Two from Laconia named to Union Leader’s ‘40 Under 40’

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The New Hampshire Union Leader has placed two young professionals at work in the city in distinguished company by naming Tate Aldrich, chairman of the English Department at Laconia High School, and Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Corporation, to its annual "40 under 40" list for 2017.

Justin SlatteryA native of Pelham, Slattery, 36, graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in political science and earned his master's degree in business administration for Plymouth State University. He joined John Lynch's successful campaign for governor in 2003 and served on his staff during the first three of his four terms. After spending two years with Hire Vision Staffing of Concord recruiting software engineers, Slattery returned to public service at the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development. In 2014, he came to the Belknap Economic Development Council where he has played a key role in the project to renovate and restore the Colonial Theatre.

"It's a very nice and very humbling honor," Slattery said of earning a spot among the 40 under 40. He said that he is moved to contribute the community because "New Hampshire is my home" and has "provided me many opportunities." He serves as a director of Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam Trail and the 200 X 2020 Workforce Development Initiative as well as a member of advisory committee of the block grant program of the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority while chairing the board of directors of the Alliance of Regional Development Corporations. "I've got plenty to do here," Slattery said. "I'm not going anywhere."

Tate AldrichAt 30, Aldrich is among the youngest to be honored. In 2009, five years after graduating from Laconia High School, he returned with his degree in English from the University of New Hampshire to teach and his year was named New Hampshire Teacher of the Year. He considers his career both "a big honor and a big responsibility" as well as an opportunity to contribute to the community where he was raised. Sharing his origins with his students, he said, enables him to appreciate their circumstances and moves him to enrich their lives.

Outside the classroom, Aldrich has played a part in both "Stand Up Laconia," a coalition of volunteers from all walks of life come together to tackle substance abuse, and "Got Lunch!," a pioneering program to prove needy young people with nutritious meals during the summer vacation. He said that he hopes he is setting an example of civic responsibility for his students. Aldrich has also working with "Stay, Work, Play," the organization aiming to encourage more young people to pursue their careers in New Hampshire.

"It's not only an honor to represent the city of Laconia," said Aldrich, one of two teachers among the "40 Under 40." "It's an honor to represent the educators of our state. Real teaching," he continued, "requires educators to immerse themselves fully in their communities. He added that he represents all the teachers at Laconia High School and elsewhere "who've committed themselves to improving the lives of young people. I hope our 40 stories serve as an inspiration to others."

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Offer made to Buy Briarcrest Estates

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Almost three years after residents of Briarcrest Estates, organized as the Lakemont Cooperative Inc., purchased the manufactured housing park, they are weighing an offer to buy it from Hometown America Corporation, which also bid to buy the property three years ago.

Since the New Hampshire Legislature residents of manufactured housing parks were granted the opportunity to acquire their parks in 1987, 121 parks have passed into cooperative ownership and none have reverted to private ownership.

The offer was disclosed to residents at a meeting on Saturday morning and after some discussion, they agreed by a show of hands to meet with representatives of Hometown America Corporation in April, when summer residents have returned to the park.
"At the moment, it's going nowhere," Don Vachon, president of the Lakemont Cooperative said on Monday. .

Briarcrest Estates, which opened in 1988, stretches over 183 acres, divided between Laconia and Belmont, and consists of 241 home sites, 200 in Laconia and 41 in Belmont. The park is the third-largest property taxpayer in the city, with taxable property valued at $6.3 million.

In July 2013, the owners of the park, Mark and Ruth Mooney, tentatively agreed to sell the park to Hometown America for $10 million. In compliance with state law, the terms of the transaction were disclosed to the tenants, who had 60 days to make a counteroffer by presenting a purchase-and-sales agreement. The law requires the park owner to bargain in good faith with the tenants or their organization. The Lakemont Cooperative Inc. was formed and, with assistance from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, matched the offer from Hometown America Corporation. After some resistance, the Mooneys agreed to sell to the cooperative, which has owned and managed Briarcrest Estates since April 2014.

Following earlier discussions, Doug Minahan of Hometown America Corporation wrote to Don Vachon, president of of the cooperative, on Jan. 17, outlining the firm's offer. The company offered to retire the outstanding balances on a $8 million loan from TD Bank and $2 million loan from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund as well as pay the prepayment penalty of $873,000 on the bank loan, closing costs and real estate transfer taxes associated with the transaction.

Hometown America Corporation pledged to honor all current leases, which provide that rent increases are limited to the rise in property taxes and inflation rate, along with any special assessment levied to fund improvements in the park. The company proposed raising rents from $435 to $455 in October 2017 and tying increases in rents for new residents to inflation, with a minimum increase of 3 percent and maximum increase of 7 percent. The company offered to invest $350,000 in improvement to the park in the first year of its ownership. At the same, the company said it would seek to have the park designated for those 55 and older as soon as possible.

Vachon insisted "It's an unsolicited offer, period. A fire-from-the hip proposal."

Meanwhile, he stressed that the Lakemont Cooperative is in sound financial condition, a judgment confirmed by several other residents familiar with the finances of the organization. Others acknowledged that some capital improvements will need to be undertaken in the near future, the cost of which will be borne by a special assessment on residents, but they noted that the annual operating budget together with any additional capital expenditures, must be approved by the members of the cooperative. And, they noted, a private owner, will incur the same costs and recover them by assessing residents.

However, several residents, who asked not to be identified, said there has been some turnover in the leadership of the cooperative and some dissension among its members as well as difficulty in recruiting volunteers to contribute to managing the park.

"It's like a little village with all its own quirks," Vachon remarked. "We have to tell them it's their park."

01-31 Briarcrest Estates map

Briarcrest Estates is located at 100 Diamond Place, Laconia. (Google Maps graphic)

Donald Dodge of FRM Ponzi scheme failure freed

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Donald Dodge, who together with Scott Farah, was sentenced to federal prison for his part in bilking more than 200 investors of more than $20 million in what ranks as the biggest Ponzi scheme in the state, was released on Jan. 12 after serving his six-year sentence. Farah was sentenced to 15 years and remains behind bars.

Farah and Dodge operated Financial Resources Mortgage, Inc. and CL&M, Inc., a private mortgage brokerage, in Meredith, which abruptly collapsed in November 2009, leaving investors empty-handed and funds unaccounted for. Although Dodge was years older than Farah, the two had a long friendship and Dodge was among the partners when Farah formed Financial Resources Mortgage, Inc. in 1989. Farah bought out his partners in the mid 1990s, but by 2005 the business had grown beyond his capacity to manage it and he turned to Dodge and together they created CL&M to service the loan portfolio.

While Financial Resources Mortgage, Inc. courted borrowers and investors, CL&M served as the bank, where all the funds were deposited and disbursed. Many of the loans were short-term construction loans, due in two years or less. Although investors paid CL&M in full before the loans closed, the loans were net funded at closing, when only closing costs and small disbursements were paid, leaving CL&M with the balance, which included an origination fee.

In June 2005, shortly after CL&M was formed, it loaned Farah $10 million; and between then and Nov. 2, 2009, when when the firms collapsed, he withdrew more than $20 million in 260 separate transactions. Meanwhile, CL&M took deposits from investors up front then applied the bulk of those co-mingled funds to the loan disbursement requests it received from borrowers and the monthly interest payments due the investors, even on loans that were past due, not performing or had never even closed. When original loans were retired or failed to close, CL&M rolled over investors' funds to other investments, which enabled them to avoid having to refund or repay large sums.

When the real estate bubble burst, Farah and Dodge found themselves with more defaulting borrowers, fewer new investors and monthly interest payments of some $600,000. and their scheme unraveled.
After combing through the wreckage for three months, the bankruptcy trustee concluded that Farah and Dodge had raised at least $82 million from investors and stolen or diverted more than $20 million. Asked when Financial Resources Mortgage, Inc, began operating in the red, Farah would admit "a long time ago."

But, for Dodge the end came as a shock. Speaking at one of the many inquiries into the affair, Dodge recalled Farah called him the evening before. "It was gone," he said and began to cry. "I would never have believed it. Now I know," he continued, "it was the Titanic after it hit the iceberg and I foolishly welcomed aboard all of my friends and family and we all believed in the captain and the ship until it was going down. We were fools."

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