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Some Briarcrest residents skeptical that a cooperative could handle $10M of debt & still keep rents low & upkeep high

LACONIA — The impending sale of Briarcrest Estates has divided residents of the manufactured housing community. Some have formed Lakemont Cooperative in an effort to purchase the park for the tenants while others, apparently the majority, support the preference of the owners, Mark and Ruth Mooney of Belmont, to sell to a Florida corporation.

In July the Mooneys tentatively accepted an offer from Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC of Orlando to purchase the 183-acre park with 241 home sites for $10 million. However, state law entitles the tenants to make a counter offer by presenting a purchase and sales agreement within 60 days of the first offer.

On the eve of the deadline, Lakemont Cooperative, consisting of a minority of the residents, bid to acquire the park by matching the offer Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC. The statute grants the cooperative "a reasonable time beyond the 60-day period, if necessary, to obtain financing for the purchase" and, in the meantime, requires the owners to bargain in good faith with the cooperative.

Jim Cowan, president of the cooperative, insists "if we don't own the land, we don't control our destiny." In particular, he fears for the lease agreement, which limits the annual increase in park rents to the increase in property taxes and special assessments, such as the trash collection contract, and, at the discretion of the owner, the percentage increase in the consumer price index (CPI).

Orrie Gibbs, who has lived at Briarcrest for the past 21 years, is among those who favors the sale to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC. She doubts a cooperative can service the debt required to purchase the park without either raising rents beyond the limits set by the existing agreement or reducing operating expenses by cutting services, which would impair the quality of life in the community.

A real estate paralegal, Gibbs dismissed Cowan's concern for the lease agreement, claiming that "whoever owns the park must honor the lease agreement." Instead, she said that cooperative ownership posed a greater threat of higher rents.

Gibbs said that ROC-NH, a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which has assisted and financed the conversion of 107 manufactured housing parks to cooperative ownership, has proposed a financing package. The cooperative would borrow $5.1 million at near 5 percent for 20 years from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and make only interest payments for the first five years, but repay both principal and interest afterwards. She said the cooperative would likely refinance the loan after five years at a higher interest rates, noting that "rates have already begun to rise." A commercial lender, most likely a bank, would finance the balance of the purchase price at a market rate.

"I am concerned by the magnitude of the amount of money the cooperative wants to borrow," Gibbs said. Stressing that the lease agreement not only caps rent annual increases but renews automatically each year, she questioned how the cooperative could service a debt of $10 million while honoring the lease agreement. Furthermore, she noted that "the cooperative must make money, enough to pay its bills and keep reserve fund for unforeseen expenses."

Gibbs acknowledged that while parks have converted to cooperative ownership, most are much smaller with different lease agreements and, above all, incurred far less debt and far fewer expenses than would be required to acquire and maintain Briarcrest.

According to Gibbs, only a small minority of the 231 tenants at Briarcrest favor cooperative ownership. When the cooperative voted to submit a purchase and sales agreement, only 31 tenants voted, she said, and two of them voted "no." She said that when the Mooney polled the tenants 176 opposed cooperative ownership and favored the sale to Maple Holding and Redevelopment, LLC.

Last week, on the strength of the poll results, attorney John Giere, on behalf of the Mooneys, petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to find that they had met their obligation to bargain in good faith with both parties and that by refusing to accept the cooperative's offer they would not be liable to penalties. The statute provides that owners who fail to bargain in good faith may be subject to a penalty of $10,000 or 10 percent of the sale price, whichever is greatest, or in this case $1-million.

Attorney Brenda Smith-Weiss, who represents Lakemont Cooperative, said that she has not yet been served, but would prepare a response to the Mooneys' filing in due course.

Briarcrest Estates is located off Rte. 106, just outside the Laconia Bypass.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 02:24

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'Boo-Boo' told to leave N.H. & never come back

LACONIA — The Lowell, Massachusetts man who was featured in a HBO production about crack cocaine and former boxer Dicky Eklund was given suspended sentences in state prison for spitting on a Belmont Police Officer.

Gary "Boo-Boo" Giuffida, 58, of High Street in Lowell was also told never to come to New Hampshire again.

After pleading guilty in Belknap County Superior Court this week, Giuffrida was sentenced to 2-to-5 years — all suspended — in the New Hampshire State Prison for simple assault. On a second charge for exposing the officer to a disease by spitting in his face, Giuffrida was sentenced to 3-to-7 year prison sentence — all suspended.

The assault was triggered by Giuffrida's arrest in November of 2012 for receiving stolen property and fraudulent use of a credit card. After being processed at the Belmont Police Department, Giuffrida was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital where he spat in the face of one of the officers.

Giuffrida is HIV positive and was in a spit mask but the spittle reached the side of the officer's face.

The motion picture "The Fighter" was based on the live of Giuffrida's friend, the later boxer Dicky Eklund who was also from Lowell. Eklund and Giuffrida was also the subject of the HBO documentary "High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell."

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 02:17

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Gilmanton man guilty of sex assault on disabled man

LACONIA — A former Gilmanton man pleaded guilty in the Belknap County Superior Court on September 9 to two counts of rape for assaulting a disabled victim who is wheelchair bound in 2006 and 2007, while he was living in Gilmanton.

According to the Gilmanton Police, Roger Toutaint, 54, formerly of Leatherstocking Lane in Gilford but recently of Hillcrest Drive in Laconia, will serve five-to-10 years in the N.H. State Prison on one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault.

He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years on the second count which was suspended pending his good behavior for 20 years.

At the time of his arrest by Gilmanton Police in October of 2012, Toutaint was on probation for a different assault conviction stemming from a 2007 incident that involved a minor female.

One of the terms of his probation was that he take a mandatory lie detector test and it was during this test that he admitted to assaulting the disable man. During the ensuing police investigation, he provided Gilmanton Police with the details.

Both assaults occurred during the 2006 to 2007 time frame.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 01:57

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First ever N.H. Coffee Festival to be celebrated on Main Street on Saturday afternoon

LACONIA — The Main Street Initiative is anticipating that 34 vendors will be taking part in the first-ever New Hampshire Coffee Festival Saturday afternoon in Downtown Laconia.
''We're looking to make it a yearly event and draw people from all over the state,'' says Randy Bullerwell of All My Life Jewelers, a member of the sponsoring organization.
He said that the idea for the festival, which is sponsored by the Bank of New Hampshire, came from John Moriarty, president of the Main Street Initiative.
''John said that it looked like everyone was having a wine festival and that maybe we should try something different. He said that there were something like nine coffee roasters in the Lakes Region, three of them right in Laconia, and that it might be a good idea to have a festival to showcase their products,'' said Bullerwell.
Moriarty said that seven coffee roasters will be among the vendors, and that coffee in all its many guises, as well as "everything coffee," including popcorn, cup cakes, ice cream, gelato and even soap will be featured at the event, which runs right on Main Street from 1-5 p.m.
''There's going to be New Orleans cold-brewed coffee, cold lattes and hot espressos and all kinds of coffee treats, including truffles and fudge and three different kinds of coffee ice cream,'' says Moriarty.
He said that Harris Family Furniture will set up a tent with Coffee Niche kitchen furniture, which will be raffled off during the day.
Entertainment will feature the music of the Jonathan Lorentz Trio playing their own brand of what Moriarty called "coffee house jazz." The Grace Capital Church will stage the "Java Games," a series of coffee sack races, coffee bean bag tossing and coffee tic-tac-toe capped by a coloring contest. "There is something for all ages," Moriarty said.
D Squared Java of Exeter, will present an exhibition and host a competition of "latte arts," or carving decorations to embellish a cup of latte.
A symposium, headed by Claudia Barrett of CQ Coffee Roasters of Bedford, a licensed Q grader accredited by the Coffee Quality Institute who will explain the chemistry and alchemy of coffee while offering advice on how to brew the perfect pot.
A self proclaimed coffee and baseball geek, Barrett lives in Bedford, with her husband Jim, and, two children. A native New Englander, she rode out the coffee wave in the 1990s in Washington DC where she managed and helped launch a national coffee chain on the East Coast, as well as managed coffee quality and customer happiness for a local favorite coffee roastery. Her roasting apprenticeship was done at a small wholesale company called "The Daily Roast".
In April of 2013 she became a Licensed Q Grader. Licensed Q Graders are professional cuppers accredited by the Coffee Quality Institute. Q Graders must pass a rigorous three-day exam to earn their certification, comprising of 22 sections on coffee related subjects, such as green grading, roast identification, coffee cupping, sensory skills and sensory triangulation. There are currently only 2,500 Licensed Q Graders worldwide; roughly only 300 in the United States.
Claudia holds her degree in English from William Smith College. She believes her liberal arts education was the greatest gift toward her personal growth.
Moriarty said that "building community before commerce" is the mantra of the Main Street Initiative and a festival celebrating the most social and convivial of drinks provides an occasion for people to come together and share a common experience. At the same time, he said that the festival is part of the Main Street Initiative's fundraising campaign, which aims to enhance the holiday lighting downtown as well as provide a scholarship to a start-up business.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 01:30

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