$2M fix - Gilford wants bond for elementary school retrofit

GILFORD —The School Board has approved a $26,030,568 budget for school year 2016-2017, up 2.5 percent from this year's budget of $24,264,335 or $643,848.
The board is asking taxpayers to support a $2 million bond that will be used for mechanical, electrical and HVAC upgrades to the Gilford Elementary School. It will appear as a warrant article on the annual ballot
Superintendent Kent Hemingway said the board had talked initially about spending about $400,000 a year over the next five years for the upgrades but decided that taking one bond would be preferable because all of the systems could be interconnected and contractors wouldn't have to go back each year to reconnect and upgrade the newest projects. Hemingway said the borrowing rates are also very favorable.
Hemingway also noted the original engineering called for a wood-chip plant, but once the district performed an emergency replacement of the boiler about three years ago the board eliminated it from further consideration.
"The final project will be under $2 million," Hemingway said, noting the school was built in 1939 and this is a 30- to 50-year project.
The proposed budget included the first year's bond payment that could be $35,167 for a 10-year bond at 3 percent or $41,028 for a 15-year bond at 3.5 percent.
In other budget items, Hemingway said there is a maximum increase of 3 percent or $142,000 in health insurance factored into the proposed budget. The maximum increase is used for compiling the budget but the actual increase rate won't be available until after the budget is well into the SB2 budget process.
The district is in its third year of a three-year contract with the Gilford Education Association and the budget includes a 2.5 percent increase in salaries or $87,585. Hemingway said there are no mandatory statutory increases in the contribution to the state retirement system, keeping it at $54,000.
Even though enrollments increased slightly this year and are predicted to stay level or slightly increase over the next few years said Hemingway, the district lost one language arts teaching position for the middle school. The purchase of the K-through-8 math program is completed, meaning the district will not be spending $69,780 in the next budget year.
Maintenance projects are projected to cost $216,700 and include $165,000 for paving of the Gilford Elementary School parking lot, $24,000 for carpet computer labs at the high school, $7,200 for circulation pumps, $6,500 for stairwell cameras, and $14,000 to replace the 2005 lawn mower for the district.
The Budget Committee has been working in subcommittees on each individual school budget and a budget hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. at Gilford High School.

Christmas Village Turns 40

LACONIA — This evening, the Community Center will become another world, filled with the symbols and enlivened by the spirit of Christmas, when for the 40th year the Christmas Village opens its doors to young and old.

Begun in 1975 by Dick Tappley, then director of Parks and Recreation, who followed the example set by his father in Bristol, the tradition has been sustained ever since by the Bolduc brothers — Armand and Ernie — and their friend Bob Hamel, who each year have led the team of volunteers, including some 60 to 70 elves, that constructs the village and provides its hospitality.

It's a lot work," Hamel said. "But, it's all worth when you see those kids come through the curtain and their faces light up."

He estimates that some 6,000 man hours are required to set up and take down the village. In addition, decorating and stocking the village costs about $8,000 a year, a significant share of which is born by a number of anonymous donors as well as a contribution from the Children's Auction.
As children gather to wait their turn to enter the village, they are entertained with face painting, games, crafts, movies and even "Santa's Jail" under the watchful eyes longtime volunteer Sharon Cavanaugh and a band of sprightly elves.
Every child leaves laden with an ornament, turned from wood rescued from the Allen-Rogers factory, a Christmas gift, and personal letter from Santa, bearing the postmark "Christmas Village, Laconia N.H. 03246-1/2. Plus, gallons of pink lemonade and 600 dozen cookies are served at "Santa's Sidewalk Cafe."
Hamel estimated that some 2,500 children visit the Christmas Village each year.

"If you count the parents and senior citizens, nearly a quarter of a million people have passed through the village in the last 40 years," he said.
The Christmas Village will be open to the public Thursday, Dec. 3, and Friday, Dec. 4, from 6 until 8 p.m.; and on Saturday, Dec. 5, and Sunday Dec. 6, from 2 until 5 p.m. The village will be open to senior citizens on Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon, and to those with disabilities on Sunday between 10 a.m. and noon.

Lakes Region towns are ready to celebrate Christmas

MEREDITH — The Christmas season is getting underway with many events around the Lakes Region.

In Meredith, horse-drawn carriage rides and a Village tree lighting will highlight "Christmas in the Village" events planned on Sunday, Dec. 6. Main Street will glow with luminarias placed along the sidewalks, and the Greater Meredith Program in partnership with the Mill Falls Marketplace will offer horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides through the village from 1 to 5 p.m.
There will be an open house sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department at the Community Center from 2 to 4 p.m., and at 4:30 p.m. the Kinder Choir will be singing holiday carols preceding the tree lighting at Community Park on Main Street.
Live music and finger foods will be offered during a special sparkling wine tasting at Hermit Woods from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Main Street and Santa will arrive at Hesky Park aboard one of the town's big fire trucks shortly after 5 p.m. for a tree-lighting ceremony at the town docks.

Plymouth's Hometown Holiday celebration and parade is coming up on Saturday, Dec. 5, starting with a special showing of the classic film "Home Alone" from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the Flying Monkey. Proceeds will benefit Toys for Tots in conjunction with Plymouth Operation Santa Claus and Plymouth Rotary.
On Main Street, people can enjoy a Christmas music sing-along with Tim Keefe, decorate cookies with the elves on the common, soak in some Christmas atmosphere and enjoy free hot chocolate at the banks on Main Street.
The parade starts promptly at 5 p.m. Saturday.
On Sunday, youngsters can skate for free with Santa at the Plymouth State University ice arena from 1 to 3 p.m. In the upstairs Welcome Center of the ice arena, catch a half-hour performance of "A Nutcracker Sampler." This special performance by the Ninth State Dance Studio youths is a light-hearted show created especially for little ones to introduce them to the delights of "The Nutcracker." Show times are 1:15 and 2:30 p.m. This event is free, but you must have a ticket. Get printable tickets at www.theninthstate.com.

In Belmont, a holiday celebration will be held on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Belmont Middle School gym on School St. so that everyone stays warm no matter the December weather.
There will be Christmas favorites by the Rockin' Daddios, followed by the Belmont High School Concert Band. As they perform on the stage, children will be entertained with various craft and coloring tables set up around the room.
Santa will make an appearance later in the program. Participants can bring an unwrapped toy to be donated to the Belmont Police Department's Santa's Little Helpers.

In Gilford a Holiday Craft Fair runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Gilford Middle and High School with over 130 craftspeople taking part. Proceeds will benefit the Gilford High School yearbook and the 2016 class trip.