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Stafford House repairs supported by city-sponsored app for $500k Community Development Block Grant

LACONIA — The City Council this week endorsed the application of the Laconia Housing Authority for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to fund renovation of the Stafford House, widely known as The Tavern, at 7 Church Street, which houses low-income individuals and households in 50 studio and one-bedroom units.

In 2013 the Resident Buildings Group of Concord undertook an energy audit and needs assessment of the building, which was constructed in 1913. The firm's report and recommendations will serve as the basis for immediate improvements and long-term maintenance.

Jenn Mohoholland-Black, a resident of The Tavern, told the council, "we get out in the community," adding that she volunteered for the Got Lunch program and mentored at the Middle School. "We need a roof too," she continued. "We need a home too, we need a start too. We need help anyway we can get it." She said that the building is poorly heated and the pipes leak.

Services, including meals, housekeeping and personal care, are provided to some 15 residents of The Tavern, among them the elderly and disabled. "We have a great staff who take care of us," Moholland-Black said.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 December 2013 12:51

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In court, Governor's Island Club property use restrictions trump local zoning laws; foundation ordered removed

LACONIA — After nearly two years of litigation, a Belknap County judge has ordered a member of the Governor's Island Club to tear down the foundation of a detached garage within 30 days unless he provides a design considered acceptable by the association.

In his ordered issued December 18, Judge James O'Neill ordered that Richie Homsi must also pay the legal bills of the law firm hired by the GIC once they have been submitted and accepted to the court.

Homsi's battle against the GIC represented a war that saw deed restrictions and covenants trump planning and zoning laws, showing that for him the Governor's Island Club is much like the Eagles song "Hotel California" — you can check out but you can never leave.

The Homsi property, although it is on the Laconia (mainland) side of the bridge to the island, was included in the Governors Island Club by a previous owner and membership travels with the deed — regardless of whether or not the property owner wants to be a member or not.

His quest began in 2012 when one of his neighbors had a small cottage that was going to be torn down. Homsi liked the small cottage and wanted to build a garage and put the cottage on top of it so he could have additional living space for him and his extended family.

Homsi's plans were shattered when the GIC refused his plans, saying the concept violated the deed restriction that says no unattached buildings can be built on properties covered by club covenants.

Because the zoning ordinances in Laconia permitted his construction idea and he got all his building permits from the city, Homsi began excavating for the garage.
The GIC filed for an emergency injunction to stop to project, it was granted by the court, and the legal fight has continued.

With the covenants saying that any outbuildings must be attached and not for rental purposes, Homsi reworked his plan to connect the two buildings with a series of Gazebos and covered walkways, however the GIC governing board nixed those as well.

Homsi began his legal fight acting as his own attorney. About a year ago he retained a lawyer from a firm in Concord. The GIC is represented by Paul Fitzgerald.

In his ruling, O'Neill also ordered the Governor's Island Club to negotiate in good faith about any revisions Homsi may submit regarding the use of his property.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 December 2013 12:46

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Tilton police find alleged burglar hiding under a bed

TILTON — Police are crediting an "Alert Tilton" system with helping them apprehend an alleged burglar Thursday afternoon.

Johnathon M. Couturier, 28, Elkins St. in Franklin is charged with one count of burglary. He was ordered held on $5,000 cash-only bail after appearing by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday morning.

Police Chief Robert Cormier said a resident of a west Tilton neighborhood called police at 1 p.m. Thursday to report a suspicious male dressed all in black. He told police the man had just walked out of 3 Hemlock Road and had walked onto the Northbrook Road.

The responding officer said he saw fresh footprints leading around a house on Northbrook Road. He said the footprints in the freshly fallen snow went into the rear of the house but didn't come back to the road. The rear door was open.

There were no tire tracks in the driveway and a Belknap County Sheriff who lives nearby told police that when the owner is home there is a car in the driveway.

The officer called for additional police officers and they surrounded the house. They attempted to make contact with the suspect verbally but when they were unsuccessful, police went into the home and found Couturier hiding under the bed on one of the bedrooms.

The owner of the home said Couturier didn't have permission to be in the house.

Cormier said he was taken into custody without further incident and later admitted to a second burglary that day at 3 Hemlock Road.

This is the sixth burglary in the neighborhood in the past two weeks. Cormier said the four burglaries that occurred last week are still under investigation.

For now, he said Couturier is charged with one count of burglary. He said the investigation continues and additional charges and arrests could be forthcoming.

Cormier said people who are interested in the "Tilton Alert" system can go to the Tilton Police Department Website and enroll.

Anyone who has information about the four burglaries from two weeks ago is asked to call the Tilton Police at 286-4442 or go to the Tilton Police tip line at 855-286-6565.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 December 2013 12:30

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Belmont Selectboard concerned about lack of oversight for Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid budget

BELMONT — Selectmen have agreed to sign a contract with Lakes Regional Mutual Fire Aid for dispatch services for the Fire Department but said in their meeting last week that they would like to see more oversight of the agency's budget preparation.

Each member agency or community, said Selectman Jon Pike, has one vote regardless of the size of the population and his primary concern was how the LRMFA develops its budget. He said Belmont pays about 6 percent of the total budget.

Pike said every other outside agencies who requests money from the town of Belmont comes before the Board of Selectmen, and he thinks that since the bill for the Belknap County communities covered by LRMFA no longer goes through the county budget process, he wants them to approach the town directly.

"We can no longer go to the county to ask questions about the budget," Pike said.

In 2013, the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid budget was $554,000 for the 11 Belknap County communities. That bill was apportioned to each individual county tax payer based on equalized taxable property value and included in the county portion of an annual tax bill.

Beginning in 2014, the LRMFA budget, which is about the same as last year, is being being billed directly to each of the 36 member communities — including the 11 communities in Belknap County.

Belmont's portion of the LRMFA budget will increase from what would have been $34,381 to $52,671 — a difference of $18,290. The difference is because the agency allocates expenses to member communities based on a formula that taxes both property value and population into account, not just property value. Because Belmont has little lakefront property to tax, is ratio of population to property value is relatively high for the region.

Pike said he supports Belmont's participation in Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid and believes the the agency provides excellent services to the town. But as a steward of Belmont's tax dollars, he said he believes there should be more oversight on the part of the selectmen and the Budget Committee on its budget.

Selectboard Chair Ron Cormier said he is concerned that in future years, the LRMFA will simply present a budget with no set parameters for how the budget is developed.

Selectmen agreed that in the near future someone from the LRMFA should be asked to come to a selectman's meeting to discuss future budget preparation.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 December 2013 12:21

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