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Laconia police investigating pair of burglaries

LACONIA — City police are investigating two separate burglaries that occurred last week.

Lt. Rich Simmons said on November 25 a homeowner on Meredith Center Road returned home at 6:15 p.m. to find a screen on one of his windows cut and some items including jewelry missing from his home.

A Pine Street Extension break-in was reported to police at 5:53 p.m. on November 27 and the homeowner reported there was no apparent forced entry and some cash was taken.

Simmons said police do not think the two burglaries are related however anyone with any information about either of them is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 527-1717.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 02:32

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Default budget for Gilford Schools comes in $273K less than plan for 2014-2015

GILFORD — The School Board voted unanimously last night to accept a 2014-2015 default budget of $24.4-million, which is about $273,000 less than the requested budget of $24.7-million that was adopted last month.

The default budget represents the current fiscal year's budget less one-time appropriations and, should the proposed budget fail at the annual town meeting ballot vote in March of 2014, the default budget is automatically adopted.

Last month, Superintendent Kent Hemingway said some of the keys to the recommended budget include a reduction in the health insurance costs of $115,000 because of a premium holiday from the Local Government Center and a $33,000 reduction in the district's worker's compensation insurance cost. He also said the first year of the teachers' collective bargaining agreement that will also be voted on at Town Meeting includes a savings of $156,000 in health insurance.

Hemingway said there are two teacher position reductions — one at the middle school and one at the elementary school — to reflect declining enrollments.

The proposed budget included a three-percent raise for support staff and two major projects — a $200,000 telephone system and $105,000 for auditorium seating.

The School Board will present the proposed 2014-2015 school year budget to the Budget Committee at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The School District Deliberative session was set for February 4, 2014.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 02:29

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Veteran Christmas Village trio wondering who will take their place

LACONIA — "There's somebody out there who wants to do it," said Ernie Bolduc, who with his brother Armand and their friend Bob Hamel have been the mainstays of Christmas Village since the annual festival began 38 years ago. "But, finding them, I just don't know." Ernie is 80, Armand is 74 and Hamel, the baby of the bunch is 62.

"We're not getting any younger," Armand said.

In 1975, Dick Tappley, director of Parks and Recreation, inspired by the example set by his father in Bristol, overcame resistance from the City Council to inaugurate the Christmas Village. Ernie said that the village started small, but grew quickly to fill the Community Center. Black plastic covered the walls while snowflakes, strung from strands of fishing line, fell from the girders, offering the illusion of a snowy, moonlit Christmas Eve. The village began as five eight-foot by eight-foot buildings, including a castle, barn, toy shop, post office and train deport. Local merchants, along with the Police and Fire Departments, operated stalls. A creche featured a burro and sheep from the Bolduc farm, along with a live Christ child, whose conception, Ernie quipped, was timed to suit the Christmas season.

Gradually the merchants disappeared and fire regulations stiffened, which changed the shape and face of the village without diminishing its charm to young and old. "It's for all ages, not just kids," said Ernie, who estimates that between 4,500 and 5,000 people pass through the village during its four day run each year.

While for the Bolducs and Hamel the village has been a labor of love, its construction and operation also represent a significant investment of time and money. Ernie estimated that 6,000 man hours are required to set it up and take it down. They credited Fred McVey, who this year enlisted hockey players from Laconia and Gilford to haul the sets from storage, with assisting with the assembly as well as arranging the train displays.

What Armand called "the holding area," the ground floor where children gather to await their turn through the village upstairs, was painted and decorated by Sharon Cavanaugh. She also has provided face painting, games, crafts, movies and even "Santa's Jail" to entertain the children under the watchful eyes of some of the 60 or 70 elves working in the village under the supervision of Kathy McClellan. In the village itself Dave and Sylvia Detscher host "Santa's Sidewalk Cafe," featuring gallons of pink lemonade and 600 dozen cookies, brewed and baked at the direction of Patty Desrosiers.

"It's not just the construction and the set up," said Ernie. "It's the operation. It wouldn't work without these volunteers."

"It costs a good $8,000 a year," Hamel said. "$5,000 for toys alone." Ernie said that the village has enjoyed the generosity of a number of anonymous donors as well as contributions from the WLNH Children's Auction. Many of the decorations have been donated or salvaged over the years.

"We've sold Christmas trees, ornaments, candy bars and all kinds of stuff and we've reached into our own pockets more than once," noted Hamel. "And we still do," Ernie added. "It's a lot of work," he continued. "We'll have our first meeting in January and there isn't a week during the year I won't do something for Christmas Village."

"It's a lot work," Hamel agreed. "But, it's all worth when you see those kids come through the curtain and their faces light up. It brings tears to your eyes." He said that every child leaves laden with an ornament, turned from wood that Ernie rescued from the Allen-Rogers factory, a gift, personal letter from Santa, bearing the postmark "Christmas Village, Laconia N.H. 03246-1/2 . "The only thing they pay for is a color photograph with Santa for $3," he said.

"We're concerned," said Erniue. "There are no successors in the wings. The volunteers and donors are aging and dwindling. My wife told me 'you'll do it as long as you're alive,'" he continued. "And it doesn't enter my mind not to do it. But, I'm getting concerned."

The Christmas Village will be open to the public Thursday, December 5 and Friday December 6 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday December 8 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. The village will be open to senior citizen on Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon and to those with disabilities on Sunday between 10 a.m. and noon.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 05:08

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Meredith Selectboard welcome private effort to light I-L field

MEREDITH — At a workshop yesterday the Board of Selectmen welcomed the initiative by Chris Kelly, a local resident and realtor, to mount a fundraising campaign aimed at completing a second phase of the athletic complex at Inter-Lakes High School.

Kelly, who presented the proposal to the Inter-Lakes School Board in October and subsequently met with the selectboards in Center Harbor and Sandwich, said that when the artificial turf field was laid in 2006 it was anticipated that lighting, a grandstand, concession booth and restrooms would be added. Since the complex is configured as a natural amphitheater, a grandstand is unnecessary, but Kelly suggested that something akin to a press box would be thrown into the mix. He said that the conduit required to light the field was installed when it was constructed.

Estimating the cost of the project at between $500,000 and $600,000, Kelly stressed that "my goal would be to see this as a privately funded project." He expected that the School District would bear the operating and maintenance costs of the facility.

Kelly said that he intended to assemble a committee to explore the prospects of raising the funds needed to pursue the project.

Kelly told the selectmen that the proposal "met with great favorability" from the school board and was well received by the selectmen in Sandwich and Center Harbor. Selectman Lou Kahn reminded Kelly that students from Moultonborough participated in athletic programs, including football, at Inter-Lakes High School and suggested approaching that town as well.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 01:41

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