LACONIA — The Belknap Mill Society, after choosing not to sell the historic building and undergoing several changes of leadership, has added two employees and four trustees as it prepares to mount a capital campaign aimed at addressing the needs and ensuring the future of the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the country.
Allison Ambrose, president of the society, said yesterday that Beth San Soucie, who served as managing director for the past year, has been succeeded by Tara Shore, who as administrator will oversee day-to-day operations, and Jennifer McLean, who will mange programs and schedule events while continuing to serve as coordinator of Leadership Lakes Region.
Meanwhile, membership of the Board of Trustees, which had shrunk to six, has been increased to ten with addition of Jennifer Anderson, director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, MaryLee Gorham-Waterman, executive director of the New Hampshire Humane Society, Michael Schofield of the Huot Technical Center and Karon Thibeault of Bank of New Hampshire.
Ambrose said that Anderson, who is serving as secretary of the society, is preparing its newsletter. Gorham-Waterman and Thibeault, she said, will turn their hands to the fundraising campaign, while Schofield will seek to develop a partnership between the society and the Huot Technical Center to assist with the repair and maintenance of the mill.
At the same time, the society has convened an advisory board consisting of Mayor Ed Engler, three former mayors — Rod Dyer, Paul Fitzgerald and Matt Lahey — Mark Warren, Pastor of the Grace Capital Church and Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council. Ambrose said that the advisory board is working with the trustees to develop a vision and plan for the future of the mill.
The financial condition of the mill, which last February led the executive committee of society to approach the city about purchasing the building, remains fragile. Ambrose said that generous donations from Aavid Thermalloy and the Grace Capital Church amounting to some $30,000, and a grant have enabled the society to complete the replacement of the cupola and finial as well as provide what she called "breathing room" by defraying some operating expenses.
However, installation of a high efficiency boiler, replacement of windows, repairs to the roof, refinishing of floors and improvements to security systems, including a new front door, represent estimated costs of $175,000. Ambrose said that in addition to strengthening its fundraising efforts, the society will seek to rent office space on the second floor, which has been vacant for several years. Income from the rental of two law offices in the building is a significant share of operating income.
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