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Clock ticking as Lakes Region Public Accesss TV seeks to put new biz model in place

LACONIA — Lakes Region Public Access television has adopted a fee schedule which it will start to implement as soon as a new contract with MetroCast Cablevision, which is still being negotiated by Laconia and town in the area, takes effect around July 1.
''We can't approach the towns to get them to sign on until they sign their new contracts with MetroCast'' said Chan Eddy of Gilford, chairman of the board of directors of LRPA-TV, which is adopting a new business model in order to sustain its operations in the face of crumbling financial support from member communities, which used to fund its operations from MetroCast franchise fees.
He said the board is grappling with a number of changes, including those being negotiated in the new 10-year contract with MetroCast.

The new plan calls for each of the dozen or so member communities served in the MetroCast franchise area to operate their own education and government channels (24 and 26) while LRPA will provide public access on Channel 25 as a regional channel which will air material from citizens, organizations and groups from any community which is a member of the LRPA.
The education and government channels will air only in the communities in which their programs originate but the high cost of becoming a public access provider, estimated at $85,000 a year by Eddy, means that LRPA will likely be the only public access provider in the area.
But uncertainty over when the new agreement will take effect and how LRPA will be able to bridge the funding gap has board members nervous.
''We're in a frozen-in scenario and watching the money tick away,'' said LRPA treasurer Joe Jesseman, who added that LRPA is on pace to run out of funds by the end of the year.
One of changes in the yet to be ratified contract will see the annual $30,000 grant, which MetroCast has previously provided for LRPA-TV, ending. The grant provided one-quarter of LRPA's $126,000 operating budget.
Eddy says that he hopes the new fee schedule and a plan to attract sponsorships will eventually produce an income of $500,000 a year and has set a goal of $300,000 in the first year.
The new fee schedule sharply reduces the fees paid by communities as an incentive for them to remain affiliated with LRPA. There is a ''receive only'' option for $200 a year, a ''receive and provide programming option'' for $1,200 more on Channel 25. Communities which want a ''education and government add on'' option for their local channels in addition to public access would pay an additional $250.
He said that Laconia, which currently pays $43,000 a year, will pay only $1,900 under the new model but expects that between 50 and 100 corporations will sign on as sponsors in the $1,000 to $2,000 range, which coupled with other fundraising activities will produce the needed revenue, which will enable LRPA to raise enough funds to be able to upgrade its equipment and provide better service.
The fee schedule for sponsorships include a corporate and small business level of support ranging from $100 to $200 a month, $250 to $500 quarterly, $750 to$1,500 yearly with premium sponsorships ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 a year and a platinum level of $1,250 to $2,500 a year.
LRPA Station Manager Denise Beauchaine said that LRPA is offering to handle public access filming and editing services at a rate of $50 an hour for the town of Belmont, which has no money in its current budget for such services.
Production Manager Patrick Sweeney said that one of the changes which will be needed is tighter editing of submitted materials such as church services, which will continue to be run for free but will have to be limited to less than an hour in order to fit into a new program format.
Shane Selling, technical consultant, said that live streaming has proven popular and that among the most popular video on demand offerings are the Belknap County Convention and Commission meetings in which the county budget is being followed closely by interested viewers.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 02:03

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Kimball Castle committee to meet today

GILFORD — The Kimball Forest Wildlife Committee will meet today at the town offices at 4 p.m. to discuss two of the options regarding the future of Kimball Castle and its 20-acre plot.

The two suggestions are to allow the private owner to raze the castle and sell the 20-acre lot for a single family home.

The second is to seek preservation grants and private money to buy the property from the owner for price a to be determined by an independent appraisal and build a fence around the castle itself, allowing it to decay naturally.

In addition, Town Administrator Scott Dunn said the Conservation Commission is meeting on March 4 to discuss the possible use of conservation money that would buy the castle land and merge it into the remaining 280 acres that are now managed by the Kimball Forest Wildlife Committee.

Owner David Jodoin, doing business as Kimball Properties, LLC, has asked selectmen to back a petition to the Belknap County Superior Court seeking permission to tear down the landmark castle.

Selectmen don't own the castle or the property but act as trustees of the Kimball Castle Trust. In 2013, the town's code enforcement officer determined the castle was crumbling and that it poses a safety hazard.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 01:31

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Charge of gas theft dropped against former Gilmanton firefighter

GILMANTON — A 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division judge has dismissed criminal charges for theft filed against a former Gilmanton firefighter for allegedly stealing diesel fuel.

Byron McSharry had been charged with theft by unauthorized taking after a student firefighter said he saw him remove a gas-pump key and later return it to its place without putting gas in any department vehicle last summer

The theft charge was not prosecuted at his trial after attorney Mark Sisti argued that the state agreed that there was insufficient evidence that would survive a motion to dismiss.

The state agreed and brought forth a charge of attempted theft.

Sisti then argued that an attempt to commit a crime must be stopped by an intervening action and in this case there was none, which compromises the defense from proving there was an attempted theft.

In addition, he argued that even if the defense could prove he had the key, an attempt, as defined by Black's law Dictionary, "may be described as an endeavor to do and act, carried beyond mere preparation, but short of execution."

The prosecution was given 10 days to respond to the motion but did not.

Without further evidence, Carroll dismissed the charge.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 01:28

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Little enthusiasm on council for Vet Square redo plan

LACONIA — A proposal to reconfigure the west end of Veteran's Square met with a cool reception when Planning Director Shanna Saunders presented it to the City Council on Monday night.

As proposed the plan would convert the intersection of Pleasant with Veteran's Square and Beacon Street West into a simple four-way junction by eliminating the circle that enables west bound traffic through Veteran's Square to reverse direction by rounding. In place of the circle, the curb in front of the Congregational Church of Laconia, UCC would relocated between 60 feet and 40 feet forward into Veteran's Square but there would still be three lanes — two west bound and one east bound.
The five angled parking spaces in front of the church would be relocated at the new curb. The driveway between the Congregational Church and its adjacent Parish Hall would be expanded to a handicap-access turnaround and four angled parking spaces in front of the Evangelical Baptist Church would be retained. Likewise, the six parking spaces on the north side of Veteran's Square, alongside the railroad station, would remain.
The pavement and sidewalk would be removed from the area between the new and existing curb and sidewalk, which would become a landscaped sublawn, bordered by the relocated curb on Veteran's Square and an extended curb on Pleasant Street. The memorial and flagpole would be relocated from the circle to the sublawn, to which benches would be added.
Other than the change to the flow of traffic through Veteran's Square the traffic pattern would remain the same. Traffic entering Veteran's Square from Pleasant Street could turn right on to Beacon Street West, which would remain one-way, left into Veteran's Square or proceed down Pleasant Street, which would also remain one-way. The plan does not include traffic signals at the reconfigured intersection.
Saunders said that the plan enhances the safety of pedestrians, who must cross several lanes of traffic and a considerable expanse of pavement, to cross the square as well as simplifies the flow of traffic. In addition, she said that the plan would prevent motorists leaving the Bank of New Hampshire parking lot turning into the one-way traffic on Pleasant Street then eastbound into Veteran's Square, which is a concern to the police.
Saunders estimated the project would cost approximately $280,000.
Saunders explained that the plan grew from concerns to improve the flow of traffic through and around downtown expressed in the Master Plan in 2007 and repeated in 2012 when the council rejected a plan to open Beacon Street East and Beacon Street West to two-way traffic and improve the intersections around the loop. She said that with the Congregational Church planning to improve access to the church and David and Maureen Kennedy converting the Evangelical Church to a restaurant Holy Grail an opportunity arose to revisit the the intersection where Veteran's Square joins Pleasant Street.
Saunders said she had canvassed opinion among the abutters, including the owners and tenants at the railroad station as well the WOW Trail and New Hampshire Department of Transportation, and the the next step would be for the Planning Board to hold a public hearing on the plan.
Both Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) and Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) said that since the plan was outlined in the newspaper they had heard from residents, all of whom were opposed to it.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, raised concern at the cost while Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) suggested the project belonged on the "backburner."
Mayor Ed Engler asked if anything would be done to improve the movement of traffic through the intersection of Pleasant Street and New Salem Street, particularly since the next phase of the WOW Trail would increase the number of pedestrians passing through the intersection. Saunders said that because its proximity to the railroad crossing nothing could be done to alter the intersection.
Engler asked for a straw poll of the councilors to determine if they considered the project a low, medium or high priority. With Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) confessing he knew too little to offer an opinion, the remaining five councilors agreed the plan was a low priority. However, at the same time, the council encouraged Saunders to sound the general public.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 08:29

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