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Belmont Selectboard agrees to lease old Winnisquam Fire Station to marina

BELMONT — Selectmen say they are receptive to turning over use of the former Winnisquam Fire Station to a neighboring business.
On Tuesday the board indicated it would support leasing the building on Sunset Drive to Winnisquam Marine. Town Administrator K. Jeanne Beaudin said that Winnisquam Marine owner Ed Crawford has expressed interest in securing the building for possible use as boat storage and other purposes. Beaudin said Crawford plans to view the property next month. The former fire station is located across Sunset Drive from the marina, which is situated at the corner of Sunset and Rte 3 (Laconia Rd.).
The volunteer Winnisquam Fire Company was disbanded in 2006 and 2007 and the volunteer fire company turned the facility over to the town of Belmont. Most recently the Belmont Parks and Recreation Department has been using the building for its programs. Beaudin said the Parks and Recreation Department will soon vacate the old fire station and will be moving to the second floor of the Belmont Mill in the second week of November.
Selectmen said they were willing to lease the building to Winnisquam Marine in the short term provided the business agrees to pay all insurance and maintenance on the property in addition to paying rent and the cost of utilities. Beaudin said she would explore what other storage building owners and charging for rent before recommending what to charge the marina to rent the building.
Winnisquam Marine has said it is interested in buying the building. Any sale, however, would have to be approved by the voters at Town Meeting, selectmen noted.
NOTES: Selectmen reviewed the proposed 2014 budgets for several town departments. The largest budget the examined was for Public Works, which is proposing to spend $1,014,354.64. Other budgets which were reviewed included the Town Clerk's Office, the Finance Office, the library ($31,433), sold waste ($544,539), and patriotic purposes ($20,229). The selectmen expect to conclude their review of town department budgets at their next meeting set for Oct. 21.
Library Trustees told selectmen that Rebecca Albert has been hired as the new library director.
Selectmen approved spending $31,300 for an engineering study for the first phase of a multiphase-reconstruction of Ladd Hill Road.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 October 2013 03:16

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New co-op says Mooneys have a legal right to speak for Briarcrest residents

LACONIA — Responding to a petition filed on behalf of Mark and Ruth Mooney, the owners of Briarcrest Estates, asking the Belknap County Superior Court to approve the sale of their manufactured housing park to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC, the Lakemont Cooperative, formed by residents seeking to purchase the park, claims that the court has no appropriate role in the transaction and charges the owners with failing to negotiate in good faith as the law requires.

In July, the Mooney tentatively accepted an offer from Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC of Orlando, Florida, an affiliate of Hometown America, Inc. of Chicago, among the largest owners of manufactured parks in the country, to purchase the 183-acre park with 241 home sites for $10 million. However, state law entitles the tenants to make a counter offer by presenting a purchase and sales agreement within 60 days of the first offer. The Lakemont Cooperative matched the $10 million offer.

The statute grants the cooperative "a reasonable time beyond the 60-day period, if necessary, to obtain financing for the purchase" and, in the meantime, requires the owners to bargain in good faith with the cooperative.
Representing the Mooneys, attorney John Giere, told the court that polling of residents indicated that a significant majority favored commercial over cooperative ownership of the park. Since the law is intended to safeguard the interests of tenants of the park, he argued that approving the sale to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC would serve their best interests of the residents in keeping with the purpose of the law. At the same time, he asked the court to rule that the Mooneys should not be liable to penalties, amounting to $10,000 or 10 percent of the sale price whichever is greater, for failing to bargain in good faith.
Attorney Robert Shepherd of Nashua, acting for the newly-formed cooperative, rejected Geire's presumption that the Mooneys, as the owners of the park, were in any position to represent the interests of its residents. He dismissed the results of the polls, which were taken by the Mooneys and their representatives, claiming that they were not conducted in a "fair" manner and suggesting that residents were subject to intimidation. In any event, Shepherd reminded the court that the statute does not prescribe that the cooperative include a specific number or percentage of residents to make an offer and pursue the transaction.
Shepherd told the court that the cooperative had not only presented a purchase and sales agreement but also agreed to pay a $100,000 deposit once the Mooneys signed the agreement. By refusing to sign the purchase and sales agreement, he claimed, the Mooneys have wrongfully refused to consider the cooperative's offer and failed to negotiate in good faith. Moreover, he said that the Mooneys have withheld the financial information the cooperative requires to proceed with its due diligence.
Since the statute speaks for itself and governs the process, Shepherd concluded that there is no reason for the court to intervene, let alone to waive money penalties if the Mooneys persist in refusing to bargain in good faith with the cooperative.
Meanwhile, residents opposed to a sale to the cooperative have incorporated as the Briarcrest Estates Home Owners Association, which this week retained attorney Phil McLaughlin to represent their interests before the court.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 October 2013 03:08

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Live entertainment, yes, but strippers will have to wait

GILFORD — Selectmen voted unanimously to give the Lakes Region Cafe and Tavern — the former King's Grant Inn — a live entertainment license with the exclusion of so-called exotic dancing.

Selectmen said exotic entertainment was left out of the license because owner Willard Drew hadn't answered three questions posed by Town Administrator Scott Dunn regarding how Drew and his business partner Tom Lyons planned on preventing illegal drug activity that led to a raid on the premises — then doing business as Mardis Gras North — in October of 2011.

The questions are what steps Drew and Lyons will take to ensure exotic dancers won't be selling drugs; how Drew and Lyons will provide safety for the dancers in the private show area; and how Drew and Lyons will prevent a recurrence of the issues that led to a drug raid by state narcotics officers in October of 2011.

"Frankly I'm disheartened we won't be discussing exotic dancing," said Attorney David Bownes last night. Bownes represents Drew and Lyons.

He said that when Drew re-opened his club last during the summer of 2012, he had to answer 14 questions posed by selectmen and the three questions that Dunn said weren't answered to his satisfaction were included in the first explanation.

Bownes said he only received Dunn's questions earlier in the day and hadn't yet had a chance to reply in writing, even though he contends Drew and Lyons have answered the question. "You've heard it before," Bownes said.

It's been a long and winding road for Drew to reopen the building since the raid on Mardi Gras North, which was leased to a separate business in which Drew had no active participation.

Initially, Drew had to repair the damage done to the inside of his building by members of two SWAT Teams who conducted the raid with the N.H. Drug Task Force and the Gilford Police. Holes were smashed in walls and locked coolers and a safe were forcibly opened even though the manager at the time said she offered keys for the locks. The video security system was ripped out and all of the operating cash was seized by the N.H. State Police.

Although the owners of the Mardi Gras vacated the building, it was Drew who had to face the N.H. Liquor Commission that, after a three-day hearing, revoked his license for three days for three separate offenses of over-serving one customer, of serving a drink to a dancer who was working, and of giving away a free drink. He was exonerated of the most serious charge of allowing his building to be used for criminal activity.

Drew fixed the damage and upgraded the inside to meet the Fire Department and code enforcement requirements and reopened in late July of 2012. He closed the club in September and has remained closed for all of 2013 — even though he had a valid license to operate, without exotic dancing.

Bownes said he hopes the exotic dancing matter will be placed on the selectmen's agenda in November and said he is prepared to address their three questions as well as the First Amendment and other concerns about exotic dancing.

He also said he would respond to the three questions in writing before November and will send copies individually to all three selectmen.

In a separate action, the board also voted unanimously to allow the Lakes Region Cafe and Tavern sell alcohol as soon as the N.H. Liquor Commission issues the liquor license and a copy of it is filed with Dunn at the Town Offices.

Bownes said last night that the building inspector had inspected the property yesterday and the health inspector was scheduled to come within the next few days. He said once those inspections are complete Drew and Lyons should have their liquor license as soon as late this week or early next week.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 October 2013 02:55

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West Nile Virus found in Belmont horse

CONCORD — A horse in Belmont has tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV), the N.H. Department of Health & Human Services announced late Wednesday. This finding necessitates, the agency said, increasing the risk level in Belmont from "Remote" to "High."

Towns surrounding Belmont, including Northfield, Tilton, Sanbornton, Laconia, Gilford, Gilmanton and Canterbury will be raised to "Moderate Risk."

"Though parts of the state saw frost last night, we are not through with the mosquito season yet," said Dr. José Montero, Public Health Director at DHHS. "There are still mosquitoes around and we are urging residents to continue to take precautions against mosquito bites including using a repellent."

So far this season New Hampshire's Public Health Lab has tested 5,174 batches of mosquitoes. Of those, 14 have tested positive for WNV and 20 tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). One person was also diagnosed with WNV, and three other horses were found positive for EEE earlier in the season.

Symptoms of WNV disease often appear 4 to 10 days after being bitten. If you or someone you know is experiencing flu-like symptoms, including fever and headache, contact your local medical provider.

Questions about EEE and WNV can be answered by calling the toll free EEE/West Nile Virus information line at 1-866-273-6453. You can also find extensive information about both diseases online at www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/arboviral/index.htm.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 October 2013 02:53

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