Members balk at prospect of selling Belknap Mill

LACONIA — When between 40 and 50 of the some 150 members of the Belknap Mill Society met at the mill yesterday by a show of hands an apparent majority of those present opposed the society divesting itself of the mill by transferring ownership to either the city or a private party.

In October, Christine Santaniello, president of the society, and the trustees concluded that the society lacked the financial means to own and maintain the historic building. The trustees announced that they were searching for a partner who would assume ownership of the property while ensuring public access to the first and third floors of the building and enabling the society to offer its educational and cultural programs. They approached the City Council, offering to sell the building to the city at an undisclosed price, but a majority of the councilors urged them to explore alternative arrangements.

Yesterday's meeting was confined to members and closed to the media. However, attorney Pat Wood, a former trustee of the society who has done legal work on its behalf, said that the sentiment of those members in attendance favored the society retaining ownership of the mill. Wood was among a number of members to question the judgment of the trustees that the society could no longer sustain its ownership of the mill and suggest ways of overcoming the immediate financial problems and placing the society's finances on a sound footing.

Ed Engler, a member of the society and mayor of the city, raised the issue by reminding the membership that the trustees preferred to sell the building and suggested the meeting address the question. The proposition drew scant support from the members. Tom Tardif questioned whether the society could sell the mill to the city, referring to documents indicating that it could only be sold to Belknap County. City taxpayers, he said, would then only bear 20 percent of the cost of maintaining it.

After the straw poll, Santaniello said that the trustees, having sounded the members, would reconsider the situation and prepare a recommendation to present to the membership at the annual meeting of the society in February.

Engler said that he was "encouraged that the trustees have a decision-making plan. I think it is a good one," he continued, "and we'll see what happens." The decision about whether or not to disclose the terms of the offer the trustees made to the city, Engler said "is up to the trustees. We are respecting their wishes." The council sealed the minutes of the non-public session on October 17 at which the offer was was presented.

Engler expected that "further discussion with the city will be placed on hold until after the annual meeting" and doubted that the City Council would consider the issue in the meantime.

Speare medical office closed due to water damage

PLYMOUTH — Speare Memorial Hospital's medical office building, Speare Memorial at Boulder Point, is closed due to water damage from a frozen pipe that burst on Sunday. The pipe was a water feed for a rooftop unit that controls the building's humidification system.
According to Director of Facilities Dennis Patnaude, restoration services are onsite mitigating the extensive cosmetic water damage including carpeting, flooring and some furniture. While a damage estimate is unknown, Patnaude said there was no structural damage to the building.
Speare Memorial at Boulder Point is located on Boulder Point Drive, off Tenney Mountain Highway. The building is home to the hospital's affiliated practices including Plymouth Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Clinic, Speare Primary Care, White Mountain Eye Care & Optical, as well as Choice Physical Therapy and RehabFIT Medical Fitness. White Mountain Eye Care & Optical is expected to reopen as early as Friday, but the rest of the building will remain closed for clean-up and repair for up to three weeks.
Plymouth Orthopedics, Speare Primary Care and Choice Physical Therapy have relocated their practices to the hospital while Boulder Point remains closed. Patients with appointments should report to the following locations:
— Plymouth Orthopedics will see patients in the Oncology Clinic located on the first floor, just off the Main Entrance on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and in Surgical Services on Wednesdays.
— Speare Primary Care patients are being seen in Plymouth OB/GYN, located in the hospital's northwest wing. Building access and parking are off Avery Street.
— Choice Physical Therapy will begin seeing patients at the hospital on Thursday, January 15. Patients should take the main elevators to the second floor. Patient check-in will be located off the elevators to the left.

Fire above shop floor at New Hampshire Ball Bearing quickly put out

LACONIA — The New Hampshire Ball Bearing plant on Lexington Drive was evacuated around 10:30 p.m. on Monday when fire broke out in the duct work above a heat treating machine on the shop floor.

Deputy Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said that the fire appeared to have started from combustible material in the duct or from a malfunction of the machine and was quickly extinguished — with damage confined to adjacent electrical wiring and the duct work. There were no injuries and operations were only briefly interrupted.

Beattie said that firefighters were at the scene for about an hour-and-a-half.

Brothers won't seek 4th term on Meredith Board of Selectmen

MEREDITH — Peter Brothers yesterday became the second member of the Board of Selectmen in as many days to announce that he would not seek re-election in March. On Monday, Carla Horne, who chairs the board, said she has decided to retire.

Brothers has served three terms on the Selectboard, which together with his tenure on the Planning Board and Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee represents nearly three decades of public service to the town.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my tenure," said Brothers, the longest serving member of the board. "We learned how to govern in good times and oh boy, did we learn how to govern in tough times."

Brothers expressed his gratitude to his colleagues on the board, the administrative team led by Town Manager Phil Warren, the full complement of town employees and the many volunteers serving on boards and commissions. "I've worked with a lot of great people," he said.