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Belmont looking into placing special empty chair at town hall to symbolize POWs & MIAs

BELMONT — After a presentation on Monday from Rolling Thunder, an national motorcycle club that advocates for the service men and women who are prisoners of war or missing in action, the town is developing a plan to put a specially designated empty chair in town hall.

The chair program, said Robert McGuiggan who made the presentation to selectmen, is one that designates an empty chair in a public place so people who see it will realize there will always be an empty chair as long as there are members of the military who are POWS or MIAs.

McGuggan said venues as large as Gillette Stadium, the Foxboro home of the New England Patriots, and as small as town's like Belmont have designated the single empty chair in a public place.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said yesterday that the town, at the suggestion of Selectman Jon Pike, who is a Vietnam veteran, is working with the Charles Kilbourn American Legion Post 58 to come up with a plan.

Beaudin said Town Assessing Assistant Cary Lagace has a chair that's in the town hall that she had previously refinished.

"She loves working with her hands and she has adopted this project on behalf of the town," Beaudoin said yesterday.

Beaudoin said her suggestion is to place the chair, which will be clearly marked as the empty chair for people who are POWs or MIA, to be under the Boston Post Cane in Town Hall.

Lagacy's idea, along with suggestions from the American Legion, will be brought to selectmen at their next meeting on January 24.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 01:27

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Judge finds Town of Belmont did not cause former bank building on Main Street to decline in value

BELMONT — A Merrimack County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the town by the former owners of the Northway Bank building on Main Street. The plaintiffs had charged the town caused their property to diminish in value when it announced its plans to eliminate Mill Street Extension as part of its village revitalization project.

William and Carolyn McDonough had also asked the court for loss of rental income they said was created when the town announced its plans in 2010 to revitalize the village district.

Judge Richard McNamara ruled that the McDonoughs provided no evidence that the potential of road had diminished its value. He said based on the evidence presented to him, the building had dropped in value due to housing prices that had nothing to do with the road being discontinued.

The McDonoughs bought the building in January 2009 for $275,000 and rented the space. In December 2009 they entered into an conditional sales agreement for the building and property for $275,000 but the voters rejected it at the 2010 annual town meeting.

In 2010, the town also announced its plans to for the Belmont Village Revitalization Plan and in late 2011 hired an architect to design it. The McDonoughs entered into a second sales agreement with the town in 2012 for $250,000 and the voters approved it at a specially convened annual town meeting in August 2012.

Evidence considered by McNamara was two appraisals – one done at the behest of the McDonoughs and one done at the behest of the town.

He said the McDonoughs' appraisal was flawed because the method by which the appraisal was done utilized an income analysis that included the value of the rental along with the tax value of the land and property.

"It is unclear that Mr. Manias (the McDonoughs appraiser) understood whether or not the leases on the property were "triple net" leases," he said, meaning that the commercial tenant agrees to pay all of the expenses associated with the lease.

McNamara also said the sales evidence he presented to compare the Main Street property to sales of other similar commercial buildings was inconsistent in that he used sales of properties along highway that sees up 8,000 vehicles a day and Main Street in Belmont sees about 1,000.

More importantly, said McNamara, the McDonoughs "provided no opinion regarding what the property was worth after the discontinuance" and that was "fatal" to their suit.

He said the town's appraiser included the method by which the assessment was done including evidence that general property values had decline five to six percent from 2009 until 2012. The town said the property was worth $245,000 when it purchased it for $250,000.

In March 2013, McNamara dismissed three other elements of the suit for damages for inverse condemnation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and unjust enrichment.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 01:17

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Convention Eyes Cutting Employee Raises from County Budget (414)

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention delved into the minute details of the county budget for more than three hours last evening in a contentious session which ended with the legislators asking that County Administrator Debra Shackett prepare a budget spreadsheet which would show the dollar impact of level-funding wages of county employees at rates currently being paid.
Goal of the convention majority as expressed by Convention Chairman Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) is to back out of the raises which the County Commissioners included in their proposed budget of a 1.6 cost of living increase for county employees and 3 percent step raises for eligible employees.
Convention members said they wanted to see the impact on the county budget, which Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) called a ''working document'' before they meet for further deliberations today with a plan of finalizing the proposed $ 26.6 million budget next week.
Convention Vice Chairman Rep. Robert Greemore (R-Meredith) asked that Shackett include the hiring of three additional guards at the County Jail and the switch from a part-time to a full-time employee in the Restorative Justice Program in those budget calculations.
Leading the charge for holding the line on county employee pay raises was Rep. Herb Vadney (R-Meredith), who chaired the convention's Public Safety Subcommittee.
Vadney said that it was the job of the convention to smoke out those parts of the budget where he maintained those preparing the budget ''always add a little extra for every line item,'' something he said ''is seldom mentioned and always done.''
He apologized later for his statement after being confronted by Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen, who said "There's been an accusation here that this budget was padded and I adamantly deny that. There's not an ounce of padded money in this budget and I'm offended that there is an accusation that I've padded added this budget. I am cautious and I watch the bottom line very carefully.''
She said that there was a chance that she might have to return to the convention later this year looking for contingency funds due to expenses that she can't control such as investigation of deaths, autopsies and other medical expenses.
Vadney apologized for his ''harsh words'' and said he was overreacting to his concerns about the budget.
He was also criticized by Shackett for his statement. She said his comments were a slap in the face to every county employee who worked on the budget.''

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 02:35

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Inocente, the Middle School, and the Care Closet

LACONIA — For most children, a sleep-over at a friend's house is a rite of passage — the ability to spend the night away from home.

For some children in Laconia, a sleep-over can be life-saving.

"We know we have a pattern of students who are homeless and a percentage of them are couch-surfing because of problems in the family," said Middle School Principal Eric Johnson.

On Feb. 17, the Laconia Middle School will host the community as they view "Inocente," an award-winning film that spotlights one girl's attempt to combat her homelessness with her art.

Trying to address some of the problems within families is Stand Up Laconia, a growing coalition of adults and students who want to come together to create positive change for students.

Clare Persson, who is the chair of Stand Up Laconia, said the many of the students she knows don't want to live in a city that is tagged as a place where drug abuse and alcoholism seems rampant. She said many of the kids that Stand Up Laconia and Freedom Found at the high school level is to give some support to the youngsters who don't want to do drugs or drink.

"These kids see a lot, and they're up against a whole different thing than when we were young," she said.

She said her organization isn't necessarily on the front lines addressing acute homelessness, but rather is one of those entities that can help mitigate it by encouraging students not to make some of the choices their parents made.

"These kids are sick of Laconia being associated with drug abuse and alcoholism," Persson said.

She said her organization is there to support these students.

"Quite a bit of it is just poverty," said Johnson, who said he sees a lot of single parents who are working and just scraping by and who suddenly find themselves without a home and forced to stay with friends and family.

For the Middle School, ground zero is often the guidance office and the nurse's office. He said he has had children who often move three or four times in one school year — often from neighboring school districts.

He said his guidance staff stays in very close contact with the guidance staff in other area school districts to better help coordinate students whose families are moving in or out of the district.

"It comes in waves," he said. "We'll go a month or two and have none, and then we'll get six or seven students who are in transition."

Working together, Stand Up Laconia and the staff and students of the Middle School have put together the Care Closet — a place where students who are struggling financially and/or couch surfing can get items they otherwise would be unable to afford.

Johnson said the Care Closet is open to all students who are struggling financially.
He said the closet is stocked with personal hygiene items and clothes that are donated by the staff and the faculty.

He added that are left in the school's lost-and-found for more than four weeks go in the Care Closet.

"It's all confidential and coordinated through the nurse's and the guidance offices," said Johnson. He said the goal is to help these children without calling attention to their circumstances.

Johnson said the number of Middle School students who are struggling and tacitly homeless is "staggering."

"People would be surprised if they knew," he said, adding that 69 percent of the students at Elm Street Elementary Schools and about 70 percent of the students at Woodland Heights Elementary School are eligible for the free-and-reduced lunch federal programs that the school district uses as an indicator for poverty.

The "Inocente" program begins at 5:30 p.m. with a dinner on Feb. 17 at the Laconia Middle School and the 30-minute film at 6 p.m. The goal is to bring all of the agencies — including the school district and Stand Up Laconia — together and learn what a girl like Inocente would find if she were to come to Laconia.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 02:18

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