School bus strike averted as First Student agrees to contract with drivers


BELMONT — School administrators from all over the Lakes Region breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday night when they learned that First Student Inc. had signed a contract with its workers at the Belmont facility.

The employees, who are represented by Teamsters Local 633 of Manchester, had been working without a contract and had threatened to strike the company in an effort to settle some wage and pension issues.

"This was definitely a piece of very welcome news," said Gilford Superintendent Kirk Beitler, who said he sent a group message to all of the parents when he was informed about the contract last night.

"It means no disruption of our services," he continued, saying he had gotten quite a few responses from relieved parents who had been trying to plan how they would get their children to and from school had been a strike.

First Student in Belmont provides school bus service for students in Belmont, Laconia, Gilford and Gilmanton. While the other school districts in the area are served by First Student facilities other than the one in Belmont, they too were on alert for fear of a general strike if the Belmont workers couldn't reach a resolution.

"We value our drivers and recognize the excellent work they do in transporting children safely to and from school. First Student is happy to have this matter resolved (and) we return our full focus (of) providing continuous service for the school districts we serve," said First Student spokesman Chris Kemper.

Throughout the Lakes Regions, school superintendents were making contingency plans to get their students to school had their been a strike. While all but Shaker Regional said they would be able to keep their schools open, all after school activities including sports, would have a ground to a halt.

"A work stoppage would not have been good for our students, staff, and families.,"  said Dr. Brendan Minnihan the superintendent of Laconia Schools. "It is also nice that the agreement, as far as I am aware, covers the next five years.  It is a situation where although we had a contingency plan, we are more than happy to not have to implement it."


Pub Mania takes hold in Gilford

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Children’s Christmas auction founder Warren Bailey and his 9 year old granddaughter Edeline address the crowd at Patrick’s Pub and Eatery prior to the start of Pub Mania on Thursday.  (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Charity drive, in 8th year, has already topped $1 million mark


GILFORD — Pub Mania kicked off its eighth year Thursday morning with an opening ceremony at Patrick's Pub & Eatery, at which Mike Seymour, chairman of the board of trustees of the Greater Lakes Region Charitable Fund for Children, praised its success over the first seven years.
"It's raised over $1,037,000 since it first started, and over $240,000 last year," said Seymour, noting that represents more than half of the money raised by the Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction last year.
Seymour, chief operating officer of the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook, said that it is important to remember that the goal of the auction is "to support those who have suffered the biggest losses. We want to see that no kids are going to bed hungry tonight."
He said that Pub Mania T-shirts created and donated by Body Covers Screen Printing of Laconia will be a hot item again this year and noted that, in addition to supplying the venue, Patrick's will also donate 20 percent of its gross sales for the day. Seymour praised those taking part in Pub Mania and noted that "a great cause attracts great people."
Allan Beetle, Patrick's co-owner, said that Pub Mania was inspired by the Laconia Athletic & Swim Club's long-running "Cycle Mania" in which Brian "Mad Dog" Gallagher set a world record for stationary biking by "spinning" for 113 hours.
"He said that he was doing it for the kids and that's the way we feel. We started out in 2009 with 26 teams and a goal of raising $25,000 and ended up raising $47,000. Last year we had 30 teams and raised over $240,000," said Beetle.
He said that there will be 31 teams this year and a total of 744 "culinary athletes" taking part. During Pub Mania, Patrick's reserves bar stools for teams that commit to filling the stool with a different team member each hour of the event.
Pub Mania will end at 9 a.m. Friday.
The auction runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight and winds up Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The auction is being telecast by Lakes Region Public Access Television on TV Channel 25 Metrocast and on Metrocast Channel 12. It is also being broadcast live on FM stations 104.9 The Hawk and WZEI 101.5, the auction's radio partners.

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Former Laconia mayor and official Pub Mania Mayor Michael Seymour offers some opening comments prior to the start of the annual Children's Auction fundraiser at Patrick's Pub and Eatery on Thursday.  (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


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New triathlon for Gilford?


GILFORD — Triathletes disappointed to lose the annual Timberman event here may soon compete in a new race.

A local man who was one of the people who helped begin the Timberman triathlon 17 years ago approached the selectboard Wednesday night to learn if it would be possible to use Gilford Beach as part of a smaller event he is planning for Aug. 19 and 20.

Jan Buitendag of Tritanium Sports of Gilford told the board he wants to create a smaller local triathlon supported by local businesses and people in the Gilford and Laconia area, but would need access to Gilford Beach to do so.

"Ellacoya State Park is not available on that weekend," Buitendag said, adding that because of the sheer number of triathlons in the general area, the Aug. 19 and 20 weekend is the only one that would work for the athletes.

The Timberman Triathlon, which is owned by Ironman Corp., has moved to Old Orchard Beach, Maine, for 2017. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said Thursday that he learned this officially from Ironman and was told the change was made because the New Hampshire Motor Speedway is hosting the Tough Mudder competition the same weekend.

Buitendag told selectmen that he worked with local athlete Keith Jordan to initially begin Timberman and Mooseman triathlons in Gilford and Bristol.
Jordan sold those two events to the World Triathlon Corporation in 2009, which discontinued Mooseman in 2012 and apparently now the Timberman for 2017.

In a recent interview with Maureen Mix of the Lakes Region Triathlon Club, she said the cancellation of Timberman came as both a shock and a disappointment to her and other local triathletes. At the time, Mix said she hoped that some other type of local event would be held in the area.

Buitendag has apparently stepped up to create a new triathlon but said Gilford Beach and parking at Gunstock Mountain Resort would be integral to his efforts.

Selectmen were cautiously optimistic and agreed that he should file an application to the town where it would be reviewed and evaluated by the Parks and Recreation Committee, the Police and Fire Departments and the Town Administrator.
Of primary concern was the potential closing of the public beach on a summer weekend, even for a short amount of time. Selectmen were also concerned about limited parking at Gilford Beach.

"I would like to bring an event here to Gilford," said Selectman Gus Benavides. "I want us to look at this."

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