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7 Belknap County towns get LCHIP grants

CONCORD — Seven of the 11 municipalities in Belknap County — Laconia, Alton, Barnstead, Belmont, Gilford, Meredith and Sanbornton — were among the 39 cities and towns awarded grants in the 12th annual round of funding by the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP).

The grants were announced yesterday by Doug Cole of D.S. Cole Growers of Loudon, who chairs the Board of Directors of LCHIP, at the Legislative Office Building before some 75 representatives from most of the 39 communities who braved the foul weather to celebrate the news.

"You are the real heroes of the LCHIP story," Dijit Taylor, executive director of LCHIP, told the crowd.

Altogether the grants totaled $542,835, of which $440,000 will be applied to conserving natural resources and the balance to renovating and preserving historic buildings. The grants represent 21 percent of the estimated $2,550,692 it will cost to complete the projects, with the balance to be raised by matching funds.

Alton and Gilford shared the largest grant of $340,000, awarded to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and Lakes Region Conservation Trust to fund the acquisition and protection of four parcels covering 950 acres on and near Mount Major. The Belknap Range Conservation Coalition (BRCC) together with the Conservation Commissions of Alton, Gilford and Gilmanton are contributing to the $1.8-million project.

The four parcels cover 30 square miles of land crisscrossed by more than 70 miles of hiking trails. Three of the parcels lie on or near Mount Major in Alton. These include some 75 acres that straddle the two major trails leading up the mountain from the parking area off Route 11, 100 acres abutting the 60-acre Mount Major State Forest at the summit, and 455 acres to the west of the summit. The fourth parcel, 331 acres in Gilford, lies on the eastern reach of the Belknap Range on the slope of Piper Mountain at the head of Moulton Valley, which is riven by the falling waters of Moulton Brook.

Bear-Paw Regional Greenways received $100,000 toward the $794,000 needed to purchase a conservation easement on some 500 acres of woodland in Barnstead, Pittsfield and Strafford, which includes the frontage on Crooked Run, a tributary of the Suncook River. Bear-Paw has already received a $350,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Aquatic Resource Mitigation (ARM) Fund. The property, which is owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America , Boston Minutemen Council, is heavily forested with 25 wetlands covering 133 acres, including 4,000 feet of frontage on Wild Goose Pond, and provides prime habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species.

Belmont will apply its $15,000 grant from LCHIP to the restoration of its Victorian bandstand, which was recently moved adjacent to the library as part of the revitalization of the village. Built in 1908, the ornate octagonal structure on a high latticework base features turned posts and balusters beneath a shingled roof with flared eaves. The project is estimated to cost $35,000.

The smallest of the 39 grants, $5,750, was awarded to Sanbornton to renovate the exterior of the Lane Tavern, home to the Sanbornton Historical Society. Built in the early 1800s, the tavern was donated to the society in 1965, when it began undergoing a renovation. Once a way station for horse-drawn coaches plying the road between Concord and Plymouth, the tavern, after passing through many hands over the course of two centuries, is a centerpiece of the community and host to its history.

LCHIP awarded the Meredith Public Library $70,000 to restore masonry and repair gutters on the exterior of the building. Last year a report on the condition of the library suggested that an investment of between $260,000 and $383,000 would be required to overcome safety issues, undertake immediate repairs and ultimately restore and preserve the building. The library sought a grant of $184,622 from LCHIP, but has also approached the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee and Board of Selectmen for funding in the 2014 budget.

In Laconia, the Belknap Mill Society was awarded $12,085. The figure represents half the estimated cost of repairing and renovating the cupola atop the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the United States, which was built in 1823 and operated until 1969.

CAPTION: Among those from the Lakes Region on hand to mark the awarding of grants by the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program were, from left, Vicki Abbott of the Sanbornton Historical Society, Peter Ellis of Gilfdord, president of the Belknap Mill Society, Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), Dave Witham, president of the Sanbornton Historical Society, Representative David Huot (D-Laconia), Ed Engler, Mayor-Elect of Laconia, and Linda Frawley, chair of the Belmont Heritage Commission. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 02:48

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Downtown bank robbery suspect quickly arrested

LACONIA — Three-and-a-half hours after allegedly robbing the main office of the Bank of Bank of New Hampshire on Pleasant Street of an undisclosed amount of cash, Jonathan C. Ellinger, 43, was apprehended by police.

In what police described as "an armed robbery," Ellinger allegedly entered the bank shortly before 3:24 on Friday afternoon. He approached a teller and demanded money then fled on foot. A surveillance camera released to the media pictured him leaving through the doorway on Pleasant Street.

Police did not specify what kind of weapon he was carrying or claimed to be carrying.

Within less than a minute the robbery was reported to the Police Department. The bank was closed immediately after the incident as detectives and officers, with the assistance of Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin, mounted an investigation and search for the suspect. A notice on the locked doors of the bank directed customers seeking to transact business to nearby branch offices.

At 7 p.m., police announced a warrant had been issued for Ellinger's arrest and released his mug shot to the media. While seeking assistance from the public in determining Eliinger's whereabouts, police warned that he was considered "armed and dangerous and should not be approached." Moments later police reported that Ellinger had been arrested.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 02:21

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Belmont police investigating 3 burglaries

BELMONT — Police are seeking information from the public regarding three burglaries in various sections of town over the past few weeks.

At 2 p.m. on December 12, a Brown Hill Road resident arrived home to find his home had been entered by some one who broke a window to get access.

On December 28, at 1 p.m. a Jamestown Road resident came home to find the front door of his home had been forced open. Police said a number of high value items, including electronics, were taken.

On January 2, a Turkey Drive resident arrived home to find his place had been entered through a rear door and electronics and firearms were stolen.

Police said all of the burglaries took place while neighbors were home and they are asking people to report any suspicious people or cars in their neighborhoods.

In addition, police are recommending people take digital photos of their expensive items, especially jewelry, for later identification. They also recommend digitally recording serial numbers of electronics and taking photographs of the interior and exterior of homes so police can tell if anything has been tampered with in the event of a burglary.

Anyone with any information regarding these burglaries or any other crime is asked to call the Belmont Police at 267-8350 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717 to leave an anonymous tip.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 02:08

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Forrester sees surplus replenishing state's Rainy Day Fund

CONCORD — State Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), who took the chair of the Senate Finance Committee in September, took her first major initiative this week by openly recommending that $15 million of the $72.2 million budget surplus be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund rather than spent.

"I'm coming from my experience as a town administrator, not as a Republican," Forrester said yesterday, explaining that the New Hampshire Department of Revenue of Administration expects municipalities to maintain undesignated fund balances of between 5 percent and 10 percent of their operating budgets. She acknowledged that there is no consensus about the appropriate balance of the state's Rainy Day Fund, but said sound budget management requires a healthy fund in order to address an unforeseen deficit and maintain a strong municipal bond rating.

Forrester said that Governor Maggie Hassan has indicated that while she wishes to deposit some of the surplus in the Rainy Day Fund she also seeks to spend a portion of it. However, she has specified how much would be spent or to what purposes and how much would be saved. Forrester said she will raise the issue when she meets with the governor next week.

The state established the Rainy Day Fund, or Revenue Stabilization Reserve Account, in 1987 at the urging of Governor John H. Sununu, in whose officer Forrester served. The statute requires that any budget surplus of not more than 5 percent of unrestricted general fund revenues be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund unless the balance in that account exceeds 10 percent of unrestricted general fund revenues, in which case the surplus is transferred to the general fund.

Forrester said that although the Legislature has frequently suspended the law, the Rainy Day Fund grew to $90 million by 2009. However, she said that after $80 million was applied to the 2010-2011 budget, the balance shrunk to $9.3 million, its lowest level in 22 years.

In a column published in the Concord Monitor a week ago, Forrester noted that the state closed its books on the 2012-2013 biennium in June with a surplus of $72.2 million. The surplus is $15 million more than the $56 million projected in the 2014-2015 budget adopted last year, which authorized transferring the money to the general fund. The unanticipated $15 million in revenue represents receipts from business taxes that topped estimates.

Forrester recommends transferring the $15 million to the Rainy Day Fund, increasing its balance to more than $24-million. She said that she took the initiative on her own, but enjoys the support of the Republican leadership in the Senate, including the president of the Senate, Chuck Morse of Salem. She said that she hoped to win the backing of Senate Democrats, particularly Senator Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester, the vice-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Andrew Hosmer of Laconia is one Democrat who questioned Forrester's proposal. "As much as I think we should replenish the Rainy Day Fund," he said, "it is already raining when it comes to our infrastructure — roads and bridges." Recalling the recent remarks of Christopher Clement, the commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, who warned the House Public Works and Highways Committee that without more revenue the highway fund would be in deficit by October 2015. Hosmer said that some towns in the North Country have let paved roads return to gravel for want of funds. "It's 2014 and we're going backwards to dirt roads," he remarked.

Hosmer has invited Commissioner Clement to the Lakes Region to discuss the condition of some of the secondary roads in the area with local officials. "It's an imperative issue," he stressed, suggesting that infrastructure needs should be considered before deciding to set aside money in the Rainy Day Fund.

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 January 2014 02:02

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