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Natural Science Center in Holderness has raised $3.5 million; Water Matters Pavilion is on the way

HOLDERNESS — Today is New Hampshire Day at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center and more than 1,000 visitors are expected, according to Iain MacLeod, executive director, who on Friday led a media tour of the center to showcase the changes that will greet visitors.
One of the new buildings at the center, built with lumber harvested from the 232-acre property, is a wood energy plant with a state-of-the-art boilers, each holding 2,700 gallons of water, which will produce enough heat for all of the center's buildings from 27 cords of wood which will be harvested just down Rte. 113 a mile away.
''It's going to reduce our energy footprint and significantly cut down on fossil fuel use,'' said MacLeod, who said that the current heating system, which uses oil and propane for six different furnaces, will remain in use only as backup.
MacLeod said the $480,000 wood energy plant, which went on line in early February, is part of a $4 million Nature Matters Capital Campaign, which will add another new building, a $1,250,000 Water Matters Pavilion, and replace two outdated structures, a stockade and winter bird headquarters, at a cost of $200,000, as well as provide $1,450,00 in reserve funds.
Work has started on the Water Matters Pavilion, which will feature live turtles and mink, as well as native warm water and cold water fish species, aquariums and an outdoor play area, the Adventure Playscape, which will cost $250,000. Both the pavilion and play area are scheduled for completion in 2016.
The Nature Matters campaign has already raised over $3.5 million and the board of trustees of the Science Center voted in January of this year to raise the goal to $4 million.
Visitors today will see live native New Hampshire animals including red fox, gray fox, skunk, bobcat, mountain lion, white-tailed deer, river otter, black bear, owls, hawks, and eagles in natural enclosures along the three-quarter mile live animal exhibit trail. Plus visitors will see two new exhibits: the wood energy exhibit and a live coyote exhibit which was added this winter.
There will be three special Up Close to Animals presentations: 11 a.m. (beaver), 1 p.m. (peregrine falcon), and 3 p.m.(porcupine) with discussion led by experienced naturalist educators.
The animal exhibit trail is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with the last trail admission at 3:30 p.m. on New Hampshire Day.
During summer months one of the more popular attractions on the exhibit trail is live mountain lion training on Thursdays at noon during July and August. Mountain Lion training and feeding shows off the tasks the mountain lions have learned that enable keepers to ensure the health and safety of the animals while providing an interesting sight for visitors.
The mountain lions, orphaned brother and sister, came to the Science Center from Montana in 2003 and were raised and hand fed by naturalists at the center.

One of the two mountain lions at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center walks around the enclosed exhibit area. The mountain lions have been at the center since 2003 and will be seen by hundreds of visitors at New Hampshire Day today. (Roger Amsden/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 May 2014 01:18

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Winter that wouldn't leave claims another victim: traditional 'Mount' shakedown cruise

LACONIA — For the first time since the mid-80s, the M/S Mount Washington cruise ship will not be holding its traditional "shakedown cruise". It's another casualty of the long and cold winter that held New Hampshire in its grip from December through mid-April.
''We had to make a decision on sending out invitations and weren't sure that the ice would be out by the first week in May.'' said Mount Washington Cruise Lines Fleet Captain Leo O'Connell, who said that another factor in the decision to not hold a pre-season cruise this year was the impact of the cold weather on routine maintenance operations.
O'Connell said the decision to cancel was made with the thought that it would be very difficult to have guests scheduled to attend and then have to cancel at the last minute. Ice-out was declared on Wednesday, April 23 this year after some observers had predicted that it would take until early May before the Big Lake was ice-free.
O'Connell said that in addition to the annual maintenance operations over the winter, the main deck bow area of the ship was redone and the lower galley area was completely renovated.
The cruise, which has served as an official state inspection voyage, has for years has given state and local officials, members of New Hampshire's tourism industry, and the media the opportunity to climb aboard and observe the ship as she moves through her annual operating maneuvers on Lake Winnipesaukee.
''We've been doing it for the tourism industry and the public ever since we lengthened the ship in the 1980s,'' said Jim Morash, captain and part owner of the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation.
Both O'Connell and Morash said that the vessel has already been inspected this year by the Marine Patrol Division of the Department of Safety as well as the State Fire Marshal's Office and has passed.
Friday it made its first trip out its winter home in Center Harbor to its summer home at the Weirs Beach docks.
The M/S Mount Washington's official season runs from late May to late October. Daily cruises depart from Weirs Beach and service the ports of Meredith, Wolfeboro, Center Harbor and Alton Bay. With a capacity of 1,250 passengers, the Mount Washington serves as the largest restaurant in the state and a popular gathering point for school proms, college reunions, large corporate celebrations and weddings.
In addition to operating the 230-foot long 'Mount,' the parent corporation also owns and operates the 74-foot U.S. Mail Boat Sophie C., and 68-foot Doris E.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 May 2014 01:11

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New law aimed at preventing dealers from using next winter's money to buy this winter's oil

LACONIA — Curtis Stafford of Stafford Oil Company, Inc. applauded the Legislature for tightening the regulation of pre-buy contracts for the purchase of heating fuels. "I think it's going to protect the consumer and have a positive impact on the industry," he said yesterday.

This week House Bill 1282 carried the New Hampshire Senate by a voice vote after the House of Representatives passed it by a convincing majority of 226 to 98 in March. Although the bill will be referred to the Senate Finance Committee in accord with Senate Rules, this week's vote is unlikely to be reversed.

The legislation addresses an issue that has dogged the Legislature for the past five years. In that time, according the Attorney General's Office, three independent heating oil firms have failed, leaving customers $650,000 out-of-pocket. This past winter was marked by the struggles of Fred Fuller Oil & Propane Co., among the largest home heating oil dealers in the state, to make timely deliveries to its prepaid customers, which prompted the Attorney General's Office to intervene.

Stafford said that perhaps the most important provision would forbid dealers from advertising or soliciting prepaid contracts earlier than May 1 or later than October 31. He explained that the current law, by allowing such contracts to be closed after January 1 — before the next year's heating fuel season begins on May 1 — enables dealers to apply funds for future purchases to current operations. By changing the date, Stafford explained, the bill intends to ensure that the proceeds from prepaid contracts fund future purchases at the contracted price and not finance operations during the remainder of the current season. He said that in effect the bill would manage dealers' cash flow.

Current law requires that within seven days of entering into prepaid contracts dealers must commit to a futures contract or other arrangement that guarantees the purchase of fuel representing 75-percent of the maximum number of gallons their prepaid contracts bind them to deliver. Alternatively dealers may post a surety bond payable to the Attorney General equal to at least 50-percent of the amount paid by customers for prepaid contracts or a letter of credit, also payable to the Attorney General, representing 100 percent of the dealer's cost of the fuel required to fulfill prepaid contracts. The bill would add a fourth option by allowing dealers to acquire an inventory of fuel amounting to 75 percent of the volume their prepaid contracts require them to deliver.

The bill would further require dealers to register their intent to offer prepaid contracts with the New Hampshire Secretary of State by May 1 each year as well as file annual reports with the agency by December 1. The annual report must demonstrate how the dealer has complied with the statute, including how prepaid contracts are secured.

Finally, the bill adds both making false statements and failing to deliver contracted fuel violations of the Consumer Protection Act.

"The bill gives the law a lot more teeth," said Stafford, a director of the Oil Heat Council of New Hampshire, which assisted lawmakers in drafting the bill.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 May 2014 01:05

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Question raised as to whether residents of other Belknap towns should again be able to serve on Laconia Airport Authority

LACONIA — Mayor Ed Engler, who serves as chairman of the Laconia Airport Authority, earlier this week briefed the City Council on the possibility of changing the composition of membership of the authority in order to reflect the regional nature of the facility and expand the pool for the recruitment of members.

Engler said that Diane Terrill, the manager of the airport, has raised the issue. which was also discussed briefly when the authority met last month. He stressed that no formal proposal has been framed and he would ask the council to consider the matter at a future meeting.

Engler noted that although the airport represents a regional asset that contributes to the economy of both Belknap County and the Lakes Region, for the past 15 years the membership of the authority has been effectively confined to residents of Laconia and Gilford. Apart from failing to reflect regional interests beyond the two communities, this limitation shrinks the pool of suitable candidates to serve as appointed authority members, Engler said.

Meanwhile, selectman Gus Benevides, who represents the town on the authority, put the question to the Board of Selectmen last week, which expressed itself opposed to any change to the composition of the board.

Laconia owns the airport property, which lies entirely in the town of Gilford. As the owner, the city is party to the authority's relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration, while development at the airport is subject to the Gilford zoning ordinance in addition to the approval of the authority and FAA.

Property taxes levied on property at the airport leased to taxable entities, which amount to more than $150,000 a year, flow exclusively to Gilford.

The authority was originally chartered by the Legislature in 1941. Since then the corporate charter has been amended twice and any change would require another act of the Legislature.

Initially the authority consisted of five members — three elected officials, who serve ex officio, and two appointed members. The Mayor of Laconia, or designee, chairs the authority and the Gilford Board of Selectmen and Belknap County Commission each choose one of their number, or designees, to serve on the authority. The appointed members need only have been residents of Belknap County.

In 1983 the charter was amended to expand the board from five to seven members. The three elected officials remained, while two residents of the state were added to the two residents of the county to increase the number of appointed members to four.

The present composition of the Authority was established in 1999, when the Legislature reestablished the charter. There was no change in the three elected officials, but again the membership was increased — this time from seven to nine — with the addition of two appointed members. Moreover, the new charter, for the first time specified that all six of the appointed members must be residents of Laconia and Gilford and assigned four seats to Laconia and two to Gilford. The effect was to assure the city a majority of the membership.

The appointed members are elected by the "appointive agency," consisting of the Laconia City Council, Gilford Board of Selectmen and Belknap County Commission, for four-year terms, but not more than two consecutively.

At present, two 4-year terms are up for appointment and both must be filled by Laconia residents. The appointive agency meets Monday night at City Hall at 7 p.m. to interview four applicants. The election will be held a week later at 5:45 p.m.

Next year the tenure of two more members — one from Laconia and one from Gilford — will expire.

Last Updated on Friday, 02 May 2014 12:53

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