Reborn Wyatt Park celebrated on Saturday

LACONIA — Some three dozen people joined city officials on Saturday to celebrate the official reopening of the popular Wyatt Park, which recently underwent its first major renovation in some 40 years.

The improvements to the South End park, which represent an investment of $75,000, were initiated by residents of the neighborhood after disturbances and incidents of vandalism led neighbors to shun the park and request increased police presence.

Beginning in 2012 there were a number of well attended public meetings and several conceptual designs. City Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) requested an appropriation of $50,000 to renovate the park. The Department of Public Works invested $15,000 in relocating a crosswalk, rebuilding a sidewalk, installing new curbing and paving nearby streets. HEAL (Heathy Eating Active Living) NH awarded the city a grant of $10,000 toward reviving the park.

The basketball court, a centerpiece of the park, was resurfaced and lined for hop-scotch, foursquare and pickle ball as well as basketball. Four light poles and new fencing were erected to enhance security. A water fountain was installed and the pavilion was renovated. New playground equipment A walking path was built around the perimeter of the park and additional green space was created.

Kevin Dunleavy, director of park sand recreation, said that if funding becomes available additional playground equipment, a picnic shelter and volleyball court could be added to the park. Mayor Ed Engler said that he would like to see more grass in the park, which he noted is just a budget issue.

Sally Perino, president of the Wyatt Park Association, who some neighborhood children believe owns the park, expressed her appreciation to the city for its investment. As an across the street neighbor, she has enjoyed the park for the past 44 years and recalled when it was the hub of the neighborhood, a venue for street festivals, wedding ceremonies and birthday parties as well as recreational activities.

"It's a family park again," remarked Amy Lovisek, deputy director of Parks and Recreation.

Engler attributed the success of the renovation to the advocacy of those like Perino, who urged city officials to reinvest in the park, which Dunleavy said has always been a popular attraction for not only residents of the South End but also the entire city.

Barnstead teenagers located

BARNSTEAD — Two local teenagers who were reported missing after failing to arrive at a semi-formal dance in Alton on Saturday were found unharmed on Sunday.

Police Chief Joseph McDowell said that Jacqueline Hamilton, 15, of Sugar Lane, Barnstead left her home in an unknown type of vehicle around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday. She met with a young man named "John," who was later identified as Jonathan Coggins, also, of Province Road, Barnstead with whom she spent most of the day on Saturday. McDowell said that Hamilton's parents told officers they believed the two may have headed to Clinton, Mass., where Coggins used to live.

McDowell said that police in Clinton, Mass., were notified at once, and both Hamilton and Coggins were entered into a national base as missing persons. The department also posted a report, together with photographs of the teenagers, on its Facebook page. The chief said that a tip from an alert and observant resident who recognized the teens from their photographs enabled police to locate them on Parade Road. "They did take off," he said, "but they never left the area." He said that neither had access to a vehicle.

McDowell said that police would meet with the families this week to determine what prompted the two to leave home and decide whether to file a CHINs (Children in Need of Services) petition. He said that no criminal act warranting a juvenile arrest was committed and "it's better to handle these situations within the family environment."

Man said to have threatened his mom with a gun

LACONIA — A Manchester Street man is being held on $10,000 cash-only bail for allegedly threatening his mother with a loaded handgun after his video appearance in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.

Police affidavits said police went to Manchester Street Sunday at 11:47 a.m. to assist a woman who told authorities Adam Bentley, 28, of the same address, had assaulted her by strangling her and tossing her to the floor.

While she was on the phone with police, she said she looked up to the top of the stairs and saw he had a black handgun pointed at her. She hid in the kitchen until police arrived.

When police arrived, they saw Bentley moving away from the house. The responding officer said he was moving quickly and was talking on the phone. Affidavits said he dropped a 4-inch hunting knife when he saw the officer.

In court, Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer said the victim told police her son may have been considering "suicide by cop." Sawyer was seeking $20,000 cash bail.

Police affidavits said they found a .380 handgun in Bentley's bedroom. The gun had two bullets in the magazine and one in the chamber.

Public Defender Justin Littlefield said there may be some element of self-defense involved, and his client denies the incident unfolded the way police said it did. He noted that Bentley dropped the knife immediately upon seeing a police officer, giving no credence to the "suicide by cop" statements.

Littlefield said $20,000 was punitive and Bentley has no criminal record.

Judge Jim Carroll ordered that he be held on cash bail but that if he gets a bed in a secure residential treatment facility, the cash bail can be reverted to personal recognizance.