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Time to reign in 'out of control' government, Rago tells Laconia Rotarians

LACONIA — "I'm watching the government get out of control and our liberties diminishing," Kathleen Lauer-Rago of Franklin, the Republican candidate for the New Hampshire Senate in District 7, told the Laconia Rotary Club yesterday. "I'm running as a conservative."

Lauer-Rago is the lone GOP candidate for the seat and will face Andrew Hosmer of Laconia, the Democratic incumbent, in the general election in November.

A native of Texas, where she was raised in the Rio Grande Valley, Lauer-Rago, with her husband and three children, has lived in New Hampshire for the past 15 years. She is a graduate of Texas A & M University-Kingsville and, like her husband, is a certified public accountant. In 2010, Lauer-Rago was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, where she served on the Education Committee. She is director of the Lakes Region branch of the Network for Educational Opportunity and a champion of offering parents wider choices in schooling their children.

Lauer-Rago chose not to seek re-election to the House in 2012.

Lauer-Rago told the Rotarians that the state economy, after thriving in the 1980s and 1990s, has slumped since 2000 under the weight of rising taxes and fees, increased government spending and proliferating regulations. She recalled that during her term in the House, where Republicans held a three-to-one majority, the budget was reduced by 11 percent and the New Hampshire business climate ranked 19th among the states. Since then the state has fallen to 30th in the rankings, she said. To restore prosperity, Lauer-Rago called for reducing government spending and regulation while lowering energy costs.

Responding to questions, Lauer Rago said she does not favor the introduction of casino gambling, fearing that the proceeds would not be applied to education as intended but diverted to other purposes. Asked about her position on the Northern Pass project, she remarked "I live in Franklin," where the converter terminal would be built. "We really like Northern Pass." However, she tempered her support for the project by saying that the 40 miles of line in the North Country should be buried.

Although she considered granting tax incentives to attract businesses "a good idea," she added that other unspecified priorities took precedence.

During her term in the House, Lauer-Rago was affiliated with the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, which "works to advance the principles of limited government, individual liberty and free markets" within the GOP and supports a slate of candidates challenging incumbent Republican lawmakers. The organization scored her voting record a "B". She stood with the House Republican Alliance, a group of representatives who uphold the GOP platform, on 94 percent of roll call votes and received a grade of 88 from Americans for Prosperity, another conservative advocacy group.

District 7 consists of the city of Laconia and towns of Belmont,and Gilford in Belknap County and the city of Franklin and towns of Andover, Boscawen, Canterbury, Northfield, Salisbury, and Webster in Merrimack County.

Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 12:22

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City officials talk roads with visiting N.H. transportation commissioner

LACONIA — City officials yesterday told Chris Clement, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT), that improvements to Route 106 in Belmont and Routes 11-B and 11-C were their most immediate priorities when they met at City Hall.

Clement visited the Lakes Region at the invitation of State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), who was especially concerned to call his attention to the pothole at the intersection of Route 140 and Main Street in Belmont, which at six feet across and two feet deep (when open) poses a severe hazard to traffic. Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Engler, City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) and City Manager Scott Myers spoke with Clement about what roads they consider most in need of improvement.

Engler described Route 11-C, best known as Lily Pond Road, as "third world country." He said that the road, which runs north-south for approximately two miles between Route 11 and Route 11-B, serves as the sole access to the Laconia Airport. "Our biggest concern is the airport," he said.

Engler explained that both the road and airport lie in Gilford, but Laconia owns and operates the airport. The city, state and federal governments have made significant investments in the airport, which now has a 5,890 foot runway capable of accommodating jet aircraft flying coast to coast with a full load of fuel. Moreover, Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook recently constructed an access road to the venue from Route 11-C to the north of the airport. Stressing that both the airport and Meadowbrook are significant sources of economic activity in the community and the region, Engler pressed for improvement of the roadway.

Route 11-B or Weirs Road, from its junction with Route 11 to the roundabout at The Weirs, Engler said was also in bad shape. The road provides the primary access to Meadowbrook and carries traffic through Gilford to Weirs Beach and Meredith.

Engler also stressed the importance of improving the stretch of Route 106 between Laconia and Belmont, where the roadway is narrow and its surface is deteriorating. Clement said that this summer Route 106 was paved from the New Hampshire International Speedway south to Concord and moves are afoot to widen the roadway from I-393 in Concord to the speedway. However, he acknowledge there are no plans to address the section of Route 106 north of its intersection with Route 140.

Myers told Clement that the city will request a directional sign to the Lakes Business Park at Exit 11-A (Gilford Avenue) on the Laconia Bypass. Signage, Clement conceded, always raises problem, advising Myers to approach the Engineer for DOT District 3.

Clement said that District 3, which includes the 11 municipalities of Belknap County and 32 municipalities in Merrimack, Grafton and Carroll counties,,has the most mileage of poor roads of the six highway maintenance districts within DOT. He likened the process of rationing DOT's limited resources between projects to "air traffic control." He said that resurfacing and reconstruction projects for 2015 will be scheduled in February or March and suggested Myers "write to me once every couple of weeks between now and then."

Clement said that the four cent increase in the gas tax, which added $33-million to the Highway Trust Fund, has enabled DOT to increase block grants to municipalities and double funding for the state bridge program. Myers said that the receives about $285,000 in the form of a block grant to spend on roads and sidewalks and anticipates an increase of about $20,000.

For the past 14 years, $6.8-million has been allotted annually to the state bridge program, which supplements municipal funding for local bridge repair and replacement. Clement said that with twice the money the pace of bridge improvement will quicken. Myers said that the city is in the queue for funding improvement of the bridge over Durkee Brook on Academy Street in 2020-2021 and will soon join the queue for funding work for the bridge over the mouth of the same stream on Court Street.

Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 12:17

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Governor Hassan celebrates N.H. farming during visit to market in Tilton

TILTON — Governor Maggie Hassan yesterday celebrated New Hampshire Farmer's Market Week, kicked off Eat Local Month and signed legislation establishing the "Granite State Farm to Plate" program at the Tilton Farmer's Market.

"I've tried to get governors to a farmer's market for years," said Joan O'Connor of Henniker, who has founded and managed farmer's markets in Henniker, Concord, Manchester and Tilton for more than a decade. "I tried Shaheen, Benson and Lynch, but Hassan is the first."

The governor arrived to the strains of the Grateful Dead classic "Friend of the Devil," played and sung by Doc Rogers and Liz Krantz with special lyrics written for Her Excellency (". . . took my $20 bill and vanished in the air.")

Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill noted that there are more than 100 farmer's markets scattered across the state, more than 70 operating in the summer and another 30 in the winter. Moreover, she said that since last year sales have doubled or tripled and not simply because of what she called the "Market Basket" effect. Merrill stressed that more and more people were appreciating the nutritional value and delicious taste of fresh, locally grown produce.

Hassan struck the same chord in signing legislation declaring that the encouragement and support of local food production, processing and distribution is the policy of the state and requiring local governments to weigh this policy when adopting or enforcing local ordinances. The governor said that the bill would ensure a supply of fresh food throughout the year as well as encourage the the preservation of open spaces. She noted that between 2007 and 2012 the area devoted to farming in the state grew by more than 2,000 acres.

John Carroll of the Department of Natural Resources at the University of New Hampshire, who contributed to the legislation, likened the bill to a master plan, which guides policy and conduct rather than imposes regulations and prescribes behavior. "It removes obstacles to farming by declaring it is state policy to encourage and support food production and processing."

Carroll said that since the proliferation of farmer's markets during the past decade, local output has risen from 4 percent or  5 percent of the food consumed to 8 percent or 9 percent, or from a quarter to near a half the shares produced in Vermont and Maine. He said that New Hampshire's population and affluence represented sufficient demand to spur increasing farm output.

Merrill described the emergence of farmer's market as a "renaissance." Herself a farmer from Stratham, she said that because the costs of production for New Hampshire farmers is relatively high, there are limited opportunities to produce for wholesale markets. Instead, at farmer's markets farmers establish close and direct relationships with consumers, enabling them to tailor production to demand, while their output commands premium prices in a retail market. As an example, Merrill pointed to locally raised and butchered meat, which before farmer's markets had all virtually disappeared, but has since has grown in popularity.

For her contributions to the success of farmer's markets, O'Connor was honored by the United States Department of Agriculture. Jay Phinizy of Acworth, executive director of Farm Service Agency in Concord, presented her with a certificate of appreciation for her years of generous service.

CAPTION: Joining Governor Maggie Hassan to celebrate New Hampshire Farmer's Market Week at the Tilton Farmer's Market yesterday were, from left, State Senator Martha Fuller-Clark of Portsmouth, prime sponsor of legislation to promote farming, Jay Phinizy of the United States Department of Agriculture, Hassan, Joan O'Connor, the doyenne of farmer's markets , Senator John Reagan of Deerfield, and Representative Tara Sad of Walpole, who chairs the Environment and Agriculture Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 11:58

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WEEKEND: Lobster Pound has become year-round business


LACONIA — The Lobster Pound Restaurant, now in its seventh year under the ownership of the Ray family, has
become a busy year-round restaurant since a major building project the family undertook, starting in 2007, which transformed a former seasonal restaurant seating about 150 people into a 400 seat double-decked restaurant which on a busy night serves as many as 600 customers.

Richard Ray, who runs the business along with his dad, Richard Ray Sr., and his brother, all of whom live in the Weirs Beach area, says his family ran restaurants in Boston's North End for years before taking on the challenge of rebuilding the Lobster Pound.

''We were looking for a new challenge. We'd been coming to Bike Week in Laconia for a number of years and and thought this was a promising site that had real potential,'' says Ray, whose family had run an Italian restaurant and a barbecue restaurant in Boston.

''We wanted to stress seafood and Italian cuisine, but do that in a high volume setting; and over the years we've built a good local following which allows us to stay open year-round,'' says Ray. He says that he has a dozen year-round employees, but during the busy summer months has a full-time staff of 60.
''We like being involved in the community, so we host a number of events, like a Chili Cookoff which benefits the New Hampshire Humane Society and the Lakes Region Rotary Club Car Show and Brenda's Ride to beat Cancer.'' notes Ray.

The Lobster Pound's large parking lot is one of the busiest spots in The Weirs during Bike Week, with over 90 vendors. It also hosts other car shows, including the annual Smokin' Stangs Mustang show, the All or Northing Custom Car Show, and an annual gathering of the Granite State RV Club.
It was also busy last weekend for the NH Lakes Association's Raft-a-Palooza event.
Live entertainment is offered on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons on the Roof Deck.
The Lobster Pound occupies a location which has long been a home to restaurants, including a seasonal Howard Johnson Restaurant which was opened by Charles and Avis Baroody around 1950.
The first Howard Johnson in Laconia was located at McIntyre Circle and was opened as a Dutchland Farm Restaurant in 1934. In 1938 it became part of the Howard Johnson chain. In the late 1940s, HJ moved to Weirs Beach, constructing a new neo-Colonial style building to house the relocated restaurant.
Open only from May to October, the Baroodys operated the restaurant while living in the cabins on the back of the lot. In an agreement made with the owner of the Weirs Beach Drive-In, the Baroodys had a perfect view, complete with a speaker, of the the Drive-In screen from the porch of their cabin.
Avis Baroody turned ownership of the restaurant over to her daughter and son-in-law, Carol and Earl (Skip) MacLean in the early 1970s. The MacLeans expanded the restaurant, attaching an old railroad station from the defunct Steam Village in nearby Gilford which became known as the Gandy Dancer Saloon. By this time the restaurant was no longer affiliated with Howard Johnson. 1973 saw the addition of the Lobster Pound where Skip designed and installed a barbecue pit and an ingenious steamer to cook lobsters.

The MacLeans sold the restaurant to Lou Gaynor and Harvey Chernin in 1984. On Oct. 7 of that same year, a fire destroyed the restaurant and saloon, leaving only the Lobster Pound which was a screened-in, stone floor structure. Gaynor and Chernin built a new building attached to the Lobster Pound in time for the 1985 summer season which saw the conception of Bike Week vendor space on the property.They operated the business for over 20 years before selling it to the Ray family.

Ray says that it has been a struggle to remain open year-round but a number of promotions, like half off Monday and Beer & Burger nights have drawn attention to the restaurant.

''It's a little hard to believe that people still don't know we're open year-round. I've had more local people tell me that they didn't know we were open in the winter until I told them. We're hoping that they'll pick up on that and come and see us when there's snow on the ground,'' says Ray.


Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 09:04

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