Sale of Colonial Theater to BEDC closed on Friday

LACONIA — "This is the first step of many," said Randy Eifert, who chairs the Belknap Economic Development Council, after announcing yesterday that 609 Main Street, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the organization completed its acquisition of the property housing the historic Colonial Theatre.

The 3-building property was purchased for $1.4 million from Patricia Baldi, whose late husband Lawrence acquired it in 1967. The City of Laconia loaned the BEDC the purchase price for a term of up to 18 months, with interim payments of interest only.

Eifert expressed the BEDC's appreciation for the support and assistance it received in undertaking this project from the business community, civic leaders and other partners. In particular, he thanked those who volunteered their time and expertise to conclude the transaction, including attorney John Giere of Wescott Law and Kevin Sullivan and Steve Weeks, Jr. of Weeks Commercial Real Estate.

The BEDC has contracted with Bayside Rentals and Management of Meredith to provide property management services for the property.

"This just the beginning, Eifert remarked. During the next 18 months the BEDC will assemble a financial package of approximately $15 million to fund the renovation of the property. When the financing is arranged, the BEDC will repay its $1.4 million loan from the city, which in turn will lend BEDC between $2 million and $3 million with payments of interest only for a term of seven years to complete the financing for the renovation and restoration of the property.

Once the theater is renovated and restored, the city will lease it as the sole tenant for seven years, operating the property as a civic auditorium. After seven years the city will have the option to acquire the auditorium, but not the residential and commercial units on the property, by forgiving its outstanding loan to the BEDC.

Altogether the property complex consists of 38,642-square-feet, of which the theater itself represents approximately 20,000-square-feet. It sits on a half-acre with 91 feet of frontage on Main Street and 209 feet of frontage on Canal Street. In addition to the theater, the property includes four storefront retail units on Main Street, each of about 1,150 square feet, five retail units on Canal Street, ranging between 250 and 1,500 square feet, and 18 apartments on the second and third floors on the Main Street building.

Ashland town administrator taking same job in Gilmanton

GILMANTON — The town had named Paul Branscombe to be the next town administrator, replacing Arthur Capello who is taking the administrator's job in his home town of Farmington.

Branscombe has been the town administrator in Ashland for five years. Before that he spent 44 years in the insurance industry working for Lloyd's.

He describes himself as a "workaholic" who if often at his desk early in the morning and staying late into the evening. An admirer of Winston Churchill, his favorite quote is that "if we are all together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fall."

Capello said Branscombe was one of four applicants who applied for the job. He said Branscomb's experience, his good reputation throughout the state and his personal demeanor were a few of the reasons selectmen chose him.

Branscombe is expected to start in Gilmanton no later than August 10. Capello said he will attend selectman's meeting and work one night a week in the interim.

In the search for a person to replace former Selectman Steve McCormack, Capello said three people have filed a written notice with his office expressing interest in the open position.

In no particular order they are Brian Forst, Brett Currier, and Rachael Hatch. Currier and Hatch have both served as selectman while Forst is the Chairman of the Budget Committee.

Selectmen will hold a workshop session on Tuesday to discuss how they will move forward in naming a third selectman who will serve until elections in March. Chair Don Guarino said there will be no public comment allowed however anyone with interest is welcome to observe the meeting.

City police report 59 stops for violations of new 'hands free' law; 17 tickets written

LACONIA — Police Chief Christopher Adams told the Police Commission on Thursday that there had been 42 warnings and 17 summonses issued for violations of the new hands-free while driving law.

Adams also said that he has noticed during his regular travels that fewer and fewer people are using cell phones while driving.

"I hope our officers are using discretion," said Adams.

The new state law that prohibits holding a device while having a conversation or texting went into effect on July 1.

In other police business, the Police Department's 12th annual National Night Out is being held at 103 Blueberry Lane on August 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. Adams said that the very first night out was on Blueberry Lane and he was excited about returning there.

National Night Out is a nationwide event sponsored by police departments and other public safety officials.

Adams also reported the resignation of Officer Brandy Enis who he said was moving on to other endeavors. Enis was the subject of a public (at her request) hearing to dispute her reprimand for accompanying a landlord into his apartment because he said he was afraid of the tenant. Her reprimand and the department's decision to impose it was heard by a Belknap County Superior Court judge but the results were sealed.

Capt. Bill Clary said the department finished Motorcycle Week with a budget surplus of $8,000 but overspent the line items used to pay out of town officers.

Commissioner Armand Maheux said he would like to see salaried command officers paid for the amount of time they spend working on Motorcycle Week, or at least given compensatory time off.

Commissioner Warren Clement said it is part of their job description.