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.

Shaker administrators recommending universal pre-school program for 4-year-olds instead of all-day kindergarten for 5-year-olds

BELMONT — Top administrators at the Shaker Regional School District have recommended a universal pre-kindergarten program for the school district as part of next year's programming.

Superintendent Maria Dreyer, Canterbury Elementary School Principal Mary Morrison and Belmont Elementary School Principal Sheila Arnold made their recommendations to the School Board at its regularly scheduled meeting late last month.

According to draft minutes of the meeting, the three told the School Board that research shows the benefits of pre-school can substantially reduce costs to the district in the future because there would be fewer special education referrals, better classroom behavior, lower crime rates and lower delinquency rates.

Dreyer also said that the program can be accomplished within the proposed school budget for 2015-2016, which is down slightly from this year.

Dreyer said that should the district add a universal half-day pre-school program, the district would continue with half-day kindergarten instead of moving toward a full-day kindergarten. She told the board that while full-day kindergarten is important, her research shows adding a pre-school program can show longer lasting benefits for students than only having a full-day kindergarten.

She also told the board there is some state and federal funds that could be available for a pre-kindergarten program.

The administrators said the pre-school could be accomplished within the current proposed budget. Dreyer told the school board that if the program is implemented, there would be four 2.5-hour sessions in Belmont and one 2.5-hour session in Canterbury for 4-year-olds.

They told the board there is room at both elementary schools for the pre-school programs. Dreyer said there also may be an opportunity to open up the program to other communities who could tuition in their students.

Administrators said transportation for preschoolers could be combined with special education transportation already provided for Special Education preschoolers.

Although it has not yet been scheduled, School Board Chair Heidi Hutchinson said there will be a second meeting scheduled specifically to gather public input.

Gilmanton says state laws prohibits 'boot drives'

GILMANTON — Selectmen will not be passing a regulation prohibiting solicitation to include the town Fireman's Association "boot drives" because further research of the part of the town administrator shows that state law already prohibits them.

According to N.H. State Law RSA 265:40, "no person shall stand on the traveled portion of a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride, employment, business or contributions from the occupant of any vehicle."

During a "boot drive", members of a given fire department typically stand in or on the edge of a roadway holding high, rubber boots and ask motorists to drop small bills and change into them. The money is then donated to a worth cause.

In short, the Gilmanton Fireman's Association's "boot drives" conducted typically on the weekends N.H. Motor Speedway holds it races, are illegal, according to town officials.

In addition to the law, a letter from N.H. Department of Transportation District 3 Supervisor Mark Morrill to the town reiterated that boot drives are not legal.

"There is no permit because it is a safety issue," Morrill wrote, when Town Administrator Arthur Capello inquired about a permit for the Gilmanton Firemans Association.

The subject of the "boot drives" came to the forefront in Gilmanton after selectmen received a letter from a resident complaining about them and asking who would be liable should one of the firefighters get injured during an event.

A public hearing was held in November that was attended by a number of residents including members of the Fireman's Association, who said they supported the drives and money they raise through the drives goes for equipment and for programs for the youth of Gilmanton including the Boy Scouts.

Some, including Selectman Brett Currier, said the boot drives cheapen the image of the town and make it look like the town doesn't adequately fund the Fire Department. Selectman Stephen McCormack told the audience that they board had to look at the safety concerns surrounding "boot drives" and other forms of solicitation on public roadways.
That meeting ended with Capello saying he would contact the state of New Hampshire DOT for further instructions and possible permitting regulations.

In a letter sent yesterday from Capello to the president of the Gilmanton's Fireman's Association, Capello wrote that "... the conclusion cannot help but the that solicitation of funds on any roads or right of way is an illegal action."

Capello said he also reviewed the statute with the police chief, who is in agreement with his and Morrill's interpretation of RSA 265:40.

"From this day forward, any solicitation is prohibited on any street, highway and right of way in Gilmanton," he concluded.