Huot Tech Center finds its programming popular

LACONIA – It was “another good year” at the Huot Technical Center, said program director David Warrander at last night’s School Board meeting.
Warrander spoke at the School Board meeting and told which programs its members could look forward to in the future.
Of the six he identified, he said welding, small engine repair and marine repair, ROTC and computer science were the programs that had the most interest from about 200 sophomores polled throughout Laconia and the sending schools. He said of those three, computer programming and coding was a distant third to the other two.
Evaluating each program, Warrander said he used the enrollment capacity of the catchment area, whether or not each program was duplicated at one of the sending schools, student interest, state and local career prospects, and the resources required.
Warrander said of those three, he would choose computer programming because the Huot Technical Center doesn’t have the space for an expanded small engine repair program while there is space for a computer lab. He said working with the military on bringing ROTC to the center would involve working an additional government agency with its own demands but he would contact the heads of the programs that are available in New Hampshire.
He recommended computer programming and coding for a new program because there is a hole in Laconia High School that should be filled. Some of the drawbacks are that the Gilford School District already has an extensive program and the Shaker Regional School District has a very good program. He said those two school districts, other than Laconia, which makes up 70 percent of the Huot student body, are the two largest sending schools so regional interest could be low.
He said he has been working with the Computer Science department head at the Lakes Region Community College and would hope over time the program would offer four classes – introduction to computers, introduction to programming, Website development, and Web applications. He noted that these classes dovetail nicely with those at LRCC. The downside is paying for the textbooks that can cost up to $200 each and must be those recommended by the college.
Warrander said the start up costs could be covered by a Perkins grant, which is used by schools specifically for starting new programs. He said the district would have to purchase some additional laptops but most of the software is open-sourced rather than proprietary.
He said a September 2016 launch would be impossible but, if the resources and the will on the part of the school board exists, a new program could be ready and approved by the state Department of Education by January of 2017.
Board members suggested he work with local businesses to see if there is interest among them for a cooperative deal and report back to them.

City school district projects $480K shortfall

LACONIA — With the school district facing a projected $480,000 shortfall, the administrators told the Budget and Personnel Committee last night that it is likely they will have to tap into the Special Education Trust Fund.
Committee members didn’t discuss specific programs that may be cut or reduced but all agreed there would be no “sacred cows.”
School board member Mike Persson suggested having students pay a fee for athletic programs, having the district seek more public-private partnerships and engage in more aggressive grant seeking.
After scouring the budget, administrators moved $162,000 from some accounts to others mostly buffing up the salary lines for special education needs in the elementary and middle schools. They also transferred $118,000 from some maintenance lines into others.
Of the 183 students that have moved into the district since August, Superintendent Phil McCormack said nearly 30 percent of them have special education needs. On the other hand, of the 184 students who have left the school district, about 20 percent had special education needs he said.
He said in one school alone about 50 percent of the new students were somehow classified as needing special assistance. When asked, McCormack said the new students are coming from all over the state and the country.
“We’ve been here before,” said member Chris Guilmett. “You can have one child need $300,000 of [assistance.]”
While preparing for this year’s budget, the school district operates on a fiscal year rather than a calender year, no money was deleted from the special eduction trust.
McCormack said administrators have imposed a “soft” spending freeze, meaning that only the necessities are being purchased. Of concern to the committee members is some reduction of teacher training because the district has tried to cut down the need for substitute teachers.
Committee members suggesting looking at overtime in building maintenance, teacher supplies, new equipment, adult education and computer accounts.
As the district continues to move forward with the 2016-2017 budget, Business Administrator Ed Emond said that if the same budget services are to be performed next year as this, the district is looking at a $1 million shortfall.
“The storm clouds are gathering,” said McCormack, who noted that the amount of money the school district has for next fiscal year under the city tax cap is limited to about $250,000 to $300,000. He said the Consumer Price Index Urban is flat, meaning there was no significant inflation in the country this year and there was about $9 million in building permits issued in the city in the past fiscal year.
The city tax cap limits the new amount of money to be raised by inflation rates, measured by the CPIU, and the amount of increased property values for “captured” value.

Many report scam claiming to be Eversource

LACONIA — Ginny Sanborn of Sanborn's Auto Repair was surprised Tuesday when she received a phone call from the credit department of Eversource informing her that the firm owed an electric bill of $684 and was sixth in line to be disconnected.

"I told them I had just paid our bill and asked them to check our account," Sanborn said. "When they told me they could find my account number, I asked to speak with a supervisor. They gave me a number to call," she continued. " I spoke with another guy who told me several disconnect notices had been sent." Sanborn began to wonder if she had forgotten to pay a bill and said she would go to the Eversource office at Nickerson Business Park in Tilton, only to be told "you'll be disconnected before you get to Tilton."

Sanborn called the bank, which confirmed the check to Eversource had cleared, then drove to Tilton When Sanborn reached the office on Business Park Drive the door was locked. "I banged on the door until a secretary answered," she said. "She called the credit department and we discovered it was all a scam. "It made for an interesting day," Sanborn remarked.

Sanborn was among what she learned were hundreds of business and home owners around the state to have similar experiences.

Sergeant Steve Akerstrom of the Belmont Police said that he took complaints from four local businesses, reporting that they were called by someone purporting to represent Eversource, who said their electricity would be disconnected within an hour if they did not pay the equivalent of two monthly bills with a credit card. He said that the bookkeeper at one firm sought to purchase debit cards at a supermarket, but after buying three was denied a fourth and subsequently learned of the scam. Akerstrom said that two other businesses were on the brink of disclosing their credit card numbers before thinking better of it.

"I think they were trying to get the credit card numbers," Akerstrom said, adding that he contacted Eversource, which was aware of the scam.

Laconia police said they had also received a number of reports, all of which were referred to the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, which has greater resources than local departments to investigate such scams.

This is not the first time Eversource has been misrepresented. The company has repeatedly explained that its employees do not call customers demanding payment immediate or threatening to disconnect electricity and asked that such calls be reported to the company at 1-800-662-7764. The company offers a guide — "Protect You & Your Family From Scams" — on its website at

The number Sanborn was given — 1-844-240-3124 — is answered with a recording as "the business contact center for Eversource." The message continues "to better direct your call, if you are calling regarding a disconnect notice, to make a payment arrangement or to make a payment please hold. Your call is being transferred to a representative and maybe recorded and monitored for quality assurance." When the extension Sanborn was given — 1206 — was dialed, the only response was a busy signal.