Gale School to come before voters in three different warrant articles

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

The Gale School in 2013. (File photo)BELMONT — Voters in the Shaker Regional School District will have three opportunities at this year's School District meeting to do something with the Gale School building.

The first, submitted by petition, calls for a total of $242,878 and would relocate the school to the corner of Concord Street and restore it. Of that $242,878, $5,027 would come from the Gale School Expendable Trust, $65,000 would come from the facilities trust fund, $50,000 would come from the unassigned fund balance and $122,878 would come through new taxation.

The second article, also submitted by petition, calls for a total of $187,978, would leave the Gale School in place and would put a foundation under it as well as rehabilitate it for possible use by the school district. To leave it in place would cost $77,979 in new taxes or $44,899 less than moving it.

The third warrant article was submitted by the School Board and asks for $71,000 to tear it down. Members said it was the same proposal as last year's, which failed, adjusted for inflation.

The members of the Save Our Gale School Committee, led by Diane Marden and Ken Knowlton, generated by petition the two warrant articles that, if passed, would save the building. The warrant article to demolish, but save the bell and the bell tower, was generated by the school district.

Marden told the people who attended Belmont portion of the School District meeting on Thursday that moving the building has its positives in that the district would have the use of the space behind the middle school, it would be safer, and that a new location would mean all the people could see it sitting on the corner of Concord Street. She said the possible negative aspect of moving it is its structural integrity. If moved, it could not be put on any historical register.

Marden and Knowlton bemoaned what they said is a lack of interest on the part of the current School Board to try and save the late 1800s school building. After voters at last year's School District Meeting declined to save it or tear it down, two members of the board were assigned to participate with the Save Our Gale School Committee to study the matter.

Marden said that while Superintendent Maria Dreyer had worked with them, the board hasn't put any effort into it at all. She noted that at some point the school district removed the foundation, further compromising the building, and never finished installing a fire suppression system.

"It would be a huge mistake and a huge injustice to the citizens of Belmont (to continue to let it degrade in place)," said Marden.

Knowlton was a little more direct and said the School Board had not been a good custodian of the building and has allowed the outside of it to become "shabby and unattractive."

He said that it would made great SAU offices, and since the school is pressed for space with the addition of full-day kindergarten, the old Memorial School, which is now used for offices, could be reverted to classroom space.

Both claimed the School Board members didn't try to come up with viable solutions when they participated in the meetings.

Canterbury School Board representative Bob Reed served on the committee and said as a member he did try and was at the meeting. He said the school is a "very emotional thing," but that the space was too expensive to repurpose and the district is obligated to use what money they have to keep the building they are using in good condition.

The three warrant articles will be voted on at the March 4 Shaker School District Meeting at the Belmont High School. Polls open at 11 a.m. and the business portion of the meeting begins at 7 p.m. when polls close.

 

See more photos of the building at http://belmontnh.homestead.com/GaleAug06Photo.html

Eyes are on Laconia as primary vote takes place

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — How the city votes in today's New Hampshire Presidential Primary should be known within an hour of the polls closing at 7 p.m. 

In commemorating the 100th running of the "First in the Nation" primary, Bill Gardner, the New Hampshire Secretary of State, has asked 13 "bellwether" municipalities, those where voters have chosen the winners of every Democratic and Republican primary since 1952, to report early results.

The Democratic candidate who carried Laconia, together with five towns — Epping, Hudson, Kingston, Merrimack and Rollinsford — has won every Democratic primary since 1952. At the same time, the winner of every Republican primary has has topped the ballot in the city of Rochester and six towns - East Kingston, Lancaster, Newmarket, Pembroke, Sanbornton and Washington.

Gardner acknowledged that reporting early will require an extra effort and in an email advised 13 city and town clerks "this is not a requirement, only a request ... so don't feel as though you are obligated to do it."

City Clerk Mary Reynolds did not hesitate. She said yesterday that she has asked election officials in each of the six wards in the city to send results to City Hall as soon after the polls close as possible and expects to have them by 7:30 p.m. The results will be reported as "preliminary results."

City Council aims for economic growth

By Michael Kitch
THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Fostering the growth of the local economy and righting the balance of the demographic profile while improving the performance of municipal government emerged as the major objectives when the City Council and department heads held a strategic planning session at the Central Fire Station yesterday.

The session, like those in 2011 and 2013 was facilitated by a representative of the New Hampshire Public Risk Management Exchange, known as Primex, the city's property and liability insurance carrier.

In contrast with the earlier sessions, which features enhancing the appearance of the city and protecting the quality of its water resources, this year much of the discussion turned on what can be done to promote a stronger economy and healthier demographic.

Noting that population growth drives economic growth, Mayor Ed Engler suggested that the city could position itself as a competitive housing market by adjusting its zoning regulations and expanding its municipal services to widen the opportunities and lower the costs of residential development. Competitively priced housing, he suggested, by attracting young families, could reverse a demographic trend, which has reduced school enrollment by 20 percent while increasing the number of students eligible for free and reduced lunch to about 60 percent. "We must raise the overall level of prosperity in the community," he said. "This is a demographic issue."

At the same time, there are several immediate issues that bear directly on the economic prospects of the city. The most pressing is the future of the downtown parking garage, which requires a major investment by the city if Genesis Behavioral Health is to purchase the privately owned portion of the facility. Furthermore, city officials will have to decide whether to make an offer for the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street, which the state will offer for sale in April.

A number of initiatives bearing on the economy are already underway, including the extension of the downtown riverwalk, restoration of Weirs Beach, renovation of the Colonial Theatre and improvements to Lakeside Avenue. Meanwhile, the City Council expects to make recommendations for changes to the existing boundaries and permitted uses of the commercial resort district, which encompasses most The Weirs, to the Planning Board. The district includes 28 lots covering 446 acres, or 96-percent of the vacant or undeveloped property zoned for commercial use in the city.

Rick Alpers, who facilitated the session for Primex, said that a full report will be prepared, listing the strategic priorities and means for pursuing them, which will serve as a compass for the council and departments for the next two years.