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Opening ceremony for BNH Stadium will precede tonight's Sachems kick-off

LACONIA — The Grand Opening of Bank of New Hampshire Stadium at Laconia High School is tonight beginning at 6 p.m. Ceremonies will be followed by the kick-off for the Sachems vs. Pembroke Academy football game at 7.

Festivities will begin with an official ribbon cutting ceremony at the main gate to the stadium at 6.

After the ribbon cutting, there will be time to mingle. At 6:45 p.m. City Manager Scott Myers will serve as the Master of Ceremonies and will provide recognition to the corporate sponsors, contributors to the Wall of Fame and those who purchased granite steps leading to the stadium as part of a fundraising campaign.

Myers said the representatives from the School Board, the Joint Building Committee, the City Council, the school administration as well as coaches and players of the various sports teams will be recognized.

The Laconia High School Marching Band will play the Star Spangled Banner and the football game will follow.

Superintendent Terri Forsten said the LHS Marching Band will perform at half time. "They're really excited," she said, noting the band has been putting extra time in getting ready for the festivities.

The new stadium was completed this week as part of nearly $14-million campus renovation/expansion project that included a new building housing programs at the Huot Regional Technical Education Center. Five new LHS science labs were added in a portion of the campus formerly used by the Huot Center.

The actual FieldTurf playing surface at the stadium will be named for former LHS football coach and athletic director Jim Fitzgerald at a dedication ceremony associated with this year's homecoming game on September 27.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 September 2013 01:28

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Race for Mayor: Mitchell looks to invigorate tourism & retail economy

LACONIA — "The mayor's job is not just to be out there at parades and presiding at meetings," said Kaileif Mitchell, one of three candidates for the office. "He is the only one elected by all the people and I really think his job is to represent the people as a liaison to the City Council."

At 34, Mitchell is the youngest in the race, but he brings varied experience to his candidacy. Coming to the city as a child, he went through Holy Trinity School then graduated from Bishop Brady High School in Concord. After a year at Maine Maritime Academy, he interrupted his formal education to earn a living to support his family, which grew to four children. In the U.S. Navy Reserve he qualified in avionics as well as aviation electrical and mechanical technology. After a spell as an optician he became a corrections officer and currently serves as a teaching assistant at Spaulding Youth Center in Northfield while completing his degree in sociology and psychology at Southern New Hampshire University.

"We're a dying city," Mitchell said flatly. "There are more deaths than births and young people are moving out in search of economic opportunities." To reverse the trends of a dwindling and aging population, he believes that the local economy must be "re-energized." In particular, he suggested what has traditionally been a seasonal tourist sector, "dependent on warm summers and snowy winters," should be augmented by more stable attractions, including a stronger retail sector.

Noting that many residents turn to big box stores in Concord or Tilton, he would seek to keep them in the region by bringing major retailers like Target to the Lakes Business Park.

"The city should not get into the business of buying and selling property," Mitchell said, proposing instead to provide tax incentives to encourage the redevelopment of existing buildings. The Colonial Theatre, he said, could become an entertainment venue akin to the Flying Monkey in Plymouth, competing with Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center in the summer and replacing it in the winter. Mitchell said that "rejuvenating the tourist economy and growing the retail sector will create jobs, demand for housing and expand the tax base."

Mitchell believes that downtown can support a mix of entertainment venues and retail outlets, on the one hand, and affordable housing and social services, on the other, offering Bangor, Maine, where a popular casino and homeless shelter are close neighbors. "It is definitely feasible to have both in the same neighborhood," he said.

Likewise, he dismissed the notion that a residential treatment facility for the mentally ill, which Genesis Behavioral Health seeks to locate on Church Street, would have an adverse effect. "I don't see Genesis being there would be detrimental to the redevelopment of downtown."

The city, Mitchell said, should not pursue its effort to acquire the former Laconia State School property, but instead work with the state to market the site to a private developer. He said that the city and state should cooperate in providing incentives to attract a buyer to redevelop the property in way that is in the best interest of both.

Mitchell was skeptical of using tax increment financing (TIF) for "beautification" projects. "The reason people are not coming to Laconia is not because the city isn't beautiful," he claimed, "but because there is nothing to come her for." He said that while he could understand applying TIF funds to the projects like the construction of the WOW Trail and restoration of Weirs Beach, he urged "caution." Although both are popular, he stressed that neither is "really the first step. The first step is expanding the tax base so that we have the resources to invest other projects. I'd love to say let's throw them a bone, but I don't see how we can when we're looking at funding a fire station, four fire fighters, road works and a county jail."

Mitchell considered it premature to make a definitive decision on whether to retain the four firefighters, who were hired for two years with federal funding at a cost of more than $300,000 a year, when the grant expires in 2015. He said that the ultimate decision would depend on the extent to which the additional personnel reduced the cost of overtime, strength of the economy and other priorities.

Although Mitchell recycles, he is firmly opposed to a Pay-As-You-Throw program and has mixed feelings about the mandatory recycling program introduced in July. He advocates providing residents with "some sort of tax incentive" to encourage them to recycle. "To change behavior, people need positive incentives," he said, adding that he is troubled that those who fail to comply with the program may be punished with fines for illegal dumping.

Among the original petitioners for the tax cap, Mitchell said "I wouldn't ever consider overriding the tax cap. It's a check and balance that is there to keep us honest." Nor, he added, would he favor removing the county tax from the cap in order to forestall a steep increase in the county tax from displacing local expenditures.

Mitchell, who has served as both a selectman and moderator in Ward 5 as well as a member of the Conservation Commission, said that he hopes his candidacy will inspire other young people in the city to become more engaged in civic affairs of the community.

Mitchell will face former city councilor Bob Luther and Ed Engler, president of The Laconia Daily Sun, in the primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The two top vote getters will appear on the general ballot in November.

(Editor's Note: This is the third and last profile of the mayoral candidates. All were asked the same set of a dozen questions at interviews, which provided the information for these articles.)

Last Updated on Friday, 06 September 2013 03:14

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Boy mauled by propeller in Paugus Bay boating accident

LACONIA — A 10-year-old boy, from North Andover, Mass., who suffered serious injuries to his legs and lower body in an accident Thursday afternoon on Paugus Bay when a boat driven by is father is said to have backed over him, was airlifted by helicopter to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
No late night condition report was available on the boy, whose name has not been released by investigators, but Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson said the youth had suffered ''major trauma to both legs from waist to toes'' as a result of contact with the boat's propeller.
''He was wakeboarding with his father when the boat accidentally backed over him,'' said Erickson. He said that the father and younger brother, who was also on the boat, were able to pull him back into the boat and bring the boy to the South Down Shores Marina dock.
Laconia rescue workers treated the boy in the boat and removed him from the craft only minutes before a DHART helicopter arrived to take him to Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
''The father deserves a lot of credit for being able to get him back into the boat and bring him to shore,'' said Erickson. He praised the work of the Deputy Chief Shawn Riley and his team of firefighter-paramedics — Chad Vaillancourt, Dennis Comeau, Chucky Campbell and Nathan Mills — who cared for the boy and readied him to be transported.

"They did an absolutely extraordinary job," Erickson said. "I was very proud to watch how well they worked together."

Erickson also praised a dock hand at the marina who assisted in bringing urgently needed medical equipment and supplies to the boat. The Laconia Police cleared a landing zone for the helicopter just 100 yards from the dock. After the DHART flight took off, the father and brother of the victim left in a SUV, which had been parked near the docks, and headed to Lebanon.
Members of the Fire Department remained at the scene and cleaned up the boat so that the grief-stricken father wouldn't have to deal with that when he returned.
The incident was reported to Marine Patrol at 2:55 p.m. and is still under investigation.

Laconia Fire Department members move a 10-year-old boy from North Andover, Mass., who suffered severe injuries from a boat propeller in a wakeboarding accident on Paugus Bay, to an ambulance. The boy was transported by DART helicopter to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon on Thursday afternoon. (Roger Amsden photo for Laconia Daily Sun

Last Updated on Friday, 06 September 2013 02:58

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Gilmanton officers fend of attacking German shepherd

GILMANTON — Two police officers escaped injury over the weekend after a man in distress sicced his German shepherd on them.

Chief Joe Collins said Officer Chris Gustafson was able to fend the dog off with his night stick and eventually the animal retreated.

Collins said Gustafson and Officer Corey Brennan responded to the home that is in the Sawyer Lake area at 5:35 p.m. Friday for a call for an attempted suicide.

When they arrived, Collins said the home owner initially came out of his house and began yelling at the police and telling them to get off his property.

When police told them they were only there to make sure he was okay, they said he sicced his dog on them.

When the dog retreated, the man picked up a shovel and headed toward police.

One of the officers zapped the man with a Taser gun and police were able to gain control of him. He was taken to the Lakes Region General Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

Collins said the man won't be criminally charged and he is not releasing his name or address because of the reason police responded.

"Fortunately neither officer was injured and we are hopeful the man will get the care he needs," Collins said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 September 2013 03:34

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