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Penguin gas station receives approvals from Belmont planning and zoning boards

BELMONT — The Zoning Board of Adjustments granted Belmont Penguin Real Estate Holdings, LLC a variance to to build a gas pump canopy closer to the front property line on Route 106 than the 50-feet allowed by existing zoning ordinances.

Penguin engineer Matthew Moore told a 4-member ZBA that the company wants to move the canopy closer to the road to improve the turning radius and to provide fire trucks better access and maneuverability to reduce the risk they will collide with the canopy.

He said the entrance will remain one-way as will the exit to the south of the former D & D County Market and Deli.

In a meeting held earlier in August, the Planning Board approved a site plan that would relocate the diesel fuel pumps, pave and reconfigure the parking area, add fuel pumps, remove the propane filling tank, add a retaining wall, add a drive-through canopy and enlarge a walk-in cooler.

The reconfiguration of the parking lot and the addition of a 4-foot chain-link fence is necessary because Penguin was unable to come to financial terms with abutter George Condodemetraky about renting land previously used by D & D Market for parking and snow removal.

Minutes of the August 24 Planning Board meeting reflect the Condodemetrakys had numerous concerns with the latest site plan including storm-water runoff, the number of parking spaces and doubling the number of gas pumps.

Town Planner Candace Daigle said engineers designed the storm-water runoff and it has always worked in the past. She said there were no new gas tanks being added so the pumping capacity has not changed and the Planning Board can adjust the number of parking spaces, which actually increased from 20 to 21 without using the six spaces along the berm that separates Route 106 from the property. Daigle added that parking spaces are within the purview of the Planning Board and can be adjusted by them during the site plan review.

Site plan conditions include obtaining all DOT permits, swapping the location of the dumpster, adding one parking space, adding a 4-foot chain link fence along the property line, filling the opening of the of the existing guardrail on the southern border, striping the "no parking loading zone" south of the new fuel island, eliminating the six spaces along the Route 106 berm, and adding gas pumps that take credit and debit cards to reduce foot traffic to the store.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 September 2015 12:58

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32 years of public service - Pattison served critical role for State House, Laconia parks

LACONIA — The state and the city will soon bid farewell to a an exemplary public servant with the retirement of Jeff Pattison after 32 years with Office of the Legislative Budget Assistant (LBA) at the State House, the last six of them at its helm, and 14 years as a member of the Laconia Parks and Recreation Commission, a decade of them as its chairman.

Pattison and his wife Judy, who have lived in Laconia since 1977, intend to move to San Diego, California, where his brother has lived for some time and close to both their sons, A.J. and Tyler.

"Jeff has been a big asset to the community," said Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, "and we're going to miss him." During Pattison's tenure the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, where he donated the dugouts on the baseball diamond in memory of his father, came to fruition. Pattison contributed to bringing the New England Collegiate Baseball League to Laconia and served as a director of the Laconia Muskrats. A number of city parks and playing fields were renovated and improved under his direction. Dunleavy recalled that Pattison would come to commission meetings at 7 p.m., still dressed for work, and return to the State House when the meeting adjourned. "Jeff brought a lot to the table and there was lots of change on his watch," Dunleavy remarked.

Pattison joined the LBA in 1983 after working for seven years at Pike Industries, and in 2009, after serving with three of his four predecessors, became the fifth Legislative Budget Assistant since the position was established in 1947. The LBA consists of two divisions, the budget division, which provides technical assistance to the Legislature on all fiscal issues, and the audit division, which conducts financial, compliance and performance audits of state departments, agencies, commissions and programs.

A non-partisan office, the LBA works for the House and the Senate, the Republicans and the Democrats, the majority and the minority as well as with the many departments, agencies, boards and commissions throughout state government. "We work for them all," Pattison said, "and we walk a fine line." The position is a demanding one, particularly every other year when the Legislature prepares the biennial budget. The LBA staff often works late into the evening — even into the next morning — Pattison routinely went to his office on Sundays.

Recalling that he first stepped into the State House the day he began work 32 years ago, Pattison said "it's been my second home ever since.'" When he began he worked without a computer, only IBM Selectric typewriters and Monroe calculators. "That was our automation," he said.

Pattison said that in three decades there has been significant turnover in the office, but took pride that more than 20 former employees of the LBA are at work in other state agencies today. The experience, he said, "is all about the people I've dealt with. I would say thousands when you think about it over 32 years."

Senator Chuck Morse (R-Salem), who has worked closely with Pattison as both Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and President of the Senate, described him as "truly one of the people who really cares about New Hampshire." Stressing his professionalism, he said that "Jeff served both the Senate and the House, Republicans as well as Democrats and treated all of us just the same. " He noted that "he can take a complicated subject and make it work for every member of our legislature. Everybody agrees," he continued, "the level of integrity of the LBA is top notch."

Representative Neal Kurk (R-Weare), whose career on the House Finance Committee, paralleled Pattison's at the LBA prized his "unflappability" and described him as "evenhanded" and "exceptionally competent."

Representative Mary Jane Wallner (D-Conocrd), one of only two Democrats to chair the House Finance Committee in the last century, called Pattison "a great teacher," who tutored lawmakers not only about the budget but also about leadership.

Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, also underlined Pattison's professional approach to his responsibilities. "He could navigate the waters of politics," she said, adding that "anybody can swim about in calm waters, but its the stormy seas that take an exceptional person."

Matt Lahey recalled that he and his wife Chris went to dinner with the Pattisons virtually every Saturday night for years. Pattison's sons were contemporaries, classmates and friends of the Lahey children. "Jeff really took that job very seriously," Lahey said, "but, he was a great father who was always involved with the boys, helping with their academics and coaching their sports. This city will miss them."

"It's really been a great run," Pattison said, characteristically adding that he was confident he was leaving the LBA in position to serve the Legislature in the manner to which it has become accustomed.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 September 2015 12:53

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Gilford man pleads guilty to rape, will spend at least 18 years in prison

LACONIA – A Belknap County Superior Court judge accepted a Gilford man's guilty plea to three counts of rape yesterday and sentenced him to a minimum of 18 years in the N.H. State Prison. Douglas Fisher, 55, also pleaded guilty to one count each of burglary and robbery.

As part of the negotiated plea agreement, five years of the minimum of Fisher's sentence can be suspended provided he remain on good behavior while incarcerated and successfully complete a sexual offender rehabilitation program within the first five years of his incarceration.

He will be registered for life as a sex offender.

During her offer of proof, Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen told the court the state would prove that just before midnight on May 7, 2014, Fisher broke in the door of a 54-year-old woman's room on the Gilford side of the Margate Resort and Inn and, after a struggle, tied the woman hands behind her back with her shirt and raped her three times.

Guldbransen said the victim was in the area on business and was the only occupant of the Margate who was staying in the Gilford side of the resort. She said the victim would testify she went to bed at 9 p.m. that evening and was awaken by Fisher when he smashed in her door. She said it was dark and she couldn't identify her assailant. The victim unsuccessfully fought back and was told to keep quiet.

After the rape, Guldbrandsen said the woman was ordered by Fisher to find her pocketbook and give him the money in it which she estimated to be $200. Even though he threatened to return, once Fisher left, the victim found her cell phone and called police.

K-9 Patrol Officer Adam VanSteensburg responded almost immediately as he was in the area. Guldbrandsen said he would testify he found the door jam on Room 103 splintered and broken.

Once back up officers arrived VanSteensburg and his dog began a search that eventually led to a small house on the property where Fisher, who was employed by the Margate as a maintenance worker, lived. He spoke with Fisher who denied being near the motel that night.

Guldbrandsen said the victim was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital where her injuries were consistent with what she said happened to her. DNA swabs were taken and in August, a forensic doctor working at the state lab found sperm cells in one of the swabs. The DNA was extracted and entered into CODIS – the FBI's Combined DNA Index System and was matched to Fisher who was a felon convicted of drug sales in 1979 and who served a nine-month sentence.

Gilford Police obtained a warrant for Fisher's DNA and found it to be a match.

Guldbrandsen told the court the most important thing about the plea bargain was "finality and closure" for the victim. When Judge James O'Neill asked her why there was no restitution on the robbery conviction, Guldbrandsen replied that the victim said she didn't want anything from him nor did she want to be at his sentencing.

She described the victim as a "strong woman" who was moving on with her life.

Fisher was defended by Public Defenders Eric Wolpin and Amy Ashworth. Wolpin told the court that the case was difficult for everyone involved and his client agreed to take responsibility for his actions so he and his victim could move on with their lives. Wolpin asked the court to accept the plea.

Guldbrandsen said the plea bargain addressed three important components of justice – punishment, rehabilitation and closure for the victim. She emphasized to O'Neill that the victim did not want to relive her ordeal at a trial.

Aside from pleading guilty separately to all five counts and telling the court that he understood the rights he was waiving by accepting the plea, Fisher said nothing and stared straightforward during most of the nearly hour-long hearing.

Gilford Police Sgt. Christopher Jacques and Det. Denise Parker were the lead investigators in the case and both were at yesterday's sentencing.

"Today is all about the victim," Jacques said after the sentencing. "The fact of the matter is that this is closure for a strong woman."

Parker echoed Jacques and said she's very happy the victim found some closure.

Last Updated on Friday, 04 September 2015 01:52

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Changing of the guard: Warren takes over as CEO of LRGHealthcare

LACONIA — "I'm picking up the baton Chuck is handing off," remarked Seth Warren, who will take up the reins as chief executive officer of LRGHealthcare next month, succeeding Chuck Van Sluyter, the interim CEO appointed when Tom Clairmont retired a year ago.

Warren and Van Sluyter yesterday discussed the transition together with the strategic plan developed by the Board of Trustees, staff, partners and patients to address the changing health care marketplace.

Warren has spent the last 16 years with the Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, Inc. or Francisan Alliance, a Catholic health care system headquartered in Mishawaka, Indiana consisting of 13 hospitals and numerous clinics, with 18,000 employees, the last six as president of St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights and Olympia Fields, Illinois, a 400-bed teaching hospital. He is well acquainted with the challenges posed by the aging, uninsured and underinsured population served by LRGH as 45 percent of the patients at St. James Hospital were enrolled in Medicare and another 15 percent in Medicaid.

"I came in with my eyes wide open," said Warren, moving Van Sluyter to add "there's no place to hide."

Warren said that the overarching objective will be to provide a continuum of care with the goal of "trying to keep people out of hospital," where both the hospital and its patients incur costs that can be avoided by a regimen of preventive care, managing illness and wellness programs.

The strategic plan sets a number of priorities. First and foremost it calls for assessing the needs of the population LRGH serves and tailoring services to meet them, which will include expanding the walk-in clinic — Convenience Care — along with pediatric and gynecological services. At the same time, in partnership with Genesis Behavioral Health, Horizons Counseling Center and other agencies LRGH will seek to improve and integrate treatment for mental illness and substance abuse mental health in the community.

LRGH will enhance and pursue its collaborative relationships with other healthcare and social service providers in the region to ensure a seamless experience for patients. Tightening communication and procedures between health care providers in different departments within LRGH and with other agencies in the community will improve management of patients and outcomes of treatment. And telehealth services, like those used to treat stroke victims in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital, will be expanded.

Van Sluyter said that several other initiatives are already underway. The emergency department will be expanded. The debt will restructured. And communications about the treatment and conditions of patients between practitioners within the hospitals will be computerized through a partnership with the Speare Memorial hospital in Plymouth.

Of all LRGH's collaborative relationships the Granite Health Network, a consortium of five of the largest hospitals in the state formed in 2011, is especially promising. The aim of the partnership is to leverage clinical and administrative resources of the members to improve the quality and efficiency of medical services. Van Sluyter said that efficiencies approaching $5 million have already been achieved.

Earlier this year the network announced the Tufts Freedom Plan, a provider-payer insurance company administered by the Tufts Health Plan, in which the 18,000 employees of the five member hospitals will be enrolled. The company will ultimately compete throughout the state with other other health insurance carriers.

Meanwhile, Warren will be faced with improving the financial performance and condition of LRGH in the teeth of what he called "payment pressures — lower, slower, no payment." This week Moody's investment services lifted its negative outlook for nonprofit hospitals, like LRGH, which has been in pace since 2008, noting that prospects have improved especially in states, including New Hampshire, where Medicaid enrollments have been expanded.

Warren said that although reimbursement rates could be higher, as the number of insured patients has grown, the volume of emergency room visits has declined and the opportunity to manage chronic illnesses, sparing patients costly acute care services, is greater. On the other hand, he said that payments to hospitals are more closely tied to the quality of the care they provide — as measured by readmission and infection rates, for example — placing a premium on operating excellence and efficiency.

"Chuck was the change agent," Warren said. "He marked the pathway for me to follow."

"But, you have to implement the plan," Van Sluyter replied, adding that "the higher you climb, the more the horizon embraces."

Last Updated on Friday, 04 September 2015 01:50

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