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Eddy defeats Corrigan by 7 votes for selectboard seat

GILFORD — Chan Eddy yesterday defeated Phyllis Corrigan 470-463 in a close race for a three-year term as selectman. Eddy is a member of the planning board and Corrigan a former chairman of the town Budget Committee.

Harry Bean (532), Leslie Suranyi, Jr. (489) and Norm Silber (425) won three-year seats on the budget committee over Sean Murphy (409), Scott Davis (308) and Joy Hall (290).

William Akerley (848) was unopposed for re-election to the board of fire engineers.

Voters approved an $11,898,837 operating budget, a $344,000 increase over last year, by a 694-275 vote.

Also approved was three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Public Woks Department employees which provides no increase in pay or benefits in the current fiscal year and increases of $7,502 in the second year and $7,838 in the third  year. That passed 823 -136.

Rejected by a 438-493 vote was a proposal to establish a revolving fund for the purpose of providing public educational and governmental cable television access.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 01:42

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$3.4M Belmont Mill renovation attracts little support

BELMONT — Voters yesterday overwhelmingly chose against spending $3,357,250 on restoring the Belmont Mill and converting it to town offices.

In an election that saw 631 people go to the polls, 467 of them voted against the mill warrant article while 164 supported it. It needed a 60-percent majority to pass because a borrowing was involved.

After doing a year of research on restoring and converting the old mill, selectmen presented their final findings to the town and voted unanimously to support the project.

The Budget Committee also voted unanimously to support the renovation and conversion.

In other election news, incumbent Selectman Ruth Mooney beat challenger George Condodemetraky by a vote of 379 votes to 230.

A petitioned warrant article to rescind the SB-2 (Official Ballot Act) form of town government failed by a vote of 157 for returning to traditional town meeting to 453 who voted against returning. The vote needed a 60-percent majority to pass.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 01:37

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ACLU joins defense of man arrested at Alton meeting

ALTON — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire is joining the battle against this town and its Police department for having Jeffrey Clay arrested for two counts of disorderly conduct at a February 3 selectman's meeting.

In a letter sent to Alton Town Prosecutor Anthony Estee, ACLU Attorney and Legal Director Gilles Bissonnette said Clay's First Amendment right to free speech as well as his right to the same under the N.H. Constitution Article Part I, Article 22 was violated.

Clay is also being represented by Chichester attorneyMark Sisti and his associate Jared Bedrick.

The first charge against him is one count of disorderly conduct for refusing to comply with a lawful order given by Chief Ryan Heath to move from a public place — Alton Town Hall.

The second charge is disorderly conduct for purposing causing a breach of the peace by disrupting an Alton Board of Selectmen meeting by continuing to speak after being informed repetitively by the board that public input was closed.

Video tape of meeting shows Clay sitting at the table during the public comment section of the meeting and using a timer to ensure he didn't go over his five-minute allotted time to speak.

He told the selectmen they should resign for their "poor actions as selectmen" "poor decisions" and "continued violations of the citizens' rights here in Alton."

Heath arrested clay about four minutes into his prepared statement.

Bissonnette claims that his arrest not only violated both the U.S. and the N.H. Constitution but that the town engaged in "content-base and viewpoint discrimination" in suppressing Clay's protected political speech. He also said the town violated it own policies by having him taken from the room and arrested.

Bissonnette also said Clay's speech was not disruptive because his speech didn't prevent selectmen from continuing with their meeting.

He urged Estee to review the precedents he outlined in his argument and dismiss all of the charges against Clay. He gave Estee until Monday to provide Clay's legal team an answer.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 01:25

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Lawmakers seek to wean 'outside agencies' from county support

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention Monday night fired a warning shot across the bow of outside agencies which have traditionally received funding from the county by voting 12-5 for an across the board five percent funding cut.
The six agencies were slated to receive a total of $441,409, about 1.5 percent of the $27 million county budget, and the cut amounted to a little over $22,000.
The six agencies are the UNH Cooperative Extension Service, slated to receive $163,000, the Belknap County Conservation District, $97,304, The Belknap Economic Development Council, $75,000, Genesis Behavioral Health (the regional mental health agency), $34,2000, the Community Action Program, $60,905 and Greater Lakes Region Child Advocacy Center, $11,000.
The action came after the convention heard a presentation by the Belknap Economic Development Council, which was invited to appear after a move last week to reduce its budget line to $25,000 had been tabled by a 7-6 vote.
Laconia City Councilman Henry Lipman, chairman of BEDC, told the convention that the council ''is one of the most productive investments we make as a county'' and maintained that it was doing essential work to grow the area economy by serving as catalyst for a large number of efforts.
''If we don't invest in ourselves, no one else will.''
BEDC Vice Chairman Randy Eifert of Meredith said that the council had been active for 23 years and is currently spearheading workforce development projects that are widely emulated around the state. BEDC Executive Director Justin Slatterly said that project involves local schools and 110 area businesses.
The council's treasurer, Sean Sullivan, said that earnings on the council's loan portfolio had dropped from $140,000 a year to $59,000 a year following the 2008 recession and that over the last four years the council has provided $1.3 million in new loans to 15 businesses.
Questioned by Convention Vice Chairman Herb Vadney on bad loans. Sullivan said that only three of the 76 loans made by the council had gone bad, including one several years ago in Barnstead in which the BEDC made a $400,000 loan as the third participant in a $3.2 million effort to create a wood pellet manufacturing plant.
Roy Howard of Alton questioned a recent loan to a Tilton veterinarian and asked ''why should taxpayers be subsidizing that one and not other veterinarians?'' BEDC officials said loans to small businesses from government organizations like the Small Business Administration are commonplace and that the BEDC funding is almost always just a small part of a project and the goal is to make it easier for people to start a business in Belknap County in order to grow the tax base.
Howard said that BEDC is ''a burden on the taxpayers'' and questioned why he businesses that were being assisted weren't able to get the private funding they needed.
Lipman pointed out that every other county in the state invests in itself and that it is important for Belknap County to try retain young people through economic development.
Rep. Peter Spanos of Laconia asked what would happen if the funding was cut and Sullivan said that BEDC would have to dip into it's reserves and that the executive director's main focus would turn from current programs to raising funds.
Rep. George Hurt of Gilford questioned some of BEDC's funding for consultants and was told that since Slatterly is the only employee there are other services which are needed, including book keeping and coordination of school and work activities.
Following the BEDC presentation, Vadney suggested that the convention, through gradual reductions of outside agency funding, should ''set them on a path of independence by setting a goal where we get out of the business of subsidizing them.''
His proposal for a token one percent cut received support from others, including Rep. Russ Dumais of Gilford, and he withdrew it and it made a new one calling for a 5 percent cut.
Convention Chairman Frank Tilton of Laconia urged holding off action and appointing a study committee, maintaining that the move was coming late in the budget process. But Hurt moved the question, which ended the discussion, and the vote was 12-5 for the five percent cut.
A subsequent motion by Rep. Michael Sylvia of Belmont to cut an additional $20,000 from the $75,000 Belknap Economic Development Council, lost on a 13-4 vote.
Public comment following the convention finalizing the budget was by and large critical of the across the board cut, which was strongly supported by Barbara Howard of Alton.
Paula Trombi of Meredith said she saw no compassion for people affected by the cuts and said that she felt like she was an auction where the goal was ''how low can you go?.'' Trombi ran as a Democratic candidate for a House seat from Meredith and Gilford last fall.
Another unsuccessful Democratic candidate, Dave Pollack of Laconia who ran for county commissioner, said that he was appalled by the across the board cut. ''Not a single one of you know what you're doing,'' said Pollack.
Also speaking against the cuts were John Moulton of Meredith, owner of Moulton's Farm, and Rick DeMark, a director of the Belknap County Conservaton District.
Alan Beetle, owner of Patrick's Pub in Gilford and a member of the BEDC board, said that he viewed the county funding as ''an investment, not a subsidy'' which benefited all the people who live in the county.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 01:14

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