she can go over and not just represent the state, but really the entire country of the United States in arm wrestling,” said Sununu. “I love watching arm wrestling.”

New jail is finished but commissioners won't open it without more staff

LACONIA — The new Belknap County Community Corrections Center has a certificate of occupancy but is not yet holding any inmates.
That's because of a disagreement between Belknap County Commissioners and the Belknap County Delegation over the hiring of four new corrections officers.
Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray says that the center can't be operated safely without the four new officers. He has the support of the three commissioners, who last week renewed their request for a $136,500 supplemental appropriation to pay for the officers.
The delegation, which rejected that request on May 22 when a motion to approve a $229,500 supplemental appropriation, which also included $93,000 for the Sheriffs Department, was rejected on a 7-7 tie vote, has not yet scheduled a meeting to reconsider its vote.
Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) said that he will look at holding a meeting by Aug. 10 on the transfer request but is not sure that the votes are there to overturn it.
Several members of the delegation have said that there's enough money in the $27.487 million county budget for the commissioners to find the money to hire the officers without a supplemental appropriation. But commissioners say there isn't, as is shown by the request for another supplemental appropriation of $135,000 for the Health and Human Services budget that was presented to the delegation last week.
Plans called for the $8 million, 72-bed, 18,100-square-foot Community Corrections Center to open in September with the hiring of the new officers to start on July 1. But the opening is contingent on work being completed to the existing jail, which isn't taking place because the work requires that some inmates be transferred to the new corrections center to open up areas of the old jail to construction workers.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that the commission is up against the wall when it comes to being able to open the center on time. He has previously said that the drop dead date for being able to start construction activity in the old jail is Aug. 15.
“We only have about two weeks in order to get this resolved,” said DeVoy.
He said that in the absence of action from the delegation the commissioners will be faced with two options when they meet Thursday afternoon at 5:15 p.m., either approving the hiring of the four officers or approving opening the corrections center without the officers and transferring a substantial number of inmates to other county jails in the state.
Two weeks ago Gray presented an analysis of jail construction alternatives which would allow construction to proceed to its final phase in which parts of the existing jail would be renovated and some parts discontinued.
He said that the county would have three options, hiring four new corrections officers at a yearly cost of $296,550, moving all sentenced inmates to another facility at an annual cost of $1,076,400 or moving all pre-trial defendants to other facilities at an annual cost of $972,900.
The last option would increase the burden of transporting prisoners on the Belknap County Sheriff's Department, which would see its travel time per month increase from 23 hours to 276 hours.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that he would support approving the hiring of the additional four corrections officers as the most reasonable and least costly solution for the county, even without delegation approval.
If the delegation doesn't approve those funds, Taylor says it is clear that prisoners should be transferred out of the county.
“The delegation has a responsibility to properly fund those things which the county has a statutory obligation to provide. And that is very clear when it comes to prison inmates. We either provide for them or ship them to another county and pay for them. I am sure that a court would agree with that decision if we went that route. Frankly, it's a lot cheaper to hire the officers and get on with the project,” said Taylor.



Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray holds a certificate of occupancy for the new Belknap County Community Corrections Center, which has been completed but is still not occupied due, commissioner say, to lack of funding for staff. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)

Morrill Street reconstruction project almost complete

Morrill Street project nearing completion



GILFORD — The rebuilding of Morrill Street should be essentially complete by the end of the week, according to Gilford Public Works Director Peter Nourse.

The complete reconstruction of the road got underway two weeks ago, with the highway crew going down eight inches and placing structural stone where there have been water problems in the past. This will be the first time the road has had under-drainage, Nourse said, which should alleviate the problems that have plagued that road.

The paving and ditch work should be completed by Friday, leaving only some cleanup to be done next week, Nourse said.

The project is included as part of the town’s paving budget for this year, and covers the area from the routes 3-11 overpass to Stark Street. That section of the road has been closed while the work was in progress.