Colonial Theatre renovation set to begin this spring


LACONIA — Financing for the renovation and restoration of the Colonial Theatre is expected to be complete in April, construction to begin in May and the project to be finished in about a year's time.

Jack Dugan, president of the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation who has served as a consultant to the Belknap Economic Development Council, told the City Council this week, that a last round of "value engineering" will conclude in the next two weeks, By refining the estimates reviewing the priorities, he said we aim to "get the best project at the most reasonable price"

In July 2015, the city loaned the Belknap Economic Development Council $1.4 million to purchase the theater and has received monthly interest payments of $4,200 on the borrowing. Originally, the loan was set to mature this month. But, with the financing of the redevelopment project scheduled to close in April, the City Council this week agreed to extend the maturation date of the loan to April 31.

Duggan explained that the financial package for the project consists of nine different sources of funds, which will be bundled together at a closing in April. He said that the budget for the project currently stands at $13.7 million, adding that the number could change as costs are reduced and funds increased. The sale of New Markets tax credits represents the single largest share of the financing, $4.6 million or 39 percent of the total, followed by $2.4 million in proceeds from the sale of historic preservation tax credits. Tax credits issued by the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority account for $520,000 and a block grant from the agency will add between $250,000 and $500,000. The New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program awarded the city a grant of $500,000 for the project. The so-called "Brownfields" program, administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will provide $200,000.

A capital campaign, which is still underway, has raised $1.5 million in private contributions from corporations and individuals and anticipates raising more. Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, said that not only have many in the city and Lakes Region contributed, but also people from across the country with ties to Laconia and memories of the Colonial Theatre have made donations. The city itself will loan the Belknap Economic Development Council between $2 million and $3 million to undertake the project with the option after seven years to either call the loan or take ownership of the theatre. Finally, some $250,000 in interest income is expected to accrue from the investment of unspent funds during the course of construction.

Former mayor sues county; charges Right to Know, union violations


LACONIA — Former Laconia Mayor Tom Tardif has filed a legal action against the Belknap County Commissioners and Belknap County Delegation in which he maintains that both parties have committed numerous violations of state statutes, including the Right to Know law, in their recent approvals of a collective bargaining agreement with unionized workers at the Belknap County Nursing Home.
The lawsuit was filed last week in Belknap County Superior Court and it is anticipated that it will be heard in Carroll County Superior Court, as have Tardif's recent legal actions against the county and the city of Laconia.
Tardif maintains that both the commissioners and delegation have failed to meet the public notice requirements of state law, which requires a seven-day notice before meetings, and that placing the public notice in The Laconia Daily Sun, whose circulation Tardif maintains excludes Barnstead, disenfranchised the residents and voters of Barnstead and their right to know what county government is doing.
He also maintains that the county delegation has no role to play in approving employee contracts, as the county commissioners are the executive body of the county. Tardif says that the only way the the delegation could become involved is if the cost items of agreement exceed the grand total of appropriations approved by the delegation, which would then have to approve a supplemental appropriation to cover the cost items.
"Lacking any documentation that the cost item relating to the union employment agreements was anticipated to exceed the Grand Total Appropriation for FY 2016, negates any and all involvement with the delegation, as the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement did not require an appropriation by the legislative body."
The contract was approved by commissioners on Nov. 2 and by the county delegation on Nov. 22.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), a retired lawyer, said at the Nov. 22 meeting that the objections to the contract raised by Tardif in a letter to the editor published in The Laconia Daily Sun a week prior to the meeting, ignored state law RSA 273-A:3-11-b, which says that the legislative body of the governmental entity involves passes on cost items of collective bargaining agreements.

Recovery Court to seek $400,000 grant to expand services to those fighting addiction


LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners gave a green light to representatives of the Recovery Court program currently operating in Laconia Circuit Court to apply for a $400,000, three-year federal grant which will be used to hire a full-time coordinator for the program and scale it up to the point where it will be able to more than double the number of people it serves as it expands to cover Belknap County Superior Court.
Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center and Jesse Friedman of the Public Defender's Office presented the proposal to commissioners when they met Thursday afternoon at the Belknap County complex. Both are members of the all-volunteer Recovery Court, also known as a Drug Court, which meets weekly to monitor the progress of those accepted into the program, which offers alternatives to jail sentences for those willing to undergo counseling, undergo random and regular drug testing and commit to at least 250 hours of community service.
Other members are Circuit Court Judge James Carroll, Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen, the Laconia Division of Parole and Probation, Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, the Belknap County Restorative Justice Program, the Belknap County House of Corrections, Genesis Behavior Health and Laconia Drug Prevention, Education and Treatment Officer Eric Adams.
Abikoff said that the grant will require a $133,333 local match, much of which can come from in-kind services already being provided. She said the funds will be used to improve the quality and intensity of services being provided, including access to health care coverage and vocational and job training.
She said that the coordinator can either be a county employee or someone the county contracts with to provide services and that after the grant runs for three years the drug court which has been established will be eligible for state funding.
Friedman pointed that the grant provides an exceptional opportunity to put a full-fledged drug court in place, meshing well with the programs which will be provided at the Belknap County Community Corrections facility which will be opening in September, and that time is of the essence as the deadline for filing the grant application is Feb. 28.
"We have six weeks to get the information together and write the grant," said Abikoff.
Commissioners said they are supportive and want to see how the program will be set up and run and have further input before formally endorsing the grant proposal.