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Gunstock Inn purchased by local couple

GILFORD – The Gunstock Inn and Fitness Center has been purchased by Les and Linda Schuster, the current operators of three Weirs Beach area lodging facilities.

Les Schuster said yesterday that he and his wife have been working on the purchase for a little over a year – or shortly after the former owners shut the doors citing a poor economy.

"Now that the economy is better, we've been able to get it all in order," said Schuster.

He said he and his wife plan on opening the hotel or lodging portion of the Inn before Christmas and are working on some Ski-and-Stay packages with the Gunstock Mountain Resort. There are 25 rooms at Gunstock Inn, Schuster said. In addition to the hotel and fitness center, the building also houses a restaurant.

Schuster said he already has similar packages involving Gunstock and his other three lodging properties – the Lazy E Motor Inn, the Bear Tree Lodge, and the Lakeside Getaway.

"We have hired a staff of four senior level employees and a housekeeper," Schuster said, noting that they are local people. "This is the most tied to the community we've ever been."

He said the restaurant will be called Schuster's Tavern and he hopes it will be serving food by February. He said they would start with dinner and add from there.

As to the Olympic-sized saltwater swimming pool, Schuster said they need to get their permits but couldn't make any applications until they officially owned the property. "That's about all that's holding us back," he said.

He said he would be "open to any uses that were in place before it closed" - including the Gunstock Stingrays who used the Gunstock Inn as its home pool until it closed but said the primary purpose of the pool would be to support the inn and its guests. Schuster said there will also be gym memberships.

Schuster said in a media release that the Gunstock Inn was originally built as barracks for workers who came to Gilford to build the Gunstock Ski Area – one of the first projects of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" era.

He said the Inn has a history of being family owned and operated and that his family plans on doing the same thing.

Schuster said he and Linda are working with the Service Credit Union to provide the funding needed to restore the Inn to "its former glory" and to meet the needs of today's travelers and guests.

At one point, the Inn was being considered as an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility by the owners of the Phoenix House who ultimately decided on a Northfield site for their business.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:50

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Escalation of dispute with neighbor leads to arson charge for local man

LACONIA — An investigation into a report of a restraining order violation has led to arson charges against a local man.

Justin M. DeWolfe, 30, of 15 Lyford St., allegedly started a fire to the exterior of his neighbor's house on June 1, 2013, in retaliation for some bullying between teenaged girls. DeWolfe is being held on $25,000 cash bail following his arraignment yesterday.

Affidavits obtained yesterday from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, supporting the arson charge against DeWolfe said that police and fire officials were called to 16 Lyford St. at 11:34 p.m. on June 1 for a report of a suspicious fire.

A number of shingles on the outside of the house were charred. Firefighters extinguished what they described as a small fire near the porch. Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said yesterday that firefighters stayed long enough to make sure the fire was out and turned the scene over to police. He said they removed a couple of shingles from the house.

Officials determined there were 10 people in the building on the night of the fire.

Paperwork said the primary resident of the home told police the family had been having some problems with a neighbor over allegedly bullying between some teenaged girls.

At the time, the victim told police she thought it could have been the girls who started the fire.

Fast-forward to Nov. 2 and police responded to 15 Lyford St. for a call for an assault.

DeWolfe was charged with one count of simple assault and freed on personal recognizance bail by a bail commissioner with the order to stay away from the victim.

DeWolfe allegedly violated the temporary no-contact order — that became a final order on Nov. 19 — seven times.

Complaints and affidavits said DeWolfe repeatedly contacted the victim — who had moved to another address — by calling her, text-messaging her, and at one point allegedly drawing his hand across his throat and mouthing the words, "You're dead."

During the course of the breach of bail investigations, DeWolfe's former girlfriend told police that he was the one who lit fire at 16 Lyford St. on June 1.

Police said they interviewed two juveniles associated with DeWolfe as well as his former girlfriend and all of them said he had admitted to using charcoal lighter fluid and a lighter to start the June 1 fire.

The three said he told them he did it because he was "tired of people treating them 'like (explicative).'"

City Prosecutor James Sawyer argued yesterday that DeWolfe should be held on $20,000 cash-only bail for the arson charge, and $5,000 cash-only bail for the seven breaches of bail violations.

He said DeWolfe was dangerous and appeared to acting out of anger when he allegedly set the neighbor's house on fire as well as in the tone of his communications to his ex-girlfriend.

At one point, Sawyer said, DeWolfe was allegedly impersonating a police officer and contacting the ex-girlfriend.

"He can't control himself," said Sawyer, adding that DeWolfe gets angry at school children things.

DeWolfe's attorney, Justin Littlefield, argued that his client should be freed on $1,000 cash or $10,000 corporate surety. He said the arson happened in June but only came to light recently and in the wake of a custody battle between DeWolfe and the woman who told police about the arson.

"This encourages healthy skepticism," said Littlefield as DeWolfe, who was appearing by video, began nodding in agreement. At least four people supporting DeWolfe were in court for his arraignment.

Judge James Carroll determined there was probable cause for the arrest and agreed to Sawyer's request for a total of $25,000 cash.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:49

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Elm Street School Students Learn the Joy of Giving

LACONIA — In only its second year, "The ESSence of Giving" is already well on its way to becoming a holiday tradition at Elm Street School.
More than 140 students took part in the event Saturday morning which provided students with an opportunity to select and wrap Christmas gifts for their family members and loved ones.
''There was a line waiting all the way back to the door when we got here to open the gym Saturday morning,'' said first grade teacher Donna-Marie Gamlin, who came up with the idea for the program which was started last year.
Gamlin said that members of VISTESS (Volunteers in Service to Elm Street School) collected about 1,500 gifts this year and that the gifts were set up in the school's multi-purpose room where they were grouped in different categories like a department store for the student shoppers. Students then shopped for presents and then wrapped them with the assistance of adult volunteers.
''Some of the students even brought in their own toys which they had outgrown so that we could use them as gifts,'' said Gamlin.
As children shopped and wrapped their gifts, their parents and family members were served hot cocoa and snacks in the school library so that the element of surprise for the student gifts could be preserved.
''The best thing is that it didn't cost one cent. Every gift was donated by some very generous and thoughtful people,'' said Gamlin, who estimated that more than 30 volunteers were involved in Saturday's event by bringing the collected gifts to the school, setting up tables in the gym where the gifts were displayed and helping the children wrap the gifts.
Leftover gifts will go to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, along with cash that was collected at collection canisters set up in the hall and inside the library. Last year some $385 was collected for the food pantry.
Fifth grader Ashlynn Baron, 10, said that she was wrapping presents for seven people. ''It's a good program. Kids get free presents to give to their family and it makes them feel really good to be able to give,'' she said.
''I'm getting presents for my Mom and Dad and sister and brother. It's a lot of fun,'' said fourth grader Kiara Ellsworth.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:49

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Council Again Defers TIF Decisions

LACONIA — After convening a special meeting to consider authorizing a borrowing to undertake a series of projects recommended by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District Advisory Board the City Council last night again deferred its decision.

Presenting the menu of projects, Kevin Dunleavy, director of parks and recreation, reminded the council it had already approved spending $275,000 to improve the gateway to downtown at the Main Street Bridge, in order to ensure that the improvements were incorporated into the design for the reconstruction of the bridge. Likewise, in October the council approved spending $35,000 to extend a ten-inch water main from Main Street to Veteran's Square to service the former Evangelical Baptist Church, which is being converted to restaurant.

Dunleavy told the council the board recommended investing $400,000 to extend the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street, $25,000 to add signage and kiosks to the riverwalk and WOW Trail, $181,000 to connect the Main Street Bridge to the riverwalk at the Landmark Inn, $121,800 to extend the riverwalk through the Walgreen's property, and $300,000 to carry the riverwalk from behind the old police station up to the Church Street bridge. Altogether the estimated cost of the projects, including the Gateway Plaza and water main, totaled $1,337,800.

Dunleavy said that the board decided to shelve its earlier recommendation to spend $200,000 on a pocket park where Water Street, Pleasant Street and Main Street come together downtown.

The projects would be funded by borrowing $1,350,000 against the annual revenue to the TIF account at an estimated interest rate of four-percent over 20 years. The TIF account has a current balance of $311,353 and projected revenue of $173,687 in 2014 and an additional amount each year thereafter for a total of $4,250,212 during the next 20 years. When the debt is retired, assuming no further borrowing, the TIF fund would be left with a balance of $2,811,654. City Manager Scott Myers has assured the council that the revenue accruing to the TIF fund is sufficient to service the proposed debt and, within a reasonable time, support another borrowing.
Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, told the council that with the $400,000 he was confident that his organization could raise the $200,000 required to construct the second phase of the trail, from Main Street to the Belmont town line, in 2014.
Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) said that although "the purpose of the projects is to revitalize downtown, I haven't heard one word about revitalizing downtown. The WOW Trail will not revitalize downtown," she continued, doubting the findings of an economic impact study, which she said relied on the effects of similar trails in "upscale areas." Baer questioned applying $400,000 in TIF funds to the WOW Trail.
"I beg to differ," countered Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who stressed that the projects would attract people downtown, which is the essence of revitalization. "To throw a wet blanket on it is not consistent with why we're raising the money," he said.
"I'm not throwing a wet blanket on it," replied Baer, who expressed her support for the WOW Trail.
"The WOW Trail is a city park," interrupted Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), who added that like the recent project at Laconia High School it was a successful private-public partnership.
When Baer said that the overriding question is "what do we want downtown?" Lahey replied flatly "people," which projects like the WOW Trail and riverwalk would bring to the center of the city.
Lipman questioned the wisdom of investing in segments of the downtown riverwalk on the south bank of the Winnipesaukee River before the pathway along the north bank is complete. In particular, he said that the segment running through the Walgreen's property "doesn't go anywhere" because those to either side of it are not yet on the construction schedule. Dunleavy pointed out that Walgreen's contributed $25,000 to engineer the project and indicated the city may be obliged to draw those funds within a specific time or forfeit them. If that were the case, Lipman suggested funding the design and engineering but not the $121,800 in construction costs.
Warren Hutchins, who chairs the Planning Board but emphasized he was speaking as an individual, said he favored all the board's proposals, but urged the council revisit the traffic pattern and flow downtown. Laconia, he remarked, "is the most inconvenient place for a person to navigate."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:49

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