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Request for jail planning money doesn't look like sensible starting point

To The Daily Sun,

On June 16, 2014 at 5 p.m. the Belknap County Commissioners and their Jail Study Committee will ask the County Convention to approve a $2.96 million bond issue relating to our county jail which includes $360,000 for schematic design work for a new jail.

From the outset, the only design concept seriously considered by the commissioners and the committee is that described in the strategic planning report prepared by Ricci Greene Associates dated January 31, 2013. This report is described as the product of a four month collaborative effort between the Ricci Greene team, county administration, Department of Corrections officials and staff and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.

According to the executive summary introducing the lengthy report, the recommendation is for a new jail facility with a "jail component with 120 secure beds ...", a "Community Corrections Center component with 60 residential beds for Intensive Program Treatment and Work Release participants" and 5 "medical beds". The proposed facility is to consist of 94,450-square-feet, with projected budget estimate of $42.6 million.

At the March 17 meeting of the jail planning group, committee member Gary Goudreau, an architect, laid out a plan to reduce the square footage of the proposed facility by 10,000-square-feet. Commissioner Ed Philpot has expressed the "hope" that Mr. Goudreau's modification of the original Ricci Greene proposal would reduce the construction cost to below $30 million.

The decision facing the County Convention is whether the modified Ricci Greene proposal is a sensible starting point for schematic design work for a new county jail. In deciding this key question, four major points need to be addressed. (1) Will the slight modification suggested by the Jail Planning Committee bring the anticipated cost of over $40 million down to below $30 million? (2) Is the cost per square foot at $30 million still too high to pay? (3) Is the recommended size of 84,500-square-feet excessive for the needs of Belknap County? (4) Can the county afford a $30 million county jail? If $360,000 is expended for schematic design work on the Ricci Greene jail concept, that cost together with the $160,000 already paid to Ricci Greene for development of the initial conceptual plan will mean that over $500,000 will have been spent in the pre-construction costs on this jail design, with nothing more than a "hope" that the project can be brought in for under $30 million.

The first question to be addressed is whether the "hope" of a price tag under $30 million is sufficient to justify this monetary commitment. Looking at the source of Commissioner Philpot's "hope" for this reduced cost makes one wonder. The total square footage for the project was reduced from 94,450-square-feet to 84,450-square-feet, a reduction of 11 percent. The cost was hoped to be reduced from $42.6 million to below $30 million, a reduction of 30 percent. Why would a 11 percent size reduction result in a 30 percent cost reduction? Assuming that the Ricci Greene team had a rational basis for its original cost analysis, the "hoped-for" cost reduction of 30 percent becomes quite puzzling. This is particularly the case when one looks at the specific jail areas to be reduced in size: the four day room areas adjacent to the inmate sleeping areas. Unless for some unlikely reason day rooms are disproportionately costly over other jail components, this seems quite illogical. Delegation members should question whether there is sufficient basis in the facts for the "hope" of a cost reduction to under $30 million.

A second problem is the square footage cost of the planned facility, whether or not the hoped-for reduction occurs. The original cost under the Ricci Greene proposal was $450-per-square-foot. Reducing the size to 84,450-square-feet and the price to $29 million yields a cost of $343.40 per square foot. This cost far exceeds the national average for county jail construction in the United States. According to R.S. Means, the average cost of constructing a county jail in the U.S. is $223.53 per square foot using union labor, or $207.14 using non-union, or open shop labor. Viewed in this context, the hoped-for cost reduction (for the modified jail plan) reduces the square foot cost from double the national average ($450 versus $223) down to an amount one and a half times the national average ($343 versus $223). Members of the delegation should consider whether the planned jail is so different from other county jail facilities being built in the US as to justify such an increased cost.

A third question is whether Belknap County needs a facility as large as even the slightly scaled-down Ricci Greene concept. To determine the needed square footage one needs first to determine the anticipated inmate population. The report upon which which the jail plan is based starts off stating that the recommended facility is one to house 185 inmates. One would reasonably conclude from this that the project recommended by the commissioners the Planning Committee is one in fact designed to house 185 inmates. A careful examination of the report, however, shows that a different number of beds is found. The "Facility Functional Narrative" contained in Appendix C to the report identifies the contemplated beds and their locations within the facility. Adding up all of the beds included in the planned facility results in a total bed count of 144, not 185. To date, no explanation has been provided for this apparent discrepancy within the Ricci Greene Report. Most people considering the jail proposal would very reasonably be under the impression that the 84,450-square-foot facility contains 185 beds. Discovery of the discrepancy in the bed total requires reading the fine print, going to the appendix and doing a bed by bed count to reach the actual total.

Whether the planned square footage is for 185 beds or for 144, it seems excessive. The Ricci Greene Report references 51,228-square-feet to be dedicated to residential space. The subsequent 10,000-square-foot reduction would come from the residential component, namely, from the day room areas next to the inmate sleeping areas. The residential square footage would then be reduced to 41,228. If the facility houses 185 inmates, then there are 223-square-feet per inmate. If the facility only houses 144 inmates, then the result is 286-square-feet per inmate. Either way, the residential square footage is excessive.

The excessiveness of even the modified Ricci Greene proposal advanced by the Commissioners is illustrated when compared with the new jail facility near completion in Wilkes County, North Carolina. That jail is a 52,000-square-foot facility designed to house up to 256 inmates, and it is being constructed at a guaranteed cost of $10.6 million. In other words, $203.85-per-square-foot. It should also be noted that the North Carolina facility is compliant with federal jail standards. The residential component there has 41,760-square-feet, or 163.13-square-feet per inmate. This is 27-percent less than the plan advanced by our Commissioners using the 185 inmate figure, or 44 percent less if the 144 inmate figured is used. If the Wilkes County facility is used as a model, the residential component for Belknap County would be 30,179 for 185 inmates, or 23,491 for 144 inmates.

The non-residential portion of the Wilkes County facility provides less guidance for Belknap County as it does not house the administrative offices for the jail, which are instead located in the nearby courthouse. In addition, the Wilkes County jail includes no areas dedicated to programs designed to reduce recidivism.

Examination of the proposed 43,222-square-feet of non-residential space in the Ricci Greene proposal shows potential for significant reduction. For example, 1,950-square-feet are set aside for food service, including a 1,200-square-foot receptor kitchen to receive food prepared next door at the county nursing home kitchen. Most of this space could be eliminated. Another 1,539-square-feet of space are dedicated to a laundry, even though the nursing home currently houses the laundry that services the jail using inmate labor. Duplication of either kitchen or laundry facilities would seem unnecessary.

The Ricci Greene proposal also contemplates 5,500-square-feet for indoor recreation. Federal standards (which are not mandatory but which should be complied with to avoid possible future legal issues), would mandate 1,000-square-feet of indoor recreation area with each inmate afforded an hour per day for its use. In other words, the Ricci Greene proposal contemplates over five times the federal requirement. In addition, the proposed facility would have almost 3,000-square-feet dedicated to health services, including a doctor's office, a waiting room, two examination rooms, a dentistry room, a laboratory, a conference room and a kitchenette, plus five medical beds. The wisdom of this space allocation is most definitely up to question.

My sense is that the 43,222-square-feet of non-residential space in the Ricci Greene proposal could be cut in half. This would still leave two large classrooms for programs, a library, two smaller rooms for interviews and more individualized therapy, and the other support and administrative areas needed for the safe and efficient operation of a county jail.

The fourth major problem with the proposed facility is that Belknap County cannot afford it. Unfortunately, it appears that the Ricci Greene team was brought in and asked to design a Rolls Royce, which they did. The commissioners were enamored with the product and have since refused to consider anything else. This persistence continued even in the face of very convincing data gathered by Michael Kitch and published in the April 19, 2014 Laconia Daily Sun. Kitch's article showed that the tax base in Belknap County cannot support the annual cost of a $30,000,000 debt for a new jail. Of course, the unaffordable price tag is compounded by the fact that Belknap County does not need such a luxurious facility.

John Hemphill, the designer of the Wilkes County facility, is currently designing his 33rd jail. In a recent telephone conversation with me, he indicated that he has never designed a jail with the type of square foot cost of the Ricci Greene proposal. According to him, "that kind of cost is unnecessary and my clients would not pay that kind of money when it is not necessary."

Belknap County needs a new jail, or at minimum a very substantial addition to the front part of the existing facility. The extremely poor condition of the jail makes this need urgent. On the other hand, it is my hope that we will forget the Rolls Royce and take a good look at an affordable car. A trip to Wilkes County, North Carolina and a meeting with John Hemphill might prove to be a wiser investment than throwing additional money at the Ricci Greene project and design schematics based on it.

Hunter Taylor

Professor Emeritus at the Rutgers University School of Law


Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 08:50

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Thanks to all who supported STVdP volunteer appreciation dinner

To The Daily Sun,

The Laconia Conference of St. Vincent de Paul held its annual volunteer appreciation dinner on Monday, June 9. The affair was hosted by the Peasant Ridge Country Club and catered by Contigiani Catering Services. The food and service were excellent, as is always the case with Jimmy and the wonderful Contigiani's staff.

Approximately 115 volunteers who staff and manage the Conference's four programs — thrift store, food pantry, financial assistance program, and the Children's Foundation — attended the annual recognition of the volunteer service. As an all-volunteer non-profit organization, such dedication is essential to the effectiveness and efficiency of St. Vincent de Paul in providing needed assistance to some many in the region. In its 24 years of existence, St. Vincent de Paul has never paid any wages or salaries, so more of our donations of clothing, furniture, and cash go directly for community support.

Four individuals received service awards: Bill Johnson and Gert Deblois for 20 years of volunteer service and Ila Matilla and Mary Beth Moran for 10 years of service. Many Lakes Region vendors provided door prizes for a raffle. We wish to thank Fratello's, Local Eatery, Prescott Florist, the Lyon's Den, Darlene's at Nu-Do's Salon, Moulton Farms, the Common Man organization, Home Comfort in Center Harbor, O'dus Salon, Meredith Bay Coffee House, Patrick's Pub & Eatery, Canoe Restaurant, Oriental Gardens, T-Bones & Cactus Jack's, Kara's Coffee, and Brickfront Restaurant for their wonderful generosity.

On behalf of these many volunteers and the people we serve, I offer our sincere appreciation to all in the Lakes Region who have supported us. Many thanks.

Erika Johnson, President

Laconia Conference of

St. Vincent de Paul

Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 08:44

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For now, we have saved our ridgelines from the 500-ft. turbines

To The Daily Sun,

Newfound residents are elated and relieved with the decision by a industrial wind developer, Iberdrola Renewables, to withdraw its proposed Wild Meadows Power Plant.

On Tuesday, May 27, Iberdrola made its public withdrawal announcement official. The news spread like wildfire across the region by phone, email, Facebook and by word of mouth. As this news spread, so did the phrase, "Thank you."

Residents and summer visitors alike in Alexandria, Bridgewater, Bristol, Danbury, Grafton, Groton, Hebron, Plymouth, Rumney and beyond have educated themselves on the realities of industrial wind power and have agreed that industrial wind power plants on our ridgelines inflicts disastrous impacts upon our watershed, the wildlife, our health, our property values, and our view shed - all the while having little impact on New Hampshire's greenhouse gas emissions.

Each town voted overwhelmingly against the proposed Wild Meadows project, not once, but twice. A lot of individual time and resources have gone into fighting these wind projects ... and for that we thank you! Many of you attended the Concord meetings, town hall meetings, wrote letters to your politicians, called on your local representatives, volunteered to educate residents, displayed yard signs, etc...

We know that our work is not done. It is conceivable that another opportunistic developer could be attracted to this same location. But for now — we have saved our ridgelines from the blasting, deforestation and the erection of 500 foot turbines. Let's not let our guard down and remember your voice counted.

While we are pleased with Iberdrola's announcement. We just have a few questions left. "Why are the Iberdrola Met towers still standing on Forbes Mountain?" They unofficially pulled the plug on this project back in March. Are we to assume that there is no decommission plan to get rid of them either? And if that's the case, will the Met towers be allowed to just rot away? Any responsible company would take them down.

We've all learned a lot. It was a long process. It will continue on.

Ray Cunningham


Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 08:29

Hits: 256

MIchelle Malkin - Obama forcing our military bases to care for illegal aliens

A source tipped me off last week to a curious occurrence: It seems that two planeloads of illegal aliens were recently shipped to Massachusetts. The first reportedly landed at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford. According to my tipster, approximately 160 illegal immigrants arrived on that flight and stayed nearly a week before being transferred to a Department of Homeland Security site and then released.

The second flight reportedly was diverted from Hanscom to Boston's Logan Airport this past weekend. I am told that both Massachusetts and New Hampshire officials were on hand. I reached out to Hanscom AFB for confirmation, but did not receive a call back by my deadline.

Question: How many other military bases are stealthily being used to redistribute, house, process and release illegal border crossers?

What we do know for sure is that the Obama administration already has converted several other military bases across the country into outposts for tens of thousands of illegal aliens from Central and South America.

San Antonio's Lackland Air Force Base opened its doors as an illegal immigrant camp last month. Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura County, Calif., will shelter nearly 600 illegal border-crossing children and teens. The Fort Sill Army post in Lawton, Okla., was ordered on Friday to take in 1,200 illegal aliens despite the objections of GOP Gov. Mary Fallin, who blasted the White House, saying, "The Obama administration continues to fail in its duty to protect our borders and continues to promote policies that encourage, rather than discourage, illegal immigration."

A makeshift detention center in Nogales, Ariz., is being used as the central clearing station for the latest illegal alien surge. The deluge is a threat to national security, public safety and public health — not to mention a slap in the face to the law-abiding men and women in uniform on those bases and a kick in the teeth to law-abiding people around the world patiently waiting for approval of their visas.

Meanwhile, a law enforcement source in Texas tells me this week that countless illegal aliens are being released into the general public despite testing positive for tuberculosis. "The feds are putting them on public transportation to God knows where," he said.
Another source, working in the border patrol in south Texas, tells me: "Our station, along with every other station, is flooded with women and small children. One lady yesterday had a baby as young as 8 months. And they're coming over with pink eye and scabies. So getting them medically cleared becomes a priority. They'll be here for almost a week, so we provide them with formula and diapers. We have a catering service contracted to feed them because it's too many for us to feed on our own. And of course, they end up being released because every family housing facility is full. They're supposed to show up for immigration court at a later date, but they don't."

Same old, same old. I've reported for years on the feds' catch-and-release games and deportation Kabuki. The "notice to appear" letters — known as "run letters" — are a notorious joke in open-borders circles.

The latest "crisis" is a wholly manufactured byproduct of White House administrative amnesties, which are supported by a toxic alliance of ethnic-vote-seeking Democrats and cheap-labor-hungry Big Business Republicans. The flood comes just as Obama's DHS announced a two-year extension for beneficiaries of the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA) program. A whopping 560,000 illegal aliens have been granted amnesty under DACA and also have received employment authorization.

As I've said for two decades, illegal alien amnesties guarantee two things: more illegal immigration and more Democratic voters. Now we have a White House forcing U.S. military bases to provide interminable benefits and services to illegal aliens for political gain, while said White House evades responsibility for allowing military veterans to die waiting for the most basic of medical services.

And where's the GOP "leadership" in this country? Doing the bidding of the amnesty-loving U.S. Chamber of Commerce and demonizing Republican candidates at every level who are sick and tired of giving away the store and the country.

God save us from bipartisanship.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 07:46

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What do you say? Let's support New Hampshire's family farms

To The Daily Sun,

This time of the year is very special in New Hampshire. Farms are in full swing, raising vegetables and meat proteins for your eating pleasure. Local artisan cheese makers, New Hampshire micro-breweries and wineries have been very busy as well. The choices you have this season are incredible.

Please take the opportunity this year to plan a few meals each week using only local ingredients. Visit your local farms, farmer's markets and co-ops and see what they have. Bring your family and friends with you to discover what is currently available. Plan meals and friendly gatherings around what is available locally. Share these quality products will all whom you love.

The family farms of New Hampshire work long days to bring us some of the best products we can enjoy. They rely on our support to continue operating. So, what do you say?

Please support local.

Don Walker, Co-founder

Barnstead Farmers & Gardeners Network


Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 09:31

Hits: 170

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