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Council Again Defers TIF Decisions

LACONIA — After convening a special meeting to consider authorizing a borrowing to undertake a series of projects recommended by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District Advisory Board the City Council last night again deferred its decision.

Presenting the menu of projects, Kevin Dunleavy, director of parks and recreation, reminded the council it had already approved spending $275,000 to improve the gateway to downtown at the Main Street Bridge, in order to ensure that the improvements were incorporated into the design for the reconstruction of the bridge. Likewise, in October the council approved spending $35,000 to extend a ten-inch water main from Main Street to Veteran's Square to service the former Evangelical Baptist Church, which is being converted to restaurant.

Dunleavy told the council the board recommended investing $400,000 to extend the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street, $25,000 to add signage and kiosks to the riverwalk and WOW Trail, $181,000 to connect the Main Street Bridge to the riverwalk at the Landmark Inn, $121,800 to extend the riverwalk through the Walgreen's property, and $300,000 to carry the riverwalk from behind the old police station up to the Church Street bridge. Altogether the estimated cost of the projects, including the Gateway Plaza and water main, totaled $1,337,800.

Dunleavy said that the board decided to shelve its earlier recommendation to spend $200,000 on a pocket park where Water Street, Pleasant Street and Main Street come together downtown.

The projects would be funded by borrowing $1,350,000 against the annual revenue to the TIF account at an estimated interest rate of four-percent over 20 years. The TIF account has a current balance of $311,353 and projected revenue of $173,687 in 2014 and an additional amount each year thereafter for a total of $4,250,212 during the next 20 years. When the debt is retired, assuming no further borrowing, the TIF fund would be left with a balance of $2,811,654. City Manager Scott Myers has assured the council that the revenue accruing to the TIF fund is sufficient to service the proposed debt and, within a reasonable time, support another borrowing.
Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, told the council that with the $400,000 he was confident that his organization could raise the $200,000 required to construct the second phase of the trail, from Main Street to the Belmont town line, in 2014.
Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) said that although "the purpose of the projects is to revitalize downtown, I haven't heard one word about revitalizing downtown. The WOW Trail will not revitalize downtown," she continued, doubting the findings of an economic impact study, which she said relied on the effects of similar trails in "upscale areas." Baer questioned applying $400,000 in TIF funds to the WOW Trail.
"I beg to differ," countered Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who stressed that the projects would attract people downtown, which is the essence of revitalization. "To throw a wet blanket on it is not consistent with why we're raising the money," he said.
"I'm not throwing a wet blanket on it," replied Baer, who expressed her support for the WOW Trail.
"The WOW Trail is a city park," interrupted Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), who added that like the recent project at Laconia High School it was a successful private-public partnership.
When Baer said that the overriding question is "what do we want downtown?" Lahey replied flatly "people," which projects like the WOW Trail and riverwalk would bring to the center of the city.
Lipman questioned the wisdom of investing in segments of the downtown riverwalk on the south bank of the Winnipesaukee River before the pathway along the north bank is complete. In particular, he said that the segment running through the Walgreen's property "doesn't go anywhere" because those to either side of it are not yet on the construction schedule. Dunleavy pointed out that Walgreen's contributed $25,000 to engineer the project and indicated the city may be obliged to draw those funds within a specific time or forfeit them. If that were the case, Lipman suggested funding the design and engineering but not the $121,800 in construction costs.
Warren Hutchins, who chairs the Planning Board but emphasized he was speaking as an individual, said he favored all the board's proposals, but urged the council revisit the traffic pattern and flow downtown. Laconia, he remarked, "is the most inconvenient place for a person to navigate."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:49

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Chandler Endorses Boothby

MEREDITH — State Rep. Gene Chandler of Bartlett, who is serving his 13th term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and his 17th year as chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Bartlett, has endorsed Republican Christopher Boothby's bid for the Executive Council in District 1.

"Christopher will be an excellent executive councilor," Bartlett said in a prepared statement, "not just for the North Country or the District, but for the entire state." He said that Boothby is not only familiar with many issues but also is "very open to learning about people's concerns."

A former majority leader, Speaker of the House and longtime chairman of its Public Works and Highway Committee, Chandler said, "The people in my district expect top-notch constituent service" and "Christopher is the person to deliver that service."

Boothby said that Bartlett's endorsement meant a great deal. He said that like the late Ray Burton, who represented District 1 for more than 35 years, Gene Chandler is a champion of the North Country. "It is a high bar to set," he said, "but one I intend to meet."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 03:48

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UNH professor comes to rescue for Lakes Region EMTs

by Jim Graham

The University of New Hampshire

 DURHAM — When some of New Hampshire's most experienced emergency medical technicians (EMTs) first learned about a tough new national exam they are required to pass, more than a few worried that the strong, steady pulse that had defined their careers was about to flat-line.

"There were a lot of guys who were very stressed out about the test," says Shawn Riley, deputy fire chief for Laconia and LRGHealthcare, which serves the Lakes Region, "because they realized if they didn't pass, it meant a lot of them could lose their jobs."

As emergency responders across the Lakes Region sought help, Riley called his "911" source for emergency care training: Mary Katherine Lockwood, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences at the University of New Hampshire.

In addition to teaching at UNH, Lockwood is a highly regarded EMT instructor who has served on emergency medical and ambulance crews for 25 years. After talking with Riley, she created a special one-day seminar last summer covering the toughest parts of the new exam, and delivered it — free of charge — to 55 EMTs from 18 communities in the Lakes Region.

The grade she received: 100 percent of the EMTs who took it rated Lockwood a "5" on a scale of 1-to-5 for outstanding instruction.

"She has a way of taking really complex material and making it simple and easy to understand, and even fun," Riley says. Even better, he adds, the students in Lockwood's seminar achieved a high success rate in passing the exam on the first try.

What makes the 135-question test particularly challenging is new material on advanced anatomy and physiology, and biochemistry; taking a step beyond the practical, hands-on clinical knowledge of patient care that defined EMT training years ago. But while Lockwood earned a doctoral degree in nutrition and biological chemistry from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), many of the EMTs she teaches do not have college degrees.

"A lot of these guys sort of hit a brick wall when it came to science in high school," says Lockwood, who continues to serve as a volunteer EMT in her hometown of Amherst. "So what I try to do is to make this material interesting enough, and fun enough, that they can see they really can do it. And once they see that, once they break down that brick wall, they find out that the science isn't nearly as hard as they thought."

For Lockwood, the Lakes Region seminar is added confirmation that she was wise to take her first EMT course and volunteer on an ambulance more than 25 years ago — a step she took when she was teaching at UCLA so that she could better understand the needs of her students preparing for careers in nursing, occupational and physical therapy, nutrition and medicine.

Lockwood conducted a similar seminar in Epping, for 33 emergency medical system instructors on strategies for teaching anatomy and physiology to EMT students. "By teaching instructors, Katherine exponentially expands the number of students that she touches indirectly," says Shawn Jackson, education coordinator for the state Division of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services.

Riley expressed his gratitude for her work in Laconia in a recent letter to Jon Wraith, dean of the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. "I cannot thank her or UNH enough," Riley wrote.

Returning to the fire station after a recent ambulance call, several Lakes Region EMTs who took Lockwood's seminar say it also gave them added confidence and inspired them in pursuing additional self-study preparations ahead of the exam. "For her to come up here and cover all that material the way she did, it was great. It really made a difference," says Duane Mann, a firefighter/paramedic in Laconia.

(This article was originally published in UNH Today. Jim Graham is manager of Leadership Communications at the University of New Hampshire.)



Last Updated on Saturday, 07 December 2013 02:08

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Ashland tax commitment drops 1.5%

ASHLAND — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has set the 2013 property tax rate at $25.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, $3.14, or 14.3 percent, more than the 2012 rate.

The amount to be raised by property taxes decreased by $89,158, or 1.5 percent, from $5765,615 to $5676,457, while the assessed valuation shrank by $36,647,116, or 13.8-percent, from $264,315,381 to $227,668,265.

The town tax rose from $8.60 to $9.15, the local school tax from $9.68 to $11.78, the state education tax from $2.27 to $2.52 and the county tax from $1.43 to $1.67.

Town administrator Paul Branscombe said that the increased property tax rate reflected the adjustment of property values to more closely match market prices, which significantly reduced the assessed valuation of the town. He pointed out that there was no significant increase in municipal expenditures.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 December 2013 01:58

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