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Crucial county jail vote coming Monday night

LACONIA — Members of the Belknap County Jail Planing Committee plan to argue that the proposed $2.96 million borrowing they are seeking is an essential step towards reaching a solution to the problem of crowding at the Belknap County House of Corrections when they make a presentation at a public hearing Monday night before the Belknap County Convention.
The committee wants $360,000 so that it can begin work on a schematic design plan for a new jail, $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail and $1.6 million for a three-year contract for installation of a 48-bed temporary housing unit at the current jail.
''We're talking about moving the process forward by getting a schematic design. Whether or not the final projected cost is $10 million, $20 million or $30 million, we need that design so we can get a cost estimate,'' Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett told the committee when it met last week.
County Corrections Superintendent Daniel Ward, who will make the presentation on behalf of the committee, says that all three elements in the bond issue are important, and need to be implemented as soon as possible.
He says that the schematic design part has the most ramifications as it will be a key to determining the final cost of the jail project, but the other parts are equally important.
''We're going to be spending three more years using the current facility no matter what happens. The temporary housing may be the highest priority because that gives us space we badly need for additional inmates and programs.'' He says the HVAC system replacement as necessary to make conditions at the current facility bearable for inmates and staff during the time it will take before a new facility can be built and noted that many of the components of the upgraded system can be used in a new facility.
How well the committee's proposal will be met by the Belknap County Convention remains to be seen. The last time the convention voted on any jail planning issue was in the summer of 2012 when it approved $160,000 to hire a consultant for developing a conceptual plan for a community corrections facility. It passed by a 9-8 vote of the convention, which at that time was composed of 18 Republicans. The only members of the current convention who voted for that project were Frank Tilton and Don Flanders of Laconia and Dennis Fields of Sanbornton. Three members of the current convention, Bob Greemore and Colette Worsman of Meredith and Bob Luther of Laconia voted against it.
Commissioners proceeded to hire Ricci Greene Associates of New York, a firm that assisted Merrimack and Strafford counties in reconfiguring their correctional programs and redesigning their correctional facilities. The firm produced a conceptual plan which called for a 94,000-square-foot, 180-bed facility which carried an estimated cost of $42.6 million, a number which produced ''sticker shock'' around the county, particularly in Laconia where the City Council called on the county to reduce the cost of the proposal.
In recent months the committee has looked at ways of cutting the size and cost of the proposed facility with an eye to reducing its cost below $30 million and has maintained that the schematic design process will achieve that goal.
Jail Planning Committee Chairman Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) said the schematic design process ''begins to get us to a real number and refines what the facility will look like.''
Architect Gary Goudreau, a member of the planning committee, said that if the convention hasn't bought into the program developed by the committee that there is little likelihood of getting to the next step and asked if there was some way to get them involved.
He said there had to be a ''buy-in'' by the legislators, but it could result in a plan for a $15-$20 million, 100-bed facility which wouldn't meet the county's needs.
Philpot said the committee had tried to involve the lawmakers but was rebuffed and that legislators have not been a part of the jail planning process.
Former Meredith Selectman Miller Lovett asked what the committee might offer to get some buy-in and said ''the real problem is not the jail. It's that people don't talk to one another.'' He said that the committee might eventually have to come up with a smaller plan and then build an addition 10 or 20 years down the road.
The county convention recently held a public input session about the jail and heard many people express opposition to the committee's proposal along with calls for rejection of the Ricci Greene plan and going back to the drawing board for jail designs.
Among the critics was Hunter Taylor of Alton, who briefly served on the jail planning committee and said that the county should be pursuing a plan like that being implemented in Wilkes County, North Carolina, where a 52,000-square-foot jail which will hold 256 inmates is being built at a guaranteed price tag of $10.63 million.
County Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont) said that the plan being developed is for Belknap County, not North Carolina, but was told by former Belknap County Convention chairperson Alida Millham of Gilford ''that's not a viable response. You have to articulate what the needs are.''

Shackett said that she was concerned that even if the schematic design is approved that many of the current members of the convention won't be around when it is finalized as they are stepping down from the legislature.
''After all the effort we've put in, they'll be gone,'' she said, expressing hope that the three years the committee has put in on jail planning won't go for naught.
The convention is scheduled to vote on the proposed bond issue immediately after Monday night's public hearing, which gets underway at 6 p.m. It will require a two-thirds vote for passage.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 01:09

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Man charged with stealing stereo from Gilford Walmart

LACONIA — A Bristol man was ordered held on $1,000 cash-only bail after appearing by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday, after being arrested by Gilford Police for theft.

Benjamin Fields, 31, of Summer St. was already being held in the Belknap County House of Corrections for bail jumping when Gilford Police arrested him Tuesday night.

Fields had been convicted of a simple assault in Laconia and was ordered to report to jail on June 5 to serve a 12-month sentence. When he failed to report to jail, he was arrested and charged with bail jumping.

He was ordered held on $500 cash only for the bail jumping charge.

Fields's lawyer agreed to cash bail yesterday because it means his clients time spent awaiting his trial will count toward any sentence he may receive.

Judge Jim Carroll quipped that if he didn't know any better, he'd think Fields was playing Texas Hold-um by stacking up his cash bails for time served against any future convictions.

In the Gilford case and according to affidavits, Fields is accused of going into the Gilford Walmart store and trying to steal a car stereo by removing it from the box and stuffing it down the front of his pants.

He was caught by Walmart's loss prevention officer and Gilford Police were called.

According to the arresting officer, when he asked Fields why he tried to steal the stereo he admitted it was "stupid" and that he didn't know how much the stereo would cost.

Because the cost of the item Field's allegedly tried to steal is greater than $1,000, he is being charged with a felony.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 12:10

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Inter-Lakes board votes to fund $323k in projects with portion of 2013-2014 surplus

MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes School Board has approved spending $323,022 from its fund balance for a variety of projects which were cut during the budget development process.
Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond and Assistant Superintendent Trish Temperino Tuesday night presented the board with a list of projects they would like to see completed before the start of the next school year and, after brief discussion, the projects were approved by the board.
The fund balance at the end of the current year is estimated at $538,052, of which $139,707 is the result of excess revenues.
The spending which was approved will leave a balance of about $215,030, of which $75,000 would go into a Facilities Expendable Trust, leaving a balance of $140,030 to be used to reduce the tax assessment for the 2014 tax year.
The projects approved included:
$20,000 toward the re-roofing of the multipurpose room roof at Inter-Lakes Elementary School. The project will replace 8,000-square-feet of PVC roof with a coal pitch tar roof. The project was originally budgeted for $90,000 but was changed to a longer life roof. The board had earlier in the meeting approved awarding the contract for the project to A.W. Therrien Roofing Company, which submitted the low bid of $107,232 for the project.
$50,000 for upgrading the security system cameras at district schools to a DVM system and providing additional cameras. The existing stand-alone DVR system will be converted to a DVM system that is integrated with the existing EBI system. The project includes DVM software and licensing for up to 60 cameras, server and storage. Currently the district has 31 cameras at Inter-Lakes High School, 9 at Sandwich Central School and 6 at Inter-Lakes Elementary School.
$53,000 for library renovation at the Inter-Lakes Middle Tier and Inter-Lakes High School library. The project will involve a wall being removed, relocation and design of the circulation desk new furniture, carpet replacement with green carpet material, movable bookshelves and a mini-split air conditioner.
$46,000 for a STEM/Technology renovation project which provides for renovations, tech equipment and supplies for two classrooms.
$45,000 for unanticipated maintenance including oil tanks sludge/vacuum removal, repairs to broken tiles, baseboard replacement and guardrail repairs.
$36,585 for a 50 percent increase for an ESOL teacher due to an unanticipated increase in the number of students from 2 to 6.
$23,975 for replacing carpeting for two rooms and hallway with tile at the Inter-Lakes Elementary School to provide for easier maintenance and a cleaner environment.
$18,900 for the athletic department for replacement of uniforms that are 10 to 13 years old and purchasing a utility golf cart for transportation of supplies at Prescott Park.
$7,000 for replacement of wall mats at the Inter-Lakes High School gym.
$7,562 for additional time for a guidance counselor.
$5,000 for Middle Tier an High School science rooms eye washers/showers to meet current OSHA standards.
$5,000 for a drainage project at the Sandwich Central School playground.
$5,000 for security window treatments at Inter-Lakes Elementary School.
The board also approved Superintendent Ormond's recommendation to hire Natalie Lyons to a new school district position of behavior specialist at a salary of $66,566.
And the board approved an amended motion to create junior varsity lacrosse teams for both boys and girls in the 2014-15 school year with funding for the teams being the responsibility of the Inter-LAX Club. The motion had originally called for partnering with Moultonborough Academy for the teams and was amended, given that the program might not be approved in Moultonborough, to include the possibility that there could be a joint program between the two schools in future years.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 12:06

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First step in development of walking trails through Lakes Business Park gets support from Gilford Selectboard

GILFORD — Selectmen voted unanimously to approve the expenditure of $11,710 from the Lakes Business Park Phase II Capital Reserve Fund to finish the engineering work for one of three proposed park trails.

The expenditure of the money is also contingent on the approval of the Laconia City Council.

The money is from the joint contributions the two communities are required to make into the capital reserve fund. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said there is an estimated balance in the fund of $326,000.

According to Town Administrator Scott Dunn, a trail system for walking, hiking, bicycling and other non-motorized activities except camping was part of the initial plan when the two communities joined forces in 2002 to expand the business park off Hounsell Avenue. The land is owned by the city by located within the limits of the township.

While installing the necessary infrastructure to the building sites and the roads, the project ran out of its initial capitalization before the trail network could be built.

Dunn said in the past year or so the Conservation Commission has told him that they desire to see the trail network built as stipulated in the initial conservation easement. He said he is working with the Parks and Recreation Department to identify possible sources of grants to build the trails.

He said that should the town identify some grants to build a trail, the park would need to have some recent engineering work in place to qualify.

Dunn said while he and the town of Gilford have been exploring grants, the Board of Directors at the business park have also begun to explore their role in the trail system by contacting Fluet Engineering, which still has the engineering plans from the first design.

Dunn said that the business park board of directors is taking a "minimalist" approach to the trail with regard to layout, clearing, drainage, and surface and at this point in time, there is no plan to add any pavement.

He said the business park board would be seeking volunteers to the extent possible.

Dunn also noted the business park board thinks having a trail system would benefit further marketing efforts for the undeveloped lots.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 11:44

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