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City Council will consider stand on 2-casinos bill that's before N.H. House

LACONIA — At the request of Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), the City Council will consider expressing its collective opinion for or against a bill to authorize two casinos in the state when it meets Monday night.

Senate Bill 366, which is co-sponsored by Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), carried the Senate by a vote of 15 to 9 last month and is scheduled to come before the N.H. Hampshire House of Representatives for a vote on Wednesday. The House and Ways and Means Committee, by the narrowest majority of 11 to 9 has recommended the House, which for years has failed to muster a majority for expanded gambling, reject the bill. In March, a similar bill failed in the House by a margin of 173 to 144.

SB-366 would authorize private companies to build two casinos, one with between 2,000 and 3,500 slot and 80 and 1260 table games and another with between 750 and 1,500 slot machines and 25 and 80 table games. Each would carry a license fee, the first of $80-million and the second of $40-million. Together the casinos are projected to return between $139-million and $201-million in annual revenue to the state.

Unlike the bill that failed earlier in the session, SB-366 would earmark $25.2-million of the annual revenue from expanded gambling to restore revenue sharing to cities and towns, which has been suspended since 2009. The restoration of revenue sharing would allocate $1,141,135 a year to the city of Laconia and 10 towns in Belknap County. Laconia would receive $646,946, Alton $31,607, Branstead $42,519, Belmont $77,735, Center Harbor $25,930, Gilford $86,370, Gilmanton $32,896, Meredith $76,686, New Hampton $18,315, Sanbornton $22,146 and Tilton $79,985.

However, opponents of the bill claim that it will be five or six years before the revenue from casino operations begins to flow and, since no legislature can bind its successors, the restoration of revenue sharing cannot be assured.

Despite Hosmer's sponsorship of the bill, casino gambling has scant support among local lawmakers. Only three of the 18 members of the Belknap County Delegation supported the gambling bill that the House scuttled in March and all three representatives from Laconia — Reps. Don Flanders, Bob Luther and Frank Tilton — voted against it.

Four years ago, almost to the very day, at Lipamn's urging the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Legislature  to pursue legislation to introduce casino gambling in order to address the state's mounting budget deficits, which added to the fiscal challenges weighing on cities and towns. The resolution followed a public forum hosted by the council attended by about a dozen residents, nine lawmakers and a lobbyist.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 April 2014 12:40

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Indictment targets friend of man who died of heroin OD

LACONIA — A Belknap County grand jury has indicted a former Belmont man on two counts of selling a controlled drug to a man he described as his best friend. The friend is alleged to have died as the result of injecting it.

Jonathan Woodbury, 32, was also indicted with one count of selling heroin to Michael Chamberlain and one count of selling fentanyl to him.

Police and emergency workers were called to 56 Arlene Drive in Belmont on February 7 for a report of a man having breathing difficulties. Arriving first, two Belmont Police officers said they found Chamberlain lying face up in a bedroom gasping for air but Woodbury initially told them he didn't know what was wrong with him.

During the conversation, police said Chamberlain stopped breathing and one police officer began administering CPR in an effort to revive him.

After many tries by police to get Woodbury to talk to them, he is said to have told them Chamberlain may have taken heroin.

A Laconia ambulance crew was the first to arrive and once learning Chamberlain had taken heroin, tried unsuccessfully to inject him with NARCAN. He was pronounced dead at 10:29 p.m. and the N.H. Medical Examiner said she saw a fresh needle mark on his left arm.

Although the Lakes Region has seen a number of heroin overdoses during the past year, this is one of the first documented cases where fentanyl has been identified as one of the causes of death.

In February the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration issued an advisory warning communities that there has been a marked increase in the number of deaths related to fentanyl-laced heroin, with 22 deaths being recorded in Rhode Island and 17 in Pittsburgh, Penn. Varying new reports said that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman may have died from an overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin.

SAMHSA describes fentanyl as a powerful opioid that when combined with heroin, also an opioid, can cause severe injury and death. Fentanyl is typically prescribed in patch form.


Last Updated on Saturday, 26 April 2014 12:36

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Keewakwa Abenaki Keenahbeh leaning back

LACONIA — Keewakwa Abenaki Keenahbeh — "The Defiant One" — who has stood over Opechee Park for the past three decades is listing.

"He's getting tired," remarked City Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6), who as mayor dedicated the wood sculpture in 1984 and with friend and fellow councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) has tended to it ever since.

"It started to lean (backwards) last year," Bolduc said yesterday. "I've been watching it all winter." The statue, which was carved from a red oak felled on Cobble Mountain in Gilford, stands 36 feet tall and weighs 12 tons. He explained that it is held on a stone plinth by a half dozen steel rods four or five in length. "Carpenter ants got into it and ate around the rods, causing it to lean," he said, adding that he has not seen sign of ants since spraying the base with insecticide a few years ago.

Keewakwa Abenaki Keenahbeh is one of 74 "Whispering Giants" fashioned by Peter Wolf Toth, a Hungarian artist, that stand in all 50 states of the United States and several provinces of Canada to celebrate and honor Native Americans. Toth, who fled Hungary before occupying Soviet forces in 1956, told "The Citizen" in 2009 that he'd "worked for people that have faced injustice and it has always been my dream to utilize my God-given talent to specifically help the American Indians."

Each of his statues seeks to capture the appearance and character of the tribe that inhabited the area where they stand.

In addition, in 2008 he completed a statute of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary who introduced Christianity to the Magyar people, which stands in Delegyhaza, a village near Budapest known for its nudist beach.

Bolduc said that he intends to seek advice from Toth, who resides in Edgewater, Florida, about how best to correct the lean and stabilize and preserve the statue. He said that every couple of years he and Hamel borrow the bucket truck from the Department of Public Works and stain and varnish the statue, but said "now we've got to straighten him up."

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 April 2014 12:33

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Suspicious fire in Opechee shore storage building caught just in time

LACONIA — A city police officer on routine patrol along upper Messer Street averted what could have been a building fire along the south shore of Lake Opechee, behind the former Irving Oil Company office building, when he smelled smoke yesterday morning and began to investigate.

Firefighters and police converged on the small warehouse just after 11 a.m. and removed what appeared to be a stack of burning wood that was about two-feet square along with a can of gasoline. After extinguishing the fire, firefighters opened the overhead door and began to disperse the smoke.

"This is definitely a suspicious fire," said Erickson.

The storage building is near the water on the Lake Opechee side of the WOW Trail. The back of the building is covered in graffiti and the surrounding dirt grounds are strewn with broken glass. On one side of the building there appears to be a hole in the wall that would allow unlawful access to it.

Police at the scene walked down both sides of the WOW Trail and interviewed people who may have seen something while firefighters extinguished the small fire.

Erickson noted the fire department was pretty lucky that the officer smelled the smoke when he did. He said with all the construction on Union Avenue and most of the traffic rerouted through Messer Street, it would have been a traffic nightmare if the Fire Department had had to extinguish a large fire in the area and close down Messer Street during that time of day.

Police and Fire officials continue to investigate. Anyone with any information is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.


CUTLINE: (Fire on Messer Street) Police and firefighters converge on a warehouse yesterday around 11 a.m. near Lake Opechee on Messer Street after extinguishing a suspicious fire. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 April 2014 12:25

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