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Candidate's walk on WOW Trail gives advocates chance to tout its benefits

LACONIA — Only a few people turned out for a Walk with the Candidates along the WOW Trail Saturday morning and most of the conversation of those taking part centered on the trail itself and the role it can play in the city's economy.
The event was described by Gretchen Gandini, WOW Trail executive director, as a ''walk and talk'' session for the public which would provide an opportunity for those taking part to gain a new appreciation of the trail, which she said is an underutilized resource.
Mayoral candidates Kaileif Mitchell and Ed Engler took the walk, which got underway at 10 a.m.,. along with Ward 6 City Council candidates Tony Felch and Armand Bolduc. Joining them were three of Mitchell's children, his parents Harry and Deb, Felch's daughter Alexis, and WOW Trail President Alan Beetle.
Bolduc expressed concern about the amount of bittersweet, an invasive species, growing along the trail, saying that it will eventually overwhelm the trees it winds itself around.
Beetle said that plans for the trail, which is envisioned as stretching for nine miles between Belmont and Meredith, has been underway for about 10 years. The first phase, from Veteran's Square to Lakeport Square, was opened in May, 2010 at a cost of more than $820,000 and the second phase, from Veteran's Square to the Belmont line project is expected to cost about $1 million. Although the WOW Trail committee has financed and managed the construction, as phases of the trail are completed they are accepted by the city as a municipal parkway.
The city is also the leaseholder for the state rights of way necessary to run the trail close to railroad tracks.
He said that the challenge of funding the project has slowed the pace of construction. To fund design, engineering and construction of the first and second phases, the WOW Trail was awarded two federal grants totaling $738,000 as well as raised money through annual events like the WOW Ball and WOW Fest.
Since the project began in 2004, the city has contributed a total of $150,000 in annual appropriations ranging between $20,000 and $7,500. This fiscal year the city has budgeted $17,500 for the project.
The City Council is currently considering a proposal to borrow $1.55 million for a variety of downtown projects, $400,000 of which would be used to help complete the second phase of the WOW Trail and would use proceeds from the city's Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District account to pay off the bond issue.
Engler said that he is a huge supporter of that project, noting that the WOW Trail is in essence a public park and that while there are issues with how it will be completed along an active railway, which he observed is not really all that busy, that it has tremendous potential to bring recreation oriented tourists to the area.
Mitchell, who said the WOW Trail is part of his regular exercise regime, said that while he can see using TIFF money from the downtown and Lakeport districts for each of the WOW Trail segments, he is not ready to endorse the current proposal.
''I want to see what other needs we have and how can we make sure that what happens is equally shared,'' said Mitchell.
Beetle said that he was pleased to see the candidates are supportive of the WOW Trail efforts and see its value to the county.


WOW Mitchell;

Mayoral candidate Kaileif Mitchell walks along the WOW Trail while carrying his 5-year-old daughter daughter Zypporah on his shoulders. Ward 6 Counselor Armand Bolduc is shown at left. (Roger Amsden photo for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 02:57

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Return of cancer forces Ray Burton to cancel re-election plans

CONCORD — After representing the northern half of the state, including Laconia, on the Executive Council for 35 years, Ray Burton of Bath announced on Sunday that with the return of the cancer that slowed him earlier this year he will not be seeking re-election to either the Executive Council or Grafton County Commission in 2014.

Burton, 74, opened a formal statement by saying "It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that my cancer has returned. After several days in and out of the hospital I will be heading home to Bath, New Hampshire to rest." After announcing his retirement, he quickly and characteristically added "I will fulfill my duties entrusted in me. My office is always willing to assist the constituents of Grafton County and Executive Council District 1."

The announcement immediately prompted a flurry of tributes from public officials from one end of the political spectrum to the other. "For me it is a very sad day," said State Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), and it's a sad day for all Ray's constituents. No one does it it better than Ray Burton," she continued. "If all our public servants followed the Ray's model, we would all be a lot better off." She said that the Grafton County Republican Committee created an extraordinary service award in Burton's name and honored him as the first recipient. "But, with Ray it was never about Republicans and Democrats," she remarked. "It was always about the people."

Peter Powell of Lancaster, longtime director and past president of the North Country Council, recalled that Burton, then a young man of 19 or 20 helping to elect his father, Wesley Powell. governor in 1958. "Ray grew in, with and for the North Country," he remarked, "and became an icon for the place. You couldn't look at him without thinking of the North County." Noting that the authority of executive councilors appears limited, Powell said that Burton "turned his position into one of significant power, which he used to the advantage of the people he represented. He is on the minds and hearts of everyone up here," he said.

Governor Maggie Hassan, the last of the 10 chief executives to serve with Burton, called his record of public service "unmatched" and said "I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside Councilor Burton." John H. Sununu spoke of his "his dedication and deep commitment to his constituents," noting that his "bipartisan leadership will be missed." United States Senator Kelly Ayotte described Burton as "a passionate and tireless voice for the North Country for decades" while for United States Congresswoman Annie Kuster he was "a fixture of governance and service In New Hampshire since I was a young girl."

Following treatment for kidney cancer in February and March, Burton said in April that as tests showed no sign of the disease he intended to run in 2014 and 2016. However, his health faltered earlier this month when he was unable to attend the meeting of the Executive Council on October 16 and a week later, was not on hand to accept a lifetime achievement award from the North County Council at its annual meeting.

First elected to the Executive Council in 1976, Burton lost his seat two years later, but regain it in 1980 and has held it ever since, almost always by a wide margin. He has also served on the Grafton County Commission for the past 22 years. But, he never forgot the lesson of his only loss. "I'm always running a two votes behind," he said of every campaign, right up to election day.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 02:34

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Man charged with trying to sell his dad's truck

GILMANTON — A Loon Pond Road man is being held on $3,000 cash only bail after allegedly stealing his father's car and trying to sell it.

Paperwork obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, said Gilmanton Police charged Tony A. Hartford with one count of theft of a motor vehicle.

Sgt. Matt Currier said Hartford's father called police at 4 p.m. on October 25 and said he just learned his son had taken his 2008 GMC pickup and had tired to sell it to a used car dealer on Seavey Road in Belmont.

Hartford's father (who is also named Anthony) said he didn't have his permission to sell the truck and learned from one of his friends that young Hartford was heading to a used auto dealer in Laconia to "see if they'd give him more money."

Currier said he called the manager at the Laconia dealership and got of description of young Hartford. He also learned from the manager in Laconia that young Hartford was returning to Seavey Road in Belmont so Chief Joe Collins called the Belmont Police who also went to Seavey Road.

When Belmont Police arrived they saw a 2008 GMC pickup parked in the back parking lot with the same plate number Hartford senior reported. Currier reported that when he arrived, young Hartford was removing the plates from the truck.

Belmont Police also learned that Currier had already arrested young Hartford because he had an outstanding warrant from the Tilton Police.

At some point, Hartford's father showed up at the Seavey Road dealer and he identified the GMC as his. He told all of the officers from both community's that his son did not have his permission to drive or sell his GMC.

Affidavits also said that when Anthony Sr. asked his son if he was trying to sell the truck, young Hartford admitted it.

After speaking with the people who own the business on Seavey Road, police learned they gave young Hartford $4,000 saying he had the title to the truck and the name "Anthony Hartford" was on it. Belmont Police charged Hartford with receiving stolen property.

As to the charges from Tilton, Detective Cpl. Matt Dawson said yesterday young Hartford had been implicated in the theft of 12 computers from Walmart.

Dawson said young Hartford has a court date next month in the 6th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 02:25

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Rx take-back day Saturday in Laconia

LACONIA — As part of their Red Ribbon Week, the Laconia Police and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency will today (Saturday) be hosting a drug-take-back day at the city police station.

The service is free and anonymous and people can safely dispose of their unused, expired, or unwanted medication.

In the past five years at these event, police said the DEA and their partners took back nearly 2-million pounds of pills and medication.

Unused or unwanted medications are more likely than others the end up in the hands of people who can abuse them and the Laconia Police encourages residents to use the service. Police will have representative on hand to answer any questions.



Last Updated on Saturday, 26 October 2013 03:11

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