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Belmont to seek LCHIP grant to help restore village green bandstand

BELMONT — Selectmen have voted to endorse a grant application for restoration work and other improvements to the town bandstand downtown.
Belmont Heritage Commission Chairman Linda Frawley told the selectmen at their meeting last night that she is in the process of applying for a grant under the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.
Frawley told selectmen she hopes the grant will help cover the cost of new cedar shingles for the bandstand's roof, removal of lead paint and repainting of the 105-year-old structure, upgrades to some of the electrical fixtures and wiring, and replacement of some of the decorative finishes. All told, Frawley estimated the cost of the work would be around $35,000.
The bandstand was moved yesterday to a spot behind and to the south of the town library as part of the Belmont Village revitalization, which is designed to energize the village area through improvements and renovations.
If the LCHIP application is approved, the program would pay for half the cost of the work with the other half being matched by local sources – $8,750 from the town and another $8,750 from the Heritage Commission, Frawley said.
The selectmen unanimously approved endorsing the application with little discussion and authorized Town Administrator K. Jeanne Beaudin to sign any documents related to the application on behalf of the town.
In other business, selectmen voted to unanimously to amend the town license application regarding utility poles to make explicit the town has the right to tax the poles as property under the terms of existing state law.
The action was prompted by a suit filed by telecommunications utility FairPoint against 200-plus communities statewide, including Belmont. FairPoint contends since the company pays the state's telecommunications tax, allowing its poles to also be taxed by communities constitutes double taxation. But proponents of the tax argue that since the communities already tax the poles belonging to electric utilities it is unfair not to allow them not to tax FairPoint's poles.
Beaudin said under the terms of state law, Belmont taxes public utilities for their poles as well as for the use of the rights of way through which their lines run. She was not immediately able to provide the number poles which FairPoint owns in Belmont. However, she said that the total value of its poles and right-of-way use amounts to $1,147,000, for which the company is being taxed $24,899 in the latest tax year. She said FairPoint has paid the tax, but that the payment has been appealed.
A public hearing on the utility pole issue which preceded the vote drew no participants.
NOTE: Beaudin said she is in the process of drawing up requests for qualification for architectural services to look at possible uses for the Belmont Mill. She said she hoped to advertise the requests in October or early November and said her goal is to advertise it widely in hopes of getting multiple bids.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 03:17

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Football camp hazing episode being investigated

MOULTONBOROUGH — Police are investigating an alleged hazing incident that occurred at a local summer camp on or around Aug. 23, in which players from the football team at Chelmsford, Mass., High School were involved.

Detective Stephen Kessler and School Resource Officer Jody Baker are conducting the investigation with the assistance of the Chelmsford Police Department. Moultonborough Police Sgt. Peter Beede said that all those subject to investigation are juveniles, and as the investigation is in progress, no further details will be disclosed.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 03:08

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Understanding Obamacare one of the programs at local Business Resource Fair

LACONIA — Local businesses owners and managers were updated on the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, at the opening session of the Lakes Region Business Resource Fair held at the Woodside building at the Taylor Community Wednesday morning.
Amy Bassett of the Small Business Administrations' Concord office, attorney Katherine DeForest of the Sulloway and Hollis law firm and Ray Hurd, regional administrator of the Boston office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services all spoke about the impact of the comprehensive health care reform on businesses and how the provisions of the act are being phased.
Bassett noted that the rules for implementing the program are still being written and that open enrollment for the health care exchanges created in each state as part of the program opens on October 1 for insurance plans which will take effect on January 1, 2014.
She said that there is a one-year phase-in for provisions of the act and that firms which employ less than 50 people, which she said amounts to 96 percent of American businesses, are exempt from the provisions.
Bassett said that a great amount of work is needed to educate small business owners and workers about the provisions of the act and that all employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act are required to provide informational notices to their employees regarding the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Exchanges."
She said employers are obligated to provide to each current employee, on or before October 1, 2013, a written notice describing the individual employee's options in the exchanges, and to all employees hired subsequent to October 1, within 14 days of hire. This health care reform exchange notice requirement applies to hospitals, schools, certain residential institutions, and government agencies, as well as any employer that is engaged in interstate commerce or an employer with at least $500,000 of business per year.
Attorney Katherine DeForest of the Sulloway and Hollis law firm said that the Affordable Care Act is the largest piece of social legislation in decades and that many provisions are being only partially implemented.
She noted that the law's employer penalty applies to firms with 50 or more full-time workers who do not provide health insurance coverage or whose coverage is unaffordable (costing more than 9.5 percent of household income) are subject to assessments of up to $2,000 per full-time employee or $3,000 for each full-time employee who receives a tax credit when buying insurance coverage on the exchange.
DeForest said employer penalties kick in during 2015.
Ray Hurd of the Boston Medicare office said that a small business tax credit designed to help businesses afford the cost of health care coverage applies to firms with less than 25 full-time equivalent employees who pay average annual wages below $50,000 and pay more than 50 percent of employees' self-only health insurance premiums enables them to qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35 percent in the first year of the program and 50 percent in the second.
He said that starting October 1 the Small Business Health Options Program will offer different kinds of health plans and that businesses which seek tax credits will have to purchase their plans through SHOP or a broker registered with SHOP in order to qualify.
Hurd said the program represents a step towards quality, affordable health care for those 41 million previously unable to obtain health insurance and that there is a huge education task ahead which will include health service providers as well as small businesses.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 02:44

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Alton Planning Department eyes changes needed to comply with state law requiring 'realistic' opportunity for workforce housing

ALTON — With a grant from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and guidance from Jeffrey H. Taylor & Associates of Concord, the Planning Department is preparing an amendment to the zoning amendment that would bring the town into compliance with the state statute "to provide reasonable and realistic opportunities for the development of workforce housing."

Town Planner Ken McWilliams said yesterday that he expects to present a draft to the Zoning Amendment Committee before the end of this month, a proposal to the Planning Board in November and a warrant article for Town Meeting in March. He said that in accordance with the terms of the grant an effort is underway to inform the public about the issue, adding that the Alton Business Association will host a public forum on Wednesday, September 18 at the Gilman Museum, beginning at 6 p.m.

McWilliams recalled that the issue was first broached in April 2012, when Ben Frost of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and Linda Harvey of the Laconia Area Community Land Trust spoke to some two dozen residents. "The reaction led me to believe that we had some education to do," he said.

The first step, McWilliams said, was to determine how closely the town's existing housing stock matched the standard for workforce housing as set by the statute. Housing for sale valued at $248,000 or less is considered "affordable" to those with the median income in Belknap County of a household of four, which is currently $69,000. Units renting for $930 per month are considered affordable to those with 60-percent of the median income of a household of three, which is currently $37,260.

After reviewing home values from 2005 to 2012, McWilliams said that a significant share of the housing stock, between 35-percent and 60-percent qualified as "workforce housing." However, he cautioned that the share of affordable units fluctuates with property values, which he noted have risen and fallen relatively significantly in recent years.

Moreover, McWilliams noted that accessory apartments are permitted in most zones and multi-famility dwellings are permitted in both residential commercial and residential rural districts. Manufactured and modular housing is also in most residential districts.

However, the vast majority of Alton's 63-square-miles of land is zoned rural, where house lots require a minimum of two acres and 200 feet of road frontage. Since the statute requires municipalities to provide for the development of workforce housing in the majority of its land area zoned for residential use, McWilliams said that the dimensional requirements in the rural district represent "the biggest hurdle to compliance."

McWilliams pointed out that one option was eliminated at Town Meeting in March when voters, by a margin of two-to-one, rejected a recommendation of the Planning Board to permit "conservation" or cluster subdivisions, which develop a portion of a parcel while leaving the remainder as open space. He pointed out cluster development lowers the cost of infrastructure — roads and utilities — and with it the price of the units. He said the Planning Board agreed not to reintroduce the proposal before 2015.

"The draft will address the issue of the rural zone," McWilliams said, anticipating that the proposal will spark lively debate among residents.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 02:37

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