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Act of boarding up windows puts those who want Hathaway House preserved on edge

LACONIA — Concern for the future of the Hathaway (Squire Clark) House, the stately Victorian home at 1106 Union Avenue, was aroused this week when, on Thursday, a work crew arrived to knock out glass and board up windows as well as remove asbestos tiles from the ground floor.

The contractor said that his crew was engaged by Gregg Nolan, director of development and construction of Cafua Management Company, LLC of North Andover, Massachusetts, which owns the property, to remove asbestos caulking and tiles. He said that he knew nothing about any plans for the building beyond the job he was sent to do. Nolan did not return telephone calls yesterday.

Although Pam Clark, who chairs the city's Heritage Commission, feared the work was a prelude to demolition, Planning Director Shanna Saunders said yesterday that no application for a demolition has been filed with her department and she has not been in contact with Cafua for some time.

Clark said yesterday that should Cafua seek to demolish the building, the Heritage Commission will hold a public hearing and meet with representatives of the company in hopes of agreeing to an alternative to demolition. However, if agreement cannot be reached, the city has no authority to forestall the demolition process.

The controversy surrounding the Hathaway House began in 2008. Calfua, the largest Dunkin' Donuts franchisee in the Northeast, acquired the property in 2000. In 2008 the firm proposed razing the house and constructing a Dunkin' Donuts store and strip mall on the property. However, after a series of meetings with city officials and concerned citizens, Cafua agreed to preserve the Hathaway House and build the Dunkin' Donuts outlet on the remaining 0.75-acre parcel.

When the project was approved, Nolan assured the Planning Board that the Hathaway House would be repainted as well as fitted with a fire alarm and fire suppression system. He said the company had no plans for the building other than to preserve it . However, the building has yet to be painted nor have steps been taken to maintain.

Charlie St. Clair, whose mother Constance owned the building and operated the clothing store that gave it its name, charges that Cafua has practiced "demolition by neglect."

The fate of the Hathaway House led to the establishment of the Heritage Commission in 2008. The commission, consisting of five members, is charged with surveying and inventorying the city's cultural and historic resources, including buildings of historic and architectural significance and advise the Planning Board and other agencies on managing and protecting them.

The commission also serves as a "demolition review committee" when application is made to raze buildings of more than 700-square-feet, visible from a public right-of-way and constructed more than 75 years before the demolition permit is requested. Within five days of receiving an application to demolish a building matching these criteria, the code enforcement must inform the Heritage Commission. If the commission finds that the building is "significant" and schedules a public hearing, the owner is required to post a sign to that effect, along with the date, time and place of the hearing, on the building in plain sight.

Should the public hearing close without agreement on an alternative to demolition, the Heritage Commission shall meet with the owner within 10 days to seek agreement on an alternative. Without an agreement to preserve the building, the owner may proceed with demolition while the Heritage Commission, with the consent of the owner, shall photograph and document the building as well as encourage the owner to salvage any important architectural features.

The home was built in 1870 by Samuel C. Clark, a prominent attorney in Lakeport, then known as Lake Village. Clark was born in Lake Village on January 9, 1832, when Andrew Jackson began his second term as president of the United States. He was schooled in Gilford and at the New Hampton Academy then studied law with Stephen Lyford of Laconia and Asa Fowler of Laconia. In 1857, Clark was admitted to the New Hampshire Bar and named Clerk of the Court in Belknap County, a position he held until 1874.
Clark served two two-year terms the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the first in 1867 and the second 10 years later. Meanwhile, he was named assistant Clerk of the House in 1870 and 1872 and Clerk in 1873 and 1875. Perhaps his initial political success went to his head, because Clark, who was called "Squire," had begun to fancy himself a future governor and intended the house would be his official residence.
Although he never became governor, Clark earned notoriety and respect in the the community. He was a promoter and director of the Laconia and Lake Village Horse Railroad and during the Civil War served as deputy provost marshal, overseeing the military police. Later he was a director of both Laconia National Bank and Lake Village Savings Bank. All the while he maintained a lively law practice at the Clark Block on Elm Street. Clark died unexpectedly on March 19, 1897 after a brief bout of pneumonia.
Clark and his wife Clarissa had three children. A son Samuel Clarence, born in 1857, died in infancy, but three years later Clarissa gave birth to twins, Samuel Clarence, known as Samuel, Jr. and Claribel. Samuel, Jr. married but sired no offspring. He died in December, 1901, eleven months after his mother passed away at the age of 66.
Claribel, who never married, lived in the family home while traveling frequently and widely, until her death at 93 in 1953. Local legend has it that her ghost has stalked the mansion ever since.
Four years later, the St. Clairs acquired the property. In September 1957, The Laconia Evening Citizen reported that the St. Clairs, Constance and her husband Richard, had restored the house to its "Victorian splendor" inside and out to house a clothing store called the Hathaway House.
"All Laconia has watched with interest and appreciation the work as it has progressed," wrote City Editor Ebba M. Janson, "and the couple have received many letters from persons who visited the house years ago thanking them." The exterior of the house was painted a gray beige, setting off the distinctive white woodwork, while the interior was decorated with Victorian wall papers and period hues and graced with elegant chandeliers. The weathervane and cupola, sold earlier to an antique dealer, were returned to the barn.
In the 1970s, the St. Clairs sold the property, which became home to a string of businesses before it was acquired in 2000 by an affiliate of Cafua.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 October 2013 02:15

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Selig steps into CEO role at Taylor Community

LACONIA — Robert J. Selig is replacing Tim Martin as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Taylor Community, effective October 30.
The retired president of Laconia Shoe Company, Selig currently serves as chairman of Taylor's Board of Trustees, a position he will continue to hold. Since the middle of August, he has been filling in for Martin, who took a leave of absence at that time.
In making the announcement of Selig's appointment to the CEO position on Friday, the board of the century-old retirement living institution noted that Martin had resigned and complimented him as being "instrumental in working toward a sound financial plan for the continued success of Taylor Community". "We thank him for his services and wish Tim and (wife) Peggy the very best," a statement continued.
Martin came to the Taylor Community in 2009, after a long stint running Milton Residences for the Elderly (MRE) in Milton, Mass. He succeeded Howard Chandler, who was at the helm for more than two decades.
"This is a very exciting chapter for Taylor and I'm pleased the board has asked me to serve as CEO," said Selig. He added that he was honored to have the trust and support of both the board and the community and that he has total confidence in Taylor's staff.
During an interview, Selig indicated he will soon begin the process of recruiting a new executive to take over the CEO position from him and expects to have that task completed by May 2014. His other primary goal for the next seven months is to restructure Taylor's long-term debt, which now stands at $26 million, in order to provide for better cash flow.
Selig was candid that the Great Recession was tough on the senior housing industry as a whole but stressed that the picture has now brightened considerably. "The stock market has come back and homes are starting to sell again," he said before noting that eight families will be moving into Taylor during the month of November alone.
"These are positive times for the organization. We continue to offer more in the way of amenities, activities and services for Taylor residents, as well as for seniors throughout the Lakes Region."
Taylor's most recent fiscal year ended in April and over the 12-month period the not-for-profit institution was able to produce excess revenues of nearly $1 million. The year before the bottom line was a negative $1.8 million.
"It was a terrific (fiscal) year," said Selig. The best we've had in 10."
Taylor borrowed $17 million to build the Woodside building on its Laconia campus in 2005 and that borrowing was included in a restructuring of its entire debt through a pair of tax-free bond issues. Selig said the new restructuring will probably be accomplished through commercial banks.
Selig has been a Taylor Community trustee for eight years and chair of the board since September 2011. He is said to have overseen the organization's continued development and implementation of strategic plans to further establish Taylor as a leading continuing care retirement community in New Hampshire.
Taylor offers all three of its retirement living programs on its 105-acre Laconia campus — independent living, assisted living and nursing home care. Independent living facilities are also operated in Wolfeboro and Pembroke. The organization's independent living facility in Moultonborough has been sold and another in Sandwich is in the process of being sold.
Respite care is also provided for short-term stays.
In total, 400 residents call a Taylor facility home.
Selig said Taylor holds nets assets of $13.8 million and another $6.9 million is held in trust funds by others.
Commenting on the competitive environment in which Taylor operates, Selig noted that his organization operates, on a "fee-for-service" basis that many retirees now find desirable. That is, rather than charge a flat monthly residence fee that does not change over the years with the level of service desired, Taylor's fees start at a relatively low level for independent living and rise with need.
Selig said the average independent living resident at Taylor stays at that level for nine years and the resulting savings on fees over that period is considerable.
About half the people living in a Taylor facility originally signed what are called continuing care contracts, which require the organization to provide lifetime care at the appropriate level, even if the resident is no longer capable of paying for the service. In fiscal year 2013, Taylor provided $1 million in subsidized care to such residents.
As CEO, Selig assumes responsibility for the administration, operations, marketing and finances of the organization. Taylor has 140 employees and operates three shifts per day at the assisted living and nursing care levels.
"We're so fortunate to have a tremendous staff with whom I work," said Selig. "They are the ones who make this the great community that it is and they are the reasons for the ongoing success and appeal of Taylor Community."
Selig attended Laconia public schools and graduated from Brown University in 1958. He is currently chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Laconia Public Library, past president of Temple B'Nai Israel, former president and currently a director of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire, former vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of LRGHealthcare, a director of Shalom TV and a director of the Lake Opechee Preservation Association. He remains an active golfer the Laconia Country Club.
The Taylor Community will hold its annual meeting on November 11. Selig said the meeting is normally held in September but was delayed this year because of the leadership transition.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 October 2013 02:06

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$5k cash bail set for man accused of choking girlfriend

LACONIA —  A local man was ordered held on $5,000 cash-only bail for allegedly choking and slapping his girlfriend during an argument Tuesday morning.

Police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said Nathan Scaringi, 28, of 613 Main St. Apt. 15 also took the victim's cell phone from her and put it in his pocket when she told him she was going to call the police.

Police said they responded to the apartment building at 9:43 a.m. after being called by a neighbor who reported she could hear what she said was Scaringi assaulting the victim.

When police arrived, they said the victim was on the first floor and had red marks on her face and neck.

The victim told officers that Scaringi allegedly pushed her down on the couch, got on top of her, and put his hands around her neck. She said she couldn't talk or breathe.

After he stopped choking her, she said he allegedly slapped her twice. When one of the neighbors knocked on the door, the victim said Scaringi opened the door and spoke with her. Once he shut the door,  the victim said he "threw" her on the couch a second time and strangled her again "harder."

Others in the building told police they heard the two arguing before police arrived. They said they heard loud "smack" and heard the victim yell "get your hands off me!"

In court yesterday, the city prosecutor asked for $15,000 cash bail saying Scaringi has two previous convictions for simple assault as well as three convictions for witness tampering for which he is still on probation. He said those convictions were also domestic violence related.

Scaringi's defense argued that Scaringi was "indigent" and would lose his job if he couldn't get to work. She said three of his coworkers were in court and all of them told her that he was a valued employee.

She said he could post $500 cash and that would represent his entire check, giving him a reason to not flee the jurisdiction. She also said the victim was not at Scaringi's apartment any longer and Scaringi would agree to a no-contact order.

Before setting bail at $5,000 cash only, Judge Jim Carroll said he was particularly concerned with the three convictions for witness tampering.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 October 2013 03:49

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Majority of Briarcrest residents siding with the Mooneys

LACONIA — Following a meeting at their community center last night, 107 homeowners at Briarcrest Estates signed a petition in support of an effort to forestall the sale of the manufactured housing park to the Lakemont Cooperative, Inc., which was formed by other residents of the park.

The rift among residents has widened and deepened since July when Mark and Ruth Mooney, the owners of the park, accepted an offer from Hometown America, Inc., which owns 41 parks with 19,000 households in 11 states, to purchase the park for $10 million. In accord with state law, which entitles tenants to make a counter offer and requires the owners to bargain in good faith, a group of residents incorporated as the Lakemont Cooperative to match the $10 million offer.
In response, the Mooneys petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to approve the sale of the park to Hometown America, Attorney John Giere, representing the Mooneys, claims that since most residents oppose cooperative ownership, approving the transaction would serve the best interests of the majority in keeping with the intent of the law.
Residents met at the suggestion of attorney Phil McLaughlin, who has been retained those opposed to cooperative ownership and management of the park. He explained that there are two parties to the litigation, the park owners and the cooperative. The law, he said, effectively vests the cooperative with the right to represent all the residents and does not provide those opposed to the cooperative an opportunity to be heard. In this case, McLaughlin said, "the law does not allow for the majority to be heard."

McLaughlin said that he intends to ask the court to allow the residents who prefer commercial to cooperative ownership to intervene, effectively serving as witnesses on behalf of the Mooneys. He said that 10 residents had already agreed to approach the court and the only remaining question was how many others would join them on the petition that was signed last night. He specified that only one person from each household sign the petition.

Speaking for the group Daphne Towle said that in addition to the 107 who have signed the petition, she is assured of at least another 25 signatures by Monday. The 132 would represent 56.8 percent of the 232 occupied sites in the park.

The petition reads that the signatories prefer commercial to cooperative ownership and management because the cooperative does not represent the preferences of residents, current management is superior, commercial management is in the best interest of residents, and lease costs are stable and provide proven value. In addition, it contends that the increased costs or reduced services if the cooperative must service $10 million in debt "is something we never bargained for and do not want."

McLaughlin indicated that he would question what the statute intends by requiring the park owners to bargain in good faith when it fails to provide for the opinions of longstanding residents to be heard. He said he expects to present the petition to the court by the end of next week.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 October 2013 03:45

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