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Alleged playground injury lawsuit still alive after judge's ruling

LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge declined to dismiss a Franklin woman's claim that the city was negligent when it allegedly failed to maintain some playground equipment at Opechee Park.

Margaret Dolbeare filed suit against the city for negligence and creating a nuisance after she tripped on the edge of a mat while approaching the swing set with her granddaughter on May 27, 2012.

She said the mat was curled and twisted and used to cover a hole that indicated a lack of maintenance at the park.

She said her foot went under the mat and she fell, causing her to hurt her knee. She is seeking an unspecified amount of money for medical bills including a knee replacement, loss of earnings, and pain and suffering.

The city had asked Judge Larry Smulker to dismiss both counts because the city was immune from suit because it is protected under the state's recreation statutes.

In his ruling issued last week, Smukler said the motion to dismiss that cited RSA 508:14 and RSA 212:34 was incorrectly interpreted by Laconia's attorney, who argued that the city has no duty to maintain it recreation facilities under RSA 212:34 and was immunized by RSA 508:14.

RSA 212:34, ruled Smuker, pertains a duty of care for outdoor recreation land that includes hunting, fishing, horseback riding, water sports and the like. He said using constructed outdoor recreation facilities like the swing set at Opechee Park is not "outdoor recreating" as defined by RSA 212:34.

As to the city's claim of immunity under RSA 504:14, Smukler said it also fails for the same reason.

"The use of playground equipment is not of the same kind or class as the non-exhaustive list of activities included in the definition of "outdoor recreational activity," he wrote, referring to RSA 212:34.

"Specifically, the enumerated activities do not involve the use of equipment or structures that do not serve the purpose of facilitating access or use of the land." he continued.
He said that since the two statutes are often cited together, he refused to give broader consideration to the immunity the city said it has under RSA 504:14.

He also said recreational statutes do not apply to nuisance claims and since the city offered no other legal argument to dismiss that portion of the claim, he will allow the suit to go forward.

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 August 2014 12:40

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The other guy from Alton who's running for governor

ALTON — Last month, the University of New Hampshire-WMUR-TV poll reported that only two of 10 likely voters knew enough about Walt Havenstein of Alton and Andrew Hemingway of Bristol, the leading Republican candidates for governor, to offer an opinion about them. Even fewer could have identified Jonathan Smolin, a third candidate for the GOP nomination, also of Alton, had they been asked.

Yesterday, six weeks before the primary, Smolin, in his first first media interview, said that so far he has campaigned through social media, chiefly a Facebook page that has drawn 331 likes, and networking, but plans to begin putting up yard signs next week. He said that he has repeatedly approached WMUR-TV, only be shunned.

"Some people are writing to them to complain," he said.

Smolin took part in a candidates forum hosted by the Bedford Republican Committee and said he will participate in a debate at Franklin Pierce University next month. A surgical assistant at Huggins Hospital in Woilfeboro. he said that it is challenge to campaign around a full-time job.

Smolin, who is 48, was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and attended Bradford College in Bradford, Mass. and New England College in Henniker and has spent the last 20 years in health care, including a stint as director of the Salter School of Nursing in Manchester. With his wife Dianna and two sons, 12 and 13, Smolin has lived in Alton since 2005.

"I think people want an average Joe," Smolin said. "Someone coming from the same place as the majority of people who live here." He described Hemingway as a "career politician who wants to continue his career" and Havenstein as "a wealthy businessman."

On the political spectrum, Smolin stands closer to Hemingway than Havenstein. "I'm more with the libertarian wing of the party," he said.

He is opposed to both a personal income and general sales tax. He favors limited government and would follow the lead of Colorado by legalizing the use of marijuana as well as open the state to casino gambling. While acknowledging the need to reform health care, he supports the repeal of Obamacare. Likewise, he would eliminate Common Core from the public school system and empower local school districts to determine the appropriate curriculum and testing for their students. The state, he suggested, should provide the best high school graduates with a college education "at little or no cost." Smolin said that state government should take initiatives like tax-free zones to attract more business and industry, which would generate more middle class employment.

"I believe in applying common sense to government," Smolin said. "I'm interested in fixing the state, not fixing which party runs the state. I want to get everyone together," he continued, "and don't mind going across party lines."

The primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 9.

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:50

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Advanced sailing school studetns spend day with Marine Patrol

GILFORD — It was line knots, boat lights and life preserver day for the 12 students in the Advanced Cruising Level 3 Class at the Lake Winnipesaukee Sailing Association school yesterday.

The students abandoned their sailboats for the afternoon and motored across Smith Cove to meet with Marine Patrol Officer Seth Alie — an animated, engaging and often humorous boating safety instructor who does community outreach for the department.

LWSA school program director Anthony Sperazzo said the boating safety portion of the program is reserved for the older and more experienced sailors in school that teaches various levels of sailing to about 235 students annually.

"These students often have parents and friends who have boats on the lake and they need to know about boating safety," he said.

Alie agreed, telling the class that they are the "next generation" of boaters in the Lakes Region and will have to step up and take responsibility for their own safety as well as that of others. "We want them to understand what it is we do."

Sperazzo said the yesterday's class represents the most advanced class taught at the sailing school and most of students are in their middle to late teens.

"Most of these kids have been with us for five or more years," he said. "This level allows these kids to captain their own vessel safely."

Classes at the LWSA range from beginners at age 7 through the Advanced Cruising Level 3 class (ages 13 to 16) that was at Marine Patrol headquarters at the Glendale docks yesterday. The school also has a racing class and holds three to five classes weekly for all different age levels.

There is also a class for very advanced sailors who are being taught how to sail a keelboat owned by a local resident who has volunteered his vessel for instruction.

"We have gotten so much support from the community," said Sperazzo who said the program just got a "sizable" donation yesterday from a local family.

Spreazzo said that there is a scholarship program for children whose family can't afford tuition and members of the association have been very generous.

"I just got a nice letter from a woman yesterday thanking us for her child's class and saying they never would have been able to afford something like that," he said.

He said the community members also volunteer by helping with classes and will bring their vessels to the school for special training sessions like the resident with the keelboat.

He said Pete Crosby, the father of one of the students in the Advanced Cruising 3 Class, is bringing his trimaran — or multi-hulled boat — for day of training.

"We want to reach out to the community to have these kids every skill they can have," he said.

Next week, the class will take a trip to the Winnipesaukee Yacht Club where Al Posnack will teach them navigation and chart reading.

Sperazzo also said the school is enjoying it's new location on Davis Road and "couldn't have found a better spot for the school."



CUTLINE: Students from the advanced sailing class of the Winnipesaukee Sailing Association tour a Marine Patrol boat yesterday as part of a water and boating safety class. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)


Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:49

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Market said to have tightened for nursing home medical staffers

LACONIA — Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett told Belknap County Commissioners yesterday that the Belknap County Nursing Home is experiencing a heavier than usual turnover in nursing staff and is finding it difficult to fill vacant positions.
''We're having difficulty recruiting in the professional services area.'' said Shackett, who said that the county is ''really struggling'' in dealing with the situation.
Asked by Commissioner Steven Nedeau (R-Meredith) if the problem is unique to the area, Shackett said that she didn't think so. ''All the nursing homes are looking for help,'' said Shackett, noting that it affects private as well as public facilities.
She said that Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue is doing a staff analysis to determine the nursing home's staffing needs and that as part of that study an evaluation is being done of the county's compensation package for nurses.
''We want to the county to be competitive so we can attract the staff we need,'' said Shackett.
Commissioners also voted to waive a requirement that at least three competitive bids be received for projects of over $5,000 so that a project to replace door locks in the county jail annex cells can move forward.
Dustin Muzzey, facilities manager, told commissioners in a memo that he has reached out to several locksmiths in the area in an attempt to get bids for replacing as many as 11 locks but has had no success.
''Since the lack of properly functioning locks is a major safety concern as well as a high priority repair item and because of the general lock of response from lock vendors I am recommending that we waive the requirement for competitive pricing and hire A&B Locksmith the repair and/or replace the annex locks.'' Muzzey wrote.
He estimated that it would cost $5,500 to $6,000 to replace all 11 locks.

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:41

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