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Laconia candidates for mayor square off in debate for Channel 9 audience

LACONIA — Kailief Mitchell and Ed Engler, the two candidates vying to succeed Mike Seymour as mayor, squared off before the television cameras on Sunday morning in the first of a series of mayoral debates scheduled on "Close-Up," the weekly political program aired by WMUR-TV (Channel 9).

In responding to a series of questions posed by Josh McElveen and James Pindell, the candidates offered different perspectives and priorities without entering into sharp disagreements.

Mitchell, a native of Laconia, U.S. Navy Reservist and assistant teacher at Spaulding Youth Center, described his candidacy as "a natural progression" from his commitment to the community. By contrast, Engler, co-founder, president and editor of The Laconia Daily Sun, confessed he had not dreamt of running for mayor, but once asked to enter the race quickly decided "I'm all in" and pledged to "work tirelessly."

Apart from serving as the presiding officer, Engler spoke of the mayor as "the facilitator, the conversation starter and keeper," who should provide "focus" to municipal government. He said that his experience in both business and government, along with a record of civic engagement, equipped him for the job. Mitchell, the younger candidate, said he looked to be "the eyes and ears of the people," serving as a "liaison" between the residents and their government while "networking" throughout the community. He stressed his leadership experience gained in his career in the Navy and as president of state Board of Opticians.

Several questions bore on the aging demographic and slack economy of the city. Noting that tourism represents a significant sector of the local economy, Mitchell emphasized the importance of becoming a year-round destination less dependent on the vagaries of the weather, which he suggested could be furthered by attracting big-box retailers and a resort casino. Both, he said, would provide employment opportunities that reverse the shrinking of the population by keeping more young people from leaving the city as well as drawing new residents in.

Engler said that population growth was essential for a dynamic economy. He said that manufacturing firms in the area like New Hampshire Ball Bearing, Eptam Plastics and Titeflex Aerospace, had well-paid jobs available, but struggled to find applicants with the required aptitudes and skills. He supported efforts at the Huot Technical Center and Lakes Region Community College to develop a skilled workforce while also stressing the need to generate more professional and white-collar employment. "We must broaden general prosperity," he said.

Both candidates expressed strong support for the city's property tax cap. Mitchell recalled that he not only signed the original petition but also encouraged others to do so.

"It's been great," said Engler, explaining that it has forced the City Council to set its priorities and manage its resources. When Pindell wondered if the tax cap stifled investment, Engler pointed to the expansion of the Huot Technical Center and improvements to the Laconia schools undertaken without skimping on annual roadwork and other projects.

For Engler, the incidence of drug abuse and trafficking was primarily a socio-economic problem and until that is overcome "we must rely on law enforcement". Mitchell said that a solution would depend on "what the rest of the community can do," adding that he thought that the citizens' police academy, now in its third year, was a step in the right direction.

The general election will be held on Tuesday, November 5.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 02:58

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Laconia man accused of throwing knife at woman

LACONIA — A local man who allegedly threw a knife at a woman as she was running away from him early Saturday morning is being held of $10,000 cash-only bail after appearing by video in court yesterday.

Police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division say that Phineas A. Brandon, 26, of 103 Blueberry Lane, after spending the evening at a bar, went into the woman's bedroom around 3 a.m. and jabbed a knife into the wall.

She told police that she left the house to go to a friend's. She said that once she got outside, she tried to call the police but Brandon allegedly grabbed her wrist and twisted it until she dropped the phone.

The victim told police that Brandon allegedly stomped on the phone after it fell from her hand.

She said as she was walking away from him he allegedly threw a knife at her.

Police said they she gave them her cell phone, which had a "spider web-like" crack on the screen. When she took police to the spot where he allegedly threw the knife, they found a steak knife with a black handle lying in the grass.

Brandon also allegedly ran into the woods when police arrived but the officer and his supervisor were able to apprehend him.

Brandon is charged with one misdemeanor count of simple assault, one misdemeanor count of obstructing the reporting of a crime, one felony count of criminal threatening (for stabbing the knife into the wall) and one felony count of reckless conduct (for throwing the knife) and one count of resisting arrest.

Police said Brandon's prior convictions include hindering apprehension in 2010, theft and burglary in 2009, and simple assault in 2006.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 02:49

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This man remains an island; divided Meredith Selectboard holds line on prohibition on addresses for vacant lots

MEREDITH — By a vote of three-to two, the Board of Selectmen upheld the decision of Town Administrator Phil Warren, to deny a resident of Chapman Island, on Lake Waukewan in New Hampton, a street number for a vacant lot on Sawmill Shores Road.

Glenn Feener explained that the sole access to his seasonal island home is the southernmost lot on Sawmill Shores Road, where he parks his car. He likened it to a driveway. But, without a street number, he said that the Post Office, United Parcel Service and Federal Express will not deliver.

Fire Chief Ken Jones, Police Chief Kevin Morrow and Director of Community Development John Edgar originally denied Feener's request and, when he appealed to Warren, were upheld.

Jones conceded "this is a unique situation," but reminded the Selectboard that 911 insists that only lots with buildings qualify for street numbers and cautioned against "opening a can of worms" by making exceptions. He stressed that the Meredith Fire Department and Stewart's Ambulance Service would be the first to respond to an emergency at Feener's property. If an emergency call were made from a cell phone, he said that the GPS system would enable the emergency dispatcher to pin-point the location of the caller within 10 feet.

Referring to the lot on Sawmill Shores Road, selectman Herb Vadney remarked "that's the place we should respond to if he backs over his wife." He went on to question why, given the circumstances, town officials were raising "bureaucratic obstacles" rather than reaching "a common sense agreement. If the fellow wants a mailbox, I don't see why we would stand in the way of it.," he said.

But, Selectman Peter Brothers said that the town should ensure that the 911 system of numbering properties remains consistent and offered a motion to deny the street number. He was joined by Nate Torr, the board chairman, and Carla Horne in the majority, as Vadney and Lou Kahn dissented. However, Torr asked Warren to explore the situation further in hopes of finding a satisfactory solution.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 02:46

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Non-essential FBI Academy shut down, LPD captain sent home

LACONIA — As the federal government partial shutdown continues into its eighth day, the trickle-down effects hit the city police last Thursday when Capt. Matt Canfield had a  specialized FBI training class canceled.

Canfield was into first week of specialized training at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia but was told last Thursday that his instructors were not considered "essential personnel" and the training would be stopped.

"I guess they tried to keep it (the FBI Academy) open but by Thursday they realized they couldn't," Canfield said yesterday.

This is day eight of the partial federal government shut down, caused by the inability of Congress to agree on a 2014-2015 budget that includes funding for the Affordable Care Act. Many federal employees not deemed "essential" have been furloughed without pay, including in New Hampshire the U.S. Forest Service employees as well as a number of people working at the Portsmouth Naval Base.

Canfield, who drove down to Quantico last Friday, was one of about 200 people chosen to attend the 2014 autumn session of the FBI National Academy. He said there was one other police officer from Manchester in his class as well as 24 police officers from countries other than the United States.

The FBI academy offers rigorous 11-week training class specializing in leadership and management for top ranking police officers and after applying a while ago, Canfield was accepted. The program itself is paid for by the FBI and the sending community — in this case the Laconia Police Department — pays for transportation to and from the academy as well as uniforms.

Canfield said he was on a waiting list for a while before he was accepted into the program. He said he was told by the academy directors that all of those who were unable to finish this session because of the government shut-down, will be able to attend one of the 2014 sessions. He said there is a waiting list of about three years after an application.

Graduation from the FBI Training Academy is one of the more prestigious training classes a police officer can receive. Other area graduates included former Police Chief Mike Moyer, Sheriff Craig Wiggin and Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 02:38

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