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Group determined to save Gale School says building is sound

BELMONT — A recent report commissioned and paid for by the Save our Gale School Committee says an inspector found the now empty building to be very solid.

Diane Marden said inspector Alex Azodi P.W.E. of Omega Structural Engineers in Newberry, N.H. wrote that, with the exception of the brick foundation, the now empty building "appears to be in a structurally sound condition."

"The wood walls and posts supporting the floor and roof framing and plumb or very near plumb and do not show any visible signs of structural overstress or movement," she quoted Azodi as saying.

She said Azodi also wrote that the "bell tower is straight and there wasn't any perceptible lean in any direction."

Marden, Conservation Commission Chair Ken Knowlton and former School Board Chair Pret Tuthill are members of the privately formed and funded committee that's planning on making a presentation for saving the building to the Shaker Regional School Board on September 10.

The group is being tight-lipped about the contents of its presentation, which will be also be made, more-or-less simultaneously, to an unnamed agency or individual that could assist the school district in preserving and reusing the former school. Beyond that, Marden said people would have to be patient about learning details of their ideas.

Discussions surrounding the Gale School resurfaced when town officials formed a Belmont Property Assessment Committee and tasked it with inspecting and assessing the condition of every town-owned building.

Although the Gale School belongs to the Shaker Regional School District and not the town, a few members of the committee did a quick walk-around, looking mostly at its foundation.

In his presentation to the Selectboard in July, building Inspector Steve Paquin said he didn't think the old school was restorable and noted the problems with the foundation. He said in his opinion if the building was relocated from its perch behind the Belmont Middle School, as has been discussed for a number of years, it would likely fall down.

He also noted the building was too big to be relocated in one piece in that the telephone wires were too low and the roads were likely too narrow.

On August 16, the N.H. Division of Historical Resources weighed in and informed the town and the school district that, in their opinion, the Gale School is historically and architecturally significant and is part of what they call the Belmont Factory Historic District that includes the Library, the Corner Meeting House, The Belmont Mill, and the bandstand.

Marden said on the night Knowlton and Tuthill make their presentation to the School Board, she will be making a similar presentation to the as yet undivulged entity or person that could make restoration feasible.

The Gale School was built in 1894 and was later named for the same Laconia banker — Napoleon B. Gale — whose name is one the city's public library. His will instructed that $10,000 of his estate was to be donated to the Town of Belmont. Gale represented Belmont in the state Legislature in 1868-69.

By the mid 1950s, the school was being used only for administrative office space and its rooms were further relegated to use only for cold storage when the new elementary school opened in 1985.

Donations to the Save our Gale School Committee can be made at Franklin Savings Bank, P.O Box 339, Franklin, NH 03235. More information about the Gale School can be found at belmontnh.homestead.com

Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 01:35

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Cyclist badly injured by fall on Tilton roadway

TILTON — A local man riding a bicycle suffered what appeared to be a serious injury when he struck an obstacle and fell into the road on Willow Street. behind Walmart, around 6 p.m. yesterday.

Captain Sean Valovani of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department said that the man was unconscious and unresponsive when emergency personnel arrived on the scene. He was transported to the emergency room at Franklin Regional Hospital and a helicopter was dispatched to take him to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. Valovani said that the helicopter had not yet lifted off when he left the hospital.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 August 2013 01:58

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Allan Harrison & 'Lakes Region Newsday' back on the air after illness sidelined dean of local journalists

LACONIA — Some might think that Allan Harrison's career as a radio newsman has been totally backward.
Taking a breather after doing his three-hour broadcast of "Lakes Region Newsday" on WEZS-AM, Harrison points to an article from a four-page newspaper published in 1971 by American University in Washington, D.C. There on the bottom of Page 1 is an article stating that Harrison has become a fully accredited member of the White House press corps. A sophomore communications and political science major at AMU and news director of the college's radio station, Harrison had managed to achieve the opportunity many seasoned news reporters would give their eyeteeth for: "... full (White House) news privileges, including admission to presidential press conferences and news briefings."
"Most reporters start in a small town and if they're lucky they end up getting to cover Washington. My career has been just the opposite," Harrison says with a chuckle.
In point of fact Harrison, 62, has spent almost all of the last 36 years, telling people of the Lakes Region what their city councilors, selectmen, school officials, police officers, firefighters, politicians and community leaders are up to.
"The reason I have kept doing this is because I believe that people need to realize that their power (to influence events) is stronger in their local governments. In order to do that they need to know about local matters. That's more important than knowing what is happening in Washington or on the other side of the world," says Harrison who is on his second week back on the job after recovering from a heart attack.
Harrison began covering Laconia area news back in 1977 as a contributor for WLNH-FM and WEMJ-AM, when the two stations were separately owned and their respective news departments competed for stories. In 1980 he landed a full-time position as a news reporter on WEMJ. After a few years, he left to become a newscaster and reporter on Manchester station WKBR, but he returned to WEMJ in 1986 at the invitation of then-station owner Jim McCann. Soon after his return he was named news director. Three years later he left WEMJ and joined WMRQ, a new FM station which had just gone on the air in Meredith. But WMRQ soon began having financial difficulties and Harrison was laid off as a result.
He then left radio news entirely and spent the next year and a half tending bar. "I got to know what it was like to be a sober person serving drunks," he said laughingly of the experience. One night in 1992 while bar-tending, Harrison got a call from Scott McQueen, the long-time owner of WLNH. McQueen offered him a job to come to WLNH to do the news during Warren Bailey's morning-drive program. That continued until 1995 when WLNH bought WEMJ and Harrison was moved over to WEMJ to anchor the morning news on the news-and-talk station. He continued on WEMJ until the 2005 when WEMJ's new owners, Nassau Broadcasting, (which had also purchased WLNH) decided to do away with local news programming altogether.
With the prospect of no more local radio news reports, Harrison partnered with former WLNH general manager, Bill McLain, to start "Lakes Region Newsday" on WEZS. For the last 10 years Harrison has an arrangement with WEZS under which he leases airtime from the station and then goes out and solicits advertising to cover the costs. He said he is grateful for the advertisers' support, and in particular the six advertisers who have been sponsors from the very beginning.
When Harrison began his radio news career, "Most stations had the philosophy that presenting local news was a public service and they did it whether it paid (for itself) or not," Harrison said. "That changed when the big corporations started buying up local stations and that dramatically changed the delivery of local news" on the radio.
Back in the 1980s, local radio stations had at least one person whose main job was to cover and report the news, and WLNH and WEMJ each had two full-time news people plus one or two part-time contributors. "You could cover two or three meetings a night if you had to," Harrison recalls.
Harrison virtually never covers meetings any more, although he does watch the Laconia City Council meetings live on the public access channel. These days he gets up at 2 a.m. and goes to the WEZS studios on Union Avenue shortly afterward to begin preparing his three-hour news program which airs weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. He goes through that day's newspapers to see what stories they have and checks his emails for timely press releases. He relies on the local papers for the background on stories and when a particular paper, such as The Daily Sun, has an exclusive story, he will do a brief rewrite of the story in radio style, giving on-air credit to the paper.
Beyond the headlines of the day Harrison regularly opens up his program to various local people and organizations which seek to publicize an event or idea. "I almost never turn a group down which wants to promote their cause," he says, explaining that is one way his program keeps people in touch with their community.
But through the years Harrison has also managed to interview his share of celebrities, mostly politicians. He says that he has interviewed virtually every presidential candidate going back to Ronald Reagan. Incumbent presidents seeking re-election are about the only ones he has not managed to get on the air. He recalls interviewing then-candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Soda Shoppe just days after she lost the 2008 Iowa Caucus to Barack Obama.
But what Harrison is most proud of is the series of 50 three-minute segments he produced on the occasion of the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution in 1987 about the impact New Hampshire's two delegates to the Constitutional Convention, John Langdon and Nicholas Gilman, had on that founding document. For the series Harrison was honored by the New Hampshire Bar Association.
While Harrison's career has had its rewards, it has also exacted a toll. He recently returned to the studio after being off the air for a month recovering from the heart attack he had in July. Ironically, he suffered the  attack just a week after giving up smoking.
"This is what happens when you give up smoking," he recalled telling the nurses at Concord Hospital where he was hospitalized for 2 1/2 weeks after doctors implanted a stent in one of his coronary arteries.
Harrison is philosophical about being one of few surviving radio newsmen in New Hampshire. He figures that there are now only a handful of commercial stations around the state which produce their own news programs, most in the southern part of the state.
"I'm afraid (local radio news) is dying, but I hope it's not," he said.
"He is certainly is one of the gems of the business," said Warren Bailey, who left radio broadcasting several years ago and now works for Comcast Spotlight, the local advertising sales division of Comcast Cable. "I've admired his skills for quite some time and it's refreshing that (the Laconia area) has someone who brings them local news."

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 August 2013 03:12

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Biologists seeking to learn more about migration habits of American eels in N.H. watersheds

LACONIA — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week installed an eel trap at the Lakeport Dam and is hoping to catch about 10 migrating American eels in order to fit them with transmitters which will allow them to track the migration of eels as they travel down New Hampshire rivers and out into the ocean where they will spawn in the Sargasso Sea east of Bermuda.
''The eels we're looking for will be in their silver stage, mostly 20-year-old females who can be as long as 40 inches and weigh over three pounds,'' says Douglas Smithwood, a fishery biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He worked with Kevin Fraser of Eagle Creek Renewables, owners of the hydroelectric dam at Lakeport, to install the trap and said that he will be checking it next week to see how well it has worked,
''We thought it would provide us with some useful information about eel migration,'' said Smithwood, who said that eels have long been coming up the Winnipesaukee River and into Lake Winnipesaukee.
''There are stories of eels in the Merrymeeting River in Alton that were so plentiful that people would use spears to catch them,'' said Smithwood, who says that they can even be found in places like Rust Pond in Wolfeboro, where he lives and where he once taught at Brewster Academy.
And they can grow to be pretty big. The record eel for New Hampshire was caught in Crystal Lake in Eaton in July of 1975 by Michael Hasharak and it was 44.5 inches long and and weighed 8 pounds.
Eels spawn at sea and return to coastal waters in New England where the males stay in brackish water near the mouths of rivers while the females make their way up rivers to inland lakes and ponds, some as far as the headwaters of the Connecticut River.
When the eels reach two to four feet long and are between five and 20 years old they migrate downstream and head to the Sargasso Sea, where the females lay as many as a million eggs at a time before they die, having lost the ability to feed in their final months of life.
Jack Noon's ''Fishing in New Hampshire'' says that in the early 19th century weirs were set up in the Winnipesaukee River somewhere near where the current Tilton Police Station is located and eels were harvested during their down river migration in eel pots capable of holding four or five bushels. The harvest would last nearly a month, from late August deep into September.
Smithwood said that eel populations in New Hampshire have declined sharply since the early 19th century and that there are restrictions in place which prevent the harvest of small eels, known as elvers, which typically head up rivers in the state in early spring. State law prohibits harvesting eels shorter than six inches.
By contrast nearby Maine does have an open season for elvers, which runs from March 22 to May 31, and it has become the second largest catch after lobster, accounting for $39 million a year in revenue to that state's fishermen.
That's because the price for elvers has soared from $25 a pound six years ago to around $2,600 a pound ever since the Europe placed a moratorium on the export of eels in 2010.
The elvers are sold to places like China, Japan and Korea where they are raised in ponds until they are harvested.
In May of this year the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department arrested two men from Maine in Seabrook for harvesting eels in New Hampshire coastal waters.
A statement issued by the department following the arrests said that number of incidents of poaching migrating young eels have occurred in the region as the price they bring on foreign markets has escalated.
"It is a violation of the law to harvest these young eels in New Hampshire," said Conservation Officer Lt. Michael Eastman of the N.H. Fish and Game Department. "As this incident shows, we are aggressively enforcing that law, and perpetrators will face significant consequences."

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 August 2013 02:03

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