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Lakes Region Public Access to pull the plug?

LACONIA — "Rather than crash this thing I'm going to try to land it," Denise Beauchaine, station manager of Lakes Region Public Access television, said yesterday after the bookkeeper called to advise her that only enough funds remained to meet one or two payrolls.

Beauchaine said that the station could go dark as early as next week and surely by the week after without an unforeseen — and unlikely — source of funding. She said that even if funds are exhausted she intends to air the Laconia High School football game on Friday and the Putnam Fund performance on Saturday as well as the religious programming over the weekend, whether or not there are funds to pay her.

Beauchaine said that the board of directors of LRPA, chaired by Chan Eddy of Gilford, were seeking to convene an emergency meeting, but had not scheduled a meeting by press time. The station employs four people in addition to Beauchaine, one full-time, one part-time and two contractors., and has an annual operating budget of about $130,000.

Beauchaine explained that LRPA has been drawing from its reserves to sustain operations. since July 1 when member municipalities entered a new ten-year contract with MetroCast Cablevision. Under the new contract each municipality will operate educational and governmental channels (24 and 26), which broadcast only to the municipality where the programming originates, while LRPA would provide public access on channel 25 airing programs from individuals and organizations from the member municipalities. However, the municipalities, which had contributed to funding the operation of LRPA, withdrew their support. and, at the same time, Metrocast withheld its annual $30,000 grant to LRPA, leaving the station without a revenue stream.

As early as February the board of directors of the LRPA anticipated that its funding would be eroded when the new contract was signed and began drafting a new business plan, with the goal of generating $300,000 in income the first year. Sponsorships from between 50 and 100 businesses at between $1,000 and $2,000 a year were projected to provide much of the revenue with fees for service accounting for the balance. However, money ran short before the plan was pursued.

The closure of LRPA will cloud the future of telecasting the WLNH Children's Auction. Laconia City Manager Scott Myers said that the city will be compelled to seek alternative means of telecasting city council meetings, either on the city's website or through an arrangement negotiated with MetroCast. "It's not going to be a quick overnight fix," he said.

Ironically, while preparing the 2014-2015 muncipal budget the City Council trimmed the recommended appropriation for LRPA from $39,500 to $29,500 in order to reduce the increase in the property tax rate. Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), who represents the city on the board of directors of LRPA, agreed to the cut, explaining that the station had embarked on a new business plan.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 12:54

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School District get $1.1 million in additional behavorial and mental health asistance grants.

LACONIA – The school district has been awarded a $100,000 Project Aware grant for professional training over the next two years.

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) Coordinator McKenzie Harrington-Bacote, the federal award that came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be used to train eight people – who will in turn each train those around them in mental health literacy.

She said six of the people will be from the high and middle school community, while two of the people will be from the community partners such as the Laconia Police Department and Genesis who are supporting the goals of the SAMHSA grant.

She said the goal is for the "teach the teacher" model to eventually train 200 people, including parents and teachers, in mental health literacy.

Harrington-Bacote also told the School Board Tuesday night that the school system has received an additional $1-million federal transformation grant to support the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program for professional development.

PBIS addresses behavioral issues at all ages and works to intervene with children who appear to be developing problems with bullying and other disruptive behavior.

The grant last five years and allows the school to hire a part-time behavioral coach at the high school and a full-time behavioral coach for the three elementary schools.

Harrington-Bacote said 13 people will be going to Chicago as part of the training.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 12:07

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Storm temporarily knocked out dispatch for some local police departments

LAKES REGION – Some area police departments that depend on the Belknap County Sheriff's Department for dispatch services experienced interruptions yesterday morning when two of the communication system's towers lost power.

Det. Sgt. William Wright said the early-morning storm blew down some trees at 7 a.m. that caused power losses to transmitter towers on Pinnacle Hill in New Hampton and on Flag Hole Road in Franklin.

"There was no damage to our equipment, but the towers did lose power," Wright said. He said these two towers do not have emergency generators.

Wright said the four Belknap County police departments that do their own dispatching – Laconia, Gilford, Belmont and Meredith – weren't affected, but most of the more rural departments were.

He said there was not a "complete interruption" to service because of the upgrades the Sheriff Department has performed over the last two years as part of a federal Homeland Security Grant.

He said the department is still installing the microwave simulcast system as part of the grant that provided the department with new dispatch consoles and Pinnacle Hill tower.

He said the system was restored within about two hours.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 12:16

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Wind farm windfall for Groton in question

by Thomas P. Caldwell

GROTON — Selectmen are continuing to look into the claim by Grafton County Commissioner Martha Richards that the Groton Wind Farm is boosting the town's county property tax assessment from $109,000 last year to $316,909 this year.
Selectmen have been largely silent on the claim, and the Grafton County Commissioners' Office has not confirmed Richards' figures, which she presented during the Sept. 30 meeting of the Alexandria Board of Selectmen. Alexandria was discussing the Spruce Ridge Project in which EDP Renewables hopes to build an array of wind turbines along ridges in Alexandria, Groton, Hebron, and Orange.
If Richards is correct, Groton will be picking up a much larger share of the county budget which, in turn, will lower the tax assessments for most other towns in Grafton County, many of which have gone on record as being opposed to the Groton Wind Farm.
At their Oct. 7 meeting, the Groton Board of Selectmen said they have been in touch with the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration, which sets the tax rate, and with legal experts looking into the effect of HB-1549 which was adopted July 28 and was effective upon passage. The new law, which Governor Maggie Hassan has signed, clarifies the assessment of renewable generation facility property that is subject to a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement.
"The DRA assessed the Groton Wind Farm as of May 1, assessing it at full market value," said Selectman Christina Goodwin. "The bill that took effect in July would change that process to take the PILOT agreement into consideration."
PILOT-affected facilities are to be taxed at their equalized value under the new law, having the effect of lowering the assessment.
As of Tuesday, the town did not know whether the new law would apply to this year's taxes. The wind farm assessment also could change as a result of Groton Wind's appeal of the May assessment. The DRA is just beginning the process of setting 2014 tax rates for the towns.
Selectman Kyle Andrews said, as it stands, the DRA has assessed the town at about $77 million and the wind farm at $126 million.
The county tax assessment will be based upon the town's net assessed valuation, and that is the number the selectmen are waiting to see. The town's net assessed valuation in 2013 was $77,378,166.
If Richards' numbers prove to be true, Groton's PILOT agreement will more than cover the increase in county taxes. The agreement calls for Groton Wind to pay the town $528,000 the first year, increasing by 2.5 percent each year thereafter. Selectmen, however, were reluctant to say that the town will come out ahead, not knowing the final numbers and how they would affect the other portions of the tax rate: local school and state education assessments.
Andrews did note that the town anticipated a higher assessment because of the wind farm, "but I'm not sure we expected it to be that much," he said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 12:29

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