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Mention of performance-based pay gets icy reception at school meeting

LACONIA — School Board member at-large Mike Persson broached the topic of teacher performance-based pay Tuesday night by suggesting the school create a "fund" to be used to try and keep excellent educators in the district by augmenting their salaries.

Persson's suggestion was triggered by the recent departure of a "much loved" high school guidance counselor who left Laconia for Inter-Lakes Regional School District for what Persson said was a higher salary.

"I was sad to see we lost her for what amounts to money," Persson said.

Performance pay and teacher contracts have long been a battle ground between teachers' unions and school administrators. While it has been a long time since the subject of performance pay was broached openly in Laconia, it nonetheless hit a nerve with other board members and retired teacher and former teachers' union president Richard Coggon, who was in the audience.

While Coggon, who attends almost every meeting of the school board, didn't speak directly to performance pay, he was critical of the School Board for freezing teacher pay for the past three years "in order to keep the City Council happy."

"This is what happens when people go three years without a raise," Coggon told the board.

Other school board members looked uneasy when Persson made his statement during the board member comment period, which happens at the end of the meeting. Performance pay was not on the agenda.

Persson is the newest member of the Laconia School Board, elected in November of last year.

"The only thing we can do is look at slots within the (confines) of the teacher's contract," said School Board Chair Joe Cormier, who has been negotiating union contracts as a member of the School Board for 11 years.

Laconia's collective bargaining agreement with its teachers' union — typical to the industry — currently allows for only two factors to be taken into consideration when determining salary: 1. the number of years a teachers has been working in the district, and 2. the number of credit hours of post-graduate education the teacher has earned, assuming a Bachelors degree as a given.

Cormier said the wage freeze implemented over the past few years was city-wide and was not specific to the schools.

"Leaving a school is the result of freezing salaries," Coggon continued. "You liked the idea to please the City Council."

Coggon also cautioned that if the School Board was going to head down the path suggested by Persson, the should check first with School District attorney Paul Fitzgerald before "they all end up in Concord."

Cormier fired back by saying the district went through the city-wide freeze with the agreement of all three unions that represent different groups of employees within the School District.

He said employee departures are an "inherent risk" in any school districts with close neighbors because somebody always pays at little better.

Persson said yesterday that his goal is not to cut teacher salaries but for the district to have the ability to reward extraordinary teachers.


Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 01:22

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Town holds $90k mortgage balance on Kimball Castle

GILFORD — The town of Gilford initially sold Kimball Castle with a 24-acre parcel of land for $116,000 in 1999.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said yesterday that the town holds the mortgage and Dave Jodoin, the president of Kimball Castle Properties, LLC, owes $90,000 on the balance.

The castle was initially sold to Historic Inns of New England and Jodoin was one of the three owners. When the company folded, Jodoin formed a new company, Kimball Castle Properties, LLC and continued paying the mortgage.

Dunn said the terms of the mortgage were $1,500 a year for the first five years, $2,000 a year for the second five years, and $2,500 a year for the remainder of balance of which there have been two years of payments. It was a 40-year loan and all of the proceeds go into the Kimball Castle Trust which is overseen by selectmen, who are advised by the Kimball Castle Wildlife Committee.

At the public hearing last week regarding the future of the castle and its immediate environs, there were differing amounts recalled by some of those who spoke.

Selectmen are reviewing a proposal by Jodoin to change the terms of the charitable gift made by Charlotte Kimball so that he can tear down the castle and make some changes to the easements. If selectmen and Jodoin reach some kind of agreement, it must be sent to the Office of the Attorney General and be approved by the Belknap County Superior Court before anything can be changed.

Charlotte Kimball gave the land to the town for wildlife observation and education and it is a condition of the charitable trust.

The town's building inspector condemned the building and ordered that it be torn down or that a fence be erected that would prevent people from entering it.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 01:15

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Belknap Commissioners announce they'll take a second look at county jail options & will expand advisory group

LACONIA — Faced with virtually unanimous opposition to a proposed $42.5 million price tag for a new county correctional facility, Belknap County Commissioners Wednesday morning said they want to take a second look at the jail planning process.
''We're taking a step backwards to see what other options are available,'' said Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), who chairs the county's Jail Planning Committee, which has been working for three years to come up with a plan to address the problems with the current facility.
As part of that process the commission is looking to expand the membership of the Community Advisory Committee, which was formed last year to provide public input into the jail planning process.
''We have a list of people we would like on that committee and we're getting in contact with them to see if they will become a part of the committee,'' said County Administrator Debra Shackett, who indicated that some of those being asked to join are members of the Belknap County Convention.
Several members of the convention, which is composed of the 18 elected legislators from the towns and city in the county, were critical of the jail planning process at a meeting last week in which a member of the public accused commissioners of neglecting the county jail in order to force the county to have to build a new one.
Commissioner Steven Nedeau (R- Meredith), said that nothing was further from the truth. ''We've been having public meetings for three years,'' and said that it was important that people realize ''that doing nothing is not an option.''
Nedeau said that during the whole process the commission has been aware that a new facility would most likely be needed. ''We don't want to throw good money at the jail and later on have it torn down.''

Shackett said that the the Jail Planning Committee has been considering six options and that after all of them have been vetted the committee will take a fresh look at what might be the best course for the county.
''It's a good healthy process,'' said Philpot, who said that one option which will most likely be off the table will be the closing of the current facility and farming out all of the prisoners to other correctional facilities around the state.
Shackett said that Strafford County has indicated a willingness to enter discussions about taking all of Belknap County's prisoners but that would be at a much higher rate than the current daily charge which the county pays.
She said that the Belknap County Correctional facility currently has 146 inmates, 26 of whom are being held in three different counties around the state.
''At 120 prisoners we're maxed out,'' said Shackett of the current jail's capacity.
Shackett said that the jail planning committee is considering switching its meetings from 4:30 on alternate Tuesday afternoons to 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights as well as having the meetings televised so that more people can be aware of the issues which are involved and become a part of the process.
Philpot and the other commissioners said that they were not in favor of closing the county jail and sending inmates to other counties.
''What happens to a police officer in Center Harbor who makes an arrest and there's no place to take them except Dover, which is 50 miles away?'' asked Philpot, who said that local towns would incur extra costs for prisoner transportation, as would the Sheriff's Department which would have to bring prisoners all the way from Dover to Belknap County for trials and then return them at the end of the day.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 01:02

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Zoning Board refuses variance for country club area housing development

LACONIA — The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) this week denied a zoning variance that would have enabled a cluster development of 13 housing units to be built on a waterfront lot at 640 Elm Street, across from the Laconia County Club.

The zoning ordinance requires a minimum of 10 acres for cluster development, which is exempt from the lot size, frontage requirements and setback limits that apply in the zoning district. The majority of the board concluded that the 5.6-acre lot amounted to too small a share of the minimum to warrant a variance.

Bill Contardo, a member of the Planning Board, and his partner, attorney Paul Bordeau, sought to develop the property. They stressed that apart from the minimum tract size of 10 acres, the planned development would comply with all the requirements of the municipal zoning ordinance and the state shoreline protection statute.

The lot stretches from Elm Street to Lake Opechee, where there is approximately 150-feet of shorefront, and is bounded to the west by Mallard Cove and to the east by Kings Court. Since the lower half of the lot is laced with wetlands, the nearest unit to the lake would be 500 feet from the water's edge, further than similarly situated units at the neighboring residential developments of Mallard Cove, King Court and Country Club Shores. Likewise, Bordeau told the board that the density of 2.3 units per acre would be less than that of these nearby subdivisions.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 04:52

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