Neglected land could be cleaned up if city allows sale

LACONIA — The City Council this week tabled an offer from Harry Bean to purchase part of a 1.67-acre lot owned by the city on Davis Place, which has become an unsightly dumping ground.

Bean seeks to purchase 9,810 square feet of untended woodland straddling Jewett Brook and lying between a house lot he owns at 32 Davis Place, on the opposite bank of the brook, and the remainder of the city property, part of which serves as a parking lot. Bean said yesterday that he is renovating the property at 32 Davis Place as a home for his granddaughter and adding the land next door to his lot would ensure that it is no longer neglected.

"One tree has blown down and others are rotten," he said, "and we've had shopping carts, mattresses, TVs, you name it, left there."

Bean offered $1,000 for the property, which would be acquired by a boundary line adjustment. Since the parcel would be carved out of the larger lot, its assessed value has not been determined. If the transaction closed, the property would be returned to the tax rolls and its value reflected in the assessment of the lot at 32 Davis Place to which it would be added.

Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) said that "Harry (Bean) is concerned about what goes on at that wood lot." Describing the property as "a piece of crap," he said that "the city has everything to gain and nothing to lose, even at a price of $1,000. I think it's a good deal for the city."

City Manager Scott Myers explained that the first step in the process of selling the property would be to schedule a public hearing to determine that it is "surplus." However, the council asked Myers to obtain an appraisal of the property as well as approach Bean about paying the transaction costs and agreeing to restrict the use of the land.

Bean, who has recently renovated several properties in the city, said "I like to take the worst place on the street and turn it into the best place," adding that "it gives the neighbors an incentive to improve their properties."

Small town, three libraries - Gilmanton debates funding Year-Round Library, two others have survived for a century

Conceived of by its supporters as a unifying force in this largely rural community of 3,800, the Gilmanton Year-Round Library continues to be at the center of an ongoing dispute over the funding of its operating costs seven years after it opened its doors.
Gilmanton has two other small libraries that receive modest levels of official town support but are not open on a full-time basis; the Corner Library next to the former Gilmanton Academy building which now houses town offices and the Gilmanton Iron Works Library, built in 1916 which is only open during the summer months,
The Corner Library, housed in what had been Ira Pennock's cobbler shop, celebrated its 100th anniversary as a library in 2012 and is open six hours a week during the winter. Both of the small libraries lack room for expansion
Deb Chase, a trustee of the Gilmanton Corner Library, said the Corner Library is the only true public library in town because it is owned by the public. She says that the other two libraries are privately owned and controlled by private boards of directors.
But neither of the older libraries has ever been funded at the levels of the newer year-round library.
This year, voters will be faced with a petitioned warrant article which would authorize the town to spend $50,000 a year for the next three years to support the library's operations, which because it totals an appropriation of more than $100,000, will require a 60 percent majority vote. Another petitioned warrant article calling for an appropriation of $50,000 to support the library's operations will also be on the ballot will require only a majority vote.
Built as a result of a nearly decade-long drive by volunteers who decided to create a modern full-service library in one of the only towns in the state that lacked a full-time public library, the library was built from an 18th century barn which was found in North Hampton and was dismantled and moved to a five-acre field across from the Gilmanton School where it was reassembled.
The volunteer group led by Elizabeth Bedard was formed in 1998 and raised $675,000, mostly in donations and grants as well as fundraisers like selling T-shirts and mugs, holding ice cream socials and walkathons and publishing a cookbook of local recipes.
Its efforts were rewarded with a completed two-story timber-frame building which highlights the rough-hewn beams from the original barn and is surrounded by a modern shell. Inside are more than 8,000 books, six computers for public use and wireless Internet for those with laptops, as well as audio books, newspapers, magazines, DVDs and CDs.
The group even had plans to establish an endowment fund which would pay the operational costs of the library and in 2008 started advertising in alumni magazines of Harvard and other Ivy League colleges in an effort to attract a donor for whom the library would be named.
But that never materialized, and late in 2008 the group announced that it would ask for $75,000 at the 2009 Town Meeting to fund the library's operations.
After a divisive, bitter debate, the article was defeated by a convincing margin, 224 to 125, at the March Town Meeting. Opponents claimed the association members had long promised they would never ask for tax dollars to support their library.
The Year-Round library was able to open in 2009 after it received a gift of $75,000 from an anonymous donor and ever since then it has turned to the community for support for its operating budget, usually in the $45,000 range.
But in 2013, the first year of SB 2 official ballot law voting, the funding request was turned down 400-322, raising concerns over whether or not the library would remain open. In 2014, the funding article passed by just 17 votes, and in 2015 it won by nearly 100 votes.
Selectman Don Guarino, who said he is a card-carrying supporter of the library, said the dispute lingers due to what he says were promises by library supporters that the facility "would never become a burden to taxpayers."
He says that there are good people on both sides of the public funding issue and that he would prefer to see the operating funds raised through community donations rather than property taxes.
Guarino said that selectmen will have to vote soon on whether they support or oppose the petitioned warrant articles as that information must be on the printed ballots at town meeting.
Chris Schlegel, president of the library association, said that the organization decided to ask for a three-year commitment of funds from townspeople in part because members felt that the yearly requests have become a divisive force in the community.
But, more importantly, she said that knowing the funds will be available in future years will allow the librarians to plan programs more effectively.
"It also shows that we're still committed to raising funds for the library's operations well into the future," said Schlegel.

Gilford School Board refuses to support operating budget that cuts raises

GILFORD — School Board members voted 4-to-1 not to support the proposed budget for the 2016-17 school year that will eliminate half of the raises recommended for the non-union staff.

The meeting was held after Tuesday night's Budget Committee's public hearing for their version of the budget, which is the one which will appear on the ballot in March. The total budget recommended by the Budget Committee was reduced by $115,508 largely by reducing the amount of raises for non-union staff from the 3 percent requested by the School Board to 1.5 percent.

The vote represents the board's unwillingness to support the cuts to support staff raises made by the budget committee but is not an endorsement of the default budget that has no raises.

"What I was hearing loudly, over and over, was concern for the support staff," said member Sue Allen.

"Personally, I think the purpose of a public hearing is to listen," she continued, referring to the continued back-and-forth between members of the public and some members of the Budget Committee during the hearing.

Member Chris McDonough was the lone dissenting vote for supporting the Budget Committee budget and said he feared not recommending it could lead voters to think they support the default budget.

Member Jack Landeau said his concern is the "arbitrary" cut because Social Security didn't go up. He said he does not support the cuts but sided with the majority and voted not to support budget. He said that if the board votes not to support, it is their "responsibility" to get the word to people as to why the board voted the way it did.

"Our job," said member Rae Mello Andrews, "is to make sure the people understand clearly where the school board stands and that's that they don't support the cuts made to the support staff raises by the committee."

She encouraged members to use social media sites to explain their position.

Chairman Karen Thurston, who is the school board representative to the budget committee, wanted people to know that the ongoing differences between the two boards and the administration was not personal.

"It's not us against them," she said. "We're going to talk about numbers."