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Judge tells Tardif that City Council did not violate Right-to-Know

OSSIPEE — Former mayor Tom Tardif's petition, alleging that the City Council violated the state Right-to-Know law (RSA 91-A) on two occasions last October, when it discussed behind closed doors the possible purchase of the Belknap Mill and the course of unrelated, pending litigation, has been denied by Justice Charles Temple of Carroll County Superior Court.

Originally filed in Belknap County Superior Court, the case was transferred to Carroll County when Justice James D. O'Neill, III recused himself.

Tardif claimed that the council failed to follow proper procedures in entering nonpublic sessions on October 14 and October 27, entered both nonpublic sessions for purposes not authorized by the law and improperly responded to his lawful request for information. He asked the court to compel the council to disclose the minutes of both nonpublic sessions.

First, Tardif charged that on both occasions the council failed to take a roll call votes to enter the nonpublic sessions as the law requires. The minutes record which councilors were present and that a roll vote was taken, bit not the votes of individual councilors. the votes of the individual councilors.

Attorney Walter Mitchell, representing the council, explained that in the absence of the city clerk, the minutes of both meetings were transcribed from recordings by a member of her staff unfamiliar with the requirements of the Right-to-Know law, who neglected to record the votes of the individual councilors. Despite the shortcomings of the minutes, he held that the audio recording show that roll call votes were taken on each motion to enter nonpublic session and all carried unanimously. Justice Temple agreed that the council complied with the law.

The Right-to-Know law specifically authorizes the council to consider "the acquisition, sale or lease of real property " and "pending claims and litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed" in private. Tardif contended that the nonpublic session to consider an offer to purchase the Belknap Mill was not authorized because he believed the city would not be able to acquire it. In rejecting Tardif's allegations. Justice Temple noted that he conceded the council entered a nonpublic session for a legitimate purpose.

Finally, Tardif argued that when he requested minutes of the nonpublic sessions from the city clerk, the city manager responded, instead, in violation of the Right-to-Know law. The court ruled that the law simply requires the "public agency or body" to respond to such requests .

The city claimed Tardif's petition was "frivolous" and asked the court, in accordance with the Right-to-Know law, which authorizes the court to award fees to a public body "for having to defend against a lawsuit . . . when the court finds that the lawsuit is in bad faith, frivolous, unjust, vexatious, wanton, or oppressive," to award costs. The court denied the request, noting that Tardif "raised several colorable (plausible) claims."

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 February 2015 01:01

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Family connection behind Florida sign company's relocation to Laconia

LACONIA — Big Daddy's Signs, owned and operated by Steve and Jeanne Zwicker, has moved from Winter Garden, Florida to Laconia, where the firm has leased 5,000-square-feet at 24 Lexington Drive in the O'Shea Industrial Park.

The family firm produces all types of custom signs, including yard signs, vehicle magnets traffic signals and vinyl banners, for a wide range of applications, including business advertising, real estate, event promotion, political campaigns. Its customers include a variety of businesses as well as cities and towns. "Jeanne Zwicker said the political package, consisting of lawn signs, vehicle magnets and vinyl banners, is especially popular. "There always lots of elections going on all over the place," she said, "and not just in November." The company markets its products primarily by means of the Internet and serves more than 350 wholesale and 1,000 retail customers.

Zwicker said the business began 10 years ago and is now well established and intending to grow. She explained that .the firm operates two high-speed digital printers and is working with the Belknap Economic Development Council to secure financing to purchase a new printer to replace the older of the two machines. Ultimately she said that they expect to operate three printers. Currently there are a half-dozen employees, a number Zwicker said will increase to nine or 10 within a year. With the addition of the third printer, she anticipated that the payroll would grow to 12 or 15 employees. "We are definitely looking to expand," she said.

Family rather than business considerations, Zwicker said, prompted the move from Florida to New Hampshire. She said that she wanted to be closer to her aging parents, who live in Meredith, and their two daughters, who are in college, one in Boston and the other in New York. "Now we don't have to fly to see them," she said.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 February 2015 02:46

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8th Annual Robbie Mills Memorial 8 Ball Tournament to be contested March 7

LACONIA — Mike Baron of Baron's Billiards and the Cafe Deja Vu Pub Mania Team are teaming up for the 8th Annual Robbie Mills Memorial 8 Ball Tournament, which will be held Saturday, March 7 at the Funky Monkey night club in downtown Laconia.
The tournament, which was started eight seven years ago by Baron as a benefit for the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, also benefits the NH1 Children's Auction.
''This has become a prestige tournament for players. Some come all the way up from the Seacoast and over from Maine and Vermont to take part. We raised $3,600 last year and are looking for a bigger field than we had last year when 62 people took part,'' says Baron.
He says that those who would like to contribute to the charity event but aren't pool players can help out by sponsoring players for the tournament, which costs only $25. ''There may be some people out there who'd like to play but don't have the $25. And it's all for a good cause.''
Tony Felch of the Cafe Deja Vu Pub Mania Team, who helps run the Tuesday night pool league in Laconia, says that he and other members of the team pitched in a few years ago to help out Baron, who Felch says was running the event virtually single-handedly.
Baron said that he has been putting on tournaments for the Boys and Girls Club ever since the organization was known as the Laconia Teen Center and and believes strongly that the Boys and Girls Club is needed to provide a safe haven ''for the kids who have been falling through the cracks. It really does take a whole village to raise a child.'' The meeting room at the club is named for Robbie Mills.
Baron says that he knows how important having a special place is, citing the example of his own father, who spent time in seven foster homes after losing his father when he was only two years old.
He said that the proceeds are split 50-50 between the club and the Deja Vu team except for the $1,000 contribution from MetroCast Cablevision, where Wendy Mills, mother of the young man for whom the tournament is named, works, which goes entirely to the Boys and Girls Club.
Baron praised the efforts of Sundae Barker, who runs the Lakes Region Pool League, to promote the tournament. ''She has 300 players in that league and always makes sure that they know about the event and have a good turnout.'
Felch says that he remembers Robbie Mills and saw him early on the the day when Mills was murdered for his bicycle near the Messer Street bridge in 1999..
''I couldn't believe that happened in Laconia,'' says Felch, who says that he greatly admires the way Wendy Mills has worked to honor her son's memory.
The event will feature cash prizes, raffles and a live auction which will include a season's Inner Circle Pass at Meadowbrook.
There will be lunch available courtesy of local restaurants with trophies provided by Engraving Awards and Gifts.
For more info or to pre-register contact: Tony Felch 998-1418 or Mike Baron at 528-5001 or the Robbie Mills website at www.robbiemills.org.

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Last Updated on Friday, 20 February 2015 02:41

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Congressman Guinta strikes bipartisan tone during day-long Laconia visit

LACONIA — With a week's vacation after six weeks in Washington, First District Congressman Republican Frank Guinta of Manchester chose to spend yesterday in the city where he joined the guests on "the Advocates," the radio talk show hosted by Niel Young, met privately with city officials, held an invitation-only panel discussion and hosted a town hall-style meeting at Lakes Region Community College.

The town hall meeting drew a sparse crowd of half-a-dozen local Republican loyalists, including two of the 18 Republican State Representatives from Belknap County —George Hurt of Gilford and Frank Tilton of Laconia — along with Alan Glassman of Barnstead, the chairman of the Belknap County Republican Committee, who served as moderator.

In his introductory remarks, Guinta, who returned to Congress in 2014 after being ousted after one term in 2012, struck a more moderate note than the militant tone that marked his first term. He said he wanted to focus on bipartisan issues, noting that despite the headlines in the media 80 percent of the legislation enacted in Congress enjoys support from both sides of the aisle.

"We're here to govern," Guinta said, adding that this requires "a willingness to find common ground." As examples, he offered legislation to restore the 40-hour work week to dissuade employers from trimming hours to escape the Affordable Care Act, and to construct the Keystone pipeline, which he said would generate jobs, promote energy independence and boost exports.

Asked about the future of legislation to restrict abortion that was scuttled when it ran afoul of women in the Republican congressional caucus, Guinta said only that it has been referred to committee and may be amended and put to a vote.

Guinta spoke of the Affordable Care Act — not Obamacare — signaling his temperate tone. When Don Ewing of Meredith declared "Obamacare must be repealed," he replied that instead, congressional committees have been asked to offer amendments and alternatives to the law and that he was "looking forward to a competitive health care system."

At the same time, Guinta touted his bill to repeal the so-called "Cadillac Tax," the coming (2018) 40-percent levy on individual health insurance plans costing more than $10,200 and family health insurance plans costing more than $27,400. He said it would impact municipalities, including Manchester where he served as mayor which would be liable for $5 million or $6 million in taxes, and businesses with more than 50 employees. He feared that the effect in the private sector would be reduced benefits, lay offs and higher employee contributions. "most people are taxed enough," he remarked. "It doesn't seem fair to me."

The crisis in the Middle East, Guinta said, "has gotten worse with the inaction or limited action" of the Obama Administration. He expected Congress to amend the president's request for "authorization for use of military force," which he described as overdue, and said there must be "a real plan" that engages states in the region led and equipped by America.

Guinta insisted the time has come "to put politics aside and put people first" and declared "I never want to be in lock step with a party. I want to be in lock step with the people I represent."

Last Updated on Friday, 20 February 2015 02:15

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