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Leavitt Park group pushing city to rebuild tennis courts

LACONIA — As the City Council contemplates the 2014-2015 municipal budget, Tony Felch, president of the Leavitt Park Association, has mounted a petition calling for an appropriation to rebuild the two tennis courts at the park, which he described as "non-useable and unrepairable."

The playing surface of both courts is riven with cracks, which in places are nearly three inches wide and more than an inch deep, overgrown with vegetation.

Kevin Dunleavy, director of parks and recreation, said that concern for the safety of those playing on the courts led to their closure last year.

In 2013, the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee ranked restoration of the tennis courts both at both Leavitt Park and Memorial Park at a cost of $52,000 37th among its priorities. The council accepted the recommendation of City Manager Scott Myers not to fund the request. This year Myers has recommended resurfacing and relining the five courts at Memorial Park at a cost of $25,000, which the CIP Committee ranked 30th, but not reconstruction of the courts at Leavitt Park, which ranked 33rd.

Dunleavy said that the courts at Leavitt Park require total rebuilding, which includes removing and replacing the fencing, reclaiming the playing surface to its gravel base, laying and lining a new playing surface, all of which he estimated would cost about $75,000.

Felch said that the Leavitt Park Association has offered to contribute $6,000 toward the project, along with an equal amount drawn from the Leavitt Park Trust Fund, with the approval of the Trustees of the Trust Funds. At the same time, he intends to approach local businesses that have contributed to other civic projects in the recent past.

Dunleavy said that the popularity of tennis appears to have declined in recent years, noting that Laconia High School has enough players to field a girls' but not a boys' team this spring. However, he added that he was recently contacted by a representative of the Lakes Region Tennis Association, which has relationships with several parks and recreation departments in the area, about he prospect of offering free lessons in the city parks.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 May 2014 12:31

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Winni Salmon Derby officials happy with weekend forecast of rain

LACONIA — Diane LaBrie, chair of 32nd annual Winni Derby which gets underway on Lake Winnipesaukee this morning, says she couldn't be happier with the weekend weather forecast which calls for it to be cloudy and cool with rain on Saturday morning.
''That will make for some good fishing,'' says LaBrie, ''Salmon and lake trout are always more active when it's overcast and cool and we should see some good-sized fish weighed in this year. Because of the long winter the lake is cooler than normal and that should make for even better fishing than usual.''
LaBrie expects between 1,300 and 1,400 entries in this year's derby, which is the largest salmon tournament on the lake and has over the years become a tradition for many anglers.
''There are a lot of families taking part. It's an ongoing thing and people who fished in it as children are back here with their kids. It's nice to see that,'' says LaBrie, who has been running the Derby since the Laconia Rotary Club took over responsibility for it when the founder, Rick Davis of Center Harbor, stepped down four years ago.
Since that time the Derby has undergone several changes, including a switch to cash prizes instead of boats and fishing gear, and also has invoked a long-standing rule which provides that the winner of the derby undergo a polygraph test.
''We've gotten good feedback on the switch to cash prizes and people like knowing that we're making sure the winning fish was actually landed in Lake Winnipesaukee,'' says LaBrie.
This year the decision on whether or not to have the winner take a polygraph test will be made by officials at the conclusion of the derby.
She said that the Derby has also tweaked its cash prizes this year, which will amount to over $50,000.
''We've added a junior lake trout division this year and that was in response to suggestions we've received,'' she says.
Grand prize winner in the salmon division will receive $10,000, compared to $12,500 last year, and the runner-up $3,000. Lake trout division winner will receive $5,000, the runner-up $1,200. Grand prize winner in the junior salmon division and junior lake trout division will each receive $2,500 and the second place finishers $1,000. Last year the junior division salmon winner received a boat instead of a cash prize.
Also new this year are 10 drawings over the weekend for $100 prizes for those registered in the Derby.
The third annual Rick Davis Sportsman's Award will also be presented to the fisherman whose salmon is closest in weight to the average weight of salmon landed during the derby.
Weigh-in station for the event will on Lakeside Avenue, across the street from the Weirs Beach docks and the station will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday.
All fish weighed in between 6 and 9 p.m. on Friday or Saturday will qualify for the next day's awards. Daily awards will be presented at the Laconia Ice Arena starting at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Fisheries biologist Don Miller of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department says that the average size of salmon netted in a survey last fall on Lake Winnipesaukee was 2.5 pounds and 19.3 inches in length, up from previous years.
He said that 28 percent of salmon examined by Fish and Game last fall had noticeable hook wounds and urged anglers to harvest hook wounded fish rather than release them back into the water. ''Please do your part in maintaining a healthy and vigorous fishery by harvesting these wounded fish, and carefully releasing healthy fish to sustain this wonderful salmon fishery we have here in the Lakes Region.''
LaBrie said that Derby works closely with Fish and Game and last year donated $2,000 towards the special Bio-Oregon fish food for the salmon raised at the Powder Mill Hatchery in New Durham which will allow for a better quality of fish to be stocked in the lake each year.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 May 2014 12:27

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Heritage Commission will advertise for Hathaway House savior

LACONIA — The Heritage Commission will seek to solicit a party interested in relocating, renovating and reusing the Hathaway House by advertising in local and regional newspapers.

When the commission met this week, chairwoman Pam Clark presented a draft of the notice explaining that if the building is to be preserved, it must be moved and seeking "proposals from qualified parties interested in preservation to move, restore and reuse this historical structure." The commission set a deadline of June 18 for receiving responses.

City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that hundreds, not thousands, will be spent advertising the opportunity. He indicated that the notices would likely include links to a web page providing images of the Hathaway House as well as information about its history and condition.

Last September, Cafua Management Company, which purchased the property at 1106 Union Avenue in 2000, applied for a permit to demolish the Hathaway House in anticipation of developing the remainder of the lot housing its Dunkin' Donuts store. Since then the Heritage Commission has sought ways to preserve the building. After meeting with Greg Nolan of Cafua to discuss alternatives to demolition the Heritage Commission ultimately conceded that if the building was to be preserved, it would have to relocated.

Meanwhile, Cafua has submitted a proposal to the Planning Department to construct a 4,850-square foot retail building on the northern half of the 1.6-acre lot, where the Hathaway House stands. The building would be reached by a spur off the existing entryway to Dunkin' Donuts. The building would be divided into three units, two of 1,650 square feet and one of 1,550 square feet and would be served by 27 parking spaces.

Clark said that Nolan indicated to her that he expected to begin the project during the current construction season. "We're running out of time," she remarked.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 May 2014 11:49

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Police Commission leads with wage & benefit package for non-union workers

LACONIA — The Police Commission unanimously approved changes to health insurance plans, raises and bereavement benefits for non-union employees on Thursday even though negotiations with a union representing rank and file officers are ongoing. Typically, non-union employees are offered raises and benefit packages that closely mirror what fellow employees earned through collective bargaining.

Commission Chair Warren Clement said yesterday that negotiation between the patrol officers' union and the Commission are "amicable" and he is confident that they will come to an agreement. The existing contract expires on June 30.

When asked if the terms voted on Thursday for non-union employee are consistent with those that the commission is willing to agree to with the union, he said they were.

Beginning on July 1, each non-union employee will get a 2-percent cost-of-living raise; on July 1, 2015 each non-union employee will get a 2.25-percent cost-of-living raise; and on July 1, 2016, each non-union employee will get another 2.5-percent cost-of-living raise.

As compensation for the elimination of an HMO "high", or more comprehensive health insurance plan, non-union employees were given some additional money, including a $250 annual stipend over the next three years, to compensate for the higher out-of-pocket cost to each employee.

Beginning July 1, in years 2014 through 2016, the city will contribute $1,000 to Health Reimbursement Accounts for each non-union employee to help offset the deductible associated with a new higher-deductible health insurance plan available.

If the money is not used during the year the employee can carry it over to ensuing years but it is not distributable as cash when the employee leaves.

Beginning on July 1, 2015, each employee will contribute 8 percent of the annual premium for health insurance coverage. That percentage will rise to 9 and 10 percent beginning on July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017 respectively.

Employees who can show they are health insured through an outside policy will get 50 percent of $4,040 beginning on July 1, 2014, which is up from 50 percent of $3,300.

Lt. Alfred Lessard presented the proposal to the commission. He said yesterday that health insurance deductibles will increase significantly, for family plans going from a maximum of $2,000 per family to $6,000 per family or $2,000 per person.

Lessard said the new plan for non-union employees is consistent with the plan offered to other non-union city employees.

He said the recommendation for the new plan came from City Manager Scott Myers, who indicated this was what was affordable under the property tax cap and will save the department and taxpayers money.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 05:57

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