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Panel sets new $25 million target for county jail

LACONIA — The Belknap County Jail Planning Committee has set a goal of coming up with a ''right-sized'' new county jail after having been advised by consultant Ken Ricci of Ricci Greene that it needs to take steps to break the logjam around the jail project.
Ricci said that the $25 million price which was recently suggested as the upper number which the City of Laconia could buy into without threaterning the city's tax cap could be an acceptable number. Laconia taxpayers will pay about 20 percent of the cost of any project and hikes in county taxes are included under their bottom line cap.
Ricci made that comment in reaction to a statement made at last night's meeting by committee member Alida Millham of Gilford, a former chairperson of the Belknap County Convention, who said that it appears that everyone agrees that a new jail is needed and that the city had put a $25 million number on what it could afford.
''Perhaps we should start with what is viable,'' said Millham.
''The first step is leaving behind the $42 million price tag and coming up with a plan that works for law enforcement and the taxpayers. Call it the right sized plan,'' said Ricci, who said the $42 million was the number his firm reached after putting together a conceptual plan but it was never his firm's recommendation as the only option available. ''We said that if you do x,y and z this is what it will cost,''
He suggested that, given recent numbers which show a decline in the jail's inmate population, one option might be to drop the number of inmate beds to as low as 100 while building a freestanding community corrections facility with 40 beds.
The original plan called for 180 beds, one-third of which would be for community corrections.
He said that the committee should look at what $25 million would buy in terms of a new facility as one of the options it would want to consider.
''Only build as much as you need and leave room for expansion,'' said Ricci, who said that given the condition of the current facility there is no question that a new jail is needed,
He said that a separate free standing community corrections facility could even be built ''right out on the front lawn'' of the Belknap County Complex.
Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward said that while the inmate population is currently around 100, that it could spike again in the near future and that he still thought that the plan which included the community corrections facility as part of the jail was best from a program standpoint.
Ricci and Millham were both critical of comparisons made between Belknap County and Wilkes County, North Carolina, where a jail for over 200 inmates is purportedly being built for $10.63 million.
''It's just a box with beds, not a jail,'' said Ricci, while Millham said that her research had shown that the facility is just one of five sections of a county corrections complex and not a complete jail.
County Commissioner John Thomas said that one of his concerns is that the current county jail will not meet new federal standards and said that is important that a new facility meet those standards and maintained that those who are floating the idea that a fix for the current facility can be achieved for $2 million are just plain wrong.
State Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton) said that people with a political agenda aimed at cutting county government spending "latched on to the $42 million number'' and used it for their own political ends. ''I never thought the $42 million was the real number it would cost. I always thought the projections would change,'' said Fields.
The committee plans to meet again next Tuesday at 6 p.m. to consider modifications to the jail plan in light of new information developed since the jail planning process started over four years ago.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:35

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After hearing pleas not to, Gilford board votes 2-1 to remove ban on fireworks

GILFORD — Selectmen last night voted two to one to eliminate the total ban on non-commercial grade fireworks, a move that may lead to a referendum at the 2015 annual town meeting.

The vote was held after a public hearing in which about seven people spoke against lifting the ban that's been in place since 1988. One person spoke for eliminating the ban.

School Board member Jack Landow, who lives in what he said was a wooded area, said that putting explosives in the hands of untrained individuals doesn't make a lot of sense.

"Those same folks are as high as their Roman candles," he said. "I implore you to maintain the ban and enforce it."

Speaking for eliminating the ban was Chris Ray, who noted there are lots of dangerous things in the world like driving a car, guns and snow boarding but it wasn't the job of the government to protect everybody from everything that can possible hurt them.

A retired Marine, Ray said his family has safely enjoyed fireworks for years and always invites and informs the neighbors when they will be displaying them — usually on the Fourth of July.

He said he supports Gilford new ordinance that sets time limits on when fireworks can be displayed but, overall, also supports overturning the total ban.

Laconia City Councilor Armand Bolduc owns property in Gilford and he urged the selectmen to keep the ban in place. He told a story recently that involves what he said were fireworks, his buffalo herd and his dry fields and said he thinks the non-professional use of them should be banned.

"If you can't enforce it, get more people to enforce it," he said.

Governor's Island resident David Haley, who told the board that for him to come to a meeting it had to be important, said that he opposes lifting the ban because most people don't like fireworks.

After relating his own horror story about fireworks use by out-of-state visitors, he said that people from "Massachusetts and Rhode Island think they can do what they want, apparently violating ordinances."

As to overturning the ordinance, he said that a lot of people don't thinks it's a good idea.

Chairman John O'Brien has been a steadfast supporter of Gilford's fireworks ban. He read a letter from former Selectman Kevin Hayes who said he was "appalled" that the issue of fireworks came up so soon after the composition of the board changed and that none of the three selectmen were elected with any mandate.

Replying to Hayes, Selectman Richard Grenier said that he didn't run for selectman for the express purpose of overturning the fireworks ban. He said he knew it was going to come up sooner or later and decided to bring the matter up now.

The third selectmen, Gus Benevides, has long been opposed to any outright ban on fireworks though he does support restricting the hours of display. When the board voted in 2013 to continue with the ban, he voted against it.

Aside from Grenier's response to Hayes's letter, selectmen had no discussion after the public hearing and went straight to an up-or-down vote.

After the vote, O'Brien said that as a private citizen, he would likely work to get some kind of petition to ban or regulate fireworks that he hopes will be placed before the voters in 2015 at annual Town Meeting.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:17

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Hurt, Vadney, Dumais & Aldrich lead GOP field in District 2

GILFORD & MEREDITH — In Tuesday's Republican primary election for the four seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives in Belknap District 2 George Hurt of Gilford led the four GOP nominees with 977 votes, followed by incumbent Herb Vadney of Meredith with 963 votes, Russ Dumais of Gilford with 895 votes and Glen Adrich of Gilford with 736 votes. Michael Hatch and John Hodson, both of Meredith, polled 481 votes and 430 votes respectively.

Hurt, Vadney, Dumaid and Aldrich will face Democrats Lisa DiMartino, who is seeking her second term in the House, Nancy Frost and Dorothy Piquado, all of Gilford, and Sandra Mucci of Meredith in the general election on November 4.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:06

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Lebreche earns spot on Belmont ballot with successful write-in

BELMONT — In Tuesday's Republican primary election for the two seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives representing Belmont, Shari Lebreche earned a place on the general election ballot by polling 211 write-in votes, many more than the 35 required. Lebreche mounted her write-in campaign after learning that no Republican had filed to fill the spot on the ballot left open by the decision of Charles Fink not to seek re-election.

Lebreche will join incumbent Michael Sylvia, who is seeking a second term, in contesting the two seats with Democrats Ron Cormier and George Condodemetraky in the general election on November 4.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 01:02

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