Governor nominates Laconia man for high DOT job

CONCORD — Governor Maggie Hassan yesterday nominated William Cass of Laconia for the position of assistant commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT). He will succeed Jeff Brillhart, who will retire next month.

A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Cass joined the DOT as a civil engineer in the Bureau of Highway Design in 1986. He worked for most of his first 15 years with the department and in 2001 became chief project manager in the project development division of the DOT. He was the project manager for the reconstruction of I-93 between Salem and Manchester. Since 2007 Cass has been director of project development, managing the eight bureaus within the division, which together employ 360 people, have an annual operating budget of $35-million and pursue an annual construction program with a value of more than $175 million.

Cass said yesterday that the assistant commissioner also carries the title "chief engineer," but he expected that with Patrick McKenna of Gilford serving as acting commissioner he would be representing the department in a variety of capacities.

Cass said that he moved to Laconia from Belmont about 15 years ago. He was a religious education teacher, Eucharistic Minister and Lector at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Lakeport and chairman of the board at Holy Trinity School from 1998 to 2003. He also coached a number of youth athletic teams in the city. And he served on the Master Plan Steering Committee from 2005 to 2007.

"Representative Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), a former director of public works in the city and a member of the House Public Works and Highways Committee, described Cass as "an excellent choice. He's been on the hot seat many times in the last three or four years," he continued, " and has always given good, informed, reasonable answers and been easy to deal with."

Cass said that he anticipates the Governor and Executive Council will vote on his nomination at their next regularly scheduled meeting on April 7.

One-act excellence: GHS & LHS both have plays at 'states'

LACONIA — The Laconia High School and Gilford High School theater departments will be traveling to Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston on Friday and Saturday to take part in the annual N.H. Education Theatre Guild One Act Festival. Twelve schools will be competing and two will be selected to advance to a New England-wide festival.

Gilford and Laconia took the stage for the regional level of the One Act Festival on March 14, in Gilford, where they presented their shows alongside five other schools from around the state. Each show was viewed by two professional adjudicators who gave constructive feedback to the cast directly following each show, and after deliberation four of the seven schools were selected to move on to perform at the state-level competition.

Laconia students were eager to attend the regional One Act Festival this year after a two year hiatus. Under the new theater director, Amanda Babcock, LHS presented the southern comedy "Dearly Departed". Originally written at full length by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, the script was adapted by Babcock to fit a 40-minute time constraint.

"I had been wanting to do this show for a long time and finally this year I got the opportunity to," said Babcock. "They have taken a fantastic script and made it their own. I am very proud of every person in the cast."

The show follows a cast of colorful characters in a dysfunctional family as they come together to bury their patriarch, who had passed away due to a stroke. The show was recognized at the regional level by the adjudicators, with male actor Taylor Gagney, a junior, winning an Excellence in Acting award for his portrayal of the female character.

Gilford High School chose to perform the contemporary drama "Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl. The director of the cast is Heather Hunt, a senior at GHS who is planning on attending college to study theater and the arts.

When asked why she picked the show, Hunt replied, "Because I wanted a challenge, and something that would startle people a little. There are a lot of traditional shows at this sort of theater festival, so I thought it would be an interesting change to have something sort of modern and original."

The show "Eurydice" follows the tragic love story of Eurydice and Orpheus as they face the challenges of untimely death while trying to preserve their love. The small and diverse cast of characters was recognized by the judges as well with three awards being presented at the end of the regional festival. Excellence in Acting awards went to Ryan Hall, who played Eurydice's father, and to Tom Pouliot playing the "Nasty Interesting Man/Child". Hunt won the award for Excellence in Directing.

This is the first time that Laconia High School has been chosen to move on to a state festival since the performance of "Night Mother" in 2009. Gilford is performing at the state level for the fourth consecutive year, following up last years achievement of making it New England theater festival with the performance of "Almost Maine" under the direction of Sarah Cook.

Upon being asked how Gilford felt about moving on to states with their neighboring town for the first time in years, Hunt said, "It's exciting to be going to states with Laconia, our neighbor city, for the first time in years. One of the great things about festival is how it builds connections in the student theater community."

Elks planning pot-luck fundraiser on Saturday for 'Mikey' Bird

GILFORD — The Laconia Lodge of Elks No. 876 is hosting a fundraising event on Saturday, March 28 to benefit former state president Michael "Mikey" Bird, who survived a sudden cardiac arrest he suffered while clearing snow on Thanksgiving Day. Friends, family and members of the local lodge will gather at 5 p.m. for a $5 potluck dinner, gift certificate bingo and a 50/50 raffle. All proceeds will be used to pay medical bills.

Prizes for the gift certificate bingo are being donated by Lakes Region businesses. Businesses who wish to donate are urged to call Elk member Robert Cunningham (or wife Diane) at 528-1248.

Cunningham said Bird remains an active Elks' member, though he suffers from stroke-like symptoms as a result of the extensive life-saving care he received last fall. A veteran of the Vietnam War, bird is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

The local Elks Lodge is located at 17 Sugarbush Lane in Gilford, just a few yards off Rte 11-A, between the Laconia Bypass and Gilford Village.




Gilford school superintendent proposes dropping number of administrative team members by 1

GILFORD — Many of the 45 to 50 parents of children in the local school district expressed some trepidation last night about elimination the position of middle school vice principal.

The parents who spoke compared the elimination of the position to the elimination of the Gilford Elementary School vice principal about eight years ago and said there primary concern is that teaching staff won't get the administrative support for education and disciplinary issues.

Most parents wanted the administrative team to continue the way it currently is, and there was even some support for bringing back an assistant principal at the elementary, which isn't likely to happen.

"I didn't move to Gilford to save money," said one woman who declined to be identified. "Do we have to make these cuts."

The "cuts" are really a proposed restructuring of the 10 people who make up the administrative team for the School District. For fiscal year 2015-2016, there will be no reduction in the number of people on the team nor will there be any reduction in the budget.

Right now, the administrative staff includes a superintendent, a business administrator, a special services director, a technology director and a curriculum director at the SAU level.

In addition, there is a principal and vice-principal at the high school, a principal and a vice-principal at the middle school and a principal at the elementary school.

With the sudden resignation of the Gilford Middle School principal and with declining enrollments projected throughout the district, the School Board already decided to move the high school principal to the middle school and advertise for the vacancy.

Last night, Superintendent Kent Hemingway recommended converting the positions of district-wide curriculum director and the middle school vice principal to two positions that would coordinate both curriculum and student supervision.

Hemingway said he would like to keep one person at each of the two upper buildings as much as possible, saying he's not a fan of moving administrators from building to building.

He said those two individuals are already employed at the school and he expects them to stay on with their new job responsibilities. Any proposed cuts to the administrative team would come in fiscal year 2016-2017, when Hemingway is recommending the administrative team be reduced from 10 to 9 "point something," meaning, at this point, he just doesn't know.

Hemingway told the parents that the teachers and the teachers' union have already been appraised of the changes and more meetings with both would likely continue.

As of last night, the School Board hadn't made a final decision on Hemingway's proposals.