County guts CORE program

Final Belknap County budget undermines corrections goals


LACONIA — The Belknap County Delegation approved a $27.9 million budget Tuesday night that significantly cuts a key program at the new Belknap Community Corrections Center.

The adopted budget reduces funding for the CORE program by $92,000, from $220,000 to $128,000. That budget was the work of Rep. Marc Abear (R-Meredith) and was one of three oprions under consideration by the delegation, which last month rejected the $29 million budget proposed by the Belknap County Commission.

The Corrections Opportunity for Recovery and Education program, which emphasizes treatment rather than incarceration for prisoners with drug dependency problems, was strongly supported at a public budget hearing on Jan. 29.

The county has had a  pilot program run by Horizons Counseling Center for nearly two years. It provided services three days a week for about 10 inmates. After the Community Corrections Center opened in October, the program expanded to five days a week, and Horizons hired three clinicians and a case manager with the goal of eventually serving up to 35 inmates.

There also has been coordination with prosecutors and probation officers to require participation in the CORE program as a condition to be imposed by judges in court cases.

After the delegation adopted Abear’s budget on an 8-5 vote, Rep. David Huot  (D-Laconia) questioned the cut, pointing out that it appeared to be based on incorrect information about how long the program had been operating on an expanded basis.

Abear defended the cut and was supported by Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton), who said that the Corrections Department budget approved by the delegation is  up substantially higher than last year.

County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said the CORE  program is one of the keys to the success of the new corrections center in reducing recidivism and that legislators were fully aware of the costs associated with the program when they voted unanimously in late 2015 to approve an $8 million bond for the center.

Court delays Gilmanton dispute hearing


LACONIA — A court hearing dealing with a dispute between the Gilmanton Board of Selectmen and the town's police chief has been postponed until mid-March.

The one-month delay in the proceeding, which was to have taken place today in Belknap County Superior Court, was approved Tuesday by Superior Court Justice James D. O'Neill III.

Gilmanton Police Chief Matt Currier filed the legal action alleging the selectmen had overstepped their bounds when they ordered the chief to provide them with detailed information about the department's work schedule and other personal information about the officers on the force.

On Feb. 12 Superior Court Justice Amy Ignatius granted a temporary restraining order blocking the selectmen's directive. That order remains in effect until next month's hearing.

The town sought the continuance of the hearing because its attorney, Mark Broth, had a scheduling conflict for today, and also because the town said it needed more time to prepare for the hearing.

At issue is the selectmen's decision in December to require the police chief to keep the board apprised of such department matters as staffing levels, length of shifts, use of cruisers and when officers may travel beyond town limits. Currier is arguing the directives usurp his authority under state law that gives police chief the power direct and control all department employees.

The selectmen, for their part, say the information they are requiring from the chief is critical to their job of overseeing the proper management of all town departments and town personnel.


Trustees select architect for Meredith library project


MEREDITH — Trustees have selected Lavallee Brensinger Architects of Manchester to do the planning and design work for an addition to the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library, and have scheduled an information session on March 1 to give members of the public an update on the expansion project.

Lead architect Ron Lamarre will present a draft of the design and answer questions from the public.

The original library committee, formed to look into how the public library’s space and program needs might be met, had spoken with three architectural firms about designing a solution. Library trustees then followed up with two of the firms, and added another, so three firms ultimately drafted designs and produced cost estimates for the work.

In addition to Lavallee Brensinger, Chris Williams Architects of Meredith and Samyn-d’Elia Architects of Ashland submitted plans.

Ann Butler, president of the library board, said, “It was a challenging decision because all of the architects provided options that met the [bid specifications], but we believe this firm presented the option that best serves current and future library patrons, as well as Meredith’s residents and taxpayers.”

In coming to their unanimous decision to hire Lavallee Brensinger, the trustees considered how the draft designs would meet both anticipated future needs possible unanticipated needs, as well as how they addressed the physical challenges of the 117-year-old building, in terms of both its location and its current layout.

Another top consideration, trustee Betty Strader said, was how the construction would affect library patrons.

“Advantages to the library in the Lavallee Brensinger design included minimal risk and cost, because blasting or chemical removal of ledge won’t be required, flexibility of spaces, future expandability, and phasing that keeps the library fully operational except for  few days during construction,” Strader said. “They also happened to be the most experienced in designing libraries, had the lowest estimated cost for the project, and gave us a guaranteed maximum price.”

The trustees say Lamarre personally led the planning and design of 11 public libraries and more than a dozen academic libraries. He also is a certified education planner, an accredited learning environment professional, and a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-accredited professional. He is a member of the American Library Association.

“We greatly appreciate the time and energy that so many people have already invested in this project,” Butler said. “This includes the talented people at all of the architectural firms that were considered for the project, the members of the Feasibility Advisory Committee, the trustees, the library staff, and the public.”

The informational meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, at the Meredith Community Center.

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Ron Lamarre of Lavallee Brensinger Architects will lead an informational meeting to discuss a conceptual design for the Meredith Public Library on Thursday, March 1, at 6:30 p.m. in the Meredith Community Center. Architectural renderings imagine the update from front and rear. (Courtesy graphics)

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