Not much said about $22.7 million proposed budget for Inter-Lakes schools

MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes School Board presented a budget of $22,715,206 for 2015-2016, which represents an increase of $648,073, or 2.94 percent, at a pubic hearing at the high school auditorium earlier week.

In a separate warrant article, voters will also be asked to approve the cost items included in the collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the Inter-Lakes Education Association (ILEA), which represents the 112 individuals, or 104.8 full-time equivalents, employed by the district. The salary schedule would be increased by 2 percent and employees would advance one step on the salary schedule in each of the two years of the agreement. The average increases would be $2,178, or 3.73 percent, in 2015-2016 and $2,190, or 3.6 percent in 2016-2017. The total cost of the increased salaries and benefits would be $222,233 in the first year and $306,612 in the second year.

Furthermore, the agreement would double the stipend for professional development from $1,200 to $2,400 to encourage staff to seek masters degrees. The life insurance term policy would be raised from $10,000 to $50,00 and the maximum annual benefits of the dental plan would rise from $1,000 to $1,250.

In one of the few comments from the public, Karen Sticht said that increased budget, particularly the compensation and benefits of employees, "seem just outrageous to me". The district, she claimed, "is one of the highest paid school districts in New Hampshire." That prompted Richard Hanson, chairman of the board to immediately reply "and we are one of the best schools districts in New Hampshire."

 Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond said that the replacement of the roof at Inter-Lakes Elementary School, costing $340,000, was the single largest expenditure contributing to the growth of the budget, followed by increases in contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System of $119,581, heath insurance premiums of $67,761, and special education tuition of $64,600.

Proposed increases in expenditures, together with a reduction of $86,543 in revenue represent an increase of $734,616 in the amount to be raised by property taxes, which would raise the net tax burden from $20,532,902 in 2014-2015 to $21,267,518 in 2015-2016, an increase of 3.6-percent. Approval of the collective bargaining agreement with the ILEA would add $222,233 to these totals, increasing the net tax burden in 2015-2016 to $21,489,751, an increase of 4.6-percent.

The total amount to be raised by property taxes is offset by an state adequacy grant to Meredith of $248,981 and an allowance for forest land of $7,706, leaving $21,524,205 to be apportioned between the three towns. Meredith bears approximately 73 percent of the cost, Sandwich 14 percent and Center Harbor 13 percent.

NOTE: Carol Baggaley, who represents Center Harbor on the Inter-Lakes School Board, expressed concern that she is retiring from the board and no one filed for election to fill the open seat, leaving Center Harbor without a representative.  John Hanson, chairman of the board, said that the seat could be filled by a write-in candidate and failing that the board would invite applicants for the position and appoint a member to serve a one-year term with the opportunity to run for election in 2016 to serve the remaining two years of the term. "There is precedent," he said.

Advanced Manufacturing program at LRCC picking up steam; graduates getting jobs

LACONIA — Several years ago Jacob Parker was stocking shelves at Shaw's supermarket in Gilford alongside Sarah Levasseur, whose husband Rick has owned and operated Levasseur Precision, Inc., a machine shop on Artisan Court in Gilford. When she learned he had trained as a machinist as a high school student in Massachusetts, she steered him to her husband, who not only put him to work and but also enrolled him in the advanced manufacturing program at Lakes Region Community College (LRCC).

In May, Parker will be among the first group to graduate from the program with an Associate in Science degree. "He's learned a few things," Levasseur said with a smile, "and I'll be paying for it when he graduates."

The advanced manufacturing program, consisting of a one-year course leading to a certificate and a two-year course leading to an associate degree, began in September 2013. Last spring 14 graduated with certificates and 27 students are currently enrolled in the two-year program.

"Enrollment has exceeded expectations," said Don Brough, manufacturing grant manager for the program, "and our graduates are getting jobs." He said that New Hampshire Ball Bearing, with plants in Laconia and Peterborough, has hired a half-dozen graduates while others have gone to work at Aavid Thermalloy in Laconia, Turbocam International of Exeter, SIG Sauer of Newington and General Electric of Hooksett.

The associate program requires either an internship with a local employers or a "capstone porject", undertaken at the college and overseen by the instructors. Apart from Parker at Levasseur Precision, students are completing internships at Eptam Plastics and Fruedenberg-NOK in Northfield and Aavid Thermalloy.

Employers, Brough said, have been impressed by the students, who even after a year in the program score well on tests administered by the firms at which they apply for either internships or positions. Some 20 manufacturers in the region, including Levasseur, serve on the advisory committee of the advanced manufacturing program, virtually all of whom regularly attend every meeting, Brough said. "We've benefited from their strong support," he said, "and they are very pleased with the program."

Brough said that during the first two years of the program most students were between 35 and 55 years old, but expects that to change significantly this year when students graduate from the machine tool technology programs at the Huot Technical Center at Laconia High School, Kingswood High School and Kennett High School. This spring will be the first time students will be finishing two and three-year programs at the high schools," he said, anticipating a share of the graduates to enroll at LRCC.

Levasseur, who has operated his own business for 24 years, stressed the opportunities in advanced manufacturing. He said that the closure of the mills more than a generation ago, left machinists "a dying trade," shadowed by visions of dark, dreary, dirty workplaces. "This isn't dirty," he said, surveying a shop floor filled with CNC (computerized numerical control) machines. Noting that "the technology changes all the time," Levasseur said that the program at LRCC is training the next generation of machinists.

In a very competitive market for skilled labor," Brough anticipated that the flow of skilled graduates would exert upward pressure on wages in a sector which already offers generous compensation and benefits . He said that representatives of the program are talking to eighth grade students, who as ninth graders in September will be able to take classes at the Huot Technical Center, about the career opportunities in advanced manufacturing. "If we can sustain our numbers, we'll be happy," he said.

Brough said for employers in the manufacturing sectors LRCC is becoming the "the place to call" when they are seeking employees. They are familiar with the program and its requirements, he explained, and know what to expect of its graduates. Although the college may not always be able to meet the demand for employees, he said that "we will always be there when they're looking for smaller numbers of workers."

Parker, who has been working part-time four days a week at Levasseur Precision for the past two years, said that he looking forward to full-time work after he graduates in May. He said that the time he spent in the machine shop in high school and classes at LRCC have prepared him for a career in advanced manufacturing.


CAPTION: Jacob Parker, who will earn his Associate in Science degree after completing the two-year advanced manufacturing program at Lakes Region Community College in May, fashions copper components on a Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) machine at Levasseur Precision, Inc, of Gilford where he is completing an internship. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Parmacist accpets 2 years in prison for possession of controlled drugs

LACONIA — A Gilford man and former pharmacist pleaded guilty yesterday in the Belknap County Superior Court to five felony counts of controlled drug possession, one count of falsifying evidence and one misdemeanor charge of possession of a defaced firearm.

Kyle Harriman also faced a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana that was dropped as part of a negotiated plea deal yesterday that will send him to the N.H. State Prison for a minimum of 2 years, minus credit for 127 days he served while waiting for trial.

When questioned about the sentence by Judge James O'Neill, Harriman's attorney said his client has been an upstanding member of the community until three years ago when he "ran straight into a criminal abutment".

Atty. Mark Sisti said Harriman will loose a lot more than that two years of his life. His career has been at least suspended for three years with what Sisti said will be an uphill battle to get his license reinstated and he has to comply with all of the orders of the court, including getting drug and alcohol treatment and paying about $1,600 in court fines.

Harriman also has a "tremendous hammer" hanging over his head, Sisti said. Should he not be of good behavior or run afoul of the law upon his release, he faces up to an 21 additional years in prison.

Asst. Belknap County Prosecutor Roni Karnis said the prosecution would prove that on October 2, 2012, a Laconia Police Officer stopped Harriman after he drove over a yellow line on Gilford Avenue.

When she approached his car she smelled marijuana and told him she was calling for a drug K-9 and handler to assist her.

Harriman produced some marijuana and was arrested. His car was towed to the Laconia Police Department where it was searched after a warrant was obtained.

Police found methamphetamine, clonazapan, buprenorphine and a handgun with the serial number filed away.

Once at the Belknap County House of Corrections, Harriman took some blue pills, later identified as oxycodone, and tried to swallow them. The officer was able to hold his jaw open and retrieve the pills. A further search revealed more blue pills in his shoe.

On July 10, 2014, a Belmont Police officer stopped Harriman because his registration has been suspended for littering. Police found 8 strips of buprenorphine.

O'Neill initially seemed reluctant to accept the plea, however when he asked Harriman what he had to say for himself, Harriman said he "had worked hard" (to get through pharmacy school) and that he pushed himself real hard to do it.

He said he knew he had to work his way back and acknowledged how his drug activity and arrests had "affected his parents deeply. I know they didn't expect that kind of thing from me."

Harriman's mother and father sat behind him in the courtroom, his mother crying softly throughout the entire 45-minute sentencing.

O'Neill said the plea agreement was reasonable but ordered Harriman to "look at his mother".

"Remember that face," O'Neill said to Harriman as he watched his mother openly weep. "I don't want you putting her through that again."

As a final matter of business, O'Neill agreed with both Karnis and Sisti that an anonymous letter asking the court to impose a stiff sentence would not be allowed because it didn't meet court protocols for sentencing.

O'Neill ordered the anonymous letter sealed and had his deputy clerk read Harriman's sentences to him.

Task force wants most of Weirs Blvd. changed to residential zone

LACONIA — The city's Zoning Task Force has proposed that zoning along Weirs Boulevard, which is currently zoned for its entire length as a commercial resort area, be changed to shorefront residential from the Naswa Resort resort south to the intersection with White Oaks Road.

The task force will present the proposed change to the Planning Board in March, according to task force Chairperson Suzanne Perley, who said that once the board holds a public hearing on the proposal it will provide the kind of input needed to fine tune zoning changes, which will ultimately have to have City Council approval.
The commercial resort district begins on Lake Street, just south of its junction with White Oaks Road, extends northward along Weirs Boulevard, includes the center of The Weirs and runs either side of Route 3 to the Meredith town line. It also includes property along both sides of Rte. 11-B, including the former Surf Coaster property, which would remain zoned as commercial resort according to a map prepared by Planning Director Shanna Saunders.
The zoning ordinance describes the district as intended to accommodate dining, lodging and recreation entities for both occasional tourists and seasonal residents as well as apartments and condominiums.
Last fall, the City council asked the Planning Board to review the table of uses permitted in the commercial resort zone, and to consider whether all of the land currently included in that zone should remain so.
The council's request was made in the aftermath of decisions by the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment to deny special exceptions to John Ganong of 355 Weirs Boulevard, and Charles Gulbicki of Gulbicki's Towing and Auto Repair at 1193 Weirs Boulevard, both of whom sought to sell used vehicles on their property. "Vehicle dealership, sales and service" is only permitted in the commercial district by special exception. Earlier the ZBA granted a special exception to Benson's Auto Inc. of Franklin to sell vehicles from a lot near the corner of Rollercoaster Road and Route 3 in the same zoning district.

A number of Weirs Beach business owners told City Council last year they didn't want to see cars being sold anywhere in the area.

The proposed change of most of Weirs Blvd. from commercial resort to shorefront residential would prohibit vehicle dealership, sales and service in, which would include Ganong's property, but not Gulbicki's.
Members of the task force spent more than an hour Thursday morning attempting to define the limits of the proposed SFR district and whether or not it should start at the Weirs traffic circle or further south before settling on the Naswa property as the demarcation line.
Planing Board Chairman Warren Hutchins, who has noted that the boulevard has become largely residential due to the transition from cottage colonies to condominiums, said that the change was part of a concerted effort for residents of the area as well as to protect the shorefront strip along the water.
Board members discussed the fate of the Christmas Island Steakhouse, which has been closed for several months, but agreed that they couldn't do ''spot zoning'' to preserve options for the restaurant.
It was noted that all existing businesses in the CFR zone would have their uses grandfathered under the proposed change.
The task force is also considering changes in permitted uses in the commercial resort district which would include require nightclubs and dance halls, currently permitted, to requiring special exemptions. Indoor storage, self-service also currently permitted, would be prohibited while car-wash, detailing, currently permitted, would only be allowed by special exception.

A 296-unit self-storage units project on a 6.8-acre parcel fronting Endicott Street North (Rte. 3) is before the Planning Board for approval at this time.