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Weirs Room & car collection just part of wonders in 'The Barn'

MEREDITH — Dick Dearborn grew up in the Weirs and has special memories of his childhood there, including the historic day when he was seated on his grandfather Leander Lavallee's shoulder and the Mount Washington II cruise ship made its way underneath the Weirs Bridge and out from Paugus Bay onto the main body of Lake Winnipesaukee.
That was August 15, 1940 and Dearborn was only four years old. But he still remembers how bystanders atop the bridge were called on by his grandfather to jump aboard the Mount in order to have it ride deep enough in the water to pass under the bridge.
''He had everybody on the bridge jump onto the boat so we could get under the bridge,'' says Dearborn, whose family lived on the same block at the Weirs and had a front row seat on all that happened there.
His grandfather had owned the original side-wheeler ''Mount Washington'', which had been destroyed by fire at the Weirs docks in December of 1939, but had managed to replace it with an iron ship which had been cut into 20 sections at Lake Champlain and shipped by flatbed rail to Lakeport, where it was reassembled and put into service the very next summer.
This Saturday invited guests to his "man-cave", better known to his friends as ''The Barn'', will get to see Diane Nyren's recently completed mural of the Weirs Channel Bridge on the wall of the structure's "Weirs Room", as well as Nyren's painting of the Mount headed in from the lake.

"The Barn" is actually a large metal building in Meredith. There's other reminders of the Weirs in the room and next to it, in a large room, there 's a wide-ranging collection of baseball photographs, including Ted Williams and Babe Ruth and even Bill Monboquette, author of a no-hitter for the Red Sox in 1962, as well as autographed baseball bats.
''I can remember sitting around the kitchen table during World War II and right after the war listening to the Red Sox games on radio'' says Dearborn, who at one time had a 10-seat suite over third base at Fenway Park and now has a 21-seat suite on the first base side.
''I reserve one day there for myself each year. It's a little hard to get around the ballpark for me these days but I still love to watch a baseball game. There are a lot of good memories for me at Fenway Park.''
''The Barn'' also houses Dearborn's auto collection, as well as the large collection of sports memorabilia, and has two bars — one upstairs and the other downstairs in an area known as ''Dirty Dick's Garage'' — where there's other memorabilia, including a collection of 200 Zippo lighters.
Five years after riding the Mount onto the lake, Dearborn says he can recall exactly where he was in August of 1945, when World War II ended with the surrender of Japan.
''I was in mid-air diving off from a platform at Irwin's Winnipesaukee Garden. Jim Irwin had put the tower up and I used to dive from there with my brother, Bob, and Bob and John Lawton to recover bottles which had been tossed into the lake. We used to get two cents a bottle. Anyway, I was in mid-air when I heard people cheering and singing. I got out of the water and ran right up to Tarlson's Arcade. People were gathered around singing and hollering. There was a big parade right down through the Weirs which was led by three former Confederate soldiers from the Civil War encampment at the Weirs,'' Dearborn recalls.
He said that his family, headed by Fred Hershell ''Tot'' Dearborn was always in the restaurant business and for years ran Dearborn's Diner, a downtown Laconia institution which was located where Sunrise Towers now stands,
Dearborn, who would go on to found Eptam Plastics and make his mark on the Lakes Region manufacturing scene, credits the American military with providing him with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. He joined the service in 1954, right out of high school.
''They sent me to electronics school and it made my life. I learned so much. After I got out of the service I worked for a year at the diner and then started applying what I learned in the service,'' says Dearborn, who worked for Kinsman Organ in downtown Laconia before the building was sold to Seeburg Electronics. He then landed a job with InsulFab, a plastic parts fabricator in Boston, for whom he worked for 27 years while living in Watertown, Mass., where he met his wife.
''It was a wonderful job but it was time for me to go out on my own,'' says Dearborn, who started Eptam with three other partners in the kitchen of Ernie Paquette's closed restaurant just across the bridge in West Franklin and that's where the Eptam name comes from — Ernie Paquette Tool and Machining — and moved the operation to Blaisdell Avenue in Laconia before building a 15,000-square-foot plant in an industrial park next to Lily Pond in Gilford, on Laconia Airport Authority property.
As demand for Eptam's products grew in the 1990s Dearborn added a 26,000-square-foot building and then relocated to Northfield, where the business is now located in a 186,000-square-foot facility which runs three shifts a day, seven days a week, and employs 148 people.
''When we got into the medical devices field that's when we really started to grow. Today our biggest concern is finding the right people to keep up with the demand for our products,'' says Dearborn, who says he was really pleased a few years back when Eptam was named one of the best companies to work for in the entire state.
He says that at the age of 77 and having lost his wife five years ago he has no intention of retiring. ''I get to work at 5:30 to 5:45 every morning. I intend to work as long as I can walk. I think I'd go crazy if I wasn't working.''
Dearborn says he started collecting cars about 10 years ago and his collection includes Packards from 1933 and 1948, a 1941 Studebaker, a 1960 Studebaker Lark and a 1963 Studebaker Avanti, a 1955 Ford Customline and a 1969 T-Bird, as well as a 1951 Plymouth Concord and other cars, including Oldsmobiles and Buicks.
''Once I started collecting cars, I went crazy. But I'm not looking for any more of them,'' says Dearborn.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 03:31

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Tea Party takes aim at Alton workforce housing initiative

ALTON — An initiative to amend the zoning ordinance to bring the town into compliance with the state statute requiring municipalities "to provide reasonable and realistic opportunities for the development of workforce housing" was met with suspicion and hostility by a crowd of some 75 people, including a contingent from the Lakes Region Tea Party, that jammed the Gilman Museum Wednesday night.

The meeting was the first of two forums hosted as a community service by the Alton Business Association, which takes no position for or against the issue of workforce housing.

Voicing the mood in the room, State Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) charged that the proposal reflected an effort by the federal government, through its Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), "to manipulate our local zoning law." Instead of complying with the law, she urged voters to send conservative representatives to Concord to repeal it, earning herself a round of thunderous applause.

After listening to similar sentiments for more than an hours, Tom Hoopes, vice-chairman of the Planning Board, rose to say "what we're doing here is planning. We don't have the tools to deal with a problem. This has nothing to do with HUD." His statement was met with cries of derision and a woman sitting nearby questioned whether he should be speaking for the Planning Board. "I'm speaking as an individual," he replied. "Sit down." From across the room a man shouted "you work for us, pal."
Hoopes reminded him, "I volunteer for you."

The statute was enacted in 2008, 17 years after the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that municipalities could not use zoning ordinances to deny reasonable opportunities to build affordable/workforce housing. The Legislature acted in response to a variety of interests, including representatives of the business community who claimed that a sufficient supply of affordable housing was necessary for commercial and industrial enterprises to attract and retain employees.

The law requires municipalities to provide opportunity to develop workforce housing in a majority of the land area zoned for residential use. Furthermore, a municipality may comply with the law if its existing housing stock represents its "fair share" of the regional need for workforce housing.

Steve Whitman of Jeffrey Taylor & Associates, the consultant hired to assist the Zoning Amendment Committee prepare a proposal, said that an inventory indicated that between 35-percent and 60-percent of the town's housing stock qualified as "workforce housing." He also noted that accessory apartments as well as manufactured and modular housing are permitted in most zones while multi-family dwellings are permitted in both residential commercial and residential rural districts.

However, Whitman noted the vast majority of Alton's 63-square-miles of land area is zoned rural, where house lots require a minimum of two acres and 200 feet of road frontage, effectively excluding workforce housing from most of the town. "This may never be an issue," he conceded, "but there is no way to ensure a developer won't claim he can't build housing at an affordable price point in the rural zone." Amending the zoning ordinance to comply with the state statute, he said, would ensure the town of an effective defense.
"Aren't we already complying?" asked one man, citing the share of affordable units in the current housing stock.

Without disagreeing, Whitman reminded him that the burden of proof would fall on the town and the notion of "fair share" is ambiguous.

"We should challenge the state to write a clear statute rather than change our zoning," the man replied.
Another man wanted to know how the services of Jeffrey Taylor & Associates were funded. Town Planner Ken McWilliams said that the town was awarded a $30,000 grant by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority. The man asked where the agency got the money, "HUD?" When McWlliams replied "yes," the man said "and the last time I checked HUD is a federal agency."
Barbara Howard, a former member of the Budget Committee, asked who applied for the grant. "You're looking at him," said McWilliams, who added that Whitman helped write the application. McWlliams stressed that once the grant was awarded the consulting contract was put out to bid and two firms submitted bids.
"You mean you paid the man sitting next to you to write the grant he got the benefit of?" Cormier exclaimed.
A woman charged that HUD wants "to urbanize our beautiful rural areas," adding "I don't want Alton to become south Jersey where I moved from 34 years ago and I don't want to go back to, thank you."
A man from Meredith said that what was represented as workforce housing became subsidized housing. "Maybe you want to talk to those people," he suggested.

Whitman reminded the crowd that the zoning ordinance permits subsidized units in multi-family buildings.
"Is the Lakes Region Planning Commission involved in any way?" asked another man, obviously aware of the commission's role in the Granite State Future project that is hotly opposed by the Lakes Region Tea Party. McWilliams acknowledged that the town is a member of the commission, but insisted the commission plays no part in amending the zoning ordinance.
When asked how compliance with the statute would benefit the town, Whitman repeated that it would protect the town from litigation while "providing for a mix of housing at various price points."
Warning that workforce housing would add to the burdens on emergency services and public schools, one man said "they're like locusts. Once it starts it doesn't stop."
Cormier said that the statute was written by "insiders," developers and their lobbyists, for the benefit of "special interests. It's an insider deal, top to bottom," she declared. "It's not American."
The second forum will be held on Thursday, September 25 at the Gilman Museum beginning at 6 p.m. The featured speakers will be Ken Eyring of Windham, founder of the Southern New Hampshire 912 Group, who will explain how workforce housing is linked to the Granite State Future project and Cormier, who will discuss the role of the Lakes Region Planning Commission.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 02:07

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Driver strikes pole on Church Street

LACONIA— A stretch of Church Street was closed to traffic for about half-an-hour Tuesday after a car struck a utility pole near the Genesis Behavorial Health building shortly before 7:30 p.m.

The driver, Rozanna Bushnell, 31, of Laconia, who was alone in the vehicle, was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Her car suffered severe front-end damage and air bags deployed.

Sergeant Al Graton of the Laconia Police said that Bushnell was not impaired, nor did excessive speed contribute to the accident.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 September 2013 03:00

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Selectmen okay $3,400 project to stem erosion of Gilford town beach

GILFORD — Selectmen approved spending $3,400 last week for part of the Gilford Beach restoration project that will be spent on building a barrier to help prevent further beach erosion. Much of the beach is now down to hard-pack.

Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene said the support will be on the left side of the beach as one faces the water.

The barrier is part of a project approved by selectmen in February to address the erosion issue. Greene said once completed it should cost about total about $11,315.

While the initial estimate was around $7,600, Greene said yesterday the previous estimate was before they decided to build the support, which will help prevent further damage.

Greene said Certified Erosion Control will install the support with the assistance of Belknap Landscaping Company, which handled all the state permitting, including a dredge-and-fill permit from the N.H. Department of Environmental Service. He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed with the project.

Greene said yesterday that the goal is to finish the support before winter. Next spring, he said, the town will spread about 13,500-square-feet of new beach sand.

When the project was discussed in February by selectmen, Greene explained that there hadn't been any significant erosion control work done to the beach in at least seven years — the amount of time Greene had been the Parks and Recreation director.

He said that since 2005 there have been three "100-year" storms, including one in October of 2005 that dumped 20 inches of rain in parts of New Hampshire.

He said Gilford Beach also sees a great deal of wind erosion from Lake Winnipesaukee. The wind blows the sand into the trees, where it is mostly unrecoverable.

In March, voters supported adding $15,000 to the Recreation Facilities Capital Reserve Fund. Some of the money was spent resurfacing tennis courts.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 September 2013 02:51

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