City's busy brush dump will remain open through Saturday

LACONIA — The city brush dump on Hilliard Road at the Weirs, which was empty before the storm on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, was filled yesterday with the limbs and branches felled by the heavy, wet snow and by noon was aflame.

John Neal, general foreman at the Department of Public Works (DPW), said that the brush dump will remain open to residents on both Friday and Saturday this week, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. The dump closed for the winter in early November but reopening for a few days to help people deal with storm damage. Neal said the added Saturday hours would provide those unable to take time away from work on weekdays an opportunity to dispose debris from the storm.

At the dump yesterday, DPW worker Tony Linkkila, who had not been home since the day before, said that empty space has filled up quickly. Within the circular road around the dump, he said that the pile of fallen limbs had grown large enough to require burning and was ringed by more brush to be consigned to the flames. "Usually we don't burn until after Christmas when we've picked up the trees," he said.

Apart from residents bringing debris to the dump, Neal said that three crews have been working since Friday to clean up after the storm. "Everybody has been hard at it," he remarked, confessing that he had lost track of what day of the week it was.

At midday Mike Kelly set the pile alight. He doused a patch of pine and pallets with diesel fuel and with a wand called a "rosebud" attached to a propane tank lit the fire. Linkkila said that it had been raining on the brush since 1 a.m. and was not surprised the fire was slow to spread. Neal expected the fire to burn around the clock through the week.

This week the DPW has waived all restrictions on size and will accept all limbs and branches regardless of their length and diameter.

To reach the brush dump turn go to the roundabout at the Weirs, turn north on Endicott Street (Rte. 3), and past the Meredith Bridge Condominiums turn left on to Hillard Road. The dump is one mile down the road on the right.

Increase in stipends paid to coaches & advisers will be only special article on Gilford school warrant in 2015

GILFORD — The School Board unanimously voted Monday night to move $11,545 for increases in stipends to athletic coaches and after-school advisers from the operating budget to a separate warrant article.

The stipend increases were included for the proposed 2015-2016 budget because they are called for in the union contract negotiated and approved by voters earlier this year. But they were not a cost item in the 2014-2015 budget because negotiators agreed the increases would not take effect until the second year of a three-year contract.

Superintendent Kent Hemingway said that because the stipend increases of $11,545 have an impact on the new budget, they must be presented as a separate warrant article.

For the current school year, Hemingway said the stipends paid are the same as the year before. Should the warrant article pass, the stipends will not go up again in 2016-2017, which is the last year of the current contract with the Gilford Education Association.

The warrant article for the stipend increases is the only warrant article Gilford voters will act on this year. Because of upward financial pressure from health insurance costs and mandatory employer contributions to the N.H. State Retirement System, the district administrators and School Board members decided not to include any major capital projects in the proposed budget.

The proposed budget of $25,430,087 now moves on to the Gilford Budget Committee for consideration

The School Board approved a default budget last night of $25,394,241. Should the voters reject the budget put forward by the Budget Committee, the default budget will become law under the rules put forward by SB-2, the Official Budget Act.

In other School Board action, the board approved a fund-raising letter that was drafted by the Meadow Athletic/Academic Complex fundraising team.

The letter will be sent to businesses in the towns of Gilford and Belmont, which joined forces with Gilford Football for the first time this year, in the hopes of carrying on the Carye Foundation's goals for the land.

With Phase I, which includes an all-purpose and professionally designed playing field for the northwest corner of the land, the 2016 goal is to raise money for concession stands, restrooms and other amenities.

The School Board noted that any gifts or in-kind donations are tax free.

Garden club's Greens & Gilfts Boutique & Homes for the Holidays tour are this weekend

LACONIA — Members of the Opechee Garden Club gathered at the Weirs Community Center Tuesday morning for a greens workshop where they put together dozens of holiday wreaths, arrangements and swag which will be available for sale at the Greens & Gifts Boutique which will be held Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Belknap Mill.
The arrangements will also be used to help decorate the featured homes in the "Homes for the Holidays" House Tour which is being revived by the club this year and will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. This self guided tour features five beautifully decorated homes in Laconia and Gilford.
The historic 1823 Belknap Mill is headquarters for the event. Tickets at $20 may be purchased in advance at the mill, Laconia and Gilford libraries and Kitchen Cravings restaurant or the day of the tour at the mill itself.
Visitors to the mill will be tempted with a lovely variety of wreaths, swags, arrangements and handcrafted items for sale, and a raffle table of specialty items. Complimentary refreshments of mulled cider, coffee and home made goodies will be served.
Carolyn Temmallo, chairman of the event, says "the tour promises to delight and enlighten you with a true holiday spirit. Each of the houses boasts of creative ideas and beautifully crafted handmade decorations reflective of the home's era".
In Laconia, a gracious Greek revival style brick home with slate roof, built in 1911 was renovated in the early 2000's respecting the integrity of the original design. Chandeliers, stained glass windows, an ornately decorated tree along and fresh greens are only a few of the delights guests will experience touring this beautiful home.
The second Laconia home, an elegant and beautifully restored Victorian farmhouse, built in the 1800s will delight guests with a 10-foot tree decorated with cascading ribbons, candle lights, ornaments and tussie mussies.
The home is owned by Jim and Linda Belcher, who were recently presented with a Front Porch Award by the City of Laconia for the improvements made to the home. Linda was among those working with club members to put together Christmas wreaths and decorations and said that she was excited about the prospect of having so many visitors in her new home.
Before leaving Laconia, guests will tour a lovely contemporary home on Lake Opechee, designed by the owners, affords expansive views of the lake. Fieldstone fireplaces, etched glass doors, and many unusual striking decorations skillfully made by the owner will be enjoyed by all who visit.
Traveling to the historic Gilford Village, guests will be greeted with a red sleigh filled with holiday dreams and antique sleds at the oldest home on the tour. This charming farmhouse was originally built in 1832, and renovated in 1972 as a traditional European colonial home. Also located in the village, this 1847 dwelling, one of the original homes built in the village, which was expanded in 2013. This magnificently restored, holiday decorated farmhouse, with hand-hewn beams and country décor invokes images of a true 1800's Christmas
Judy Robertson, co-president of the club says "This is such an important event for our club. It provides the funds needed to support our scholarships, grants and community betterment projects throughout the year. Our talented members love creating the many greens arrangements, hand crafted items and decorations seen in the houses and the boutique. I know this year's tour will once again delight our guests."
Co-President Doreen Worthley added " We are so fortunate to have the support of the businesses and our neighbors in the community. Bank of New Hampshire is again our financial sponsor for this major event and we thank them for their continued support."


Taking part in an Opechee Garden Club Greens Workshop at the Weirs Community Center were club members Linda Belcher, Marilyn Lynch and Lynne DeVivo. Dozens of wreaths, swags and other holiday arrangements were made and will be available for sale at the Greens & Gifts Boutique which will be held Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Belknap Mill in Laconia. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Belknap Mill Society posted $59,000 loss in 2013

LACONIA — Spared from the wrecking ball in 1970, the Belknap Mill once again faces a clouded future, which will be the topic of public discussion when the City Council meets on Monday, December 8.

Last month the Belknap Mill Society, the nonprofit corporation that owns the mill, announced that it no longer has the financial capacity to own and maintain the oldest unaltered, brick textile mill in the country and one of the first buildings placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The board of trustees has said it would prefer to "partner" with the city itself or a private party in the ownership and operation of the building, which would remain open to both the public and the society. However, Chris Santaniello, the executive director of the Lakes Region Community Services Council who is president of board, said that without such a partnership, the property would have to be offered for sale on the open market.

Mayor Ed Engler has acknowledged that at a private meeting with the City Council in October the trustees of the society offered the mill to the city for an undisclosed price. However, he said that councilors asked that other avenues be thoroughly explored before a municipal purchase could be explored.

According to the Form 990, which the society, as a tax exempt, nonprofit corporation files each year with the Internal Revenue Service, the society posted operating losses of $20,325 in 2012 and $59,279 in 2013. According to the balance sheet, the society ended 2013 cash, savings, and accounts receivable of $73,246 and liabilities of $15,422.

David Stamps, who served as treasurer of the society from 2011 to 2014, said that the mill "has not been even close to a break-even point for many, many years."

Santaniello said that the society has drawn on its reserves to maintain operations and has sufficient funds to enable the society to keep the mill open for six or seven months.

The society's operating budget in 2013 was $216,678, including compensation and benefits of $86,741 and occupancy expenses —utilities, insurance and maintenance — of $57,000. Total revenues were $157,399, leaving an operating deficit of $59,279. Rental income of $51,301 represented the largest single source of revenue. Two spaces in  the mill are rented to law practices and the society also rents space, particularly the function room on the third floor, to civic organizations and private parties on an event-by-event basis. The society realized net gains of $22,809 from the sale of securities. Fundraising events grossed $45,048, which less expenses of $28,837 yielded net income of $16,211, and membership dues and cash contributions returned $33,694. The society also collected $15,465 in proceeds from charitable gaming at Seabrook Greyhound Park.

The filing indicates that membership dues and contributions fell almost 70-percent between 2009 and 2013, from $111,388 to $33,694. The society offers memberships to businesses at dues ranging from $100 to $5,000 and to individuals at dues ranging from $50 to $5,000.

Meanwhile, the costs of operating and maintaining the building, constructed in 1823, continue to rise. Stamps estimated that a minimum of $500,000 in capital investment, including new heating and lighting systems, is necessary to put the structure in good repair.

Stamps said that membership, which had reached 800 in the 1990s, had had plummeted to around 30 by 2011. Andre Paquette, who served on the board from 1982 to 1991, said that when he rejoined it in 2011 "business memberships were non-existent."

Paul Morin, whose family owned the mill before it ceased operating in 1969, served as a trustee from 1995 until 2007 and, like Paquette, returned briefly in 2011. By then, he said, the mill was struggling financially. He found that no aggressive grant writing or fundraising efforts were underway. Longstanding members were not pursued to renew and new members, especially businesses, were not aggressively courted. Instead, Morin said the board intended to develop what he called "a high-end art gallery and gift shop" to bolster the revenue stream. The plan, he said, displaced the historical features and character of the mill, which he believed represent its value and attraction. "We could see this coming," he said

Meanwhile, reductions in government funding bred stiffer competition from ever more nonprofit corporations competing for public and private grants, corporate sponsorships and private contributions. And the local economy was reeling from the effects of recession.