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Development of schematic jail plans will stop uninformed speculation

To The Daily Sun,

I was disappointed with the diatribe published in The Laconia Daily Sun by state Rep. Burchell, who is running for county commissioner.

Mr. Burchell succeeded in denigrating just about anyone who has anything to do with planning for the future of the Belknap County Jail.

From calling the superintendent of the Corrections Department and the chairman of the County Commission liars, to impugning the integrity of a volunteer architect, to setting up state Rep. Frank Tilton as a greater expert on bonding than counsel employed by the county, to accusing one of his constituents, who took time to speak about the conditions at the jail at the public hearing, of being a shill for the planning committee, to calling everybody involved in the process bullies, Mr. Burchell has made a travesty out of a serious undertaking.

Does Mr. Burchell think that Rep. Don Flanders and Rep. Bob Luther of Laconia, or Rep. Dennis Fields of Sanbornton, Republicans who voted in favor of the bond issue, are dupes of this imaginary conspiracy? Do the "reasonable proposal(s)" contemplated by Mr. Burchell include the suggestion by Mr. DeVoy, also running for county commissioner, that it would be cheaper to convert the administrative offices of the county into jail space and ship the administrative offices back to the county courthouse? Or does Mr. Burchell prefer the solution proposed by Rep. Worsman that we do away with the jail completely and force Strafford County to house all our prisoners for $50 a day per prisoner?

We will never know how much the Ricci-Greene, or any other proposal (of which none is on the table) will cost until we spend the money to create schematic plans. Remember also that schematic plans will identify areas where specific savings can be made. Then, and only then, should we stop the current uninformed speculation and make a rational decision about whether we can afford this or not.

A detailed discussion of the points raised by Mr. Burchell would bore you to death. I have a suggestion, though. If you want to actually see what I'm talking about, call Superintendent Dan Ward at the Belknap County Department of Corrections. Ask him to give you a tour of the jail. You can even say I suggested you call him. Then you can make up your own mind about how urgent the situation is.

State Rep. David O. Huot

Laconia

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 08:49

Hits: 105

Hope Smiling Hill Farm will be maintained as gracious family home

To The Daily Sun,

I wish to comment on the proposed zoning readjustment currently before the Gilford Zoning Board for the home at 14 Curtis Road, formerly known as Smiling Hill Farm, and to recommend caution in any rezoning that could jeopardize the historic integrity of this antique property now or in the future.

For 45 years (1944–1989), Smiling Hill was owned by my parents and was my childhood home. Admittedly, I cannot approach this matter unbiased, and since I no longer live in Gilford, I have no legal right to speak, but I would like to acquaint you with this historic treasure and plead for its preservation.

Built of post and beam construction in 1793, the property was a working farm for most of its 221 years and an inn for a short four years. Each of the last three owners has adapted and modernized the home for more comfortable living while respecting and retaining its historic presence, including four fireplaces (one being a country-kitchen fireplace and Dutch oven), Indian shutters that pull out from the window sashes (probably to protect from the cold, more than from arrows), wide 8-to-12-inch pine floors, and the enormous porch that overlooks "the best view of the Lake"...ever.

This spring, Arbo Ministeries (Stephen and Barbara Arbo, principals) purchased the home and acreage opposite Cherry Valley Road and are now petitioning the town of Gilford for a zoning variance to allow the property's use as a church.

Please understand that I totally respect the relative autonomy of the current owners of the home within the zoning regulations. It is theirs, and I have no delusions nor will to control their improvements to the home nor their activities in it. As previous owners worked within legal boundaries to make the old farm comfortable for them, so it should be allowed for the Arbos. At the same time, I fully expect that they will prize its uniqueness and preserve it as their home and occasional place of worship.

Likewise, I was quite pleased when told that ministers had bought the farm to use as a retreat.

Now, I understand that small prayer/worship groups of 15 or 20 are expected. Still, I think that would enhance the rich history of the home. However, larger groups (of as many as 50 that the Arbos have mentioned) would be difficult to accommodate without considerable alteration or addition. And although I don't believe the Arbos have mega reconstruction in mind, yet I have to ask if the current proposed readjustment (rezoning to allow churches) might open the door for additional alterations till the historic integrity is compromised and even destroyed. Although I expect the zoning board grants or denies a readjustment principally on the present request as it is covered by law and in Concord with the wishes of the abutters, please may that decision be tempered by a conscientious consideration of the future and a respect for the past.

My wish for the home is simply this: Four generations of the Guild family have lived in and loved this grand old house. Our memories are deep and tender. Additionally, many area residents revere it as a prominent historic landmark on the road to Gunstock. Of course, I wish my family could have purchased the home — first, to enjoy its warmth and ambiance, and second, to preserve a beautiful piece of Gilford. That being impossible, I hope that it can be maintained as a gracious family home and, even more importantly, be preserved as the historic treasure that it is, much like the Sawyer Farm and the Wilson/Rowe house.

At the same time, I respect the current owners and their dreams for the house.

Hopefully, both desires can be realized.

It is unfortunate that Smiling Hill Farm has not yet been placed on the National Register of Historic Places so it can be preserved by law. That protection not in place, I ask you to be its champion so far as the law will allow, while honoring the rights of the present owners.

Marcia Guild Gibbs

Orem, Utah

Last Updated on Monday, 23 June 2014 09:28

Hits: 212

How could anyone complain about 4 cents? Let me show you

To The Daily Sun,
At the Belknap County Delegation Meeting on June 16, the county commissioners presented a request for borrowing nearly three million dollars. They offered a single choice: the delegation must fund all three items as assembled into a single bonding issue. It could not be divided. They also provided a chart showing that the impact on the typical county tax rate would be only four cents per year and a typical county dwelling accessed at $200,000 would pay only $8 dollars more per year.

Most everyone who has toured the Belknap County jail recognizes that the heating and ventilating system (HVAC) is inadequate and needs to be improved. Surely, the commissioners and the county administration have known of these problems for several years, yet have not come forward until now to fix that system, and in fact, failed to even conduct at least eight required semi-annual safety and conditions of the jail reports for the years 2010-2013. Now, they want a million dollars for HVAC.

To arrive at their $1 million dollar request they compared the jail needs to the recent cost to install a new HVAC system in the county court house. Keep in mind that the county court house is a historic multi-story building that with any luck will remain in use for at least another 120 years. How does that compare to a mostly single story building that is likely to be demolished within the next five years? Certainly, the courthouse deserves a well-engineered, high quality system, but doesn't it make sense to at least evaluate putting a simple, short-term, and far cheaper fix on a building destined to be torn down? The current jail ventilation system is not adequate and if given a school grade would most likely be no higher than a D. To me, it makes much more sense to try and bring it up to maybe a C or C plus, which I expect could be done for something in the vicinity of 100,000 to 200,000 dollars, an amount that could have been requested in the annual budget. Instead, the commissioners have arrived at, what is to me, a cockamamie scheme to buy a top notch system, use it for a few years and then when a new jail is built, it will be removed and installed in the new jail. Although they hinted at using the whole system, they admitted in public hearing that the ducting could not be reused but they would use the burners, compressors and evaporators.

In my opinion, any contractor bidding to build a new multi-million dollar jail would be very hesitant to remove and reuse a three to five year old system which they would not be able to warranty. That's not to say it couldn't be done. But let me be frank, to me it would be stupid. So, if it seems stupid to me, and I suspect to many others, why did they put this idea forward? Could it be they had to show the HVAC for the old jail could be reused in the new jail, in order to come before the delegation at this time for a three item bond: HVAC in the old jail for one million, a temporary jail leased for three years at $1.6 million, and some additional new jail design planning for a measly $360,000?

Administrator Shackett explained that the requested bond ($2,960,000) would be for 10 years, but speculated that after three years when the new jail is ready to be bonded, this first 10 year bond would be rolled over into a 20 year bond. By making believe the old jail's new HVAC and the three year temporary jail would be justifiable costs of building a new jail, they could make the immediate impact to the county tax rate appear to be only four cents. How could anyone complain about four cents? But when this $3 million gets added to the already spent costs of the Ricci-Greene and Bennett reports, it would mean almost $4 million will have been spent toward a new jail.

Their next argument will be, "How can we turn back now? Look how much we have invested."
Rep. Herb Vadney

Belknap District 2

Gilford-Merdith

Last Updated on Monday, 23 June 2014 09:19

Hits: 225

Stop reading the 2nd Amendment and concentrate on the others

To The Daily Sun,

This letter is in response to Mr Young's letter to the dditor dated June 20. The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press. It has nothing to do with an individual's not wanting to listen or call into your radio show. We all have the freedom to listen or not listen as we so choose. You said, "Someone else trying to take my First Amendment away."
Perhaps you should stop reading the Second Amendment and concentrate on the other amendments.

Cathy Merwin
Meredith

Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 10:07

Hits: 232

Where was outrage when VA was subpar under GOP administrations

To The Daily Sun,

It's important that we not forget some salient points concerning how veterans in New Hampshire and other states have fared in getting services over the last few decades. One key point was noted in a letter recently printed in the Concord Monitor.

"In February, the U.S. Senate voted on the Comprehensive Veterans Health & Benefits & Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014. This act would have improved benefits for disabled veterans, their families and families of veterans killed in action. It also established 27 VA clinics. It was endorsed by more than a dozen veterans organizations. Unfortunately, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and 40 of her Republican colleagues killed the bill claiming that it was not paid for."

Of course, they had no problem with not paying for their fantastical invasion of Iraq.

An article from The Associated Press also stated that "11 years ago, a task force established by President George W. Bush determined that at least 236,000 veterans were waiting six months or more for a first appointment or an initial follow-up."

While more has recently been exposed about the Veterans Administration, it is clear that serious issues have existed for decades. Using Shinseki as a scapegoat is at the very least hypocritical. Given the track record of the current crop of congressional Republicans a more likely reason for their crocodile tears is cheap political grandstanding. Sen. Ayotte and other Republicans are playing politics on the backs of veterans.

Ask them: Where was the outrage from Republicans and letter writers when this was happening under any or all Republican administrations?

Bernadette Loesch

Laconia

Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 09:48

Hits: 75

 
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