Belknap County radio network fails, $6,000 repairs approved


LACONIA — Malfunctions of the Belknap County Sheriff Department's microwave communication network will be addressed through a $6,000 budget transfer approved by the Executive Committee of the Belknap County Delegation Monday.
"We want a better explanation than we have for this," Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) told members of the committee after he was pressed for an explanation of the request by Rep. Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont), who noted that it was apparent that the equipment had not been working for some time and wondered why it hadn't been fixed.
Taylor said he had hoped Belknap County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy David Perkins would be present to explain what is happening with the communications network equipment, but that Perkins was busy talking with attorneys about an ongoing court case and wasn't available.
He said commissioners were concerned that they hadn't been alerted to the problems by the department and had only found out through a message from Two Way Communications, which contracts with the Sheriff's Department for repair and maintenance of the communications system, that there were problems.
The letter from Two Way Communications System said two of the microwave communications systems that are served by the Belknap Mountain tower at Gunstock are not responding, and a Pinnacle Hill link in New Hampton has been down since early summer.
The company said that the microwave network is not part of the maintenance agreement with the county but that it would have climbers retrieve the microwave units from the Belknap Mountain tower so they can be serviced. The Pinnacle Hill tower has no access for climbers and will require using a crane to get climbers to the top of the tower. Two Way Communications said that it appears that the Pinnacle Hill link is misaligned or that a a new cellular antenna has been installed in its path.
Taylor said it appears that the old communications system used by the department is still in place and that it has allowed the department to continue its communications with no serious interruptions but that the old system will at some point be removed and that it is crucial that the microwave system be repaired before that.
Committee members agreed that it is important to have the work done before winter sets in and authorized the $6,000 transfer, even though the situation had not been explained to their satisfaction.

Felony First issues
The committee also authorized the transfer of $2,500 in the County Attorney's office budget in order to hire part-time workers to help with general office filing.
County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen explained that the new Felony First program at the Superior Court level has increased the workload for her office and more help is needed with routine office procedures, at least temporarily, and that the gap could be filled by utilizing part-time clerical workers already employed by the county.
When she presented her request for the transfer last week to the Belknap County Commission she explained that the new Felony First procedures had proven to be a benefit to her office from the standpoint of being able to work out earlier case resolutions because she has information available she would otherwise would have had to wait several months to obtain.
She said that in view of the electronic filing system for the Felony First program, in which she receives all information on felonies electronically, it seems unusual to her that Belknap County Superior Court still requires a hard copy for all filings.

Cleaning up
The committee also approved the transfer of $3,500 to allow Facilities Manager Dustin Muzzey to contract with a private cleaning contractor for some services at the Belknap County Complex and the Sheriff's Department. Muzzey explained that a part-time position in his department has not been filled and that it is unlikely that he will be able to fill the position. He said contracting with a private company would enable the work to be accomplished without resorting to overtime pay for his staff.

Dumais now on Gunstock Commission


LACONIA — Rep. Russ Dumais (R-Gilford) was appointed to a five-year term on the Gunstock Area Commission by his fellow legislators on the Belknap County Delegation Monday night.
His appointment came at a meeting at which Delegation Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) told legislators that no agreement has yet been reached on a memorandum of understanding between the commission and the delegation, which expires at the end of 2016 and provides for $175,000 per year payments by the county-owned recreation area to county.
"If no agreement is reached, there's no more MOU," Tilton told the delegation.
Dumais has been one of the legislators representing the delegation in those discussions with the commission, which was established in 1959 and removed authority over the day-to-day operations of the Gunstock Recreation Area from the Belknap County Commissioners and placed it in the hands of a five-member commission, whose members are appointed by the county delegation.
He replaces Commission Chairman John Morgenstern of Gilford, who had applied for a third five-year term on the commission. Other candidates included Bill Quigley of Gilford, who had been director of marketing and sales at Gunstock Mountain Resort for 10 years, and Dr. Wayne Domin of Meredith, a physician with Caring for Women in Laconia with 36 years of experience in the Lakes Region.
Dumais received eight votes and Quigley and Morgenstern each received one vote. Rep. Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont) abstained from voting, maintaining that the county should not be in the ski business at all.
Members of the delegation involved in the negotiations have pressed for Gunstock to increase its annual payment to the county, citing support extended to Gunstock during financial problems it experienced in the early 1990s which resulted in county taxpayers having to pay for bond issue costs which normally would have been paid from Gunstock's profits. The Gunstock Area Commission does not have authority to borrow money and must seek approval from the county in order to finance its projects, with the county bearing ultimate responsibility for the payments.
Tilton said that a memorandum of understanding was first reached in 2001 between the county and Gunstock which provided for payments of $150,000 per year, to the county and that it was increased to $175,000 a year in 2011.
Brain Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) said that the delegation has been looking to negotiate an acceptable plan going forward which would increase the amount paid by Gunstock to the county from its enhanced profits in recent years in order to reduce the amount raised by taxation.
Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton) said that "taxpayers are still on the hook for a couple of million and need to be made whole" and said that he was concerned abut Gunstock competing with privately owned businesses.
Morgenstern said that during his time on the commission the resort has doubled its revenues and made investments in summer attractions which have enabled it to generate additional earnings which have offset bad winter, like last year when total revenue from all operations, including skiing, dropped to $9,096,039, down by over $2.35 million from the previous year. Net revenue for the year was a negative $1 million, forcing the use of reserve funds in order to maintain operations..
He said that the commission has been willing to negotiate a new MOU which is reasonable but needs to build up its depleted reserve funds in order to provide stability for its operations. Gunstock has a goal of $1 million for an operations reserve fund and $500,000 for capital expenses.
Morgenstern said that he was confident that in three or four years Gunstock should be able to substantially increase its contribution to the county.
Dumais said that he is hoping to bring a different perspective to the commission and cited his experience in the ski business as general manager for the Alpine Ridge Ski Area and Alpine Slide, as well as having been a selectmen in Gilford during the time Gunstock experienced financial problems in the 1990s.

Man indicted for bomb threat


LACONIA — A city man who allegedly threatened to blow up the police station using a propane tank has been indicted on charges in connection with the incident.

Warren A. Bears III, 45, is charged with unlawful use of explosives, being a felon in possession of a dangerous weapon and domestic violence-related criminal threatening.

Bears, formerly of 45 Bay St., was arrested on Sept. 12 after police were called to investigate a report of a man armed with a machete who had left in a vehicle after threatening to blow up the Laconia Police Station.

The indictments handed down by a Belknap County grand jury on Oct. 20 charge that Bears possessed or had under his control an explosive device with an unlawful intent to destroy or damage property or to injure any person when he placed a propane tank in his vehicle and threatened to ignite it, and told a man that he should remove his minor
children from the location.

The weapon charge discloses that Bears is precluded from possessing guns or knives after being convicted of second-degree assault in July 2011.

Bears is also accused of holding a knife while verbally threatening to slice his ex-wife's throat.

He remains jailed on $100,000 cash only bail.