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Sanbornton looks at expanding Selectboard from 3 to 5

SANBORNTON — Among the many things town voters will weigh in on at the March 11 Annual Town Meeting is whether or not to increase the size of the Board of Selectmen from three to five members.

The citizen-petitioned article enjoys support from a virtual "Who's Who" of the Sanbornton citizenry. with all three sitting selectmen, a vast majority of the Budget Committee and a department head or two signing on.

The petition was started by Craig Davis, who is running for the Budget Committee. It his first time seeking elected office, however he is a regular attendee at many town meetings and functions.

Davis said the conversation with some of his friends started when they learned that one of the complaints from all of the members of the Board of Selectman was that, in addition to attending one meeting a week, all of them have separate responsibilities to serve on other town committees as well as some county and regional boards.

"My big focus is we need to attract different people (to serve) and with the work load (per selectman), nobody but retired people can handle the work load," Davis said, saying he's like to see some younger working people apply to be selectmen, as well as serve on other boards.

Fire Chief Paul Dexter said he signed it because he was asked to and because he thought it was a subject that should be discussed by the general public. He sees negatives and positives to enlarging the board.

"We already have a horrible time getting people to volunteer on town boards," he said, noting there are always vacancies on the land-use boards and when the town needs a special committee, it's always the same people who are already involved who participate.

He said he was also concerned that it there were not enough people to run for the five separate seats then the board would have to appoint a member, which could lead to cronyism and a potential lack of diversity.

He said he understands the burden on selectmen and said one of his recommendations is to meet every other week or twice-monthly like many of the surrounding town's boards.

Dexter said the benefits are exactly as Davis described — the work load would be lighter per selectman with a five-member board.

Winnisquam Regional School District Budget Committee member Nina Gardner said her first reaction was to support a debate about it so she signed the petition.

She said reasons to support it are spreading the work load and eliminating the grumblings and innuendos that routinely occur in Sanbornton about unlawful meetings started by coincidence when two selectmen run into each other and converse. State law prohibits private conversations involving a majority of the members of a public board or commission.

On the other hand, Gardner is concerned that there are so many openings on so many boards that she fears there won't be enough interested people — something Gardner knows first hand because of her many "retirements" from the Winnisquam School Board and Budget Committee that end when she gets asked to serve again because of a lack of interest by others.

She noted that Sanbornton's three-person board works as does Tilton's five-person board. Gardner also noted that Bristol was considering going from five to three selectmen but said she's not sure of the reason behind it.

Budget Committee Chair Earl Leighton said he has mixed emotions about upping the number of selectmen.

"I can see the advantage of taking the burden off of three and how it may allow working people to serve," said Leighton.

But Leighton also echoed Dexter and Gardner when he said he is concerned about not having enough people volunteer.

Town Meeting convenes at 7 p.m. at the Sanbornton Central School.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 February 2015 02:04

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Drinking vanilla extract leads to DWI in Belmont?

BELMONT — Police have charged a Franklin woman with one count of aggravated driving while intoxicated after she crashed her car into a snowbank off Rte. 106, near the Lakes Region Casino.

In a written media statement, police said that arrest of Kimberlee O'Riordan took place February 21 at 12:30 p.m. and that she told police she had consumed an unknown number of bottles of vanilla extract.

She agreed to a breath test, said police, and the test showed her blood alcohol content was .35-percent.

Aggravated driving while intoxicated is charged when there is an accident that involves an intoxicated driver and a physical or property damage accident or when a person test twice the legal limit of .08-percent.

O'Riordan is scheduled to be arraigned in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on March 5.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 February 2015 01:56

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25 years since Motorcycle Week Assoc. formed to revive Laconia rally

LACONIA — The Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, now marking its 25th anniversary, traces its roots back to the Lakes Region Sharks Motorcycle Club and the club's effort to bring back the glory days of the original Gypsy Tour rallies at Weirs Beach, which dated back to 1917.
Motorcycle events had been held in the Lakes Region for decades following that first rally and the Belknap Recreation Area (now Gunstock) hosted its first AMA Championship Race in 1938. What was known as the Laconia Classic became one of the top cycle races in the country for many years. But relationships between bikers, local communities and police deteriorated in the early 1960s and Gunstock ended the races and camping for cyclists at the area following the 1963 race. In 1965 a riot at Weirs Beach brought two decades of hostile relationships in which cyclists were not welcomed with open arms in the area and the races had moved to Loudon and Bryar Motorsport Park and was renamed the Loudon Classic.

The week-long rally was actually banned by the city for a year, 1966, and then was limited to what came to be known as Motorcycle Weekend.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the association since it's inception, grew up on the corner of Oak and North Main Street in Laconia. He says that one of his best memories from the 1950s was of motorcycles lining up at Opechee Park for a big parade through Laconia and on to the races at Gunstock.
''I always wanted to see that come back and that there was a great opportunity for the area,'' says St. Clair, who has been riding motorcycles since he was a teenager and was a member of the Lakeside Sharks.
He says that a September 2, 1990 article in Boston Globe's New Hampshire Weekly section, which described the club's trip that summer to the renowned Sturgis, South Dakota Motorcycle Rally, was one of the key elements in helping to start the ball rolling to form an association to promote the really.
The article, written by Royal Ford, carried the headline ''Motorcycle revival in Lacona?'' and discussed the economic impact of the week-long Sturgis rally on that small Black Hills city, estimated at $100 million by the local chamber, and how the Sharks were calling for a week of expanded activities in the Lakes Region.
''Bob Lawton at Funspot read the story and called me and asked what we could do to bring back Motorcycle Week and volunteered to let us use Funspot as headquarters for the rally,'' said St. Clair.
He said that was most significant was that Lawton and his bother, John, had experienced the 1965 riot at Weirs Beach and had for many years closed Funspot on the weekend that bikers came to town.
''I sat down and worked with Bob and his daughter, Sandra, to organize a schedule and get more people interested. They were great. They gave me a lot of support and everything I needed to work with. Without them, I don't know where we'd be today.''
The Laconia Rally and Race Week Association was established in 1991 and the initiative received strong support from Paul Fitzgerald, who was elected mayor in November 1991 and went to the Sturgis Rally in 1992 courtesy of the Lakeside Sharks, who bought a ticket for his flight to Sturgis and arranged for a loaner bike from Harley-Davidson during his visit.
''It was fascinating to see the level of organization and how the event welcomes motorcycle oriented vendors,'' Fitzgerald recalls, saying that he was impressed with the overwhelming economic impact on the community.
'We brought back a lot of material and presented that to the City Council and talked with Gunstock and the track about adding more activities to cover a whole week. The enthusiasm level got quite high very quickly,'' Fitzgerald said.
In 1993, Gunstock revived the hill climb event, which had always been a popular draw in the 1950s and 60s, and opened up its campground to bikers. New events were added, including tours throughout the state, merchandise vendors were encouraged and vintage races brought back to the area. The rally gained state and local support as well as from businesses that saw the benefit of having the event promoted nationally.
''We had phenomenal, explosive growth and that helped make the Laconia Rally one of the three biggest in the country, right up there with Dayton and Sturgis,'' says St. Clair, who along with Jennifer Anderson has been promoting the event on a year-round basis through marketing at rallies and motorcycle shows around the country, soliciting and working with corporate sponsors and publishing and distributing the Rally News magazine.
The association has had financial issues in recent years, which led to an increase in the board's membership and an increase in the annual membership dues paid by municipalities and businesses, from $2,000 to $5,000.
St. Clair says that the growth slowed in recent years due in large part to the recession, which started in 2008, but also to the growing competition from other motorcycle-related events. ''When we first started there were about 50 motorcycle events. There are over 600 now and competition is fierce. Bikers can pick and choose where they want to go and spend their money. So it's more important that ever that we get out there and convince them to come here,'' he said.
He will soon be leaving for Daytona as part of his job in promoting the rally and has already been to Cleveland, Chicago, Boston and Minneapolis at motorcycle events.

''A lot of people think this just happens. But it doesn't. It takes a lot of work year-round to keep it going,'' says St. Clair.
Fitzgerald says that the effort has paid off with national recognition for the event. ''I was in Austin, Texas a while ago and stopped at a Harley-Davidson dealership for a rental. When they saw my license and that I was from Laconia they were really impressed and started asking all kinds of questions about it.''
He said that it is important for those who benefit from the rally to recognize the important benefit they receive and step forward to support the association.
St. Clair says that both the Daytona and Sturgis rallies have been stepping up their marketing efforts and that it is important that businesses in the state which directly benefit from the event contribute to efforts to continue to attract crowds of people to the nation's oldest motorcycle rally.

Laconia Mayor Paul Fitzgerald and Laconia Motorcycle Week Executive Director Charlie St. Clair at the 1992 rally headquarters at Funspot. (Courtesy photo)

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 February 2015 01:52

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Police say woman jumped from car going 45 mph

GILMANTON — Police have determined that an unidentified Manchester woman jumped from a moving car Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. on Rte. 107.

Sgt. Matt Currier said the woman was a passenger in the vehicle that was traveling about 45 miles per hour at the time. He said she jumped about one mile south of the "Four Corners" or the intersection of Routes 107 and 140.

Currier said a witness said, "she just came flying out of the car." He said the male driver was a long-time friend of the woman and he stopped and called 911.

The woman was taken by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia.

Currier said she didn't appear to have any serious injuries.

The woman, he said, spoke very little English but he said police were able to speak with her to the degree that they are convinced this was not a criminal act nor was it predicated by the fear of one.

Belmont Police assisted Gilmanton Police with traffic control.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 February 2015 12:53

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