'Suspicious' package at post office was just a cell phone and wires

LACONIA — A  call about a suspicious package at the U.S. Post Office in downtown Laconia had police and fire services briefly scrambling last night.

Officials said the package contained a cell phone and some wires but local police quickly determined it was harmless.

Police and fire were at the post office for about five minutes before departing.

Since arrest at Town Hall, Clay says Alton selectmen are intimidating him

CHICHESTER — The Alton man who was arrested in early February for telling the Alton selectmen they should resign went on the record earlier his week about his opinion about what happened to him.

Jeffrey Clay, who has retained the Sisti Law Group to represent him and was interviewed in the firm's Chichester office on Monday, said that in his mind, Alton selectmen and Police Chief Ryan Heath "used my arrest as a way to silence me."

"They didn't want me to use my free speech to say something's wrong and I want it corrected," he said.

Clay was charged with disorderly conduct after telling selectmen, during the meeting's public comment period, that they were corrupt and should resign their positions.

During the episode, Chair Loring Carr banged his gavel to silence Clay while Selectman David Hussey left the table, exited the room and returned with Heath.

Heath led him from the room by holding one of Clay's arms behind his back and turned him over to a second officer who was outside the building. Clay was charged with two counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct – one each for a separate clause within the disorderly conduct law.

Clay said during their brief encounter and after Heath told him to leave, he said to him that he didn't do anything and Heath replied that Clay "thinks everybody is wrong except for him."

Clay said his primary complaint about the board was their lack of transparency. He said the board had been meeting in "planning sessions" during odd times of the day with no agendas or minutes and had recently decided not to continue broadcasting their regularly scheduled meetings with Lakes Region Public Access.

He said the board has been having "illegal meetings" and deliberately "circumventing" the right to know laws.

He also said the board arbitrarily goes into non-public session, including one session where they apparently discussed him without giving him the opportunity to request the meeting be held in public, which is his right under the N.H. Right to Know Law.
Three days after his arrest, he went to the police station to get a copy of the police complaints and told the dispatcher he was recording her.

She told him he needed to turn off his cell phone because she didn't agree to be taped and threatened to have him arrested in a public building.

He said just prior to his encounter with the dispatcher, he had parked his car in an area that said "municipal parking." He said he interpreted that as a place he could park his car while on municipal business but the K-9 officer told him he couldn't park there. Clay said the officer's dog was off leash and approached him.

"All I saw was German Shepard," he said when asked which dog came to him.

He said he took a photograph of the lined up police cars and Heath told him he was trespassing.

"It's one photograph," he said.

He described his life since his arrest and subsequent encounter with the police.

"It's upsetting," he said, noting that he is a retired 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who spent seven years as a military police officer.

He's married with two children, four grandchildren and his mother, who lives in Dover, is upset by all the publicity surrounding him and his arrest.

Clay taught high school and finished all of his credits but one toward his CAGS, the specific training an education needs to be a school superintendent. He was fired from the Newmarket School District some years ago where he was a teacher and athletic coach.

"It's upsetting," he repeated, saying when he went to the Alton Central School office to get a copy of Superintendent William "Bill" Lander's employment contract "one of the biggest police officers I've ever seen was standing there."

He said he learned that a school district employee had called the police because she was afraid of him.

"That's sending out a message that I am a problem," he said.

The sad thing, said Clay, is that the tactics used by the selectmen and police have worked because he is not going to town meetings.

"My wife doesn't want me to go because I'm on bail," he said.

Attorney Mark Sisti said he and Clay are hopeful that the criminal case can be resolved without litigation.

"Alton should step back and learn the rules," Sisti said. "We were shocked when we heard about it."

"In a sense, they've won by absolutely silencing me," Clay said.

CUTLINE: (Jeffrey Clay) Jeffrey Clay discusses his legal situation while sitting in the Sisti Law Offices earlier this week. Clay was charged with disorderly conduct after telling the selectboard they were corrupt and should resign.

Grand Drape from Lakeport Opera House Disovered (512)

LACONIA — A Grand Drape which once graced the stage of the Lakeport Opera House was discovered last weekend by Brenda Kean, executive director of the Laconia Historical and Museum Society.
''I was looking for things for a program I'm developing and I found this pole in the back. It was 20 feet long and nailed shut. When we opened it up to see what was inside we could see that it had once been used as some kind of stage curtain. It was really exciting,'' said Kean, who with the help of her husband, John, a contractor, arranged to have the drape moved to a storage area at Boullia-Gorrell Lumber where it could be completely rolled out.
The Grand Drape, which is about 20 feet 6 inches wide and 13 feet and 6 inches high, was painted by John Gannon of Boston in 1907 and depicts a scene of treeless mountains, a church near the water with a castle-like structure atop a mountain in the center of the scene. In the foreground a young woman is carrying an armful of sticks along a winding road.
Yesterday Chris Hadsel, project director for Curtains without Borders, a Vermont based firm which preserves historic painted stage scenery, took a look at the Grand Drape and said that the details of the painting show that Gannon was a skilled craftsman even though there a few details in some of the buildings that are depicted.
When it was being used in the early 19th century the Grand Drape was located at the front of the stage area and rolled up when performances started and dropped when scenes ended.
Gerry Horn, owner of the Lakeport Opera House, which is currently being sold, said that he had no idea that the drape was in the stage area of the opera house and was surprised when he found out about it. ''I have no idea when it was last used,'' said Horn, who said that the stage area hasn't been used for decades.
Laconia historian Warren Huse said that the three-story Opera House, which is located at the intersection of Union Avenue and Clinton Street, was built in 1885 and seated about 250 people. It was actually built a few years before the Moulton Opera House (1886-87) in downtown Laconia, which seated 350 people.
A few years ago the historical and museum society conducted a restoration project for a stage curtain which had once been used at the Moulton Opera House.
Huse said the Lakeport building was originally owned by Joseph Moore and his son, David, who apparently felt that the Lakeport area needed a stage area with a balcony to host events in what was at that time a thriving commercial community.
He said that the second-story stage hosted plays by both local groups as well as traveling companies, minstrel shows, concerts, vaudeville shows and local social events.
The third floor of the building at one time housed the Lakeport branch of the International Order of Odd Fellows as well as offices of the Benjamin Franklin Drake chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans organization.

Laconia High School drama performing dark comedy 'Dearly Departed'

LACONIA — The Laconia High School drama department will perform the one act Dearly Departed play on Thursday through Saturday, March 5-7 at 7 p.m. in the Laconia High School auditorium. Tickets are $5 per person and can be purchased at the door prior to the performance.

This comedy, set in the deep South, begins when the patriarch of the Turpin family dies, leaving his colorful family to come together and bury him. As the preparations for the funeral begin and get underway the various bold personalities clash, creating an atmosphere that will captivate the audience and keep them roaring with laughter. 

The cast will be taking this show to a statewide One Act Theater Festival on Saturday, March 14, which will be held in the auditorium at Gilford High School. The festival will include performances from seven different schools; however, Laconia will perform in the first block of the day beginning at 9:30 a.m. The cost of attending one block of shows is $7, or $15 for the complete day of shows. Tickets may be purchased at the door.