County officials agree to 2 year contract with Teamster's union affiliate

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners approved a tentative agreement with Teamsters Local 633 Wednesday morning by a 2-1 vote.

The two-year contract provides a 1.4 percent pay raise as well step increases according to Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), who said that the union will vote next week on the contract, which, if approved by the union, will go to the Belknap County Convention for approval of funding for the contract.

Taylor said that as part of the agreement the union members have agreed to move their insurance from an HMO plan to a so-called site-of-service plan, which he said will result in considerable savings on health insurance costs.

Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Taylor voted to approve the agreement, which was opposed by Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton).

Burchell  said that it was not good public policy and that commissioners should instead have challenged the validity of the union, which was certified last year by the NH. Public Employee Labor Relations Board and consists of about 22 county employees who were not eligible to become members of the State Employee Association unions which represent employees of the Nursing Home, Corrections Department and Sheriff's Department.

Another little, out-of-the-way street begging for attention

LACONIA — When Robert DeCotis, who has spent summers on Margin Avenue at the Weirs for the past three decades, read that South End street Cleveland Place, then Chapin Terrace in Lakeport, were being rebuilt he wrote to The Daily Sun "wondering if any of us on Margin Avenue will live long enough to see a normal, paved street with adequate drainage here."

Margin Avenue runs for approximately 100 yards between the railroad track and Centenary Avenue, just north of the bridge that carries Foster Avenue over the railway, and intersects Centenary Avenue at both ends. It is a narrow, dirt road, paved only at its northern corner where it joins Centenary Avenue, and has no storm drains. Ten homes front the west side of the street and an equal number fronting on Centenary Avenue back on to the east side of the street.

"Everybody has got water in their cellars, everybody," De Cotis said this week. "It is an ongoing problem." Many residents, he noted, have pumps to clear their basements. He explained that because the ground slopes toward the lake, stormwater is carried across the properties to Centenary Avenue, where there are storm drains. At the north end of Margin Avenue, stormwater is undermining the pavement and washing soil into the intersection with Centenary Avenue.

Margin Avenue is also riddled with potholes, which turn to mud after a rain then, when cars pass by, splatter the sides of the houses built close to the road. DeCotis said that to keep from tracking mud into the house he first built a deck then paved the driveway, but confessed "nothing works."

DeCotis said that Centenary Avenue, along with some of the side streets leading to the lake, have been improved in recent years, but he cannot recall anything being done to address the condition of Margin Avenue in the last 30 years.

Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, said that Margin Avenue is one of a number of gravel roads, which together account for about five miles of city streets. As a gravel road. he noted that it is not part of the pavement management plan. However, he said that "we are aware of it" and added that '"Margin is one of the gravel roads that really should be paved."

Moynihan recalled that 20 years ago most of the streets in that section of The Weirs, including what he called the "cat alleys" — Allen, Mooris, Thompson, Jane's and Haven Avenues — between Centenary Avenue and the lake, were graveled, but have since been paved. "Margin Avenue stands alone," he said, "and I don't feel good about that."

Without a design for the drainage plan, Moynihan said it was difficult to estimate the cost of the project, but remarked "it's not a $20,000 job" and guessed it could cost between $75,000 and $100,000 to pave the road and install the drainage.

10 teams of raft campers set out to raise $100k for Make-A-Wish

MEREDITH — Yesterday afternoon members of $10 teams clambered aboard a raft moored in Meredith Bay, where at least one member of each team will remain for until noon on Friday when, after 44 hours on the water, they expect to have raised $100,000 for Make-a-Wish New Hampshire.

Now in its fifth year "Rafting for Wishes" last year contributed some $80,000 toward fulfilling the wishes of 84 children diagnosed with life-threatening conditions. Julie Baron of Gilford, president and chief executive officer of Make-a-Wish New Hampshire said that there are more than 100 children facing the same situation this year.

"These kids are an inspiration," said Jason Perry, who pioneered "Rafting for Wishes." He recalled that a young man called at the program's office and offered to sit in a raft in return for donations. The arrangements were made, but at the last moment the young man jumped ship. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," remarked Perry, who happened to be in the office when the news arrived. With a friend, also called Jason, he spent 36 hours in a raft on the Merrimack River and raised $36,000 and "Rafting for Wishes" was launched.

From a pair of castaways, the event has grown to a flotilla of 10 teams — AutoServ, The Common Man, The Fitness Edge, Gilford Police Department, Mill Falls at the Lake, Team Minions, New Hampshire State Troopers, Target Corporation, T-Bones of Laconia and Perry's 44 Hour Survivors. Each team has at least 10 members who will take to ensure that at least one member is always aboard and each member raises $300. A large raft, with room for 44 people, is ringed by smaller, canopied rafts, each with capacity for six, which offer shelter from the weather and a place to sleep.

Each team has a "wish buddy," a child who has had his or her wish fulfilled, who take part to express their gratitude.

Baron said that making wishes come true is "more than just something to do", explaining that physicians and nurses have found that a wish fulfilled has a beneficial effect on the physical well-being of the child. "It's not a mere gift," she continued, "It is trying to find out what their heartfelt wish is and bringing it to life." For many children, she said that living their wish marks a turning point in their effort to overcome their illness. "It can be a life changing experience," Baron remarked.

Rudy Beer, an 8th grade student at Inter-Lakes Middle School, and Carolyn Gaudet of the AutoServ team have joined Perry in vowing to stay aboard the raft for the duration — all 44 hours. "It's for everybody," Beer said while Gaudet dismissed the challenge, saying "this is nothing".

While the teams float in Meredith Bay, Hesky Park will be alive with food, music, games and fireworks until the end.

Baron estimated that even before the teams took to the raft the event had raised between $30,000 and $40,000 and encouraged everyone to contribute, either on-line at nh.wish.org or by phone at (603)-623-9474.