Belmont Selectboard majority thwarts move to eliminate job at public works

BELMONT — With the retirement of one of the town's senior-most truck operators and the promotion of another, selectmen found themselves at odds at their meeting May 18  over whether or not Belmont should replace the empty position. By consensus, the board eventually agreed to post the vacancy and will be hiring a replacement.

Selectman Chair Ruth Mooney suggested that the Public Works Department could at least temporarily go without filling the position or possible look to sub-contract the work during the winter because this time of year is a "slow".

"At the election, the budget passed but by not a lot," Mooney noted. She added that many of the people who came to the recent discussion about the Belmont Mill complained that their property taxes were too high.

Director Jim Fortin said the winter was the slowest time of year for public works crews. Spring, summer, and fall are when the department must do the town's gravel roads, the roadside ditching, repair any winter damage, and mow the grass.

He explained that there are only 31 weeks of the year that members of the Public Works Department can take vacations and because he has had little to no appreciable turnover in the department in a number of years — all of those vacation days must be taken during the spring, summer, and fall. This leaves him with about 1.5 people out per week.

"We have 43 vacation weeks to take in 31 weeks." said Fortin.

He said the Public Works Department is already doing more with less. "I just want us to be left alone and keep carrying on," he said.

Jon Pike told Mooney she was missing the point, which is that 75 percent of the total money raised by local taxes goes to the school district and this past year, when the motions came at the Shaker School District annual meeting to add full-day kindergarten and a science teacher there "was nobody there to stop it".

"Yeah, they worry about taxes, but we have a great road maintenance crews," said Pike.

Pike noted that Fortin wasn't asking for any more people just the same staff levels he's traditionally had.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin noted that if they do fill the position— the town will save about $6,000 this year alone because of a difference in seniority-driven pay grade.

Mooney stuck to her guns and said that she fears increasing budgets because while they have historically passed, the margin is small.
"This is a dangerous path you're going down," said Ron Cormier. "I see it at the state level all of the time."

"We'll decimate the department," he continued. "Don't emulate the state budgetary process — it's horrible."

The state often uses attrition a part of its budget balancing process and, according to Cormier, it means many state employees are doing the jobs of two. He noted it's a drag on moral as well.

Pike added that townspeople want the streets and roads looking as good as possible and to be passable.

In other business, selectmen reviewed a long-term water district planning and maintenance scheduled prepared for them by a outside company.

One of the top recommendation made, was to get either well 1 or well 2 operating so the town can have a backup source of water if needed. The chemical treatment cistern should also be a project that the water district should evaluate sooner than later.

All in all, selectmen were told the system looks good.

Man on parole for New York armed robbery arrested at Gilford home

GILFORD — A New York man wanted for a parole violation resulting from an armed robbery conviction was taken into custody at 10 p.m. Sunday night by Gilford and New Hampshire State Police at a home on Sargent Place.

Police said Ronald Jacques, 61, was located in a back bedroom after police learned he was there and possibly armed with a .22 caliber pistol.

According to Lt. Kris Kelley, police surrounded the mobile home and used a loud speaker to try and get Jacques to surrender.

AFter confirming he was there, police entered the home and took Jacques into custody with incident. No weapon was found.

He is being held without bail at the Belknap County House of Corrections until the N.Y. Department of Parole comes to get him.

Kelley said Jacques has a lengthy record that includes convictions for armed robbery, attempt to commit murder, and manslaughter.

Misti-Con draws hundreds from around the world

LACONIA — Hundreds of people from around the world arrived at the 2015 Misti-Con event at The Margate over the Memorial Day weekend, claiming that this biennial convention is the most family oriented and enjoyable event of any Harry Potter "con" offered.

The inaugural convention in the Lakes Region was in 2010, sponsored by Odaiko New England, however this program was discontinued and was replaced by the Misti-Con program in 2013. The Misti-Con stands for the fictional Ministry Interdepartmental Service Training Institute which represents the cons overall "in-character" theme. Since its inception the local Misti-Con event has grown in popularity, drawing in nearly 500 people from around the world.

In addition to time socializing with friends from around the world, the five-day gathering offered various activities, including Witches Bazaar and Authors' Alley, which drew the most featured guests of the weekend. These guest stars included Chris Rankin who played Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter films, who was flown in from England for a photo op during the event. Dr. Jenma Scarlott spoke about her job as a specialist in super hero therapy, and how that is changing the way people view and respond to therapy.

Individuals claim that the event is more enjoyable in Laconia than at Universal Studios in Orlando, as this con is more contained and community based. The Margate was deemed as an appealing location, as the resort served as sleeping quarters for all those participating in the event, which cut back on transportation time and kept interactions limited to only registered con attendees. Upon asking the event planner at The Margate what their reaction is to hosting the event, they stated that it was wonderful for business as the hotel has been booked solid for many months and was relying on other hotels to handle the overflow. Additionally, they commented that not only was the event great for business but also fun, too.

"This is the best Harry Potter event there is, as it is enjoyable being around people who have the same interest in an intimate environment. Everyone is exciting, dressing up, and letting people be what they want. This event is all run by the fans, too, which gives it an authentic feel," said Jamie Addington of Connecticut. "At times I wish it was made bigger, but it might lose the effect and all the little details that make it for you. Details that only nerds can appreciate."

The event drew people in from Nebraska, Texas, Ireland, Vancouver, Washington, Qatar, New York, New Zealand, and numerous other locations around the globe. Some of the guests had attended the event in 2013 and a family from Nebraska claimed that they had looked forward to returning to the Lakes Region for its interactions and beautiful environment, and returning to The Margate for its waterfront location and hospitable service.

When Qatar native Nick Kemsley was asked why she flew all the way over to New Hampshire for this event, she stated, "This is the most awesome feel and community for one long weekend. You make friends that are life-long, interesting and supportive, and who all share a love of Harry Potter. It's a long gap in between cons but when you return every two years, its more than an event its a family reunion, it's like coming home."

Additionally, Erik Hunt, Eric Baker, and George Gakoumis Jr., designers for the Harry Potter World section of Universal Studios Orlando held a question-and-answer session about the creation of the park. In the designers question and answer session, they stated that Harry Potter has not only set a high standard in the field of magical literature, but has also raised the bar for Universal and now they are going to be pushing for a greater attention to detail.

"This event has been growing and is featuring more people both from around the world and from the local community," said coordinator Johnathon Rosenthal. "This event has been a lot of fun, I look forward to seeing what future events have to offer."