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Briarcrest Estates owners had signaled retreat but judge's ruling my change that

LACONIA — The tussle over the future ownership of Briarcrest Estates may take a fresh turn with the decision of Justice James D. O'Neill, III of Belknap County Superior Court not to dismiss the petition of Mark and Ruth Mooney, owners of the manufactured housing park, asking the court to approve its sale to Hometown America Corporation. The Mooneys had recently signaled a willingness to instead negotiate a sale to a group of tenants in order to avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle but O'Neill's ruling in their favor may motivate them to rethink the matter.
In July the Mooneys accepted a $10-million offer from Hometown America. State law requires park owners, upon receiving an offer, to "consider any offer received from the tenants or a tenants' association" and to "negotiate in good faith with the tenants concerning a potential purchase." Failure to comply carries a liability to the tenants of $10,000 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater.
When tenants representing a minority of the 241 units formed the Lakemont Cooperative and presented a matching offer, the Mooneys went to court, where they were supported by a majority of tenants who prefer commercial to cooperative ownership.
Jim Cowan, president of the Lakemont Cooperative, which contested the petition, said yesterday that "we're not remotely surprised" by O'Neill's ruling. He said that recently the Mooneys wrote to all tenants of the park indicating that they intended to withdraw their "court action" rather than become mired in prolonged and expensive litigation as well as to open negotiations with the Lakemont Cooperative.
Cowan said that he anticipated the Mooneys will sign the purchase and sales agreement submitted by the cooperative, which he noted has been amended to exactly match the competing offer, then provide the financial information the cooperative requires to pursue its due diligence and arrange the financing to purchase the park.
However, the Mooneys have yet to withdraw their petition and O'Neill's decision may cast the situation in a new light. In support of the Mooney's petition, attorney Paul Fitzgerald, argued that the term "tenants" and "tenants association," which are nowhere defined, are ambiguous, but can only reasonably taken to refer to a majority of the tenants. Consequently, he concluded that the Mooneys "owe conflicting duties of good faith" to both the cooperative and the majority and could face a liability of $1 million for failing to bargain in good faith with either.
Meanwhile, attorney Philip McLaughlin, representing the majority of tenants claimed that while the statute fails to anticipate that a majority of tenants will prefer commercial to cooperative ownership it neither prohibits them from intervening in the litigation nor from intervening in the present action" or bars the Mooneys from weighing their interests when fulfilling their duty to bargain in good faith. He asked the court to conclude that the Mooneys "may, as they discharge their statutory duty to bargain in good faith, take into account, that good faith extends to consideration beyond the will of the minority (whether in an association or not) and should consider the will and the reasons for the opposition of the majority."
In declining to dismiss the Mooney's petition O'Neill held that the court need not find the statute ambiguous. Instead, he ruled that the essence of the Mooney's claim is that by choosing to sell to Hometown America because a majority of the tenants do not want the park to be owned by a cooperative they have met the requirement to negotiate in good faith. "Thus," he concluded, "the crux of this matter is what constitutes 'negotiate in good faith,' not what constitutes tenants or tenants association."
While the statute implies that the duty to negotiate in good faith is owed solely to the cooperative, O'Neill's ruling leaves open the prospects that if the cooperative represents a minority of tenants, the same duty may be owed to the majority and that park owners may be spared liability for fulfilling it.
Should the decision lead to the Mooneys to pursue the litigation, the case will be tried on March 22.
Whatever the outcome for the tenants of Briarcrest Estates, the issues raised by the case will likely prompt reconsideration of the statute governing the sale of manufactured housing parks.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 December 2013 12:06

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Website lists expected Belknap County job opportunities over next 5 years, including education & training necessary to qualify & pay rates to expect

LACONIA — To further its goals of retaining young talent in the region while fostering the workforce employers require, the Belknap Economic Development Council (BEDC) recently surveyed 20 local firms about the jobs they expect to fill during the next five years and summarized these career opportunities in industry profiles on its website.

Initially BEDC compiled information about employment in advanced manufacturing, finance and insurance, health care and social assistance and hospitality, all industries with potential for growth in the coming years. The profiles indicate the entry and mid level jobs that will be available, together with the qualifications, responsibilities and compensation for each. Along with a sketch of each industry, its average earnings, number of jobs and projected growth, the profiles include a sample of local companies in the four industries.

For instance, 85 firms in Belknap County employ a total of more than 2,300 people at annual average earnings of $61,200 in advanced manufacturing, which applies high technology to expensive raw materials to produce components for the aerospace, medial, semi-conductor, automotive and electronics industries. This sector expects to add more than 100 a year. Entry level positions include machine operators, requiring a high school diploma and "willingness to learn" while paying $13.15 an hour, and machinists and assemblers with between three months and a year of experience paying from $12 to $16.68 an hour.

Salaries for entry level positions in financial services, which require interpersonal, communications and computer skills along with attention to detail, range between $20,000 and $28,500 while earnings in health care start at $11 an hour for a high school graduate with some work experience and reach $28,000 for a college graduate. In the hospitality industry, the largest employers in the region with the lowest average earnings of $22,100, entry level jobs pay between $10 and $14 an hour, with mechanics and cooks with some experience earning the most.

The profiles, which are posted on the BEDC website, are intended to offer young people contemplating a career and preparing to enter the workforce information about the opportunities open to them in the Lakes Region. The unemployment rate in the Laconia labor market in October was 5.3-percent, slightly higher than that of the state and the county, but the information gathered by the BEDC indicates that regional employers will have entry level positions for qualified people eager to work.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 December 2013 01:02

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Sex offender arrested: 15-year-old tells police she exchanged sex for booze

GILFORD — Police have charged a registered sex offender with one count of felonious sexual assault for an act allegedly committed behind the Gilford Cinema on October 14.

David Ferland, 37, of 686 Union Avenue Apt. 2A in Laconia is being held on $250,000 cash-only bail until he can appear in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division this morning.

According to Gilford Police, the father of a 15-year-old girl discovered a cell phone his daughter was not allowed to have in her possession and was concerned by the content of some of the conversations.

The girl later told police she had met a stranger (later identified as Ferland) over the Internet and had communicated with him numerous times over her cell phone. She also told police she and a female friend met Ferland behind the cinema and sexual acts were performed in exchange for alcohol.

Gilford Police worked with the New Hampshire Department of Corrections Parole and Probation Division of Laconia and, using various channels and methods, were able to identify Ferland.

He was initially taken into custody for a parole violation and during his interview police said he admitted having contact with the girl over the Internet and the sexual encounter.

Police said Ferland's criminal sexual history in New Hampshire began in 2003 and he had since been convicted of nine counts of felonious sexual assault — stemming from two separate incidents, two counts of certain use of computer services, 21 counts child pornography, and one count of criminal solicitation. His convictions stemmed from incidents in Rockingham and Grafton Counties.

Gilford Police said additional charges are expected to include, but not be limited to, the second alleged victim.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 12:55

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Gilford marina damaged by Xmas Eve fire

GILFORD — Firefighters extinguished a smoky blaze Tuesday afternoon that nearly destroyed the show room and main offices of the Silver Sands Marina at 103 Weirs Road (Rte. 11-B).

The fire was reported just before 4 p.m. by a passerby who noticed a fire inside the main building.

When firefighters arrived, smoke was billowing from the second floor rear portion of the main building, which houses the canvass shop.

Smoke was ventilating from the front of the building and at one point some began seeping from the eaves along the main part of the building.

Fire Chief Steve Carrier said firefighters set up a water line near the marina but were able to extinguish the flames with the water brought in the responding firetrucks from Gilford and Laconia.

Carrier said firefighters were able to contain the fire to the canvas room, adding there is minor smoke and water damage to the remainder of the building.

"This was a great job by the 'first-in' crews," Carrier said. This was a large and valuable building with valuable contents and they were able to confine the fire and extinguish it where it started.

Gilford firefighters was assisted at the marina by crews from Laconia, Meredith and Belmont. Crews from the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department and Holderness Fie Department provided station coverage.

Carrier said the cause of the fire is unknown and is being investigated by Deputy Fire Chief Brad Ober.


CUTLINE – Smoke billows from the showroom and main offices of the Silver Sands Marina Tuesday afternoon as firefighters work to extinguish the blaze that began in the second floor canvas shop. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 12:43

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