Belmont officials urge commissioners to explore all options
July 14, 2010
BELMONT — In its second stop of its annual community tour, the Belknap County Commission heard a more enthusiastic response to the ideas it presented.
The commissioners met with the Belmont Board of Selectmen Monday to ask for feedback on the potential privatization of the county nursing home and the regionalization of juvenile justice services, among other things.
"Our whole goal honestly is to try to listen more than we talk," Commission Chairman Chris Boothby said.
Boothby presented the board with suggestions that have been brought to them and said he specifically wanted to hear thoughts about privatizing the nursing home.
"I think that the county commissioners have taken what I would consider a reasonable step to explore that option," Boothby said.
He called the nursing home a "wonderful asset" and said the county would have to be careful about any change in structure or ownership but also pointed out that it could save taxpayers an average of $3.5 million a year – roughly 10 percent of the county budget.
"In our role as the stewards of the county's assets and the managers of the county's budget, when somebody says 10 percent of your budget is in play, you have to at least listen," Commission Vice Chairman Edward Philpot said.
The selectmen agreed.
"Anywhere that the communities can save resources makes things better as far as I'm concerned," board Chair Ron Cormier said.
Cormier said that after the county discussions last year, several town administrators tried to continue talking about group-buying strategies. He said that what started as a strong group was now down to two administrators, and he finds it "disheartening."
He said it's unfortunate that some town officials aren't willing to give up control and therefore won't take advantage of potential cost savings.
"Personally I think you've got to explore whatever options are available," Cormier said.
Selectman Jon Pike asked the commissioners about county employees' insurance. Boothby said they have less than 300 full-time employees and get insurance through Primex.
"For a small town, we don't have enough employees, and we don't qualify for those terms (with Primex)," Pike said.
Belmont has approximately 50 employees and gets its insurance through the Local Government Center.
"We're almost forced into that fund," Pike said. "Your employees have a better plan. I would ask that in the interest of saving money for the communities ... that you people assist us with your numbers (to get a better health insurance plan)."
Boothby said he is aware that Primex is willing to talk about it and agreed that the commissioners should look into it.
"I'm pro regionalization," Pike said. "The numbers are there, county wise."
Commissioner Richard Long said he heard during last year's talks that there should be more give and take between the towns and wondered whether Belmont would be interested in working with neighboring towns to create a wildlife corridor.
Cormier pointed out at Belmont already has contiguous conservation land with Gilford, and the board seemed open to more exploration.