The Citizen to cease publication Sept. 30

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — For the past 16 years, Laconia has been the lone city north of Boston served by two local daily newspapers, but this distinction will be lost at the end of the month following the announcement by George Sample, chief executive officer of the Sample News Group that The Citizen will cease publication on Sept. 30.

09-22 Citizen front page 9-16-16

Sample said the decision reflected the mounting financial pressures on newspapers, which weigh particularly heavily on those operating in smaller and competitive markets. He added that efforts to sell the business during the past several months were unsuccessful.

The Sample News Group, headquartered in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, purchased The Citizen from the George J. Foster Company of Dover in 2010, within months of acquiring Eagle Printing and Publishing Company of Claremont, publisher of the Eagle-Times, which had filed for bankruptcy protection the year before.

"We have tried for several months to sell the paper, but unfortunately we were unable to find a buyer, said Sample. "We have enjoyed our six years serving the Lakes Region, and we're proud of the efforts our team has made in producing a very good hometown newspaper."

Ed Pierce, the editor of The Citizen, said that in recent years the paper concentrated its efforts at reaching a wider readership through its online edition and social media by posting breaking news the moment it occurred. As a result, he said that "We enjoyed unparalleled growth in the digital and social media markets." He said that when The Citizen announced that Steven Tyler would perform during Motorcycle Week its website tallied 23,984 views and last month it drew 341,859 hits along with the nearly 6,000 likes registered on the Facebook page. Pierce said that The Citizen had the least online traffic of all the papers in the Sample New Group's stable, but in August had risen to top of the list.

However, Pierce acknowledged that the growth of revenue from digital advertising has fallen far short of the expansion of online readership. Meanwhile, the costs of producing and distributing the print edition of the paper have risen steadily.

"The paper had turned a corner," he said, "but not fast enough for the investors."

Pierce said that most of the 14 employees at The Citizen, which includes eight in the newsroom, will be offered positions elsewhere in the Sample News Group, which has a strong presence in Pennsylvania as well as daily and weekly newspapers in New York, New Jersey, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Pierce himself will become executive editor of The Journal Tribune in Biddeford, Maine, next month.

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Paper had 90-year run

The newspaper was started by Edward J. Gallagher in 1926 and for years was known as the Laconia Evening Citizen. Gallagher, who would later become Laconia's mayor, was also the author of a biography of Stilson Hutchins, founder of the Washington Post. The Citizen was owned by Gallagher's daughter, Alma Gallagher Smith, and her husband, Lawrence J. Smith, following Gallagher's death in 1978. The Smiths operated the newspaper until the George J. Foster Company purchased the paper on May 10, 1991. Foster was the publisher of Foster's Daily Democrat in Dover.
In the late 1990s, the Foster Company launched Foster's Sunday Citizen as a joint venture by Foster's Daily Democrat and The Citizen, neither of which previously had a Sunday edition.
The Citizen was named Small Newspaper of the Year in 1992, 1993 and 2001 by the New England Newspaper Association.
The Foster Company announced on June 23, 2010, that it would sell the paper on June 26, in order to concentrate on their main property, Foster's Daily Democrat. The company said it would continue to print The Citizen and the Laconia edition of the Sunday Citizen at its presses for at least the next three months. The new owner was Sample News Group, publisher of multiple daily and weekly newspapers across the northeastern United States.
The Citizen reported Friday that the decision to close the newspaper "comes amid growing financial pressure on the newspaper industry, particularly in smaller markets being served by multiple publications.

– Roger Amsden

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Gilmanton Winery allowed to continue operation, but still faces scrutiny

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — Marshall Bishop may continue operating his winery and function room as well as the portion of his restaurant that is in the section of the house he originally converted, as the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 4 to 1 Thursday night to allow the use.

The permission comes in the form of a special exception because according to most members, the Gilmanton Table of Uses allows existing structures in the rural section to be converted to restaurants by special exception but new structures built specifically for restaurants to require a variance.

Members also requested the Planning Board review the Table of Uses as it relates to restaurants and develop clearer definitions of their applications.

Brenda Currier pointed out that the paperwork shows that Bishop received a preliminary site plan approval in 2011 that specified conditions, including that he file a completed site plan with the town, which he never did. She added he never built a bus turn-around, which was another condition.

She said that his application had the word "restaurant" crossed out and the words "function hall" written in its place.

Currier also said that because he changed the use of a four-bedroom home to a function room and a restaurant, she said he should get a variance so he could continue on with his business.

According to the state of New Hampshire website, "a special exception is a use of land or buildings that is permitted, subject to specific conditions that are set forth in the ordinance. A variance is a waiver or relaxation of particular requirements of an ordinance when strict enforcement would cause undue hardship because of circumstances unique to the property."

She said her objection is nothing personal but that she thought he should operate within the rules and guidelines established by the town for everyone.

Resident Barbara Swanson agreed, saying that "rules for one are rules for all" and that Bishop should bring himself up to code "even if it means starting at square one."

Speaking on his own behalf, Bishop said he believes the questions raised after he had been in business for 4 ½ years are personal and were raised simply because he is a selectman. Bishop added that all of the confusion around his approvals weren't his fault because the town never followed up with him on his preliminary site plan approval.

He also said that no one on the Planning Board or in the Planning Office ever told him he needed to go to the ZBA for anything. He added that what happened to him is emblematic of the dysfunction that has been prevalent in Gilmanton town government for the past five or six years.

Once the ZBA began deliberations, even 20-year veteran Chairman Elizabeth Hackett had some reservation about the change of use and whether the board should ask Bishop to return with a request for a variance.

Board member Nate Abbott said he thought a special exception for the originally portion of the renovation was appropriate but that Bishop should return for a variance before he begins any expansions.

Additionally, he apologized to Currier for insinuating at a recently Planning Board meeting that her husband had once paved a Class 6 road without permission. "I was wrong" he said.

Member Mike Teunessen said he opposed the ZBA granting either a variance or a special exception to Bishop because, in his opinion, Bishop had not made any efforts to comply with any of the town's requirements and that in some cases had deliberately circumvented them.

"In his mind, he was going to have a food establishment (thinking) that if he just do it "We'll give you an approval after the fact," he said. "Well, I'm going to vote no."

Hackett noted the board has stopped people from building things but had never made anyone tear anything down. "But we have that ability," she added.

Zoning Clerk Annette Andreozzi assured Hackett and the other board members that Bishop will still have to go before the Planning Board, which is waiting for a decision from the ZBA.

Abbott said he preferred to take the application and what's gone before it at face value.

"I choose to believe it's a benefit to the town," he said.

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Gilford residents asked to conserve water

GILFORD — Fire Chief Stephen Carrier is asking residents to voluntarily stop the use of outside water because of recent drought conditions.

Carrier said the state held a conference call with local fire chiefs, police chiefs, water works directors and emergency management and he was told that central New Hampshire was in a moderate drought stage that borders on severe.

"We all know many ponds in town are down as far as 4 feet," he said.

Carrier said the restrictions on outside water use are strictly voluntary and this is more of an awareness effort at this time.

He said the state has gotten calls form people all over the state whose wells have run dry, but said he personally hasn't heard of any in Gilford.

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