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Council skeptical of master plan process

LACONIA — When Planning Director Shanna Saunders outlined "Reimagine Laconia," the process of soliciting public opinion preparatory to fashioning the Master Plan, to the City Council last night, she was met with skepticism.

Saunders explained that the process is based on the "Heart and Soul" approach of the Orton Family Foundation, which has awarded the city a grant to support the preparation of the Master Plan. This approach stresses the importance of plumbing "community values" to provide the context for generating the more specific ideas and steps in the plan intended to protect, enhance, restore or further those values.

Saunders described a number of steps the Master Plan Advisory Committee proposes to sound the values held by local residents. These include conducting formal interviews, encouraging customers of coffee shops and watering holes to write comments on coasters, inviting comments on a Facebook page and enticing pedestrians to visit at stations on the sidewalk. She anticipated that this first stage of the process would be concluded next spring.

After listening, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) said "we have to be grounded in the reality of today's economy and the demographic we have to work with."

Saunders replied that the process she described is intended to inform the mission and value statements of the plan, not the specific action steps in the areas of economic development, housing, transportation and so on. She emphasized the importance of engaging as large an audience in the process as possible. "This just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "It's to get started."

"I see the value in what you're doing," Lipman said, "but the hard stuff you need is coming too late. The concrete things we have to move much quicker. We've got to get moving on the hard stuff."

Saunders conceded that the last Master Plan, which was due to be complete in 2000, only began in 2003 and was not finished until 2007.

"The world is moving too fast," Lipman remarked. He feared that the process Saunders described would not ensure "that what we come up will be relevant. It's too slow to be relevant."

Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) expected that the next six months will be spent gathering the views of the public only to find that the same people expressed the same opinions as when the last master plan was drafted. For example, people will note the importance of the city's lakes and protecting water quality.

Saunders agreed "we expect to hear much the same thing as we've heard in the past," but said that the process would "confirm those values."

Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) wondered if the approach preferred by the Orton Family Foundation is the most appropriate for Laconia.

Saunders explained that in the past the lack of public participation in the master plan process has been a source of frustration. What she called the "paradigm" offered by the Orton Family Foundation represented a promising means of increasing engagement on the part of the public.

Lipman asked that the city council revisit the proposed schedule for the master plan. "I want another discussion about this," he said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 01:34

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Additional rape charge brought against Meredith man

FRANKLIN – A Meredith man who had been charged with one count of raping a girl under the age of 13 has been charged by Tilton Police on a single charge of multiple rapes against the same victim.

Mark Thurber, 42, was arrested by Meredith police Thursday afternoon on the warrant issued by the Tilton Police Department. He was ordered held on $75,000 cash-only bail after appearing by video before Judge Edward "Ned" Gordon late Friday afternoon.

Belknap County Deputy Assistant Attorney Carley Ahern said yesterday that Thurber was being held on $5,000 cash bail on a single count of rape charge by the Meredith Police.

She said pattern rape is when a person allegedly rapes someone under the age of 16 two or more times over a period of more than two months but less than five years.

Thurber had been held on $5,000 cash-only bail ordered by Belknap County Judge Jim Carroll on the Meredith charge. Bail documents show his bail had been posted.

As part of his bail conditions, Thurber had been ordered to report in person to the Meredith Police twice daily, which he had been doing.

Ahern said yesterday that she has information that Thurber was a volunteer with Children's Ministries. As part of Judge Carroll's initial bail order, Thurber can worship privately with his minister but is not allowed to attend any church services or functions. He can have no contact with anyone under the age of 16.

Thurber was also ordered by Judge Carroll not to go to Tilton or Campton and, should he post bail this time, those provisions will remain in place.

In both cases, the affidavits supporting the arrest warrant were sealed by the courts.

Thurber is scheduled for a probable cause hearing on the single Meredith rape charge on July 21. Ahern said he has a second probable cause hearing scheduled for the Tilton charge in early August.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 12:08

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Man dies at Ellacoya Beach

GILFORD — An unidentified man died yesterday after being pulled out of the water by lifeguards at Ellacoya State Park.

According to two women who witnessed the rescue, the man was with a group of co-workers, and at some point the others realized he wasn't with them.

They said one of the people in his party reported the man's absence to a lifeguard who went out on his paddle board and began looking for him.

They said the lifeguard found the man, yelled for help, and dove until he brought him up. Others called 9-1-1 and rushed to help. The man was brought to shore by lifeguards who performed CPR on him until ambulance crews arrived.

"We feel for the lifeguards," said one woman. "They did a great job."

The young people who tried to save the man were inconsolable and weeping while nearby adults and supervisors tried to help them.

Fire Capt. Rick Andrews said ambulance crews performed CPR until they got him to the hospital where the man was pronounced dead.

As of 5:15 p.m. Gilford Police and Marine Patrol were at the park speaking to witnesses and other members of the man's party.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 12:29

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Mass. man charged with indecent exposure in Gilmanton

GILMANTON — A Massachusetts man is free after posting $700 cash bail after his video appearance yesterday for indecent exposure and two count of stalking, stemming from an incident during the spring.

Affidavits obtained from the court said David Busa, 58, of Newton, Mass., exposed himself on a public street while at his second home on Valley Shore Road.

The victim said she came home from work on April 26, 2014, at 5:15 and sat in her driveway talking on the phone with a relative.

She said she noticed a man standing across the street staring at her house. She said she went inside and began to light a fire when she saw the same man standing in front of her house with his pants around his thighs.

She said he had turned sideways so she could see him and that he was touching himself.

On May 5, 2014, the victim filed a for a restraining order against him.

In her petition, she said this was the second time she had seen him masturbating in front of her house and the seventh time she had seen him standing outside of his house.

She told police that after she saw him on April 26, she called the Belknap County Sheriff's Office from her bedroom. Affidavits said when she returned to the living room after calling police, Busa was still there so she returned to her bedroom to wait for police.

She described him as her neighbor and gave police his last name. The victim said she knew his late father.

When police spoke to Busa, he allegedly became agitated. Then they returned the next day, Busa agreed to be photographed and the victim identified him as the man she saw outside.

Judge Jim Carroll also ordered that Busa sign a waiver of extradition and not return to Gilmanton until the matter is resolved.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 12:25

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