Thaw in relations at Alton School Board

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

ALTON — A thaw in the strained relations between a majority of the Alton School Board and a group of parents critical of the decisions it has made in recent months became evident at a meeting of the board Tuesday afternoon at which Board Chairman Steve Miller was applauded after he called for a community forum in July at which concerns of the parents over the direction of the school system can be discussed.
"We can't fix everything overnight, but if we don't start fixing things the kids are going to get hurt and that's something no one wants," said Miller.
He said that a recent extended meeting he had with school officials and parents Kelli Tibbs and Anne Ransom had addressed a number of concerns, including communication, transparency and understanding other peoples' points of view and had been conducted in what he described as a ''dignified and civil atmosphere."
Miller said the ideal time for a community forum, which would be conducted in an open format allowing for a give and take between the public and members of the board and school administrators, would be in early July, once the district's new superintendent, Pamela Stiles, has taken over the reins.
The school board and the parents have been at odds ever since February when a petition calling for the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Maureen Ward, Alton Central School Principal Cris Blackstone and Special Education Director Jennifer Katz-Borrin, which was signed by 242 people, was presented to the school board.
Miller said at that time that the board would discuss those concerns at its April 4 meeting, which was recessed abruptly after there was a 2-2 tie vote between him and new board member Peter Leavitt for the chairmanship. The majority of the board, Miller, Sandy Wyatt and Terri Noyes, then voted to hold an emergency meeting on April 25 which Leavitt and the other new board member Michael Ball, were unable to attend.
Miller was elected chairman at that meeting, which drew more than 60 people who protested the board's action in voting without the new members present.
Jeffrey Clay, a member of the public who has been critical of Alton town officials, repeated his call for Miller, Wyatt and Noyes to resign from the board, maintaining that they were in violation of the state's Right-to-Know law and had violated the trust of the public,
He said that Miller is "incompetent" and had acted beyond the powers of his chairmanship by meeting with the parents and school administrators without a vote of authorization from the school board.
Clay, who was arrested and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct while speaking at a meeting of the Alton Board of Selectmen in February 2015, was awarded $42,500 by the town of Alton in settlement of the federal civil rights suit he brought against the town for violating his constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Opechee ‘flasher’ gets 3 1/2 to 7

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — After nearly a year of litigation, and a last-minute attempt to fire his attorney, a man who exposed himself to a number of children at Opechee Park in September of 2014 was sentenced to serve 3 ½ to 7 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for one count of felony indecent exposure. He was credited with 525 days of time served.

Daniel King, 53, was found guilty by a jury in February after a six-day trial that saw many of his young victims take the stand and identify him.

In Belknap County Superior Court Tuesday, King had filed a motion to represent himself, which the judge said he could do, but denied King's request to file his own motion for setting aside the jury verdict.

Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen held sway when she said King's recent motion were only "trying to delay the inevitable."

Public Defender Eric Wolpin, who remained as King's attorney for the sentencing, said the state had chosen to define King by "the sum of his worst moments" when in fact he had worked with the homeless community in Concord, of which he was a member, to get food to people and create a food pantry.

Wolpin argued for a reduced sentence of 2 to 4 years, all suspended on good behavior, because while King had made mistakes in his past, he still maintained King's innocence in the Opechee incident and said he had done many good things for people.

While Judge James O'Neill sentenced King to the maximum allowable sentence under law, he did include a provision that King should get sexual offender programming and should receive good time for any classes or programs he completes while incarcerated. Guldbrandsen had not included these in her sentencing recommendations.

King was also sentenced yesterday to serve 3 ½ to 7 years for assaulting a prisoner while he was awaiting trial. He suspended 1 ½ years from the minimum sentence and three years off the maximum pending his good behavior. By law, this sentence must be served after the first sentence is completed.

Last year, King pleaded guilty to a federal count of failing to register his address(s) during his late 2014 flight from Concord to Arkansas where he was arrested by the U.S. Marshal Office. He has yet to be sentenced on those charges but told the court yesterday he expects he will serve at least 24 months in federal prison after his release from state prison.

Trustees vote: Meredith Library to move

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — The Board of Trustees of the Meredith Public Library voted Tuesday to leave the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library building, where the institution has operated for the past 115 years, for a new home to be constructed at a location and at a time that remains to be determined.

Duncan McNeish said that although the board divided 5 to 2, the dissenters agreed that the library should move to a new location while preferring to defer a decision and announcement until a suitable property was found and acquired. He said that the vote carries the caveat that the trustees could rescind the decision in light of "unforeseen circumstances."

The vote followed nearly a decade of discussion among successive trustees about the future of the library overshadowed by the steady deterioration of its historic building and mounting pressures on its limited space.

McNeish said that the majority of the board favored a timely decision to assuage residents who, after a series of public forums on the future of the library, wondered "Are we staying or leaving?" At the same time, he said the decision affords the Board of Selectmen and the town plenty of time to decide what to do with the original library building.

"We're not leaving tomorrow," he said, adding that the process of raising funds, purchasing land and constructing a library could take three or four years.

In the meantime, the decision poses practical and legal issues for the town, which the trustees outlined for the selectmen earlier this week. First, as town manager Phil Warren, the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library is in need of some $750,000 worth of repairs in order to comply with building and fire codes.

Attorney Andrew Livernois, representing the trustees, explained to selectmen that because the library building sits on land owned by the town, but was built and donated by a benefactor, if it no longer serves as a library, the town will be left a building subject to the law governing charitable trusts, which is administered by the New Hampshire Department of Justice.

In particular, the library would become subject to a section of the law, known as "cy pres," from the French meaning "as close as possible." The doctrine of "cy pres" provides that if an original charitable purpose can no longer be fulfilled, an interested party may petition the court to pursue another purpose which "is useful to the community and which fulfills as nearly as possible the general charitable intent of the original donor."

In other words, if the town chose to puts the building to another public purpose, it could negotiate an arrangement with the Division of Charitable Trusts and file a "cy pres" petition with the probate court legitimizing the changed use of the building. However, if the town chose to sell the property to a private party, it would be required to compensate the Meredith Public Library with the proceeds from the transaction to fulfill the charitable intent of the original benefactor.

Likewise , Livernois reminded the selectmen, the library was awarded a $70,000 grant by the Land and Community Heritage Program to replace the copper gutters on the building. Livernois said that if the building were sold to private party, the town would likely be required to refund the grant.

Furthermore, in 1985, the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

McNeish emphasized that "the library trustees want to work collaboratively with the selectmen and the town to ensure a smooth transition."

Meredith Public Library 2016

The Meredith Public Library (Laconia Daily Sun file photo)