Davis Place land sale on hold as planners object


LACONIA — The Planning Board will urge the City Council not to take steps to sell property on Davis Place owned by the city to abutting private landowners.

In response to offers to purchase portions of two lots, the council will hold a public hearing during its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Feb. 8, to determine whether to declare to declare any or all of the property "surplus," which would represent the first step in the divestiture process.

When the Planning Board met this week it board voted 8 to 1 to authorize Warren Hutchins, the chairman, to advise the council against declaring the lots surplus. City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), the council's liaison to the board, cast the lone dissenting vote.

Harry Bean seeks to purchase portions of 9,810 square feet of untended woodland straddling Jewett Brook, which adjoins the 0.13-acre house lot he owns at 32 Davis Place. Most of this land lies within a sprawling 1.67-acre lot owned by the city that fronts on Davis Place, stretches along the north bank of the Jewett Brook to the Winnipesaukee River and includes a sliver of land reaching from the south bank of the brook to Howard Street. Bean also seeks to acquire a strip of land, approximately 10 feet by 131 feet along the east side of a 0.15-acre lot, also owned by the city, that lies within the larger lot, which he would attach to the larger parcel.

Bean told the councilors he is rehabilitating the house at 32 Davis Place, where he expects his granddaughter to live. The land next door, he said, has been neglected and become a dumping ground strewn with televisions, shopping carts, mattresses and a place where people loiter. He stressed that he has no intention of developing the property, but wants only to clean it up and "just make it look nice."

Meanwhile, Lloyd Wylie, who owns the 1-acre lot at the far end of Davis Place that houses an apartment building, has made two offers to purchase portions of the 1.67-acre lot, which abuts his property to the east and south. One offer would include the portion of the lot abutting his lot to the south and fronting the Winnipesaukee River and Jewett Brook. Alternatively, he has offered to acquire the entire lot, except for the portion Bean has requested and the stretch on the south bank of Jewett Brook leading to Howard Street.

Both Bean and Wylie have agreed to pay the costs of surveying and conveying the property. the property, Like Bean, Wylie said that he wished only to maintain "a clean and safe environment for the community" by landscaping and policing the property as well as address a drainage problem without developing the lot.

City Manager Scott Myers said that Wylie indicated that if he acquired the property, he would be unwilling to grant the city an easement to extend the riverwalk along the Winnipesaukee River. Nor would he add significantly to the tax base by developing the property.

Hutchins became concerned when he read the legal notice of the public hearing, which indicated the council would consider declaring "all or a portion" of both lots as surplus property. When the board met this week, he asked for authority to speak in opposition to declaring the lots as surplus at the public hearing. He read a letter drafted to the City Council saying it would be "premature to divest a major piece of real estate in the downtown area" while the Master Plan was in the process of being updated. Moreover, he suggested several public uses for the land, including an extension of the riverwalk, a city park, a parking lot or a park and ride facility and closed by urging the council against declaring the lots surplus.

Bownes, whose ward includes the property in question, objected.

"What are you doing this for?" he asked. "This really sort of mucks up the works."

He said that the council had "multiple offers" for portions of both lots, but would not proceed without an appraisal of the market value of the properties involved.

"It's just premature," he insisted. "There's not going to be a wholesale sell-off of Davis Place."

When Hamilton McLean of the Planning Board suggested advising the council to delay a decision until the Master Plan is adopted, Bownes replied that "there is not a whole lot of warm and fuzzy feelings about the Master Plan at this point on the City Council." Asking for delay, he continued, "is not going to get you any traction with the City Council."

Hutchins insisted that for the Planning Board to offer its opinion would be "a very responsible thing to do." He said yesterday that "until there is an understanding of what to do with the whole property, don't cut it up."

Gilford/Shaker Gilford/Shaker football to move up to Division II, incorporate uniform changes become a Division II team


GILFORD/BELMONT – Some red striping is being added to the blue and gold uniforms, the ink is dry on the agreement and beginning next school year the Gilford/Belmont Golden Eagles will officially be a Division II football team.

Gilford School District Superintendent Kent Hemingway said yesterday that both his and the Shaker Regional School Boards have approved a two-year memorandum of understanding and both he and Shaker Regional Superintendent Maria Dreyer have signed it.

Hemingway said the combined student population of the two schools is greater than 1,000 putting the program in Division II. Gilford had previously been a Division III team.

The Gilford/Belmont students have been playing together since 2014 at the junior varsity level once the Shaker students were able to raise $7,500 for each year.

To play varsity-level football, the Shaker students needed to raise $15,000 per year – or about one-half of the costs of the entire football program.

According to Shaker parent and one of the leaders of the football effort Eric Shirley, the past few years have been very successful ones for raising money. He said earlier this week, that the $15,000 for the 2016 football season has been remitted and they are more than halfway to raising $15,000 for the 2017 season.

Shirley said they recently held a spaghetti dinner at Greenside Restaurant at the Lochmere Country Club that was the most successful of all three of their previous efforts. He said the sold 199 of the 200 Christmas trees at their most recent sale and that as the program has been becoming more popular, the fundraising efforts are growing.

Shirley said one of the more encouraging things he's seen recently is that more students from Canterbury are participating with the Gilford Youth Program which is a feeder program to the Gilford football team, but is wholly separate. He said it serves children from Gilford, Belmont, Gilmanton and now Canterbury and about 25 to 30 students participate in it.

Clauses in the recently signed MOU include that Gilford is the lead school, that Shaker will be considered in the naming of the team, the mascot and the uniform to which red striping is being added to represent the Red Raiders, and that Shaker will consider future agreements sponsored in the student's interest between the two schools.

The costs of the program will be split approximately 50-50. Hemingway said the entire program costs about $30,000 annually. Shaker students will provide their own transportation and the combination must be approved by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, which it was.

Belmont High School STEM program popular with students


BELMONT — Math and engineering teacher Dave McDonald was grinning from ear to ear as he sat in a conference room and displayed the not-yet-assembled pieces of a weather station commissioned by another teacher. His joy came from being with the five young students who designed the blocks in the first advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and engineering class taught by him at Belmont High School.

McDonald said his advanced students, most of whom were in the first semester of their sophomore year, had taken one block of STEM at the Huot Technical Center, had liked it, and had wanted to continue with the program and take the advanced class.

"They had already learned the basics and now needed to make a practical application," McDonald said.

But rather than sending the students back to the Huot Technical Center in Laconia, Superintendent Maria Dreyer looked through her budget and realized she could provide a similar program using SolidWorks, a 3-dimensional printing company with an education component the district could purchase, and, with McDonald as teacher, hold the advanced class at Belmont High School. He is teaching the initial STEM-engineering class to younger students this semester.

One of the keys to Dreyer's program was McDonald himself – a math teacher and former education director she recruited from the Christa McAuliffe Center three years ago.

The five students – Tommy Pare, Connor Jackson, Jason Clay, Logan Clough and Ian Remenar – examined the pieces of the weather station with an air of satisfaction.

They explained how they treated the weather station design like a business would treat any customer order. They had a customer who wanted a product. After an interview with him to see what exactly he wanted, they created the design using the SoftWorks technology, brought it back to the customer, did some revisions, and took it to Eptam Plastics for production after final getting customer approval.

The students said Eptam personnel made some specific suggestions, so they incorporated the alterations into the final design and Eptam Plastics made the components. MacDonald said he had just gotten the finished pieces from Eptam and would be assembling the weather station with the students at some point.
Jackson said they made use of McDonald's time during Belmont High School's "power hour" or a 45-minute to an hour period of time during the middle of the day when students can work outside of the classroom on projects with the guidance of their teachers.

One of the other projects for the advanced STEM-engineering class was trying to see how a 3-D printer would work on a space shuttle or in zero gravity.

The students also said that while they liked going to the Huot Technical Center, they also enjoyed taking their advanced class in Belmont, largely because it took less time out of their days to stay in Belmont, because of their access to power hour and because they like McDonald so much as a teacher. Dreyer said many of her eighth-graders are taking pre-algebra in middle school, so they come to high school ready to take the STEM-engineering elective.

Dreyer sees it as a win-win for the high school. She said the money the district saves by having its own STEM-engineering electives in Belmont allows her to send more students to the Huot Technical Center for some of their other programming. She said that with some reductions in the amount of reimbursements being sent to sending districts from the state to offset the costs of technical education adding this program was a way to keep the budget down.

She said the goal is to provide the best and highest number of electives for all of Belmont's High School students at the least cost to the taxpayer.

CUTLINE (Belmont Science Project) Teacher Dave McDonald and recent students of the Advanced Belmont High School STEM and Engineering Program, Tommy Pare, Connor Jackson, Jason Clay, Logan Clough, and Ian Remenar. In the middle is Superintendent Maria Dreyer – Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober

Belmont science teacher Dave McDonald and recent students of the Advanced Belmont High School STEM and Engineering Program, Tommy Pare, Connor Jackson, Jason Clay, Logan Clough, and Ian Remenar have been learning about 3D printing. In the middle is Superintendent Maria Dreyer – Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober