ON THE RUN
Brian Cornell moves to break past a Berlin defender during the Riverside Wolves' home game in Columbia on Sunday. (Jake Mardin photo)
County Corrections Superintendent Craig Hamelin Set to Retire Dec. 31
By Jake Mardin
Coos County House of Corrections superintendent Craig Hamelin will retire on December 31, ending a career with the county that lasted for over 26 years. The board of commissioners accepted his resignation at their monthly meeting last Wednesday.
"After having a great career at Coos County, at over 26 years I just feel it is time for the next stage in my life," Mr. Hamelin said. "I am proud to have the opportunity to retire from service at 48. I got an early start here after serving in the Air Force and was fortunate to get a great job with great benefits, and I stuck with it."
Mr. Hamelin was appointed to the position in 2010, and said it has been "an honor and a privilege to serve" in the Corrections Department. "I will truly miss the corrections and county staff I have worked with over the years, and the teamwork that goes into managing offenders today," he said. "Corrections is always interesting, with something new coming at you each day. It is a great department and the dedicated and professional staff really strive to make a difference with every individual who must spend time here. One of the biggest challenges has been dealing with an aging facility, while the needs of staff and appropriate care of individuals has increased over the years."
The Coos County House of Corrections was built in 1914 and is the oldest county correctional facility in New Hampshire. "The staff have a lot of pride in the building," Mr. Hamelin said, "and the corrections and maintenance staff has done an excellent job over the years maintaining it."
Mr. Hamelin said that he would assist in the transition process. "I will do whatever I can to make the transition to a new superintendent go smoothly," he said. He also said he plans to spend time with his family, travel, and catch up on outdoor hobbies and projects at home.
(Issue of October 19, 2016)
Malachi Newell won the pumpkin and half the proceeds in the "Guess the weight of the Pumpkin" contest, held on Saturday, October 15 at the Canaan Schools Craft Fair. He guessed 120 pounds, and this fund-raiser will help Canaan's seventh- and eighth-graders attend the Heritage Tour in the spring. (Courtesy photo)
Some Pittsburg Firefighters Returning, Two Ward Positions May Be Filled
By Rob Maxwell
About 40 Pittsburg citizens appeared at the town office on Monday, October 17 and engaged in well over two hours of questions and answers with selectmen Steve Ellis, Richard Lapoint and Brendon McKeage concerning governance of the town's fire department.
An often acrimonious dispute over maintenance of fire department equipment, and the board's handling of a series of resignations and firings of members and officers, has been ongoing for several months, leading to the fire department's current inability to respond fully to fire and rescue situations.
?During the course of Monday's proceedings, Mr. McKeage stated that some departed fire and rescue personnel are returning to service and former officer Steve Kiley, who has been a vocl leader of the public's complaints, publicly announced his intention to return to the department. Mr. McKeage and Mr. Lapoint pointed out that they and fire ward Richard Baribeau would begin canvassing departed members and officers by telephone in an attempt to bring back as many as possible. "You were on our list," Mr. Lapoint told Mr. Kiley.
Mr. McKeage stated further that two returning firemen have expressed interest in applying for two fire ward positions. Mr. McKeage and Mr. Lapoint are now filling two of the three fire ward postings in addition to their selectman duties on an interim basis as required by law.
?A group of Pittsburg citizens recently formed an organization to explore the removal or replacement of the three selectmen. At Monday's session Richard Judd, who was elected preident of this group on October 6, engaged in heated exchanges with Mr. McKeage including one in which McKeage announced he would not seek re-election as a selectman. Mr. Judd responded by asking, "Why don't you just resign right now?"
A request regarding an account of how many firefighters are now active within the department brought an uncertain reply from Mr. McKeage. "It's hard to know exactly, because some of the
ones who left have told us they are taking leaves of absence, others left on a verbal rather than a written basis, and there are a few who work as firefighters in Berlin but officially live here."
Mr. McKeage eventually reckoned that the current roster, "totals 16 to 17 with Steve (Kiley), and this is just one example of the dilemma the board has been facing. We don't want to run this department, but someone has to be responsible for trying to manage all this."
A good portion of the meeting was spent discussing the ramifications of an unsigned letter that many believe was written by a fire department member, and listed a series of department deficiencies concerning maintenance of hoses, pumps and ladders. This letter was widely distributed last year within the department, and was seen by the selectmen. When asked if this letter led to direct involvement of the selectmen in department affairs, Mr. McKeage and Mr. Ellis both said it did; Mr. Lapoint was not a selectmen at this time, and did not respond to the question. "We would have been irresponsible not to have done so," said Mr. McKeage, "and it turned out there were some problems with maintenance and documentation that could have led to serious problems if someone got hurt."
The board was also asked if any attempt has been made to learn the identity of the author of the letter, as this seems to be a central issue in the departure of many firemen and officers. "It doesn't matter who wrote it," Mr. McKeage immediately responded. "Signature or no signature, we did the right thing by accepting and acting on that letter." Mr. Kiley pointed out that the letter in question, which he claimed to have seen, "included personal attacks on fire department members."
Questions about a course of action to restore the viability of the fire department saw the selectmen repeat their intention to contact former members by telephone, which prompted one in attendance to suggest a better course might involve sending out registered letters so that inquiries and responses would all be in writing. Mr. Ellis said he believes, "Sitting down in a calm manner and trying to decide where we need to go will help." Mr. Lapoint added to this by saying, "If we're going to have an effective meeting, I think we (the selectmen) need to sit down alone with the wards and officers without interference from constant public input."
Mr. Judd alluded to the possibility of there soon being a board of fire wards excluding Mr. McKeage and Mr. Lapoint. "If new wards urge you to let the recently reinstated fireman go, would you back that?" he asked. Mr. McKeage replied, "We have to follow legal procedures, and like it or not, final responsibility for the town's affairs, including the fire department, ultimately falls on the selectman. All we're asking is proper equipment that has been properly maintained and tested with records of that kept."
The meeting wound down with a few questions about the town's current status with the Beecher Falls Fire Department and mutual aid. "We are responding with what we have to toned call-outs in town," stated Mr. McKeage, "and so is Beecher Falls, for which they are charging us. There is no mutual aid agreement between us and them right now, and that's why we will be trying to get as many firemen back as possible."
(Issue of October 12, 2016)
REACHING THE TOP
Students at Colebrook Elementary School wave to firefighter Andrew Nolette as he sits at the end of Colebrook Fire Department's ladder truck's extension on Thursday, with Lt. Jason Rella at the controls, when the department visited the school as part of Fire Prevention Week activities. (Jake Mardin photo)
Judge Dismisses LaPerle Petition, Says Case Should Go to Zoning Board
By Rob Maxwell
Judge Andrew A. MacLeod granted a motion by Grampy's owner John Kohler and Andrew Hicks to dismiss Guy LaPerle's ongoing case in Coos Superior Court on Monday, October 3. On the same day, Judge MacLeod denied a motion for contempt and sanctions pertinent to the case.
The dispute between Mr. Kohler, Mr. Hicks, the Town of Colebrook and Mr. LaPerle traces to a May 3 decision by the Colebrook planning board to approve Mr. Kohler's site plan, whereby he relocated his drive-in food business from Colby Street to a lot adjacent to LaPerle's IGA on Route 3 that he was purchasing from Mr. Hicks.
During the May 3 hearing, Lancaster attorney John Riff, representing Mr. LaPerle, contended that the application violated a standing Colebrook zoning ordinance on several counts. The 3-2 approval of Mr. Kohler's application in May saw board members Sue Collins and John Jolles voting against the application after voicing their opinions that the board should first review this ordinance and the application.
An additional, specially called planning board meeting on May 20 saw the board unanimously approve Mr. Kohler's plans to erect fencing, install a wheeled kitchen trailer, a shed and portable toilets on the Route 3 lot. Mr. LaPerle subsequently appealed to Coos Superior Court, claiming the town had incorrectly approved the application and inappropriately given Mr. Kohler the go-ahead to begin operating his business.
Judge MacLeod heard the motion to dismiss from Mr. Kohler and Mr. Hicks, along with Mr. LaPerle's motion of contempt, on September 1 at Grafton Superior Court. The defendants' motion to dismiss centered on their contention that LaPerle was required to seek relief from the Colebrook Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) before bringing the matter to the court. The ZBA is an appointed, five-member panel that meets to consider complaints regarding ordinance violations for ongoing building projects.
Judge MacLeod's order to dismiss addresses the issue of ZBA jurisdiction, saying, "The plain language of RSA 676:5, III makes clear that when a planning board makes a decision applying or interpreting a zoning ordinance, that decision must be appealed to the zoning board of adjustment pursuant to the procedures set for appeals to the board of adjustment under RSA 676:5." The judge stated further, "The fact that the Planning Board declined to address each zoning objection raised by the plaintiffs or failed to render specific, written findings does not preclude the plaintiffs from appealing the Board's decision to the ZBA."
Judge MacLeod's rulings mean that Mr. LaPerle's case will not be considered further by the court at this time, and leaves the door open for him to bring the matter before the ZBA. Colebrook town manager Becky Merrow and planning board chairman David Brooks declined to comment on the court's ruling, citing their concern that their testimony may be sought at a future ZBA hearing. At present, no notification of a ZBA hearing on this matter has been announced.
(Issue of October 19, 2016)