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LHS renovation project can be expanded because of savings in sprinkler project

LACONIA – The School Board got some good news last night when it learned that part of the sprinkler installation project at the High School would cost less than anticipated and the savings would allow for additional circulation and ventilation in some interior classrooms.

As part of the initial engineering for a $1.8-million QZAB, or Qualified Zone Academy (interest-free) Bond project, the school thought the glass in the main entry way would have to be removed and retrofitted with fire-safe glass or a wall.

The retrofit of fire-safe windows would have cost at least $100,000.

This area is where the old Huot Technical Center was added to the eastern building of the high school. The former outside wall became an inside wall with windows that open into the foyer for some air.

Business Administrator Ed Emond said after reviewing state fire code with the local fire department and the N.H. State Fire Marshal, the district learned the foyer needs only to be a "smoke-free" barrier and not a fire barrier. He said the cost would be a few thousand dollars as opposed to the six-figures the district had anticipated.

Emond said the savings will be redirected toward adding some ventilation and air circulation to the class rooms in the same area that do not have windows that open to the outside.

The QZAB project will add sprinklers to the High School, improve the air-handling and circulation within the buildings, install air conditioning in the gymnasium and repair the air conditioning in the auditorium.

The School Board also voted unanimously to have the city issue the bond in the aggregate principal amount of $1,828,000 and sell it to Bank of New Hampshire at the price of par, with the length of the term to be 25 years.

In other school board news, Superintendent Terri Forsten said that kindergarten registration opened one week ago and so far 116 children have registered for the 2014-2015 school year.

She said the district plans on having eight full-day kindergarten classes next year instead of the nine they have now.

She anticipates 2014-2015 enrollment will be around 150 to 160 kindergarteners. This year there are 173 kindergarteners.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 01:22

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Gilford & Belmont high schools to field cooperative football team

GILFORD — The Gilford and Shaker Regional school districts have agreed to negotiate an agreement for establishing a cooperative football team, starting this fall.
A memorandum of understanding which calls for a two-year program, contingent upon approval by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA), was approved by the Gilford School Board Monday night.
It calls for Gilford to be the lead school district in the partnership and retain regulatory decision making-power over the cooperative program. Superintendent of Schools Kent Hemingway said that the two school districts currently operate a cooperative high school hockey program in which the Shaker School District is the lead district.
The Shaker District agreed to commit $7,500 for year one with junior varsity level player opportunities and $15,000 for year, two to include both JV and varsity play.
Future agreements between the two school districts on the cooperative football team will be based on a 50-50 cost sharing basis according to the memo.
Hemingway said that between five and 15 Shaker District students are expected to take part in the program this fall based on participation by Belmont players in the Gilford Youth Football League, which fields teams in two leagues and has about a dozen players from Belmont.
The memo calls for the Shaker District to fund its share of the operating costs beginning in the 2016 fiscal year budget. Costs for the 2015 fiscal year, while not in the approved budget, will be funded through the district's athletic special revenue fund.
The Friends of Belmont Football, a group of parents who joined together two years ago in an effort to find a way for their sons to be able to play football at the high school level, have raised over $10,000 towards that goal, according to Eric Shirley, one of the founders of the group.

Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith and Moultonborough  Academy operate the only current cooperative high school football program in the Lakes Region. They also field a joint ice hockey team.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 01:10

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Sanbornton voters pepper town candidates with lots of questions

SANBORNTON — A standing-room-only crowd at the Sanbornton Public Library on Friday night peppered the two candidates for selectmen and three of the four candidates for the Budget Committee with questions as far ranging as their opinion on privatizing roads to potential time conflicts for serving.

Seeking the one seat available for a three-year term as selectman are Jeffrey Jenkins and Johnny VanTassel. Incumbent Guy Giunta is not seeking re-election.

Seeking seats on the Budget Committee are incumbent Judy Burlingame Rich (who wasn't there), incumbent Roger Grey, Ralph Rathjen and Mitch Lewis. Rathjen serves on the Transportation Privatization Committee and Lewis serves on the Capital Improvement Committee.

Some of Friday's debate centered on whether or not Jenkins (who vacations in Florida in winter) and VanTassel (who manages the Northfield Public Works Department) would be available when townspeople need them.

The topic arose when retired Town Finance Director Curt McGee mentioned that of the nine meetings that the Privatization Committee has had, VanTassel has only made the first two.

"How's he going to make a 4:30 p.m. selectmen's meeting?" McGee asked.

VanTassel responded by saying he was never meant to stay on that committee and had only agreed to advise it until a director or interim director was named, which the town has done.

"I could be able to make 4:30 p.m. meetings," VanTassel said, adding he believed that many people would like to go to Sanbornton's selectmen's meetings but are working. "I would think a little later would be better."

He also noted that if it was the middle of a snowstorm and he was plowing, then there was a good chance the town offices would be closed and there would likely be no meeting.

Gail Morrison, who is a candidate for Trustee of the Trust Fund, posed the same question to Jenkins, who vacations in Florida during the winter.

"Over the past few years this has kept me from stepping up," Jenkins said. He said state laws have changed regarding electronic communications and his cell phone is available to all. "Obama takes a vacation. I plan on taking a vacation."

Jenkins said there may be times when he appeared by computer (Skype), but guaranteed his attendance would be better than that of some selectmen who has served the town in the past.

As to privatizing the road responsibilities of the town, Jenkins said he is serving on the committee and said any decision is about a year away at the earliest. He said his research has shown that the 10 New England towns that had been identified as having private highway departments was misleading because those 10 towns had never had highway departments.

He also said the committee has never found a town that once it had a town-operated highway department returned to a private one.

Jenkins said he didn't yet have enough information about it and was uncommitted about what he would recommend.

VanTassel, who was the Sanbornton highway superintendent before leaving for Northfield, said that while the study being done is a good study, he really doesn't see Sanbornton's entire operation going private.

"I think (the study) will make for a better highway department," he said, noting that many of the things done by many municipal highway department are already private.

VanTassel also noted internal control can often make for a better product. Responding to an earlier observation from an audience member who complained that last summer's mowing was not very good, VanTassel said that in 2012 the department did it in such a way that certain brush would die back during the next year and make it easier and cheaper in 2013.

When the town instead subcontracted the work in 2013, he said it may have saved a little money but the quality of the work was not as good as when the town crews had done the moving the year before.

Rathjen said he realizes the entire DPW budget is $1.5-million (it includes the transfer station as well ) and that at most the town would only be able to privatized between $550,000 to $750,000 of the work anyway.

He said it was "premature" for townspeople to expect a $400,000 annual savings — a number that was thrown out by current Budget committee member Earl Leighton when he asked the candidates about it.

"We could come up with a situation where it could cost more," he said.

The other major point of discussion was the 2½ percent raise that was accepted by the Board of Selectmen but eliminated by the Budget Committee.

VanTassel said he feels employees are "extremely important" and would like to see them get a raise, but knows the town's taxpayers can only afford so much.

"We should cover the cost of inflation (1.3 percent according to the Consumer Price Index provided by the government) because keeping employees is a bonus," he said.

Jenkins, who is on the Budget Committee said he would definitely not support any 2½ percent raises this year. He noted that every employee got 2½ percent in 2013-2014 and the police got between 6-and 10-percent raises.

"We asked for departments to give us a flat salary budget. We thought it was a reasonable thing to do," Jenkins said.

Lewis said he works in the private sector and just saw many in his company take 40 percent pay cuts. "We gave 2½ percent last year and most towns didn't give more than 2 percent," he said.

"It's not easy," he said. "While 2½ percent seems fair, the inflation rate is 1.3 percent."

Rathjen described it as a valid difference between what the selectmen do and the Budget Committee does. He noted there is a $67,000 difference between the selectmen's and the Budget Committee's budget, $50,000 of it is raises.

Grey said he won't support 2½ percent raises this year and said he voted to keep salaries level. He said Sanbornton was a small rural community with 60 percent of its land in current use and 1,800 parcels that pay taxes.

He said that if people at annual town meeting vote to support the raises or to add the difference between the library request and the Budget Committee's recommendation that was fine, "but don't complain when the tax rate goes up."

"We have to start saying no at some point," Grey said.

Elections are May 13 and will be held at the Old Town Hall. Sanbornton's Town Meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Sanbornton Central School. Full sample ballots and the list of the warrant articles are available on the Sanbornton Town Website.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 May 2014 02:25

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Gilford parent arrested for book protest

GILFORD — The parent of a Gilford High School student who raised objections to what he called a pornographic passage in a book, "Nineteen Minutes" which was assigned to his daughter's ninth grade honors English class was arrested last night for failing to leave the meeting when ordered to by Gilford Police Lt. James Leach.
William Baer, who moved here recently from New Jersey, said he was "outraged" when he found out about the passage and said that it was beyond comprehension that the board would allow a book with that kind of passage to be read by high schoolers.
He challenged Superintendent Kent Hemingway to read a copy of the controversial passage aloud at the public input session of last night's meeting. But Sue Allen, School Board chairman, who had earlier set a limit of two minutes on public input on the issue and ruled that no one could speak a second time, said no one from the board or administration would be reading any material submitted at the meeting aloud.
Baer's arrest came after he was asked to leave the meeting after interrupting a statement made by a Joe Wernig, a parent who supported having the book on the school's reading list and suggested that if Baer and other critics had their way ''these people will be dictating what we can and cannot read.''
That prompted Baer to interrupt and say ''that's absurd'' and defend the criticism as justified. When Lt. Leach asked him to leave, Baer asked as Leach approached him ''am I under arrest?'' He was escorted into the hall outside the meeting room and handcuffed before being led outside to a police cruiser.
Hemingway, Allen and Gilford High School Principal Peter Sawyer last Friday issued an informational statement to local media in which they said that students in English classes at the high school were assigned "Nineteen Minutes" on Monday, April 28. The statement said that the book, written by New Hampshire author Jodi Picoult, has been a selection open to high school staff since 2007, the year it was published.
The statement described the book as of "thematic importance," noting that it contains scenes of physical and sexual violence.
The statement reminds parents of the school district's policies, which refer to the procedures bearing on controversial material.
The officials said that when "Nineteen Minutes" was assigned in past years, parents were notified for their approval and conceded this procedure was not followed last week. A statement was sent to parents yesterday notifying them of the book and its content and acknowledging the oversight.
Following last night's meeting, the board issued a statement apologizing for the discomfort of those impacted and for the failure of the School District to send home prior notice of assignment of the novel.
The board said the district will take immediate action to revise these policies to include notification that requires parents to accept controversial material rather than opt out and that the notification will detail more specifically the controversial material.
Other parents supported Baer's stance. Sarah Carrignan said that she was ''utterly appalled that this was acceptable. My son should never have had the book in his hand'' and said that the waiver sent home which would allow their children to read the book was ''garbage.''
Baer's wife, Barbara, said that when she found the passage in the book that was being read by her 14-year-old daughter she was shocked. ''I'm speechless, I really am that this was allowed.'' she said.
But when Joe Wernig defended discussion of the book and said that his daughters had read it and that he had even met Picoult when she was in Gilford before the book was published. He said the book had provoked meaningful discussion which he thought was valuable with his daughters.
''It made my daughters feel uncomfortable and they wanted to have a discussion with me,'' said Wernig, who took a shot at critics of the book by saying they were trying to dictate what could be read in the schools.
Doug Lambert later read the offending page, which described a sex act between teenagers, and later in the meeting, when a second public input session was held, read a passage from the Bible which said that those who sinned against the innocent be cast into the sea with a millstone around their neck.
''That's what's coming for all of you. You're all going to pay for this,'' said Lambert, who said he was glad he no longer had children in the Gilford school system.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 May 2014 02:34

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