Future of Belmont Mill to be Topic A at Monday night meeting at BHS

BELMONT — Selectmen will host a facilitated meeting so residents can participate in determining future of the historic Belmont Mill on Monday, May 4 in the cafeteria of the High School at 7 p.m.

Selectmen, when discussing the mill in a meeting after voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to restore it and convert it to town offices, said they wanted the voters to tell them what they should do next and how they propose to pay for it.

In preparation for the meeting, Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin reached out personally to all of the stakeholders that she and the selectmen could identify.

The list includes the members of the Heritage Committee, the Historical Society, the people who came to one of two public hearings to voice an opinion about what should happen, the attendees of the annual Town Meeting SB-2 session and anyone who wrote a letter or letters to the editor of the local newspapers.

The circa 1833 mill was restored in the 1990s after being partially destroyed by a fire. During the blaze the roof was destroyed and for three years the insides were exposed to elements.

The town secured a federal grant that allowed the town to rebuild it provided it was used for low- to moderate-income purposes for 25 years.

Three years ago, the town learned there was a soft spot in the flooring on the fourth floor and further examination showed that some of the restoration work that has been contracted during the 1990s renovation was not done as it should have been. Unfortunately for the town, the companies responsible for the questionable work had long since gone out of business and compensation was not possible.

Because of the structural defects on the fourth floor, the Lakes Region Community College relocated its culinary arts program to Canterbury Shaker Village.

The third floor is occupied by Belknap Family Health Center while the bottom floor is home to the Lakes Region Child Care Center that is relocating to larger accommodations over the summer. A portion of the mill is being used by the Belmont Recreation Department.

With the departure of nearly half of the tenants, the town solicited an engineering estimate to renovate the mill and relocate the town offices into it. Budgeted at $3.4 million, the voters rejected the proposal.

The purpose of Monday's meeting at the High School is for the town residents to evaluate the possibilities of what the mill can be — up to and including the same proposal or complete demolition.

By facilitating the meeting with an independent person — Michael Castagna of Castagna Consulting — selectmen are hoping for some future thoughts to come from the town's people that aren't necessarily influenced by the will of the selectmen or the Budget Committee.

McDonald's in Tilton has brand-new look

TILTON — The Napoli Group LLC, which owns and operates over 30 McDonald's restaurants in New Hampshire, held an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony at it's newly remodeled Tilton store on Thursday morning.
Master of ceremonies for the event was Larry Johnston, who managed the Laconia McDonald's when it opened in 1971, and who said that the Tilton McDonald's has been in business for almost 30 years and was virtually the only business in the Exit 20 area when it opened in 1986.
Located just off from I-93 and Rte. 3-11, the major access road to the Lakes Region, it soon became the second busiest McDonald's in the state and was a part of the major retail and commercial expansion of the early and mid-1990s in the Exit 20 area.
''This area has grown up around us,'' said Johnston, who introduced Napoli Group LLC owner Peter Napoli and his son, Sal, who presented a check to The (Northfield) Pines Community Center Executive Director Jim Doane as a way of showing their gratitude to the area for its support of their restaurant.
"I can't thank you enough for this donation,'' said Doane, who added that the funds would be used to help provide access to programs at The Pines for area children whose families can't afford the fees.
Johnston noted that contractor Roger Desjardins of Marceau Construction of Methuen, Mass., had been able to complete the project while then existing restaurant remained open for business, a challenging logistical situation, and noted that Desjardins had also been in charge of the recent remodeling of the Franklin McDonald's, which is also owned by the Napoli Group, as are the McDonald's in Laconia and Meredith.
Area supervisor Bob Benson, who lives in Maine, where the Napoli Group, which owns over 90 restaurants in New England, also has a large number of restaurants, praised the staff at the Tilton McDonald's for their dedication and team effort throughout the remodeling process.
The inside of the restaurant presents a new look for McDonald's. The decor comes in shades of black, brown and orange, providing a sleek, modern feel, giving the restaurant a more upscale casual dining feel. And, for added convenience, there are now two drive thru ordering lanes.
''We're looking to provide the kinds of things our customers want.'' said Peter Napoli, pointing out that he menu has changed as well in recent years to provide more salads and healthful choices like oatmeal for breakfasts.
Napoli, a Leominster, Mass., native started working with McDonald's in Fitchburg, Mass., in 1967, and says that his path to success is similar to that of other people who started their careers with McDonald's. ''Half of their current executives started out working at McDonald's. We've evolved over the years but that kind of opportunity for people who work for us is still there.,'' says Napoli.

Taking part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly remodeled McDonald's in Tilton are, front row, Sal Napoli of the Napoli Group; Tilton Police Chief Bob Cormier; Tilton Planning Board Chair Jane Alden; Selectboard chair Pat Consentino and Peter Napoli, owner of the Napoli Group. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Keene man trying to keep Laconia from using '25th Annual' pumpkin festival

LACONIA — While Laconia will host a pumpkin festival in October, a businessman from Keene has taken steps to prevent the city from appropriating the history recorded by the 24 pumpkin festivals held in Keene since 1991.

"They can call it anything but the 25th Annual New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival," Toby Tousley of Tousley Property Management said yesterday. Last weekend, when Tousley read reports that Let It Shine, Inc., the nonprofit corporation that has produced the event since 2011, and Ruth Sterling of Sterling Design & Communications, who manages it, announced what was billed as "New Hampshire's 25th Annual Pumpkin Festival would be held in Laconia, he thought "what the heck is this" and asked "how do they get to jump to 25?"

Tousley went on-line and, for $104, registered two trade names — New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival and Annual Pumpkin Festival — with the New Hampshire Secretary of State. On Wednesday he explained what he had done on "Good Morning," a Keene radio program broadcast on WKBK and hosted by Dan Mitchell. He said that his intent was "strictly to eliminate the deceptive purposes of taking what we built here in our city and taking it somewhere else." He wished Laconia "the best of luck" while insisting "don't call it the 25th annual pumpkin festival. It's just not right."

By immediately disclosing the trade names he registered, Tousley said he alerted organizers of the festival in Laconia, who he expected would choose an appropriate name for the event. He said he want to spare them the expense of printing materials and concessions they would be unable to use.

Tousley confessed that for several years he had expressed misgivings that what began in Keene as a local event for the entertainment and benefit of the community had drawn national sponsors like Zippo and Home & Garden Television (HGTV). "I thought they should scale it back or get rid of it," he said, adding that when the issue reached the City Council he was among those calling for discontinuing the festival. However, he said that there are residents in Keene seeking to revive the festival and insisted "if Keene wants to have it next year, that will be the 25th," he said. "I'm that proud of Keene."

Sterling could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, Karmen Gifford, executive director of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, who is partnering with Sterling and Let It Shine to stage the festival in Laconia, discounted the significance of the trade names. She stressed that the issue would not distract the chamber and its partners from their goal of staging a successful festival in Laconia, whatever it is called.