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City lists streets scheduled for work this year

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council this week that $1.8-million will be spent improving approximately 5.5 miles of city streets during the next 15 months.

Seven streets — Avery Street, Batchelder Street, Chapin Terrace, Cleveland Place, Dixon Street, Tyler Street and Shore Drive northward from Sands Terrace — are scheduled for major reconstruction, which will include significant improvements to sewerage and drainage.

Another half-dozen streets — Cottonwood Avenue, Harvard Street, Roller Coaster Road, Waker Street, the two southern sections of Dartmouth Street, and McGrath Street from Lyford Street to Oak Street — are scheduled to be paved with a maintenance shim and overlay.

Myers said yesterday that specifications are being determined and costs estimates for several other streets or stretches of roadway, which may be added to the schedule of projects to be undertaken in the current construction season.

Myers has asked the City Council to increase the city's annual commitment to street repair to the $1.8 million level for each of the next three years and council members have reacted favorably to that suggestion.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2015 12:03

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School board wants superintendent to be 'agent of change'

LACONIA — The School Board took an early step toward replacing outgoing Superintendent Terri Forsten Tuesday night by hosting a meeting facilitated by educator Kathleen McCabe, Ph.D.

McCabe, a professor of higher education in the Plymouth State College College of Graduate Studies, spoke for about an hour about the approach the board should take to identifying what attributes it wants in a leader to help them reach the defined goal of the district — student achievement.

"The good news," said McCabe, "is you have a good, firm foundation."

She noted the district has a history of strong leadership, of transparency when making big decisions, and of not running from challenges.

"The bad news," she said, "is that you need a new leader."

Forsten is resigning at the end of the school year in order to head the school system in the city where she lives, Concord.

McCabe told the board that change equals anxiety and "it can be tumultuous." For employees, of which there are about 350 to 400 total people, the uncertainty of change is acute.

"Prior success is no guarantee of future success," she said encouraging the members to make the process as open as possible to ease some of the anxiety that accompanies a change of leadership.

"With a lack of information, people will make up their own stories," she said, referring to uncertainty from parents, the community, and the staff and employees of the district.

After a review of the job responsibilities as defined by N.H. state law and N.H. Department of Education policy requirements for a superintendent, the key exercise of Tuesday night's meeting was to decide which of 21 key leadership responsibilities the board felt were the most important in the person it chooses for the district's new superintendent.

McCabe told them that she understood that if they could, board members would take qualities exhibited by former Superintendent Bob Champlin and Forsten, shake them up in a bag and pour out the perfect Laconia superintendent.

In an exercise designed to mimic that concept, each of the 21 responsibilities of a good superintendent/leader were listed on two easels after being distributed on paper to each member.

McCabe asked them to privately check each of the 21 responsibilities on the paper as they applied to Champlin and Forsten. Using their checklists, each member was given three sticky dots to place next to a characteristic on the easel with the purpose of creating a "scatter graph". The responsibilities with the most sticky dots identifies those the board members would like to see embraced by a new leader.

In Laconia's case, the board decided that three top responsibilities on which the district's new superintendent should be focused are being an agent of change, have top-notch communications skills, and be disciplined.

Being an agent of change, said McCabe in a telephone interview yesterday, is more subtle than it seems.

She said when change is a responsibility, to a superintendent it means he or she should be willing to make changes but also be open, willing and able to manage change throughout the district working with staff and resources.

"It's a knowledge of the change process and how to administer it," she said.

McCabe told members Tuesday night that the education field is not necessarily one that is receptive to change — unlike a private business that either changes according to its circumstances or fails.

"We so often say if it worked last year, the year before last, and the year before that it's good now...until we're back to 1986," she said.

While being a good communicator somewhat speaks for itself, McCabe told the board that a disciplined leader is one who can stay focused on the big picture and not be unnecessarily distracted by the "little things".

She gave an example of a time she said no to a group who wanted her to hold an assembly of students to explain the dangers of sun tanning. She said when she refused, the organization spokesperson had a fit and asked her why she didn't understand the dangers of tanning or think they were important.

"I did and do understand," she said was her reply. She asked them to send literature so it could be distributed to students, parents and health teachers.

Her point was that if she let every organization with something positive to say have an assembly, she would be denying students classroom time with teachers — the thing that matters most in student achievement.

Other top finishers on the list of responsibilities were a superintendent who is involved in curriculum/instruction and one who understands resources and who knows how to get them and use them the most efficiently.

Following the session, the board adjourned but now its members know what primary responsibilities they want the new superintendent to embrace.

What is still an unknown is the time line the board is using to hire a new superintendent and what will be done in the interim should one not be hired by July of 2015.

Following the meeting, Board Chair Joe Cormier said he agreed those are two key discussions the board must have and soon. He said he anticipates more information will be available during the beginning of next month.

The next regular School Board meeting is May 5 at 7 p.m. at Harvard Street School.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2015 12:01

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Police say untimely death on Messer Street was drug-overdose related

LACONIA — Police said yesterday the young man whose body was found in a apartment at 26 Messer Street likely died from some kind of drug overdose.

The man who appeared to be in his early 20s was not from Laconia, said Capt. Bill Clary, and was considered to be a transient in the community he called home before coming to Laconia.

The death was reported to police around 11 a.m. Monday morning and was investigated by local detectives.

A complete autopsy is being conducted by the N.H. Medical Examiner.

Clary said the name of the young man is not being released because not all of the members of his family have been identified.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2015 11:32

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Future of Belmont Mill to be Topic A at Monday night meeting at BHS

BELMONT — Selectmen will host a facilitated meeting so residents can participate in determining future of the historic Belmont Mill on Monday, May 4 in the cafeteria of the High School at 7 p.m.

Selectmen, when discussing the mill in a meeting after voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to restore it and convert it to town offices, said they wanted the voters to tell them what they should do next and how they propose to pay for it.

In preparation for the meeting, Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin reached out personally to all of the stakeholders that she and the selectmen could identify.

The list includes the members of the Heritage Committee, the Historical Society, the people who came to one of two public hearings to voice an opinion about what should happen, the attendees of the annual Town Meeting SB-2 session and anyone who wrote a letter or letters to the editor of the local newspapers.

The circa 1833 mill was restored in the 1990s after being partially destroyed by a fire. During the blaze the roof was destroyed and for three years the insides were exposed to elements.

The town secured a federal grant that allowed the town to rebuild it provided it was used for low- to moderate-income purposes for 25 years.

Three years ago, the town learned there was a soft spot in the flooring on the fourth floor and further examination showed that some of the restoration work that has been contracted during the 1990s renovation was not done as it should have been. Unfortunately for the town, the companies responsible for the questionable work had long since gone out of business and compensation was not possible.

Because of the structural defects on the fourth floor, the Lakes Region Community College relocated its culinary arts program to Canterbury Shaker Village.

The third floor is occupied by Belknap Family Health Center while the bottom floor is home to the Lakes Region Child Care Center that is relocating to larger accommodations over the summer. A portion of the mill is being used by the Belmont Recreation Department.

With the departure of nearly half of the tenants, the town solicited an engineering estimate to renovate the mill and relocate the town offices into it. Budgeted at $3.4 million, the voters rejected the proposal.

The purpose of Monday's meeting at the High School is for the town residents to evaluate the possibilities of what the mill can be — up to and including the same proposal or complete demolition.

By facilitating the meeting with an independent person — Michael Castagna of Castagna Consulting — selectmen are hoping for some future thoughts to come from the town's people that aren't necessarily influenced by the will of the selectmen or the Budget Committee.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2015 11:30

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