To The Daily Sun,
Diatribe: a bitter, abusive renunciation. My last letter with regard to jail planning was not meant to abuse anyone but to state how the process has been manipulated to a calculated end, that of the Ricci Greene proposal. Please refer to Hunter Taylor's careful research of alternatives should you desire more information.
For rhetoric to be persuasive, it should avoid excess, either in praise or in negativity. Rep. Huot, as is customary, fails to persuade in his letter to The Sun dated June 24. I disagree with the methodology of the jail planning committee and consider the three million dollar bond proposal one more step in a preconceived direction. This conclusion is based on my own knowledge, opinion and the opinions of many constituents; it is certainly not based on bias or animus and for Rep. Huot to suggest otherwise undermines his credibility.
It is true that Belknap County government is dysfunctional. From the very beginning of this biennium, the commissioners and executive branch
have disrespected the delegation and its power to appropriate public funds. That power has been under constant attack, most recently by the
county administrator at the June 3 jail planning committee meeting when she expressed the desire that only those who are "stakeholders" have a voice in jail planning. John Q. Public and the delegation are stakeholders, inconvenient as that may be for commissioners and the administration. This power was further degraded by Rep. Huot's comments at the June 16 meeting to consider issuance of a bond. He described the convention as lacking any broad legislative authority. The county delegation as a rubber stamp would appear to suit Rep. Huot's views of its duty to appropriate funds.
Rep. Huot states that he does not wish to bore his readers, a rare courtesy extended by the honorable gentleman and one which he has been known to honor in the breach. I am afraid that boring though it may be, our citizenry will need to become informed about this vital issue which affects everyone in the county. The alternative is to add five million dollars a year to the county tax bill, not for one year but for every year going forward.
Rep. Richard B. Burchell
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 09:26
To The Daily Sun,
My name is David DeVoy and I am a Sanbornton resident. I am running for District 1 Belknap County Commissioner. The district includes Laconia, New Hampton, and Sanbornton. I am married with two children and one grandchild. My son serves full-time in the military and I am an Army veteran with 30 years of service. I have been self-employed for more than 25 years and understand the challenges that small businesses encounter every day.
I am running for office to end the debate over the new proposed county jail and the acrimony that has been all too common in the recent county meetings. I understand the urgent need to formulate a plan to accommodate the crisis of inmate housing. I have a developed a conceptual plan that will serve those needs while protecting "Laconia's tax cap", remaining towns and taxpayers.
The Belknap County Commissioners want to build a new $30-40 million jail, with unknown and higher operating costs. This facility will be the size of a football field and require additional staff to monitor twice as many inmates. The jail was built in the late 1970s and expanded in 1988. The majority of public schools in Belknap County are much older than the jail, and no one is talking about tearing them down.
I toured the current facility and found it to be crowded and operated by a dedicated staff. During my visit, there were many young females living in the gym. Unfortunately, many of them were mothers separated from their children. The vast majority of the inmates are in the County Jail for drug and alcohol crimes. Drug use in the Lakes Region is growing and getting worse.
The county commissioners' plan would require a two-thirds majority vote of the County Delegation to give them authority to bond a new jail that we do not need and cannot afford. The commissioners have taken the position that there is no compromise and will welcome any lawsuit to bully their way. A well known defense lawyer attended the last County Convention meeting to inform the delegation that it was only a matter of time before the county would be sued. It was disappointing to see the jail committee and commissioners excited at the proposition of having the county sued. How many more lawsuits will the taxpayers have to pay for under the failed leadership of the commissioners? All three commissioners moved to the back of the room to sit next to this attorney so they could thank him.
I have developed a conceptual plan to tackle the overcrowding at the jail and address the substance abuse problem. My plan would cost less than $2 million and has lower operating costs versus the commissioners' plan of $30-40 million and ballooning operating costs. It would stop any lawsuit dead in its tracks. The plan is simple, affordable, can be executed quickly and will help save lives.
"The Smart Jail Plan"
1. The jail is not beyond repair, just like schools in the district. The cooling and air exchange needs to be replaced/installed and other deferred maintenance needs to be completed.
2. Hire two corrections employees to operate a bracelet program. Fifty percent of the individuals in the jail are in there for nonviolent offenses. This will allow 24 nonviolent inmates to leave the jail and be monitored 24/7. We do not have to feed or provide medical care for these individuals. This same program will also allow another 24 inmates to work a job and return to the jail at night to sleep (work release). The bracelet program is a good option for individuals with limited time left on their sentence. This one program will bring the inmate population below the original designed capacity of the Belknap County Jail.
3. The county commissioners administrative offices and the jail are connected by a hallway. The commissioners have spent several hundred thousand dollars of stimulus money to beautify their space at the expense of the jail. My proposal calls for moving remaining women inmates, not on the bracelet program, to a newly designated women's wing and treatment center. This wing will need to be reworked slightly to house and add any necessary security features. There will be a small number of women living there, because most will be out on the bracelet program and reunited with children/families.
4. The final component of my plan is the treatment center. The county commissioners office is huge and has many conference rooms that can be used as classrooms for existing inmates and people out on bracelets to return for educational training. The GED program, drug and alcohol classes, parenting classes and many others can be successfully taught with little expense to the county through volunteers or contractors.
The county commissioners office needs to find a new space. One option is move to the court house. Currently 2,000-square-feet of office space is available. The county has been actively trying to rent it to the state Department of Corrections, but the negotiations are stalled according the last county commissioners meeting. The second option is to rent space while a decision is made on a more permanent location.
Contact your state representative if you like my plan and please consider voting for me this November. I need your support to get Belknap County back on track and moving forward.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 09:23
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
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 08:49
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
Last Updated on Monday, 23 June 2014 09:28
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
Last Updated on Monday, 23 June 2014 09:19