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Is holding a municipal primary election worth expense?

LACONIA — Next Tuesday, Sept. 10, the city will spend $10,000 and 48 paid volunteers will spend 10 hours at the polls at the primary election, after which one of the three candidates for mayor and for city councilor in Ward 2 will be eliminated from the general election ballot in November.

Laconia, Manchester and Keene, are the only cities among the 13 in the state that hold primary elections, which elsewhere were abandoned when partisan elections were replaced by non-partisan elections.

In Manchester, where a primary election costs $25,000 and requires 156 poll officials, the City Charter stipulates that if there are no more than four candidates for at-large alderman, the city clerk shall declare a primary election unnecessary and the candidates nominated in those wards where there are no more than two candidates for alderman. Of course, if there are more than two candidates for mayor on the primary ballot, the polls would be open in all 12 wards.

In Keene, the charter includes a similar provision. If there are no more than two candidates in the election for mayor and ward councilor as well as no more than 10 candidates for at-large councilors, the clerk shall declare the primary election unnecessary and the candidates nominated.

City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that he has discussed the need for primary elections with City Clerk Mary Reynolds as well as with several city councilors, who he said expressed "mixed feelings. Some see the cost savings," he continued, "while others see the downside that without a primary a mayor or councilor could be elected without winning a majority."

In Laconia, in the eight primary elections between 1997 and 2011 voter turnout has averaged nine-percent. In 2001, when turnout reached a high of 18-percent there were four candidates for mayor, along with five council candidates in Ward 3, three in Wards 4 and 5 and two in Ward 6. In three of the past eight elections — in 2003, 2009 and 2011 — primary elections were held even though there were not more than two candidates for either mayor or any of the six council seats. In 2011, only 259 of 8,422, or 3percent of registered voters went to the polls, just 21 of them in Ward 2 and another 22 in Ward 5, at a cost to the city of approximately $39 a vote.



For Tony Felch, who is challenging longtime incumbent Councilor Arman Bolduc in Ward 6, has made the future of the primary elections a theme of his campaign. "It's a waste of time and money, of everything," he said, adding that if he is successful he will urge the council to eliminate the primary.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 03:49

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In Laconia, Ayotte says any strike against Syria must be more than just 'shot across the bow'

LACONIA — U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) told workers at Titeflex during a tour of the plant yesterday that any military action taken against Syria for using chemical weapons against civilians should be ''more than just a shot across the bow'' against the Assad regime.
''We want to make sure we're having an impact,'' said Ayotte, who added that she didn't favor an open-ended commitment on the use of force in Syria and hadn't yet made up her mind on how she would vote on any resolution proposed by the Obama administration authorizing a strike against the Hassad regime.
Ayotte's comments came in response to a question from Grace Berglund, a quality control engineer at Titeflex, during a meeting held with workers at the plant following Ayotte's tour with members of its management team.
Ayotte said that she will participate in a classified briefing on Wednesday in the Senate Armed Services Committee focusing on President Obama's request for an authorization to use military force in Syria. She said that the briefing will include Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
"The decision to authorize military action is one of the most serious decisions we confront,'' said Ayotte. "This briefing will provide an opportunity for me to ask important questions and scrutinize the administration's plan — including what the impact of failing to act would have on our country and countries in the Middle East, including Syria, Israel and Iran. I look forward to learning more about the president's objectives and his military strategy for achieving them.
"While I appreciated the president's address on Saturday, I believe he should address the American people in a prime time address before Congress votes, outlining why using military force against the Assad regime is in our national security interests, what our objectives will be in using force, and how we will achieve those objectives."
Ayotte said she was particularly concerned about what message would be sent to Iran and Korea and to terrorist groups with regard to the use of chemical weapons and there proliferation if there was no action taken at all by the United States.
She was also questioned about the impact of so-called sequestration, which has led to automatic federal spending cuts, on defense in general and could have an impact on Titeflex, which does 25 percent of its business in the defense field.
Ayotte said that she had not supported sequestration because ''there are smarter ways to do this'' rather than have across the board cuts.
She was at Titeflex as part of her statewide tour of businesses and met with Graham Thomson, general manager of Titeflex, and other members of the management team.
The company, formerly known as Smith Tubular Systems and prior to that as Lewis and Saunders, employs 350 people, making it the third largest employer in the city, behind Lakes Region General Hospital and New Hampshire Ball Bearings, and has annual sales of $85 million.
Titeflex is part of the Smith Group, based in London, and leads the world in steel braided and para-aramid flexible hose. Among its major customers are Boeing, Pratt and Whitney, Rolls Royce, General Electric and Airbus.
She said that the company is looking to expand and talked with her about their concerns over health care costs, federal tax rates and the barriers in obtaining Federal Aviation Authority for a foreign repair station in the Far East which would enable it to use its current repair capabilities to compete in a growing market.

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte tells workers at Titeflex in Laconia on Tuesday that any military action taken by the United States in Syria should be more than just ''a shot across the bow'' and have a real impact on the Assad regime for having used chemical weapons on civilians. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 03:31

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At convocation, PSU honors Penny Pitou with Granite State Award

PLYMOUTH — Former Olympic skier Penny Pitou and former Governor John Lynch have been honored by Plymouth State University at the institution's Fall Convocation ceremony on Tuesday.

Convocation is the assembly of students, staff, and faculty observing the formal start of the academic year. N.H. Governor Maggie Hassan, Plymouth Selectboard Chair Valerie Scarborough, PSU Student Body President Kayla Grimes, and PSU President Sara Jayne Steen welcomed the assembly, which included trustees, friends, alumni, faculty and staff, and especially the nearly one thousand first-year students comprising the Class of 2017.

Governor Hassan and PSU Alumni Association President Amy Begg, '97, presented Governor Lynch with the Robert Frost Contemporary American Award, named in memory of America's late poet laureate, Robert Frost, who taught at Plymouth Normal School early in the 20th century. The PSU Alumni Association created the award, given only occasionally, to provide special recognition of those individuals whose extraordinary service to the state and nation best exemplifies Robert Frost's values of individuality, hard work, humanitarianism, and devotion to the country "North of Boston."

Former Olympic ski racer and Lakes Region businesswoman Penny Pitou received the Granite State Award, which is bestowed on citizens, agencies, corporations, or foundations of the State of New Hampshire whose achievements have made significant contributions. Pitou was a trailblazer in women's skiing, and a leader in New Hampshire philanthropy as well.

In 1960 she became the first American skier to win a medal in the Olympic downhill event, capturing two silvers. Following her competitive career, this Gilford native founded several ski schools in New England and has been instrumental in ski development ever since. Pitou is a successful entrepreneur who owns a travel agency in Laconia and serves on many boards and organizations supporting women. Steen noted Pitou's impressive accomplishments have been an inspiration to New Hampshire residents for decades.

"Penny Pitou has never seen barriers, only problems to be solved, and then she addressed them," Steen said. "And she has been a role model in seeing that those who followed her would have the opportunities, whether through good coaching or support organizations or scholarships, to enable them to succeed."

"I found it was important to find a passion in my life, because if I didn't find it, someone would find it for me," Pitou said. "You have to stay true to yourself ...it takes dedication, perseverance and a lot of hard work."


Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 03:25

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Young vandals cut small hole in LHS's new artificial turf football field

LACONIA — Police have interviewed three teens who they believe vandalized the new high school football field sometime Sunday night.

Capt. Matt Canfield said police were called to Bank of New Hampshire Stadium at 9 a.m. Monday morning by a School District employee.

He said police found that vandals had used what he believed to be a knife to cut out a circular piece of artificial FieldTurf about three or four inches in diameter from near the south-side 20-yard line and took latex caulking and smeared the floors and windows in the new press box.

Canfield also said at least one of the three boys defecated on the 50-yard line.

Police said yesterday that they have interviewed three boys, who were accompanied by a parent during their interviews. He said two of the boys were from Gilford and one is from Meredith.

Because all three are younger than 17-years-old, Canfield said he would not identify them.

"I'm pretty disappointed and it's quite a let down," said City Councilor Bob Hamel who co-chairs the Joint (City Council/School Board) Building Committee overseeing the Huot Regional Technical Education Center/athletic complex project on the high school campus.

"This is pretty degrading and shows the mentality of these kids," said Hamel.

"I think their parents should buy an entire swath of turf," Hamel added. "We paid for a perfect field and now we haven't got a perfect field.

"They actually took a picture of themselves sitting on our goal posts," Hamel said, referring to one of the boy's Facebook page.

He said the company that installed the turf just last week is returning to Laconia to see if the circular hole can be fixed. Hamel said the installation of the field took a total of 110 work hours by employees of the company that installed it. He also said people in the city and the School District worked tirelessly to get the field ready for the ribbon cutting ceremony and home opener Friday night.
"I think those boys should stand in the middle of the field and apologize to the football team and to the citizens of Laconia," said Hamel when asked what he thought the penalty should be for the three boys.

He also said he hopes the boys learn a little something about respect and proper behavior, fix the pain and damage they wrought, and grow up to become productive citizens.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 September 2013 03:20

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