Sanbornton to hold Nov. 4 public hearing on 'swap shop' issue

SANBORNTON — The Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 4, beginning at 6:30 p.m. — after their regularly scheduled meeting — to consider the petition presented earlier this month requesting a special Town Meeting to see if voters will lift the ban on dump picking through at the traditional "swap shop" imposed by the board.

The petition, signed by some 150 residents, reads "to see if the town will vote to rescind the decision of the Board of Selectmen to close the recycling facility at the transfer station and continue the operation of the center for the benefit of Sanbornton residents."

State law would appear to require the selectmen to schedule a special town meeting. RSA 39:3 provides that "In towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants upon the written application of 50 or more voters or 1/4 of the voters in town, whichever is fewer . . . so presented not less than 60 days before the next annual meeting, the selectmen shall warn a special meeting to act upon any question specified in such application."

However, a companion provision (RSA 39:9) has been interpreted to afford selectmen authority to refuse to convene a special town meeting, if they have reasonable grounds for doing so, though their refusal may be appealed to superior court.

As it happens, the petition misses the mark. The selectmen did not close the "recycling facility", but instead prohibited residents from swapping their cast-offs at the transfer station. The board acted on the recommendation of Primex, the carrier of the town's property and liability insurance, which cautioned that should an exchange lead to an injury, the town could find itself liable to costly litigation.
Lynn Chong, one of the petitioners said yesterday that she spoke with Assistant Attorney General Stephen Labonte who advised her that because the petition was not worded as precisely as necessary, his office would be unlikely to insist the selectmen accede to it.

Chong said that in light of the issues clouding the petition, she is encouraging petitioners to attend the public hearing with the goal of persuading the selectmen to reverse their decision and reopen what they call the "swap shop".

Tony Felch making a third effort to unseat Armand Bolduc in Ward 6

LACONIA — Armand Bolduc has served on the City Council, in Ward 3, Ward 6 and at-large, including when the councilor with the most votes served as mayor, for so long that even he pauses when measuring his tenure and seeks to extend his streak to 17 terms by holding his seat in Ward 6 against the challenge of Tony Felch. City election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

This is third consecutive election in which Felch has tried to wrest the seat away from Bolduc.

Both candidates hail from Lakeport, where signs touting their candidacies sometimes appear alongside one another on the same front lawn.

With his brother Ernie, Bolduc has been a mainstay of the annual Christmas Village at the Community Center, represented the council on the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association and contributed significantly to the success of the Lakeport Community Association.

Like Bolduc, Felch, who lives in the home he was raised in, has become a familiar face in the city as president of the Leavitt Park Association, co-captain of the Deja Vu Pubmania team and member of the distribution committee of the annual Children's Auction.

Bolduc said that with the expansion and renovation of the Central Fire Station, following close behind construction of Laconia Middle School and Huot Technical Center, improvements at Laconia High School and replacement of the Main Street Bridge, most major projects are complete.

Looking ahead, both candidates pointed to the WOW Trail as an outstanding issue. Felch believes lauded the fundraising efforts of the WOW Trail but doubted the project can be undertaken with only private funds. Instead he said that the city must invest in the project to ensure its completion. "Once its built it becomes a city park," he said, asking "why isn't the city more involved? Not just financially, but pushing to get it done."

For Bolduc, charting a route between Lakeport and the Weirs is a challenge, not least because of the resistance of residents of South Down Shores and Long Bay to the trail following the railroad along the shore of Paugus Bay. "From what I understand, they're ready for battle," he said. At the same time, he questions whether the trail can be routed through the Weirs to Meredith and suggested instead that it skirt South Down Shores by following Ellm Street to Parade Road and running from there to Meredith. "It's going to be a tough one," he remarked.

Neither Bolduc nor Felch favored the proposal to rezone Weirs Boulevard so as to restrict commercial uses. Bolduc said that he was opposed to nightclubs operating in the area, where there are many residential properties, but saw no reason to prohibit small businesses like restaurants or even automobile dealerships.

Felch said that zoning at the Weirs should encourage diverse uses, while preserving frontage along major thoroughfares for commercial ventures, at least on the ground floor. He said that a greater effort should be made to redevelop the property at the corner of Route 11-B and White Oaks Road where the Surfcoaster operated, suggesting a hotel and resort with an indoor water park open throughout the year.

Both Bolduc and Felch believe the city should purchase the property on North Main Street than housed the Laconia State School. "The city needs to buy it at a reasonable price — $2-million or less," Felch said. He said the city should secure federal funding to overcome the environmental issues at the site, then sell it to private interests. "The city should not own it forever," he said.

Bolduc said that in acquiring the property, the city should also secure ownership of the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, which it leases from the state, while seeking to attract businesses to locate on the remainder of the property.

Likewise, both support the city partnership with the Belknap Economic Development Council to acquire and renovate the Colonial Theatre, which they believe will lead to increased business activity downtown. i

"I get calls from every ward in the city," Bolduc said,"and I take care of them. I'm happy to do it and enjoy doing it." As for how long he intends to serve, he remarked "the good Lord is going to tell us that."

But, Felch said that the "it's time for some new blood, for a councilor who is technologically savvy," adding that he while he appreciate and respects Bolduc's many years of service, "it's time for a change."

The municipal election will be held on Tuesday, November 3 when the polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Commissioner proposing 50-75-bed drug treatment facility in Laconia

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) has called for a feasibility study of creating a 50-75 bed residential substance abuse and detoxification facility in the county.
Taylor told his fellow commissioners when they met Wednesday morning at the Belknap County complex that such a facility would not only serve a pressing social need but could also be a money maker for the county.
He said that Strafford County has a facility similar to that which he is proposing which makes the county $1 million a year by providing services not readily available around the state.
''Right now the county jail has become a mental health hospital and drug treatment place because that's the only place people with these kinds of problems end up.'' He said that it costs the county $80 to $100 a day to keep them there and that if there was a place they could go to for treatment it would save the county money and achieve better results.
Taylor envisions a large treatment and detoxification center which would not be connected to the county jail but would be able to serve people like those in the court diversion program, as well as the general public.
He suggested that the county partner with the city of Laconia to create the facility and said that funding could come federal, state and private grants with operating costs covered by private insurance and Medicaid funds for those without insurance.
Taylor says that he is a fiscal conservative who would like to see Medicaid money go straight the states. But until that happens he says the state should take advantage of expanded Medicaid,
''We owe it to ourselves to take the money and treat these people,'' says Taylor, who says that in the long term he would like to see health care treatment controlled at the local level.
He says that the feasibility study could be conducted by current members of the county's Jail Planning Committee, which includes people such as Jaqui Abikoff of the Horizons Counseling Center and Brian Loanes, director of the Restorative Justice Program. He says that if needed, a consultant could be hired.
Taylor says that the lack of such a facility is one of the biggest barriers to being able to rehabilitate those with drug addictions, pointing out that last year there were 320 deaths in New Hampshire attributed to prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction.
''It's a huge social need. It's an epidemic which has grown and intensified,'' said Taylor, who notes that it cuts across all segments of society and poses a huge threat to American culture..
''In 2012 over 200 million prescriptions were written for opiates. Pain killers are the first step towards heroin which is where we're having so much trouble today. This is real threat to our culture where we now have an estimated 10 percent of our population who are substance abusers.''
Taylor says that there is a growing realization that the problem can't be solved with jails and that treatment at the community level is the best way to deal with substance abuse problems.
''There's a lot of awareness but very little being done. We could step up as a county and establish something which other parts of the state would want to use and would pay us for,'' he says.