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Kimball Castle committee will press on for LCHIP grant after Gilford ConCom says 'no'

GILFORD — Although the Conservation Commission this week voted against spending money from its trust on acquiring the 20 acres of private land owned by Kimball Castle LLC., the Kimball Castle Wildlife Forest Committee says it will go forward with pursuing state money for preserving the castle.

Sandra McGonagle said yesterday the committee's intent is to complete an LCHIP ( Land and Community Heritage Investment Program) grant application for assistance in purchasing the property from the owner.

"Out intent always was to complete an LCHIP Grant, use money in the Kimball Castle Wildlife Forest Trust and raise money through donations," she said. She said there is about $200,000 in in the trust.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said the idea of asking if the Conservation Commission was interested in helping was his. He said the Conservation Commission has a Natural Resource Inventory Plan in place that has targeted specific properties for conservation and preservation and the decision against buying it was that the 20 acre Kimball Castle property was not on their priority list.

Conservation Commission Chair John Goodhue said yesterday that he felt the best thing his commission could do is nothing.

"This is crazy. Let's walk away from this," he said noting that he thinks the asking price of $700,000 is too much and that it would not be conservation money well spent.

Dunn said the town used money from the Wildlife Forest Committee to hire Fremeau Appraisals in Manchester to provide the town with an independent appraisal. He anticipates the appraisal will be presented at the Kimball Castle Forum on April 9 at the Gilford Town Hall and will cost between $3,000 and $3,500.

Once the town has an independent appraisal, in theory those who want to save the castle can go to the private owner an see if he'll accept an officer.

David Jodoin, who is the principal owner of Kimball Castle LLC, wants to demolish the castle and sell the property as a single family building lot. He told selectmen at a meeting last year that any hopes he had for restoring the castle are gone and that despite his repeated efforts to secure the property, people continue to trespass on his land and vandalize the castle.

In March of 2013, Town Code Enforcement Officer Dave Andrade determined the castle was unsafe and Jodoin needed either to tear down the castle or build and maintain a security fence around the property.

Selectmen have extended the deadline to destroy or fence the castle until April 30 so the group of people who would like to save the castle can have an opportunity to create a plan to purchase the property and safely preserve the castle.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 April 2014 01:51

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Council discussion of proposed police budget focuses on addressing heroin issue; LFD overtime again questioned

LACONIA — Members of the City Council reviewed police and fire department proposed budgets for 2014-2015 on Monday night and were told by the respective chiefs that they are making progress but severe problems remain to be dealt with.
For police the most recent problem is what Chief Chris Adams calls an epidemic of heroin abuse in the last 18 months which has led to several deaths and for Fire Chief Ken Erickson it is a high rate of structure fires which is three times the state average (4.62 per thousand residents compared to 1.6 statewide.)
Adams said the city ranks first in the state in the rate of violent crimes but is headed in the right direction in many areas in dealing with the problems the city has with substance abuse, drugs, alcohol and high crime and poverty rates.
''It's a community issue and I think we're making headway in dealing with it,'' said Adams, who said innovative policing with Problem Oriented Policing Teams which focus on using a proactive rather than a reactive approach has helped bring a focus to police activities.
Ward 2 Councilor David Bownes said that a lack of treatment and prevention programs hurt such efforts. ''It's not always a law enforcement only issue,'' said Bownes, who said that it is huge problem nationwide and that a policy of just locking people up has been a huge failure nationally.
Ward 3 Councilor Henry Lipman said he would like to see a more comprehensive plan which involved the use of technology and cooperation with other agencies which would make Laconia ''the least attractive place in the state for drugs.''
Adams said that 90 percent of the city's crime can be traced to substance abuse and that in turn is linked to poverty, which is higher in Laconia than the state as a whole.
He said that the city has had several surveillance cameras stolen off from poles in recent months but thinks more of them could be used to deter and detect crimes,
Fire Chief Erickson said that he has a problem with absentee landlords which hamper his building inspection efforts and said that inspections could play a role in dealing with substance abuse. He said he would like to see the city require out-of-town landlords to have a designated local representative so that he could schedule inspections and councilors asked City Manager Scott Myers to research state law to see if such a local ordinance can be drafted.
Erickson said his department has put the four firefighters who were hired last year with a federal SAFRER grant to good use and that they have enabled his department to have seven firefighters and two officers staff each platoon, six at Central Station and three at the Weirs Station, enabling more effective emergency responses and reducing the number of vehicles which respond to emergencies.
''Seventy percent of all responses are single-unit responses,'' said Erickson, who said that two-unit responses have been reduced from 54 percent in 2000 to 18 percent last year.
Councilor Hamel said he would like an explanation of the $727,000 in covered overtime for the 2013 calendar year, which he said council members had expected would be lower with the addition of four additional firefighters.
Erickson and Myers said the number listed for overtime included every dollar spent on Bike Week, paramedics who are funded by the hospital and a host of other items with Erickson doing a quick tally which showed a total of $456,000, some $184,000 of which was for the hospital.
Administrators said they would provide a complete listing of what constitutes the overtime line for council members.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 April 2014 01:48

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39 businesses loooking to hire at job fair hosted by Belknap Mall

BELMONT — Some 39 businesses attended a New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES) sponsored Laconia Job & Resource Fair yesterday at the Belknap Mall.
''There was a good turnout of businesses looking to hire and a lot of interested job seekers,'' said Carol Cantin-Aubut, office manager for Laconia's NHDES office.
Local businesses such as Belknap Landscaping, Patrick's Pub and Dunkin' Donuts were among those interviewing potential workers, and the Lakes Region Community College booth was attracting a steady stream of people looking to upgrade their skills through the NHWorks program, which helps provide job skills in manufacturing.
Newly elected Executive Councilor Joe Kenney attended the event and spoke with NHDES Commissioner George Copadis and Aubut abut the job fair and the state's efforts to help people find employment.
He said that he was impressed with the cooperation and collaboration among state agencies in dealing with employment issues and said that there appeared to be many job seekers attending.
Copadis said the state held 29 job fairs last year which brought out over 900 employers and 6,800 job seekers and is eager to put together job fairs in parts of the state where businesses are looking for new workers.
"The job fair is a great opportunity for employers to gain access to a local ready and willing workforce," says Copadis "Having employees from the communities that you serve strengthens your business and makes our communities stronger. ''
NHES provides free services, resources, and tools to assist both job seekers and employers with the entire job search process, hiring and employment needs. NHES has services available online and onsite to assist job seekers including an automated Job Match System, internet access, local papers, book and video library, employment counseling, networking groups, and career assessments. Employer Seminars and weekly workshops are held covering such topics as job searching, resume writing and interviewing techniques.



Carol Cantin-Aubut, office manager for the Laconia office of the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, talks with NHDES Commissioner George Copadis and District One Executive Councilor Joe Kenney at a Job Fair at the Belknap Mall. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 April 2014 01:31

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Planning board opts for original route of riverwalk at Beacon Street West

LACONIA — The Planning Board this week approved the plan of Chinburg Builders to add 37 residential apartments at the Beacon Street West development and, at the same time, decided to recommend to the City Council that the riverwalk follow its original route along the waterfront, contrary to the recommendation of the Downtown Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) Advisory Board.
The new units will be divided between two buildings. The large, currently empty building on the site, originally intended for commercial use, will house 30 apartments. The remaining seven units will be in a new 6,230-square foot building straddling the Perley Canal, built on the footprint of the structure that collapsed under a snow load some years ago.
Chinburg's decision to rebuild over the canal for residential use prompted reconsideration of the proposed route of the downtown riverwalk. That section of the riverwalk runs along the Winnipesaukee River at the rear of the Beacon Street West Condominiums, but stops short of the Perley Canal. Closing the gap over the canal to Beacon Street West and extending the path from City Hall to Church Street would complete the riverwalk along the north bank of the river.
Originally Chinburg planned to build a restaurant over the canal and granted the city an easement to incorporate the riverwalk into the project. Jeff Spitzer, the firm's senior project manager, told the TIF Advisory Board that the riverwalk would be both compatible and desirable in conjunction with a restaurant or other commercial use. But, he said that following the course of the easement past the apartments, within feet of their windows and patios, would compromise the privacy of residents.
Rather than follow the river, Chinburg instead proposed routing the riverwalk around the building, crossing the Perley Canal with a bridge behind the building then turning a corner before joining Beacon Street West. The developer agreed to fund the cost of constructing this segment of the riverwalk.

The TIF Advisory Board agreed to present both the original and alternative plans to the Planning Board, but voted three-to-two to recommend the route preferred by the developer.
The Planning Board approved Chinburg's plans for the two buildings, with the caveat that they be reviewed by its architectural sub-committee. But, the board also voted to recommend that the City Council, which controls the easement for the riverwalk, hold the project to its original route. Warren Hutchins, chairman of the Planning Board, said that Chinburg will be asked to explore designing the residential building to accommodate the riverwalk with the architectural sub-committee.
The ultimate decision whether to execute the original easement or relinquish it and negotiate a new easement for an alternative route rests with the City Council.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 April 2014 01:28

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