February 10, 2012
By Melissa Grimes
The Berlin Daily Sun
WEST STEWARTSTOWN –- The Coos County commissioners made their final 2012 budget revisions Wednesday and will present to the delegation for its approval a $31.6 million budget. The amount to be raised by taxes is up $1,018,160 or 7.7 percent. The commission managed to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes 1.1 percent from the 8.8 percent figure presented at its public budget hearing in December.
The delegation is scheduled to meet on Saturday, March 10 at the Coos County Nursing Home in Berlin to approve a final budget. The commissioners spent about an hour going through a list of proposed adjustments to the budget that totaled an additional $236,000. The commission cut $65,425 from the adjustments, resulting an increase of $170,575 from their original budget proposal. The bulk of the added costs came in the nursing home budgets - $56,000 in for the West Stewartstown nursing hospital and $69,000 for the Berlin nursing home. One new nursing assistant position and one 39-week position were added at West Stewartstown and there were some increase in hours for other positions at both facilities.
The increase in expenditures was more than offset by a $310,500 increase in revenues.The final 2011 budget figures show the county ended the year with a surplus of 2,340,000 - $600,000 more than projected at the December hearing. Some of that added surplus was offset by a $150,000 decrease in Medicaid Quality Incentive Payments from the state and a $228,100 cut in Medicaid reimbursements to the nursing homes. The commissioners approved a motion not to give any wage increases to county employees including both administrative and hourly employees. Step increases will be funded. Based on the decision to not grant raises, the commission rejected a request from the county attorney for a $3,900 increase in the salary for the assistant county attorney. Coos County Attorney Robert Mekeel asked to increase the assistant county attorney's salary from $56,100 to $60,000. The commissioners also denied a request to increase the hours of the clerk in the Victim Witness Advocate's office from 16 to 24 per week.
After some discussion with Coos County Sheriff Gerry Marcou, the commissioners created a $3,000 line item for security for involuntary emergency admissions. Marcou explained that the state hospital in Concord sometimes does not have room to accept IEAs and local hospitals are forced to hold the patients. He said some local hospitals have requested the sheriff's department provide security in those circumstances with the hospital reimbursing the department. Marcou said he wants to be able to help out but the budget does not allow him to accept the payments and pay his deputies. County Administrator Sue Collins and the commissioners said the solution was simply to create a line item so the payments and money could be tracked.
Marcou said he thought $3,000 would be sufficient to cover the security details. The revenue budget was adjusted to include a line item offsetting the expenditure.The commissioners also made changes in the budget for the unincorporated places to respond to two request for funding from outside organizations. The unincorporated places budget is entirely funded by revenues generated by the unincorporated places and does not impact the county tax rate.Earlier in the meeting the commission heard appeals for money from two separate initiatives.
Larry Gomes, assistant trail master for the White Mountain Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club asked for a $1,500 donation to help the club raise funds for an emergency response vehicle to rescue injured snowmobile and ATV riders from remote trail locations. The proposed vehicle would be a utility terrain vehicle capable of negotiating rough terrain in any season. It would have a specialized medical transport skid attached to the cargo bed that could accommodate a patient and medical attendant as well as medical supplies.Gomes said Fish and Game officials met with the club last spring and encouraged the organization to lead an effort to purchase such a vehicle. It would be used through the eastern side of the county.
The total cost is almost $40,000. The club is seeking a $20,000 grant from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Charitable Foundation and has also received financial commitments from Milan and Berlin. Auto North has agreed to donate $25 for each car it sells in the month of February.
Commission Chair Burnham Judd expressed concern that a financial donation from the county will lead to requests for money from other clubs. Commissioner Tom Brady said he saw the emergency response vehicle as an economic development initiative since the county is promoting ATV and motorized recreation. Commissioner Paul Grenier said he feels county government needs to play a role in supporting such economic development initiatives. He said it is always a balancing act given the county's fiscal constraints.
The commission also heard a request from North Country Chamber President Wayne Frizzell and Grant Killan of Untamed Adventure Racing for $7,500 to help sponsor the North Country Endurance Challenge on Sept. 8. The multi-sport mountain race will be run on an off-road course and will involved biking, running, and paddling by both solo racers and relay teams. The course will start on Second Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg and finish in downtown Colebrook. Killan said they hope to attract several hundred participants.
After some discussion, the commission voted to include $500 in the budgets of Success, Kilkenny, and Cambridge to provide a total of $1,500 to the White Mountain Ridge Runners for the emergency response vehicle.
Proposing to give $5,000 to the North Country Endurance Challenge, the commission allocated $2,500 in the Dixville and Millsfield budgets providing the course runs through both those unincorporated places.
In other business:
• The Governor and Executive Council Wednesday approved the Coos County Courthouse renovation project and the lease with the county for the new Coos County Attorney office.
• The commission approved renewal of the emergency medical services agreement with Gorham for coverage of the unincorporated places of Pinkham's Grant, Green Grant, and Martin's Location. The cost increased from $17,984 to $18,758.
• Corrections Superintendent Craig Hamelin reported his department has started the process of submitting DNA collections into the Combined DNA Index System database. Under state law, all convicted felons and sexual offenders are required to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the CODIS. The database, accessible to law enforcement in all 50 states, is designed to provide investigative leads for unsolved criminal cases. He said New Hampshire has had 178 investigations aided due to matches arising from CODIS searches.
• Hamelin said two officials from Primex toured the corrections facility last month. One of the pair, former Concord Police Chief Robert Barry, praised the operation and staff for a high level of professionalism and noted the cleanliness of the facility.
• The county received a $420,000 payment in lieu to taxes from Brookfield Renewable Power for the unincorporated places of Dixville and Millsfield.