Porch fire on tiny Olive Place

LACONIA — Firefighters quickly extinguished a fire that broke out on the porch on the upper story of a two-unit residence on Olive Place, a horseshoe shaped enclave off Spring Street, shortly before 4 p.m. yesterday.

A neighbor, Seana McDuffie, spotted the flames and reported the fire, then alerted the resident of the ground floor unit, who had a key to the unit above, which was unoccupied. She said that he went upstairs and threw water on the fire. However, Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that fire was showing when Captain Bob Landry and his crew from Central Station arrived.

Erickson said that since fire engines cannot negotiate the narrow entry and close quarters of Olive Court, firefighters must run hose from Spring Street. "We've trained at this site," he said, explaining that firefighters were prepared to run hose to the building and raise a ladder to the porch. Damage was confined to the porch.

The cause of the fire was unknown, Erickson said.

Laconia store owner & manager stunned by mess & damage left behind in wake of Manchester police search

LACONIA — A police raid conducted Thursday morning at the Mystique Fashion Boutique store on Main Street by agents of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the Manchester Police was based on a former relationship one of the owners of the shop had with a woman who was recently charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute in Manchester in late June.

A federal warrant issued on July 15 by a U.S. Magistrate to the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Manchester Police Department gave police the right to search 617 Main Street for "fruits of crimes, contraband, and other items illegally possessed in violation federal statutes".

A receipt of items seized left on a counter in the store indicated paperwork from a basement desk, an accordion briefcase with paperwork, a spiral notebook from under the main desk and cash register and a point of sale iPod with the station from the sales counter.

The receipt indicates no drugs or other contraband was found.

In the wake of the raid, co-owner Michael Smith said he and Jeannette Hardy had been business partners in 2012 but that she had never been to the shop in Laconia.

"When I heard on the news what happened to Jeannette I was afraid something like this would happen," he said.

Hardy was shot in her Manchester apartment late last month. When police arrived they allegedly found 2,000 grams of heroin that triggered an investigation in Lawrence, Mass. In the four ensuing days, police recovered $226,000 and 22 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl.

Smith's friend Amanda Whittier is  the person who manages the store. On Thursday evening she stood shaking and crying in the middle of the mess left behind by police who conducted the search.

She said she had just purchased the iPod and that it had cost her almost a $1,000. She said she needed it for running credit cards and pointed to where the police used some kind of die grinder or cutting device to remove the computer from its base.

Whittier said she didn't know how she was going to financially recover from the damages done to the store. Her final straw was when she went to use the bathroom and learned the light fixture in ceiling had been cut away.

Both Smith and Whittier wanted to know who disabled the alarm they had installed.

Smith and Whittier were at the store on Thursday night to take out the clothing and jewelry because they were unable to secure the back door and didn't want any of their merchandize stolen.

In the basement, Smith pointed to where the police had ripped shelves off the walls and dumped them and the goods that were on them in the middle of the floor.

Smith said much of the damage was done to the store and building itself. He estimated it to be in the thousands of dollars. He pointed to holes in the walls ceilings and floors, the removal of light fixtures, and the removed and broken ceiling tiles.

"If they had wanted to search the place, they could have just asked," he said. The search warrant specifically said the police didn't have to give a notice to the owners before they exercised the warrant.

Smith said the paperwork in the accordion file was for his taxes.

"Maybe they'll do my taxes for me," he said in a light moment.

As of yesterday, the Colonial Theater building in which the shop in located belongs to a corporation owned by the Belknap Economic Development Corp. that plans on restoring the moribund theater to its former glory.


CAPTION – Shelving and stored merchandize from the basement of 617 Main Street in Laconia in a pile in the middle of the floor after Manchester police executed a warrant-based search on Thursday (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

N.H. Supreme Court agrees that Laconia enjoys immunity from responsibility for playground accident

LACONIA — The state Supreme Court has overturned a Belknap County Superior Court decision that found the city was liable for injuries sustained by a Franklin woman who slipped under the swing set at Opechee Park and hurt her knee.

She filed suit against the city and the city moved to dismiss it, saying it enjoyed immunity under state law. Judge Larry Smukler disagreed and stopped the city's attempt to dismiss Dolbeare's suit on those grounds.

The trial court had ruled that the swing set didn't constitute "outdoor recreational activities" as defined in RSA 212:34. The plaintiff, Margaret Dolbeare, had argued that the city owed her a duty of care and that it was not immune from suit according to RSA 508:14.

The city sought to come to some kind of settlement with Dolbeare, was unsuccessful, and appealed Smukler's ruling to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court considered the case as a new case because it is "the final arbiter of the intent of the legislature as expressed in the words of the statute considered as a whole."

The court determined that RSA 212:34 includes playground equipment and that outdoor recreation involves the use of man-made equipment. That the playground equipment in question was supplied by the owner of the property — the city of Laconia — or the user — Dolbeare — was "immaterial".

Dolbeare's argument was that since playground equipment was not specifically stated in the law, then it should be excluded in the list of outdoor recreational activities for which the legislature intended. The Supreme Court ruled that when the language of a law includes some types of man-made equipment as examples, the law is not exclusive to those enumerated items.

As to whether the city was negligent, the court ruled that RSA 508:14 says that an "owner, occupant, or lessee of land, including the state or any other political subdivision, who without charge permits any person to use land for recreational purposes or as a spectator of recreational activity, shall not be liable for personal injury or property damage..." when the damage is not intentional".

Dolbeare's case returns to the trial court for consideration under the guidance of its instructions. The Supreme Court ruling was unanimous.