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Newfound Regional withdrawl study gets underway - 593

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRIDGEWATER/HEBRON — Following an organizational meeting at the end of April, the Bridgewater-Hebron Withdrawal Study Committee will break into subcommittees this month to begin pulling together the facts needed to assess whether it makes sense for the two towns to withdraw from the Newfound Area School District.
Bridgewater and Hebron voters at town meeting endorsed the study as authorized by RSA 195 to determine the "feasibility and suitability" of pulling out of Newfound and operating their own K-8 school, and sending their high school students to either Newfound or Plymouth.
Bridgewater Selectman Terry Murphy explained at the organizational meeting that the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School was designed to handle K-6 or K-8 but the school district currently utilizes the building for only K-5 students, after which they attend Newfound Memorial Middle School and Newfound Regional High School.
The two towns considering withdrawal had formed a village district to enable them to build their own school at a time when school enrollments were increasing but district voters were unlikely to approve a new building project while still paying for the new high school. The Bridgewater-Hebron Village District maintains the building and grounds but leases the property to the Newfound Area School District for $1 per year. The district, in turn, provides the staffing and educational materials for the school.
Two years ago, the two towns asked the Newfound Area School Board to adjust the educational configuration of the schools to provide K-8 classes at the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School so their students would remain at their school longer before going on to the high school. For that reason and because the school district has been seeing decreasing enrollment in recent years, the board asked the new superintendent, Stacy Buckley, to do a comprehensive study to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of reconfiguring the educational structure. Last November, she presented her findings which concluded the present arrangement makes the most sense.
Buckley said that adopting a K-6 or K-8 option would create the need for additional staff members while adversely affecting the district's ability to provide for unified arts and athletics and, in the case of K-6, the loss of foreign languages and algebra. She also cited the additional costs of aligning the curriculum between schools and updating the school libraries, as well as it creating scheduling problems with more lunch periods to fit in.
Murphy told the withdrawal study committee that it was because of that conclusion that the two towns decided to look into whether it would make sense to go it alone.
While the study committee was established to include all school board members as well as a selectman and alternate from each town in the school district, school board member Jeff Levesque of Groton agreed to step down after Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater challenged him about negative statements Levesque had posted on Facebook about the study. Among other things, Levesque had said the district should ban Bridgewater and Hebron students from attending Newfound for at least 15 years if they decided to withdraw now.
The committee elected School Board Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury to serve as chair, while Danbury Selectman Jim Phelps will serve as secretary. The superintendent and business manager will serve as non-voting, ex-officio members.
On a recommendation by Don Franklin of Hebron, the committee agreed to create two subcommittees, one for financial analysis and the other to look at the educational model, and those committees will be meeting on May 20 and May 28. The next full committee meeting will take place on June 16 at 6 p.m. at the high school.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 01:52

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Council Mulls Sign Ordinance

LACONIA — The City Council divided 4-2 last night in voting to schedule a public hearing on the sign ordinance recommended by the Planning Board. The public hearing will held at next regularly scheduled meeting of the council on May 27, at which the council could either adopt or amend the proposed ordinance.

As proposed by the Zoning Task Force and endorsed by the Planning Board the ordinance would distinguish between two types of "electronic message center" (EMC) — "static" and "dynamic." Static electronic signs are those on which neither the copy nor pictures change during the message while their dynamic counterparts appear to move or change as they present a stream of images or words that fly in, fade out, rotate and scroll across the face of the sign.

Neither type of electronic sign would be permitted in the six residential districts. Where they are permitted, the dimensions and heights of signs would have to conform to those of free-standing signs in the specific district. Moreover, the electronic portion of the signs must not exceed 75 percent of the total area of the sign, a provision that ensures that all such signs are framed.

EMC-dynamic display signs would be confined to the commercial resort district, which includes The Weirs, and permitted there only by special exception.

EMC-static display signs would be excluded from the downtown riverfront district but permitted in the commercial resort district and permitted by special exception in the professional, business central, business central/industrial, commercial, industrial park, industrial and airport industrial districts. In addition, the display, whether imagery or script, on EMC-static display signs could not change more frequently than every five minutes.

After Suzanne Perley, who chairs the Zoning Task Force, explained the proposal, Steve Weeks, a longtime real estate broker and dissenting member of the task force, challenged two of its major provisions — the requirement for a special exception and the frequency of the changing display. Requiring a special exception, he said is "more bureaucratic red tape" and, since where EMC-static display signs are currently permitted they are permitted by right, is "going backwards instead of forwards."

Special exceptions are granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment upon finding a request satisfies specific eight criteria and which may attach conditions to its approval. Weeks said the requirement "stiffens the ordinance," making it more difficult for the business owner seeking to erect an an electronic sign.

Likewise, Weeks said that the frequency of five minutes was unnecessarily restrictive, preferring to allow messages to change every 30 seconds or one minute "at the very most." In five minutes a driver traveling at 30 miles-per-hour would cover two-and-a-half miles, he said, while a driver stopped a traffic light would seldom see more than one message.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that both the task force and Planning Board placed a premium on preserving "community character" and chose to exercise greater oversight over electronic signage. She said the board sought to avoid what she called the "Las Vegas look." Saunders explained that if a less restrictive ordinance were adopted and subsequently found wanting, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to tighten it. The board, she said, decided "not to make all the changes at once and then be unable to back track."

"I'd rather be a successful Las Vegas than a dead Laconia," Weeks countered, emphasizing that local businesses must not only compete with their counterparts in neighboring communities but also with firms advertising on the internet. "They depend a lot on signs," he continued, explaining they need the opportunity to advertise as many of the goods and services they offer to as many consumers as possible.

Weeks struck a chord with the councilors. Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) urged the council to adopt the ordinance as recommended, and immediately begin the process of amending it. Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) also appeared open to amending the ordinance as recommended, but suggested the council first hold a public hearing.

Lipman insisted that with the advent of the summer business season the council should adopt the ordinance, which would allow businesses to proceed with their plans for signage and enable the city officials to judge the efficacy of the ordinance. If the ordinance proves too restrictive, he said it could be subsequently be amended.

With Lipman and Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) dissenting and Councilors Ava Doyle (Ward 1), Bob Hamel (Ward 5) and Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) joining Bownes his motion to proceed to a public hearing prevailed.

City Manager Scott Myers advised the council that it could vote on the proposed ordinance following the public hearing on May 27. However, if the council chose to substantially amend the proposal, by eliminating the requirement for a special exception or changing the frequency of changing messages, another public hearing would be required before a vote.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 01:52

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WEMJ Bringing Back Lakes Region Voice of Sports Show (702 w/cut in Ed's e-mail)

LACONIA — The Lakes Region Voice of Sports, a staple of local radio in the 1970s-80s, will be returning to the airways on WEMJ 1490 and the one-hour show will be broadcast Fridays at 7 p.m. and rebroadcast at 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
Host for the show will be Keith Murray, a veteran broadcaster who grew up in Laconia, played baseball for Laconia High School ,and cut his teeth on radio as an intern at WEMJ in the 1980s.
A 1984 graduate of Laconia High School, Murray was a catcher for coach Dave McCabe's teams and later caught for the Wilkins-Smith Post 1 American Legion, where he had two of his more memorable moments: A a grand slam homer in a game at Berlin and a picture-perfect throw to second base which cut down one of the state's fastest runners in a game at Rochester where he also collected a pair of hits in an upset Laconia victory.

''The Berlin game was in extra innings and we had the bases loaded and they pulled the right fielder in so he could throw the runner out at the plate on a short fly ball. I hit it over his head and it just kept rolling away from him while I ran around the bases,'' said Murray.

He said the 1986 Rochester Legion team was loaded with talent and was the top-ranked team in the state with an especially fast base stealer who seldom was thrown out. ''It was the best throw I ever made and just beat him. I doubt if I could do that very often, but it was a great feeling. Bobby Hawkins was pitching that night and had an incredible curve ball and kept putting his pitches wherever I called for them.'' Murray recalls.

He knows from his own personal experience how important sports can be young people and their parents and the sense of community they create and wants to see that brought back to local radio, something which he says Binnie Media, which purchased local radio stations in the Lakes Region and and operates them under the NH1 Media label, is committed to doing.

''I've never been a big fan of the consolidation we saw in radio over the past 20 years. The community connection was lost and without that there was no reason to listen,'' says Murray.

He says that in addition to the Lakes Region Voice of Sports, WEMJ will also be broadcasting the Laconia High School football games with him doing play-by-play and Henry Yip serving as color analyst. This summer the station will be carrying the live feed from all Laconia Muskrat games and will be providing coverage of a variety of other events, from Youth Field Day to lacrosse jamborees.

A staple of the Lakes Region Voice of Sports each week will be Sachems Corner which will feature Laconia High School Football Coach and Athletic Director Craig Kozens.

We'll' be providing live streaming and podcasts so that you can hear us from anywhere in the country. If you're a Sachem fan in California you can still follow your team,'' says Murray.

The son of Laconia Police Officer Dave Murray, he got his start in radio in 1984 working summers as an intern at WEMJ and WLNH. He attended Plymouth State for a couple of years before joining the Army where he was stationed in Hawaii and got to play a lot of sports. When he returned he worked for stations in Laconia, WZID in Manchester and WBOS in Boston before starting his own ad agency in 2004.

''I'm really looking forward to this show. The station is now located in a downtown Laconia studio which gives us great visibility and I think there's a real hunger out there for local news and local sports that we're going to be able to satisfy,'' says Murray.


Lakes Region Voice of Sports will be returning to radio station WEMJ 1490 on Fridays at 7 p.m. and rebroadcast at 9 a.m. on Saturdays. Craig Kozens, Laconia High School athletic director, left, is shown being interviewed by Keith Murray, host of the show, along with Henry Yip, color analyst for Sachems football, Greg Lounsbury, Laconia Little League and Laconia Youth Soccer, and Tony Pederaszani, Laconia Youth Lacrosse. (Courtesy photo)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 01:24

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Gilmanton knitting group makes 541 purple hats for N.H. children Trust

GILMANTON — For the past four months, the Purple Finches of the Corner Library have have been knitting for special cause — trying to prevent shaken baby-syndrome.

The group, which meets every Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon at the library, has either knitted or crocheted 541 hats for distribution to New Hampshire hospitals by the N.H. Children's Trust as part of the Period of Purple Crying education program.

"We challenged the members of the knitting group to each make 25 hats by October," said June Garen the spokeswoman for the Purple Finches.

Garen said many members of the community contributed to the effort either my knitting purple-based hats themselves or by donation yarn to the project.

Janine Mitchell of the N.H. Children's Trust joined the Purple Finches Saturday morning to accept the hats and talk some more about the project and shaken baby syndrome.

The Period of Purple Crying is typically in the first five months of life and occurs when babies cry for lengthy periods of time — often for no apparent reason. The first five months is also when babies are also the most susceptible to being shaken — many times out of sheer frustration exhibited by the parents or caretaker.

Shaking a baby can cause blindness, seizures, death, and learning and physical disabilities and crying is the number one trigger for parents.

The goal of the N.H. Children's Trust is to distribute a kit that includes a purple hat and a pamphlet and a CD that explains constant crying to new parents and coping mechanisms for them for every baby born in a New Hampshire hospital.

With 541 purple hats for babies completed, Garen said the Purple Finches are thinking about new knitting projects, for their Saturday morning sessions, including knitting hats and scarves for some of the homeless people living under the Messer Street Bridge in Laconia.




The Purple Finches knitting group donates purple hats to Janine Mitchell from the New Hampshire Children's Trust Saturday morning at the Corner Library in Gilmanton. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 01:10

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