Lawmakers unanimous is support of $8M community corrections plan

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention unanimously approved an $8 million bond issue for building a "community corrections" center and renovation of parts of the current county jail when it met last evening at the Belknap County Courthouse.
The plan calls for spending $7,171,928 for a 18,000 square foot, 64-bed community corrections center adjacent to the existing county jail as well as $1,159,300 for renovating parts of the existing jail, which would have 60 beds.
The community corrections center will feature a rigorous regimen of substance abuse, mental health and educational programs and services, which Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray says the county currently lacks.
Project manager Anthony Mento of SMP Architecture of Concord has said that he expects ground will be broken for the project in June of 2016 and that it will be completed by September of 2017.
The unanimous vote came after the convention approved by a 12-3 vote a non-binding recommendation introduced by Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) regarding the terms of the bond issue, which he said would save the county $1 million in interest costs.
His plan calls for using the county's fund balance to pay off the county's current $1.4 million in debt obligations over the next three years and having a 20-year bond issue with level payments of $530,000 per year over the life of the bond.
Prior to the vote on Gallagher's proposal, Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who opposed the proposal, said that the vote expressed the convention's preference but ultimate authority over the teems of the bond issue rests with the Belknap County Commissioners, the county treasurer and the county's bond counsel.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said the commission supports a 25-year borrowing, with interest only payments in the first two years; the county fund balance would be used after that for a few years, until overall debt service payments drop to a level comparable to what they currently are.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) pointed out that Gallagher's proposal would mean that the county would be obligated to $60,000 more in debt service payments per year ($530,000) than the level suggested by commissioners ($470,000), which would mean that the county would have $1.2 million less over those 20 years for funding other programs.
Tilton said that he favors the 25-year bond because it spreads the costs over a longer period of time and to future generations of taxpayers while Commission Vice Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) favored Gallagher's plan as it saves taxpayers from having to pay additional interest costs.

Steve Nix elected to Gunstock Commission

LACONIA — Stephan Nix of Gilford, who skied the slopes of Gunstock Mountain Resort as a child in the early 1960s, was easily elected to a five-year term on the Gunstock Area Ciommission last night, claiming 12 of the 14 votes cast by members of the Belknap County Convention.

The other two candidates, Tim Lang of Sanbornton, the supervisor of technical services at the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, and Scott Dunn, the town administrator in Gilford, each received one vote.

Nix, an attorney and land surveyor, stressed his experience in real estate development, land use planning and conservation, which he suggested would apply directly to much of the work of the commission. In particular, he reminded the convention that its Memorandum of Agreement with the Gunstock Area Commission stipulates that the Master Plan for the resort is scheduled to be updated in 2016.

All three candidates were interviewed prior to the vote. Representative Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) referred to the Memorandum of Agreement and asked if they anticipated any need for changes, especially in the the annual payments the resort makes to the county. Nix acknowledged that the resort has become "something of a profit center for Belknap County," but said he would prefer to review the financial performance and future plans of the resort more closely before committing himself to specific changes. He was echoed by Lang and Dunn, who both noted that since the county owns the resort it should share the revenue.

Likewise, when Representative David Russell (R-Gilmanton) asked if the resort should develop a residential component, like condominiums, all three candidates declined to offer an opinion one way or the other, but expressed a willingness to consider the prospect. The three candidates remarked on the resort's successful transition from a winter attraction to a "four-season destination."

Nix will succeed Chuck Lowth of Meredith, who retired after serving on the Gunstock Area Commission for 17 years.

Superintendent Ormond to retire from Inter-Lakes post at end of school year

MEREDITH — After a career of 33 years in the New Hampshire public school system — the last four as superintendent of the Inter-Lakes School District — Mary Ellen Ormond will retire at the close of the school year.

Ormond succeeded Peter McCormack as superintendent of SAU #2 , which includes the Sandwich Central School and Ashland Elementary School, in 2012.

"I love it," she said of the district. "The School Board is great to work with. The administration is top notch. The teachers, the kids and the parents are all really concerned about the quality of education. We've done a lot of great things, and we've got a lot of great things to do."

She said that none of her prior experiences compared with her tenure at Inter-Lakes School District, and that she is fortunate and grateful to have worked there.

A graduate of Pinkerton Academy in Derry, she graduated from Keene State College and earned graduate degrees at Notre Dame College and Plymouth State University. She began her career teaching young pupils at Grinnell Elementary School in Derry, then turned to special education, serving as special education director in the Shaker, Merrimack Valley and Andover school districts before becoming special education director and curriculum coordinator at Merrimack Valley. Before coming to Meredith, Ormond was director of curriculum and associate superintendent at the Hudson School District.

Ormond said that aging populations and shrinking enrollments pose the greatest challenge to school districts across the state and in the Lakes Region.

"It's a struggle," she said.

Greater collaboration between districts will be required, she said, adding that "we've worked hard to do that in the Lakes Region, to pull together as a region. We can't consider ourselves silos any more."

Ormond began planning for retirement earlier in her career by topping up her retirement account with an eye to retiring around 55. Nevertheless, she said that she has no specific plans other than continuing to enjoy sports, particularly football and tennis. Last year she was in the grandstand when the New England Patriots won their fifth Superbowl, and at Forest Hills when Selena Williams beat her sister, Venus, in the U.S. Open.