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Domestic abuse up

Incidents in area increase; awareness effort begins


LACONIA — As the country marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the 313 incidents to which police have been called in the city so far this year is running ahead of the pace set a year ago when officers responded to 330 calls for assistance, undertook 180 investigations and made 57 arrests.

Likewise, Kathy Keller, executive director of New Beginnings, a nonprofit organization with the mission of providing services and support for victims of domestic and sexual violence, said that domestic abuse and violence has risen steadily during her 20 years with the agency. Last year, New Beginnings served 927 clients, including 114 children, with 10,094 specific services and sheltered 48 victims of domestic violence. Although women are the victims in the vast majority of cases, Keller said "we do see some men as well."

Keller said that the police, after making what she called "a lethality assessment" to measure the threat to life and limb, call the agency to assist with serious cases, but added "We also see what the police never see." Apart from '"the classic cases," she said that victims of emotional and mental abuse as well as those isolated from their families and others, subjected to harsh controls and bullying and financial deprivation or exploitation may also turn to New Beginnings.

New Beginnings operates a 24-hour "crisis line" 365 days a year, together with an emergency shelter with capacity for up to 15 people with private rooms for single women and families, and round-the-clock access to trained personnel. Local hospitals call the agency to meet victims of sexual assault at the emergency room to offer support and counsel, including advice abut their legal options. If necessary the staff is prepared to shepherd victims through the process of securing restraining and protective orders.

Keller emphasized that all services are protected by confidentiality and the agency respects the right of its clients to deny or request any services. "We talk about the pros and cons of the options people have, with a stress on personal safety," Keller said. "We are about bringing those involved in crisis to make their own choices, to help them find their own voice, to empower them." She acknowledged that domestic violence is a stubborn problem, noting that relatively few severe cases are easily resolved. On average, she said, victims of domestic violence seek help nine times before terminating an abusive relationship.

"We're not seeing a lot of reduction in family violence," Keller repeated. Instead, she said, the increase in substance abuse, particularly opiate addiction, "has compounded the work we do." She said that frequently domestic strife is accompanied by co-occurring issues of substance abuse, mental illness and financial stress, and often all three. New Beginnings maintains partnership with the other social service organizations in the region as well as with the state agencies, especially the Division of Children, Youth and Families, its 12 "sister agencies" in the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence that operate throughout the state.

New Beginnings operates with six staff members and what Keller described as "a large pool of trained volunteers," who together provided more than 23,000 hours of service to the agency last year. The agency's $320,000 annual budget is primarily funded by the state and federal governments and supplemented with private donations.

10-20 New Beginnings staff

The team of New Beginnings, who support and serve victims of domestic violence, are, from left, first row: Emily, Jen and Page; second row: AliciaAlec, Executive Director; Kathy Keller and Erin; top row: Linda and Shauna. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

Simply wow! WOW Trail nears completion

Wow Bricks 18Oct16294856

Tony Roy of Stoneage Stone Works fits in the last bricks on a new section of paved walkway. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — With the second phase of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail nearing completion, Allan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail Committee said this week that he has begun to think of scheduling a ribbon-cutting ceremony and to turn his attention toward construction of the next phase.

"We have a lot, a lot of thank yous to give for all those who made this happen," Beetle said.

Wow Bricks 18Oct16294876The second phase of the trail begins at the Laconia Public Library and runs for nearly a mile to the Belmont town line, where it joins the Winnisquam Scenic Trail, which opened in September. The trail runs alongside the railway for virtually its entire length. After swinging around a pair of historic railway sheds between New Salem Street and Water Street, it crosses the property at the corner of Water Street and Fair Street to join the Fair Street Bridge. Crossing the bridge, the trail rejoins the railway, crosses Bay Street and runs past the foot of Keasor Court toward Bartlett Beach, where a boardwalk carries it over a wetland. Then a bridge takes the trail over Durkee Brook from where it will parallel the railroad track and Court Street to join the Winnisquam Scenic Trail in Belmont. Altogether there will be 4 miles of continuous paved trail, suited to running, walking and cycling, stretching from Lakeport Square nearly to Mosquito Bridge.

Beetle praised the work of John H. Lyman & Sons, Inc. of Gilford, the general contractor, and Jim Bobotas Custom Builder of Gilford, who built the boardwalk and bridge — the first of each on the trail — who together have undertaken the project on schedule and under budget. He remarked that when the project began there was not enough cash in hand to meet the budget, but thanks to the general contractor, the committee did not have to draw a penny from its line of credit.

Beetle said a few finishing touches remain, including a pair of utility poles still standing in the middle of the trail, one near Pitman's Freight Room and another on Water Street, some brick work downtown and a stretch of fencing, all of which he expected would be completed in the next couple of weeks.

The budget for the second phase of the trail was $876,000, of which the city contributed funded by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District and the balance was raised by fundraising events sponsored by the WOW Trail Committee and private donations.

The third phase of trail is planned to stretch from Lakeport Square to The Weirs, following the railroad right-of-way along the shore of Paugus Bay.

10-20 WowBridge 19Oct16295047

Middle photo, above, Phase 2 of the Wow Trail was nearing completion Tuesday on the brick walkway at the Laconia Railroad Station. Just above, Tom Bobotas and Allan Bishop of James Bobotas Custom Builders finish up work on the Durkee Brook Bridge Wednesday afternoon nearing the completion of Phase 2 for the Wow Trail.(Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

$98K cut - Laconia schools forced to find ways to make up for state aid reduction


LACONIA — The Laconia School District will forego another $98,443 in state aid during the current school year, in addition to the reduction of $455,335 in state aid, which contributed to significant cuts last spring to bring the school district budget into compliance with the tax cap.

"We will try to find the extra revenue to make up the shortfall within our budget by saving on expenses during the the course of the year," said School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan. "The real challenge will be in the next school year." He explained that preparing the 2017-18 budget will start from a point more than $500,000 below what the School Board considers appropriate with the prospect of further reductions in state aid, which may not be able to be offset within the limits of the tax cap.

The most recent reduction in state aid reflects the revision of the school enrollment the New Hampshire Department of Education projected last November, which served as the basis for calculating state aid and preparing the school district budget for 2016-2017. Last month, the department adjusted the enrollment to more accurately measure the number of students enrolled at the beginning of the school year.

The formula for distributing state aid provides $3,561.27 in aid for each student, which multiplied by the number of students represents the base aid. At the same time, the state provides an additional $1,780.63 for each student eligible for free or reduced lunch and also provides additional aid for students with special needs, learning English as a second language and third-graders deficient in reading.

Last November, the projected enrollment in the Laconia School District for 2016-2017 was 1,819 students, 95 fewer than the year before. Last month this projection was revised upward to 1,849 students. However, the projected number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch was revised downward from 1,098 to 995. As a result, the base aid to the district increased from $6.6 million to $6.5 million, or by $100,839. But, with the decline in the number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch, the amount of additional aid fell from $2 million to $1.8 million, or by $183,689. The net effect of these adjustments was to reduce the total amount of state aid by $82,850.

Other categories of state aid also underwent minor adjustments. And the so-called "stabilization grant," an amount to hold municipalities harmless from decreases in the aid received in fiscal year 2011, was reduced 4 percent as the first step toward eliminating it altogether. The end result was to reduce the total amount of state to the school district by $98,443, from the $6,052,278 projected last November to $5,953,835.