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Lawmakers complete county budget work at +1.3%

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention Monday night approved a $26,823,694 budget which increases the net amount to be raised by 2015 property taxes by $1.3 percent. The bills will be passed on the 11 municipalities for collection.
The convention made only one change in the working budget it had approved last week, shifting $100,000 from the Finance Department budget to a newly created personnel management reserve budget line which gives the Belknap County Commission authority, with convention Executive Committee approval, to fill the now vacant county finance director position through either hiring a new person or contracting with an outside service provider to perform some of the functions handled by the finance office.
The change came after Rep. Guy Comtois (R-Barnstead) made a motion to cut $100,000 from the Finance Department budget, maintaining that since last week's departure of Finance Director Glen Waring it was time for the county convention to consider Commissioner Richard Burchell's plan to streamline county government by cuts in county administration.
He said that it was Burchell's position that the department could operate in the absence of a finance director and said that kicking the ball down the road on county government can't continue.
Comtois said that taxes in Barnstead will be rising by $2.50 to $3 a thousand after the school district budget is passed on Saturday and said some tax relief is needed.
Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) said that while he was sympathetic to the burden being placed on taxpayers that it should be remembered that the finance director's position was created by the county on the recommendation of its auditing firm to deal with an embezzlement situation which had taken place when a former county administrator was also in charge of finances.
County convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said it was his understanding that county commissioners were looking to turn to an outside agency such as Municipal Resources Inc. of Meredith to hire someone to run things until the finance position can be filled.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that commissioners were looking to establish a business model for the county but didn't want to make major changes without careful study of the options and consequences.
He said that he is also a property taxpayer in Barnstead — where he owns a pair of convenience stores — and while he sympathizes with Comtois's position, from the county's standpoint, the position needs to be funded.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor said that that it was misleading to try and have Belknap County follow the Carroll County model. ''They tried to slim down their administration but it didn't work and they're adding to their staff. Belknap County is very bare bone and lean. Give us time and don't tie our hands By cutting this money,'' he said.
Commissioner Burchell said the county has had a three-person finance office and he sees no need to outsource the finance director's workload, maintaining that one of the assistants in the office told him she was capable of doing the budget work.
DeVoy maintained that Burchell had placed people in the department in fear of being laid off and that people would ''say something just to keep their job.''
Tilton observed that the three new commissioners ''haven't exactly had the smoothest transition'' and said that should be allowed the time to do their own analysis of the county's staffing needs,
Convention Vice Chairman Herb Vadney moved to amend Comtois' motion by removing the $100,000 from the Finance Department budget and place it in a personnel management reserve account.
The motion passed by a 14-1 vote and the budget was later approved by a 12-3 vote.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 02:22

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Occupants pull over & escape burning car

LACONIA — Two young people lost their car Saturday morning after it burned in the parking lot at Jon's Roast Beef on upper Union Avenue.

City Fire Department Lt. Jeff Desrosiers said firefighters were at the Winni Dip at the nearby Margate Resort at 11:49 a.m. and were able to respond within minutes, however the car was engulfed in flames and couldn't be saved.

He said the owner of the car told him that he and a friend had just finished lunch at the China Bistro and were driving on Union Avenue when they smelled something burning.

Desrosiers said the two pulled over and opened the hood and something in the engine compartments was afire.

Descrosiers said the man told him he had just purchased the 2003 Saab and he didn't have insurance.

No one was injured and police and fire remained on the scene for about 45 minutes.


CAPTION: A Laconia Police officer captured this image of a car burning in the Jon's Road Beef on Union Avenue Saturday morning. (Photo courtesy of the Laconia Professional Firefighters)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 01:26

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Meredith Selectboard will pick 2 new members from applicants on April 13

MEREDITH — The two newly elected selectmen — Ray Moritz and Bev Lapham — were sworn in yesterday, joining incumber Nate Torr to fill three of the five seats on the board.

The three selectmen will fill the two remaining seats, which were opened by the recent resignations of Hillary Seeger and Lou Kahn, by appointment. The appointees will serve until the next election in March 2016.

Yesterday the board agreed to accept applications until 4 p.m. on Monday April 6. Applications should be sent to the town manager using the form to volunteer for boards, commissions and committees posted on the town website, and accompanied by a letter of interest outlining the experience and qualifications of the applicant.

On the following Monday, April 13 the three elected members of the board will meet and interview the candidates then appoint two of them to the board. The full board of five will hold its first regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, May 4.

At least two of the six unsuccessful candidates at last week's election — Rosemary Landry and Jonathan James. who finished fourth and fifth respectively — have indicated they will apply to join the board via appointment.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 01:20

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Meredith Public Works actually spent more money keeping up with winter of 2013-2014

MEREDITH — Despite the heavy snows and lingering cold, the Department of Public Works has spent less to date on winter maintenance this season than last.

This year the DPW has spent more on overtime wages and sand purchases than a year ago, but less on vehicle maintenance, salt purchases, snow removal and fuel supplies.

In 2014-2015 overtime expenses were $64,797 compared to $61,827 last winter, a difference of $2,969 while the $69,841 spent on sand was $9,783 more than the $60,058 expended a year ago.

Last year sand purchases cost $154,886, or $23,140 more than the $131,746 spent this year. Vehicle maintenance cost $41,476 in 2013-2014, but $34,009, or $23,140 less, this year. Fuel supplies, which cost $66,105 a year ago, cost $46,020, or $320,085 less, this year. And DPW spent only $5,292 removing snow this winter compared to $6,216 last, a difference of $923.

Altogether the department has spent $38,862 less than last year and about the same amount less than was budgeted for this year. Town Manager Phil Warren told the Board of Selectmen yesterday that the lower costs reflected the difference between the two winters. A year ago warmer temperatures enabled the DPW to apply more salt while this year colder temperatures required the use of more — and less expensive — sand. He also said that the department experienced fewer break downs this winter.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 01:17

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