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Weekend fires deemed ‘random acts of arson’

LACONIA — A pair of fires in the early hours of Saturday morning have aroused suspicions among police and fire officials that the incidents could possibly have been committed by whoever is responsible for the spate of random fires that occurred last autumn.

Shortly after 2 a.m. on Saturday firefighters were dispatched to 46 Academy St. where a vehicle was burning. While they were on the scene police reported a second fire on the porch of home at 91 Highland St. Both fires were quickly extinguished, with extensive damage to the rear seat of the vehicle and minor damage to the porch of the residence.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson described both fires as "random acts of arson" similar to those in September and November when vehicles, dumpsters and empty buildings were set afire. Like the fires on Saturday morning, those fires occurred on weekends, late at night or early in the morning.

Police Chief Chris Adams said that while the similarities between the fires cannot be overlooked, the investigation is not based on the assumption that the same person started all the fires.

"We have never stopped working on the case," Adams said, recalling that more than half a dozen similar fires were set in a short period in September. The fire at the occupied residence on Highland Street, he called "a step up," adding "we were concerned before and we're very concerned now."

Both Erickson and Adams urged members of the public to be vigilant and alert. They asked anyone who sees someone behaving suspiciously, especially in the late night or early morning hours, to get a detailed description — height, weight, hair color and clothing — and report their location and direction of travel to the police at once. He said that patrol officers are on the alert for suspects and will respond immediately.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 01:50

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Alton School Board & Teachers Association reach contract agreement

ALTON — The School Board and Alton Teachers Association (ATA) have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 that would lengthen the school year while increasing the employees contribution to their health insurance premiums and providing teacher with two annual salary increases of 2 percent.

The total cost of the salary increase is $96,472 for the first year of the agreement and $95,599 for the second. Voters will be asked to approve funding for both years of the contract.

Three instructional days would be added to the schedule in 2014-2015, extending the school year to 183 days and another in 2015-2016 when pupils will be taught for 184 days. In addition to step increases for eligible employees, teachers would receive a 2 percent raise in each year of the contract. Teachers, who currently contribute 10 percent to the cost of their health insurance premiums, would contribute 12 percent for the length of the contract.

In a prepared statement School Superintendent William Lander said, "It is important to recognize and reward all the hard work and dedication of our terrific teachers."

Richard Brown, president of the ATA, described the contract as "a just one" in the current economic conditions, adding that "it asserts positive and predictable working conditions while being fair to both Alton faculty and citizenry."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 02:11

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House committee kills Cormier's bill to eliminate planning commissions

CONCORD — A bill to do away with the nine regional planning commissions, sponsored by state Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton), received short shrift last week at the hands of the House Municipal and County Government Committee, which unanimously reported it "inexpedient to legislate."

When the committee held a public hearing on the House Bill 1573, Tim Carter of Meredith, along with others from the Lakes Region Tea Party, pictured the regional planning commissions as the Judas goats of a federal effort, pursued under the aegis of the Granite State Future project, to promote "Smart Growth" and "sustainable living" at the expense of local control of land use decisions and private property rights.

However, others noted that the regional planning commissions provide useful information and valuable services to municipal land use boards. Warren Hutchins, chairman of the Laconia Planning Board and a member of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, said that the city along with the other 29 municipalities belonging to the commission urged the committee to reject the bill. Members of the committee pointed out that the bill was unnecessary since municipalities are not compelled to contribute to the work of the regional planning commissions. Likewise, a section of the bill requiring that members of local planning boards must be elected was also rendered redundant since state law already enables towns to either appoint or elect their planning boards.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 02:15

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Damage due to Busy Corner fire was considerably greater than originally thought

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that the origin of the fire that damaged the building at Normandin Square housing JD's Barber Shop on Thursday night appears suspicious and remains under investigation.

The first of several calls were received by dispatch at 8:05 p.m. and Lieutenant Lisa Baldini's crew arrived within three minutes to find smoke billowing from doors, windows and other openings. Some firefighters put water on the fire through a small cellar window on the Church Street side of the building while others, including a crew from Gilford, sought access to the cellar and searched the apartment at the rear of the building, which was empty. Within minutes one hose line was laid to the cellar and another through the front door, where fire had reached objects on the first floor. By about 8:20 p.m. the fire was extinguished.

Erickson said that although the frame of building escaped severe damage, the utilities — the electrical, heating and plumbing systems — were virtually destroyed. Originally he estimated the cost of the damage at $50,000, but later suggested it could reach six figures.

Just as firefighters reached the scene dispatch reported a cardiac arrest at the Normandin Square Apartments across the street from the fire. Stewarts Ambulance Service, Laconia police officers and an off-duty Laconia firefighter responded to the call, which Erickson said appeared to be the result of drug overdose.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 02:30

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