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City Council commits $101,500 to next step of new fire station design

LACONIA — The City Council this week approved the expenditure of $101,500 to complete the second phase of designing the expansion and renovation of Central Fire Station, which will enable the cost of the project to be estimated in July.
Deputy Chief Charlie Roffo, accompanied by Jonathan Smith of Warrenstreet Architects, Inc. of Concord, presented the first phase of the schematic design to the council on Monday. He explained that on the basis of this work the estimated cost fell between $4,083,831 and $4,449,095 with a margin of error of 8 percent. Smith said that with completion of the second phase of the design work, the margin of error will be reduced to about 2 percent.
City Manager Scott Myers reminded the councilors that he included first year debt service on a $4.1 million borrowing for the fire station in his recommended budget for fiscal year 2015. Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, suggested delaying the adoption of the new city budget until July, when the estimate will be complete. Myers pointed out that only the cost of borrowing would be included in the budget and the difference in the cost of borrowing  $4.1 million and $4.4 million would be about $7,000, an amount that could be managed easily without postponing a vote on the budget.
Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that with a firm estimate the project could be presented to the Planning Board and put out to bid in August with the aim of breaking ground for the new addition in October. Roffo said that once the addition is built personnel could move to new quarters and work could begin renovating the existing station without compromising the operations of the department.
The plan includes the renovation of 13,167-square-feet of the existing station to serve as an apparatus bay, training area and storage space and the construction of a two-story, 12,964-square-foot addition to house the administrative offices, emergency operations center and dormitory. The building would be reconfigured to provide public access and parking off Tremont Street, instead of off North Main Street.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 11:40

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Jury finds Gardner not guilty of Tilton sex crime against disabled man

LACONIA — After a five day trial, a jury of four men and eight women took two hours yesterday to determine a former Tilton man was not guilty of rape and indecent exposure.

Thomas Gardner, 58, fought back tears as he spoke with his attorney Amy Ashworth following the verdict. Gardner did not want to speak to the media.

"This is the right result of the case,"Ashworth said. "He is overwhelmed with emotion. I'm overwhelmed with emotion. It's been a long ride."

Gardner had been accused of having oral sex with a 22-year-old disabled man who he had known since the man was 5-years-old. The man's mother, who testified for the prosecution, said that Gardner was like a father to her son and often took him for rides to local stores, bought him treats, and cared for him when she was in school or sick.

On the Thursday in question, January 17, 2013, Gardner had taken the man to his home because the mother was ill. He took the man for a ride in his Volkswagen to a spot atop School Street in Sherryland (mobile home) Park to see if their Sanborn Road house was visible after a recent logging operation.

While at the park Gardner and his ward encountered two men — Mark Corente and Joseph Ernst — who accused the Gardner of engaging in fellatio with what they said was a child with dark hair.

They both testified that they were there looking at trailers they had seen advertized online.

The accusation triggered a police investigation that was conducted by two Tilton Police detectives — former Det. Crp. Matthew Dawson and Det. Nathan Buffington. Buffington was the only Tilton Police officer to testify.

Dawson evaded under oath testimony in the case by evoking his Fifth Amendment right to protect himself from self incrimination with regard to unrelated police matter.

Buffington's role in the investigation was limited to two interviews with Gardner's accusers in the police station and at Sherryland Park and one visit to a Belmont repair shop to check his car for bodily fluids. The tests were negative.

The state's other witnesses were mostly medical professionals who described the victim as restless, inattentive and small in stature. They testified he had a seizure disorder as well as bad feet and scoliosis of the spine.

Gardner's defense team called two witnesses — the former owner of Sherryland Park and his park manager who testified that there were never any trailers advertised for sale which directly contradicted what Ernst and Corente told the jury.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 11:34

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No incidents as LHS operates under heightened security

LACONIA — Following the discovery of messages scrawled on bathroom walls last week that spoke of a shooting at Laconia High School on June 10, final examinations were held yesterday without incident amid an increased police presence and under tight security measures.

Only one entrance to the building was open. The entrance facing Union Avenue way was cordoned off with police tape and all doors were locked. Students were instructed not to carry backpacks to school and asked to empty their pockets and open their purses on entering the building.

Teachers and administrators escorted students to their classrooms and, when necessary, to the restroom. Lunch was served to everyone in the cafeteria at the same time and the building was cleared by 2 p.m.

Tuesday was a final exam day for freshman, sophomores and juniors. The senior class has already graduated.

Beyond confirming that the school building and property were secured for the day and an unspecified number of police were deployed at all the schools, Police Chief Chris Adams said that "we wanted to make staff, parents and students safe and everything has run smoothly." He said a police presence will be maintained at the city's schools throughout the week.

Last week two messages were found at the High School, which though somewhat unclear could be taken to threaten a shooting at the school yesterday. School Superintendent Terri Forsten said that the first message was discovered on Friday, May 30 and the second on Wednesday, June 4. She described the first message as "cryptic, but the second as "more clear," adding that it referred specifically to June 10.
In a formal statement Forsten said that the messages were being investigated and meanwhile school would open on Tuesday, June 10 with "an increased police presence throughout the school day at Laconia High School." Twice in her statement she said that neither school nor police officials considered the messages to represent a "credible" threat to the safety of students, teachers or staff.
Captain Matt Canfield said that police have reviewed video footage as well as spoken to students and teachers in the course of their ongoing investigation. He stressed that when the person or persons responsible are identified appropriate criminal charges will be filed. The investigation remains ongoing.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 11:31

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Franklin woman arrested for cruelty to animals in Sanbornton

SANBORNTON — A Franklin woman has been charged with one count of cruelty to animals after police and inspector for the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals received a report on an emaciated animal on Tower Hill Road.

Mariska Giunta, 57, of Lakeshore Drive in Franklin is free on $500 cash bail and has a court date of July 14 in the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division.

Because of the poor condition of the horse, a veterinarian was called and the horse, that was over 30 year old, was euthanized on April 23.

The investigation revealed that the horse hadn't been seen by a veterinarian in three years and had not has his teeth floated – a process that vets use to file down teeth to enable them to bite and chew grain for nutrition.

The horse also had a heart murmur.

Police located the horse on the Giunta property on Tower Hill Road.

Mariska Giunta turned herself into Sanbornton Police on June 7.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 01:57

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