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Slow job growth projected for the Lakes Region

CONCORD — Employment in the Lakes Region will increase 6.3 percent during the decade between 2012 and 2022, the third slowest pace among the nine planning regions in the state, according to projections by the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.

The Lakes Region consists of two cities — Laconia and Franklin — and 28 towns in Belknap, Grafton, Carroll and Merrimack counties. All 11 municipalities in Belknap County are included in the region. The agency chose to develop the projections for planning regions because they represent areas of greater economic coherence than counties.

The agency projects total employment in the Lakes Region to grow from an estimated 44,222 to 46,987 during the 10-year period, an increase of 2,765 jobs. Employment in the goods-producing sector — manufacturing, construction, agriculture and mining — which together provided 6,865 jobs in 2012, is projected to shed 45 jobs, a decrease of 0.7 percent. Employment in manufacturing is projected to slip 3.9 percent, or by 177 jobs, which represents "a drag on growth". The construction sector is expected to add 109 jobs.

Employment in the service sector is projected to expand by 2,818 jobs, an increase of 8.1 percent from an estimated 34,639 jobs in 2012 to a projected 37,457 jobs in 2022. Health care and social work, which provided 5,762 jobs in 2012, are expected to account for 40 percent of the projected growth by adding 1,138 jobs, an increase of 20 percent. Most of the remainder of the projected growth in employment is represented by additional jobs in hospitality, retail trade and educational services.

Government, which employed 3,501 people in 2012, is projected to add 178 jobs, 132 of them in municipal and county government.

The three regions projected to post the greatest increases in employment are the Rockingham region, including the Seacoast, the Southern Region, centered on Manchester, and the Upper Valley, anchored by Hanover and Lebanon, where employment is expected to expand by 14.7 percent, 14.1 percent and 10.2 percent respectively. The lowest rates of growth are projected in the North County and Southwest, where employment is expected to expand by 4.8 percent.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:41

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Applicants sought for open County Commission post

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention has set a deadline of noon on Friday, January 23 for candidates to express interest in filling a two-year vacancy on the Belknap County Commission.
The District 3 Commission seat vacancy was created by the resignation of Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith), who had two years left in his term, which was effective as of January 1.
Candidates for the vacant seat must be from the towns of Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford or Meredith and will be asked to file a cover letter and resume with the Belknap County Administrator's office.
Convention chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) says that the entire convention will be involved in the interview process for the applicants for the position and that the convention hopes to have a new commissioner seated by the end of the month.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:28

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Shaker board delays vote on Gale School until asbestos costs are known

BELMONT — The Shaker School Board delayed taking action on the possible demolition of the historic, now abandoned Gale School Tuesday until after Building and Grounds Manager Doug Ellis gets the final costs for asbestos removal.

The demolition of the school and the preservation of the bell and steeple would go on a warrant article at the district meeting for voter approval.

The school building is located on a perch behind the Middle School, at the edge of Bryant Field.

Ellis said Tuesday he has budgeted $65,000 — $42,500 for the demolition and $15,000 for preserving the bell and the steeple. He also factored in $7,500 for contingency and said the school will do the landscaping itself.

The $65,000 doesn't include preserving, moving or storing the bell or the steeple said Ellis.

The plan now is to preserve the bell and steeple, but at Tuesday's meeting Belmont Board member Richy Bryant said he wasn't willing to support a warrant article to demolish the school unless there was a solid plan for how they will preserve and store the bell and the steeple.

"What do we do with a steeple and a bell?" he asked. "Have we talked to the historical people?"

Bryant also wanted to know how much it would cost to store the steeple and where it would be stored.

Belmont member Donna Cilley noted the Heritage Commission opposes the demolition of the school but she suggested the school district made a formal outreach to the commission to see if it is interested in the bell and the steeple.

Business Administrator Deb Thompson said there is $5,000 in a trust to preserve the school it its entirely and she would have to ask the N.H. Department of Revenue and Administration if it's possible to re-purpose the trust so the money can be used to preserve the steeple and bell.

Superintendent Maria Dreyer said that theoretically, a land mark from a previous school would be incorporated into the next school that is build. There are no plans for building any schools in the district in the foreseeable future.

The Gale School was built in 1894 and was later named for the same Laconia banker — Napoleon B. Gale — whose name is on the city's public library. His will instructed that $10,000 of his estate was to be donated to the Town of Belmont. Gale represented Belmont in the state legislature in 1868-69.
By the mid 1950s, the school was being used only for administrative office space and its rooms were further relegated to use only for cold storage when the new elementary school opened in 1985.
The demolition of the Gale School has been a hot-button topic in Belmont for years. The Save the Gale School Committee — a non-governmental association of people in Belmont who don't want the school demolished — has repeatedly come up with suggestions to save the school but, to date, no one has come up with the money to do anything.

Additionally, efforts to relocate the school to a different piece of property have never been realized because there has never been a viable option for a relocation site.

While nearly all of the desire to save the school comes from Belmont residents, the school belongs to the Shaker Regional School District that educates students from Belmont and Canterbury. In the past, Canterbury School Board members have said that they do not want to see the school destroyed, but they don't see their community's tax dollars being spent to save it.

Ellis said he would get answers to the steeple and bell moving and storage questions and report back to the board in time for the meeting Monday morning.

The School Board is having a meeting at 10 a.m. Monday to vote on the final budget, which may or may not include full-day kindergarten, and to vote on whether or not to add a warrant article for the demolition of the school.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:25

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12th hour dilemma for Shaker kinderarten & pre-K

BELMONT — Parents and Shaker Regional School Board members learned Tuesday night that adding full-day kindergarten and half-day pre-school program could add as much as $480,000 to the proposed 2015-2016 school district budget.

The costs include two additional teachers, additional buses, and a two, used modular units for classroom space and Superintendent Maria Dreyer said they were "guestimates" at this point.

Dreyer pointed out that the school board and the administration did a "great deal of listening" at an information public information session held earlier this month and learned that parents want full-day kindergarten as opposed to the planned half-day kindergarten and half-day pre-school programs incorporated into one version of the 2015 budget.

Parents packed the Middle School media center Tuesday evening to show support for full-day kindergarten.

Of the four who spoke, seemingly for the rest of the crowd, three were teachers.

Lisa Tucker said kindergarten today is like first grade was when she was in school and with half-day kindergarten only, children lose nine hours of instructional time weekly.

She agreed that pre-kindergarten programs were a "great thing," but said only providing a half a day of kindergarten was a "disservice" to the children.

"They're missing all of the afternoon time," Tucker said.

Parent Lisa Ober, a teacher for 15 years, said there are too many "transitions" with half-day kindergarten. Transitions means a child is home, then in kindergarten for 2 1/2 hours, then in some kind of transportation, then daycare, and then back home again.

She said full-day kindergarten eliminates many of those transitions that she believe can be too many adjustments for a 5-year-old to process.

The problems with implementing full-day kindergarten in Shaker Regional in 2015 in the two elementary schools are multi-faceted.

The first is space. While there is room for full-day kindergarten at Canterbury Elementary School, Dreyer said at Tuesday's meeting, there is not room in Belmont Elementary.

There is a "bubble", or unusually high number of students, in the second and third grades and Dreyer's original two-year plan called for implementing pre-kindergarten in 2015 and working toward full-day kindergarten as the "bubble" moves through elementary school, freeing up much needed space.

Additionally, because of the number of students taking the bus, Dreyer said two additional buses would be needed to accommodate approximately 80 additional students in the afternoon run. The cost of the two additional buses would eat up any potential savings for eliminating the mid-day run.

In Canterbury, there would be some savings because no additional buses would be needed and the mid-day run could be eliminated.

To accommodate the space challenges at Belmont Elementary, the school would need to site a two-classroom modular for two years and rearrange a number of programs and classrooms so that the older children would likely be in the modular. The modular would also cost the school the basketball court which would be needed for parking.

The second issue is political. School Board member Donna Cilley of Belmont said she feels like the school district is treating the full-day kindergarten issue as an "emergency" when it really isn't.

She said the district was reacting to the parents, which is good, but that the district already has a two-year plan and that Dreyer's newest plan for both was a 12th-hour reaction without a solid picture.

"Here we are at the 12th hour talking about a very important program," Cilley said. "It needs to be done right."

Canterbury School Board member Bob Reed said the issue is an emergency for parents. "All these years parents have been thinking they're getting all day-kindergarten and we drop the bomb on them for pre-k," he said.

The third issue is money. Dreyer's two-year plan that called for a half-day of pre-school and a half-day of kindergarten was not going to cost the school district any additional money in 2015. As it stands now, the proposed budget was slightly less than the $21-million total budget approved by voters last year.

To implement full-day kindergarten and half-day of pre-school the cost is "guestimated" to be about $480,000. To implement full-day kindergarten and eliminate the pre-kindergarten program would cost about $90,000 less, said Dreyer when asked.

The School Board was slated to vote on a final proposed budget for 2015 Tuesday but made a unanimous decision to hold a special meeting Monday at 10 a.m. for a final vote on the budget.

Before adjourning, the School Board instructed Dreyer to develop more solid numbers and design programs that would incorporate pre-k, full-day kindergarten and a combination of the two.

Monday is a holiday, however the meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the SAU Building.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:17

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