Whiskey Barrel opening this weekend

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Another formerly vacant storefront in downtown Laconia is being revitalized this weekend, as the space at 546 Main St., most recently the home of the Funky Monkey, has now become the Whiskey Barrel, a country-flavored nightspot. The bar is holding its grand opening this weekend, with live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, and a Super Bowl party on Sunday.

The Whiskey Barrel is fashioned after a bar of the same name in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Bernie Goulet, owner of both locations, said that the owner of the Laconia Whiskey Barrel will be managed by his partner, Matt Menengas.

The first bands to perform locally will be some of the best-known local country bands, such as the Eric Grant Band on Friday night.

"Eric is one of the rising country bands, he always brings a big crowd down. He's got a lot of intensity and energy, I think he'll be a great opening band," said Goulet. Jodie Cunningham, another New Hampshire-grown talent, will perform on Saturday night. Both shows are expected to start a little after 8 p.m., he said. On Sunday, during the Super Bowl party, the Whiskey Barrel will have a live DJ playing songs.

While later acts will carry a cover charge, Goulet said that there will be no cover to attend the opening weekend. 

"We want people to come down and see what we've done," he said.

Goulet said Thursday that he had been waiting to confirm the grand opening until he received his liquor license, which he finally secured on Wednesday. The Whiskey Barrel, fashioned after a nightclub of the same name in Haverhill, Massachusetts, will begin serving casual American food in about a month, and a special, temporary liquor license was necessary to allow the business to serve only drinks in the mean time.

"We suggest people go downtown, get a bite to eat, and then come down and see some great entertainment," said Goulet.

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Belmont Town Meeting Saturday to consider raises for police, fire

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — An an agreement with the police union and the local government to restructure the pay scale will cost taxpayers about $250,000 over the next three years if warrant Article 18 is passed by voters this year.

Belmont voters will discuss this and other warrant articles at the deliberative session of Town Meeting this Saturday at 10 a.m. at Belmont High School.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said the pay scale restructuring came as the result of some research done by the town and the union representatives into how much other officers in the area and in similar sized communities are earning.

"We found we were at very low side of that scale," said Beaudin.

The warrant article is broken into to columns so voters can understand how much of the increase is raises and how much are increases driven by insurance costs and state retirement contributions.

For the first year, the salary increases are to $37,540 or an average of $2,681 per union officer, of which there are 14. In the second year of the contract, each officer can expect on average an additional $2,167 each; and in year 3, each officer can expect an average increase of $2,140. On average, each union police officer can expect a total $7,000 raise over the three years of the contract.

Insurance and retirement costs are expected to increase about $10,700 in year one, and about $9,000 additionally each year for the final two years of the contract or through 2019.

The Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee support the passage of the money portions of the proposed contract.

"We support our Police Department and support them making comparable wages as do those in other departments," said Beaudin.

The town has also negotiated three-year contracts with the Fire Department and the Public Works Department. Salaries for the 10 union firefighters will cost taxpayers about $67,244 over the next three years, or an average of $6,700 in pay increases per firefighter.

Benefits including the health insurance and contributions to the state retirement system are expected to rise by $4,420 in the first year of the contract, an additional $5,600 in year two, and an additional $4,960 in 2019 or the last year of the contract.

The voters are also being asked to approve the money portions of a new Department of Public Works contract that, if approved, will increase wages for 10 DPW union workers about $72,573 over the three-year term of the contact or about $7,200 per employee.

Benefits are expected to go up by $2,982 in the first year of the three year contact and an additional $1,577 for the second year and an additional $2,012 in year 3.

Beaudin said the same pay scales as before are being used for Fire Department and Public Works employees, and that the increases requested are for step and cost-of-living increases.

The selectmen and the Budget Committee support passage of the money portions of each of the union contract requests. Each warrant article is also accompanied by a follow-up article that, if they fail, will allow a special Town Meeting to reconsider the vote on the money portions of the contract.

Article 9, if passed, will allow all veteran, their spouses or surviving spouses to take a $500 tax credit of their property taxes. This expands the tax credit to all veterans who served at least 90 days of active duty and who was honorably discharged or separated from the military.

Article 10 proposes to take the first $166,400 of the ambulance billings and direct them to the general fund to pay for certain operating expenses. The town has been supporting this expense for the past five years.

Article 11 seeks to spend $119,482 on a replacement communications system. The town is not asking for any new tax money and proposes to take $69,482 from the fire/ambulance equipment fund and $50,000 from the capital reserve account established for this purpose in 2005.

Article 12 seeks to spend $60,776 for the second year's payment on a new pumper truck. The money is proposed to come from the fire/ambulance equipment fund.

Articles 13 and 14 seek to raise $40,000 fro a cab-and-chassis forestry vehicle and $15,000 for an all-terrain vehicle for the Fire Department. All of the money is to come from the fire/ambulance revenue account.

Article 15 proposes to spend a total of $20,604.15 from the John M. Sargent Trust Fund for various Belmont groups including the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Old Home Day Committee, and two of the town's food pantries.

Article 17 is the general appropriation warrant article for a proposed annual 2017 operating budget of $7,586,951. The default budget is $7,563,786.

Article 24 through 33 seek to send various amounts of money into the town's capital reserve and maintenance funds that include the town bridge repair capital fund, the property revaluation capital fund and the general cemetery maintenance fund.

Articles 34 and 35 seek to spend $232,710 for the operation and maintenance of the town water distribution and treatment system and $538,037 for the town's sewer collection and disposal system. Users fees will pay for these expenditures that are both recommended by the Budget Committee.

Articles 36 and 37 propose spending $4,500 on the Heritage Fund and $5,000 to be placed in the Village Rail Spur Trail Capital Fund established in 2016.

While voters may amend the wording and dollar amounts presented in the articles at the deliberative session of Town Meeting, the final vote won't be taken until March 14, along with election of town and school officials.

Gilmanton faces $47,000 hike in tuition pact with Gilford

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — An area tuition agreement that allows Gilmanton students to attend Gilford High School is expected to increase by nearly $47,000 in the upcoming school year.
"Based on what the Budget Committee has approved, we're looking at a 1.49 percent increase," said Christine Hayes, business administrator for Gilmanton School District.
This amounts to $46,756 in additional spending on the tuition agreement.
The agreement is a legal obligation with six more years to go. Next year's rise in cost remains tentative, Hayes cautioned.
"We don't have final figures from Gilford yet. We won't until after their deliberative session," Hayes said. "But we're going with what we have, based on what they've given us. It's according to the formula in the area agreement, but it does result in an increase this year again, which is not unusual."
A committee in Gilmanton is looking into the subject of the tuition agreement.
Gilmanton School Superintendent John Fauci emphasized that the committee's mission does not imply any dissatisfaction with Gilford.
"Our school board has asked us to look at options," Fauci said. "They're exploring options. Gilford, who we work very closely with now and have a good relationship with, is still an option."
The High School Options Committee has met three or four times and has scheduled another meeting this spring to continue the conversation, Fauci said.
"They're exploring options around things like cost and other factors that would determine where our kids would go next," Fauci said.
"Any and all options are on the table. There is no decision that has been made," he said.
The 13-member committee includes parents, teachers, school board members, Budget Committee members, selectmen, Planning Board members and others with an interest in the topic.
"It always comes up because a third of our budget is what we pay for our high school students," Fauci said.
The 2016-2017 tuition rate for 158 high school students attending Gilford High School is $18,744 per student, according to figures in the proposed Gilmanton School District budget. The previous year, the rate was $17,742. Total tuition cost for 2016-2017 was an estimated $3.138 million, compared with $2.856 million the previous year.

The average cost per pupil in the state as calculated by the state Department of Education was $15,068.46 for high school students in the 2015-16 school year.
The deliberative session of Gilford School District Meeting is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, in the Gilford High School Auditorium.
The deliberative session of Gilmanton School District Meeting is on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 10 a.m., at the Gilmanton School. Voting day is Tuesday, March 14 for both.

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