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3-year Alton resident wins close vote for appointment to Gunstock Commission

LACONIA — Ruth Larson of Alton, a retired attorney who moved to the Lakes Region from New Jersey three years ago, was elected to a five-year term on the Gunstock Area Commission by the Belknap County Convention last evening.
Larson edged Doug Lambert of Gilford by a 6-5 vote. Lambert owns a manufacturing firm and is a former member of the Gilford Budget Committee.
Others receiving votes for the five-year-term were Chris McDonough of Gilford, owner and chief financial officer of Fratello's and Homestead restaurants, who received three votes, and Michael Gillepsie of Gilford, who works for a communications company which owns three television stations in New England, who received one. In total, 11 men and women asked for an appointment.
A two-year term to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Commissioner Chris Blackstone of Alton was won by Chuck Lowth of Meredith, an incumbent 15-year member of the commission whose term is expiring. He garnered eight votes to five for McDonough and two for Lambert.
At one point in the vote for the five-year term it appeared that there was a 5-5 tie, but Rep. Ruth Gulick (D-New Hampton), who had originally said she wanted to vote for Lowth, changed her vote and cast it for Larson when she realized that Lowth had said he was interested only in the two-year term.
Larson, a retired attorney who worked for CIGNA Insurance in New Jersey before establishing her own private practice in Princeton, New Jersey, retired in 2010 and moved to Alton.
Unlike many of the 11 candidates who had highlighted their own business experience and ties to Gunstock in their brief five-minute interviews, Larson said that she had applied for the job because she wasn't sure anyone else was going to.
''I was very pleased to see so many well-qualified candidates,'' said Larson, who said that she had once run a law office with 40 people and would approach the job as a commissioner ''with a sense of humility and no agenda.''
She said that one of the motivating factors for her application was her experience of weekday skiing at Gunstock over the last year. ''I didn't see many people on the lift lines and I didn't think the area was doing that well. But I later learned that was because I wasn't there on the weekends when it was really busy and I know now that the area has been doing very well,'' said Larson.
She said that she was pleased by the vote and intends to work closely with other commissioners to fulfill Gunstock's mission as a four-season attraction which is responsive to both residents and visitors.
Lowth said that he was interested in the two-year term because he wanted to see the commission continue to work cohesively and continue to make progress following the proven business model developed from Gunstock's master plan.
He said that no matter what a person's background, the ski business is unique and that is a great deal of on the job learning required for commission members. He said that his appointment would help keep ''a normal rotation for the commission'' and not have two new commissioners learning the ropes at the same time.
The five member-commission was established by state legislation in 1959 and removed authority over the day-to-day operations of Gunstock from the Belknap County Commissioners and placed it in the hands of a five-member commission whose members would be appointed by the County Convention.
Under the state law that established the commission, no more than two members of the board may reside in the same Belknap County municipality. Laconia is currently the only such municipality currently represented by more than one — Sean Sullivan and Bob Durfee. John Morgenstern of Gilford is the other member of the current board.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 02:54

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Laconia will write policy for how concession privileges will be awarded

LACONIA — In the wake of a recent miscommunication between the School District and the local Kiwanis Club over high school football game concessions, the Policy Subcommittee of the board will set the parameters that govern how school concessions and fundraisers are handled in the future.

The discussion triggered some dissension between a normally unified board about whether or not the district should even have a policy or whether concessions and fund-raising should be handled at the school level. No formal vote was taken.

Chair Joe Cormier said he worried that if the board gets involved in the concessions at the new Bank of New Hampshire Stadium then it could start a spiraling that leads to board involvement in every field or facility use, that are typically made by the building supervisors who are the principals.

As it stands now, there is no clear policy about who makes the decisions.

This ambiguity is what partially created the controversy that arose when the administration awarded the concession stand at home football games to Laconia Youth Football in exchange for a pledge of a $10,000 donation to the capital project to raise money for construction of the stadium

Traditionally the high school's Key Club — the youth arm of the Kiwanis Club — has manned the concession booth that generates income for the club's activities.

The dust-up stemmed from an apparent break down in communications between the administration and the Key Club advisers who are teachers. Although the decision was made during the peak of the capital campaign in the spring, it was allegedly not conveyed to the Kiwanians until two weeks before the football home opener and stadium dedication.

Outraged and feeling blind-sided, the Kiwanians appeared en mass at a School Board meeting to complain about both the lack of process and the lack of communication between the district and their organization.

Last night, Policy Subcommittee Chair Chris Guilmett said that after Superintendent Terri Forsten calls a few other districts to see how they handle concessions and facilities, the committee will create a policy that that delineates who makes the decisions in the hope that the full School Board will endorse it.

Other members of the Policy Subcommittee are Stacie Sirois and Beth Arsenault.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 02:53

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Historic water trough back home in Lakeport Square

LACONIA — Members of the Lakeport Community Association gathered at Wanda's Park in Lakeport Square Tuesday morning to thank the Clark family for the return of a historic water trough which since mid summer has been on display at the park.
Community Association president Armand Bolduc said that the ceremony had been arranged so that members of the Clark family, currently living out of state, could attend and see the watering trough in its new location near the flagpole in Wanda's Park, where it is now a colorfully decorated planter.
He said that trough, which had once stood in McGrath Square on the west side of the bridge, was identical to another which had been located on the east side of the bridge near what is now Torrey Park. the location of the second trough is still unknown. Both were installed in the mid-1800s.
For years the watering trough stood in front of the Harold Tefft house on Elm Street in Lakeport, according to Ginger Tefft Ryan, vice president of the Community Association, who says that she can remember seeing the trough in McGrath Square right up through the mid-1940s, but that it disappeared shortly after World War II.
She said that the watering trough was finally located when she and Charlie Hopkins were going through the postcards at the Community Association's museum in the late fall of 2012 and she pointed out a 1903 postcard to him, showing the trough in what was then Franklin Square. It was renamed McGrath Square in honor of Earl McGrath, the first Laconia soldier killed in World War I.)
''Charlie said that he knew exactly where it was and that was in a field in Gilmanton,'' said Ryan, who later visited the Clark property in Gilmanton, bringing the postcard along with her, where she met Roger Clark, whose parents Al and Helen Clark, had owned the farm on Currier Hill Road, also known as Old Belmont Road, where the watering trough was found.
She said that it was through the Clark family that she was able to learn what had happened over the years to the trough.
''After it left Lakeport it went to the Norman Hubbard Farm in Gilford. Hubbard was a Belknap County Commissioner and friendly with my father, who later served on the Laconia City Council,'' said Ryan.
Ryan said that the watering trough remained at the farm until the property was converted into a golf course, now Pheasant Ridge, in the early 1960s.
''Apparently Hubbard gave it away or sold it to Al Clark and it had been in Gilmanton for over 50 years,'' said Ryan.
After the Clark family agreed to give the watering trough to the association and receiving permission from the City of Laconia to install it in Lakeport, Councilor Armand Bolduc and long-time association member Robert Fortier took on the task of moving it last summer. Roger Clark and his neighbor Woody Wilson used Wilson's tractor to dig up the trough, whose base was virtually buried, and lift it into Bolduc's pickup truck. The trough was then taken to Lakeport, where it was unloaded by the Laconia Public Works Department.
She said that Charlie Beede sandblasted the black coating off of the trough, which was then painted white with all of its trim done in black by Mike Plunkett of Midnight Express Painting. The paint for the project was donated by Sanel Auto Parts. Brenda Moulton and Doris Milo planted the flowers after the base of the centerpole was installed by Hewitt Welding.
Roger and Liz Clark brought their mother, Helen, now a resident of Genesis Healthcare, to see the through and she said that she was delighted to see the transformation.
Also taking part was Caroline Clark of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Helen's daughter-in-law, who said that she could remember seeing the water trough at the Clark farm for years and who said that she thought that the new location is picture perfect for a unique bit of Lakeport history.
Ryan said that work on the trough will continue with a post being welded into the middle of the trough which will hold a sign which reads McGrath Square and a formal dedication will be held.
CAPTION:
A watering trough which once was in McGrath Square in Lakeport has been brought back to Lakeport from a Gilmanton farm and has been restored and will be used as a planter. Taking part in a ceremony at Wanda's Park in Lakeport are Councilor Armand Bolduc, president of the Lakeport Community Association and Helen, Roger and Caroline Clark. (Roger Amsden photo/for the Laconia Daily Sun) .

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 02:29

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BC Convention heads to court over budget authority dispute

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention yesterday voted to petition Belknap County Superior Court to resolve its dispute with the Belknap County Commission over their respective authorities in the preparation and management of the annual county budget.

The vote was 10 to 4, with all 10 of the Republican members present voting in favor and all four of the Democratic members present voting against. Those in the majority were Representatives Colette Worsman, who chairs the convention, Bob Greemore and Herb Vadney of Meredith, Jane Cormier and Stephen Holmes of Alton, Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Chuck Fink and Mike Sylvia of Belmont, Richard Burchell of Gilmanton and Frank Tilton of Laconia.

The four Democrats present were Lisa DiMartino of Gilford, Ruth Gulick of New Hampton, David Huot of Laconia and Ian Raymond of Sanbornton. Three Republicans — Don Flanders and Bob Luther of Laconia and Dennis Fields of Sanbornton — and one Democrat — Beth Arsenault of Laconia — were absent.

The vote followed another stormy meeting of the Executive Committee of the convention earlier in the afternoon, which was marked by disagreements between the committee members and county commissioners. When Tilton, the chairman of the Executive Committee, later reported to the full convention, Worsman voiced her frustration at wrestling with two budgets, one adopted by the convention but amended by the commission. "It is becoming," she said pausing, "disheartening."

Vadney then read a motion authorizing attorney David Horan, who has been retained by the convention, to seek a declaratory judgment "concerning the legitimacy or lack thereof of the Belknap County Commissioners rewriting the 2013 county budget by making multiple line transfers" without the review or approval of the Executive Committee. Furthermore, the motion authorized Horan "to take any and all other legal action he sees fit to protect the fiscal integrity of the County Delegation's original budget."

In August, when a similar motion failed by a single vote — 9 to 8 — Vadney and Tilton both voted not to litigate. Yesterday Tilton told his colleagues that he voted intending to allow 60 days for improvement in relations between the convention and the commission. "I don't see any," he remarked.

Throughout the year the Republican majority of the convention has insisted that the convention can rewrite the budget proposed by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. And, in the course of managing the budget, the commission may only reallocate funds from one line to another with the approval of the Executive Committee of the convention.
With equal resolve, the commissioners claim that the authority of the convention is limited to itemizing appropriations in 13 categories accord with the "Statement of County Appropriations and Revenue as Voted," or MS-42 form, submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration. Within these categories, the commission contends it can distribute funds among different lines without the approval of the convention as long as expenditures do not exceed the total appropriations of the particular categories.
The issue came to a head when, after the convention stripped appropriations to fund bonuses for unused sick time and longevity of service as well as the employer share of a 7.3-percent increase in health insurance premiums from the 2013 budget, the commissioners shuffled money within departments budgets to fund employee benefits. Altogether the commission drew from 91 lines to fund 27 accounts the convention left empty.

The convention budget includes $10,000 for legal expenses, of which $7,061 has been spent. Raymond asked Worsman if the cost of litigation would be capped and if not, "where is the money going to come from?" She replied "I can't answer that question."

Meanwhile, Worsman, Tilton and Huot have introduced legislation to address the issue by clarifying the role of the convention and commission in the budget process. Worsman and Tilton would codify the position of the convention in statute while Huot's bill would authorize the commission to transfer funds between line items within accounts but require the approval of the convention for transfers of $1,000 or more between accounts.

The tensions overshadowed yesterday's meeting of the Executive Committee when the commissioners repeated their requests, which the committee denied in August and deferred two weeks ago, to transfer funds from contingency to defray overruns in the convention and corrections budgets.

The committee again unanimously refused to transfer $5,000 to pay the stipend and reimburse the mileage of members of the convention for attending meetings. The convention is projected to spend $20,025, over spending its line-item budget by 32 percent. Tilton has advised members not to expect either stipends or reimbursements for the remainder of the year.

County Administrator Debra Shackett reminded the committee of the statute requiring that members receive a stipend and reimbursement and later, when the full convention met, suggested members vote to forego both. The 14 members present agreed, but some were concerned that absentees might disagree, suggesting any vote should be unanimous. Worsman suggested polling the members by e-mail. Instead, the convention asked Shackett to draft a motion for the next meeting.

The Executive Committee also shelved the commission's request to transfer $52,000 to the Department of Corrections, which has coped with a swelling jail population by shunting inmates to facilities in other counties at a cost of $57 per day, not including the costs of providing them medical services and transporting them to court appearances. Shackett said that there was an outstanding bill of $31,000.

Commissioner Ed Philpot said the "budget crisis" arose from "a mistake in the budget," prompting Tilton to snap "that's not correct," to which Philpot replied "there are a lot of things around here that are not correct."

Worsman suggested that rather than transfer funds from contingency, the money be drawn from appropriations for fuel, which she said were over budgeted, sparking a heated exchange between Tilton and Philpot.

"I can't tell you today that because the projections look favorable, that we can transfer those funds," Philpot said. Tilton challenged him, noting that $265,000 was budgeted for fuel purchases, but only $90,000 had been spent through September. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math," he said, doubting that the balance of the appropriation would be spent in the next 10 weeks. Philpot insisted that major fuel purchases were in the offing and until they were made he could not ensure there would be sufficient funds. Ultimately the commissioners agreed to review the budget to determine if there was an alternative to drawing from contingency.

NOTE: The Belknap County Convention adopted a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Suzanne Cagle, a field specialist with the cooperative extension, explained that the MOU expires every six years and by statute must be reaffirmed. She said that the service has undergone an extensive reorganization, including eliminating 37 positions statewide and reordering its priorities. The county funds approximately a third of the service's budget with federal and state monies providing the balance. Only Representative Jane Cormier (R-Alton) dissented. "It's full of regionalism," she said.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 02:24

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