Sanbornton Fire Dept. gets no help from Laconia


SANBORNTON — The town's fire study committee came up empty-handed again Tuesday night after meeting with Laconia officials about some assistance with fire and emergency service coverage.

According to Chief Paul Dexter, Laconia was the last of the neighboring communities the committee approached for help with covering some of the town's 50 square miles of territory. Belmont was the first.

"My perception was that Laconia can't help us," Dexter said Wednesday. "They would, frankly, want to take over."

For two years, Dexter has been trying to bolster fire and EMS coverage for Sanbornton residents by going to the voters and asking for additional full-time staff. His proposal in 2015 was to take the two part-time firefighters positions and make them full-time, which would mean the department would have three full-time firefighters, including himself.

In reality, this would allow the department to have two people seven days a week available to respond from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., which is a time frame that represents about 80 percent of the calls for service received by the fire department.

In addition to speaking with Laconia and Belmont, the committee had spoken with elected officials from Meredith, New Hampton, the Tilton-Northfield Fire District and Franklin. Dexter said that Tilton-Northfield told him that it would have to hire two additional firefighters/EMTs for a Sanbornton contract for service and Franklin would have to hire one additional member.

As a contract for service, Sanbornton would presumably pay for a good portion of the additional staff needs and Dexter said his plan for three full-time positions would likely provide better service and cost less money.

Dexter said his proposal to go to three full-time positions would cost taxpayers about $140,000 annually and said he plans on asking the voters at this year's Town Meeting in the form of a warrant article for support. Last year a similar warrant article failed by 100 votes. In 2015 it failed by four.

Last year's failure at the polls triggered the fire study committee, and eight members were named to it with the charge of investigating all of the possibilities for assistance available to them through neighboring communities.

Dexter said the next and final step for the committee is to prepare and complete a final report for presentation to the Board of Selectmen and the voting public.

"This process has worked exactly as we thought it would," Dexter said, adding that the only difference is now the selectmen have many fire chiefs telling it what before only he was saying.

Judge asked to consider scuttling lawsuit in Laconia group home murder

By BEA LEWIS, For The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — A judge is being asked to rethink his decision to dismiss the New Hampshire State Hospital from a lawsuit involving a Laconia murder.

The wrongful death suit claims the hospital's negligent supervision and discharge of Kasey Riley, a mentally ill individual, resulted in his return to a Laconia support home where he strangled his roommate Zachary March, 27, formerly of Thornton.

The dead man's family sued, alleging that once was Riley was involuntarily admitted to the psychiatric facility for assaulting and threatening to kill a security officer at Lakes Region General Hospital, he should not have been released unless he no longer posed a threat of harm to himself or others.

The suit filed in Merrimack County Superior Court also names Lakes Region Mental Health Center Inc., doing business as Genesis Behavioral Health as defendants. Genesis runs the McGrath Street support home for
those coping with mental illness where March was killed in July 2013.

Although Riley was charged with murder, he was later declared incompetent to stand trial, and has since been civilly committed.

In August, lawyers representing the state hospital filed a motion to dismiss the suit against them arguing that the hospital and its staff did not owe any duty to March. They further claimed that the state was protected from suit by discretionary function immunity, or shielded by official immunity.

In December, Judge Richard B. McNamara ruled to throw out the suit against New Hampshire Hospital holding that they did not owe March a duty of care.

The crux of the plaintiff's case is based on what hospital staff knew at the time Riley was discharged, following a 24-hour stay. At the time of his release, state hospital staff were aware that Riley abused his medication and used marijuana and synthetic marijuana, which triggered his hallucinations and increased his aggressiveness and homicidal ideas.

Despite Riley telling them he would not stop using these substances the suit claims hospital clinicians made the decision to release him back to Genesis on a weekend when they knew no staff would be available to help him get his medication.

In a Jan. 17 motion for reconsideration, the plaintiff's attorney, Cristina Rousseau of Orford, argued the judge improperly made finding of facts that Riley's criminal acts were not foreseeable. The lawyer maintains that a jury, not the court, should decide whether the likelihood of Riley harming someone could have been reasonably anticipated.

McNamara held that the state law the plaintiff's relied on to establish a duty of care to March, was not intended to protect third parties or the public at large from potentially dangerous people with
mental illness, but rather was designed to protect the mentally ill from themselves.

Rousseau said the judge overlooked the plain meaning of the Purpose and Policy section of Chapter 135, which she asserts the Legislature enacted to enable the Department of Health and Human
Services to "prevent mentally ill people from harming themselves or others."

She asserts that this case should follow in keeping with the New Hampshire Supreme Court that held that statute does impose a duty and creates a cause of action to seek monetary damages via a civil suit.

The Legislature, she argues, in enacting the law "recognized" the civil rights of mentally ill people committed to state institutions, created a right to adequate and humane treatment and imposed a duty upon state agents to provide that quality of care.

RSA 135-C-27 creates a right, according to Rousseau, which in this case imposed a duty upon the state agents to prevent Riley from harming others. Under legal precedent set by New Hampshire's highest court, it follows that a cause for action must be available, she wrote.

Laconia arsonist Jason Clairmont facing assault allegations in Concord

By BEA LEWIS, for The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — A former Laconia man who served a prison term after being convicted of a string of arson fires in the city is now scheduled to stand trial in Concord on charges he seriously injured a man he assaulted.

Jason Clairmont, 39, of 19 Ormond St., Concord, is accused of two counts of second-degree assault. On June 24, 2016, Clairmont is alleged to have repeatedly punched a man in the head causing facial fractures and causing him to fall and suffer a break in his left upper arm above the elbow. The assaults are reported to have occurred at 125 Loudon Road in Concord.

Initially ordered held on $1,000 cash bail, a judge agreed to allow it to revert to $10,000 personal recognizance for four days in mid-December to allow Clairmont to travel to Massachusetts to pay his final respects to his father, prior to his removal from life support.

In arguing against the bail amendment, Prosecutor George Waldron said Clairmont was charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of simple assault, criminal threatening and obstructing the report of a crime in connection with the incident. Police initially also charged him with kidnapping for confining the man in his truck, but it was dismissed after a circuit court judge found no probable cause.

The dismissal, Waldron said, does not preclude the state from presenting the allegations to a grand jury for possible indictment.
Waldron said Clairmont is accused of breaking the victim's arm by throwing him to the ground and fracturing his eye socket by pummeling him, while confining him in a vehicle being driven by the defendant while threatening the man with what the victim believed was a firearm.

The case is now scheduled to go to trial in mid-July. As conditions of his release on bail, Clairmont was ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim, or drink any alcohol.

In July 2014, Clairmont admitted that he set fire to a Volkswagen Jetta parked at a residence on Academy Street, and also burned the lattice work on an enclosed porch of a home at 91 Highland St. He also confessed to having previously torched the convertible top of a second Volkswagen parking behind the Funky Monkey the prior fall.

He was sentenced to 1 to 5 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $21,000 in restitution to his victims.