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Belmont accepts LCHIP grant for bandstand work

BELMONT — Selectmen have voted to accept a $15,000 state grant which will be used to help defray the costs of the restoration of the town's century-old bandstand.
The vote to accept the grant from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Project — or LCHIP — came following a brief public hearing during Monday evening's meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
The LCHIP grand will help with costs associated with the second phase of the bandstand restoration, which involves painting, electrical work and roof replacement of the historic structure in the village.
Monday's selectmen's meeting was the last a before the deliberative session on the town warrant which is scheduled for this Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Belmont High School café.
The proposed total town budget for 2014 is $10,115,516, according to Town Administrator K. Jeanne Beaudin. While the proposed budget is about 7 percent higher than last year's municipal budget of $9,452,064, the amount to be raised by property taxes is 4 percent higher, Beaudin noted.
There are 38 articles on the warrant.
Voters will be able to discuss and amend the articles during Saturday's deliberative session. The vote on whether to approve the articles will occur on Town Election Day, Tuesday, March 11.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 January 2014 01:50

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Forreter's bill to exempt RVs from property taxation passes Senate, 24-0

CONCORD — Legislation to exempt recreational vehicles from property taxation, sponsored by Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) carried the New Hampshire Senate yesterday by a vote of 24 to 0.

Senate Bill 333 exempts recreational vehicles, as defined by statute, that do not remain in any one town, city or incorporated place for more than 45 days, unless stored or placed on a rented campsite, from property taxation. The statutory definition of a recreational vehicle includes motor homes, vans, pickup campers and tent trailers as well as recreational trailers of 400-square-feet or less. The bill stipulates that recreational vehicles shall be deemed personal, not real, property and not liable to property taxation.

On the strength of a court decision in 1999, which was reaffirmed in 2002, the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration began advising cities and towns to tax recreational vehicles as real property. The result was what Forrester called a "crazy quilt" as recreational vehicles parked at campgrounds were treated differently by different municipal assessors. Some are taxed as real property while others are not. Some municipalities bill the owners of the recreational vehicles while others bill the owners of the campgrounds.

In a prepared statement issued after the vote in the Senate, Forrester said that "the inconsistent application of our tax code causes confusion for businesses across our state, and the patchwork of laws that have applied to campground owners in recent years has been among the worst. By clarifying the legislature's intent on these laws," she continued, "it is my hope that the owners of the state's 117 private campgrounds will have the stability and clarity they need to operate their businesses without undue burdens from state government."

Last Updated on Friday, 31 January 2014 01:47

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LRPA-TV manager asked to pre-clear public appearances with board

LACONIA — Lakes Region Public Access TV station manager Denise Beauchaine was cautioned by members of the board of directors of LRPA Tuesday night over questions she had asked of Gilford selectmen at their January 22 meeting.
Beauchaine said that she had asked the questions, all of which dealt with issues being negotiated in a new contract between LRPA member towns and MetroCast Cablevision, in her capacity as a private citizen, not as station manager, and was well within her First Amendment rights to do so.
But that didn't cut it with Phil Warren, Meredith town, manger who is also that town's representative on the LRPA board and has been working with the group that is negotiating the new MetroCast contract.
''I have a problem with that. You work for this board and the public sees you in that role as our station manager,'' said Warren.
He said that the issue isn't about her free speech rights but about her responsibilities as an employee working for the board.
""We have the right to restructure and even terminate your contract,'' said Warren, who pointed out that there were misstatements that she made at the meeting, including a reference to a Gilford Cable Committee, which is inactive.
He asked her to have a discussion with the board before she made any similar public appearances and she agreed that she would.
''Why is it being done in the dark?'' Beauchaine had asked earlier about the negotiations, saying that the reason she went to the selectmen was because she wasn't able to get any answers from negotiators and was concerned over reports that that LRPA had been removed as the content provider in the new contract and that the station would no longer receive the $30,000 in funds from MetroCast it had received each year in the last contract.
Other questions she had asked of selectmen included whether or not the WLNH Children's Auction would be broadcast and how Gilford residents would be able to make video submissions to be shown on cable.
Chan Eddy, chairman of the LRPA Board of Directors, confirmed that LRPA was not named in the new contract and would no longer receive funds from MetroCast, but said other doors of opportunity were being opened up. He says the new business model being developed by LRPA will be based on corporate and business sponsorships and a fee for service opportunity for the LRPA production staffers to produce programming for other organizations which may not even appear on LRPA.
The new plan calls for each of the dozen or so member communities served in the MetroCast franchise area to operate their own education and government channels (24 and 26) while LRPA will provide public access on Channel 25 as a regional channel which will air material from citizens, organizations and groups from any community which is a member of the LRPA.
The education and government channels will air only in the communities in which their programs originate and Warren says that he suspects that most towns won't want to take on the public access responsibilities and that all of that programming will end up with LRPA.
Town-specific productions will be streamed via computer from those towns to separate nodes at the studio so that they are transmitted only within that town or city, while regional productions will be broadcast on Channel 26.
''We're all set up for our local government channel to operate and I expect the schools will do the same with education. But we're not all interested in handling public access,'' said Warren, which means that LRPA will pretty much have that area to itself.
Eddy suggested that there could well be a place for LRPA to handle production needs for the local government and educational channels in those towns which don't want to do it locally. ''Some may want to have LRPA do all of the taping and production.''
''We're going to see it evolve,'' said Eddy of the LRPA. He plans to complete the business plan he has been working on since last summer and submit to the LRPA board when it meets next month. It is anticipated that a new cable franchise agreement will take effect on July 1.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 07:44

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Stereotype said to be typical of just small percentage of people who are homeless

LACONIA — In the Lakes Region, as elsewhere, stereotypes about homelessness abound.
The picture many people have is of someone who is either drunk or high on drugs, huddled in the doorway of a building, or curled up in an ATM vestibule.
But Bill Johnson says that situation, while certainly real, describes only a small fraction of the homeless population in Laconia and its surrounding communities.
A majority of the homeless people — or those at risk of becoming homeless — are people who have been impacted by the economy. Most often they are people who have lost their jobs and so they have fallen behind in their rent or mortgage payments and may have other overdue bills.
"Homelessness is not the problem, it's the result of a problem," says Johnson, who coordinates financial assistance provided by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a Catholic volunteer organization that helps the poor and disadvantaged in Laconia, Gilford, Meredith, Belmont, Alton and Gilmanton.
Johnson, who has been involved with the St. Vincent de Paul operation in Laconia since the mid-1990s, says he has seen homelessness become a major issue in the Lakes Region only in the last half dozen years or so.
"When we started (the organization) we'd seldom get a call about homelessness. But since 2007 or 2008 the problem has grown — and it's changed," he said. Johnson says what he is typically seeing is "the new homeless."
"Many have never been in financial trouble before. These are typically families; there are children involved," he said.
As the problem has grown, so has the public's awareness. Toward that end various agencies and faith-based groups are convening to discuss the issue of homelessness and the services that homeless people need. The event on Monday, Feb. 17, at the Laconia Middle School, is open to the general public. In addition to open discussion, the event will include a meal and the showing of a 30-minute documentary film ("Inocente") about a teen-age girl who rises above her homeless situation to find hope and fulfillment.
Johnson sees the real challenge is trying to help those who are on the brink of becoming homeless before they are actually forced out onto the street, or living in their cars or have to turn to friends or relatives to take them in.
"If we can catch them when they are at-risk then there is a chance of a much better outcome," he said. "Maybe we can help them work out an arrangement to get caught up with their back rent or mortgage payments or utility bills. You need to try if all possible to keep them in their house."
Johnson said that St. Vincent de Paul, which provides between $130,000 and $140,000 a year in financial assistant to the needy, is just one of the local organizations that is "working in the trenches" to help alleviate the problem of homelessness. Other organizations that commit significant financial resources in the city are the Salvation Army and St. Andre Bessette Parish, he noted.
To deal with homelessness effectively requires coordination among various government and non-profit agencies and various community groups. "Collaboration becomes extremely important between (local) welfare offices, agencies, churches and the like," said Johnson who in addition to his responsibilities with the St. Vincent de Paul Society also serves as president of Neighbors in Need, a non-profit organization that provides funds to agencies and churches which deal with people in need.
The two most important points of contact for dealing with homeless situations, says Johnson, are the individual municipal welfare offices and the office of the Belknap County Homeless Coordinator which is part of the Community Action Program. Another important local resource is the Continuum of Care, he added.
"Cooperation and coordination are so important," said Johnson, "not just to make sure you get the resources these people need, but that you don't do something to make the problem worse."
Because homelessness differs greatly from one case to another makes integrated and coordinated services all the more critical.
"Not every homeless situation is the same. It's not a cookie cutter sort of thing," said Johnson.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 January 2014 01:37

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