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After repairning damage caused by 2nd fire, Pitman's ready to reopen on Thurs.

LACONIA — Pitman's Freight Room, a live entertainment venue that has apparently been targeted on two separate occasions by a firebug, will reopen this weekend with live shows scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Owner Dick Mitchell said yesterday that he replaced about 30-feet of wall on the outside of the building on New Salem Street and 15-feet of wall on the inside. He said they heating and air conditioning system were replaced as well.

"It's a real pain in the butt," Mitchell said yesterday referring to the fires. "It's like someone standing on your fingers when you're trying to get up."

He said he can't be angry at the person or people who have set the fires because he doesn't know who they are.

"Both of our fires were set the same night as the dumpsters at (nearby) Hector's (restaurant)," he said.

"I just wished they'd go away or get caught," he said, noting that security cameras and new smoke alarms have been installed and are working.

There have been two suspicious fires at Pitman's and both appear to have been set it the exact same place. The first was September 28 and the second was on October 30. These are two of some recent suspicious fires in the same area since September 22 when a three-alarm blaze gutted an industrial complex on the corner of Fair and Court Streets.

Firefighters were able to extinguish both of them and both of them caused most of the damage to the exterior of the building.

He said autumn is one of the best times of year for the Freight Room. He said the winter keeps people inside and in the summer, people often go to the Weirs, so the fall and spring are some of their busiest times.

Mitchell said there is a real desire and need for a live entertainment venue in downtown Laconia like Pitman's, which also serves as an occasional incubator for local talent looking for exposure.

"I know it's not a new idea, but it's one we like for downtown Laconia," he said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 01:20

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Meredith commander tells Veterans Day gathering Legion needs new members to survive

MEREDITH — Griggs-Wyatt American Legion Post Commander Bob Kennelly told those attending a Veterans Day ceremony here yesterday that the the Post needs more members in order to survive.
''We won't have a viable legion post unless more people join. We're losing our World War II and Korean War veterans and starting to lose some who served in Vietnam. We want to make sure it survives as a viable organization and need people who have ties to the service to step up and join us,'' said Kennelly, who said that there are support organizations like the auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion are open to non-veterans.
''It's always been our tradition to come together to take care of our veterans and we need a strong Legion Post in order to do that.'' said Kennelly.
A Korean War veteran, Kennelly turned the microphone over to another Korean War veteran, Master Sgt. Elliott Finn, who gave a history of Veterans Day, pointing out that it was originally known as Armistice Day and first celebrated in 1926 to mark the end of World War I, which was concluded with an armistice at 11 a.m. on November 11 in 1918.
It was designated as a day to honor all veterans in 1954 according to Finn, who said that the purposes of Veterans Day and Memorial Day are often confused.
He said that Memorial Day honors military personnel who died in service to their country. Veterans Day thanks all men and women who have served honorably in the military during times of war and peace.
He said that American leaders have known throughout the nation's history how important it is to honor veterans and quoted General George Washington, the first American president , who said "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."
Following the traditional Veterans Day ceremony in front of the library, the Legion Color Guard and those taking part in the ceremony walked to the site of the POW-MIA Memorial at Hesky Park, where they were greeted by Bob Jones, one of those who helped found the weekly POW-MIA vigil which marked its 25th year in August.
Jones said that the Meredith site, which is the state's original POW-MIA memorial is the best site in the state to observe Veterans Day, along with the N.H. Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen and the N.H. Soldiers Home in Tilton.
He introduced Karen Thurston of Gilford, head of the Blue Star Mothers of New Hampshire, who revived the statewide organization, which provides support and recognition for the mothers of members of the armed forces, in 2004 when her son was deployed overseas.
She said the organization now has 137 members and last year helped lay 1,000 wreaths at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery last year. It will take part in the Wreaths for Boscawen event on Dec. 14 of this year.


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Master Sgt. Elliott Finn, a Korean War veteran, speaks at the Veterans Day ceremony in Meredith on Monday. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 01:13

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Another suspicious fire near Laconia railroad tracks; this time a commercial pickup falls victim

LACONIA — Police are investigating a truck fire that occurred Sunday night behind a Bay Street business.

Police said the fire involved a pickup belonging to one of the owners of an commercial condominium at 60 Bay Street.

Police said a resident said they saw someone dressed in dark clothing running away from the area toward Fair Street just before the fire. A Gilford K-9 tracked a scent for some distance without locating any suspect.

Laconia Fire Lt. Chad Vaillancourt said firefighters responded to a report of smoke and a fire smell in the area of Fair and Court Streets and traced the source to a burning truck.

Vaillancourt said the truck was "completely involved" when firefighters arrived.

A man who did not wish to be identified who lives in the area said he returned to his home around 10:30 p.m. and saw multiple firetrucks and police cars. He said he saw a pickup truck that was on fire, adding it was between two other vehicles.

He said he has since learned the vehicles on either side of it were also damaged in the blaze although the pickup that burned had been removed by officials.

The man said he sees lots of "kids" walking along the railroad tracks that are adjacent to the business lot and that they often make trouble for some of the homeless people who camp in the area.

This is the latest in a series suspicious fires that have been set in the downtown area and most of them have been near the railroad tracks.

The most serious blaze was Sept. 22 and it destroyed the commercial building on the corner of Fair and Court Streets. Six businesses, including Little Caesar's Pizza, an electrical supply company and the LRGHealthcare laundry facilities lost their places of business and their supplies.

That same morning, police also investigated a smaller fire on Bay Street that appeared to have been set but burned itself out.

Since then, there have been two fires on the back deck of Pitman's Freight Room on New Salem Street and several suspicious dumpster fires — some of which were on the same nights as the Pitman's Freight Room fires.

Last week, Belmont Fire Chief Dave Parenti confirmed there was a dumpster fire along Route 3 that was very close to the Laconia line (at a building on the same property as the Belknap Mall) and close to the railroad tracks. Parenti said the blaze destroyed everything in the dumpster and firefighters couldn't determine if it was set or not.

He said he had made surrounding community fire chiefs and police chiefs aware of the fire.

Anyone with any information about Sunday's truck fire is asked to call the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717 for those who wish to remain anonymous.

CAPTION: The charred remains of a green Ford pickup F-250 that was burned in what officials say is a suspicious fire behind an commercial condominium on Bay Street Sunday night. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 01:07

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Alton man says all 10 cars in his yard belong to his family and they are all properly registered

ALTON — The Church Street man who has been accused of operating a junkyard and a car repair operation from his residential-zoned property said yesterday that charges against him are all a lie.

Mark Hanson said either he or his wife owns every car on his property and that all of them are registered to one of them.

"I have cars. Six are for my wife and four are for me," Hanson said yesterday.

He said when he first spoke to Building Inspector John Dever, he was told that he could have two unregistered vehicles on his property. He said he had two at the time but after he got a voice message from Dever saying the limit was one car, he went and registered one of the two that were unregistered.

As fo rDever's claim that he was operating a car repair facility, Hanson said he does some work on the cars that he owns and takes his old cars to the junkyard.

"I'm not the junkyard," he said.

He said when he got the first notice to stop operating a junkyard and a repair shop he was "flabbergasted."

When asked about an an alleged sale on Craig's List (an online exchange and sales website) he said he tried to sell one motor. "Everyone sells stuff on Craig's list," he said.

Hanson said at one point he had a few old oil tanks on his property that he was making into a pig-roaster for his stepson and during the process, the building inspector asked him questions about them, telling him the tanks had to be inspected.

He also said that at one point he had a couple of rear axles for one of his cars and believed they could be viewed from the nearby First Congregational Church, where he thinks the complaints originated.

"Now I'm told I'm a repair shop," he said.

"He (the building inspector) complained about oil spots on my driveway," Hanson said.

When asked why he didn't put up a fence between his property and the church, he said he is working on it.

"I have put all my stuff in one place and put it under a tarp," he said, calling himself a nice guy who doesn't want to bother anybody.

He said he was being forced to fight the town in court and has had to borrow money to hire a lawyer.

"I'm just working on my stuff," he said. "It's my stuff in my yard."

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 November 2013 02:46

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