They risked their lives for others - Laconia firefighters honored for heroism with medals

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson, whose passion for his job is matched only by his pride in his firefighters, honored members of what he called “the fire department every fire department wants to be” at an awards ceremony last evening.
Lt. Jeff Desrosiers and his crew were commended for courageously entering a blazing apartment building at Davis Place in search of occupants trapped by the inferno that claimed one life. Lt. Jay Ellingson and a team of six firefighters, each drawn from different shifts, were commended for their response to a severe traffic accident on Parade Road that took one life and, but for their efficient teamwork, might have taken two more.
Enhancing the significance of commendations, Erickson remarked that he could recall awarding only one medal since 2001 then proceeded to award the Mark E. Miller Medal of Valor to seven firefighters. The medal is named for the revered firefighter who drowned in a training exercise with the dive team he founded and is awarded for saving a life imperiled by water.
On a frigid night in January, Kevin Pierce, Chris Beaudoin, Jason Griffin and Nate Mills were among the firefighters dispatched to Lake Winnisquam where a snowmobiler was reported in the water. In pitch darkness, the four, wearing dry suits and tethered only to one another, crossed 1,400 feet of ice, swam 200 feet of open water, found the snowmobiler using his helmet as a flotation device, and returned him to safety.
In December 2014, a paddler was parted from his kayak when it overturned in the Winnipesaukee River and was clinging to a log as the current swept him downstream. Rick Hewlett, Chris Morgan and Brennan Lorden responded. All three firefighters, at risk to their own lives, managed to rescue the kayaker from the cold water and strong current as Lorden ferried him to shore.
The commendations and medals, Erickson said, exemplify the department’s credo of “selfless service.”

Rep. Gallagher: Gunstock should pay county $400k-$500k a year

LACONIA — State Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) told members of the Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee last night that he thinks Gunstock Mountain Resort should be paying substantially more to the county in years to come.
Citing numbers which showed that Gunstock, which is owned by Belknap County, paid $318,000 in 2008 and $322,000 in 2009 as part of its previous memorandum of understanding with the county compared to $175,000 in its current agreement, Gallagher said he thinks the county-owned recreation area should be paying as much as $400,000 to $500,000 a year.
''I think we should look at the 2008 and 2009 numbers as a baseline and factor in the increase in value of Gunstock.'' said Gallagher, who said the county should be paying at least double what it currently pays. The resort does not pay property tax.
The current memorandum of understanding expires on Dec. 31, 2016, and Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said that the original agreement provided for supplemental payments to the county when Gunstock enjoys a good year.
He said that one of the reasons for reducing the amount paid to the county was to enable Gunstock to make capital investments which would allow it to remain competitive with other ski areas and add new year-round attractions envisioned in its master plan.
"We were trying to help with their four-year development plan,'' sad Tilton.
Rep. Guy Comtois (R-Barnstead) said that the real issue that should be discussed by county legislators was "Why are we not talking about why we do not sell it?''
He maintained that the county should sell the ski area to private owner and get out of the ski and recreation business altogether. "We should sell it. It's just wrong. We should get out of competing with private business.''

Brenda Kean to leave Laconia Historical and Museum Society

LACONIA — "No way are we going to fill her shoes," said Pam Clark, president of the Laconia Historical and Museum Society, of the departure of executive director Brenda Kean, who has been named activities director at the Taylor Community.

Kean, whose passion for history led her to join the board of society in 2006 when she was vice president of banking services at Franklin Savings Bank, became its executive director in 2012. She completed the transcription of journals of Jeremiah Smith Jewett of Laconia, a railroad surveyor, general store owner, postmaster and Methodist minister who kept a daily record for more than 40 years in the 19th century, stretching to some 3,000 handwritten pages. Kean also played a key role in the preservation and restoration of the drapes from the Moulton and Lakeport opera houses and designed many exhibits at the Laconia Public Library, including an upcoming exhibit of the city's forgotten schools..

Clark said Kean also developed a strong cadre of volunteers, which will ease the transition arising from her departure. While Clark has taken on many of the responsibilities of the executive director, she said she has been able delegate others to colleagues on the executive committee and other volunteers.

Clark said the executive committee will meet on Tuesday, Dec. 15, to discuss whether to seek a full-time or part-time successor.

"We're looking at al our options," she said, adding that several people have expressed an interest in the position.

Clark said anyone seeking information is welcome to contact her at 527-1278 or 387-1285 or by writing to to the society at P.O. Box 1126, Laconia, NH 03247.