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Provision of Obamacare causing 'heartburn' at Gunstock

GILFORD — Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock Mountain Resort, said yesterday that provisions of the Affordable Care Act are "problematic for businesses with seasonal workforces" and "have prompted us to have very difficult conversations about how to address them."

Goddard explained that the health care law requires firms to provide health insurances to employees who work 30 or more hours a week or more than 120 days a year. Since both the winter season, which runs from around Thanksgiving to Easter, and the summer season, which runs from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, stretch beyond 120 days, he said that the law would require Gunstock to offer health insurance to between 10 and 12 part-time employees in addition to its 40 full-time employees.

Goddard said that Gunstock provides its full-time employees with "a very attractive comprehensive benefits package," but find it "problematic" to increase enrollment by between a quarter and a third. "It is disappointing that we're having very difficult conversations about how to address this situation," he remarked, describing the issue as "an unintended consequence of the act."

Noting that any number of seasonal businesses are wrestling with the problem, Goddard said that he has been speaking with other resorts, insurance carriers and healthcare providers and hopes to learn more when he attends the annual meeting of the National Ski Area Association in Savannah, Georgia.

Goddard discounted a report in the New Hampshire Union Leader that he is considering shortening both the winter and summer season to get below the 120-day threshold. He acknowledged that he said that was one possible option, but said his remark was taken out of context. He said that while shortening seasons and raising prices were possible, both were "far down on my list" and repeated that "this discussion is a source of real heartburn and we haven't found the good solution yet."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 12:36

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Meredith will pay its 'call' firefighter force higher wages

MEREDITH — At a workshop yesterday, the Board of Selectmen approved a pay raise for "call" firefighters that will narrow the disparities between their compensation and that of their counterparts in neighboring towns and their colleagues in other departments.

So-called "call" firefighters are essentially trained volunteers who get paid an hourly wage when, and only when, they respond to a alarm.

Meredith has only one full-time salaried firefighter, Chief Ken Jones.

Jones broached the issue last October in the course of preparing the 2014 town budget, stressing that the retention and recruitment of employees was an increasing challenge. An appropriation of $115,000 for a wage adjustment was included in the budget in anticipation of approving the new pay scale.

Town Manager Phil Warren cautioned that comparisons with other towns are difficult because departments have different responsibilities and operations. However, compared to a peer group of 11 other fire departments (Ashland, Barnstead, Belmont, Bridgewater, Bristol, Campton-Thornton, Center Harbor, Hebron, Holderness, Moultonborough and New Hampton) the current hourly wage in Meredith is between 18.4 percent and 43.7 percent below the median depending on the rank.

The current rates are for trainees $7.49, for firefighter-1, 2 and 3 $9.29, for lieutenant $10.33, for captain and second deputy $11.36 and for first deputy $13.42. The new rates will be $9 for trainees, $11.50 for fighter-1, $12.50 for firefighter-2, $13 for firefighter-3, $14 for lieutenant, $16 for captain, $17 for second deputy and $18 for first deputy. The increases range from 20.2 percent for trainees to 49.6 percent for the first deputy.

With the increase, hourly wages will be between 2.7 percent and 10.5 percent above the median of the peer group with the exception of the rate for trainees and lieutenants, which will fall 5.7 percent and 1.5 percent below the median.

With the staffing plan Jones has proposed, the cost of the increases are projected at $ 108,000, within the amount budgeted.

"This has been brewing for several years," said Selectman Peter Brothers in support of the plan. "Our interest is to retain our call fire fire department structure," he remarked, adding that full-time, professional personnel would cost between $950,000 and $1 million a year. He said that the current pay scale left volunteers asking "do I work for $12 or $15 an hour or do I drop my tool belt and answer the call for $9.50?"

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 12:33

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Seaplane crashes into 40° Lake Winnipesaukee

ALTON — A pilot suffered from cold water immersion but escaped without serious injury when his single-engine seaplane crashed and sank on The Broads, north of Rattlesnake Island, on Lake Winnipesaukee at about 12:30 p.m. yesterday.

Vadim Gayshan, 59, of Sudbury, Mass. was found by Marine Patrol officers Joshua Dirth and Philip Carpenter at 12:50 p.m., 20 minutes after the crash was reported, straddling the tail section of the largely submerged plane and waist deep in water. Gaysan was brought aboard the patrol with a throw ring and taken to Glendale, where he was met buy an ambulance from Alton Fire Rescue and transported to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laocnia.

The N.H. Department of Environmental Services (DES) reported the water temperature of the lake was 40 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday.

According to Marine Patrol, Gayshan, a pilot of 13 years whose experience includes two years with seaplanes, told officers he had flown the Cessna T206H from Fitchburg, Mass. He said that he was eying the retreating ice on the lake and flying at a speed of 70 to 80 knots between 300 and 400 feet above the water when he decided to fly "touch and gos," landing on the surface and taking off again without stopping. He said that he misjudged his elevation and the pontoon caught on the water, causing the plane to crash nose first. The plane subsequently sank in 105 feet of water.

Marine Patrol and DES, in partnership with Dive Winnipesaukee of Wolfeboro and Winnipesaukee Marine Construction of Gilford, were working to recover the plane yesterday.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 11:59

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Keys & then car stolen from patron of Belmont fitness club

BELMONT — A woman exercising at a local fitness club had her car stolen Saturday morning, presumably by some one who rifled through her pocketbook while it was in the locker room.

Police said yesterday that a woman called to report her keys were taken from her unlocked gym locker sometime between 9:40 and 11:20 a.m. The victim's pocketbook was not stolen.

When the victim couldn't find her keys, she went into the parking lot and noticed her 2013 Ford Explorer was missing.

The victim had left her cell phone in the car and police were able to trace it to Bellerica, Mass. Belmont Police notified police in both Bellerica and Winchester about the car theft.

During the police response, a second woman reported her keys were stolen from a different unlocked locker at Planet Fitness in the Belknap Mall, however her car was still in the parking lot.

Police again remind people who use public gyms to always put a lock on their locker and to leave valuables at home. They recommended locking any pocketbooks or other valuables in the trunk where they are out of sight of someone walking through the parking lot.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Belmont Police at 603-267-8351.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 01:10

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