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Gunstock negotiating for 2014 return of Tough Mudder competition

GILFORD — It looks like Tough Mudder will be returning to Gunstock Mountain Resort next year but likely in September rather than in June.

Gunstock Mountain Resort General Manager Greg Goddard told selectmen last night that he is in negotiations with the organization that bills itself as one of the toughest endurance and obstacle contests known.

"We fully expect a much smoother road (next year)," Goddard said, referring during a briefing to what he called "confusion" surrounding this past year's contest.

Nearly 12,000 people participated in the June 1-2, 2013 event at the first Tough Mudder at Gunstock that occurred during one of the most punishing New England heat waves recorded that early in the season.

The "confusion" stemmed from more participants needing more emergency services from the Gilford Fire Department and Lakes Region General Hospital than was expected, although Tough Mudder provided most of its own medical care and emergency services.

Another sources of confusion, said Gunstock Commission Chair John Morgenstern shortly after the contest, was that all event parking was at the N.H. Motor Speedway in Loudon with Tough Mudder providing all of the transportation for the participants — many of whom were unaware of the distance between the two venues.

Goddard said last night that Tough Mudder, the management of the speedway, and Gunstock are working on not only a proposal for a 2014 contest but the possibility of a two-weekend contest in 2015.

He said the biggest issue the negotiations face is the schedule at the speedway in Loudon but he said he's fairly confident the agencies can come to some kind of agreement in time for next year.

Goddard said they are up to 32 Tough Mudder events held annually, with Gunstock being one of two venues in New England.

In other Gunstock news, Goddard said they are rebuilding the festival field and making a terrian-based learning area. He said the new field will give them a better physical space for large events such as the annual summer Soul Fest.

Other summer improvements include a complete over haul of "loop road" or the road that goes around the main parking lot, something he said would make a lot of people very happy, especially in the spring.

Soul Fest, said Goddard, will be shorten by one day next year and will run Thursday, Friday and Saturday as opposed to being a four-day event.

He said participation this past year was down about 10 percent from previous years, noting Soul Fest organizers think this is because many people can't spend the entire four days in the area and don't want to pay only to miss one full day.

He also said the event would be moving from the first week in August to the second week in August.

Despite a lower turnout this past year, Goddard said Gunstock had a level revenue stream because the resort makes much of its money in chair-lift rides, retail concessions, and camping.

Down the road, he said Gunstock will host a new event called the Ragnar Trail Race Series that he said is a relay that is only trail running along a set route.

He also said Area Road is near completion and almost ready for the town to accept as a town road. Running from the old Alpine Ridge Ski Area to Cherry Valley Road, Area Road has 11 homes and 14 lots and for years was the primary egress from the resort.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 02:28

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Barnstead road agent fired

BARNSTEAD — Selectmen fired former Road Agent Chris Carazzo for refusing to cooperate with a town-generated investigation into the possible theft of recyclable materials.

According to a notice of dismissal letter filed with the Town Clerk's Office, selectmen had been told in April that Carazzo allegedly brought town-owned metals to Harding Metals of Northwood and Berwick Iron & Metal Recycling in Maine and kept the money for himself.

When the board began its investigation in late April, they met with Carazzo, the town attorney, and an investigator. Selectmen said the investigator spoke with a number of people and his report, if true, indicated that he "refused or neglected to carry out the duties prescribed by law for highway agents."

Despite the meeting, the board asked and later instructed Carazzo to sign authorizations for his personal access to the company's records so the investigator could examine and document the metal deliveries he allegedly made.

On the advice of his attorney, Carazzo refused and selectmen terminated his employment as of September 3, telling him that the signed authorizations were "reasonably necessary" for them to continue their investigation.

Selectmen also told him that his refusal to sign the releases could be grounds for his termination, citing RSA 231:65 that says (elected) highway agents shall be sworn in by selectmen, are under their supervision, and if any agent "shall intentionally or deliberately refuse or neglect to carry out the duties prescribed by law for highway agents after written request by the selectmen, the selectmen may remove such agent from office."

Carazzo was first elected to the position of road agent in 2008.

As part of the dismissal letter, selectmen said Carazzo's removal is not based on any conclusions about misappropriation of town money but on his deliberate refusal to obey a direct order from the board.

Selectboard Chair Priscilla Tiede recused herself from the meeting according to the minutes obtained from the Barnstead website. The letter was signed by Vice Chair David Kerr, James Barnard and Gordon Preston. Selectman Francis Vardaro did not sign it.

Kerr said he had no comment on the specific matter, but when asked if he supported Barnstead continuing with an elected road agent — as opposed to hiring a person to manage the department — Kerr said the voters at annual town meeting have consistently rejected the idea.

He said it was too soon to know if the selectmen would support a related article in 2014.

Earlier this year, a former employee of the Barnstead Highway Department filed a complaint in Belknap County Superior Court against Carazzo and the town for sexual discrimination, claiming Carazzo called him a number of emasculating names during his employment with the town. The time frame of the alleged harassment began in 2009 and continued until July of 2010 when he resigned.

Richard Niolet alleges that the allegedly "hostile work environment" began with a racial slur made to him by a subcontractor who was working for the town and under Carazzo's supervision. Niolet has a mixed-race family and he claims that the harassment started when he complained to Carazzo about the subcontractor's comments.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 03:00

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Briarcrest Estates to be sold for $10M, but to whom?

LACONIA — A group of homeowners at Briarcrest Estates, led by former city councilor Jim Cowan, are seeking to block the sale of the manufactured housing community to a Florida corporation and have formed a cooperative to acquire it for the tenants. But, they have met with resistance from the owners of the park, Mark and Ruth Mooney, who yesterday asked the Belknap County Superior Court to approve the transaction.

On July 3, the Mooneys tentatively accepted an offer from Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC of Orlando, Florida, an affiliate of Hometown American Corporation, to purchase the park for $10 million. The community, which opened off Rte. 106 in 1988, consists of 241 units on 183 acres divided between Laconia and Belmont.

Within a week, in compliance with state law, the terms of the transaction were disclosed to the tenants, who have 60 days to make a counter offer by presenting a purchase and sales agreement. If a counter offer is forthcoming, the park owner is required to bargain in good faith with the tenants or their organization.

Cowan said that some tenants contacted ROC-NH, a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund that has assisted and financed the conversion of 107 manufactured housing parks to cooperative ownership. After a meeting with officials of ROC-NH, on July 30 a number of tenants formed Lakemont Cooperative, with Cowan as its president.

Cowan declined yesterday to specify how many of the owners of the 232 occupied units at Briarcrest have joined the cooperative, saying only "it's in double figures."

On September 6, just two days before the deadline, Lakemont Cooperative submitted a purchase and sales agreement to acquire the park. According to the statute the cooperative has "a reasonable time beyond the 60-day period, if necessary, to obtain financing for the purchase."

Cowan said yesterday that he is especially troubled by the prospect of Hometown America, through its affiliate, acquiring the park. He said that the parent company, which is headquartered in Chicago but operates our of Orlando, has been the target of "many, many complaints."

In particular, Cowan fears for the lease agreement, which limits the annual increase in rents to the increase in property taxes and special assessments and, at the discretion of the owner, the percentage increase in the consumer price index. Furthermore, since the lease automatically renews it cannot be changed.

But, Cowan notes, a provision of the purchase and sales agreement entitles Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC to assign its rights in the purchase and sales agreement to one or more other entities. He expects that once acquired Briarcrest will be promptly transferred to another owner, likely another affiliate of Hometown America, which will proceed to alter the terms of the lease.

At a meeting with tenants, the Mooneys presented a letter from Thomas Stewart, general partner of Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC in which he assured them of "our desire and commitment to continue to operate the community at the same standards and with the same expectations as currently exist. Current Lease, Covenants and Park Rules," Stewart continued, "will be grandfathered to the current homeowners."

In petitioning the court, on behalf of the Mooneys, attorney John Giere stressed that the state statute is intended to safeguard the interests of tenants of manufactured housing parks. He explained that the owners twice polled the tenants. Initially 164 opposed a sale to the cooperative headed by Cowan and only seven favored it. When the owners of the 232 occupied units who failed to reply were subsequently polled, they claimed that 176 opposed selling to the cooperative. On the strength of the poll results, the Mooneys believe that the interests of the tenants, which the statute intends to protect, would best be served by selling to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC.

The statute provides that a park owner who fails to bargain in good faith with its tenants or a cooperative may be liable to a penalty of $10,000 or ten-percent of the sale price, which in this case would amount to $1-million.

Consequently, Giere asked the court to find that the Mooney have met their obligations under the statute and that their refusal to accept the cooperative's offer would not violate the law and subject them to penalties.

Geire, who has represented a dozen cooperatives in similar transactions, said that the petition seeks to interpret the intent the statute to apply to the circumstances at Briarcrest, namely the apparent preference of a majority of tenants for the sale to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC.

Giere conceded that Cowan's unease about the future of the lease arrangement should the park again change hands is "a valid concern." However, he believes that because the lease renews automatically it runs with the property and cannot be abrogated.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 02:20

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Sanbornton library director Cab Vinton moving on to Plaistow

SANBORNTON — Eight-year veteran library director Cab Vinton will be departing the Public Library here to take over as the director of the Plaistow Public Library in the southeast corner of the state.

Vinton started his work with the library as a trustee in 2005 and became the librarian in September of 2006, after serving as interim director for a period of time.

"Hey you have a library degree," Vinton said he was told by the Library Trustees.

Among Vinton's accomplishments, he said Tuesday he is the most proud of completing the physical expansion of the local library.

He said the money for the expansion and renovation to the second floor was approved sometime in the 1990s. Because of various "snags" he said the groundbreaking didn't take place until 2005.

But by that time, the costs of the renovation had soared and instead of the library needing to privately raise 10 percent of the costs of the renovation, it now needed to raise two and a half times more money because the town's contribution stayed the same.

"For a small town, this community really stepped up," Vinton said.

He said the upstairs has mobile shelving handmade by volunteers that can be rolled around the room to configure it as needed.

For example, Vinton said that if all the shelves are moved to one side, there is space for 100 people to sit. The library has been used for a variety of meetings including a couple of candidates' nights.

Recently, N.H. author and humorist Rebecca Rule spoke at the Library and Vinton said all they had to do was roll the carts to one side and set up chairs for the lecture.

Vinton has also taken the library into the modern era by installing four public computers. He also wanted to thank Robert and Patricia Risley for donating six laptops in memory of their son.

When Vinton first came to the library it was still using card catalogs. "We skipped a century when in 2009 we became completely computerized," he said.
But it's the numbers that tell the story of the Sanbornton Public Library — over the past five years visits to the institution have increased by 25 percent while the checkout of items has risen 80 percent.

"We try to cater to everyone in Sanbornton — from babies to the older residents," Vinton said.

As to his impending move, he said he is excited and nostalgic at the same time.

Plaistow, he said, has a library that is about 2-to-4 times the size of the Sanbornton Library and represents a challenge to him professionally as its new director.

"But, I'm really going to miss Sanbornton," he said. "I've made some wonderful friends here."

Vinton's last day in September 13. He said Mary Algren, a Sanbornton resident and the retired director of the Hall Memorial Library that serves Tilton and Northfield will be leading the committee searching for his replacement.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 03:30

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