Library now looks for AG's office to approve donation of trust funds to Colonial Theater renovation effort

LACONIA — The trustees of the Laconia Public Library have contributed $200,000 in trust funds toward the restoration of the Colonial Theater and in return will be entitled to use of the auditorium as specified by a memorandum of understanding between the trustees and the City Council and the Belknap Economic Development Corporation (BEDC).

With the renovation and expansion of the library, the Prescott Auditorium was lost, leaving the library without sufficient space to host events drawing significant numbers of people. The board of trustees, reads the memorandum, "has unanimously determined that the loss of the former Prescott Auditorium has diminished its ability to provide services to the Laconia Community." Consequently, the memorandum continues, the board "has unanimously deemed it prudent to contribute funds toward the renovation of the Colonial Theater." The city and the library agreed that "it is in the best interest of the community to make the public auditorium available to the library."

The memorandum stipulates that the library shall have access to the auditorium for a minimum of 12 days a year and beyond that its use of the facility "shall not be unreasonably be denied." Although the library will not be charged rent, it will reimburse the operator of the auditorium "normal and customary operating expenses" for its use on a per diem basis. The memorandum guarantees that the library shall have the same level of access to the auditorium for 50 years.

The library's memorandum has been approved by the BEDC board of directors and the City Council and now awaits approval by the Charitable Trust Division of the New Hampshire Department of Justice, the agency that oversees the library's endowment from which the funds donated to the theater project were drawn.

Meanwhile, BEDC announced that the public capital campaign has raised more than $1.3 million toward its goal of $2 million to complete the $14.6 million financial package that will fund restoration of the theatre. During the next few months the campaign aims to raise another $700,000 in private contributions from local businesses and residents.

May Ed Engler and Gail Batstone, general manager of the Inn at Mill Falls, who are co-chairs of the campaign, said in a prepared statement that "we appreciate the generous support of our business community and citizens. The Colonial Theater project," they continued, "is truly a community effort that will have a positive community and economic impact for today's and future generations in Laconia and the greater Lakes Region. We encourage the public to consider making donation to the project now."

One element of the public capital campaign is the opportunity to purchase a seat in the theater, which will bear a plaque recognizing the donor. For information on other opportunities for making donations visit or call (603) 524-3057.

SB-2 reality check? Shaker board will hold budget request to +1.4%

BELMONT — Despite insurance premium and teacher retirement costs rising a total of $309,674, alone, the Shaker Regional School Board voted Tuesday to present to voters a 2017-18 budget that would only go up $287,085 or 1.4 percent over this year.

But the only capital expenditures proposed in the plan is $25,000 to pave the parking lot at the Canterbury Elementary School.

A separate warrant article will include raises for teachers that were agreed to as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.

The proposed $20,840,634 budget will be discussed by residents of Canterbury and Belmont at two public hearings, the first of which is Dec. 12 at Canterbury Elementary School and the second of which is Dec. 19 at the Belmont Middle School.

"I feel this budget is based on what we feel will provide an appropriate education for our students while still being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers," said Interim Superintendent Michael Tursi.

The district had to overcome a revenue decrease of $694,000 in the 2017-18 budget, partially because of a drop in income in the state "adequacy" grant of $84,409 plus a loss of $31,292 in "catastrophic" special education aid.

The balance of the drop in revenues is because the district used $500,000 toward this year's budget that came from an extraordinary high surplus from the year before.

"While it's was too early to project what the 2016-17 surplus will be, we know it won't be $500,000," said Business Administrator Debbie Thompson.

Thompson said voters last year chose to use $109,000 of the fund balance to offset the revenue but won't be able to do that this year.

"Had we not had the large increases in insurance and teacher retirements, we likely could have had the budget come in lower that last year," she said.

Tursi said the proposed budget preserves all of the educational and curriculum programs currently in place and will not require any reductions in staff.

This is also the first time Shaker Regional School District voters will vote under the provisions of SB2, or the Official Ballot Act, which passed at the March 2016 annual district meeting. Rather than attending the district meeting, where budgets can be altered, voters will attend an SB2 session where the budget can only be amended.

The amended budget goes on a ballot to the voters who give it an up or down vote. If it fails to pass by a simple majority on election day, a default budget goes into effect. The default budget is based on last year's budget plus contractual agreements minus one-time only expenses.

Tim James named NH hero by Tennis magazine


LACONIA — Gilford native, Laconia resident and USTA ranked tennis player Tim James is a Parks and Recreations kid. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was the only place the son of a single mother could play the sport.

11-25 Tim JamesThis year, James joined the ranks of Andre Agassi in Nevada and Serena and Venus Williams of California for being named this year's New Hampshire hero by Tennis Magazine for his donation of $10,000 to the Lakes Region Tennis Association, which is a group that works to teach tennis to area youths at no cost to their families.

"I learned to play tennis through the free lessons offered by the Gilford Parks and Recreation Department," said James recently. "I used to work on my ground strokes by hitting the ball against the side of the high school."

James credits tennis with being one the stabilizing forces in his young life. As a senior in high school, he earned a scholarship and attended Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. He said he remembers a 12-year-old Monica Seles playing him, an adult at the time, to a tie-breaker.

"She was using a two-handed forehand and back-hand at the time, but boy was she quick," he said, with a laugh.

From there, he attended Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, which gave him the education, self confidence and ability to start his own software company.

Now, James is a semi-retired consultant and devotes much of his time to youth tennis and other civic causes including being a board member of the local Humane Society. He said he was saddened to see a participation decline at the high school level in the sport he loves so much and for which he credits with helping him become a disciplined and successful businessman.

"This is all about exposing kids to tennis," James said, who said he was prompted to do something when the Laconia High School stopped having a boys tennis team.

"Now we work on the next steps," he said, which include bringing tennis into the middle school and expanding the combined education and tennis program at the Laconia Boys and Girls Club to the Concord and Franklin Boys and Girls Clubs

His $10,000 contribution for seed money to the Lakes Region Tennis Association has allowed the program to obtains grants and expand to where 247 children, many of them from backgrounds similar to his own, have been able to learn to play the forever sport of tennis.

James said his favorite quote about tennis, youth, his relationship with the game comes from LRTA president and his great friend Robert Ronstadt of Gilford.

"'Keep kids on the courts, to stay out of the courts,'" he said.

11-25 Tim James and niece Abigale

Tim James and his niece, Abigale. (Courtesy photo)

11-25 Tim James teaching tennis

Tim James teaching tennis (hoping to get a larger file)

11-25 Tennis BGClub 10Nov16304769

Coach Bob Rondstat and Coach Kamal Gosine work with Anna on her serve during Laconia Boys and Girls Club tennis on Nov. 16.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


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