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Governor in city to talk workforce development

LACONIA — The paucity of skilled employees, together with the high cost of health care and energy, were the dominant themes when some 20 business executives and public officials from the Lakes Region joined Governor Maggie Hassan for a business roundtable hosted by Lakes Region Community College yesterday.

The governor opened the meeting by remarking on the appointment of Carmen Lorentz, the executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, as director of the Division of Economic Development, noting that for want of funding interim directors had filled the position for the past five years.

Jeff Rose, commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, welcomed Lorentz aboard, noting that he first met her at a business roundtable at the college a year ago.

Hassan reviewed a number of initiatives to strengthen the economy that were taken in the 2014-2015 biennial budget, including the restoration of funding for both the university and community college system as well as increased appropriations for international trade assistance and travel and tourism.

The capital, she said, provided funds for the "business one-stop" project, which will enable new and expanding firms to navigate the state's regulatory, permitting and tax requirements from a single website.  In addition, Hassan said that the research and development tax credit was doubled and, for the first time, made a permanent provision of the business tax code.

When the discussion began Tyler Stone of Webster Valve, Inc. of Franklin at once spoke of the challenge of attracting employees with aptitude and skills manufacturers require, noting that recruitment has dwindled over the 15 years since Franklin High School eliminated "shop".

Dave Warrender, the director of the Huot Regional Technical Education Center at Laconia High School, said that  enrollment in the manufacturing program has grown 20 percent, but acknowledged that it was difficult to accommodate students from Franklin because of the travel time. He suggested that if students interested in pursuing the program were enlisted earlier, in the lower grades, they could plan their curriculum to complete the program in their junior and senior years.

Jim Aberg of the Franklin Business and Industrial Corporation said that more must be done to dispel misconceptions that jobs in manufacturing are marked by repetitive work at low ages in dreary conditions. Advanced manufacturing, he said, employs sophisticated skills in clean facilities while paying high wages and providing a career path. However, at the same time he conceded that many workers are not "showing up on time and passing the pee test."

The governor recognized that substance abuse poses a challenge for many employers.

Rose said that his agency offers a "work ready program" designed to instill behaviors appropriate and expected in a variety of different work places.

With much of the conversation centered on manufacturing, Alex Ray of the Common Man Family of Restaurants, said he felt like "a fish out of water." He stressed that while the hospitality sector was often the first workplace for young people it also provided a variety of genuine career opportunities.

Rusty McLear of Hampshire Hospitality Holdings, noted that an internship program introduced in Meredith. where the Greater Meredith Program partnered with Inter-Lakes High School, has enrolled 61 interns.

Switching gears, the mayor of Laconia, Ed Engler, turned the discussion to health care. He said that high and rising cost of health insurance was a "drag on wages and salaries" and asked if employers should consider significantly increasing compensation, but no longer providing health insurance and instead referring employees to the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act.
Senator Andrew Hosmer of Laconia, the general manager of AutoServ, expressed concern that some employees, especially younger workers, would not apply their increased earning to purchasing health insurance. At the same time, he said that benefits were an important means of recruiting employees that firms would be reluctant to relinquish.

Andrew Curland of Vitex Extrusion of Franklin, a manufacturer with 100 employees, said that if he was starting afresh, he would not open a business in New Hampshire, citing the high cost of energy, which is twice that of New York, and health insurance. Nevertheless, he counted the challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified employees as "the biggest impediment to growth."

Barry Wilk of New Hampshire Ball Bearing agreed that energy and health care costs are high and anticipated that they would remain high relative to those in other states. Consequently, he said that developing and training "an agile and skilled workforce" was particularly important for New Hampshire firms as a means of offsetting a share of those costs over which they have little control.

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 January 2014 01:35

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Gun allegedly goes off during Laconia pistol whipping

LACONIA — A local teen is being held in jail on $25,000 cash-only bail after discharging a gun he was allegedly using to beat a man he said had hit his sister.

Parker Cathcart, 19, of 124 Winter St. is charged with one count of first-degree assault, one felony count of criminal threatening, and two counts of felony-level reckless conduct for placing another in danger.

According to police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, police went to 10 Estates Circle (off Blueberry Lane) at 3:19 a.m. for a report of criminal mischief.

Once there, someone asked them if they were there for the gunshots. Police saw a circular hole in the glass of the foyer of the apartment building that was consistent with a bullet hole.

Police found a man in the apartment — the victim — who had facial injuries and who told them Cathcart and his mother had come to his apartment building. He said he went down when they rang the buzzer and that he knew them.

The victim told police that Cathcart came into the lobby and said, "You want to hit my sister?" while he pressed a gun he had just cocked up against his face. He said Cathcart swung the gun and hit him in the face. The gun discharged when Cathart allegedly hit the victim and the bullet went out the foyer door.

He said Cathcart threatened him and then left with his mother and sister, who was also in the lobby at this time.

The victim said he found the spent round on the floor and brought it to his apartment and his girlfriend put it in a drawer. Police said they recovered the bullet.

Police said they went to Cathcart's mother's house and learned he was living on Winter Street. While at his mother's house, she told them she had gotten a phone call from her daughter who said she was at the victim's apartment and he had assaulted her. She said her daughter asked her to come get her because she had been drinking and didn't want to drive.

Cathcart's mother said she went to pick up her son (Cathcart) because she needed someone else to drive her daughter's car.

Affidavits said the mother told police that when she arrived on Estates Circle, she saw her daughter standing in the foyer of the apartment building. She said she, Cathcart, and her daughter wanted to confront the victim about the alleged assault and stood in the foyer when the victim came down from his apartment.

Cathcart's mother told police she saw her son reach out and grab the victim's by the neck but never knew he had a gun until she heard it fire. She also told police the bullet went into the area where she and her daughter were standing.

Police said her daughter's statement was that she didn't remember much of what happened in the foyer but told police her "brother has a temper" and the three left when they heard the gunshot. She remembered being in the foyer near where the gun discharged.

During the interview with Cathcart's mother, police learned where the gun might be and that at one point it may have been with Cathcart's father. A gun was recovered but where, from whom, and if it is the gun that was fired is not known by The Daily Sun at this time.

Police went to Cathcart's Winter Street address and arrested him without further incident. Affidavits said he invoked his right to be silent and didn't speak to the police.

In court yesterday afternoon, the city prosecutor asked for $50,000 cash-only bail. Cathcart's public defender requested $1,000 and said Cathcart would abide by any bail restrictions. She also said he has asthma and required medication that often includes a nebulizer. She said she feared her client wouldn't get the medical treatment he needs in jail.

Judge Jim Carroll said he was "chilled" by the thought of someone putting a loaded gun up to another's head and ordered Cathcart held on $25,000 cash-only bail.

Should he post bail, Cathcart is ordered to live with his mother in Gilford, not drink any alcohol or take non- prescribed medication, and to obey a curfew. He is not to possess any firearms.

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 January 2014 01:27

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Alleged Union Cemetery equipment thief arrested in Alton

ALTON — The U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task force has arrested a former Pittsfield man who city police believe was involved in the theft of some landscaping equipment from the Union Cemetery in June of 2013.

Jeffrey Nickerson, 29, is charged with one count of theft from a building, one count of burglary, and one count of theft of a motor vehicle — a motorcycle.

Nickerson, who was wanted on outstanding warrants from Pittsfield and Barnstead, was found Thursday night hiding behind a bureau in a Main Street apartment in Alton.

He was apprehended by the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force with the assistance of the Alton Police Department.

He appeared by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday and was ordered held on $5,000 cash on the Laconia charges. Nickerson is being held in the Merrimack County House of Corrections.

Police affidavits regarding the Laconia charges said police detectives interviewed Nickerson on October 31 and said he admitted to several thefts in the area, including the thefts and burglary at the Union Cemetery.

He told the investigator that he and another person he declined to identify went to the cemetery at 5:30 a.m. on June 2 posing as landscapers. He said they stole two high-end lawnmowers, blowers, chainsaws and backpacks and brought them to a friend's house on Bay Street.

Information from a second Laconia affidavit stated that on July 31, a different Laconia officer took a statement from Nickerson in which he confessed to stealing a Harley-Davidson Road King from an employee at Granite State Glass on South Main Street on July 5. He said he drove the motorcycle to a Jefferson Street house where he got a couple of grams of methamphetamine and $300. He said he wasn't completely sure what he got for the motorcycle.

Affidavits also indicate Nickerson told police he stole things to support his drug habit.

Captain Bill Clary said yesterday they were holding off on arresting Nickerson because they were hoping to get more information from him about who his accomplices were and where they could recover the lawn equipment and the motorcycle. He said the lawn equipment has not been recovered. The Daily Sun has no information about the motorcycle.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Jeffrey White said Nickerson had contacted investigators on numerous occasions and had indicated his willingness to turn himself in. When he missed repeated opportunities to surrender and the task force learned he was in Alton, they went to get him.

Nickerson also faces outstanding warrants in Barnstead and Pittsfield.

Sgt. Joseph McDowell said police had information that Nickerson — who was convicted of three counts of sexual assault in Massachusetts — was living in Barnstead between the dates of June 1 and June 12 and failed to report his address to police. They got a warrant for his arrest.

Pittsfield Sgt. Richard Walter said Nickerson was wanted on two outstanding warrants for failing to register in his community. Police also had a warrant for his arrest for one count of burglary, one count of theft of a motor vehicle, and one count of escape — he allegedly ran from Pittsfield Police while he was in their custody.

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 January 2014 01:17

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Couple that summered in Laconia donates $400,000 to Boys & Girls Club fund drive

LACONIA — Gladys and Tony Sakowich have no children of their own, but through their extensive and thoughtful generosity, the couple is blessed with a large and ever-growing adoptive family that now includes the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region.

Married in 1955 in the former Our Lady of the Lakes Church of Lakeport, the Sakowiches, who once had a seasonal home in Laconia but now reside year-round in Andover, Massachusetts, recently donated $400,000 to the Boys and Girls Club.

Late in 2013, club officials announced that they are seeking to raise $2.4 million to purchase and transform the former St. James Episcopal Church campus on North Main Street into the club's first real and permanent home.

"The kindness of the Sakowiches is astounding, we are stunned and delighted," said Chris Adams, who is president of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region and the chief of the Laconia Police Department. "We are honored, we are grateful and we are just so happy that our efforts to build a 'forever home' have gotten off to such a wonderful start," Adams added.

Adams pointed out that the Sakowiches are no strangers to helping a variety of causes that help others.

In 2012, the Sakowiches were honored by the Andover Village Improvement Society for donating their nine-acre homestead on Oriole Drive to the society and, ultimately, to the public, which for years, with the welcome of the Sakowiches, has hiked, snow-shoed and cross-country skied on the property.

Not far from what is now known as the Sakowich Reservation is Merrimack College in North Andover, which is home to more of the Sakowiches' largesse: the 130,000-square-foot Gladys Sakowich Campus Center whose amenities include the Anthony Sakowich Recreation Complex.

Also supporters of the Merrimac Valley Boys and Girls Club in their home state, the Sakowiches have previously been identified by the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region at the club's June 2013 Community Leaders Breakfast as major donors to its upcoming capital campaign, but only within the past week has the size of their donation been made public.

Addressing the Sakowiches in a video message, Al Posnack, who chairs the Capital Campaign Committee, told them that while many of those at the breakfast didn't personally know them, the nonagenarians nonetheless are "part of the family to us."

Paul Gaudet, Sr., who is the founder of the AutoServ family of automotive dealerships, and has known the Sakowiches for decades as friends and neighbors, explained that about four years ago he was approached by Tony Sakowich who informed him that he and his wife were selling their vacation home in Laconia.

Before Sakowich and his wife departed the Lakes Region, however, Tony — who many years ago developed the process to manufacture kitchen laminates and who counted the Sears and Formica companies as customers — told Gaudet that he wanted to leave a legacy to the area, stressing that "You know, I love the Boys and Girls Club. Let's do something for them."

Soon after that conversation, a trust fund was established to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, whose directors, after exploring several possibilities, including building a brand-new facility from the ground up, decided to purchase and renovate the St. James property.

The Sakowiches are "just wonderful caring people," said Gaudet, who is trustee of their boys-and-girls club trust fund. "This is what they do. They're just huge givers."

Gaudet told the attendees at the Community Leaders Breakfast, who included New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, that Gladys Sakowich instructed him to tell them that she and her husband "don't want any praise," since the real work was done by others,

Posnack, in introducing Gaudet to the audience, respectfully disagreed.

"Their generosity," Posnack said of the Sakowiches, "has made it possible for us to be here."

For more information about the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region or to make a tax-deductible donation to its capital campaign, contact the club at 528-0197 or go to www.lakeskids.org.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 10:09

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