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Laconia property tax burden rises 2.2% for 2013

LACONIA — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has set the 2013 property tax rate at $22.08 per $1,000 of assessed value, and increase of $1.08, or 5.1 percent, over the 2012 rate.

The amount to be raised by property taxes rose by $831,733, or 2.2 percent, from $38,479,735 to $39,311,468, while the total assessed valuation fell by $53,649,580, or 2.9 percent, from $1,857,853,703 to $1,804,204,123.

The city tax increased from $8.14 to $8.55, the local school tax from $8.81 to $9.40, the state education tax from $2.59 to $2.66 and the county tax from $1.46 to $1.47.

The city's tax cap, enacted by voters in 2005, limits the increase in the total amount of property taxes collected to the previous year's number times an official measure of inflation. An extra allowance for increase due to the value of new building permits is also allowed.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 November 2013 02:05

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Belmont man charged with possessing loaded gun in car

GILFORD — A Belmont man has been charged with one misdemeanor count of possessing a loaded weapon in a vehicle without a permit and one felony count of possession of heroin.

Police said an officer on routine patrol at 7:45 p.m. on November 18 noticed two suspicious cars in the Airport Plaza parking lots along with a group of individuals gathered around the vehicles.

The officer spoke with Elwin Weeks, 30, of Brown Hill Road and saw a handgun in plain view in the car. Through the course of his investigation, he found the handgun — a Walther P-99 — was loaded.

It is against N.H. law to have a loaded gun in a car without a concealed weapon permit.

Police also said they found a small amount of heroin on him.

Weeks was released on personal recognizance bail and is scheduled to appear in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on December 19.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 November 2013 02:01

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Hosmer & Forreter confident health insurance for near-poor will get done

CONCORD — Although the effort to expand Medicaid ran aground in the New Hampshire Senate on Thursday, the two senators from the Lakes Region — Democrat Andrew Hosmer of Laconia and Republican Jeanie Forrester of Meredith — believe that a compromise will be reached and the program will go forward.

"It was the timing we got stuck on," Hosmer said yesterday. "We've got minor issues holding up major health care reform. My disappointment is that we had an opportunity to do something," he continued. "But many of us, on both sides of the aisle, remain optimistic."

"We were almost there," remarked Forrester. "It didn't work, but I believe we can make it work."

Republicans and Democrats agreed on a plan that would use federal funds to enable some 50,000 residents to enrolled in Medicaid managed care plans to purchase health insurance from private carriers through the exchange established by the Affordable Care Act. Both acknowledged that the plan would require waivers from federal regulations. However, the Republicans insisted that the transition from Medicaid managed care to private health insurance begin in 2015 while Governor Maggie Hassan and the Democrats favored delaying the transition until the federal waivers and funding are in place and the exchange, which counts but one insurance company, becomes more competitive.

Republicans are concerned that the longer the transition from Medicaid managed care to the health insurance exchange is delayed, the greater the risk the state will be exposed to the cost of a growing Medicaid program.

Noting that others states, notably Arkansas and Iowa, have been granted waivers similar to those sought by New Hampshire, Forrester doubted warnings from the Insurance Department and Health and Human Services Department that the process could take one or two years. "We have to get these waivers and the departments must get it done," she said. She said that with some adjustments to their programming the Medicaid managed care providers could qualify to offer health insurance plans on the exchange.

Acknowledging the fiscal risk to the state, Hosmer agreed on the need for benchmarks and timelines as well as "performances matrices and cost efficiencies to ensure that funds are well spent." At the same time, he stressed that the importance of "allowing ample time for more insurers to enter the market." Likewise, he said that Arkansas and Iowa spent nearly two years designing their programs and drafting waiver requests while New Hampshire has just begun the process. Nevertheless, he described the differences between the parties as "minor issues" that he is confident can be overcome.

While some have charged that the Senate Republican leadership has sought to scuttle the expansion of Medicaid from the outset, Hosmer said "there are cores on both sides of the aisle who want this to happen and are willing to keep working. It's too big an issue that affects too many people. Failure cannot be an option."

Forrester said that "right after the session adjourned we began talking about how we could this done," indicating that the conversation included senators from both parties. "I think people want to get this done," she continued, "for the people who the health care." She pointed out that shortly after the Senate reached stalemate, the Josiah Bartlett Center, a conservative think tank, honored Chuck Morse, the Republican senate president from Salem, who told his conservative audience that he believed agreement was within reach and he intended to pursue it.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 November 2013 01:39

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2 selectmen voted to allow strippers to return to Kings Grant Inn only because they felt they legally had no choice

GILFORD — While the owner and co-manager of the Lakes Region Cafe & Tavern have secured their town license to operated an "exotic entertainment" dance club and restaurant, the vote was not without controversy.

At least two of the selectmen, after making the motion to grant Willard Drew and his business partner Tom Lyons their full live entertainment license, expressed their personal, negative opinions about the operation.

"Someone will disagree with some types of businesses," began Selectman John O'Brien who made the motion to grant Drew his full license on Wednesday night, adding that he didn't agree with exotic dancing and the activity, in his opinion, it allegedly attracts.

"However, due to existing laws in these times, ... I can't legally oppose (it), O'Brien said.

Selectman Chair Kevin Hayes said "he would hold his nose" and vote to support Drew having his license. He said in his 5 1/2 years of being a selectman, no single topic has been brought to his attention by a wider variety of residents than the operations at the King's Grant Inn property during its history as a "strip club."

Hayes also said he hoped that if Drew and Lyons were successful, they would reinvest money back into the property.

Drew's lawyer, David Bownes, thanked selectmen for the license, noting that the meeting was not the time nor the place to respond to their statements. He noted selectmen have the same First Amendment right to express their individual opinions as Drew does to operate an exotic dancing club.

Nevertheless, Drew went to the podium.

He told selectmen that for 22 years he has "jumped through hoops" to keep his business afloat and has sunk nearly $300,000 into the building and property.

Drew said he has been fighting to stay open since 1994, telling the selectmen that if the town had been a little more accommodating, he may have made enough money to reinvest in his property.

He noted that a former police chief also waged a clandestine investigation against him and his business that involved 14 investigations and three undercover operations that yielded nothing.

Ten years ago, said Drew, a former fire chief determined he had to reduce his occupancy from 163 to 99 because he didn't have a sprinkler system, forcing him to close his dining room.

Without naming names, he said there are other entertainment establishments in Gilford who have greater capacity than him who don't have sprinkler systems because their buildings and businesses were "grandfathered," as he believes his should be.

Drew also told selectmen that the portion of Route 11-B from Kimball Road to Route 11 should be zoned commercial-industrial and not residential commercial. He noted that most of Kimball Road is commercial and industrial.

He also said that exotic dancing was "the only thing that pays the bills."

In the not-so-distant-past Drew and Bownes also prevailed in a lawsuit against the town for denying the former Kokomos club an adult entertainment license in a case that went to the U.S. Federal Court.

The Lakes Region Cafe & Tavern will be operating at the former King's Grant Inn. In its most recent incarnation, the historic inn and tavern had been being operated as the Mardi Gras North and though Drew owns the property, he was not an active manager of that business.

In October of 2011, and in the wake of what appears to be a lengthy undercover state police drug investigation, the Mardi Gras North was raided on a Tuesday night by two SWAT Teams and most of the members of the Gilford Police Department. Selectmen as well as some other civilian town employees were present on the property during the raid.

In the wake of the raid, five female dancers and two male patrons were charged and sentenced for a variety of drug charges — most of which were reasonably minor. Three people — all female dancers — in the club were arrested during the raid

Drew has said that during the raid, law enforcement did as much damage as it could to his building, including breaking down doors that were unlocked, ripping out the video security system, and breaking open freezers and refrigerators when they were offered keys to the locks by on-site employees.

The business closed and Drew — as holder of the liquor license — faced a number of civil penalties through the N.H. Liquor Bureau — including one of allowing his property to be used for unlawful activities for which he was exonerated.

After a three-day hearing in front of the N.H. Liquor Commission, he was found responsible for once serving an intoxicated patron, for once serving an employee while she was working, and for once giving away a free drink. He was fined $350 and ordered not to operate for three days.

Although he has opened sporadically since the October raid, in his opinion, selectmen have thrown up numerous roadblocks as he has tried to get his business back on its feet again.

Drew said yesterday that now that he and Lyons have their full licenses, they will be developing menus and a business plan. They had previously told selectmen they were looking at a "soft-opening" so they can work out the kinks and be fully operational by spring and summer.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 November 2013 01:17

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