Pets die in house fire in Gunstock Acres

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — A home on White Birch Drive in Gunstock Acres suffered extensive damage and two cats perished in a Wednesday morning fire which officials said started in the basement of the two-and-a-half-story home.
Gilford Fire Chief Steve Carrier said that the fire was reported at 8:01 a.m. by the owner, who said smoke was coming from the basement. He was the only person home at the time and was able to exit the building quickly.
Gilford and Laconia companies were dispatched and Lt. Dominic DeCarli reported a large amount of smoke was coming from the rear of the residence. Lt DeCarli confirmed there was an active fire in the basement of the home and a first alarm was requested.
Gilford companies stretched a hose line into the basement through a rear, walk-out door and quickly knocked down the visible fire.
Carrier reported that although most of the fire damage was to two or three rooms in the basement, the first floor received extensive heat and smoke damage and the second floor received just smoke damage.
He said that the building is uninhabitable and estimated damage to be in excess of $100,000.
“The first arriving crew did a great job locating the fire and knocking it down quickly. Early notification played a big role in keeping the fire manageable. If nobody was home, the damage would have been much worse,” said Carrier.
He said that it appears that the fire began in the basement in the vicinity of an electrical wall switch in a storage area. “The exact cause is still under investigation, but all indications are that the fire was accidental in nature. The homeowner is making alternative housing arrangements.”
Carrier said that Gilford companies responded to the scene along with an engine and a ladder from Laconia. Engines from Belmont, Tilton-Northfield, Alton, and Meredith assisted at the scene, while Sanbornton covered the Gilford Station.
There was no damage to any other buildings or vehicles.

Most voters skipped election – City-wide turnout was 14%

 

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — In Tuesday's election determining the makeup of the City Council and the school board and deciding whether to allow keno gambling, fewer people voted in some wards than would be expected to attend a Greek wedding.

A total of 127 people voted in Ward 5, where there are 1,453 registered voters, for a turnout of 9 percent. Citywide, 1,478 people cast ballots, which is about 14 percent of the city's 10,903 registered voters.

Ward 4 incumbent Councilor Brenda Baer, who received 99 votes, lost to Mark Haynes, who had 132 votes.

“Voter apathy is not just within our city, it's throughout this country today,” Baer said. “Certain generations never miss a vote and others never vote. They just don't pay attention.”

She said people don't realize the importance of local elections.

“It affects you today, where you live, your taxes, the condition of the roads, what your schools are like,” Baer said. “It affects every single person that lives here, but that doesn't seem to sink in.”

By city charter, municipal elections are held 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. State elections are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Baer thinks the longer voting time might allow more people to come to the local polls.

City Manager Scott Myers said there has not been much demand for longer voting hours.

“I haven't heard people say they couldn't get to the polls,” he said. “I don't know if longer hours would drive voter turnout.”

A mayoral election involving voters in all six precincts might increase voter turnout, Myers said, but Mayor Ed Engler did not face a challenger this year. Ward 5 Councilor Robert Hamel and Ward 3 Councilor Henry Lipman were also unopposed in Tuesday's election.

“The overall turnout was 14 percent, and you'd love to see it above 50 percent,” Myers said.

More contested races, a hot campaign, or controversial charter questions could bring turnout to the 20 to 25 percent range, he said. Keno, which passed, didn't stir strong emotions among most people.

Political newcomer Reuben Bassett, who lost to Ward 6 incumbent Armand Bolduc, 226-191, said he found it hard to get younger people to the polls and Bolduc, who has been on the council for 34 years, had the advantage of name recognition.

Still, Bassett said he “left some votes on the table.”

“I mean there was more I could have done,” he said.

Like most council candidates, he didn't avail himself of the time-tested campaign technique of going door-to-door to ask people for their votes. He never put a campaign sign in the downtown restaurant he co-owns, Burrito Me.

Most council candidates, including Bruce Cheney, who won the Ward 1, spent a good part of the day outside a polling place, greeting voters as they arrived. His competitor, Susan Hodgkins, was also there. Cheney won, 178-148.

Incumbent Ward 2 Councilor David Bownes defeated Richard Beaudoin, 104-70.

In a lone contested school board race, incumbent Stacie Sirois defeated Rodney Roy, 82-41, in Ward 5.

The city will mail out a letter to the council winners and they will have 10 days to be sworn in, but they won't officially take their seats on the council until the first meeting in January.
The councilor position pays $2,000 yearly, Myers said.

What happens when it doesn’t snow? Gunstock balances returning money to county, saving for bad winters

ACONIA — While some members of the Belknap County Delegation seek a greater share of Gunstock Mountain Resort’s profits, members of the Gunstock Area Commission face the challenge of managing the recreation area’s resources to ensure its long-term viability.
The delegation will be meeting tonight to decide between two candidates, each with differing views on the financial management of the recreation area, to serve on the Gunstock Area Commission.
One concern for commission members is planning for the years when it doesn’t snow much at all, like it two years ago when the county-owned ski area suffered through one of its worst ski seasons in recent history as the number of skier visits dropped by one-third and income dropped by $2.1 million.
During the winter of 2015-2016 Gunstock was open for 93 days and had 117,648 skier visits, compared with being open 121 days in the winter of 2014-15 and hosting 181,090 skier visits. It was the poorest ski season in recent memory according to Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock.
Net operating loss for the year was $954,145, compared with a net operating profit of $495,904 for the previous year. Total profit center revenue for all operations, including the summer months, was down from $11,210,774 to $8,824,561, with total operating expenses declining by over $900,000.
Last year the delegation appointed one of its own members, Rep. Russ Dumais (R-Gilford), to a five-year term on the commission, who replaced Commission Chairman John Morgenstern of Gilford, who had applied for a third five-year term on the commission.
Morgenstern said that the commission had to use its reserve funds in order to make up for the revenue shortfall and was looking to build up its depleted reserveL funds in order to provide stability for its operations. Gunstock has a goal of $1 million for an operations reserve fund and $500,000 for capital expenses.
Morgenstern said at that time that he was confident that in three or four years Gunstock should be able to substantially increase its contribution to the county.
The delegation decided instead to back Dumais, who had formerly run the Alpine Ridge attraction located next to Gunstock, by an 8-1 vote,
The delegation may be facing a similar situation tonight as it decides between incumbent Commission Chairman Sean Sullivan of Laconia, who has applied for a second five-year term on the commission, and former State Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton), who in the past has called for Gunstock to increase its payments to the county.
Sullivan has charged that members of the delegation who have been negotiating on a memorandum of understanding with the commission have been bargaining in bad faith.
The last offer from the commission of $100,000 a year plus five percent of Gunstock’s operating income was rejected by the delegation’s Gunstock Committee, which is headed by Rep. Ray Howard. (R-Alton).

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