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Vandals cause ‘significant’ damage to Boys & Girls Club

LACONIA — The new home of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region was vandalized over the weekend, forcing the facility to be closed for at least a week. Police Chief Chris Adams, president of the club, said staff arrived yesterday morning to find "significant damage throughout the building."

According to police much of the damage was caused by water from a sink that was left running. Foodstuffs were also strewn about the inside of the club. Otherwise Adams declined to disclose the specific nature of the damage in order not to compromise the investigation of the incident.

The chief said that it is unknown how many people broke into the building — the former St. James Episcopal Church at 876 North Main St. — or precisely when the vandalism took place. However, he said that patrol officers and detectives gathered evidence at the scene and are pursuing several leads.

Adams said, "Cleaning services and contractors have been contacted and we're hopeful that the club will be up and running in a week." Meanwhile, Cheryl Avery, executive director of the club, said that the building will be closed until further notice and both the pre-school program and Hands Across the Table, the free evening meal offered at the club on Tuesdays, will be suspended until the damage is overcome. But, she stressed that the after-school program will operate at Laconia Middle School throughout this week, beginning today, Tuesday, Dec. 10.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:50

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Gunstock Inn purchased by local couple

GILFORD – The Gunstock Inn and Fitness Center has been purchased by Les and Linda Schuster, the current operators of three Weirs Beach area lodging facilities.

Les Schuster said yesterday that he and his wife have been working on the purchase for a little over a year – or shortly after the former owners shut the doors citing a poor economy.

"Now that the economy is better, we've been able to get it all in order," said Schuster.

He said he and his wife plan on opening the hotel or lodging portion of the Inn before Christmas and are working on some Ski-and-Stay packages with the Gunstock Mountain Resort. There are 25 rooms at Gunstock Inn, Schuster said. In addition to the hotel and fitness center, the building also houses a restaurant.

Schuster said he already has similar packages involving Gunstock and his other three lodging properties – the Lazy E Motor Inn, the Bear Tree Lodge, and the Lakeside Getaway.

"We have hired a staff of four senior level employees and a housekeeper," Schuster said, noting that they are local people. "This is the most tied to the community we've ever been."

He said the restaurant will be called Schuster's Tavern and he hopes it will be serving food by February. He said they would start with dinner and add from there.

As to the Olympic-sized saltwater swimming pool, Schuster said they need to get their permits but couldn't make any applications until they officially owned the property. "That's about all that's holding us back," he said.

He said he would be "open to any uses that were in place before it closed" - including the Gunstock Stingrays who used the Gunstock Inn as its home pool until it closed but said the primary purpose of the pool would be to support the inn and its guests. Schuster said there will also be gym memberships.

Schuster said in a media release that the Gunstock Inn was originally built as barracks for workers who came to Gilford to build the Gunstock Ski Area – one of the first projects of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" era.

He said the Inn has a history of being family owned and operated and that his family plans on doing the same thing.

Schuster said he and Linda are working with the Service Credit Union to provide the funding needed to restore the Inn to "its former glory" and to meet the needs of today's travelers and guests.

At one point, the Inn was being considered as an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility by the owners of the Phoenix House who ultimately decided on a Northfield site for their business.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:50

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Escalation of dispute with neighbor leads to arson charge for local man

LACONIA — An investigation into a report of a restraining order violation has led to arson charges against a local man.

Justin M. DeWolfe, 30, of 15 Lyford St., allegedly started a fire to the exterior of his neighbor's house on June 1, 2013, in retaliation for some bullying between teenaged girls. DeWolfe is being held on $25,000 cash bail following his arraignment yesterday.

Affidavits obtained yesterday from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, supporting the arson charge against DeWolfe said that police and fire officials were called to 16 Lyford St. at 11:34 p.m. on June 1 for a report of a suspicious fire.

A number of shingles on the outside of the house were charred. Firefighters extinguished what they described as a small fire near the porch. Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said yesterday that firefighters stayed long enough to make sure the fire was out and turned the scene over to police. He said they removed a couple of shingles from the house.

Officials determined there were 10 people in the building on the night of the fire.

Paperwork said the primary resident of the home told police the family had been having some problems with a neighbor over allegedly bullying between some teenaged girls.

At the time, the victim told police she thought it could have been the girls who started the fire.

Fast-forward to Nov. 2 and police responded to 15 Lyford St. for a call for an assault.

DeWolfe was charged with one count of simple assault and freed on personal recognizance bail by a bail commissioner with the order to stay away from the victim.

DeWolfe allegedly violated the temporary no-contact order — that became a final order on Nov. 19 — seven times.

Complaints and affidavits said DeWolfe repeatedly contacted the victim — who had moved to another address — by calling her, text-messaging her, and at one point allegedly drawing his hand across his throat and mouthing the words, "You're dead."

During the course of the breach of bail investigations, DeWolfe's former girlfriend told police that he was the one who lit fire at 16 Lyford St. on June 1.

Police said they interviewed two juveniles associated with DeWolfe as well as his former girlfriend and all of them said he had admitted to using charcoal lighter fluid and a lighter to start the June 1 fire.

The three said he told them he did it because he was "tired of people treating them 'like (explicative).'"

City Prosecutor James Sawyer argued yesterday that DeWolfe should be held on $20,000 cash-only bail for the arson charge, and $5,000 cash-only bail for the seven breaches of bail violations.

He said DeWolfe was dangerous and appeared to acting out of anger when he allegedly set the neighbor's house on fire as well as in the tone of his communications to his ex-girlfriend.

At one point, Sawyer said, DeWolfe was allegedly impersonating a police officer and contacting the ex-girlfriend.

"He can't control himself," said Sawyer, adding that DeWolfe gets angry at school children things.

DeWolfe's attorney, Justin Littlefield, argued that his client should be freed on $1,000 cash or $10,000 corporate surety. He said the arson happened in June but only came to light recently and in the wake of a custody battle between DeWolfe and the woman who told police about the arson.

"This encourages healthy skepticism," said Littlefield as DeWolfe, who was appearing by video, began nodding in agreement. At least four people supporting DeWolfe were in court for his arraignment.

Judge James Carroll determined there was probable cause for the arrest and agreed to Sawyer's request for a total of $25,000 cash.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:49

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Elm Street School Students Learn the Joy of Giving

LACONIA — In only its second year, "The ESSence of Giving" is already well on its way to becoming a holiday tradition at Elm Street School.
More than 140 students took part in the event Saturday morning which provided students with an opportunity to select and wrap Christmas gifts for their family members and loved ones.
''There was a line waiting all the way back to the door when we got here to open the gym Saturday morning,'' said first grade teacher Donna-Marie Gamlin, who came up with the idea for the program which was started last year.
Gamlin said that members of VISTESS (Volunteers in Service to Elm Street School) collected about 1,500 gifts this year and that the gifts were set up in the school's multi-purpose room where they were grouped in different categories like a department store for the student shoppers. Students then shopped for presents and then wrapped them with the assistance of adult volunteers.
''Some of the students even brought in their own toys which they had outgrown so that we could use them as gifts,'' said Gamlin.
As children shopped and wrapped their gifts, their parents and family members were served hot cocoa and snacks in the school library so that the element of surprise for the student gifts could be preserved.
''The best thing is that it didn't cost one cent. Every gift was donated by some very generous and thoughtful people,'' said Gamlin, who estimated that more than 30 volunteers were involved in Saturday's event by bringing the collected gifts to the school, setting up tables in the gym where the gifts were displayed and helping the children wrap the gifts.
Leftover gifts will go to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, along with cash that was collected at collection canisters set up in the hall and inside the library. Last year some $385 was collected for the food pantry.
Fifth grader Ashlynn Baron, 10, said that she was wrapping presents for seven people. ''It's a good program. Kids get free presents to give to their family and it makes them feel really good to be able to give,'' she said.
''I'm getting presents for my Mom and Dad and sister and brother. It's a lot of fun,'' said fourth grader Kiara Ellsworth.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:49

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