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Thorpes have been stewards of Lake Wicwas for 30 years

MEREDITH — Dave and Marge Thorpe, who have lived on the shore of Lake Wicwas for the past 32 years, have been awarded the John F. Morten Award in recognition of their exemplary stewardship of the lake by the New Hampshire Lakes Association.

"I'm a little surprised and quite humbled to receive the award given all the work so many other folks have done for our lakes," Dave said yesterday. The Thorpes are the first residents of Meredith to be so honored since the late State Senator Carl Johnson received the inaugural award in 2002. Describing Marge as "more excited a nature lover than I am," Dave said that "between the two of us we make a pretty good team."

Harry Vogel, executive director of the Loon Preservation Society, called the Thorpes "the eyes and ears of the lake" and was echoed by Amy Smagula of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, who remarked "I feel comfortable knowing that Lake Wicwas is in such good hands."

The Thorpes acquired property on Lake Wicwas in 1982 and became year around residents a decade later. However, by 1984 Dave had taken responsibility for managing the water level of the lake in partnership with the town Fire Chief. He explained that the lake was created the early 1930s after being logged, dammed and flooded. Dave he volunteered to care for the dam and, as an accomplished engineer and machinist, installed a gauge to measure water levels. Thirty years later he continues to consult with Dan Leonard, Superintendent of the Water Department, about managing lake levels.

In the 1990s Dave identified structural weaknesses in the dam and suggested a new dam should be constructed, which was done with assistance of the Lake Wicwas Association (LWA) in 2006. Meanwhile, he recalled wrestling with recurrent problems caused by other engineers on the lake — beavers — more than two dozen of which were trapped and resettled.

Since they arrived on the lake the Thorpes have been mainstays of the LWA. Both have served on the Water Quality Committee since 2000 and recently arranged for students of New Hampton School to conduct water testing as part of their curriculum. Marge twice served as president of the LWA and in her first term secured a grant to acquire property placed under a conservation easement to protect Hamlin Park. The Thorpes also encouraged the New Hampshire Lakes Association to station Lake Hosts on weekends to prevent the spread of invasive species to the lake.

"The lake is in good shape," Dave said, noting that "there are no invasive weeds and we fledge a loon chick virtually every year. Although proud of sharing the award with his wife, he noted that the efforts of deserving volunteers to protect and enhance "more stressed lakes" should not be overlooked.

Tom O'Brien, executive director of the New Hampshire Lakes Association, will present the award at the annual meeting of the LWA at the Wicwas Grange on Saturday, August 2, beginning at 10 a.m.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 12:30

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Cooperative leadership to maintain quality of life at Briarcrest Estates

LACONIA — "We cannot drop below the standard set by the Mooneys," said Orry Gibbs, president of the Lakemont Cooperative, which purchased Briarcrest Estates from Mark and Ruth Mooney in April. "Our goal is is to change as little as possible and then only to make improvements. We're not taking any steps backward."

The cooperative was formed a year ago when the Mooneys accepted an offer from Hometown America Corporation to buy the manufactured housing park for $10 million. State law requires park owners to consider a matching offer from a tenants' cooperative and negotiate in good faith. The impending sale divided the tenants between those aligned with the cooperative and an apparent majority preferring commercial ownership. When the Mooneys asked the Belknap County Superior Court to sanction a sale to Hometown America, a group of tenants supported their request. However, the Mooneys ultimately chose to withdraw their suit and sell to the cooperative.

Gibbs, who straddled the fence for much of the controversy before deciding to support Mooneys, said yesterday that the tension and acrimony among tenants has largely dissipated. "There is a positive, friendly atmosphere in the park and I think the community spirit has increased," she said.

With 241 units, Briarcrest Estates is the third largest manufactured housing park in the state. Gibbs said that 173 of the 240 current households have joined the cooperative and membership is steadily rising. She said that all new tenants are required to join the cooperative.

Gibbs, who has lived at Briarcrest for the past 22 years, heads a seven member board of directors elected by the members of cooperative at its annual meeting. "We are a multi-million dollar corporation," she said, likening the role of the board to that of a large commercial enterprise.

At the same time, the cooperative operates much like a small town, with the directors analogous to the selectmen and members, or households, in aggregate acting as a town meeting. The directors, she explained oversee the management and operation of the park and, recommend introducing policies and amending bylaws to the members for their approval.

The board includes four members of the interim board initially convened by the cooperative to pursue and complete the acquisition of the park. Vice-president, Kathleeen Bateson, the administrator of Merrimack County, where she oversees an $81-million budget, brings 40 years of experience and knowledge in municipal and county government to the board. Unlike Gibbs, Bateson was among the leaders of the cooperative from the outset, but although the two began on opposite sides, they have become close colleagues and fast friends.

Bateson also chairs the Finance Committee, which includes Kevin Kelly, a retired banker. "We are fortunate to have a very competent group of directors," said Bateson, who has lived in the park for 16 years.

The cooperative engaged Foxfire Property Managment, Inc. of Concord, which manages some 1,400 residential properties in northern New England, to manage the day-to-day operations of the park. Gibbs said that Foxfire collects the rents and manages the finances, reporting to the board each each month. The firm has dedicated two of its employees to Briarcrest. In addition, personnel from the ROC (Resident Owned Communities) program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which assisted the cooperative in acquiring the park, provide advice and counsel. "I think we're in terrific hands," Gibbs said.

Apart from the finance committee, there are panels to consider bylaws, oversee operations, manage the community center, coordinate social activities, shepherd prospective tenants and serve the membership.

Bateson said that the annual budget is approximately $1-million, of which $677,000 represents debt service on the $10-million financing package to purchase the park. The operating budget is about $200,000 and another $60,000 is designated for capital improvements, including equipment purchases. The balance represents a project surplus. The membership unanimously endorsed the budget proposed by the board of directors.

Bateson said that the major question overshadowing the budget is the reassessment of the land value the park following the transfer of ownership, which will determine the 2014 property tax commitment. While the budget was adopted in June, the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration will not confirm the assessed value until October.

Gibbs said that the budget includes a projected rent increase of $10, which is less than the last increase set by the Mooneys. She anticipated similar increases for the next seven or eight years until the principal and interest payments diminish when the board expects to reduce or even forego an increase. "It is a minimal increase," she said, "and we intend to keep rent increases as low as possible."

Nevertheless, Gibbs said that the cooperative has "substantial financial obligations and must be run like a business. Not a cold business," she continued. "We will be attentive to the members, but we do have to make money to ensure that as costs rise, the quality of the park and our services do not change."

Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 12:18

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Abby Hernandez tells the Conway Daily Sun ongoing coverage gave her hope

By Daymond Steer

The Conway Daily Sun

CONWAY – While she was missing, Abby Hernandez said she saw the page 2 box in The Conway Daily Sun published every day that kept a count of the number of days she was gone, and it gave her hope.
Abby and her mother Zenya stopped by the Sun's office in North Conway Thursday morning to thank the newspaper's editorial staff and to tell the community they are thankful for the effort that went into the search.
"Thank you guys, so, so much, I really appreciate it more than I could possibly put in words," said the 15-year-old, who appeared relaxed and composed as any teenage girl. "I'm taking it a little at a time but I'm feeling a lot better every day."
The informal chat was the first time Abby has addressed the media in person and on record since she came home.
Nathaniel Kibby, 34, of Gorham, is charged with kidnapping her Oct. 9 after she left Kennett High School. She returned home on July 20.
The circumstances of her disappearance, where she was, and how she got home have not been made public, although it has been widely reported she was held in a steel storage container attached to Kibby's trailer.
Police have said, which was confirmed by Zenya Thursday, that releasing details at this time could compromised the ongoing investigation.
Kibby will next appear in court Aug. 12 at a probable cause hearing. Additional charges against him are expected.
Zenya said she and Abby appreciate the box the Sun ran on page two which contained a photo of Abby, a count of the days she was missing and the contact number for the FBI.
"As sad as it was to see the days growing and increasing, we truly thank you," said Zenya. "Abby saw that off and on. She didn't see it every day. It gave her hope that people were looking. It was one of the first things she said to me when she returned home, is 'thank you to The Conway Daily Sun.'"
Zenya said it was heartbreaking as a mother to see the number in the box grow larger.
"I saw that too and it was hard to see that," said Zenya. "At the same time, I knew that good people are there, you are good people, and it gave me hope when there was no hope at all."
When asked if there's anything Abby wants to do now that she's home, Abby replied that she would like to go horseback riding.
"I really miss that," said Abby. "I used to do it when I was little."
Zenya and Abby say they don't want to be treated as victims. Zenya said Abby is a "survivor" and needs to be empowered.
"I'd just like to be treated like a normal person," said Abby.


Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 12:04

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Rama sentenced to 12 months for role in February stabbing

LACONIA — A local man was sentenced to serve 12 months in the Belknap County House of Corrections for his role in the stabbing of a Belmont man in February.

Robert Rama, 22, whose last address was in Concord, was also ordered to pay a total $38,000 for the victim's medical bills joint and severably with co-defendent John J. Drouin, 27, of Laconia.

On July 23, Drouin was sentenced to serve 5 to 12 years in the N.H. State Prison for two felony counts of first-degree assault.

At Thursday's plea and sentencing hearing before Judge David Garfunkle, Asst. Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern said Rama's role in the stabbing of Corey Cromwell and John Hynes was minimal and that it was Drouin who stabbed the two men.

Ahern said Rama and Drouin waited for Cormwell, Hynes and Cromwell's girlfriend in a common bathroom on Route 3 in Belmont. She said the two ambushed the other three and Cromwell was stabbed by Drouin multiple times in the neck. She said Cormwell's tongue was nearly severed.

Ahern noted that Rama was also charged with simple assault for grabbing Cromwell's girlfriend when she tried to help him, but said there could be some testimony at trial that Rama knew the woman and was actually trying to her save her from harm during the fracas.

At the same time, Rama also pleaded guilty to two unrelated Laconia charges stemming from a car accident in January where he left the scene and tried to hide his car in a garage.

Ahern said police were able to trace the car back to Rama when they found his license plate in a snowbank.

He is ordered to pay $1,463 in restitution to Public Service of New Hampshire for the telephone pole he struck.

Judge Garfunkle initially seemed hesitant to accept the plea bargain which Ahern justified by saying he faces as much as 15 years in prison should he re-offend after his release from the Belknap County jail.

Rama's attorney Ted Barnes also noted that Rama used the 158 days he spent in jail awaiting trial wisely by taking advantage of every program that was available to him.

"You should consider yourself very fortunate," said Judge Garfunkle. "These are very serious matters and I have some serious thoughts about how you're going to conduct yourself."

Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 11:57

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