A Muskrat by any other name... Baseball team drops Laconia for Winnipesaukee

LACONIA — The Laconia Muskrats are no more. The team is changing its name to the Winnipesaukee Muskrats in the hope of widening its appeal in the Lakes Region.
Kristian Svindland, general manager of the Laconia Muskrats, the city's franchise in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, announced yesterday that the ownership and management of the team have made the switch.
Svindland informed the Parks and Recreation Commission of the decision when it met last night. Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said the commissioners one way or another to the news.
He emphasized that "Laconia is our home," but added "the team is for the Lakes Region. He noted that Robbie Mills Field is less than 30 minutes from Alton, 25 minutes from Tilton and 20 minutes from Meredith while Plymouth is within 30 minutes of the ballpark.
Svindland said attendance has been a challenge during the first six seasons, lagging behind the numbers posted by other teams in the league – most, if not all, of which have larger populations to drawn from. The Newport Gulls, perhaps the strongest franchise in the league, draws crowds of 2,400," he said, while some 1,200 regularly watch the Keene Swamp Bats. He said three other teams in the league also have names designating regions — the Vermont Mountaineers, who play in Montpelier; the Valley Blue Sox, who play in Holyoke, Massachusetts; and the Ocean State Waves, who play in South Kingston, Rhode Island.
Likewise, Svindland noted that the host families who house players during the season are not confined to Laconia, but reside in the greater Lakes Region.
"We want to encourage our neighbors from Franklin to Wolfeboro, Belmont to Plymouth to attend games," he said.
Apart from the name, Svindland said nothing will change. The logo will remain the same and Marko will continue as the mascot. Although the team will sport new uniforms, the colors will remain Columbia blue with brown trim.
Last month, the father-and-son partnership of Jonathan and Noah Crane that brought the Laconia Muskrats to Laconia sold their franchise to a trio of businessmen from Portsmouth – Todd Hewett, who is the president of the organization, Ira Blumenthal and Andy Minckler – and named Svindland, a longtime resident of Laconia, general manager with responsibility for day-to-day operations.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Svindland. "I love baseball and the city of Laconia, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to help attract the most talented players to our team, improve the experience for the fans at the park, and also strengthen the team's ties to the community by getting our players involved in a variety of community service projects."

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St. Helena demolished – Modular homes to replace house of God?

LACONIA — St. Helena Mission Church, which had stood on Endicott Street South at The Weirs since 1955, was demolished yesterday by Peter Morrissette of PEM Real Estate, LLC, who acquired the property in 2014.

Morrissette said yesterday that he intends to build a residential development of modular homes on the 3.38-acre parcel "with as many units as I can put on the lot." The property lies in the shorefront resident district. where six single-family homes or 20 condominium units would be permitted. He said the development of the property would be undertaken in partnership with his brother Kevin Morrissette of N.W. Morrissette & Sons, a well known local contractor.

"We'll build every inch of housing we can get," Morrissette said.

Earlier this year, Morrissette applied to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance that would entitle him to use the property as a storage facility. He said the property would be fenced and the exterior of the building would not be altered. Nor would there be an office or signs on the site. Instead, the space would be leased to one or two commercial entities for a relatively long-term to store seasonal inventory.

At a stormy public hearing before the ZBA in July, the request met stiff opposition from homeowners on Pendleton Beach Road, including Warren Hutchins, the chairman of the Planning Board, who made it very clear he was speaking strictly as an interested property owner, not as chairman of the Planning Board. The abutters and neighbors urged the ZBA to deny the requested variance, claiming that using the abandoned church as a storage facility would have adverse impacts on the character of their neighborhood and the value of their properties. In August, Morrissette withdrew his request.

Morrissette said that during the controversy he invited city officials to suggest what he might do with the property.

"I would loved to have someone call me," he said, "but all I ever heard was crickets. Most of the people who want to reimagine Laconia," he said, "can't reimagine it."

He added that when he presents a proposal to develop the property to the Planning Board he will ask Hutchins to recuse himself.

"He has a conflict of interest," Morrissette said. "I'll take it to court if necessary."

Meanwhile, John Remington, who was among the abutters opposed to using the church as a storage facility, owns the 30 acres surrounding Morrissette's property, where the Planning Board has approved a cluster subdivision, including four waterfront lots.The one home built in the subdivision is priced at $1.7 million.

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‘Miss Marjorie Lee Library’ now honors woman who dedicated her life to students

MEREDITH — Marjorie Lee, who devoted 65 years to the Inter-Lakes School District, will remain a presence there forever as the library of Inter-Lakes High School will carry her name and bear her portrait.
Following the decision of the School Board in May, some two dozen former colleagues and students gathered in the library last night to dedicate it as the "Miss Marjorie Lee Library." The plaque read simply "A Teacher, Mentor and Friend," while the portrait, the first painted by Vynnie Hale, captured the sharp eye and warm smile of a beloved and respected teacher.
Although Richard Hanson, chairman of the School Board, opened the proceedings, Lee quickly interrupted to say, "I think we should introduce ourselves."
Bob McNabb said "If you taught here, you probably threw me out of your class," and said he came to honor "the best teacher I ever had." One colleague described herself as "lunch partner," another as a "breakfast buddy" and a third move Lee to laughter by recalling a misplaced handbag.
Hale introduced himself as "the self-proclaimed teacher's pet of Miss Lee." Longtime School Board member Jack Carty said he was the "the father of the only valedictorian who did not have his speech screened by Miss Lee" for fear of what she might find. "I'm here because I'm in awe of this woman," John Poindexter said flatly.
Hanson said that this spring the School Board received a secret request from the Inter-Lakes Alumni Association to name the library for Lee. When he said he could not recall ever naming a room for an individual, Howard Cunningham, a fixture in the district since 1968, reminded him that a restroom was named Whitcher Hall after a history teacher.
Delighted with the portrait and plaque, Lee said "the library is so full of important things," moving Hanson to reply "and now you are one of them."
Lee began her career teaching English at Quimby School in Sandwich, and when it closed in 1963 came to Inter-Lakes High School, where she taught for the next 28 years. She also was an adviser for the "Pinnacle," the annual yearbook which earlier this year was dedicated to her, as well as to the National Honor Society. She introduced the journalism and drama clubs.
In 1991, when declining enrollment prompted the administration to shrink the English Department, Lee offered to retire, but then turned to her second passion, running a small business in the form of the school store.
"I sold everything but brainpower," she said.
During her 22 years of management, the profits from the store funded 74 scholarships, and in June Kylie Dickinson became the first recipient of the Marjorie Lee Scholarship..
Lee said she is spending her retirement writing a book about nine schools, five of them now closed and four still open, in Meredith, Center Harbor and Sandwich. The book is destined for pride of place in the Miss Marjorie Lee Library.

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