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Heritage Com. will try to strengthen teeth of tear-down ordinance

LACONIA — The Heritage Commission will hold a public hearing on the application of Cafua Management Company, LLC, owner of the Hathaway House at 1106 Union Avenue, to demolish the building on Wednesday, January 22 at City Hall beginning at 6:30.

The commission has anticipated scheduling a hearing since October when a work crew shattered the glass and boarded the windows at the historic building. When Greg Nolan, director of development at Cafua, who oversaw the permitting and construction of the adjacent Dunkin' Donuts store and undertook to preserve and maintain the Hathaway House, failed to respond to inquiries, members of the commission began picketing on weekends.

When the commission met last evening, Pam Clark, who chairs the panel, recounted the fraught relationship with Cafua dating from 2008. Then Cafua, which acquired the 1.61-acre lot and 5,030-square-foot building in 2000, proposed demolishing the Hathaway House and constructing a Dunkin' Donuts store and strip mall on the site. However, after a series of meetings with city officials and concerned citizens, Cafua agreed to preserve the Hathaway House and build the Dunkin' Donuts outlet on the lot next door.

When the project was approved, Nolan assured the Planning Board that the Hathaway House would be repainted as well as fitted with a fire alarm and fire suppression system. He said the company had no plans for the building other than to preserve it. Two years later the building, which had not been painted or improved, was offered for sale or lease. At the time Nolan assured the Planning Department "there will be a condition that the house cannot be scrapped." Despite repeated assurances the building was never painted, but instead was neglected and allowed to deteriorate, Nolan said.

Dorothy Duffy, a member of the commission, reported that she reached William Bode, a regional vice-president of Dunkin' Donuts working from corporate headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts. She said that while he was "sympathetic," he explained that because the property is owned by a franchisee — Cafua — the parent corporation is "out of the picture" and "can't do anything about it." Nevertheless, Duffy said that Bode told her that corporate officials have been following the controversy over the Hathaway House closely.

Last week Cafua, formally applied to demolish it. Since the Hathaway House is more than 700-square-feet in area and 75 or more years old, as well as visible from a public right-of-way, the application, within five days of being submitted was presented to the Heritage Commission for review. Clark told the commission that she had refused to endorse the application for a demolition permit and intended to schedule a public hearing. She said she has been informed that Nolan or another representative of Cafua will attend the hearing.

Once the commission schedules a public hearing, the owner is required by ordinance to post a sign to that effect, along with the date, time and place of the hearing, on the building in plain sight within 10 business days.

Should the public hearing close without agreement on an alternative to demolition, the Heritage Commission shall meet with the owner within 10 days to seek agreement on an alternative. Without an agreement to preserve the building, the owner may proceed with demolition while the Heritage Commission, with the consent of the owner, shall photograph and document the building as well as encourage the owner to salvage any of its important architectural features.

Clark conceded that the ordinance lent little authority to the Heritage Commission and said that an effort to strengthen the ordinance is underway.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 01:47

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Insurance company going after builder for $400k spent after '09 flood at GMS

GILFORD — The School District's insurance company has sued the Keene-based construction company which built the Middle School for the $400,000 claim paid in the wake of a failure of the priming portion of the sprinkler system in March of 2009.

Primex claims that The MacMillin Company of Keene or one of its subcontractors installed plastic fittings in the primary sprinkler pumping system rather that the metal ones called for by the architect.

One of the plastic fittings burst, causing water to cascade down from the second floor mechanical room into the computer labs beneath it.

The Middle School was shut down for the better part of 10 days although much of that time was during winter vacation. The flood was noticed by a teacher who came to the school over the first weekend of winter vacation to feed a turtle that was part of a middle school science project. She notice two inches of water on the floor and notified authorities.

Primex asserts there was no construction change order — although 30 changes orders were recorded during the duration of the project — that allowed for the switch from brass to plastic.

The sprinkler system was just one piece of a $17.4 million project that funded the construction of the Middle School and the renovation of the adjacent High School.

The voters approved the project at the annual School District meeting in March of 2002. Students began using the Middle School in September of 2003 while the renovation at the high school was finished by September of 2004.

Prior to the time, post elementary school students shared what was for decades called Gilford Middle High School.

The court case was filed by Primex against The MacMillin Company in 2011 in Belknap County Superior Court. Yesterday, Judge James O'Neill heard motions for summary judgement and will determine whether or not there are any legal issues that can be adjudicated.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 01:42

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Acrimony over county budget process picks up right where it left off

LACONIA — Last evening the Belknap County budget process for 2014 began where the one for 2013 ended, amid acrimony and confusion between the county convention and county commission.

County Administrator Debra Shackett presented the $26.6 million budget recommended by the commissioners, noting that it would increase the total appropriation by 0.7 percent increase and the total tax commitment by 4.0 percent. Calling the budget "a very bare-bones plan," she said that expenditures in 2014 would closely match those of 2008 "with virtually no tax increase since then." Meanwhile, she continued the cost-of-living has risen 10 percent. As a result, she concluded that the "the nominal wage increases included in this budget (a 1.6-percent cost-of-living adjustment and 3 percent step increase for eligible employees) will not come close to making up for the decreasing take home pay for our employees over the past three years."

Shackett said that the commissioners recommended drawing $2 million from the undesignated fund balance (reserve fund), $350,000 less than last year, to reduce the amount to be raised by property taxes. Recalling that the commissioners aimed to maintain a fund balance of between $5 million and $6 million to ensure the county's credit rating stay healthy, she described the projected fund balance of $2.2 million as "dismal." A string of tight budgets, she feared, would leave the county with little or not fund balance, which would "result in a significant tax rate increase and the credit rating at an all time low."

Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who chairs the executive committee of the convention, challenged the assertion that the proposed budget represented an increase of 0.7 percent in appropriations and 4.0 percent in taxes as "deceptive." He explained that in 2013 the budget included an appropriation of more than $553,463, representing the cost of the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association (LRMFAA) to the 11 municipalities of the county. This year the appropriation has been struck from the county budget and the LRMFAA will bill the municipalities directly. Adjusting for the difference, he said that the cost of providing the same services next year as this year would rise by 2.8 percent and the tax commitment by 8.2 percent.

Shackett called the charge of deception "rude and offensive," but when Tilton pressed the point and repeated his calculation she insisted "the commissioners had no intent to deceive."

Commissioner Steve Nedeau of Meredith calmed the troubled waters by thanking Tilton for his part in removing the appropriation for the lRMFAA from the county budget.

"I'm wondering," said Representative Jane Cormier (R-Alton), "if the budget process is the same one we had before."

"I hope not," Shackett remarked.

Just how the convention intends to handle the commissioner's recommended budget is not at all clear, Representative Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, announced she intended to convene a "budget hearing" on January 7 at 5 p.m.

Shackett asked Worsman if she expected the administrative staff and department heads to assist when the convention met. "I do not know at this point," Worsman answered.

But, Worsman asked Shackett to provide the payroll, with salaries, wages and benefits, for each department. "What is the purpose of your request? asked Representative Ruth Gulick (D-New Hampton), who cautioned her against micro-managing. "It's information I would like," Worsman replied.

"It's all about the salaries," said Gulick. "That's what I think and that's what I'm afraid of."

Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), who is serving his 14th term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, asked if the convention would first divide into sub-committees to review the budgets of the county departments then present their findings to the convention as it has done in the past.

"I haven't made that decision yet," Worsman replied.

Fields insisted that the sub-committees should be convened then report to the convention. When Worsman repeated that the convention should meet in January, Fields said "you're doing a disservice by not having our sub-committees do their job." He charged that a year ago Worsman derailed the budget by holding a caucus of the Republican members of the convention to begin the process and warned against taking the same course again.

"Enough, Dennis," Worsman said. "Enough!"

"I'm not going to toe the line," Fields shot back. "I will not be a puppet."

Tilton argued that salaries, wages and benefits, which are common to all departments, could be addressed most effectively by the entire convention rather than in sub-committees. He said that sub-committees could return with inconsistent recommendations that the convention would have to reconcile.

Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia), also suggested convening the sub-committees, explaining that it was an opportunity to plumb the differences between what the department heads requested and what the commissioners recommended. "We are responsible for doing what is necessary," he said, "and sometimes that's hard to swallow." He reminded his colleagues that in preparing a budget they must "look beyond November" by addressing the needs of the county and not deferring necessary expenditures, especially capital projects.

However a motion to begin the process with sub-committees failed by vote of eight-six, with four members absent. Representative Don Flanders (R-Laconia) then moved to meet in January as Worsman proposed and, after a general discussion of the budget, divide into sub-committees to meet with the department heads. The motion carried unanimously by a voice vote.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 02:10

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Arrest warrants pending for Chemung burglary

MEREDITH — Police said yesterday that arrest warrants are pending for two people they believe are responsible for burglarizing a home on Tucker Mountain Road on December 5.

The burglary was reported to police at 3 p.m. when the homeowner returned to find a small black car in the driveway being operated by a female operator. The car left and the homeowner realized there had been a burglary and notified police.

Responding officers learned the car had headed onto Chemung Road and in the direction of Sanbornton. A State Police K-9 officer and dog performed a search and told Meredith Police there was likely a second person involved.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 02:08

Hits: 373

 
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