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City's DPW workers & firefighters have contracts

LACONIA — The City Council this week ratified collective bargaining agreements with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 534, which represents some 15 non-managerial employees at the Department of Public Works, and the Local Professional Firefighters', Local 1153 of the International Association of Firefighters.

City Manager Scott Myers said that the compensation and benefits provided by the contracts mirror those the City Council awarded to city employees who are not members of a union. The agreements are for three years. Employees will receive cost of living adjustments of 2 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent in each year of the contract.

Employees will no longer have a choice between two health care plans. The so-called HMO High" plan, which has a $500 deductible and $10 office visit copay and requires a 15 percent premium contribution from employees, has been eliminated. The so-called "HMO Low" plan, with a $2,000 deductible and $20 copay, remains. While employees have contributed 6 percent to the premium of the "HMO Low" plan, under the new contracts they contribute 8 percent the first year, 9 percent the second year and 10 percent the third year. The wages of employees will be supplemented by an annual payment of $250 in each of the next three years and the city will contribute $1,000 to the Health Reimbursement Account of each to be applied against their deductibles. Any unused funds may be carried forward to subsequent years.

Myers said that the contracts include language to forestall liability for the so-called "Cadillac Tax," a 40-percent federal levy on the value of health insurance benefits exceeding specific thresholds — $10,200 for an individual and $27,500 for a family — imposed on January 1, 2018 by the Affordable Care Act. The city and the unions agreed that if new contracts are not agreed when the current contracts expire, steps must be taken to ensure that the cost of health insurance is below the thresholds. The contracts require the city and unions to either negotiate a health insurance plan or accept a plan reached through binding arbitration that makes the minimal changes to benefits required to keep the cost below the threshold.

Also on Monday, the council unanimously declined to ratify a collective bargaining agreement with Laconia Police Officers Association presented by the Police Commission, which conducts the negotiations with the union. Negotiations with the State Employees Association, Local 1984 of the Service Employees International Union have reached impasse. Myers said that the city and the union are awaiting the report of a neutral fact finder, who will consider the differences between the two and make recommendations for resolving them.

NOTE: The City Council appointed Gregory Page as moderator and Steve Bogert as ward clerk in Ward 5. Last month City Clerk Mary Reynold informed the council that resignations and retirements had left the ward without any officials to conduct the state primary election in September and general election in November. Page, who chairs the city's Water Commission, responded to her appeal and is engaged in the training offered by the New Hampshire Secretary of State and will undergo in-house training this week. Bogert, who has chaired the Zoning Board of Adjustment for seven years, volunteered to serve as Ward Clerk and is also completing the training. A number of others have offered to work at the polling station on election day and several veterans of the polls have offered to train the newcomers. "I feel with the additional efforts being made by everyone involved this will be a very successful election cycle for the City," Reynolds told the councilors in a memorandum.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 11:32

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Avery leaves B&G Club post

LACONIA — After three years in the position, Cheryl Avery has stepped down as executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region. The announcement that she was leaving to "explore other professional opportunities" was made Tuesday by the club's board of directors.

Avery will be replaced temporarily by (Retired) U.S. Army Brigadier General Patricia Anderson, a Laconia resident who is president of the Laconia Rotary Club and one of the Boys & Girls Club's directors.

Avery's service to the club was lauded by it's president, Walt Flinn. "Cheryl has touched countless children and families," he said. "She led a small but dedicated group of staff which has provided local children with quality programming and education. One of her greatest accomplishments was facilitating the relocation of the club from temporary quarters to its new home in the former St. James Church. She was instrumental in insuring a smooth transition for the club kids, parents and staff.Flinn said he was confident that the foundation that Avery helped build will be used to further develop the club's goals and objectives.

"We look forward to serving area youth for many years to come."

Flinn said the club's board of directors thanked Avery for here years of service and dedication to the children and families of the Lakes Region. "We wish Cheryl every success in her future endeavors."



Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 11:28

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Council Backs Construction Management Approach for Fire Station Project

LACONIA — The City Council last night approved by a 4-1 vote the use of a construction management firm to oversee a renovation and expansion project at the Central Fire Station which is expected to get underway in October.
Cost of the project is tentatively estimated at between $4.1 and $4.5 million.
The plan includes the renovation of 13,167-square-feet of the existing station to serve as an apparatus bay, training area and storage space and the construction of a two-story, 12,964-square-foot addition to house the administrative offices, emergency operations center and dormitory. The building would be reconfigured to provide public access and parking off Tremont Street, instead of off North Main Street.
The City Council took the vote after a lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of hiring a construction management firm or going with an open bid process.
Jonathan Smith of Warrenstreet Architects, Inc. of Concord, who had earlier updated the council members on the schematic design, still underway for the project , said that the latest estimate is that the project would cost $4,541,739 which could be reduced by as much as $425,000 if a $280,000 contingency fund doesn't have to be used and the project qualifies for $145,000 in energy rebates.
He said that he preferred the construction management approach because it gave the city a partner in the construction project. ''You know you have someone on your side,'' he told the councilors and urged them to develop a select list of bidders if they went in that direction rather than have a completely open bid process.
Smith said that construction management firms typically charge a 4.5 percent fee of the total project costs for their services.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), said that an open bid process provided ''a true market test'' for the project but that he was comfortable with either approach.
City Manager Scott Myers has included first year debt service on a $4.1 million borrowing for the fire station in his recommended budget for fiscal year 2015.
Voting for the construction management approach were councilors Lipman, Bob Hamel, Amand Bolduc and Brenda Baer. Councilman David Bownes voted against the motion and Councilor Ava Doyle abstained.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 01:43

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Veterans begin drive to restore World War I Memorial

LACONIA — "I got tired of looking at them," Ray Peavey said of the bronze plaques honoring residents who served in the First World War on the lawn of the Laconia Public Library. "They look horrible," he continued, adding that he first thought of replacing the wooden slabs holding the plaques before concluding that the memorial should be renovated and reconstructed.

At his initiative, the American Legion Post 1 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1670, in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department, have undertaken to clean the plaques and mount them on granite. The memorial will remain at its current location near the flagpole at the corner of Main Street and Church Street.

The three plaques, each about 5 feet high and more than 3 feet across together bear the names of 597 men and women who served in the armed forces of the United States between 1917, when the country entered the war, and 1918, when the armistice was signed. Those with stars alongside their names lost their lives in the conflict that began 100 years ago.

The memorial was originally erected at its current location by the city in 1919. The monument to veterans of the Spanish-American War of 1898, which also stood on the library grounds, was moved to Veterans Square, joining memorials to those who fell in World War II , the Korean War and Vietnam War.

Peavey estimates the cost to refurbish and mount the plaques at approximately $5,000. The Veterans Memorial Restoration Fund has been established to raise the funds to complete the project and apply any additional funds to maintaing the memorial as well as its counterparts in Veterans Square. An account has been opened and donations should be sent to Veterans Memorial Restoration Fund, c/o Bank of New Hampshire, 62 Pleasant St., Laconia, NH 03246.

Peavey, who served 27 years in the Marine Corps and Navy who and traces his ancestors to the Civil War, said, "No donation is too small." He said that he hopes the project will be completed by Memorial Day next year.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 12:11

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