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All rise, the Honorable Christopher Hobbs presiding

LACONIA — Even though he's only 8-years-old, Christopher Hobbs wants to be a judge.

Yesterday, he got his chance when Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill first met with him in his private chambers and then let young Christopher preside over his courtroom — if ever so briefly.

When he was 2 1/2 years old, Christopher was diagnosed with pilomuxoid astrocytoma — a malignant brain tumor.

Since his diagnosis he has surgery three times — most recently on January 15 — and undergone a year-long treatment of chemotherapy.

Despite this, Christopher keeps plugging along. Always fascinated by public safety, when he was 4-year-old he was made an honorary police officer and got to get behind the wheel of the police van and used the lights and siren.

Recently, said mom Leah Hobbs, the Laconia boy has been intrigued by courtrooms and judges.

"We taped every show on judges we could find while he was in the hospital and he's been watching them non stop since he got home," she said.

Christopher was able to return to school but yesterday got a special dispensation in order to meet Judge O'Neill and preside in his courtroom.

After assuring O'Neill he would never get in any trouble, he sat upright in the judge's chair. When court resumed, Christopher and his family stay behind to watch O'Neill in real action.

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 February 2014 01:05

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Police station project draws no comment at Gilford deliberative session

GILFORD – About 50 residents attended last night's deliberative session and with few exceptions, none had anything to say about the operating budget, the money portion of the proposed union contract with police, or the proposed $1.213-million police station renovation.

Although police were prepared, a majority of those who were there voted against seeing the presentation from them. Lt. Kris Kelley said the entire presentation he gave to the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee is on the Gilford Website and is also being run on Lakes Region Public Access Television.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn added that in the time since the warrant article was approved, the town had gotten a $169,000 federal grant that will pay for the the dispatch upgrades, the emergency generators and the Emergency Operations Center.

Chan Eddy pointed out that the EOC will also double as a community room when the police or fire departments are not using it for emergencies. Kelley said it will serve a triple purpose as a training room – something the department doesn't have right now.

Voters had no questions or comments on the $11,282,896 operating budget which will be put on the warrant as is.

In addition, voters had no questions about the $3,297 cost item for the Gilford Police Association Contract with the exception of Budget Committee Member Dave Horvath Sr. who wanted to know if the dollar amounts would be the same now that the Gilford Police Department will be adding an 18th police officer.

Dunn replied that it would be about the same because although there will be an additional employee, there has been some personnel adjustments within the department that will lower the costs to the contract.

The second part of the Annual Town Meeting will be held on March 11 when the electorate votes for the individual warrant articles and for town officers.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 February 2014 02:34

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City's Planning Department taking proactive steps to prevent spread of deadly emerald ash borer insect

LACONIA — Nearly a year after the emerald ash borer, the gravest single threat to hardwood forests, was found in Concord, Scott McPhie of the city's Planning Department is preparing to scout for signs and take steps to manage the appearance of the insect in the city and its environs.
McPhie said recently that he will suggest that the Conservation Commission begin taking an investory of ash trees in the city and recommend that the Planning Board discourage landscapers from planting ash trees.
Piera Siegert, the state entomologist at the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, said that the emerald ash borer originated in China, entered the United States from Canada in the 1990s and was first identified in Detroit in 2002. Since then the insect has destroyed millions of ash trees across the Midwest. The emerald ash borer was found in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2012 and so far the infestation in Concord, which seems to have spread over 24 square miles along the Merrimack River, is the only confirmed presence of the pest in New Hampshire.
Siegert explained that the life cycle of the insect makes it difficult to detect before it has done lethal damage to the trees. The female lays her eggs on the tree in the summer and when the larvae hatch they burrow into the cambium layer of the tree. Between the bark and sapwood, the cambium layer is the growing part of the tree that produces new bark and wood. The larvae, feeding on the tree, carve serpentine galleries within it, effectively girdling the tree. Siegert said that two or three years may pass before the first signs of decline become visible and within three to five years the tree will be dead.
While female emerald ash borers will fly considerable distances to find a suitable tree to lay her eggs, Siegert said that the insect has continually expanded its range with the help of human beings, primarily through the transport of infested firewood and nursery stock. Once the insect was found in Concord, Merrimack County was placed under a quarantine, prohibiting the export of firewood, nursery stock and other infested material from the county.
McPhie said that since the emerald ash borer attacks only ash trees, taking an inventory, particularly of the mature trees preferred by the insect, would increase the likelihood of discovering an infestation before it becomes widespread. At the same time, residents can be informed about how to identify the emerald ash borer, a metallic green insect about a half-an-nch long and an eighth of an inch wide, and signs of its presence. For example, the insect was found in Concord by a resident who noticed intense activity of woodpeckers on an ash tree. Siegert said that there is abundant information about the emerald ash borer on the website nhbugs.org.
There are an estimated 25 million ash trees of at least five inches in diameter in New Hampshire and another 750 million saplings and seedlings, altogether representing approximately six-percent of the northern hardwood forest.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 February 2014 02:14

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Laconia Zoning Task Force eyes restrictions on use of various kinds of electronic signs

LACONIA — The Zoning Task Force, which was convened last year to review the zoning ordinance and propose changes to it, presented its recommendations for amending the regulations bearing on signage to the Planning Board this week.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders said yesterday that a public hearing on the draft proposals will be held at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Planning Board on Tuesday, March 4, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Suzanne Perley, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment who chairs the task force, said that together with adding and refining definitions to the ordinance, the major recommendations concern the illumination of signs, including the regulation of various types of electronic signs.

The task force proposes requiring all illuminated signs to be positioned and directed so as to minimize glare to passersby, especially motorists. Likewise, the ordinance would prescribe standards of brightness between dusk and dawn for signs lit externally and internally as well as those electronic signs that are directly illuminated, which would be required to be equipped with dimming controls.

The proposal distinguishes between "electronic message centers," or EMCs, "animated signs" and electronic changeable copy signs. EMCs , as defined by the task force, are those signs "capable of displaying words, symbols, figures, pictures or images that can be electronically or mechanically changed by remote or automatic means. The task force recommends that all EMCs be fitted with a sensor that automatically dims the sign to match the ambient light at all times of day and night. EMCs display static messages and images, without either actual or apparent movement or variation in intensity, though the face of the sign could change every minute.

"Animated signs" are those with imagery or text in perpetual motion and varying intensity and include signs with scrolling text. Finally electronic changeable copy signs display text for not less than five minutes, but do not include time and temperature signs.

Perley said that rather than recommend where and under what conditions the different types of electronic signage should be permitted, the task force chose to defer the question until after members of the business community and general public have had an opportunity to offer their opinions.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 03:35

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