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Innovative database developed to match local teens with internship opportunities

LACONIA — In 2011, to match the demand of businesses for skilled employees with the aspirations of students for fruitful careers, Granite United Way and its partners launched "200 by 2020," a program aimed at enrolling 200 firms in the Lakes Region in offering learning opportunities for high school students by the year 2020.

The program has taken a giant step forward with the development of an internship data base open to any business and any school in the region, which streamlines the process of linking employers and students. "It is our biggest project to date" said Carmen Lorentz, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council.

At lakesregioninternships.com students, working with their guidance counselors can set up an account. Lorentz said that almost 30 firms, representing ever sector of the local economy, are offering some 50 opportunities for internships and job shadows and anticipates that another 25 businesses will soon make similar offerings. Each entry provides an explanation of the position and how to apply for it.

The project was funded with a $15,000 grant from the Samuel P. Pardoe Foundation and the sale of $120,000 worth of tax credits from the Community Development Finance Authority to Eptam Plastics, NGM Insurance, Bank of New Hampshire and Cross Insurance. A data base was developed with Mainstay Technologies designed software. Mainstay, located in Belmont, designed the software, donating significant time and talent to what Lorentz called "a pretty complex project."

Recently Lorentz presented the project to rave reviews at a conference held by the Northeastern Economic Developers Association, where the six New England states as well as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware were represented. She said that she is weighing the prospects of licensing and marketing the unique program, which would generate a revenue stream to maintain and operate it in the future.

Lorentz encouraged all interested students and their parents to visit the website with its opportunities to explore the world of work .

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 02:49

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Trial for man accused of drug sales scheduled to begin on Monday - 481

LACONIA — A Belknap Superior Court judge has reduced the bail for a Manchester man charged with one count of sales of narcotics from $100,000 cash to $25,000 cash.

Judge James O'Neill ruled yesterday that Alfredo Gonzalez, 46, of Center Street in Manchester must wear an electronic bracelet and provide the court proof the bail money is legally obtained, should he post it.

His trial is scheduled to begin on Monday morning and the jury has been seated.

Initially incarcerated for providing the heroin that killed 22-year-old Ashley Denty in late March of 2011 Gonzalez has been in jail for two years. He is also charged with one general count of sales of heroin.

Earlier this year, a different Belknap County jury found him not guilty of sales of controlled drugs regarding a completely unrelated case.

After a hearing held last week, Gonzalez's attorney, Mark Sisti, argued that he should be released on personal recognizance bail and both the charges against his client should be dismissed because he had recently learned state and the Laconia Police Department were investigating a different person in connection to Denty's death — information he said was exculpatory and that he should have had immediately.

The man allegedly posted on his Facebook page that he administered the heroin that killed her. Sisti said the police conducted the interview with him in April and gave the transcript to the prosecutor in July, but he never heard about it until five days before the trial.

A day later, Asst. Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern dropped the most severe charge. She said the investigation into the man who said he injected Denty with the drug has nothing to do with the charge that Gonzalez sold the drug who ultimately sold it to Denty.

Yesterday, O'Neill ruled that the new evidence was not relevant to the sales-only charge and said the case will go forward Monday as scheduled.

In July, Gonzalez also pleaded guilty to one count of assault by prisoner for an altercation he had with two other inmates while in the Belknap County House of Corrections awaiting his trial for the heroin sales.

He was sentenced to serve 2-to-5 years in the N.H. State Prison — all suspended. He was also given an 8-month sentence in the Belknap County House of Corrections but was credited with eight months of time served.

O'Neill also ruled yesterday the prosecution could use Gonzalez's guilty plea to assault by prisoner as evidence should he take the stand in his own defense. Sisti had objected to the conviction being allowed into evidence.

O'Neill split the difference by saying the jury had a right to use the conviction to assess Gonzalez's character if he chooses to testify in his own trial but said he would give the jury a limiting instruction saying they were not to consider his guilty plea to the assault as evidence in the trial for drug sales.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 02:41

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Developer asks Gilford to accept road so home buyers will come

GILFORD — Some questions about a how much road frontage is needed to make a legal building lot led to a heated exchange between a developer and town officials at the selectman's meeting Wednesday night.

Developer Howard Warren of Blue Sky Enterprises had asked the selectmen to accept a road (Rowe Farm Road) in an approved subdivision off Cotton Hill Road before any houses are built on the 13 available lots.

During his presentation, Warren told selectmen that Town Administrator Scott Dunn had told him his advice to the Selectboard would be that they don't go through the process of accepting the road until there are at least three homes are built.

The road is built and the Department of Public Works and the planning director worked closely with Blue Sky to build it so it would be easy for the town to plow and maintain.

Warren said he had applied to the town to accept the now-finished roadway as a town road, but Dunn had sent him a letter telling him accepting Howe Farm Road before any homes are built is premature and does not meet any "public need."

During the course of Warren's presentation to the board, he made several points, including that it would be impossible to sell lots because without a public road because there wouldn't be enough frontage, but ended his presentation by saying he didn't want to seem threatening but if the board didn't "take (it) right away (they're) essentially saying no to the subdivision ...we'll be forced to litigate."

Dunn exploded. "To imply that he can't sell a lot if the town doesn't take it over has no basis in fact."

"There is nothing in the law that says the town ever has to take a private road and there is no guarantee it will ever be a town road," Dunn continued.

"To threaten us with litigation, I say, 'Bring it on,'" he said.

Selectmen Gus Benavides and John O'Brien also said they interpreted Warren's statement the same way Dunn did, although Warren spent most of the rest of the presentation trying to mollify the board.

"I would say that if you want us to help you, don't even bring that word (litigation) up," Benavides said, adding selectmen hadn't discussed the road yet, that Selectman Kevin Hayes, who represents the selectmen on the Planning Board was unavailable for last Wednesday's meeting, and that selectmen will make the decision — not the town administrator.

"We make out own decisions," he said.

According to Planning Director John Ayer, who spoke on the phone yesterday but was not at Wednesday's meeting, Blue Sky Development has the frontage it needs to sell the lots because the definition of frontage is the length of road bordering a right-of-way and has nothing to do with being public or private.

Dunn's recommendation was made in light of the fact that it is close to winter and he doesn't want to spend town resources plowing a road with no homes.

Warren said it is much easier to sell a house on a public road — a statement with which everyone agrees — but said he was up against the impending winter season and would like to get a few lots sold before then so they can be planned in time for the spring building season.

He also said that it is in the town's best financial interests to get the lots sold as quickly as possible because each lot will pay a 10-percent land use change tax and it could realize as much as $140,000 sooner rather than later.

He also said it makes sense in the long run to accept the road, which is about 1,000 feet long with a cul-de-sac and driveway cuts, sooner than later so it can generate property taxes.

Warren also said that Dunn's recommendation was the result of a "new rule" but Benavides told him there is "no new rule" and that has always been entirely within the selectman's purview to make a private road public.

Benavides also wanted to know if the Planning Board "guaranteed" acceptance to which Warren said Blue Sky and the Planning Board had a "gentleman's agreement" but that nothing was ever guaranteed.

Dunn said he met privately with Warren, his business partner and wife, and Ayer on Thursday but nothing was resolved in that meeting.

Dunn reiterated yesterday that the selectmen make the decisions and he only makes recommendations.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 03:11

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Some Briarcrest residents skeptical that a cooperative could handle $10M of debt & still keep rents low & upkeep high

LACONIA — The impending sale of Briarcrest Estates has divided residents of the manufactured housing community. Some have formed Lakemont Cooperative in an effort to purchase the park for the tenants while others, apparently the majority, support the preference of the owners, Mark and Ruth Mooney of Belmont, to sell to a Florida corporation.

In July the Mooneys tentatively accepted an offer from Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC of Orlando to purchase the 183-acre park with 241 home sites for $10 million. However, state law entitles the tenants to make a counter offer by presenting a purchase and sales agreement within 60 days of the first offer.

On the eve of the deadline, Lakemont Cooperative, consisting of a minority of the residents, bid to acquire the park by matching the offer Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC. The statute grants the cooperative "a reasonable time beyond the 60-day period, if necessary, to obtain financing for the purchase" and, in the meantime, requires the owners to bargain in good faith with the cooperative.

Jim Cowan, president of the cooperative, insists "if we don't own the land, we don't control our destiny." In particular, he fears for the lease agreement, which limits the annual increase in park rents to the increase in property taxes and special assessments, such as the trash collection contract, and, at the discretion of the owner, the percentage increase in the consumer price index (CPI).

Orrie Gibbs, who has lived at Briarcrest for the past 21 years, is among those who favors the sale to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC. She doubts a cooperative can service the debt required to purchase the park without either raising rents beyond the limits set by the existing agreement or reducing operating expenses by cutting services, which would impair the quality of life in the community.

A real estate paralegal, Gibbs dismissed Cowan's concern for the lease agreement, claiming that "whoever owns the park must honor the lease agreement." Instead, she said that cooperative ownership posed a greater threat of higher rents.

Gibbs said that ROC-NH, a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which has assisted and financed the conversion of 107 manufactured housing parks to cooperative ownership, has proposed a financing package. The cooperative would borrow $5.1 million at near 5 percent for 20 years from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and make only interest payments for the first five years, but repay both principal and interest afterwards. She said the cooperative would likely refinance the loan after five years at a higher interest rates, noting that "rates have already begun to rise." A commercial lender, most likely a bank, would finance the balance of the purchase price at a market rate.

"I am concerned by the magnitude of the amount of money the cooperative wants to borrow," Gibbs said. Stressing that the lease agreement not only caps rent annual increases but renews automatically each year, she questioned how the cooperative could service a debt of $10 million while honoring the lease agreement. Furthermore, she noted that "the cooperative must make money, enough to pay its bills and keep reserve fund for unforeseen expenses."

Gibbs acknowledged that while parks have converted to cooperative ownership, most are much smaller with different lease agreements and, above all, incurred far less debt and far fewer expenses than would be required to acquire and maintain Briarcrest.

According to Gibbs, only a small minority of the 231 tenants at Briarcrest favor cooperative ownership. When the cooperative voted to submit a purchase and sales agreement, only 31 tenants voted, she said, and two of them voted "no." She said that when the Mooney polled the tenants 176 opposed cooperative ownership and favored the sale to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC.

Last week, on the strength of the poll results, attorney John Giere, on behalf of the Mooneys, petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to find that they had met their obligation to bargain in good faith with both parties and that by refusing to accept the cooperative's offer they would not be liable to penalties. The statute provides that owners who fail to bargain in good faith may be subject to a penalty of $10,000 or 10 percent of the sale price, whichever is greatest, or in this case $1-million.

Attorney Brenda Smith-Weiss, who represents Lakemont Cooperative, said that she has not yet been served, but would prepare a response to the Mooneys' filing in due course.

Briarcrest Estates is located off Rte. 106, just outside the Laconia Bypass.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 02:24

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