A look back at Gilford 2009


December 30, 2009
A New Year is on its way, and as the Gilford Steamer awaits the stories of 2010, it reflects on the biggest headlines of 2009.

In 2009, the Gilford Budget Committee endorsed a petitioned warrant article to allocate funds for the Belmont-Gilford Ice Hockey Boosters Association, for the first local cooperative varsity ice hockey team. The warrant slid by with a 6-5 vote on a request for $4,250 to help maintain coaches and officials. The warrant article was then accepted by voters in March.

Two non-governmental agencies, including Belknap County Citizens on Children & Families' Restorative Justice Program, and a related Youth Services program, set out petitioned warrant articles requesting funds in order to create a joint support system. The warrants passed by voters, although they were not recommended by the Budget Committee.

The Board of Selectmen agreed to contribute $2,500 to a lawsuit against the state, claiming the state has created unfunded mandates by shifting retirement costs to New Hampshire towns, which went into effect June 1. The state's retirement contribution dropped from 35 percent to 30 percent to save money for state funded agencies and programs. Percentages are projected to drop again by 25 percent in July, 2009.

This past summer, Marine Patrol officers cracked down on speeding and drunken boating on Lake Winnipesaukee. A speed limit maximum of 45 mph during the day and 25 mph at night went into effect as of Jan. 1, 2009.

Two summers ago, Erica Blizzard, 34, was indicted on charges of negligent homicide as a result of a boat accident in Gilford, which killed her friend Stephanie Beaudoin, 34, of Meredith. The New Hampshire court system prepared for her case in June of 2009, where her attorney asked for a continuance until later in the year.

The Board of Selectmen passed a new ordinance governing the Glendale launch and parking facilities prior to last summer, and revisited these new regulations to determine their efficiency. Selectmen found that residents and commercial contractors seemed satisfied with these new regulations after they went into effect. Due to parking lot congestion and guest pass abuse, the selectmen decided to charge $25 for a guest pass with parking access, and $50 for boat launching and parking for a season pass.

Gilford motioned to throw out the lawsuit pertaining to former Town Administrator Evans Juris, who claimed he was wrongfully fired. In 2008, Juris filed for a wrongful termination suit against the town of Gilford, and the town responded with a defense brief denying any wrongful action.

The new Gilford Public Library, now located on Potter Hill Road, experienced a smooth transition and a successful first full year in their new location. Librarians handed out a higher percentage of library cards and checked out a record number of books for 2009.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Connie Grant decided not to run for reelection. Out of three candidates running for the election seat, including Dale Channing Eddy and Joseph Hoffman, John O'Brien made the final cut with former experience in corporate management, and a seat on various Gilford committees. O'Brien, a Gilford resident since 1991, joined Gus Benavides and Kevin Hayes.

Although the Planning Board endorsed the Facility Planning Committee's $1.58 million project proposal for a new police station addition, the warrant article was turned down by voters in March. The project included more storage space, geothermal heating, and an additional sally port. A survey was sent out to voters to determine exactly why the warrant was denied, and although most were in favor of the project, they said this was not the proper economy to take on such a project in. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said a police station addition and town hall renovation ($1 million project) is in the works, yet just a month ago, the FPC decided to place the proposal on hold until 2011.

Gilford Fire Rescue's Fire Training Facility proposal was approved by the Board of Selectmen the second time around. The training facility will be situated at the town's unused Recycling Center located on Kimball Road. The facility will be constructed and used with no cost to the taxpayers.

The Board of Selectmen continued to push for 100 percent coal tar removal vs. the 80 percent removal proposed by GEI Consultants representing National Grid for the ongoing controversy on Liberty Hill. Nearby residents are concerned about their water supply, since contaminated soil is still present under the Liberty Hill site, dated back to the 1950s. The estimated number for the current plan, not yet in place by the DES, would cost about $10,924,529.

For the first time, Gilford appointed cemetery trustees. Chair Susan Leach, Dee Chitty of Public Works, and Judith Cott are currently working to restore the history of Gilford and preserve older town cemeteries. Their positions were created in response to a 1994 statute, which requires New Hampshire towns to appoint cemetery trustees.

The Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee approved a $30,593 union contract for town employees, teachers, and the Department of Public Works. The DPW contract called for all employees to contribute 10 percent of their healthcare. Over the next few years, the town plans to implement this percentage to all departments, which would save $11,000 a year. Their pay raise system is now based on merit and performance reviews.

Gilford Community Church construction is completed, and the new Gilford Youth Center was dedicated to the town by Governor John Lynch during an opening ceremony. The youth facilities are open to the public. After tabling a Memorandum of Understanding pertaining to the town plowing the GCC parking lot, the selectmen have decided to reopen the issue for consideration in January, after residents did not support their prior actions.

The vintage 70-meter ski jump located at Gunstock made it to the Seven to Save list for 2009 on behalf of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance in an attempt to restore the historic 1930s ski jump for present day use, and in honor of Nordic sport history. Local advocate Carol Anderson nominated the ski jump, along with two smaller ones, and hopes to move along the project in preparation for the next few winters and Olympic jumpers.

Selectmen questioned the condition and popularity of the town ice rink located on Varney Point Road, now that it faces competition with the Laconia Ice Arena. They discussed running the facility for one more year and then discontinuing it, but after this announcement was made, volunteers near and far came out of the woodwork to make some repairs and ensure the rink stays in use.

Resident and conservative radio personality Doug Lambert retired to a "private life" after making controversial and offensive comments towards state Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. Lambert decided to resign from the Budget Committee and no longer writes a column in local newspapers, blogs on GraniteGrok or runs his radio show through WEMJ studios. After the controversy ensued, Lambert issued several letters of apologies and remorse to Buckley, to the public, and to his fellow comrades.

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