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Laconia would largely spend $1.8M no-interest loan fixing up LHS

LACONIA — School district officials announced Tuesday night that Laconia is the only district in New Hampshire to express any interest in an additional interest-free federal loan for $1.8 million earmarked for school renovations.

The loan fund is administered by the N.H. Department of Education.

The proposed QZAB or Qualified Zone Academy Bond is limited to inside upgrades for existing school buildings and doesn't allow for new construction.

Six and one-half million dollars of QZAB money was used to pay for part of the just-completed Huot Regional Technical Education Center project at Laconia High School.

Facilities Committee member Malcolm Murray provided the full School Board with a prioritized list of renovations and upgrades that could be done within the High School — the building school officials determined to be most in need of renovations.

Facilities member Mike Persson explained that all of the other school buildings in the city have had significant upgrades in recent years, with the exception of the high school.

The Tier 1 priority, said Persson and Murray, are health and safety issues and installing a sprinkler system and air handlers in the high school are at the top of the list.

Other health and safety concerns include removing the asbestos from disturbed areas in the former science area on the upper floor and installing a radon removal system on the ground floor.

Tier 2 priorities were identified teaching and learning spaces. The Facilities Committee said upgrading the suspended ceilings in most of the class rooms and repairing the aluminum panels on the exterior windows were the top priorities in this category.

Tier 3 priorities were overall facilities improvements and the restoration of the concrete pillars on the front of the high school, suspended ceilings in the corridors,
and removing the carpeting from the hallways and installing hard flooring.

Yesterday, Business Administrator Ed Emond said if the district were to borrow the QZAB money, some of the projects from each category would likely mesh together. As an example he said adding sprinklers to the school would disrupt the ceiling tiles so it would make sense to do both as part of the same project.

In order to qualify for a QZAB interest-free loan, school districts have to meet three criteria: a 10 percent match of local funds, a so-called "Zone Academy" must be created, and a working collaborative with community partners must be established. The district must also have more than 35-percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and Laconia easily exceeds that threshold.

Under a 1997 federal law, a Zone Academy must create programs to enhance the curriculum, increase graduation rates, improve employment opportunities and better prepare students for the workplace or higher education. Laconia started a Wellness Academy to qualify for the Huot Center-related loan so that obstacle has already been cleared.

Emond said the Laconia raised $1.050 million in cash and in-kind donations from the community for the Huot Center project, $180,000 of which can be used as a 10 percent match to attract the new funds.

The next step is to bring the loan proposal to the City Council for approval. The council will have to approve the additional interest payments of $78,260 per year for the next 23 years beginning in 2015 — a payment that may or may not fit into the self-imposed loan service cap — $3.2 million per year —  set by the city, which may have other priorities for bond and interest payments in the future.

Of the $3.6 million dollars set aside for principal and interest payments in the 2013-2014 budget, the School District is responsible for $2.480 million. The 2013-2014 payment on the Laconia Middle School is $1.488-million and the payment of the two portions of the QZAB loans for the Huot Center project total $240,000. The interest on a Huot Technical Center supplement is an additional $17,500.

Should the City Council choose not to allow the School District to add $78,240 to the  principal and interest line, the School District could examine its internal budget and look for savings from its operating budget.

Superintendent Terri Forsten said representatives from the School District are scheduled to meet with the Finance Committee of the City Council at 6:30 p.m. on October 15.

Should the City Council approve the additional loan payments, Emond said there would be a least two public hearings. If approved, he said the projects would go to an engineering company, out to bid, and likely take place next summer.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 02:38

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Ward 5 ballot box will be opened today

LACONIA — The 47 ballots cast on September 10 in the primary election for the City Council seat in Ward 5 will be recounted today at City Hall beginning at 4:30 p.m., as the result of a brief hearing before Justice James D. O'Neill III of Belknap Superior Court yesterday.

Dave Gammon, who believes former mayor Tom Tardif received enough enough write-in votes to earn a spot on the general election ballot, asked the court to order the recount. Tardif has yet to indicate whether he will be a candidate, saying that he would await formal notification from City Clerk Mary Reynolds.

"It's a family decision," he remarked.

The City Charter stipulates that the two candidates receiving the most votes for each office in the primary election shall advance to the general election in November. In Ward 5, incumbent City Councilor Bob Hamel, who ran unopposed in the primary, was declared the winner with 39 of 47 ballots cast. Although election officials reported no write-in votes for city councilor, a computer print-out indicates that three write-in ballots were cast in the race.

Gammon claimed that he, his wife and another woman cast write-in ballots for Tardif. Election officials reported that Tardif received three of four write-in votes cast for ward clerk, but none for city councilor. If Tardif received a majority of the write-in votes, he would be entitled to a place on the general election ballot, which he has ten days to either accept or decline. After the deadline for requesting a recount passed,

Gammon petitioned the court to order City Clerk Mary Reynolds, who otherwise has no authority to unseal and open the ballots, to conduct a recount. Attorney Laura Spector-Morgan, representing the City Clerk, endorsed the call for a recount, but also asked the court to require Tardif to decide whether or not to become a candidate "immediately upon completion of the recount."

When the parties appeared in court, O'Neill asked Gammon and Spector-Morgan to approach the bench, where he explained that, as in past matters to which Tardif was a party, he would recuse himself from the case. He asked Gammon and Spector-Morgan to draft an agreement to hold a recount then forward it to the Merrimack County Superior Court, which would order Reynolds to conduct it.

O'Neill said that a hearing on Gammon's request that the city reimburse him for his $278 in court costs would be scheduled in either Merrimack County Superior Court or Carroll County Superior Court at a later date.

Outside the courtroom, Spector-Morgan and Gammon reached an agreement, written in longhand, to recount the votes for councilor and ward clerk in Ward 5. When Spector-Morgan asked Tardif if he would make his decision once the recount was over he initially suggested he might defer his decision pending the outcome of the hearing on court costs. He said that Gammon should not have to incur expenses for protecting the integrity of a municipal election.

Later Tardif said that he would not tie his decision to the question of court costs.

However, when he and Gammon suggested that since Gammon paid to correct an error by election officials, the city should bear the cost, Spector-Morgan agreed to approach City Manager Scott Myers about picking up the tab. She noted that if the city simply paid his costs it would spare itself the costs arising from another court.

Reynolds said that she has drafted a letter to Tardif in anticipation that the recount will confirm he is entitled to a place on the general election ballot. She said that she will hand deliver the letter once the ballots are counted.

Reynolds said that the dispute has already delayed her preparations for the general election on November 5 by more than week. She said that if Tardif has not notified her of his decision by the end of this week, she will order the ballots to be printed and the machines programmed for Wards 1, 2, 3 ,4 and 6 on Monday. "I was trained to avoid paying the set-up fee twice," she said, explaining that to print and program for Ward 5 separately could add $500 or more to the cost of preparing election materials.

Reynolds said that she aims to print the general election ballots and distribute absentee ballots at least 30 calendar days before the general election.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 02:32

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Police investigating toddler's fall down stairs in Belmont home

BELMONT — Police remained at the Concord Street apartment building last evening where a 2-year-old girl fell down a flight of stairs and sustained a head injury earlier in the day.

Although authorities are releasing no information, the door to one of the apartments in Building 2 of the Belmont Village Apartments is sealed with crime scene tape.

Police and emergency responders from the Belmont Fire Department were called to the home yesterday morning after a report of the child falling down the stairs.

Dispatches heard over the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Association radio and later confirmed by Fire Chief Dave Parenti said the child was unconscious but breathing.

Parenti said it appeared as though she fell from the second floor to the first floor. He said the stairs were carpeted as was the floor where she landed and there was no apparent obstacles in the stairway.

He said he immediately called for a DHART helicopter and had hoped it could land in Belmont but said it was refueling and would fly to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia.

Parenti said they took the child to LRGH where she was stabilized by emergency room personnel and then flown by helicopter to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

He said the child's mother was at work and she was being cared for by an adult.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 02:19

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N.H. legal community honors the late Judge Perkins

LACONIA — Family, friends and former colleagues, including all five members of the New Hampshire Supreme Court gathered at the Belknap County Superior Courthouse yesterday to honor the late Presiding Judge Harold W. Perkins, who was remembered as a down-to-earth man who saw the human being in every person he met.

Those who spoke, recounted more than just Perkin's judicial acumen and his ability to mentor those who came with and behind him. All told comical "Harry" stories and recalled times they all shared drinks after work, listened to his fishing stories, and showed his love for New Hampshire.

N.H. Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis spoke first and pointed out yesterday's "glorious" weather. She said it was the kind of "vibrant and perfect day" that Perkins loved so much.

"He lived for the day and he lived for the moment," Dalianis said, saying Perkins was always one who never squandered time worrying about the things he couldn't control.

Perkins was admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1963 and was named to the Superior Court bench in 1988. He presided over the Belknap County Superior Court until his forced retirement at age 70 in 2006 and worked on his 70th birthday. After retirement those remembering him said he remained active as a mediator and mentor.

Dalianis also remembered the comical side of Perkins.

He loved fly-fishing she said, quipping that from 1999 to 2006 he tied $10,000 worth of fishing flies for some "extra-judicial" income.

"Since he was forced out, it's good he had those things to fall back on," Dalianis said, gently calling to the fore one of Perkins' pet peeves — the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.

Dalianis also remembered him as an "integral part of our bricks and mortar system."

"He loved the law, he knew its grandeur, and he knew what it could do for people," she said, adding he especially loved and appreciated the jurors who he always addressed personally rather than in formulaic jury instructions.

Yesterday, his veiled portrait was carried into the courtroom and placed on an easel near the judge's bench by a Sheriff's Department, Court Security honor guard and before it was unveiled, senior Court Security Officer Ray Wakeman rang the buzzer in the judge's chambers and declared, "All rise."

The judge's bench sat empty through Dalanis's remarks. After her, Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nedeau unveiled Perkin's framed photographic portrait — captured by former Citizen reporter Gordon King — before she briefly addressed the people who came to honor him.

Senior Asst. Attorney General Lauren Noether, who cut her teeth as the Belknap County Attorney during Perkins time on the bench in Laconia, read a letter that she wrote posthumously to Perkins thanking him for all of the legal and life lessons she learned from him.

She recalled that Perkins gave each defendant their dignity — even at their lowest moments. "Nobody left your courtroom feeling ignored," she said.

"Judge Perkins," she said to a framed photograph of him that presided over the courtroom. "You were a gifted judge of character...thank you for helping me grow."

Colebrook Atty. Philip Waystack remembered how Perkins loved fly-fishing in the North Country and how people in the north could always count on him to take the bench in Coos County when other judges were reluctant to do so.

He said above all else, Perkins was a great mentor, telling the nearly 150 attendees stories about how Perkins helped him learned the ropes when he was a young lawyer.

Judge Larry Smukler, who also acted as emcee, recalled his old friend with fondness and with laughter. He said Perkins always found something he liked about a case and that was because he liked people.

"I could always call Harry. His advice was always good," said Smukler, who told a story about Perkins final days and his visit to the rehabilitation center where the judge had convinced the nursing staff to let him have his one cocktail a night.

He said the two were sitting in Perkins's room, after Smukler had also been provided with a glass with ice and scotch by the nurses, and learned that Perkins had recently given advice to one of his nurses about how to get out of jury duty. And Smukler was the justice who excused her.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Gary Hicks recalled always being able to call Perkins for advice — even when he was presiding on the bench.

Hicks recalled one time that the bailiff slipped a note to Perkins after which he called a recess during his own trial to call Hicks and help him out with his.

"He called me back and got me out of a jam," Hicks said.

But it was former law partner and retired N.H. Supreme Court Judge Charles "Chuck" Douglas who knew him as well as anyone and had some wonderfully funny stories about the two of them.

He had the attendees laughing out loud as he told a story about being courtroom adversaries in Family Court during the time when the two had just met and a group of students from New England College was observing that day. He said Perkins refused to waive the reading of a complaint against his client, including all its salty language, regarding a domestic squabble.

Douglas said he was a little confused by that move but "if Harry wasn't waiving, he wasn't waiving" and he also asked for the clerk to read aloud the charges against his client, despite the fact the the squabble took place in a parking lot where each of their clients said the same things to each other.

"I got my first lesson in judicial marketing," Douglas recounted, saying the two went for a beer immediately after the hearing.

Douglas said Perkins told him to realize they were speaking in front of a group of students — some of whom were likely to need legal assistance some day — and that he should present himself as "somebody they'll want to call."

The two went into a legal partnership shortly after that.

He said he learned, most of all, that even after a person became a judge that he or she was to always remember that "once a lawyer... always a lawyer."

Douglas referred to Perkins as a Teflon judge in that it was rare to have one of his rulings overturned. "Even when he was wrong, he was right," said Douglas.
"Do what's right, do what's fair, and do what's just," Douglas said.

Perkins died on August 23, 2013. His two daughters, Tammy Lui and Linda Walsh, were among the many who honored him yesterday.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 01:51

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