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Court's e-filing system seen adding to county corrections dept. costs (640)

LACONIA — Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward told members of the Belknap County Convention Tuesday night that the advent of an e-filing system for criminal cases in the New Hampshire court system will place additional burdens on county corrections facilities.

''Inmates will need access to computers in order to defend themselves and it will be corrections officers, who will be receiving the e-filings,'' said Ward, who pointed out that there are costs which may be borne at the county level.
Ward also said that video arraignments for inmates who are held at the Belknap County Jail can require up to four hours a day of video time as they must be linked to courts all over the state, not just in Belknap County.

Currently all circuit courts in the state are accepting electronic filings in small claims cases as part of a $7 million program which started in 2011 and is expected to take at least four more years to implement. The goal is to make courts more efficient and entirely paperless by 2019 according to Edwin Kelly, administrative judge of the circuit court system.

Kelly says that starting in March there will be electronic filing of pleas in New Hampshire State Police cases.

Ward said $39,923 has been added to the department's proposed budget to hire consultant Kevin Warwick, who will produce recommendations for programs designed to help reduce recidivism and serve as basis for an architectural firm to design a community corrections center for the county.

He said that commissioner's have endorsed a $3,467,068 budget for the corrections department, some $41,000 more than the working budget being developed by the county convention.

He said that the budget includes a nearly $13,000 cut for dietary services, from $215,496 to $202,030, based on the view that there will be a slight decrease in the average daily inmate population. Meals for inmates are prepared at the Belknap County Nursing Home and cost a little over $180 a month per inmate.

Ward also said that projected income from prisoner phone calls, which are handled by a contractor with a percent going to the county, will drop slightly due to a Federal Communications Commission regulation which reduces the commissions on inmate calls and is likely to eventually eliminate the commissions.

He was one of the department heads who spoke to the convention Tuesday night about their proposed budgets and revisions made to them by county commissioners at an all day budget workshop held last Friday in response to the convention's decision to try and reduce the amount to be raised by taxes for the 2015 budget by about $1.1 million.

County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen said she needed more time to comment on the proposed changes, which would see two full-time positions in her department reduced to part-time.

''I'm going to have to restructure my whole department, and I can't do that overnight,'' she said.

Asked by Rep. Roy Howard (R-Alton) how much would be saved by cutting one fill-time position, Guldbrandsen said that she has a very specialized staff and couldn't provide a number at this point.

Sheriff Craig Wiggin was asked a similar question about the impact of cutting one full-time position from his $2,109,849 budget and said that it would be significant because it would increase overtime and impact the department's ability to provide required services.

He also pointed out that, despite increases in services provided, the department hasn't added any new personnel in 10 years.

Asked by Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) about turnover in his department, Wiggin said that it was low and due mostly to retirement but was higher in the communications center due to the pressures of the dispatch system.

Wiggin was reminded by Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) that federal grants which are being sought should be included in the department's budget so that the convention can approve them as a supplemental appropriation, a practice which was not followed by the former commissioners.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2015 01:01

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Romoving snowbanks is priority after streets are clear

LACONIA — As one snow storm has followed close on the heels of another while below freezing temperatures have forestalled any significant thaw, the Department of Public Works has been hard pressed to trim snow banks and remove piled snow.

Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, said yesterday that once snow is cleared from the streets crews turn to removing it. "We have a priority list," he said. Noting that, "We have always been sensitive to the merchants," he said that clearing the downtown, with its narrow streets parking spaces, is a high priority. Next are the intersections with high volumes of vehicular and pedestrian traffic where lack of visibility poses a safety hazard — Court Street and Main Street, Normandin Square (Busy Corner) and Lakeport Square— along with other junctions controlled by traffic signals.

Moynihan said that school zones, where both vehicular and foot traffic is heavy in the morning and afternoon, are a high priority. He said that independent contractors — John H. Lyman & Sons, Inc. and Belknap Landscape Company, both of Gilford — plow and remove snow at the schools while the DPW clears the adjacent streets.

Bridges at Main Street, Church Street and Elm Street , Moynihan remarked, have also been a priority. He said that melting snow is more likely to freeze on bridges than on roadways overnight and removing the snow reduces the risks to motorists.

Although wary of overly relying on over-time, Moynihan said that it is challenging to remove snow during working hours when traffic on the streets is heaviest. Yesterday crews started at 4 a.m. using a plow truck, sidewalk plow and front loader fitted with a snow blower and a convoy of eight or nine trucks. The plows clear the sidewalks and snow banks, pushing the snow into a strip., which the snow blower then loads into the trucks. It takes less than half-a-minute to load each truck. The snow is hauled to vacant ground off South Street near Memorial Park .

Moynihan said that with just a day or two between the snowfalls this month and last and no significant melting the accumulation of snow has outpaced its removal.

City Manager Scott Myers said that DPW had expended 87 percent of its $406,000 winter maintenance budget by the end of January and while the cost of the storms this month has not yet been tallied, he expected the budget was exhausted. The winter maintenance stabilization fund, established in anticipation of severe and expensive winters, has a balance of about $95,000. Myers said that once the snow stops stops falling he will seek to address the overage with funds from accounts that are under expended before drawing on the stabilization fund.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 12:40

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Holy Grail of the Lakes aims for spring opening

LACONIA — David Kennedy, who with his wife Maureen, is converting the former Evangelical Baptist Church at Veterans Square into a restaurant and pub expects the Holy Grail of the Lakes Region to open in late April or early May.

The restaurant will be the Kennedys' second, both housed in one-time houses of worship, and both featuring an Irish ambience. The Holy Grail Restaurant and Pub in what what was St. Joseph's Church on Main Street in Epping has twice been chosen as the state's finest Irish pub by New Hampshire Magazine.

The historic Laconia church — originally constructed at the corner of Church and North Main Streets, in front of the Public Library — resembles a large split-level ranch house with a staircase at the entrance leads to an upper and lower level. Speaking yesterday, Kennedy said the lower level will house a cafe, bar and prep kitchen with seating for patrons having drinks and snacks and picking up take-out orders. The main dining room and full kitchen will be n the upper level.

The dining room, featuring the stained glass windows from the church, will seat 180 diners, some in booths fashioned from the pews from the church, beneath the original tin ceiling, painted to mock copper. A second, larger bar, serving 34 draft beers and seating more than two dozen, will be situated where the church sanctuary was. And the choir loft, overlooking the dining room, at the opposite end of the building will seat another 70 diners. There are also two private rooms on the upper level as well as a small stage next the bar for live entertainment.

Kennedy said that the menu will mirror the offerings that have proven popular in Epping, while including fresh, locally grown ingredients from the Outdoor Market that flourishes on Thursday afternoons in the central parking lot behind the restaurant. There will be an array of sandwiches, salads, pasta, steak and seafood dishes.alongside traditional Irish fare, including bangers and colcannon, fish and chips, shepherd's pie, Scotch eggs, and boiled dinner, some laced with whiskey and beer.

Recently Kennedy told the Main Street Initiative that he intends to operate as a vendor in the Outdoor Market, offering some of the special and seasonal items from the restaurant's menu. John Moriarty of the Main Street Initiative anticipated that the opening of the Holy Grail would draw more traffic to the market. To ensure sufficient parking for the new restaurant the Main Street Initiative agreed to shorten the hours of the Outdoor Market, which will operate between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. instead of until 7 p.m.as it has in the past.

Kennedy explained that at his Epping restaurant he not only recycles but also removes food scraps from the trash, which he then offers to local farmers as feed for pigs, poultry and other livestock. He hopes to enter similar arrangements in the Lakes Region.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 11:52

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Shaker drops full-day kindergarten in favor of half-day pre-K

BELMONT — The Shaker Regional School District is dropping plans to implement all-day kindergarten anytime soon,  and is reverting to its original proposal to add half-day pre-school programs at the elementary schools in Belmont and Canterbury and maintain half-day kindergarten at both schools.

School Superintendent Maria Dreyer explained that with 90 children projected to enroll in full-day kindergarten at least four and perhaps five classrooms would be required and the additional space was simply not available. Earlier the board proposed offering one class of full-day kindergarten at each school with the pupils chosen by lottery, but rejected the plan after it met with stiff opposition from parents.

Despite the decision Heidi Hutchinson, who chairs the board repeated its commitment to introduce full-day kindergarten "within a few years," which prompted one disappointed mother to reply "it seems like it's been in a few years for a few years."

With the decision at a supplementary budget hearing this week to forgo full-day kindergarten, the operating budget was reduced by $101,000, from $19,507,028 to $19,458,868, to which was added $52,840 to fund a 3 percent salary increase for support staff. The total operating budget of $19,458,868 represents an increase of $45,506, but $1,635,000 in transfers from other funds the total budget amounts to $$21,093,868, a decrease of 0.02-percent.

The amount to be raised by property taxes is $12,472,409, with Belmont bearing $8,823,885, an increase of $439,190, and Canterbury bearing $3,648,524, a decrease of $54,496.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 11:43

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