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Budget feud extends to whether or not reps will get paid

LACONIA — Anticipating that with its next meeting, the Belknap County Convention will have busted its 2013 budget, Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who chairs the delegation's Executive Committee, said yesterday that he has advised his 17 colleagues not to expect to receive their stipend or be reimbursed for mileage for attending meetings during the remainder of the year.

The appropriation for the convention is $15,550, consisting of $3,500 for meeting fees, $10,000 for legal services, $450 for publishing public notices and $1,600 for mileage reimbursement. During the first three quarters of the year, ending on September 30, 97.6-percent of the total appropriation was spent. The convention has spent $5,050 on meeting fees, or 144 percent of its budget, $7,061 on legal fees, or 71 percent of its budget, $1,059 on public notices, or 235 percent of its budget and $2,002 on mileage reimbursement, or 125 percent of its budget. Altogether the convention is projected to spend $20,025, over spending its by 32 percent, by year end.

Last week, for a second time, the Belknap County Commissioners sought approval from the Executive Committee to transfer funds from the contingency account to defray the projected overage. County Administrator Debra Shackett said that the commissioners believe they are bound by statute (RSA 29:9-ee) to pay and reimburse members of the convention for attending meetings and requested the transfer in order to comply with the law during the remainder of the year.

Through September the convention had overspent its $5,100 budget for meeting fees and mileage reimbursement by $1,952 and is projected to close the year $3,475 in the red.

Tilton said that the request reached the committee this week too late to be considered and deferred the discussion and decision until October 22. He said that he told members of the convention that once the budget for meeting fees was exhausted, they should not expect to be paid or reimbursed for attending subsequent meetings.

However, he did not rule out transferring funds, noting that the convention is projected to overrun its budget for printing public notices in local newspapers. Any transfer of funds, he said, would be applied to outstanding debts with vendors, not to paying and reimbursing members. "The convention does not address its own needs before those of others," Tilton said. "That's leadership 101."

Shackett said that while the convention is responsible for appropriations, the commissioners are responsible for expenditures. Referring to the statute, she said that "the commissioners cannot decide not to pay fees and mileage. Until they tell us they choose not to be paid," she continued, "we believe they must be paid."

Last Updated on Saturday, 12 October 2013 02:19

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4 Laconia shopkeepers label themselves 'Vintage Row'

LACONIA — Four female business owners in Downtown Laconia will be showcasing their businesses Saturday afternoon as they unveil The Shops at Vintage Row with open houses and a block party featuring the music of Julia Vellie, vocalist and acoustic guitarist.
Located on the south side of the McIntyre Block just around the corner from a group of shops in the same building that front on Pleasant Street, the owners of the businesses are hoping to create a unique shopping experience and have either redone or are in the process of redoing their interiors, window displays and awnings.
The businesses on Vintage Row are New England Porch Rockers, the premier area destination for chair caning; Curiosity & Co., specializing in vintage and local goods; Chase Island Designs, creative screen printing; and Willow & Sage, Vintage Boutique.
Jean Howe Compton of New England Porch Rockers has been hand caning and seat weaving chair seats for many years and has just enlarged her shop, which has display windows on both Pleasant Street and Water Street and has been in that location for a year.
'' We have just enlarged and been able to add a showroom and a dedicated wood shop.,'' says Compton, who grew up in Laconia and wants to see downtown become a destination for those seeking unique and vintage items.
Shelly Daniels Marcoux of Willow & Sage Vintage Boutique says that she has been working on her new shop since September 1 and still has a lot work to do, including repairs, painting and flooring.
''This is really a sneak peek and I plan to have a grand opening later this year,'' says Marcoux.
Kris Nagemgast of Chase Island Design has created a Lobsterville Lobsters Collection, an eye catching assortment of pillows, dinner bibs, aprons and table runners and likes to do unique silk-screened items for her customers.
Stora Kamens of Curiosity & Company is a former English teacher at Franklin High School and takes the name of her store from the book "The Old Curiosity Shop," by Charles Dickens.
''It's also noteworthy that most of us have completely redone our shops, taking out the suspended ceilings to expose the beautiful tin, hanging new light fixtures, replacing awnings and generally spiffing things up. We're hoping (as are our fellow merchants in the downtown area) to make downtown Laconia a destination point for people who enjoy browsing antique and vintage shops. Several of us carry locally-made items, including soaps, lotions, candles, jewelry, quilts, and other items. These are high quality products made by artisans who live right here in New Hampshire,'' says Kamens.
She says that she'll be serving some food on Saturday, and will be giving away gift certificates to the shop. There will also be vendors with made in New England goods, as well as food, prizes and an opportunity to meet downtown Laconia's newest business owners.

CAPTION

The Shops at Vintage Row will be hosting an open house and block party in Downtown Laconia Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The shops feature vintage items, chair caning, local crafts and screen printing and are located on Water Street between Beacon Street West and Pleasant Street. Shown above are business owners Shelly Daniels-Marcoux of Willow & Sage Vintage Boutique, Jean Howe Compton of New England Porch Rockers, Stora Kamens of Curiosity & Company and Kris Nagemgast of Chase Island Design. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 11 October 2013 03:07

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Alton Bank robbed at gunpoint

ALTON — The Wolfeboro Highway (Rte. 28) branch of Meredith Village Savings Bank was robbed at gunpoint yesterday afternoon.

Police Chief Ryan Heath said a single male entered the branch at 4:34 p.m. and brandished a black handgun.

While holding a bank employee at gunpoint, Ryan said he jumped over the counter and emptied the teller drawers before making off with an undisclosed amount of money.

Heath said the male was described as 5-feet 7-inches tall and weighing about 170 pounds. He is white. Heath said he was carrying a red duffel bag and wearing a black ski mask.

His clothing was described as a gray pullover sweatshirt and blue jeans.

The suspect fled on foot but Heath said police have reasons to think he was picked up in a silver four-door sedan — possibly a Ford Focus that was seen driving around the back of the bank within minutes of the robbery.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Alton Police at 875-0757.

Last Updated on Friday, 11 October 2013 02:47

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Mayoral candidate Ed Engler shares vision for Laconia with Rotary Club

LACONIA — After fielding a flurry of questions from fellow Rotarians at the club's weekly meeting yesterday, mayoral candidate Ed Engler said that "elections, including this election, are not about specific issues. They are about picking the most capable person to be mayor."

Engler, co-founder, president and editor of The Laconia Daily Sun, is touting his record of business success and civic engagement in his race against Kailief Mitchell, an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and teacher at Spaulding Youth Center, to succeed retiring mayor Mike Seymour. Mitchell will be the guest of the Rotary Club next week.

After 36 years in the newspaper business, Engler said that he gained an understanding of "the necessity of dealing with people on a day-to-day basis to achieve common goals and of solving problems with the resources you have." While stopping short of insisting that government run like a business, he allowed there is "some truth" in the notion and believed his experience equipped him to govern.

Much of the questioning bore on the demographic and economic challenges facing the city. Engler described the aging population, along with "a considerable level of poverty" and "high number of working poor" as the greatest threat to the future of the community. Referring to the shrinking school population, he said that "you're either growing or you're dying" and ways must be found "to keep people here and attract people here" to reverse these trends.

Although Engler said he had no "specific agenda," he stressed that economic development, fostering "general prosperity," is his highest priority, adding that "it pertains to just about anything you can name." He noted that the city does not employ an economic development director and said that "the mayor needs to be the economic development director for the city."

On the theme of economic development, Engler suggested that the city pursue two particular opportunities. First, he said that manufacturers in the region have positions for qualified employees and development of an abundant supply of skilled labor would enable existing firms to expand as well as attract new firms to the area. Second, Engler said that the former Laconia State School property and adjoining tracts owned by the state, which together amount to some 400 acres, offer "the potential, and I emphasize potential, to be a game-changer for the city, Lakes Region and the state." He said that his personal preference would be to work with the state to develop the site as a corporate headquarters or campus for corporate offices employing thousands of white-collar workers.

Noting that the Lakes Region has become a popular destination for retirees, Engler said that while this is to the city's advantage, the demographics have gotten "out of balance." By a game-changer, he said, he meant development that would restore balance by generating opportunities for skilled and professional workers.

The future of downtown, Engler said, depends on reaching a consensus within the city on what downtown should be. "We have to start with the consensus then marshal the resources and pursue the goal," he said. However, he added "if we're going to invest in downtown, then we should invest in what the community wants, not what the people and businesses already downtown want."

By not optimizing opportunities to recycle, Engler said that the city was burning a significant sum of money each year that could be spent on other projects. He noted that the 2013-2014 city budget rests on reducing the cost of disposing of solid waste by more than $200,000 and questioned whether that target can be met without collecting recyclable materials every week, which adds $90,000 to the solid waste budget. "If it doesn't work," he said, "we're almost certainly going to Pay-As-You-Throw."

Engler said he would welcome closer cooperation among municipalities and with the county to deploy resources and consolidate services. "Better management", he said, "means making better use of the resources you have." Although respectful of tradition, he said "I don't want our slogan to be 'because we've always done it that way.'" The tax cap, he explained, forces government to make optimal use of limited resources. "Everything should be on the table," said Engler, who said that if elected, "I'd be willing to start those conversations."

With the city bearing a fifth of the county tax burden, Engler said that the mayor, city council and five state representatives must "play a very politically active role" in the process of planning for the county jail. However, asked if he would do anything to help the Belknap County Convention and Belknap County Commission "play nice," he answer with a flat "no."

Last Updated on Friday, 11 October 2013 02:39

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