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Council adds & subtracts its way to $115k reduction of proposed tax bill

LACONIA — The City Council this week stopped short of adopting the 2014-2015 municipal budget, but with a mix of budget adjustments, revenue increases and expense reductions, sketched a scenario that would trim the amount to be raised by property taxes and lower the projected rise in the property tax rate while applying more resources to the scourge of illicit drugs.

The council's plan would reduce the amount to be raised by property taxes by $115,000, or three-tenths of one-percent, from $36.1-million to $36-million. At the same time, the projected increase in the property tax rate of 31 cents, from $22.08 to $22.39, would be reduced to 25 cents, leaving a rate of $22.33. The owner of a median priced home of $200,000 would be spared $12 in property taxes by the council's action.

The council is expected to adopt the budget at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 14.

Last week City Manager Scott Myers recommended raising the projected revenues from motor vehicle registrations by $30,000, from $2,150,000 to $2,180,000, reducing the appropriation for the employer's share of health insurance premiums by $30,000 and eliminating a $20,000 appropriation for preparing the Master Plan to reflect receipt of a grant for the purpose. Together these changes to his original budget proposal represent a net gain of $80,000.

After what Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, called "an informal give and take," Mayor Ed Engler conducted a straw poll on a handful of proposals offered by Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4).

The council agreed to eliminate $25,000 for a study of the intersection of Court Street and Fair Street from the capital outlay budget. With support from Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), Baer suggested cutting some or all of the $39,500 appropriation for Lakes Region Public Access television. On advice from Myers the council agreed to reduce the appropriation by $10,000.

After some discussion with School Superintendent Terri Forsten and members of the School Board the council agreed to increase School District revenues by $30,000 and decrease expenditures by the same amount for a net impact of $60,000.

Initially Lipman asked school officials to cut their budget by $50,000. Instead, Forsten proposed to increase revenue $50,000 in anticipation of increased reimbursement of special education costs. "I'll be up front," Lipman told her. "I can't support the plan you just outlined."

Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) agreed that "it's not okay to adjust the revenue line."

When Hamel suggested raising revenues and cutting expenses by equal amounts, school officials withdrew to confer and later accepted the proposal. "There's no reason not to ask the schools to help out the taxpayers," he said.

Joe Cormier, a member of the School Board, said that there was 20 percent turnover in the teaching staff of the three elementary schools and the $30,000 could be teased from the salaries and benefits of the new hires.

Meanwhile, the council agreed to appropriate an additional $50,000 to the Police Department to strengthen targeted patrolling for drug enforcement as well as to coordinate community programs aimed at preventing and treating drug abuse. Lipman foresaw "a collective effort to get a the demand side" while conceding "it may not work, but I'm willing to give it a shot."

Councilors also readily agreed to add another $10,000 to the overall budget, $7,000 to service the debt on the high estimate to construct a new fire station and $3,000 increased dues to the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. Altogether the additional expenditures amount to $60,000.

The adjustments, higher revenues and lower expenses amount to $175,000. Less the $60,000 in additional expenditures, the net effect would be to reduce the tax commitment by $115,000.

Two other proposals failed to gain a consensus of the council. Baer proposed eliminating the $32,000 appropriated to fund the salaries, benefits and related expenses of four firefighters for five weeks. The firefighters were hired with a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant of $642,028 from the federal government, which expires in April 2015. Baer said that since there is no plan for funding the positions once the grant expires and the additional personnel have not led to a significant reduction in the cost of overtime, she believes the positions should be eliminated for the last five weeks of fiscal year 2015 budget.

Likewise, Baer also sought to withhold a $15,000 appropriation for the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail. Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, reminded the council that businesses and individuals have been contributing as much or more than the city to the project, which is a priority in the Master Plan. "We need your support. We need your help," he said. "I'd like to ask you for more money."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:20

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Well wishers wave Alan Robichaud into retirement

LACONIA — Friends, co-workers and members of the social services network that he helped create stopped by Tuesday afternoon to wish Alan Robichaud well on his last day on the job as community development director for Granite United Way's Central Region,.
Robichaud, who has worked in the social services field since 1972, said he's proud of working to make a difference in the lives of people and has been inspired throughout his career by the very kind of people who showed up to wish him well.
''These are people who give their lives to help others,'' said Robichaud who recalled the example of Jim Piet, who had cerebral palsy but persevered and for 17 years was president of the New Hampshire Disabilities Council and is now married and has children.
''He hired me as executive director of the council and I learned a lot from him. He couldn't drive so I drove him around a lot. Once we went all he way to Washington, D.C. and I sat with him as he testified before Congress in support of more spending on behalf of people with disabilities. I was very impressed with him'' said Robichaud.
He said that he has seen people overcome biases and prejudices in order to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others, like Roberta Gallant who spent most of her early life at what was then Laconia State School and emerged as a forceful and articulate advocate for those with disabilities.
Robichaud said that another inspiration is Annie Forts of Moultonborough, who has Downs Syndrome and started her own non-profit, the Annie Forts "Up'' Syndrome Foundation, which helps developmentally disabled people.
Over a long career in social services, Robichaud has won numerous honor, including the ''Heart of Your City'' award from Citizens Bank and WMUR-TV in 2012, the George "Pete" Harris award from Genesis Behavioral Health, a Good Scout Award from the Daniel Webster Council and the Norm Marsh Award from the Belknap Economic Development Council in 2007. Earlier this year he was presented with the Captain Ralph Bristol Award by the Central Region of Granite United Way at its annual meeting.
Robichaud is the former executive director of the Belknap County Citizens Council for Children and Families as well as the executive director of the N.H. Developmental Disabilities Council and administrator for the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, among other positions.
He was also instrumental in the formation of the Financial Stability Partnership, Better Together and the 200 by 2020 Initiative, as well as the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health.
He says that he is planning to take the next six months to relax and enjoy time with his wife, Debbie, and family.
''I've got my first grandson coming next month and I've got a son on the West Coast I haven't seen for a while. So there are lots of things 'I'm looking forward to,'' said Robichaud.

Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith of Laconia, who have worked with homeless people in the city to create art, share memories with Alan Robichaud, center, who spent his last day on the job as community development director for the Granite United Way's Central Region. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:07

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Business professor & inkeeper Dan Innis wants 1st District seat in U.S. Congress

LACONIA — "I voted for the guy twice," said Dan Innis , the Portsmouth innkeeper who is challenging Frank Guinta, the former mayor of Manchester and one-term congressman, for the Republican nomination in the First Congressional District. "But we have to send different people to Washington," he remarked.

This week Innis spent a day in the Lakes Region, visiting the Lakes Region Community College, meeting with member of the Belknap Economic Development Council and touring Gunstock Mountain Resort.

"I am not a politician," declared Innis of his first bid for elective office. The son of a printer and secretary, Innis was raised in Columbus, Ohio and was the first in his family to attend college, earning a bachelors degree at Ohio University, a masters degree at Miami University (Ohio) and his doctorate at Ohio State University. "I paid off my last student loan at the age of 38," he said.

After serving as a teacher and dean of business schools at Ohio University and the University of Maine, Innis became dean of the Peter T. Paul School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire in 2007. At UNH he presided over a significant increase in enrollment and shepherded construction of a new building, which he noted was built without a penny from the taxpayers of the state.

A year later, with his partner and husband Doug Palardy, Innis opened the Ale House Inn, a small hotel in downtown Portsmouth. In 2013 the pair sold the property to open The Hotel Portsmouth with 32 rooms.

"It's a tough business," Innis said of owning and operating hotels, "but it's a good business."

Innis, the father of three children, explained that the perspective of the younger generation, which is concerned about shouldering a heavy debt burden, fearsome about intrusions into personal privacy and anxious about the future of Social Security, was a "big motivator" in his decision to run for Congress. "We've left them a situation they don't deserve," he said.

For Innis "mandatory spending programs," especially Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, pose the most challenging issue to the future of the country. "The costs will eat us up," he said, adding that discretionary expenditures are a small and shrinking portion of the federal budget. "We must think strategically for the long-term," he insisted without committing himself to a specific set of solutions.

Stressing his belief in "free and open" markets, Innis favors the repeal of Affordable Care Act, which he suggested should be "broken up into its component parts and fixed." In particular, he said that the health insurance market should be loosed from government regulation, starting eliminating barriers to the sale of policies across state lines. He insisted that the profit motive, which drives innovation in the medical community, must remain a key element in providing health care.

"I believe in American exceptionalism," Innis said, adding "with that comes responsibility." As what he called "the leader of the free world," he said that the United States could not become isolationist, but must commit itself to protecting its allies and friends, including the Ukraine and former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. But, he said he was reluctant to put boots on the ground "if it can be avoided."

Expressing disdain at what critics of President Obama have called his "apology tour," Innis insisted America had nothing to apologize for and, while shunning the label of "neo-con," stressed the need for a coherent foreign policy based on U.S. values.

Touting his knowledge and experience of the business world, Innis remarked that Guinta "has been a politician his whole career." He claimed that he has a better understanding and firmer commitment to the principles of the free market and follows a different approach to solving problems "as opposed to short-term fixes with an eye to the next election".

We've been sending the wrong people to Washington," he said once more.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 10:53

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Gun fired during middle-of-night home invasion

LACONIA — Police continue to investigate a shooting at a Harvard Street home that occurred at 3:23 a.m. yesterday.

Capt. Bill Clary said an unidentified male victim called 911 and reported he had been shot in what he said was a robbery.

Clary said the victim was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital with a minor head wound but police aren't sure yet if he was shot or hurt some other way. He has since been released.

"We do know a gun was discharged," Clary said.

He declined to say if police recovered a bullet.

"We believe there was a robbery or an attempt at a robbery," Clary said, adding that police do not believe this was a random crime.

Preliminarily, police said there were four men in the home at 48 Harvard St., directly across the street from the headquarters of the Laconia School District, when two men who were wearing bandanas and hooded sweatshirts entered. One of the men had a gun.

Clary said all four men remained in the home and police have spoken with the three who were witnesses.

He said one of the two males who allegedly invaded the home was reported to have fled on foot down Dartmouth Street, to the north.

Clary also said that some of the clothing that witnesses reported as being worn by the two men has been recovered by police but he declined to say where.

Police remained at the home until 1:30 p.m. yesterday when detectives left the house carrying two paper bags containing what is presumably evidence gathered after a search warrant was granted.

Clary said it appears the home is being renovated and is in a state of disarray, making the search for a spent round difficult.

Neighbors told The Daily Sun there was one male staying in the house and that he drives a "loud Dodge". "That car comes and goes at all hours of the night," said one woman.

Another neighbor named said he didn't hear anything during the night or early morning but noted his bedroom is on the second floor and he had his air conditioner on while he slept.

He described the shooting as unsettling and said he has two children who live with him and doesn't like the idea of it.

Other neighbors said a lot of people come to the brown-shingled home at all hours of the night.

Property tax records say the house is owned by KMH Realty Corp. which is a property maintenance company owned by Kevin Hutchinson. KMH purchased the home in 2013. Clary said Hutchinson's son is thought to be renovating the home.


CUTLINE: Crime scene tape surrounds a house at 48 Harvard St. Police are investigating a shooting that occurred at 3:23 a.m. Wednesday morning. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 10:44

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