Pleasant Street home falls victim to apparant burglary for second time in several weeks

LACONIA — For the second time in less than a month a Pleasant Street man has been the victim of an alleged burglary. This time, the perpetrator was found hiding in an upstairs bedroom by a police dog and his handler.

Affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said that on Friday at 7:38 p.m., police got a call from someone reporting a burglary in progress.

A police officer who was there reported that a side door to the residence had been damaged. A second responding officer noticed that the glass on the porch had been broken. The two officers, along with the dog, entered the house.

Once on the second floor, the dog apprehended an individual in the back bedroom and police saw a man lying on the floor next to the bed who was identified as Michael Weeks, 35, who is transient.

As police continued their investigation, they learned that Weeks gathered firearms — including a .45 caliber pistol, a shot gun and rifle, a silver watch and a Vietnam medal – for removal.

He is charged with one count of burglary and one count of theft by unauthorized taking. After appearing in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division by video, Judge Jim Carroll order him held on $5,000 cash-only bail.

According to a 2012 story in the Union Leader, Smith was one of two people who were shot in Lawrence, Mass. in March of that year. At the time, Lawrence Police were looking for a white Mercedes SUV with New Hampshire plates. Police at the time said the shooting appeared to be drug related.

The victim in this case came home two weeks ago and allegedly found Jesse Lohman sitting on his front porch charging his cell phone. The victim was able to convince Lohman to accompany him to the police station and file a report.

Five days later, Lohman allegedly went to a home on Corliss Hill Road in Meredith and fire two rounds through the homeowners' front door.

Lakeport Landing sues city over process that led to lot sale

LACONIA — Lakeport Landing is suing the city, saying, in part, the city manager was not instructed to solicit comprehensive bids when he sent the marina and Irwin Marine a letter on June 1 soliciting their "highest and best" offer for property at 21 Elm St. As a result of that solicitation the City Council voted to sell the property to Irwin Marine.

21 Elm Street is a city-owned parcel that has been leased to the owners of Lakeport Landing since 1985. Irwin Marine is an abutter.

In its civil action, filed in Belknap County Superior Court, Blizzard Inc., Lakeport Landing's corporate entity, is asking the court to overturn the council's decision and send the matter back to the council for further consideration. Blizzard is also asking the court to award the business legal fees and attorney's fees.

Erika Blizzard, writing for Blizzard Inc., claims the City Council's action in accepting Irwin's offer on June 8, was "arbitrary and capricious" and the council had not authorized a bid process in its previous meeting on May 26.

"Additionally, the council's action was a complete disregard of the rights of first refusal held by Blizzard," she wrote, asking the court to review, remand and rescind the city's action.

The second cause of action claims that City Manager Scott Myers was not authorized by the City Council to conduct bidding or prescribe a bidding process for 21 Elm St., where Lakeport Landing's showroom building is located.

The letter sent by Myers to both Blizzard and Irwin Marine states, "This letter is not intended to be a comprehensive bid document and the city reserves all rights to request additional items in determining its future disposition of the property," wrote Blizzard, presumably quoting Myers' letter of June 1.

She argues this language ran counter to the subsequent action by the council.

In her suit Blizzard further states that the minutes of the council's May 26 meeting give no evidence that the council decided that bidders needed to submit "highest and best offers" by June 8.

Blizzard submitted a timely offer after the June 1 letter that included a purchase price of $331,400 and guaranteed payments and tax payment for 21 Elm St. for 50 years. She also offered an additional set of tax payments for an abutting property owned by her for 10 years and wrote that wanted time for an additional appraisal that may have resulted in a higher offer from her.

Blizzard Inc. has leased the 21 Elm St. location since 1985 and built, at its expense, a 9,000-foot showroom for the boats on that property. The lease is set to expire on Oct. 31.

Blizzard said that in January, she offered to buy the property and the City Council declared it "surplus" so it could offer it for sale. Upon hearing the city declared the property surplus, Irwin Marine also made an offer.

The city has the property independently appraised at $480,000.

According to the suit, on May 26 the City Council rejected the previous offers by Blizzard and Irwin Maine and ordered Myers to conduct informal conversations with both parties interested in purchasing and to lay out general conditions" such as: "what interest is relative to the appraised value; to allow the city to have easements in terms of utilities and the roadway; to allow the current tenant to continue to use the property for two years from the sale date, if the current bidder is not successful in gaining ownership; and to not lower the value of the property and restrictions on subdividing it for parking.

Blizzard said that Myers was not authorized by the City Council to solicit sealed and final bills during that meeting. However once those bids were received on June 8, the council voted 4-to-2 to award 21 Elm St. to Irwin Marine, which was the highest bidder.

At a meeting on July 13, the council unanimously voted to suspend its own rules to allow for a reconsideration of the June 8 vote to sell the property to Irwin Marine. However, the motion to reconsider the action was defeated by a vote of 4-to-3, with Councilors Brenda Baer, Armand Bolduc and David Bownes voting to reconsider, and Councilors Bob Hamel, Henry Lipman and Ava Doyle voting against. Mayor Edward Engler broke the tie by voting against reconsideration.

What if Laconia had a $15 minimum wage?

LACONIA — As evidence of growing inequality of income has mounted, increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour has gathered momentum as perhaps the most promising means of narrowing the gap between rich and poor, but in communities like Laconia, where hourly wages are relatively low a higher minimum wage carries the risk of reducing the number of jobs.

Minimum wages are set by federal, state and local statutes. Since 2009 the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour. However, there are 29 states with minimum wages higher than the federal standard, 20 of which raised their minimum wages in 2014 and 2015. In 2011 the New Hampshire Legislature bound the state minimum wage to the federal minimum wage, which at $7.25 per hour is the lowest rate among the six New England states.

As The New York Times recently reported, economists estimate the likely impact on employment of increases in the minimum wage by applying the ratio of the minimum wage to the median wage, or wage in the middle of the income distribution. The higher the ratio of the minimum wage to the median wage, the greater the benefit to employees. At the same time, the higher the ratio, the greater the risk that employers will eliminate jobs to spare costs.

Most economists agree that "moderate" increases in the minimum wage pose no significant threat to aggregate employment, but there is no consensus about where the point lies at which the risk of shrinking employment outweighs the benefits accruing to workers. Some believe municipalities can manage raising the minimum wage to 50 percent of the median wage without significant effects on employment while many suspect a ratio of more than 60 percent would lead to significant job losses. Since median wages differ from place to place as well as from one sector of the economy to another the effect of an increase will also vary from place to place and industry to industry.

In other words, where wages are so low that the proposed minimum wage would more closely approach the median wage the risk that raising the minimum wage would reduce employment is greatest. Likewise, an increase in the minimum wage would be most likely to shrink employment in those sectors of the economy where wages are lowest.

According to data compiled by the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, in 2014 the median wage in the state was $17.53 per hour. At $15 per hour, the ratio of the minimum wage to the median wage would be 85 percent, well above the threshold of 60 percent at which effects on employment are expected.

The median wage in the Laconia area, which includes the city and eleven towns — Alton, Belmont, Brookfield, Center Harbor, Gilford, Gilmanton, Meredith, Moultonborough, Sandwich, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro — is $16.63 per hour. If the minimum wage increased from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour, the minimum-to-median ratio would rise from 44 percent to 90 percent.
If the minimum wage were raised in two annual increments and the median wage rose by two percent a year, the minimum-to-mean ratio would be 87 percent.

At the same time, some 8,000 of the employees in the area— a third of the workforce — are employed in half--a-dozen sectors — art, design and media, healthcare support services, food preparation and service, cleaning and maintenance, personal care services and sales — in which the median wages are between 13 cents and $5.97 less than $15 per hour.

During the past two years the New Hampshire Legislature has rejected several proposals several proposals to uncouple the state minimum wage from the federal standard, raise the minimum wage to between $9 and $14.25 in two or three annual increments and thereafter provide for it to automatically adjust annually in pace with increases in the cost of living.

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, which advocated in favor of the legislation raising the minimum wage to $9 in two steps, estimated that 75,760 employees, or 12 percent of the state's workforce would earn more — altogether $64 million more. The regional impact would vary. In the Lakes Region, including Laconia, Franklin and Conway, 6,540 employees, 12 percent of the regional workforce, would benefit.

If the median wage rose two percent a year, in two years a minimum wage of $9 per hour would represent a minimum-to-median ratio of 50 percent for the state as a whole and of 53 percent for the Laconia area, well within the range of 50 percent to 60 percent where many economists believe the benefits to workers outweigh to risks to employment. If the minimum wage were raised to $14.25, the minimum-to-mean ratio would be 64 in the state and 67 percent in the Laconia area.

Advocates of raising the minimum wage stress that the federal rate of $7.25 has lost nearly 25 percent of its purchasing power during the past 35 years and an increase to $9 would restore it without posing a significant risk to employment or the economy. However, for communities like Laconia, an increase to $15 would likely weigh heavily on employment and the economy.