Keeping bellies full

Boys & Girls Club now serving dinner to children

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — There was no question for Jim Holmes as to whether the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region should add an evening meal program.

"We were finding that a lot of our kids at our club were always asking for extra snack or fruit, or extra food to take home," he said. Holmes, branch director for the club, located on North Main Street in Laconia. He worried that some club members, after leaving the club at the end of the afternoon program, might not have another meal before they went to bed. And, he was certain that working parents would be relieved to know that they didn't have to put a meal on the table at the end of the day. But, until recently, the club just didn't have the necessary facilities.

The history of the local Boys & Girls Club stretches back to 1999 and includes three different names – it was originally called the Belknap County Teen Center – and five locations. However, the tumult now seems to be relegated to the past, as the club is now the owner of its location, the former St. James Episcopal Church, and a merger with the Boys & Girls Club of Central New Hampshire has provided stability and access to greater programs.

While the property is in an excellent location, within walking distance to schools and parks, and with 17,000 square feet and room to expand, it lacked in certain areas. So, when the club embarked on a $1.5 million fundraising campaign to purchase the property, some of that total was earmarked for facility upgrades.

About $100,000 went to the installation of a commercial-grade kitchen and renovation of the space that is now used as a cafeteria. Chris Emond, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Central New Hampshire, said that the funding came from gifts made by the Lois G. Roy Dickerman Charitable Foundation and T-Bones restaurant.

With that work completed, the club began serving dinner last week, and will be serving food every night from now on. The meal will always include an entree, vegetable, fruit, milk and bread. The food comes from the New Hampshire Food Bank, the entrees are assembled by Food Bank volunteers and need only be re-heated and served by club staff members. The club receives reimbursement from the federal government for each meal served, so the ongoing food service affects the club's bottom line little, if at all, while providing a healthy meal every day.

"Once it gets going, it really pays for itself," said Emond. About 60 children are eating dinner at the club each evening, Emond said after the club had been serving for a week, and the club will also send children home with food if they have to leave prior to the dinner service, or if there's someone at their home who could use the meal.

The Boys & Girls Club offers a space for children to go before and after school, five days a week, and during school vacations. The Laconia site features a gymnasium, art room, games room, computer lab and lounge. Emond said the club serves about 100 children, in grades kindergarten through 12, and has space for about 50 more. There's still more work yet to do to the facility, said Emond, adding that future campaigns will seek funds to renovate the building's lobby, install an elevator, improve the building's windows and doors, update the bathrooms and improve the playground.

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Isabella Peavey fills her plate with sweet and sour chicken, mixed vegetables and bread at the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region. The club began serving dinner this month, made possible thanks to renovations to the kitchen and cafeteria. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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At the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region, Jonathan Stebbins joined the 60 or so club members who welcomed the addition of dinner service, made possible thanks to renovations to the kitchen and cafeteria. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Olivia Hudson, Kendra Walter, Ondreya Myers, Tanya Benzevich-McNeil and Adaline Ross share a laugh during dinner at the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Work on Laconia’s Master Plan to resume after months of delays

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — After butting heads with the City Council over the preparation of the Master Plan for the past several months, the Planning Board has committed to working with the councilors to complete the plan. Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), who serves as the council's liaison to the board, told the council of the board's commitment this week.

At the same time, the council, which in November withheld further funding for preparation of the Master Plan, agreed to contract with the Lakes Region Planning Commission to complete the vision statement and land use chapter of the plan, the only two elements required by state statute.

The rift between the council and the board opened late last summer when the council referred a proposal to rezone the commercial resort district encompassing The Weirs, which the board summarily rejected. Warren Hutchins, who then chaired the board, insisted that any changes to zoning asserted its authority over zoning and insisted that no changes to zoning should be undertaken until the Master Plan was complete sometime in 2017.

In November, a divided council countered by withholding further funding for preparation of the Master Plan. In particular, the council shelved a contract with the Lakes Region Planning Commission to write the land use chapter of the plan. The council resolution expressed doubt that the Master Plan would tackle "the significant demographic and economic issues" facing the city, particularly the shrinkage of the middle class population and the diminished commercial tax base. Moreover, it pointed to the unwillingness of the Planning Board to engage in "a reasonable public discourse" about the proposal, to make changes to the zoning at The Weirs.

When the council met this week interim planning director Brandee Loughlin reviewed the progress of the Master Plan. Although work began in spring of 2014, only the vision statement and three chapters have been drafted while work on four chapters has not yet begun.

Mayor Ed Engler pointed out that only the vision statement and land use chapter are required and the remains in rough draft while work on the second stalled in April 2015. "I'm not leveling criticism at anyone who is the room tonight," the mayor said," but the only chapter required by law has not even been started." He said that work should proceed on the land use chapter "and nothing else," noting that $20,000 has been budgeted for the contract with the Lakes Region Planning Commission to write the chapter.

Engler stressed that the land use chapter "must have a purpose," namely to address the imbalance between the commercial and residential sectors of the city's tax base and to encourage the development of competitively priced housing. Likewise, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) said that the chapter should include "creative ideas" for meeting the demographic and economic challenges facing the city.

Jeff Hayes, executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, assured the council that the agency would work with the City Council and Planning Board to ensure that the chapter addressed the priorities set by the city.

Bill would add daylight to winter days by switching NH to Atlantic zone

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — In the short days of January, when it's dark before 4:30 p.m., the idea of moving New Hampshire into a different time zone with later daylight hours grows more compelling.
Such was the case for state Rep. Kevin Murphy, R-Bedford, who is sponsoring a bill to move New Hampshire a step closer to adopting Atlantic standard time.
House Bill 209, before the Executive Departments and Administration Committee, "provides that, if Massachusetts adopts Atlantic standard time, the state of New Hampshire shall also adopt the Atlantic standard time, the effect of which shall be to make daylight saving time permanent in both states."
Filed at a constituent's request, the legislation adds New Hampshire to a list of New England states pondering such a change.
Murphy said New Hampshire, from March to November, is already in the Atlantic time zone. With his legislation, once Massachusetts made the change, New Hampshire would follow suit, and from November to March, "we'd have an extra hour of daytime in the late evening."
The question, he said, is: "Do you want it to be light at 5:30 p.m. or 6:30 a.m.?"
Murphy said he became a believer in this proposal after experiencing the shock of adapting to the Granite State in the winter.
"Once the constituent called me, I thought back to when I moved to New Hampshire 12 years ago, I moved here from the mid-Atlantic area, it happened to be in January. I realized that my first day here it got dark at 4:30 in the afternoon. I thought that was astonishing," he said.
Aside from moving north, Murphy realized he also moved several hundred miles east, almost straight down from Nova Scotia, where Atlantic time is the standard.
"The more I think about it, the more I think it's a good idea. It's one of those bills that nobody thinks will ever pass, but I think we ought to at least consider it," Murphy said.

Not everyone is a fan of the idea. People who deal with travel and interstate commerce voice reluctance.
"Personally I think it would be very confusing for travelers departing from Boston or Portland, Maine, if New Hampshire were on Atlantic time. My preference would be to eliminate daylight savings for everyone," said Kim Terrio, with Penny Pitou Travel in Laconia (http://www.pennypitoutravel.com).

Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Merrimack, said she co-sponsored the New Hampshire bill based on a constituent request, "plus it sounded like a good idea. Massachusetts is considering it, which makes it feasible — we wouldn't want to be out of phase with our biggest market."
The Massachusetts Senate last year approved an economic development bill which created a commission to study Atlantic time and the impacts of exiting Eastern Standard Time. Signed by Gov. Charlie Baker last summer, this bill created a task force to study the perils and possibilities of a new time zone for Massachusetts.
Murphy said the ties between New Hampshire and Massachusetts justify making any change in New Hampshire contingent on a similar decision in Massachusetts.
"Without Massachusetts going in, it would be impractical," he said.
Ryan Lorrain, legislative aide for Maine Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, is heading up a similar effort in Maine.
Dillingham has sponsored a bill, "Resolve, Directing the Secretary of State to Request that the United States Secretary of Transportation Place Maine in the Atlantic Standard Time Zone." This bill is similar to legislation proposed in 2005 which failed in the Maine House by a narrow margin, Lorrain reported.
Lorrain maintains a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AtlanticTimeZoneForME, to promote the effort to move Maine into the Atlantic time zone, permanently implementing daylight saving time year round.
In an email, Lorrain explained that the Facebook page is a "side project" where he sponsors ads to gauge public interest and try "to get a pulse on how the public perceives our misfortune of being on the easternmost part of the Eastern Time Zone."
Lorrain reported, "The more I started digging into the topic, the more I started to realize that most people significantly are opposed to setting clocks back in the fall."
The feedback he has received is "encouraging," he reported.
The Maine bill creates a ballot question to be sent to the voters if the bill passes through the legislature.
"I think it's important to start the conversation, see what the benefits would be in having afternoon sunlight, as opposed to the morning and to find out where people stand. Also I believe it's important to make it clear that this will only put us on a separate time zone during the winter months, and then we'll be on the same time zone with Eastern during the summer. From a logical standpoint, the Atlantic time zone seems to be a much more appropriate fit for New England as a whole," Lorrain reported.
Lorrain expected to follow the progress made in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
According to the Boston Globe, "States can exempt themselves from daylight savings under the federal Uniform Time Act, but moving to a different time zone requires approval from Congress or the U.S. Department of Transportation, which must consider the effect on commerce."

 

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