MC Week vendor fees again a possibility in Meredith

MEREDITH — Vendors at Laconia Motorcycle Week may have to fork over some money to the town for the privilege of having a booth, despite their complaints about such fees this summer.

Town Manager Phil Warren said yesterday that selectmen are reconsidering a proposal to levy the fees to cover town costs, an idea which was tabled in August after meeting resistance from Laconia Harley-Davidson, Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant, American Police Motorcycle Museum.

Warren said the proposal was revived during a brief discussion of the process for preparing the 2016 town budget when the selectmen met Monday evening. He said that the issue will most likely be discussed in the course of reviewing revenues from sources other than property taxes when the selectmen hold three workshops on the budget on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and 2.

In August, selectmen considered a proposal to require all transient vendors, other than nonprofit organizations soliciting donations toward a charitable purpose, to be licensed by the town at a fee of $450, which would entitle them to operate from noon on the first Friday until midnight on the last Sunday of the rally. Vendors operating without a license would be liable to a fine of failure to obtain a license would carry a fine of up to $500 for each day of unlawful operation.

Warren told the board that the fees were intended to defray the costs to the town of providing police and emergency services during the rally. This year, he explained, the town incurred expenses of $18,017 during the event, which consisted of $7,149 for police overtime, $5,868 for fire service and $5,000 in dues for the town's membership in the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. Revenues amounted to $660, which represented special use permits issued to Laconia Harley-Davidson and Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant at $330 apiece.

Anne Deli, president of Laconia Harley-Davidson, warned that if the town levies a vendor fee "We will lose vendors."

"Does Meredith really want to put one more nail in the coffin of Motorcycle Week?" she asked.

If vendors fees sap income from the dealership, Deli said, the costs would have to be offset by reducing employment, charitable contributions or marketing expenses, all of which would adversely impact the rally itself.
Warren said that if selectmen choose to introduce the vendor fees, he would recommend presenting a warrant article to Town Meeting in March. He explained that there is some question about the authority of the selectmen to enact ordinances, which would be dispelled by a vote of Town Meeting.

Lawmakers unanimous is support of $8M community corrections plan

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention unanimously approved an $8 million bond issue for building a "community corrections" center and renovation of parts of the current county jail when it met last evening at the Belknap County Courthouse.
The plan calls for spending $7,171,928 for a 18,000 square foot, 64-bed community corrections center adjacent to the existing county jail as well as $1,159,300 for renovating parts of the existing jail, which would have 60 beds.
The community corrections center will feature a rigorous regimen of substance abuse, mental health and educational programs and services, which Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray says the county currently lacks.
Project manager Anthony Mento of SMP Architecture of Concord has said that he expects ground will be broken for the project in June of 2016 and that it will be completed by September of 2017.
The unanimous vote came after the convention approved by a 12-3 vote a non-binding recommendation introduced by Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) regarding the terms of the bond issue, which he said would save the county $1 million in interest costs.
His plan calls for using the county's fund balance to pay off the county's current $1.4 million in debt obligations over the next three years and having a 20-year bond issue with level payments of $530,000 per year over the life of the bond.
Prior to the vote on Gallagher's proposal, Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who opposed the proposal, said that the vote expressed the convention's preference but ultimate authority over the teems of the bond issue rests with the Belknap County Commissioners, the county treasurer and the county's bond counsel.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said the commission supports a 25-year borrowing, with interest only payments in the first two years; the county fund balance would be used after that for a few years, until overall debt service payments drop to a level comparable to what they currently are.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) pointed out that Gallagher's proposal would mean that the county would be obligated to $60,000 more in debt service payments per year ($530,000) than the level suggested by commissioners ($470,000), which would mean that the county would have $1.2 million less over those 20 years for funding other programs.
Tilton said that he favors the 25-year bond because it spreads the costs over a longer period of time and to future generations of taxpayers while Commission Vice Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) favored Gallagher's plan as it saves taxpayers from having to pay additional interest costs.

Steve Nix elected to Gunstock Commission

LACONIA — Stephan Nix of Gilford, who skied the slopes of Gunstock Mountain Resort as a child in the early 1960s, was easily elected to a five-year term on the Gunstock Area Ciommission last night, claiming 12 of the 14 votes cast by members of the Belknap County Convention.

The other two candidates, Tim Lang of Sanbornton, the supervisor of technical services at the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, and Scott Dunn, the town administrator in Gilford, each received one vote.

Nix, an attorney and land surveyor, stressed his experience in real estate development, land use planning and conservation, which he suggested would apply directly to much of the work of the commission. In particular, he reminded the convention that its Memorandum of Agreement with the Gunstock Area Commission stipulates that the Master Plan for the resort is scheduled to be updated in 2016.

All three candidates were interviewed prior to the vote. Representative Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) referred to the Memorandum of Agreement and asked if they anticipated any need for changes, especially in the the annual payments the resort makes to the county. Nix acknowledged that the resort has become "something of a profit center for Belknap County," but said he would prefer to review the financial performance and future plans of the resort more closely before committing himself to specific changes. He was echoed by Lang and Dunn, who both noted that since the county owns the resort it should share the revenue.

Likewise, when Representative David Russell (R-Gilmanton) asked if the resort should develop a residential component, like condominiums, all three candidates declined to offer an opinion one way or the other, but expressed a willingness to consider the prospect. The three candidates remarked on the resort's successful transition from a winter attraction to a "four-season destination."

Nix will succeed Chuck Lowth of Meredith, who retired after serving on the Gunstock Area Commission for 17 years.