Some parents critical of Hill School Board's proposal to leave Franklin for Newfound

By Thomas P. Caldwell

HILL — As the annual School District meeting approaches, parents whose children currently attend Franklin schools are expressing anger and frustration over the School Board's efforts to conclude a tuition agreement with the Newfound Area School District, based in Bristol, without giving Franklin another chance to keep the students.
Many of them appeared before the School Board on Feb. 11, asking why the board is not considering Franklin's late offer to renegotiate the terms of the current Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement to bring the cost of sending Hill students to Franklin below the amount Newfound would be charging in tuition.
The Hill board rejected Franklin's offer last month because it came just weeks before the board had to finalize its budget for the coming year, and opening up the AREA agreement would mean suspending the current negotiations with Newfound. Hill voters last year asked the School Board to look into withdrawing from Franklin and to report back this year.
School Board Chair Shelly Henry said there is no guarantee that the offer Franklin put on the table would be honored if they did agree to open up the AREA agreement, so the promised savings might not materialize. She said voters who want to remain with Franklin need only reject the article at the school meeting.
Under the current agreement, total tuition for students to attend Franklin would rise to $864,847 next year, while Newfound's formula would cost $839,917, based on the attendance numbers at the time of the discussion. Franklin on Jan. 6 offered to use Newfound's tuition calculator which would bring the cost down to $736,182.
Distrust between Hill and Franklin is playing a part in the process, with Franklin having used its weighted vote on the School Administrative Unit 18 Board to see that Hill had no real voice, even though Franklin's representation was large enough to have its way even without a weighted vote. Franklin chose not to send any representatives to serve on the withdrawal study committee and only got involved after the state had accepted the Hill report.
The city's long-standing financial problems as a property-poor community have created problems in properly funding education and Hill had previously looked at withdrawing from Franklin because of concerns about the quality of education. In the early 1990s, when Hill considered its options for realigning with another community, Newfound did not have the space to accommodate Hill students and the withdrawal effort was dropped.
The parents attending Wednesday's school board meeting challenged the assertion that Franklin's educational quality was inferior to Newfound's, citing test scores and statistics on college-bound students. They also said that, while the terms of the withdrawal allow parents to continue sending students currently attending Franklin to the city schools, the school district will not be providing transportation and that will be a hardship for some.
They also questioned whether the tuition would remain low or whether they would be paying much higher amounts in the future. Several expressed the view that a 10-year agreement was too long a commitment.
Henry noted that, in negotiating the terms with Newfound, they were able to lower the basic tuition figure even more, although the actual cost will be determined by what services the Hill students need. Special education costs, for instance, will be assessed separately from the basic tuition.
The School Board accepted the draft tuition agreement with Newfound without sharing the details with the audience. Formal acceptance of the agreement will be part of the warrant at School District meeting and also will appear on the ballot in the Newfound Area.

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Kahn officially resigns from Meredith board; Seeger explains her own sudden departure

MEREDITH — Not long after walking out of a workshop session on Wednesday, Lou Kahn formally resigned from the Board of Selectmen.

Following the resignation of Hillary Seeger earlier the same day, Kahn's departure leaves the board with three members, two of whom — Carla Horne and Peter Brothers — are retiring when their terms expire next month.

Kahn, who chaired the U.S. 3/N.H. 25 Advisory Committee, left the workshop after a resident critical of the committee's recommended traffic plan, told him "you are the problem". When Kahn asked his colleagues "am I the problem" and sought their support, they did not respond and he left the room. Shortly before 7 p.m. he sent an e-mail to Town Manager Phil Warren tendering his resignation "in view of the unwillingness of the members of the Selectboard to offer any support for me in the face of a personal attack at the last meeting."

A longtime member of the Planning Board, Kahn was elected to the Selectboard in 2013 and had one year remaining on his three year term.

Earlier on Wednesday Seeger wrote to her colleagues explaining that "the time constraints placed on me by my full-time job make it difficult for me to fully participate in an endeavor which is largely scheduled during normal business hours." She urged the selectmen to consider scheduling their regular and committee meetings "outside of normal closing she wrote that "it has been a pleasure to serve the town I love so much" and thanked the people for electing her.

Town Manager Phil Warren said yesterday that the two seats opened by the retirements of Horne and Brothers will be filled by the election on March 10. There are eight candidates on the ballot — Rosemary Landry, Michael Hatch, Jonathan James, Bev Lapham, Raymond Moritz, Roland Tichy, Michael Pelczar and David Bennett, Sr. — and the two with the most votes will be declared the winners.

Warren said that after the election the new board will appoint two persons to fill the remaining seats. He anticipated that when the board meets on March 16 the three selectmen will invite applications, without limiting the field to the unsuccessful candidates in the election, then proceed to appoint two of the applicants.

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Dogs will be off & running today

LACONIA — Trail conditions are ideal for the 86th annual World Championship Sled Dog Derby, which gets underway today, and have benefited from recent heavy snowstorms.
''We've got a 15 mile course laid out which should be great through Saturday.'' says Lakes Region Sled Dog Club president Jim Lyman, who is also the trail boss for the derby.
Sunday may be more problematic with a forecast of anywhere between eight and 18 inches of snow for the eastern part of northern New England accompanied by high winds.
''We can't worry about that right now. We'll just have to wait and see what Sunday brings and make a decision at that time. If there's snow we can work on the trails but if there' s drifting and poor visibility it's a problem. We'll at least be able to get in two days,'' says Lyman.
The start and finish line is at the intersection of Old North Main Street and North Main Street in Laconia, with many viewing opportunities along that route and at the Laconia Country Club, which will be open for food service from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. all three days of the derby and will provide warm viewing locations as the trail passes right by the clubhouse.
Lyman expects a very competitive race with at least 15 entries in the open class, in which drivers have up to 16 dogs. Defending three-time champion Claude Bellerive of Charette, Quebec, will return along with other Canadian drivers and local favorites Keith Bryar Jr. of Moultonborough and Vermont musher Doug Butler will also be competing.
The total prize purse this year is $12,945.
Last year's derby was one of the most competitive ever, with the top five mushers finishing only two minutes and 21 seconds apart.
Bellerive held on to win by just 27 seconds over the three-day race and became only the fifth person ever to win the derby three or more times.
Bellerive is no stranger to close finishes, having had previously won back-to-back titles in 2007-08 by margins of 10 seconds and eight seconds.
The other mushers who have won the Laconia Derby three or more times are Emile St. Goddard (1930-31-33); Dr. Charles Belford (1956-64-65-66) Keith Bryar (1960-62-63) and Dick Moulton (1968-71-73-75-76).
Local favorite Keith Bryar Jr. is a two-time derby winner, having won in 2002 and 2011. During his 2011 victory his team set a blistering pace averaging 20 miles an hour on the 15.5 mile course on the first day.
Like most of the other mushers, Bryar drives a team of Alaskan Husky-German Short-haired Pointer mix dogs, also known as Eurohounds, which have a lighter coat than he Husky breeds and have tremendous stamina and have been the dominant dogs in sprint races since the eary 1990s.
The event begins at 10 a.m. today with the six-dog class, followed by the open class at 1 p.m. On Saturday, the six-dog event starts at 10 a.m., and at noon, the three-dog junior class goes out. At 1:30 p.m., the open class will run.
On Sunday, the competition continues with a six-dog class at 10 a.m., followed by a three-dog junior class at noon and the open class at 1:30 p.m.
Awards will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Laconia Country Club at 607 Elm St.

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Hosmer bill could lead to license plate dedicated to Motorcycle Week

CONCORD — State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) has introduced legislation to convene a committee to study the feasibility of offering a New Hampshire license plate commemorating Laconia Motorcycle Week, the oldest motorcycle rally in the country which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023.

Hosmer said yesterday that the purpose of the plate, which would be offered at a premium price, would be to generate funds to strengthen marketing of the event. He said that instead of seeking to introduce the plate, he preferred to establish study committee that could address the issues the proposal would raise,.

Hosmer noted that law enforcement agencies have expressed concern about the proliferation of specialized license plates and the Division of Travel and Tourism, which annually awards a grant to the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association to promote the rally, may have questions about earmarking additional funds exclusively for promoting the event. He said that the study committee would also consider the pricing of the license plate.

Hosmer said that a positive report of a study committee would lend momentum to a bill to introduce a specialized license plate for Motorcycle Week in a future session of the Legislature. Since the rally has grown and spread across the state, he expected the effort to strengthen promotion of the event would draw support from lawmakers beyond Laconia and the Lakes Region whose districts benefit from the influx of visitors.

The legislative initiative is one of several underway to bolster the flagging finances of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, which is saddled with debt.

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