Laconia is safe, say police

Recent home invasions ‘targeted’ victims

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Two recent home invasions were targeted toward specific people and were more likely than not drug related, said Police Capt. Matt Canfield yesterday. He said these were not random acts of violence and that city residents should know that Laconia is a safe place to live and work.

"These home invasions were very targeted and (the perpetrators) knew what they wanted," Canfield said.

On July 27, three people armed with baseball bats and pipes targeted some people who were in an apartment at 72 Batchelder St. Three people were injured in that attack.

On Aug. 3, two men were arrested and charged with armed robbery, burglary and conspiracy to commit armed robbery after attacking two other men in an apartment at 93 Church St.

Canfield said police have a number of leads in the Batchelder Street incident and are still investigating the Church Street case. He said police don't think the two are related.

Police and the community have taken a number of steps to address the growing drug problem and its fallout in the city. Two years ago, city police created the Prevention, Education and Treatment (PET) program and dedicated Officer Eric Adams to work with those in the community who are addicted to drugs and who want to get clean. Not only does he  help people anonymously get into treatment programs, Adams goes to all drug overdoses and drug-related crimes with the goal of offering assistance.

The community has also rallied around Stand-Up Laconia, a civilian-based education program that provides support to the community and works to band together those who want to address the drug problem.

Four year ago, Presiding Justice Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division pioneered Recovery Court – an all-volunteer effort to help a limited number of people who are facing jail or prison because of addiction problems but who want to go through recovery. Police agree that is has been an effective program and Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer is one of the key volunteers.

"We have taken the approach that we will help those who are addicted and who want help," said Canfield. "We also take the enforcement position that if people want to continue to use and sell drugs in Laconia, we're going to take a hard line."

Canfield said Laconia is a fairly good-sized city and is not immune to the misfortunes of drug activity and its fallout. But, he said, New Hampshire is a safe state and Laconia is a safe city.

While he said it is not uncommon for police to deal with drug dealers who have guns, knives and other weapons, police statistics show that the violent crime rate, or the "crimes against persons" rate, has been steadily dropping in the city, with the possible exception of domestic violence.

"I don't think the community is getting more violent," he said.

He said violent drugs crimes are often committed against "like-minded" people.

"If you're going to deal in that kind of environment, then that's what coming to you," he said. "If you want help, we'll help. If you don't, we'll put you in jail."

Gilmanton officials dispute change in meetings location

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — It's been a topic of discussion for years, but the meeting office space next door to the town clerk/tax collector's office is now a private office for that official and the supervisors of the checklist, despite the desire of many board members who met there to stay put.

According to Town Administrator Paul Branscombe, all boards will now meet in the upstairs auditorium.

But, and according to multiple emails obtained from the town, with the exception of the selectmen, most chairmen of town boards and the recently ousted former selectmen's Chairman Michael Jean were not in agreement.

"I guess I find (this) hard to understand when our town has functioned so well with our meetings downstairs," wrote Zoning Board Chairman Elizabeth Hackett in an email to the assistant town administrator.

"I still want to use the small conference room as do most of the Planning Board members," wrote Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni.

One of the problems with using the auditorium is acoustics.

"I wish they could consider what could be done to improve sound muffling upstairs," wrote former selectman Betty Ann Abbott.

Branscombe said Thursday that curtains have been installed to close off the stage area and he is looking into some prices for some portable microphones.

"In the summer, if memory serves, it is unbearable upstairs," said Abbott.

Branscombe has recommended purchasing a few ceiling fans to try and cool the area in the summer and to circulate the air in the winter.

Former Chairman Michael Jean said earlier this week that he thinks his reluctance to agree with the other two selectmen had something to do with his ouster as chairman.

"I didn't agree with that decision," he said, adding he's not exactly sure when the decision was made or who made it.

"I left you a message to say that you were quite correct we do not need to bring this matter up at a BOS meeting as it has nothing to do with the general public," wrote Branscombe to board member Steve McWhinnie on May 31 in an email not included in The Laconia Daily Sun's Right-To-Know request for all of the emails regarding this decision but one that was widely circulated and reached a quorum of the selectmen.

Jean said earlier this week he thinks that because all of the town's board meetings were held in that room, it should have been discussed and voted upon in public. He said he voiced that opinion to Branscombe in a private email on July 1.

Lakes Region Tennis Association has graduation in Laconia

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The players were smaller, the courts were smaller and the nets were lower but there was some high quality tennis being played at Memorial Park Thursday night.

The tennis celebration for the children from six local communities was made possible by the Lakes Region Tennis Association, the United State Tennis Association of New England and some generous local sponsors who made it possible for children from ages 5 to 14 to play tennis twice a week at local courts with all of the coaching and equipment provided.

Mike and Amber Gagnon and Hazel Gaudette from Laconia were at Memorial Park to watch their children play. Likely the youngest ones in the crowd, for a while the three of them had a court to themselves but willingly shared when the program expanded to four courts.

"They're excited about this," said Gaudette. "On days without tennis, they wanted to play anyway."

Jennifer Tyrrell of Franklin's three children have been in the program for two years. Last year was Franklin's first year with the LRTA program.

"We had coach Andrew (Caulfield)," she said. "He needs to coach everybody."

Caulfield is from Gilford, led the Gilford High School tennis team there to three state championships, graduated as class president in 2015 and now attends UNH.

Guylaine Ivester of Franklin said the program has been wonderful for her whole family. Her boys played in the final round robin against two Laconia girls and said the whole family is playing tennis four nights a week at Odell Park.

"My husband is happy he has future tennis players," she said.

She said that one of the things she likes about tennis is that is children can be "part of a team without getting lost in the team."

"For us it's going very well," said Gilford Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene.

The Gilford portion of the program saw 61 young athletes participate in the six-week program.

"To offer free lessons is not something we would be able to do," said Greene. "Financially we could not maintain a program of that size."

Laconia Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunleavy echoed Greene.

"Without all of the volunteers, coaches and equipment we would not be able to support this program," he said.

What's exciting to Dunleavy is that it seems that largely because of this program and the LRTA, local interest in tennis has grown. His department recently did some key repairs at the Memorial Park courts and the City Council recently approved money to completely redo the Leavitt Park tennis courts.

"The thing about tennis is that it can be an affordable option for kids who don't have a lot of money," he said. "It's like basketball in that regard."

Head coach and key proponent of the LRTA Kamal Gosine, said this past summer has been the best he's seen yet.

"It's getting bigger and bigger," he said, noting that his employer, MB Tractor and Equipment allows him to work his schedule around the games. He said his truck is filled with tennis equipment. "We started out with nothing and now we're running five programs for six communities."

"What we want to do is to encourage tennis," he said, adding that one of the goals of LRTA and the USTA is to encourage high schools to include more tennis programs in their athletic schedules.

Kamal also noted that some hugely successful professional tennis players have earned healthy scholarships for college for playing tennis.

Although the program is over for this year, Kamal said there are established programs for next year in Laconia, Gilford, Meredith, Tilton, Northfield and Franklin. He hopes to expand it into a couple more towns next year.

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Coach Kamal Gosine congratulates Manuela Kemp and Madeline Mousseau after winning the finals during the LRTA celebration evening bringing together players from Laconia, Gilford, Tilton/Northfield, Franklin and Meredith at Memorial Park on Thursday evening. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Emily Hansen was one of the recipients of the "Good Sportsmanship" award during the final evening of LRTA lessons combining the towns of Laconia, Gilford, Tilton/Northfield, Franklin and Meredith at Memorial Park on Thursday evening. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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