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Hands Across the Table hosts first diner at temp location

LACONIA — Hands Across the Table (HATT), now in its second full year of providing a free community dinner every Tuesday, held its first event in its temporary home at the St. Andre Bessette Parish Parish Hall on Gilford Ave. last night.
The non-profit organization had been holding its weekly meals at the former St. James Episcopal Church, now the location of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, until recent vandalism forced the facility's temporary closure.
Fr. Marc Drouin of the St. Andre Bessette Parish offered the organization the use of its facilities and Kyril Mitchell, president of the Hands Across the Table board of directors, said it was greatly appreciated.
''We knew they were in the middle of the repair process at the club and wanted to be out of their way while they completed it,'' said Mitchell, who expects that it will be some time in January before Hands Across the Table will be back at its old location.
Last night about 85 people showed up for the meal, soup, lasagna, vegetables and dessert, despite a winter storm which moved in late in the afternoon.
''This is all the work of volunteers,. We have about 200 people we can call on' said Mitchell, who says that Hands Across the Table receives assistance from 10 local churches, eight clubs and organizations and additional contributions of food and funds by area banks, retail food businesses and several anonymous donors.
Dinner service is performed by the volunteers whose goal is to make each Tuesday dinner a body and soul satisfying event for the attendees.
In rotation, each of the sponsoring churches and organizations is responsible for a dinner including the food preparation, service and clean up. It takes more than a dozen volunteers to complete a weekly service that always includes a greeter, dining room manager and multi-course table service.
Dinners are planned around quality menus, including beef stew, chicken cacciatore, meatloaf, corned beef , appropriate side dishes, vegetarian dishes and of course, desserts.
Mitchell says that Chef Lou Gaynor and Assistant Chef Tammy Fontaine are always creative in their use of ingredients and focus on planning nutritious meals with an emphasis on high quality protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
''Each meals costs $1.69. That covers not only the food, but all our other expenses, including insurance,'' says Mitchell. He says that after everyone is served seconds are offered and that leftover food is packaged so that those at the meal can bring it home with them.
''We served over 6,000 meals in our first year and have developed a large group of people who show up just about every week. And it's not just the food, but also about the friendships and sense of community these meals help create,'' says Mitchell.
Among the regulars at the meal are Matthew and Cindy Grady, whose 5-year-old son, Jayden, who attends kindergarten at Elm Street Elementary School, provided some entertainment at Tuesday night's meal by singing ''Santa Claus is Coming to Town'' and several other Christmas songs.
''It's just like family to us here. We love the people we've met and got to know since we've been attending these dinners'' said Cindy Grady.
Matthew Grady says that his son loves to sing and play the guitar and that the meals provide a real sense of community for all those taking part.

Gaynor said ''It's wonderful that Fr. Marc Drouin was able to offer us facilities to feed our guests who look forward to this hot meal each week. We are serving greater numbers of guests each week and during the cold weather and holidays it is even more important that we make the weekly dinner available to all who wish to attend. We look forward to returning to our friends and hosts at the Boys and Girls Club as soon as repairs are completed."
Hands Across the Table will hold its second meal at the Parish Hall on New Year's Eve and is gearing up for a big crowd to come through the doors for the 5 p.m. meal.


Kitchen crew for Hands Across the Table at it first meal at St. Andre Bessette Parish Parish Hall, where the weekly Tuesday night night meal has temporarily relocated, were Pam Lapointe, Debbie Frawley Drake, Chef Lou Gaynor, Don Morin and Assistant Chef Tammy Fontaine. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 02:11

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Construction manager hired to complete LHS renovation projects

LACONIA — The tentative scope of the $1.8 million renovation of the high school made possible by a federal grant administered through the state Department of Eduction is to sprinklered the entire building and replace the ventilation systems in the center portion of the building where there are no windows, in the library, and in the auditorium.

The above three ventilation systems were included in the original Huot Center renovation project but had to be eliminated for cost reasons.

School administrators said they will also hire local engineering contractor Rist-Front, Shumway to do the engineering.

RFS, said School Business Administrator Ed Emond to the Facilities Committee of the School Board last night, was the firm for the recently completed Huot Center project and was intimately familiar with the LHS campus already.

The school will use a "construction manager" system of project management this time around, using Harvey Construction of Bedford.

Harvey will bid individual components of the job with oversight from the school administration.

Emond said this made sense because the project has a short time frame — it will begin in April of 2014 and hopefully be done by September of 2014. School Board members agreed.

School officials said they would meet with state and local fire officials to see if the entire building must be sprinklered. If not, they may re-purpose some of the no-interest loan to ventilation.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 02:03

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3rd piece of Snake River west bank offered for conservation easement

MEREDITH — The grant of a third conservation easement promises to forestall development along nearly the entire west bank of the Snake River, which runs for little more than a mile between Lake Winona and Lake Waukewan, enhancing protection of the quality of the town's water supply.

Speaking to the Board of Selectmen at a workshop this week, Mark Billings, chairman of the Conservation Commission, said that Donald and Patricia Bergeron of New Hampton have offered to 5.09 acres, with 720 linear feet of riverbank, of their 11-acre property, to the town as a gift in memory of Donald's mother. The town of New Hampton will take ownership of the land while the Meredith Conservation Commission would hold the conservation easement.

Billings described the property as a wetland that would not support either development or recreation. "It is not a buildable lot," he said.

The partnership between the two towns mirrors the arrangement for owning and managing two other properties along the river. In 2010, the towns, together with the Waukewan Shore Owners Association, which is now known as the Windy Waters Conservancy, purchased 8.57 acres with 2,841 feet of frontage on the river from Jacqueline Spear. Earlier this year the partners acquired 8.1-acres with 1,480 feet of shoreline abutting the Spear property to the south, formerly owned by Elizabeth Clingan Baird, with a $100,000 grant from the Aquatic Resources Mitigation Fund administered by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and $30,000 in matching funds. Like the Bergeron bequest, New Hampton owns both the Spear and Baird properties, on which the easements are held by the Meredith Conservation Commission.

With the Bergeron property , which abuts the Spear property to the north, some 5,000 feet of contiguous riverfront will be protected in perpetuity. Meanwhile, Center Harbor has designated the west bank of the river as a prime wetland, affording it protection under state law. Billings explained that the Meredith Conservation Commission has contributed $10,000 toward developing a stewardship plan for all three of the parcels on the west bank of the river.

Apart from heavy runoff and rains in the spring, the Snake River, which is choked with vegetation, flows sluggishly, making navigation challenging. However , Billings stressed that the river serves as a filter, capturing impurities that flow into the Lake Winona watershed, which sprawls over 3,317 acres.

Selectman Herb Vadney noted that the riverbank lies in New Hampton and questioned why Meredith would "get entangled" in the project. Selectman Nate Torr, who chairs the board, replied that "this is a partnership, not an entanglement" while Billings said the conservation easements held by Meredith ensured that this source of the municipal supply would forever be safeguarded from development.

At town meeting in 2009 the voters of Meredith authorized the Conservation Commission to contribute to qualified organizations to purchase property as well as to apply its funds to acquiring land beyond the town lines.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 01:54

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Free State Project celebrity arrested for DUI by Laconia police

LACONIA — A self-proclaimed anarchist associated with the Free State Project spent Friday night in the Belknap County House of Corrections after refusing to cooperate with a police officer who stopped her after she allegedly ran a red light.

According to Laconia police logs, Amanda "Billyrock" Johnson, 27, of 105 Windsong Ave. in Manchester is charged with one count of disobeying an officer, one count of resisting arrest, one count of transporting alcoholic beverages (for allegedly having an open container containing alcohol in her car), driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and possession of controlled drugs.

Johnson allegedly refused to tell police her name or cooperate with the police.

For the next 12 hours, Internet sites associated with the Free State project and other libertarian causes buzzed with tales of Johnson's "kidnapping" by the Laconia Police and subsequent "caging" at the Belknap County House of Corrections — where she was taken after she allegedly refused the services of a bail commissioner. Readers of the sites were urged to call the county jail in protest.

Johnson, whose Internet name is "Amanda Billyrock", is referred to online as an "epic figure" in the libertarian world. She calls herself an anarchist and has said she came to New Hampshire to join the Free State movement and liked it here. She is from Utah.

At one point, she moved to New Zealand because police there don't carry guns and stayed for a period before returning to the United States. One of her webcasts said she moved to New Hampshire after attending a Free State event earlier this year.

A video filmed by one of the other people in the car during her encounter with police was posted to YouTube but has been removed — apparently by Johnson. A statement on her Facebook page yesterday said she was preparing to issue another statement within 24 hours.

Johnson's lawyer, Seth Hipple of Concord, said yesterday that Johnson had a valid Utah driver's license and a New Hampshire registration for her car and gave them to the police officer who stopped her. Hipple said his client's birth date is on both documents.

He said she was not intoxicated and the drugs in her possession were prescribed to her by her physician. As to the open container charge, he said Johnson didn't have an open container and was unaware if one of her two passengers did.

He also said he was the one who advised her to take down the video that had been posted on her Facebook page.

He said she complied with the police to the degree the Constitution requires and did not talk to them, which he said is her right.

When contacted yesterday, Police Chief Chris Adams initially didn't know who Amanda Johnson was. After being told, he said his officers treated her the same way they treat anyone who allegedly commits similar violations and misdemeanors.

Beyond that, he said he didn't have anything to add.

Belknap County Superintendent Daniel Ward said Johnson was incarcerated for a little over 12 hours. He said she initially refused bail but when her lawyer arrived Saturday afternoon she agreed to cooperate.

Video posted recently to the Free Keene website ("A New Hampshire Liberty Activism Destination") show an anchorman sitting at a desk in front of a map of the world appearing to have a phone conversation with a Laconia police supervisor about Johnson's arrest. The supervisor didn't answer any of the man's questions. It is not known from where the man was broadcasting.

A second website hosted by Copblock aired a second conversation a caller had with a person who answered the phone at the Belknap County jail.

Ward said the jail employees got about six phone calls from individuals another two from newspapers and another two from television stations — most of them from the Midwest.

"No big deal," he said.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 04:53

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