Meredith Village Savings Bank gives $350,000 to Colonial Theatre project

LACONIA — Meredith Village Savings Bank (MVSB) has committed to a $350,000 donation to the Belknap Economic Development Council (EDC) for the Colonial Theater Redevelopment Project in Laconia. The bank's investment is a significant contribution to the renovation of the Colonial Theatre and its transformation into a civic auditorium.

Of that donation, $200,000 is through the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority's tax credit program.

Located at 609 Main St. in the heart of downtown Laconia, the Colonial Theatre has long been of great interest to city and business leaders.

"We are thankful to the Belknap EDC and the local leadership who are committed to the hard work of renovating a once beautiful theater back to its former glory," said Rick Wyman, president of Meredith Village Savings Bank. "Having a civic auditorium in the heart of downtown Laconia will continue to spur people to live, work and play in the Lakes Region."

The Colonial Theatre has entered its first phase of rehabilitation, beginning with the demolition of a movie cinema partition that was installed in 1980s, though the theater had once hosted circuses and vaudeville acts when it first opened in 1914. The movie theater closed in the early 2000s.The project will turn the 101-year-old structure into a civic auditorium.

"We're so thankful for the generous contribution of Meredith Village Savings Bank," said Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap EDC. "This is a major investment in both the theater's and city's revitalization. Our goal is to eventually fill the entire space with businesses and services that complement its role as a civic auditorium."

The renovation consists of rehabilitating 38,000 square feet of space, which includes a 20,000-square-foot theater, as well as commercial and residential spaces in front of the building.

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Celebrating the donation of $350,000 in money and tax credits to the Colonial Theatre redevelopment project Wednesday are, from left: Ed Engler, mayor of Laconia and Belknap Economic Development Council director; Gracie Cilley, vice president, commercial loan officer for Meredith Village Savings Bank; Justin Slattery, executive director of Belknap Economic Development Council; Rick Wyman, president of Meredith Village Savings Bank; and Randy Eifert, Belknap Economic Development Council chairman.

Commissioners OK tentative agreement with nursing home workers


LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners Wednesday morning unanimously supported a two-year contract with the 81 unionized employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home which will provide a one-time $2,000 health incentive bonus and replaces the current HMO health insurance plan with a site-of-service plan.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that the contract with the State Employees Association local 1984 bargaining unit was recently approved by what the union representatives told him was "a clear majority." Earlier this year, the union rejected a proposed contract by a 33-14 vote.
Taylor, who represented the commission during negotiations with the union, said the contract will increase costs by $61,029 in the first year but reduce them by $60,735 in the second year.
"Going forward this saves us money," said Taylor, who said that the agreement also provides for $500 health savings plan and step increases but no cost of living increase in the first year of the contract.
He said that the switch to a site-of-service health insurance plan "gets rid of the Cadillac insurance plan," which in the future would have resulted in the county paying taxes on health insurance because premiums would exceed federal guidelines.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that the plan is "a good deal," and that it will have to go before the Belknap County Delegation for approval. Two years ago the delegation turned down a tentative agreement with the union which had been approved by commissioners.
The commission's offer mirrored the collective bargaining agreements negotiated with Teamsters Local 633 representing managerial and administrative employees and the Belknap County Sheriff;'s Department and the State Employees Association representing Belknap County Corrections Department officers, all of which have been ratified by the members of both unions and approved by the Belknap County Delegation.

Republican monopoly in jeopardy for Belknap District 2


Vote 2016Two years ago, Republicans captured all four seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from these two waterfront towns, but with only two of the incumbents seeking re-election the GOP monopoly in the district could be in doubt.

The two incumbents are Republican Herb Vadney of Meredith, running for his third term, and Glenn Aldrich of Gilford running for his second term.

A retired colonel in the United States Air Force, Vadney is fond of voting against anything that would put the fiscal health of the state at risk. He voted against several measures to address the opioid crisis that carried by bipartisan majorities. He opposed raising the gas tax, claiming that the proceeds would not be applied to their intended purpose, and expanding eligibility for Medicaid, fearing the federal government would reduce or withdraw its funding and place the cost on the state. He has opposed introducing Common Core and raising the minimum wage while favoring right-to-work legislation. Vadney has earned high rating and endorsements from both the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance and Americans for Prosperity.

Aldrich, a contractor, has close ties to the Free State Movement as a member of the Lakes Region Porcupines and has been endorsed by a leader of the Lakes Region Tea Party, but prefers to be called "a Granite Stater." He is a strong supporter of the right to bear arms and an equally strong opponent of the right to abortion. He voted against Common Core and expanded Medicaid and measures to tackle drug addiction but in favor of right-to-work legislation and not requiring a license to carry a concealed firearm. He calls for lowering business taxes to increase investment in business expansion and relaxing business to encourage entrepreneurship and competition.

The two new candidates on the Republican ticket are Mark Abear of Meredith and Norm Silber of Gilford.

A retiree who worked as an account engineer with United Parcel Service and owned several small businesses, Abear, who is a frequent guest on "The Advocates," the radio talk show hosted by Niel Young, said, "I've thrown enough goo at enough people that it's time to put up or shut up." As a candidate for state representative, he said, "I'm running to fill that job and my intent is to vote for what makes us more free and against what makes us less free," but beyond that remarked only "I'm not going with a personal agenda."

Silber is a semi-retired attorney who chairs the Budget Committee and sits on the Planning Board in Gilford. Although he is also seeking a seat in the House, he cited the adage that "No man's life, liberty or property is safe if the Legislature is in session" among his favorite maxims. His goal, he remarked, is to shrink the size and scope of government by "cutting its life blood — taxes — and not piecemeal." He favors restoring what he called "the New Hampshire advantage" of natural beauty, small government, no broad-based tax and a good education system." He is opposed to expanding eligibility for Medicaid, suggesting physicians and hospital provide more charitable care, and favors right-to-work legislation and parental choice in education as well as greater emphasis on vocational training.

Lisa DiMartino of Gilford, who won one of the four seats in the district in 2012, is the most experienced of the four Democrats on the ticket. A native of Brooklyn, New York, DiMartino has lived for the past 17 years in Gilford, where she was the children's librarian. The mother of a son born with a rare syndrome and autism, she has long championed the rights of those with disabilities and serves on the Governor's Commission on Disability. During her term in the House, she was a member of the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee and has also served on the Suicide Prevention Council and Long-Term Care Committee. DiMartino strongly supports the expansion of Medicaid and favors investing in public schools and colleges to foster the skilled workforce required to strengthen the economy.

Dorothy Piquado and Nancy Frost, who both ran in 2014, are making their second bids along with newcomer Johan Andersen.

Piquado, a Canadian who taught abroad for 37 before retiring to Gilford in 2004 and becoming an American citizen two years later, was introduced to state politics by Frost's mother, Mary, a longtime Democratic activist. Calling herself an "idealist," Piquado favors universal health care and supports the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid. Likewise, she is a champion of public education who questions the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the expense of the liberal arts, especially history, which hones critical thinking skills and fosters responsible citizenship.

Frost, who taught English as a second language in public schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, also worked in broadcasting news and health care marketing. Like Piquado, she has volunteered to teach at the Belknap County Jail. Troubled by the high cost of higher education, she favors measures to reduce the debt carried by graduates, including offering programs to enable them to refinance their loans.

Andersen, whose family traces its roots at Squam Lake back three generations, came to Gilford some 15 years ago after "many careers," including teaching at a private school and training heath insurance agents. "Health care " he said, "is a huge hot button for me." He recalled working with low income people for whom the cost of health care is "devastating." Andersen also retains a commitment to education and has taught as a substitute in the Gilford schools. In particular, he expressed concern that those with disabilities, especially children, need stronger legislative advocates to ensure they receive the services they require. Finally, Andersen called attention to the withholding of funds and transfer of costs to cities and towns by the state, which increases the burden on local property taxpayers.