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BEDC: Colonial project is one of largest in state


LACONIA — Belknap Economic Development Council Chairman Randy Eifert says that a key element in the organization's acquisition of the Colonial Theatre was the city's decision to step up to the plate and loan the money to BEDC which made the purchase possible.
Speaking at then organization's 24th annual meeting at Lakes Region Community College Wednesday night Eifert said that the $15 million restoration and renovation project is one of the largest community development projects in the entire state and is the result of "'getting the right people at the table and having the vision and resources" to make it possible.
"The Colonial Theatre deal showed what our board is capable of," said Eifert, who said that 2015 was a historic year for the organization which in recent years has shifted its strategy to one of becoming more of a catalyst for economic development.
"Many good people have tried before to acquire the Colonial," he said, maintaining that the group's ability to access grants and tax credits makes it an invaluable partner for the county.
He said that the organization's spinoff, 609 Main Street, is managing the transition of the property where the city will become the sole tenant once the renovation project is completed.
Eifert said $5 million in tax credits will help finance the project and that historic project tax credits and state tax credits will also be available. He said that a drive to raise $2 million to $3 million in private funds will be launched later this year.
Work has started on removing the partitions which turned the one-time 1,200-seat theater into five smaller theaters in the 1980s.
The Norman Marsh Award for support of policies promoting the region's economic growth was presented to former BEDC Chairman Henry Lipman, a Laconia Ward 3 City councilman and senior vice president of LRGHealthcare, who was credited with helping the organization refocus its priorities to a more active role in economic growth,
BEDC Executive Director Justin Slattery said that the organization's 200 by 2020 initiative, which was established to provide internships for high school students, has already surpassed its goal and has been an outstanding success.
Three new directors were installed; Chris Kelly of Bayside ReMax Real Estate, Steven Geer of Geer and Associates and Ron Magoon of Franklin Savings Bank.
Four new incorporators were installed; Allison Ambrose of Wescott Law, Jude Hamel of Prescott Farm, Scott Littlefield of Profile Bank and Valerie Fraser, a state representative from New Hampton.

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Laconia Mayor Ed Engler presents the Norman Marsh Award to former Belknap Economic Development Council chairman Henry Lipman. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Most people arrested in drug sweep already out on bail


LACONIA — Twenty-five of the people who were targeted by a wide-sweeping drug bust last week have been arrested, but many are already out on bail, police officials told Laconia police commissioners Thursday.
Detective Lt. Thomas Swett told commissioners that the department is still looking for eight people for whom they hold outstanding warrants.

Commissioner Armand Maheux said that it "must be discouraging" for the police officers who worked so hard on the warrants and arrests to know that 13 of those 16 picked up that day by Laconia police were released on personal recognizance bail.

"It's like they almost laugh at you," Maheux said.

Commissioner Thomas Tarr, who participated by telephone because he is out of the state, said Maheux was "right on the money."

Tarr wanted to know how much, if any, pretrial supervision each was getting and Swett responded that there is very little pretrial supervision available for people who haven't been convicted of the crime.

"They're still considered innocent," he said.

Swett said, historically, a high number of the arrestees will appear in court for their arraignment and trial.

Chief Christopher Adams said that working with the drug community and with victims of drug overdoses in general can take its toll on all police officers. He said that often times police must give CPR to someone until emergency crews arrive.

"We keep our eyes and ears open and we have sessions for officers who undergo a particularly stressful or catastrophic event," he said, adding that CPR falls under that category.

Adams went on to say that so far this year, Laconia is doing fairly well, with eight or nine overdoses and one death until this past weekend, when there were four overdoses in the city with one reported fatality. He said that Northfield also reported two overdoses and said the problem is taking its toll everywhere and not just on larger, city police departments.

When asked by Tarr if any of the people who have overdosed on drugs have done it before, Adams said that it is "not uncommon for people to overdose over and over again."

He said there was one man who lived in the city that was administered Narcan by emergency crews about five times last year but he, unfortunately, died.

When Tarr asked if Narcan is the correct way to approach the problem, Adams said it gives addicts a lifeline so they can survive and hopefully seek help or treatment, which could mean waiting for a bed in a rehabilitation facility somewhere in the state.

Adams added that along those lines, Laconia's Prevention, Education, and Treatment Officer Eric Adams will be awarded with the New Hampshirre Public Health Association's annual Friend of Public Health Award at a ceremony on April 13 at the Christa McAuliffe Center in Concord.

Adams will be honored for all of his work within the community helping to get assistance for those who have drug problems and for his outreach efforts to educate people against drugs and drug abuse.

County will see $64,000 savings if new contract wins approval

LACONIA — Unionized employees of the Belknap County House of Corrections have voted unanimously to approve a proposed two-year contract with the county which will provide them with their first pay raise in four years.
Belknap County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that all 21 members of the Belknap County Corrections Officer Union this week voted for the contract, which has been negotiated in recent weeks by union representatives and the commissioners.
DeVoy said that the contract, if approved by the Belknap County Delegation, will save the county $64,000 in health insurance costs over the next two years.
The contract provides a 1.4 percent pay raise in each of the two years as well as step increases, which could increase total compensation by 4.4 percent each year for eligible workers.
It also provided for health insurance changes from an HMO plan to a "site of service" plan. DeVoy said that change will save the county $3,000 per employee, even though the county will pick up the entire cost of the health insurance premiums. Currently employees pay 5 to 6.5 percent of the premiums for the HMO plan.
There is also an incentive bonus of $1,000 in the first year for employees who make the switch to the site of service plan, which provides for $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 deductibles on single, two-person and family plans.
DeVoy said that he has contacted Belknap County Delegation Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) about the contract, which needs approval from the delegation before it can take effect, and asked him to set up a meeting of the delegation at which the contract can be voted on.
The proposed contract is similar to the collective bargaining agreement between Teamsters Local 633 and the county which was approved by a 10-5 vote by the County Delegation last August.
DeVoy said that contract talks will be held next week with the new union representing the Belknap County Sheriff's Department. On Monday employees of the department voted unanimously to switch from the State Employees Association to the Teamsters Union.