Handsome results of GHS student's flag box project reach N.H. Vet Home

TILTON — For some time, when residents of New Hampshire Veterans Home passed away, their families were given an American flag, properly folded to mimick the tricolor hat worn by the colonial soldiers during the War of Independence and encased beneath glass in a handsome wooden box. Then the stock of boxes ran out.

Yesterday the inventory was replenished thanks to the ingenuity and generosity of two teachers at Gilford High School — Steve Riordan, who teaches business, and Sean Walsh, who teaches woodworking — and their students. They presented Margaret LaBrecque, commandant of the Veterans Home, with nearly two dozen boxes made by the students of woodworking with materials purchased with the capital raised by their counterparts studying business.

Riordan recalled when his daughter Marti Bolduc, who then worked at the Veterans Home, told him that although families were given flags but no boxes, he thought "the tradition had lapsed for want of boxes, he took the initiative. He asked Walsh if his students could make the boxes and what it would cost. Walsh assured him that his classes could make 60 boxes a year for $25 apiece.

Riordan then set his business class to raising the money by forming a company that packaged and sold brownie mix. "We got jars and layered the ingredients, like doing sand art, and called it Sand Art Brownie Mix," he explained. Students began selling the brownie mix in anticipation of Valentine's Day. "We called it the gift that gives twice," he laughed. "Your mom makes you brownies and we raise the money for the boxes." Altogether the firm raised $800, enough for materials to make 32 boxes.

"It was a really good project, " said Tyler Thibodeau, a sophomore from Gilmanton, He said that students learned not only to "measure twice and cut once" and other woodworking skills but also "to pay attention costs by not wasting materials."

Kaitlyn Marcella of Gilford, one of nine girls in a woodworking class of eleven, said "it was definitely a wicked-fun class." She said that Walsh was surprised so many young women in the class, but he soon found that "we were there and ready to work." Marcella said she confined herself to supervising the sanding while her colleague Evelyn Johnson of Gilmanton preferred cutting the pieces to size. Apart from woodworking, Johnson remarked that she also learned "you better not wear black in the shop."

Both Thibodeau and Johnson had grandfathers who served in the armed forces and were especially pleased to put their talents to work for the benefit of veterans.

Riordan and Walsh intend to continue the program and expect to deliver another two dozen boxes in the autumn. But, Riordan said that while the boxes would remain the same, his students will be producing, marketing and selling a new product.

Bill Bertholdt, president of the New Hampshire Veterans Home Resident Council, said "it feels really good that the kids are putting the effort into this. We'll all wind up with one someday, with our colors folded up inside," he continued. "It's a beautiful thought."

ZBA turns 'Pecker' away a second time; owner directs anger at complaining neighbor

LACONIA — Jeffrey and Bridgette Leroux, owners of a pet rooster named ''Pecker'', that they keep at their home at 58 North Street in Lakeport, say they plan to appeal the Zoning Board of Adjustment's denial of a rehearing on it's decision not to grant them a variance that would let them keep the rooster as a pet to Superior Court.
Monday night the board voted 4-1 to deny the Lerouxs' request for a rehearing, prompting an angry reaction from Bridgette Leroux, who turned on the neighbors who had made the complaint about their rooster, Dan Ouellete and his wife, Amanda., who were seated behind them at the Belknap Mill.
''Want to step outside?'' she said to the Ouelletes, standing up and pointing her finger at them. She then said ''Grow up. We wouldn't be here today if it weren't for you,'' and uttered a profanity as she started to leave the room.
Steve Bogert, chairman of board, said that unless the disruption ended he would have to have Leroux removed from the hearing room.
Bogert then advised Jeffrey Leroux that if he planned to go the next level and appeal that he should do so in a timely manner as there was a time limit in which an appeal could be filed with Belknap County Superior Court.
Members of the Leroux family and their supporters left the Belknap Mill and remained outside for a short period of time in which several of them maintained that there was a second rooster being kept in the Lakeport area, near Leavitt Park, and that it could have been that rooster whose crowing had annoyed their neighbors.
No public input was allowed at the meeting on the request for a rehearing. The request had been made by the Lerouxs in a letter written to the board in which they maintained that he rooster was a pet and not being kept for agricultural purposes. The appeal also included several letters of support for allowing them to keep the rooster as a pet.
Board member Orrie Gibbs, the only member of the board to support the request for a rehearing, said that she could not see how the bird could be regarded as agriculture and said if that was the case then anyone who has a garden or a fruit tree would be in violation of the city zoning ordinance.
Jeffrey Leroux bought the rooster at Sandwich Fair last year as a pet for his wife. In December, the Planning Department told the Lerouxs that the zoning ordinance prohibited the keeping of poultry in a residential district and advised them that they would either have to give up the rooster or apply for a variance.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders has said that the zoning ordinance defines "agriculture" as "the production, keeping or maintenance for sale, lease or personal use, of plants and animals," including poultry, and forbids agricultural uses of property in residential districts like North Street.
On May 18 the ZBA denied the Lerouxs' request for a variance by a 4-1 vote, with only Gibbs dissenting.
Board member Wayne Greski said that granting a variance would open the door to other requests and that people who had purchased homes in residential areas have an expectation that ''they're not going to have a cow looking in their window.''
Board member Suzanne Perley, noting that a proposed ordinance which would have allowed chickens in certain parts of the city and which had been rejected by the planning board would have barred the door to roosters.
Gail Ober, another board member, said that she was not convinced that letters of support constituted new evidence and moved to deny the request because it had presented no new evidence.

Councilor & fire chief spar over 'unique' Laconia

LACONIA — Sparks flew in the City Council chamber on Monday night when Fire Chief Ken Erickson presented the 2015-2016 Fire Department budget proposal, prompting Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) to challenge his portrayal of the city, along with his assessment of what is required to protect it.

Hamel referred specifically to a section of Erickson's report entitled "Laconia — A Unique City," in which the chief noted the high rates of unemployment, poverty and crime as well as as its "thousands of combustible buildings and homes." The number of structure fires per 1,000 residents,, Erickson calculated, is "one of the highest in the state." He concluded that "our fire department is not staffed adequately to protect and respond to all the various hazards and risks."

Hamel dismissed the description of Laconia as "unique", likening it other old mill towns scattered across the state. He called Erickson's characterization of the city "a tear down", asked "why the hell would anyone move here," and remarked that after reading it "everyone should move out."

Quickly Erickson insisted "my intention was not to degrade the city of Laconia," but he repeated "Laconia is a unique city from my perspective. I have a responsibility," he continued, "to tell you what we need to protect the city."

In particular, Erickson listed funding to retain the four firefighters, hired and paid for the past two years with a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which expires in October, as his top priority.

City Manager Scott Myers has recommended a plan to fund the positions for the next three fiscal years. LRGHealthcare, which contributes to the cost of ambulance service under a contract with the city, will bear half the annual cost of the four positions. The balance would draw on an account established in anticipation of the expiration of the grant, money budgeted to fund the positions through the current fiscal year on the assumption the grant would expire in May and $100,000 in unexpended grant funds. These funds would be supplemented by appropriations of $50,000 in 2016 and $45,000 in 2017 and 2018, representing total new expenditures of $140,000.

The four positions, Erickson said, provides the department with nine firefighters on each shift. The additional personnel has contributed to fewer emergency recalls, which have decreased by 72 percent — from 222 to 62 — from 2010 to 2014, contributing to reduced expenses for overtime, At the time, fire suppression capability has grown, injuries have diminished, response times have improved and inspections have increased. Erickson said that although additional personnel was not solely responsible for the improved efficiency and performance, it was major factor.

But, when Erickson reminded the councilors that Municipal Resources, Inc. recommended the department field 12 firefighters per shift and indicated he would request another four positions in the near future, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) cautioned him. "You're asking use to stretch and stretch," he said, explaining that there are levels of risk. "It would help your cause not to push the envelop by trying to eliminate all risk."