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Commissioners agree to pay county's unpaid legal bills (328)

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners voted Tuesday morning to submit requests for budget transfers to the Belknap County Convention next week in order to pay $60,000 in unpaid legal bills from 2014, after declining to do so last month.

The commissioners voted 2-0, with Chairman Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) abstaining, to pay the bills, most of which were incurred in a dispute between former commissioners and the convention over line-item budget authority and the proceedings in which Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue appealed his dismissal by the former commissioners.

Commissioner Hunter Taylor, who only recently was sworn in to fill a vacancy on the commission, said that he saw no basis for challenging the bills, even though they were incurred after the $40,000 budget for legal expenses had been exhausted.

He sad that the decision to incur some of the legal costs reflected poorly on the prior commission's judgment, but that putting the legal bills issue behind the county is important.

''If we challenge, we are back in the field of legal drama,'' said Taylor.

The county rang up nearly $100,000 in legal bills in 2014, and the county's Executive Committee has several times turned down requests from the outgoing commissioners to pay the bills, which last month saw nearly $30,000 in three new bills submitted to the county.

The new commissioners had declined last month to endorse a 2014 budget transfer request to the convention's Executive Committee for $31,852.54 to pay the county's legal bills which had been received between October 31 and the end of the year. That request had been made by the board that left office on Dec. 31.

Among the law firms with unpaid legal bills are the Horan firm from Manchester, which represented the convention in its lawsuit against the county, the Drummond Woodsum law firm which represented the commission at a hearing on the dismissal of Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue and Upton and Hatfield law firm of Concord, which represented the convention's Personnel Committee, which heard Logue's appeal and reinstated him as nursing home administrator.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 01:04

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Convention Chairman Eyes $1.1 Million Reduction in County Tax Bite

LACONIA — Belknap County Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) told members of the convention last night that he wants to reduce the amount of money to be raised by taxes in the proposed 2015 budget by $1.1 million.
''My goal is a two percent increase in taxes,'' said Tilton, who said that the city of Laconia's tax cap has a major influence on the way he looks at the county budget.
Currently the proposed $27.3 million county budget would require a 10 percent increase in the amount of money raised, about $1.4 million, from $13.6 million last year to $15 million this year.
Members of the convention tentatively agreed to level fund salaries, hold off on cost of living increases and other associated costs for a potential savings of $205,000.
The convention also agreed to fund health insurance benefits at last year's level, $2,624,925 for a reduction of $428,000 from the amount sought in this year's budget.
Representative Peter Spans (R-Laconia) said he thought that Tilton's number was a little too low and suggested that health insurance costs are likely to come in at around $2.8 million.
Tilton said that while there are not as yet any new contracts with any of the unions representing county employees that some insurance savings might be realized.
County Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) said that he viewed the negotiations as most likely a zero sum game, that is one in which health insurance savings would be offset by wage increases.
Burchell also said that the commissioners are working on a plan for programs at a community corrections facility which would be built next to the current jail, as well as a renovations to the existing facility.
Commissioners have approved a $40,000 contract with Kevin Warwick, president of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., for development of a plan of programs for a community corrections facility.
Warwick serves as a consultant to Sullivan County's Department of Corrections and is a recognized national leader in establishing community-based programs and was recommended to the commission as a consultant by Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward.
Burchell said that the commissioners were looking at having the study completed in 90 to 120 days and that the next step would be be contacting architectural firms for bids on a jail design, which he estimated would cost about 7 percent of the total project cost.
He had suggested last month that the project might cost $8 million, which would translate into $560,000 in architectural fees, which coupled with program plan cost would add $600,000 to this year's budget.
Tilton said that the county budget would have to be finalized before Alternative Solutions had completed its study but over the entire budget process as much as $500,00 might be available to move ahead with a jail plan.
Convention Vice Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) said that because of the local economy it was necessary to set a ceiling on spending increases and when it comes to the jail project ''we'll have to pay for it but take it (the money to pay for it) out of our hide.''
''We don't have to solve all all of our problems now just because we have a budget deadline,'' said Tilton.
He said that the potential savings the convention had agreed to consider when finalizing the budget were abut $700,000 but there was still $400,000 to go. He asked the county commissioners to come up with suggestions for additional savings which could be presented to the convention when it meets again next Tuesday night.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 02:01

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4 overdoses in Laconia over the weekend, including death of a 21 year-old man

LACONIA — A 21-year-old Union Avenue man died over the weekend from what police said was likely a heroin overdose.

Police Capt. Matt Canfield said the death was reported to police Saturday at 10:30 a.m. by one of the man's co-workers who came to pick him up for work.

Canfield said police recovered some paraphernalia and some drugs they believe to be heroin.

He said police are actively investigating the death, but are not releasing the name of the young man until all of his family can be notified.

Canfield said there were three other non-fatal overdoses in the city over the weekend.

A 39-year-old man was revived by the Laconia Fire Department with NARCAN — a opiate antidote — after allegedly overdosing of drugs on 96 Fair St. on Friday night.

A 30-year-old woman at 735 North Main St. overdosed Saturday at 8:09 p.m. She was revived by the Laconia Fire Department with NARCAN after overdosing on an opiate.

A 27-year-old man overdosed on an unspecified drug at 1156 North Main St. Saturday around 9:59 p.m., and was revived by Laconia Fire Department personnel.

Canfield said the three overdose survivors were all transported to Lakes Region General Hospital.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 01:49

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Clarification: Frawley said Mill proposal too complex

CLARIFICATION - In a story that ran Feb. 3 regarding the SB2 Deliberative Session for the town of Belmont, Heritage Commission member Linda Frawley said she felt the town's proposal to restore the Belmont Mill and convert it to town offices was too much for the townspeople to understand all at one time. Her sentiments were incorrectly reported.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 01:40

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