Push back on budget cuts changing some officials’ minds

LACONIA — Belknap County Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) says that the pushback against budget cuts to outside agencies which was strongly expressed at Monday night's public hearing on the convention's working budget appears to have had an impact on new members of the delegation who were initially inclined to go along with the cuts.
"Some of them told me they didn't realize how much work they (the outside agencies) do that benefits the county," said Tilton, who said that his view has been modified over the years to he point that he now sees the agencies as partners with the county.
"I think that the proposed cuts send the message that we don't think they're doing a good job," said Tilton, who said that he was disappointed that the convention, which had only 11 of its 17 members present Monday night, only took action on one of the proposed cuts when it restored the UNH Cooperative Extension Service funding to the $152,217 sought by the Belknap County Commissioners in their original budget request.
Former Belknap County Convention Chairman Alida Millham said at Monday night's hearing that she thinks the agencies should be fully funded and viewed as community partners with the county in providing services which benefit the county and help hold taxes down and bring revenue into the county.
Another former county legislator, Fran Wendelboe of New Hampton, said that the proposed cut to the UNH Cooperative Extension Service, is "penny wise and pound foolish," and cited her experience of working for 10 years with the Belknap County 4-H Fair and the cooperation the fair received from the county through inmate labor from the Belknap County House of Corrections.
Also urging full funding for the Extension Service was Sandra McGonagle of Gilford, a former elementary school superintendent who served three terms as a selectman, who said that a bare bones budget would affect staffing and programs provided to the county.
Ken Kettenring of New Hampton, a former director of the state of New Hampshire's Wetlands Bureau, said the Belknap County Conservation District provides needed technical services to the county through volunteer professionals and urged fully funding the district's $92,4000 request. Everett McLaughlin of the Gilford Conservation Commission said the assistance provided the town in the Gilford Brook and Jewett Brook studies have been invaluable.
John Moulton of Meredith, owner of Moulton Farm, who has been at the last three county convention meetings at which the budget cuts have been discussed, said he is a user of the services provided by both the Extension Service and the Conservation District and said the kind of information and services they provide cannot be obtained elsewhere, a sentiment echoed by Aaron Lichtenberg of Alton, who operates the Winnipesaukee Woods Farm.
Randy Eifert of Meredith, chairman of the board of directors of the Belknap Economic Development Council, whose $75,000 request had been zeroed out by a subcommittee and later increased by the full convention to $60,000, said that some of the arguments used to justify the cut weren't accurate.
"We're not a high-risk lender. We've provided gap funding to businesses over the last 24 years and are the only proactive economic development lender in the county," said Eifert, who said that the original goal of the founders of the organization to make it self-sustaining had been modified many years ago at the suggestion of former state Sen. Carl Johnson (R-Meredith) in light of the value being received by the county for the services provided by the organization.
He said that the organization has made over 80 loans, 22 of which are still active, and helped bring over a thousand jobs and millions in private investment to the county and is currently working on a workforce development program with local businesses and industries.
He was supported by state Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), who said that the BEDC has a good track record of major accomplishments.
Deborah Pendergast, former deputy chief of the Laconia Fire Department and currently director of training and emergency medical services with the New Hampshire Department of Safety, spoke on behalf of Genesis Behavioral Health, whose $34,200 funding request had been zeroed out and then restored to $30,000. She said that the agency provides badly needed mental health services to people like a 40-year-old couple whose 19-year-old daughter is addicted to heroin.
She said that nothing brings home the need for its services more than the actual involvement brought about by real life situations which so many people in the county experience.
The county convention will discuss the outside agency budgets when it meets again Tuesday, March 1, at 6 p.m., at the Belknap County complex.

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Condodemetraky brothers fill newly renovated Piscopo Block


Mark, right, and Chris Condodemetraky of G.C. Engineering, Inc., have breathed fresh life into the Piscopo Block, which with their headquarters and 20 tenants has become a hive of activity on Main Street. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)


Mark, right, and Chris Condodemetraky of G.C. Engineering, Inc., have breathed fresh life into the Piscopo Block, which with their headquarters and 20 tenants has become a hive of activity on Main Street. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)



LACONIA — The Condodemetraky brothers, Mark and Chris, not only created a new home for their firm, G.C. Engineering, but in acquiring and renovating the Piscopo Block at 633-637 Main St. have provided premier space for a score of diverse enterprises.
Built in 1926 by Benjamin Piscopo, the child of Italy who also gave the city the Colonial Theatre, the three-story Piscopo Block heralded the advent of Main Street as a commercial hub, but in recent years its rooms stood empty and its hallways fell silent for want of tenants. But, this week, when the Condodemetrakys and their tenants hosted an open house the landmark was alive with admiring visitors, who found an array of tasty treats at every doorway.
The brothers purchased the building last year with financing from the Bank of New Hampshire and the Belknap Economic Council, which provided a bridge loan of $79,250 to meet the loan-to-value ratio required by the bank, and invested another $100,000 of their own to finance the renovations.
"If it were not for the Belknap Economic Development Council, we wouldn't have been able to do this," Mark Condodemetraky said.
G.C. Enginneering, with open-plan offices on the third floor, occupies about half the 20,000 square feet the building offers, sharing the top floor with the Pat Wood Law Office.
Mark Condodemetraky said that work on renovating and reconfiguring the upper floors began last April and when it was finished in the fall inquiries about leasing space followed at once.
There are no fewer than 15 tenants, representing a wide array of services, on the second floor: ABNER Trophy and Awards; A&D Recovery Counseling; Bassett Investment Group; Julie Bucciarelli, Massage Therapy; Carey Hough Photography; Granite State Auto School; Gudrun Stanton, Massage Therapist; Healing Lakes Chiropractic; Nantomics LLC; People Invested in Community and Kids (PICK); RMON Networks; Real Life Training; Thai Yoga Body Work; Yoga from the Heart; and Kathy Twombly Acupuncture.
All My Life Jewelers, Greenlaw's Music and MC Cycle & Sport ply their retail trades on the ground floor facing Main Street, while David Bownes practices law at street level facing Canal Street.
Founded in 1978 by the Condodemetraky family, G.C. Engineering aspires to become the premier firm in New England dealing with flood plain management, flood zone determinations and flood insurance, and works with the National Flood Insurance Program and Federal Emergency Management Agency. The firm also owns residential properties in the city and environs, which are managed by its property management team.
"We're not done," said Mark Condodemetraky, standing in the remaining space still being renovated. "We went into this as owner occupiers with a 10-year plan. We're looking to grow and add employees."
Mark Condodemetraky said that the renovation is nearly complete. The brothers replaced the roof, windows and boiler and restored the original charm of the interior by sandblasting the walls to expose the brickwork and polishing the hardwood floors to a warm luster. The building is wired throughout with high-speed Internet and Wifi service.
"I can't wait to do the terrazzo tile in the foyer and on the staircase" he said.
Linda Phelps of PICK described the building as "gorgeous" and lauded the Condodemetraky brothers for "making it grand once again."
Mark Condodemetraky said that he and Chris had long dreamed of owning a professional building in the heart of downtown Laconia and now are beginning to live their dream.

The reception area of the Pat Wood Law Office, one of the 21 businesses operating in the renovated Piscopo Block, showcased the modern interior of the century-old building. The building is located at 633-637 Main St. in Laconia. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

The reception area of the Pat Wood Law Office, one of the 21 businesses operating in the renovated Piscopo Block, showcased the modern interior of the century-old building. The building is located at 633-637 Main St. in Laconia. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

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Three injured in Wolfeboro collision

WOLFEBORO — Three people were seriously injured and Center Street was closed for about two hours in a two-vehicle crash just after midnight on Thursday.

Wolfeboro Police Capt. Dean Rondeau said a vehicle driven by Sarah Kelley, 31, of Tuftonborough was headed north on Center Street when she collided with another vehicle driving by Tannah L. Curtis, 27, of Dover justs north of the Trotting Track Road intersection. Curtis's minor daughter was also injured. Rondeau said speed does not appear to be a factor, but drugs and alcohol may be involved.

Both drivers had to be extricated from their vehicles, with one taking about 35 minutes to be freed from the wreckage. All three were taken to Huggins Hospital with multiple injuries.

Wolfeboro Fire-Rescue and police were assisted by Stewarts Ambulance and Wakefield Fire-Rescue and New Hampshire State Police.

The crash remains under investigation.

– Ginger Kozlowski

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