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City won't pick up & dispose of Christmas trees this season

LACONIA — Putting an end to a longstanding municipal service, the Department of Public Works announced Monday that it will no longer collect Christmas trees at the curbside during the weeks immediately after the holidays.

The decision represents an effort by the DPW to make more efficient use of its personnel and equipment.

However, the department will continue to dispose of trees taken to one of three locations. Residents can leave their trees at the brush dump on Hilliard Road at The Weirs on the four Wednesdays in January — January 8, 15, 22 and 29 — between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. when an attendant will be present to assist. Trees can also be taken to the Transfer Station on Meredith Center Road between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon. Drivers must pull on to the scales then drop their trees in the designated area. Finally, trees can be dropped in the marked area at the Memorial Park softball field on West Street.

Residents with questions may call Ann Saltmarsh at the DPW, 528-6379, extension 300.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 03:29

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Diesel engine mechanics program could be moving to LRCC

BERLIN — White Mountains Community College will suspend its nursing program for a year while the college restructures it to respond to concerns raised by the N.H Board of Nursing about below average licensing exam results.

In addition, N.H. Community College System Chancellor Ross Gittell confirmed that the system is seriously discussing moving the popular mobile equipment technology program from the Berlin facility to Lakes Region Community College in Laconia.

The college said it will not accept a new class of students in its associate nursing program in the fall of 2014 while it restructures the curriculum to better align the program "with the demands of the profession and improving the consistency of documented outcomes." New students will be accepted into the program for the fall of 2015.

WMCC President Katharine Eneguess said the decision to institute a one-year hiatus was a difficult one. She said the move was taken to address concerns raised by the N.H. Board of Nursing, which placed the program on conditional approval in June. In a release, Eneguess said the action will allow the nursing faculty and college leadership to devote the resources needed to revamp the program. She said the needs include designing strong pathways to baccalaureate nursing programs and improving licensure scores of program graduates, which Eneguess said last met national and state benchmarks in 2011.

Gittell last week said the college system is discussing moving the mobile equipment technology program to Laconia. The program teaches students to diagnose, service, and repair diesel-powered trucks and equipment. Gittell said the discussions are generated by the desire of the program's industrial partners to have it more centrally located. He said the program is at less than full capacity because potential students do not want to travel as far north as Berlin. The program currently has 26 students including 10 freshmen and 16 seniors. Last year the program had a total of 34 students.

Gitell said the program is also losing significant money, which he described as over $100,000 annually.

He said it is possible part of the program would remain at the Berlin campus.

"It might not be a question of moving the whole program," he said.

Gittell said his office is providing analysis of costs and benefits but the final decision rests with the board of trustees. The legislature will also be involved since it would have to approve a capital appropriation to build a facility at Laconia to house the program.

In the minutes of the board's Oct. 3 meeting, Board Chairman Paul Holloway said moving the program from WMCC will not occur until the system has a capital appropriation from the state.

With enrollment down at WMCC, Gittell was asked how the loss of the program would impact the Berlin facility. He said he thought it might improve the college's viability by removing a program that is losing money. He stressed that the board is very committed to maintaining both the Berlin and Littleton facilities.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 12:39

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Lots of Lakes Region memories in charred remains of Woodshed restaurant

MOULTONBOROUGH — The fire that destroyed The Woodshed restaurant on Thanksgiving night also destroyed one of the more noted landmarks in this small town at the top of Lake Winnipesaukee.

From some of the autographed pictures of stars of stage and screen who came through the Lakes Region to the old open-style, barn-like architecture with its open wooden beams and wood walls, many memories were lost to the entire region in Thursday's blaze.

"It made a big star on the map of Moultonborough," said Road Agent Scott Kimmond, who remembered the restaurant as one his family's favorite places to eat.

"The last time my whole family was together was my mother's 70th birthday and we ate there. It was her favorite place," he said.

According to WMUR television , six fire departments battled the blaze throughout most of late Thursday night through Friday morning. At 10 a.m. yesterday, the structure was still smoking heavily and at least one firetruck remained on the scene.

The restaurant had been open for Thanksgiving dinner and had closed at 6 p.m., said chef Scott Ouellette who is one of the four co-owners. He said he received a call at 9:45 p.m. and when he arrived, the building was completely engulfed in flames.

He said there were no employees or customers in the building and was grateful no one was hurt. "A lot of employees will be out of work during the holidays," said Ouellette.

According to Norman Atkinson, the webmaster of the Moultonborough Historical Society, the first commercial use of the circa 1800s farmhouse was in the early 1960s when Kathleen Wright used it as the Star Haven Doll Shop.

Atkinson said The Woodshed Restaurant was started in the early 1970s by Dick and Geraldine "Jerry" Tower.

Jerry Tower said her and her late husband got the idea for The Woodshed when they were visiting friends in Wickenburg, Arizona and they went to Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale.

"It was cowboy steaks and potatoes all cooked outside," she said. "Dick said he thought it would be a great idea for Moultonborough."

She said they bought the house in 1954 and started cleaning out the barn in 1971 for use as a restaurant, even bringing pieces of other barns made with wooden pegs to expand the area. Gradually, she said the lower part of the house became part of the dining area.

She said the cleaning and construction of the restaurant took two years and they opened in 1973. She said they had to have six entrees to qualify for a N.H. State liquor license and prime rib was the noted house specialty.

"We cooked the prime rib outside," she said. "On Thanksgiving, I remember Dick cooking the turkeys outside on a spit."

Jerry said she was "too sad" to drive by Lee Road yesterday and said her son advised against it. She said she had some wonderful memories of the property that include raising her two sons there and having one of her son's wedding on the front lawn.

She said celebrities often came to the Woodshed when the Winnipesaukee Playhouse was open. She remembers Jack Cassidy, who she said was "such a handsome man" who would tell her that he didn't want anyone to know he was there.

"Of course all that changed after a few martinis," she said.

Jerry remembers selling The Woodshed in 1975 to a Massachusetts couple who later sold it to Lyn Seley and Bob Fee who also ran it as The Woodshed for years.

Bruce Garry lives less than one-half mile away from the restaurant on Lee Road. He said yesterday that he smelled smoke but thought it was someone's wood stove.

When he saw the television news, he said he and his wife went to the top floor of their house and could see smoke and flames pouring from the area.

Garry said one of the things he remembers about the establishment is the Rusty Hinge Bar and the drink call Skip and Go Naked.

"It had rum, fruit, whatever," he said, remembering that the bartenders had made jugs of it ahead of time and that there was a pin or a badge for finishing one.

"I just lived down the road," he said. "I could walk home."

The Skip and Go Naked was the brainchild of Fee and Seley, the people who operated the Woodshed from 1979 until 2008.

"I saw (the restaurant) the first time during the blizzard of 1978," Seley said yesterday, noting they bought it in April and opened in late May.

"For me it was perfect," Seley said. She lived there until the 1980s when the couple moved. She mostly remembered all of the life-long friends that were made at The Woodshed.

She told one story about a New Jersey couple who came to Melvin Village for vacation and stumbled upon the restaurant. She said they saw the sign on the highway and drove down the road, thinking they really were in the "middle of nowhere."

When they came upon a full parking lot, they were shocked. She said they came in and ended up being seated next to Henry Fonda, who was a regular there along with his daughter and Kathryn Hepburn during the filming of "On Golden Pond".

Seley said there were a number of other celebrities like Sean Penn and Robin Wright who ate there and politicians such as Sen. Bob Dole "but they were such a small part of what The Woodshed really was."

For her and Fee it was the hundreds of local customers, thousands of tourists, and the many students who worked there during their college years that bring back the fondest and most wistful memories.

Some of them have reached out to her through Facebook yesterday to console her and to remember the good times. "Now I know why I have Facebook," she said.

She saw people meet and later get married, watched their children grow up and said the real legacy of The Woodshed is a being an integral part of the Moultonborough and Lake Winnipesaukee community.

"I remember one couple getting married there and when their daughter turned 21, serving her her first Skip and Go Naked," she said. "Twenty-nine years is a long time."

Lyn said she and Fee drove by the fire site and were "broken-hearted" by what they saw.

Both Seley and Tower said they had heard good things about the latest incarnation of The Woodshed and hope that by some miracle the new owners can rebuild.

But they both also acknowledged that the real history and charm of The Woodshed was in the hearts and minds of the many people — many of them life-long friends — who made it so successfully and so enjoyable for so many years.

Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 03:19

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Laconia councilors were surprised by $1.08 jump in tax rate

LACONIA — After projecting the 2013 property tax rate to rise by 28 cents when they adopted the 2013-2014 budget in June, city councilors were surprised and concerned to find it increased by $1.08 when the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) set the rate last week.

In preparing the budget, City Manager Scott Myers projected property values to increase by $17-million, or 0.9 percent. Instead, the assessed valuation declined by $53.6 million, or 2.9 percent, from $1.857 billion to $1.804 billion. That drop accounts for most but not all of the rise in the property tax rate.

Troubled by the disparity between the projected and actual rates, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, asked what could be done to forecast the assessed valuation more accurately. Meanwhile, Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) feared the difference between an increase of 28 cents and $1.08 would arouse suspicions of increased spending among taxpayers.

Myers stressed that an increase in the property tax rate caused by falling property values does not necessarily lead to higher tax bills for all taxpayers. The amount to be raised be property taxes — $39,311,468 in 2013-2014 , an increase of $831,733, 2.2 percent — was set by the budget and has not changed.

Myers said that while the total valuation has decreased by almost 3 percent, the decline is not uniform across all classes of property. While some classes have lost more value than others some classes of property may have increased in value. In other words, the effect of the property tax rate is not to increase tax bills across the board, but to redistribute the tax burden among property owners according to how much or how little the value of their property fell or rose.

Myers explained that the challenge of assessing property values was exacerbated by the sluggish real estate estate market. The number of comparable sales on which to base assessment has grown, but remains relatively low, particularly for specific classes of property. He reminded the councilors that when property values were increasing, property tax rates were falling, but with the recession the trends were reversed.

Despite the difficulties, Myers said that he and Jon Duhamel, the city assessor, have been discussing what can be done to refine the projection for the past month. He said that while the total valuation legally must be based on the assessed value of property as of April 1, the assessments need not be reported to DRA until September 1, which allows time for making adjustments. At the same time, he noted that DRA, not the city, assesses the value of property owned by public utilities, which in Laconia amounts to between $2 million and $3 million.

Apart from the assessed valuation, other projections subject to change bear on the property tax rate. Myers said that revenues from sources other than property taxes are estimated in June when the budget is adopted but are subject to adjustment prior to setting the tax rate in October or November. Likewise, the county assessment is projected in June, but not finalized until after the budget is adopted. Finally, how much to draw from the undesignated fund balance (rainy day fund) to apply to revenues to offset the amount to be raised by property taxes may be projected in the budget but changed before setting the tax rate.

Adjustments to the assessed valuation to align assessed values with market prices also contributed to significant increases in the property tax rates in New Hampton, Meredith and Sanbornton. In New Hampton, where assessed values represented 114 percent of market prices, a statistical revaluation to bring the two in line, together with a 6 percent increase in tax commitment raised the property tax rate 20.8 percent. In Meredith, where the tax commitment rose 7.2 percent and a statistical revaluation reduced the assessed valuation by 6.2 percent, raising the property tax rate 14-percent. In Sanbornton, the amount to be raised by property taxes grew only 1.2 percent, but a revaluation lowered the assessed valuation 10.4 percent, which reflected itself in a 13 percent rise in the property tax rate.

Property tax rates rates decreased in three towns — Alton, Barnstead and Gilmanton. In Alton, the tax commitment fell by 0.6 percent while the assessed valuation rose by 1.1 percent, the largest increase in the county, dropping the property tax rate by 1.8 percent. In Barnstead, the amount to be raised by taxes crept up 0.1-percent and the assessed valuation increased 0.4-percent, reducing the property tax rate 0.3-percent.

In Gilmanton, a combination of increased revenues and reduced expenditures reduced the amount to be raised by property taxes by 9.4 percent while the assessed valuation increased by 0.4 percent, trimming $2.27, or 9.7 percent, off the property tax rate. In Gilford, where the tax commitment rose by a paltry $258 and the assessed valuation climbed 0.6-percent, the tax rate decreased by 14 cents.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 November 2013 12:44

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