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South End business icon closing on Saturday

LACONIA — For as long as most people can remember, the Foley Oil Company's gas station has been across the street from Wyatt Park on the "V" corner at Route 106 and Garfield Street in the city's South End.

This Saturday, said Foley Oil Company President Jeff Pierson, the two-pump, full-service station will close because the environmental upgrades required to keep it open are too costly.

He said with no room on the corner to expand and build a store, there isn't enough profit in a gallon of gas to justify what could be as much as $100,000 in tank and pump upgrades that are mandatory for all gas stations by 2015.

"It's too bad," he said. "We have a lot of loyal customers."

Pierson emphasized that Foley Oil Company itself isn't going anywhere — they're just closing this one gas station. He said the station complies with all environmental regulations now but won't in 2015 when the new regulations take effect.

"We'll continue to operate our larger gas stations with stores in Bristol and Enfield."
He said those stations were upgraded and meet 2015 compliance standards.

At one point, said Pierson, he thought about opening a store along with the gas station but said he didn't have enough parking.

Pierson was nostalgic about the gas station though. "My wife wants to be the last person who fills up her gas tank," he said.

He said the gas station has been a part of his wife's, Katie "Foley" Pierson's life since she was a little girl. He said she told him when she was child she would go there and watch her grandfather and then her father pump gas and visit with the customers.

The pictures on walls of Foley Oil Company main offices — on the other side of South Main Street — show the history of Foley Oil and the gas station on the corner.

In one undated before Foley's opened, three grocers stand in the doorway of what used to be one of the old First National grocery stores. Stacked on either side of the doorway are sacks of flour with signs in the windows advertizing tomato catsup selling for the price of 2 for 25 cents, cans of pork and beans selling for 4 cans for 19 cents, and a loaf of sweet rye bread selling for 8 cents.

At some point, First National moved and the Foleys opened a gas station and automotive repair garage. Pierson said there is still a mechanic's bay in the building but the company uses it for storage.

The original Foley gas station is where Vista Supermarket is today and it sold Pan Am Gasoline — a company formed during WW I that was fueled by wartime gas demand and later by post-war automobile use. After a number of buyouts and scandals, what was left of Pan Am merged in the 1950s with Standard Oil of Indiana and became Amoco, which merged with BP in the 1990s.

Pierson said he didn't know what the Foley Oil Company was going to do with the property. He said the old tanks will be drained and the gas will either be brought to their bulk storage facility in Belmont or used in another Foley Oil gas station.

The tanks will be removed from the ground as is required by state and federal law but beyond that, he said the company hadn't made any decisions.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 02:08

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Still under scrutiny to meet residency requirement, Tilton-Northfield fire chief quits to take #2 job in Gilford

GILFORD — For the second time in the past three years a chief has left the Tllton-Northfield Fire Department for the position of deputy chief in Gilford. Yesterday the Board of Fire Engineers here announced the appointment of Brad Ober, chief of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department, as deputy chief of the Gilford Fire Department.

"I couldn't be more pleased," said Chief Stephen Carrier, for whom Ober served as a captain when he was chief of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department before becoming deputy chief in Gilford in 2010. "Brad quickly rose to the top of our hiring process," Carrier said, adding that Ober will assume his duties on October 15..

Noting that Ober served as chief of the Ashland Fire Department before joining the Tilton-Northfield department, Carrier said that "his experience as a fire chief in two different communities and his extensive fire prevention background makes him tremendously valuable to our department and our community,"

Paul Auger of Northfield, who chairs the Tilton-Northfield Fire District Commission, said that the commissioners had yet to receive a formal letter from Ober tendering his resignation and declined to comment. Likewise, Commissioner Pat Clark only learned of Ober's appointment when it was announced by Carrier. He said he had "no idea" that Ober was seeking a position with another department, but added, "if this is an opportunity to advance his career and he will be happier somewhere else, I'm all for it and wish him the best."

However, Pat Consentino, who chairs the Tilton Board of Selectmen, called Ober's departure " a profound loss to this community, profound. Brad dedicated his career to our community with the utmost commitment and professionalism." She confessed herself "totally baffled" by the behavior of the Fire Commissioners, particularly Pat Clark, which she believes led to Ober's resignation. "Shame on them, shame on them," she said.

As chiefs of the Titlon-Northfield Fire Department both Carrier and Ober had trying relationships with the commission. Carrier found himself in the midst of a dispute between the two towns over the prospect of constructing a life-safety building to house the Tilton Police Department and elements of the Fire Department, which led the Northfield selectmen to force a vote to dissolve the fire district that was soundly rejected in 2010.

Ober's tenure as chief was dogged by his difficulties in complying with the commission's requirement that he establish residency within the district. Unable to sell his home in New Hampton, he rented an apartment in Tilton on the eve of the deadline on January 2 to avoid the risk of dismissal. But, the issue lingered, emerging again in June when, according to minutes of a commissioner's meeting, Clark said that "people have complained the chief is coming in to work from up north on a regular basis" and he "invited them to come into talk about it." Clark said that without a formal complaint it would remain a "non-issue," but, echoed by Commissioner Les Dolecal, recommended monitoring the mileage on the chief's car.

"I think that must have been the last straw," said Consentino.

Although the commission has not discussed the procedure for appointing a new chief, Auger said that he expected the residency requirement would be among the conditions of employment. "It was one of the biggest things last time," he remarked.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 02:22

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Belmont to seek LCHIP grant to help restore village green bandstand

BELMONT — Selectmen have voted to endorse a grant application for restoration work and other improvements to the town bandstand downtown.
Belmont Heritage Commission Chairman Linda Frawley told the selectmen at their meeting last night that she is in the process of applying for a grant under the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.
Frawley told selectmen she hopes the grant will help cover the cost of new cedar shingles for the bandstand's roof, removal of lead paint and repainting of the 105-year-old structure, upgrades to some of the electrical fixtures and wiring, and replacement of some of the decorative finishes. All told, Frawley estimated the cost of the work would be around $35,000.
The bandstand was moved yesterday to a spot behind and to the south of the town library as part of the Belmont Village revitalization, which is designed to energize the village area through improvements and renovations.
If the LCHIP application is approved, the program would pay for half the cost of the work with the other half being matched by local sources – $8,750 from the town and another $8,750 from the Heritage Commission, Frawley said.
The selectmen unanimously approved endorsing the application with little discussion and authorized Town Administrator K. Jeanne Beaudin to sign any documents related to the application on behalf of the town.
In other business, selectmen voted to unanimously to amend the town license application regarding utility poles to make explicit the town has the right to tax the poles as property under the terms of existing state law.
The action was prompted by a suit filed by telecommunications utility FairPoint against 200-plus communities statewide, including Belmont. FairPoint contends since the company pays the state's telecommunications tax, allowing its poles to also be taxed by communities constitutes double taxation. But proponents of the tax argue that since the communities already tax the poles belonging to electric utilities it is unfair not to allow them not to tax FairPoint's poles.
Beaudin said under the terms of state law, Belmont taxes public utilities for their poles as well as for the use of the rights of way through which their lines run. She was not immediately able to provide the number poles which FairPoint owns in Belmont. However, she said that the total value of its poles and right-of-way use amounts to $1,147,000, for which the company is being taxed $24,899 in the latest tax year. She said FairPoint has paid the tax, but that the payment has been appealed.
A public hearing on the utility pole issue which preceded the vote drew no participants.
NOTE: Beaudin said she is in the process of drawing up requests for qualification for architectural services to look at possible uses for the Belmont Mill. She said she hoped to advertise the requests in October or early November and said her goal is to advertise it widely in hopes of getting multiple bids.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 03:17

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Football camp hazing episode being investigated

MOULTONBOROUGH — Police are investigating an alleged hazing incident that occurred at a local summer camp on or around Aug. 23, in which players from the football team at Chelmsford, Mass., High School were involved.

Detective Stephen Kessler and School Resource Officer Jody Baker are conducting the investigation with the assistance of the Chelmsford Police Department. Moultonborough Police Sgt. Peter Beede said that all those subject to investigation are juveniles, and as the investigation is in progress, no further details will be disclosed.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 03:08

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