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Ceremony marks progress is restoration of Belmont's Province Road Meeting House

BELMONT — A ceremony at the The Province Road Meeting House Thursday morning marked the completion of exterior renovations to the historic structure, built in 1792 and by far the oldest church in town.

Built when Belmont was still a part of Gilmanton (the township was separated by an act of the Legislature in 1859 and adopted the name Belmont in 1869), the church also served as the site of a town meeting in 1796.
Wallace Rhodes, president of the Belmont Historical Society, said that the meeting house was constructed to serve the needs of the northern part of Gilmanton, a huge town at that time which extended all the way from Barnstead to the Weirs, around the same time that another meetinghouse was built on Gunstock Hill in Gilford.
He said that the Province Road Meetinghouse was used by residents of Upper Gilmanton, and what would later become Laconia, until a meeting house was constructed there in 1815.
As was the style of churches then, it was fitted with box pews and contained a gallery on three sides and a high pulpit. The church was cut down to one story in 1836 and in 1854 the pulpit was rebuilt. Over the years the church served about 75 families, but by 1981 the Third Free Will Baptist Meetinghouse Society of Upper Gilmanton had dwindled to three members, who turned the building over to the Belmont Historical Society in 1981.
Rhodes recalled that when he first toured the building in 1968 he noticed that the roof was in poor condition and that was indeed one of the major challenges faced by the Historical Society once it took over the building.
He said that work was completed on the exterior renovations to the building last fall, a $117,000 project which was helped by a $50,000 grant from the state's Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and that the society is now looking to raise at least $50,000 to complete interior renovations, which will allow the group to use it for meetings and rent it to community groups.
Amy Dixon, historic resource specialist with LCHIP, presented a plaque to Rhodes and the historical society for their efforts in restoring the meetinghouse.
She noted that LCHIP in 2007 had funded a building assessment study which led to the restoration project.
Also unveiled at the ceremony was a new sign for the building and a plaque which will be placed inside the building in memory of Meredith Bergeron, who worked to help preserve the meeting house and who died in an automobile crash in Meredith in March at the age of 22.
Linda Frawley of the Belmont Heritage Commission said a garden at the Meeting House will be named in Bergeron's honor. Her parents, Richard and Jean Bergeron, were present for the ceremony.
The Bergerons were also presented with an American flag, courtesy of U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, by Kelly Hayes of Belmont Girl Scout Troop #21532, which had worked on many beautification projects at the meeting house.


Linda Frawley of the Belmont Heritage Commission shows a plaque to Richard and Jean Bergeron honoring their daughter, Meredith, who worked to help preserve the Province Road Meeting House and died in an automobile crash in Meredith in March. A garden at the meeting house is named in her honor. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Saturday, 03 August 2013 03:07

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Theft of 75 used car batteries nets man 1 year in jail

BELMONT — A local man was sentenced to 12 months in the Belknap County House of Corrections Thursday for being in possession of 75 used car batteries stolen from MetroCast Cablevision on July 17.

Dean LaPlante, 20, of 129 Lamprey Road pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday. A count of breach of bail was not prosecuted.

Six months of the 12-month sentence were suspended and LaPlante was given credit for 12 days served.

LaPlante took 75 used batteries that had been stored on pallets by MetroCast and were slated to be recycled by the company that provides the cable company with its batteries, said Belmont Prosecutor David Estes.

Estes said the batteries are a lead-acid type about the size of a standard car battery and are used to power the cable and phone line grid during outages. He said MetroCast valued each of the used batteries at about $12. A new one, he said, costs the company about $160.

According to affidavits submitted to court by Belmont Police, one of MetroCast's neighbors heard some loud banging outside her window around 1 a.m. on July 17, looked out and saw an unfamiliar pickup.

Police questioned LaPlante and Stephen Cote, 31, of 62 Randlett Drive and Cote told them LaPlante had brought the batteries to his home because he said he couldn't store them at his own.

Estes said the batteries were taken into evidence and are stored at the Belmont Police Station. He said Cote is also charged with one count of receiving stolen property and is scheduled for arraignment in late August.


Last Updated on Saturday, 03 August 2013 02:57

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$67,000 spent to improve storm-water drainage at new LHS athletic complex

LACONIA — After a setback of about two weeks and $67,000, School District Business Administrator Ed Emond told the Joint Building Committee yesterday that there are no more issues with the new playing fields behind the high school.

Emond said the additional money went to pay for drainage, tipping the new road to direct storm water runoff to a swale and creating an overflow dam at Bank of New Hampshire Stadium.

"Everything is really set up and we are in a good position to protect the field," said Emond.

The drainage problems with the fields were two-fold.

Initially, the subsurface of Jim Fitzgerald Field — the primary playing field that will be covered with synthetic turf — was not absorbing water at the required rate. The cost of removing most of the material and changing the mixture to fix the drainage was the responsibility of the contractors.

Secondly, drainage from the upper field (Bobotas Field) was inadequate during heavy downpours, leading to washouts.

The Fitzgerald Field drainage issues were known before the torrential rains over the weekend before the July 4 holiday. However, the damage to the drainage system around the fields came as a complete surprise and it wasn't until the deluge that engineers and members of the JBC realized there was a problem.

"I'm kind of disappointed with the end result that this is more of a drainage problem than we thought," said JBC Co-Chair Bob Hamel yesterday, telling the committee that drainage they have now should have been anticipated in the original design.

Hamel went on to say he believes the problem is now solved and noted it cost the district more by having to go to an after-bid rather than including it in the original scope.

"But (the fields) will be fantastic and, if we didn't do this, then we would have paid for it in the end," Hamel said.

Joint Building Committee Co-Chair Joe Cormier said at a School Board meeting on July 16 that there will be no additional drainage piping work done at or around the fields located behind the high school saying the School District got an engineering and construction estimate from the contractor overseeing the project and decided to reject the additional work because it was cost-prohibitive.
At the time, Cormier said he had every confidence the erosion problems that occurred during the storms won't recur and the work to fix the damage and the drainage — some of which is still under construction, would be fixed by the engineers and contractors at their expense.
After the JBC met in an emergency meeting on July 3, it voted to give Cormier and Hamel the authority to approve any drainage engineering changes and expenses


Last Updated on Saturday, 03 August 2013 02:54

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Dogs brought in to sniff out presence & source of human bacteria

LACONIA — Rarely if ever do dogs cleanup after their owners, but the roles were reversed at Opechee Cove and Weirs Beach yesterday when "Logan" and "Sable", two mixed breeds trained to identify human sources of bacteria in water, helped an environmental contractor trace the origins of the contamination fouling city beaches.

The dogs, with their trainers and handlers Karen and Scott Reynolds, represent Environmental Canine Services, LLC, headquartered in Vermontville, Michigan. Last year, Planning Director Shanna Saunders and Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, saw the dogs perform at conference on stormwater management.

When the city contracted with FB Environmental of Portland, Maine to study the problem at the beaches, Saunders and Dunleavy asked for "Logan" and "Sable" to join the team. Although the dogs worked in more than half-a-dozen coastal towns in New Hampshire and Maine last year, this was their first job on a freshwater lake in New England.

"We chose the dogs for their accuracy and cost," Saunders said. Emily DiFranco of FB Environmental explained that in half-a-day the dogs checked several catch basins and outlets at Opechee Cove and another 50 catch basins at The Weirs, a workload that would have otherwise taken two days.

The dogs are trained to the scent of human — and only human — fecal matter. Logan, who has the keener of the two noses, sits and Sable barks when they catch the smell. Instead of having to draw samples at every potential source, the dogs signal only the hot spots. "It's just as important to eliminate areas as to identify them," Scott Reynolds said. "That and the human focus are what makes the dogs cost effective," he said.

DiFranco explained that the alternative is to collect lots of samples, all of which must be tested, not only to determine the bacterial levels but also to distinguish human from animal sources, all of which is time-consuming and very costly.

Scott Reynolds, who first scent trained dogs while with a security firm, recalled that after he became an environmental scientist his firm was tediously inspecting sewer lines and storm drains when his supervisor asked him "can you train dogs to smell poop?" He replied "why not " and in 2007 he and "Sable" went to work. Two years later he and his wife Karen, also a dog trainer, pooled their 35 years of experience into their own firm.
The company operates in Sonoma, California, where five dogs are on the payroll, as well as in Michigan with "Logan" and "Sable" and three dogs in training.

Reynolds said the dogs can work in two ways. Water samples can be collected, placed in buckets and presented to the dogs. At The Weirs, "Logan" and "Sable" demonstrated their prowess at this technique several times. Alternatively, the dogs can track contamination to its source.

For instance, DiFranco recalled that last year the dogs found a beach at Fort Foster in Kittery, Maine laced with fecal bacteria, which seemed to be seeping into the sand. The dogs led them to a marsh, which was also fouled. Beyond the marsh they found two abandoned outhouses, which were promptly removed. This year, when they returned to the beach, the dogs sensed no trace of fecal bacteria. "That was a real success story," Di Franco said.

DiFranco said that the samples taken from the hot spots identified by the dogs yesterday would be tested and the results analyzed in a report to city officials. "We want to prioritize the next steps in addressing the problem," she said.

Dunleavy said that any action by the city will depend on the findings and recommendations of FB Environmental.


Last Updated on Saturday, 03 August 2013 02:43

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