A powerhouse Christmas

12 15 Mill Yuletide 1 Alan MacRae

Belknap Mill Society Vice Chairman Jared Guilmett readies decorations for the annual Christmas event happening tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Belknap Mill to be transformed for a new Yuletide tradition


LACONIA — Santa Claus will be in the powerhouse of the Belknap Mill on Saturday as part of "Yuletide Traditions," a celebration of the season and an opportunity to enhance community engagement with the historic structure.

Mrs. Claus will be there, too.

Larry Frates, the mill’s artist in residence, will help with arts and crafts, including the making of Christmas ornaments. He will also be doing caricatures.

There will be cookies and milk, snacks, photo booths, a magic show, and storytelling, and every child will get a small gift.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and costs $10 per family, said Jared Guilmett, vice chairman of the Belknap Mill Society. Santa, who will be available for pictures and chats with young ones, leaves at noon.

“The Powerhouse has been completely transformed and the building will be full of great community spirit and holiday cheer,” Guilmett said.

“We’re excited  to offer this to the community. It is really a unique setting; it’s not the typical mall or Christmas village. This is a very industrial, community-driven building that lends itself to a fun holiday environment.”

Everyone who comes will be entered in a drawing for a door prize of a family gift basket that will include treats and gift cards.

“The mill’s membership committee has been spearheading this event,” Guilmett said. “We want to raise awareness and bring membership to new levels.”

Belknap Mill Society membership documents and information about the mill will be available at the event.

“If you become a member of the Belknap Mill Society on that day, you will not only get free admission to the event, along with the new benefits of our membership, but you and your family will also be able to ring the historic Belknap Mill bell. We are hoping to hear the bell ring quite a few times on Saturday and spread the holiday cheer around the city.”

He said children also will have a chance to search for Socks, the Belknap Mill Christmas elf, and to learn his story.

“We want to engage the community in ways beyond weddings and business meetings,” Guilmett said. “This can be a place for family and community, along with education and civil engagement.”

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Insurance shift saves county $400,000


LACONIA — Belknap County commissioners say a recent switch of medical insurance providers will save the county $400,000 a year in health insurance costs in 2018.

County Administrator Deb Shackett said the county’s current insurance provider, New Hampshire Interlocal Trust, which partners with the nonprofit Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare to provide group health insurance plans for local governments, was asking for a 22 percent rate hike.

Commissioners received a quote from the county’s former insurer, Health Trust, which offered a rate that would represent an increase of only 8 percent.

Health Trust is a nonprofit public risk pool that provides insurance for public sector employees.

Last week commissioners approved switching back to Health Trust, which until two years ago had been the county’s insurance provider. The switch required approval by the four unions representing county employees to be sure the new plan was comparable to the one currently offered.

Commission Chairman David DeVoy told members of the Belknap County Convention during Wednesday night’s budget session that negotiations are currently underway with the unions, all of whom agreed in recent years to changes in health insurance plans to a site-of-service plan that lowered rates and kept a so-called "Cadillac tax" from taking effect in 2018, which would have forced the county to pay a 40 percent tax on plans exceeding the cost limit.

Implementation of the “Cadillac tax” has  since been delayed until 2020.

The  changes two years ago to the the union contracts came at a  cost, as the county agreed to pay the entire premiums for the new plans for all employees, reversing a policy that had required employee contributions of 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

DeVoy said county negotiators are seeking to bring back employee contributions for health insurance during ongoing discussions of new contracts.

The county employs about 250 people, 40 of whom are not union members but who receive the same health insurance benefits as those negotiated by the unions.

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Belknap County to reapply for $650,000 Second Chance grant


LACONIA — Belknap County intends to reapply for a $650,000 three-year Second Chance grant to cover the cost of treatment and recovery services for inmates at the new Belknap County Community Corrections Center.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not approve the grant in October and Belknap County Commission chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) says the fact that the corrections center was still being built while the application was being considered may have worked against the county.

“We should do better next year with an application for funding a facility which is already open and producing results," DeVoy said.

He told members of the Belknap County Delegation on Wednesday night during a  discussion of the proposed $4.452 million Belknap County Corrections Department that the grant was not included in the department’s proposed budget, as it had been last year.

He said that, if the grant is received, the commission would ask the delegation to consider it as a supplemental appropriation.

The county received only one bid in August for providing treatment and recovery services at the Belknap Community Corrections Center and is negotiating terms with Horizons Counseling Center, which operated a pilot program at the county jail and has expanded it from a three-day-a-week program to a full five-day program.

Horizons submitted a proposal for a three-year contract for providing a Corrections Opportunity and Recovery and Education (CORE) program that would cost $676,225.

The proposed budget includes $220,163 for the CORE program in 2018.


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