Gilford board OK's continuation of joint football program with Belmont

GILFORD — The Gilford School Board Monday night agreed to continue a cooperative football team program with the Shaker Regional School Distinct for the next two years.
It calls for Gilford to be the lead school district in the partnership and retain regulatory decision-making power over the cooperative program, which has been in place for two years and will provide opportunities on both varsity and junior varsity teams for athletes from Belmont and Canterbury.
The agreement calls for the Shaker District to pay $15,000 in each of the next two years with costs to be shared equally in ensuing years. The Shaker District is also responsible for transportation costs to practice sessions.
Superintendent of Schools Kent Hemingway said that as a result of Belmont players now being eligible for varsity competition, the Gilford-Belmont Golden Eagles will likely be competing in Division II instead of Division III.
He said the school district has appealed to New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association to remain in Division III but it is unlikely the NHIAA will grant the request, as the combined student population of Belmont and Gilford is more than 1,000, making it one of the largest Division II student bodies.
The change means that Gilford-Belmont football team will most likely be playing in the 11-team Division II North Conference, which includes area schools such as Laconia, Plymouth, Kingswood and Kennett.
The two school districts currently operate a cooperative high school hockey program in which the Shaker School District is the lead district.

Commissioners approve two county hires

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners approved requests to fill two vacant positions when they met Wednesday morning at the Belknap County Complex.
Facilities Manager Dustin Muzzey's request to hire a part-time maintenance worker for 16 hours a week to provide custodial service to the sheriff's wing, administration wing and restorative justice wing of the Belknap County Complex was approved.
He noted that there is also a vacant four-hour-per-week custodial position that may be combined with this.
He had obtained quotes from private contractors to do the work and it would cost abut $15,000 a year, compared to the $11,700 a year the county has budgeted for 2016 for the position.
Sheriff Craig Wiggin's request to fill a dispatch supervisor position was also granted. The position has been vacant since the former dispatch supervisor retired in 2012.
"We need someone there to run the day-to-day operations," said Wiggin, who said he placed an administrative sergeant in charge of communications center operations following the retirement.
The sergeant has since moved on to a detective position and Wiggin said he intends to fill the dispatch supervisor position through a competitive promotion, which would have a minimal impact on his budget.
The dispatch center has seven full-time and three part-time employees.

Bike Week, Speedway reps dispute prostitution comment

LACONIA — By suggesting that both Laconia Motorcycle Week and New Hampshire Motor Speedway are venues where teenage prostitution and human trafficking occur, state Rep. Brian Gallagher, a Republican of Sanbornton, cast a shadow on two of major attractions the Lakes Region has to offer.

Gallagher is the prime sponsor of HB 1525, which would make offering to pay, agreeing to pay or paying either to engage in sexual relations or to watch a sexual performance involving a person under the age of 18 a felony carrying a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Speaking about the bill, Gallagher said that "sometimes folks think this is far away, but "it's right here in front of us in New Hampshire and the Lakes Region and New Hampshire." He mentioned "a couple of major events" — Laconia Motorcycle Week and races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway — as "occasions where this kind of behavior has occurred and does occur," adding that "the police chiefs recognize this as a concern."

Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said he could not recall either an arrest or an investigation associated with prostitution during Motorcycle Week in his 22 years with the department. However, he added that law enforcement agencies across the country operate on the assumption that prostitutes may be drawn to events that attract large crowds. He said that the traffic on websites like backpages.com, which advertise adult services, may reflect the presence of prostitutes at a particular venue.

"Anytime there there is a large event, there is an opportunity," Adams said, "and while it is always a concern, we've had no experience of open prostitution."

Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, conceded that "large events attract unsavory people, but there are plenty of unsavory people living in New Hampshire right now." He saw no reason to single out either Motorcycle Week or the speedway , much less to suggest that prostitution has occurred at either venue when there has been no evidence of it.

"Luring minors to engage in inappropriate and illegal behavior is reprehensible," St. Clair said. "I applaud the effort to tighten the law and stiffen the penalties and have no problem with the bill. "But, why single out these events? The use of the Internet has opened the door to this stiff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It's going on everywhere all the time."

In a prepared statement David McGrath, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said "there has never been an arrest for this type of illicit activity at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. We do not foster this behavior, and we will continue to work collaboratively with law enforcement to be diligent and take all necessary precautions and actions to ensure there is no illegal on our property. Our goal," he closed, "is to be fan friendly and we will continue to take every necessary step to ensure safety for all of our guests."

State Sen. Andrew Hosmer, a Laconia Democrat, said that while he had no quarrel with Gallagher's intentions in introducing the bill, he thought it was "reckless" to cast suspicion on two events of such economic significance to the state and the region.