Shaker Regional sup’t retires with year to go

Maria Dreyer

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Maria Dreyer will retire at the end of this school year, although she has a contract through June 30, 2017.
“It’s very sad we’re going to lose an educational leader like Maria,” said former School Board member Donna Cilley. “Her love and understanding of education exceeds any administrator we’re ever had.”
Cilley went on to say that when Dreyer was hired, she was given directions by the School Board and she followed them, up to and including shifting toward competency-based education.
“She is all about the children,” Cilley said.
While the School Board announcement gave no reason for her sudden retirement, about a month ago a number of residents, circulated a petition requesting her removal.
One person who signed it said there were a number of signatures on it but felt that the School Board “killed it” by inviting certain a few of the petitioners to meet with them behind closed doors. He said he since regrets signing the petition.
School Board Chairman Sean Embree said there is no direct relationship to Dreyer’s choice to retire.
Last week, The Laconia Daily Sun sent a Right To Know request to Embree, who replied Tuesday that he has brought the matter to the board’s attorneys, who will decide what will happen.
The School Board is also poring over the results of a culture survey that was proposed by District Moderator Roy Roberts at last year’s district meeting. At a recent public hearing to discuss the budget and warrant articles on this year’s ballot, Embree said the board has it and is working to disseminate the results.
Dreyer could not be reached for comment.

 

Olmstead challenges Nickerson in Sanbornton for selectman

BY MICHAEL KITCH LACONIA DAILY SUN

SANBORNTON — Seeking a fourth consecutive term on the Board of Selectman, Dave Nickerson squared off against his challenger, John Olmstead, the chairman of the Budget Committee, when the two fielded questions from some 40 voters at the library Monday night.

After serving as a drill instructor in the United States Army, Nickerson spent 42 years with what is now Verizon, half of them as as a contract work inspector and since retiring has managed a yacht club in Moultonborough. Referring to his colleagues on the selectboard, he was running because "We've got quite a team going right now," and several challenges, including economic development and road improvements, on the agenda.

Olmstead, whose great uncle Frederick Law Olmstead was the dean of landscape architecture, served in the United States Air Force for 21 years, worked in information technology and owned a business before moving to Sanbornton eight years ago. "I've seen some things that don't make me too happy," he said of his decision to enter the race, "and I want to make some changes."

Nickerson quickly found himself defending the selectboard's decision to not recommend reconstruction of the recreation building, which collapsed last year. He said the board asked for plans, but the Recreation Commission replied with a request for $98,000, but no plan.

"We didn't know what they wanted to do for $98,000," he said. "It's not about the building. We need it, but without a set of plans we couldn't approve it."

Then Nickerson was asked why he alone among the selectmen chose not to recommend adding two full-time firefighter/EMTs. "I listened to the chief," he said, "but I don't believe we need it."

Instead, he said that additional personnel was needed at the Department of Public Works.

"Do you want to fund full-time firefighters and have your roads deteriorate more?" he asked. "There's not the money to keep this infrastructure up."

Olmstead said that as chairman of the Budget Committee he faced a dilemma, explaining that on one hand he was inclined to trim the town budget and on the other he was concerned about public safety.

"I'm not 100 percent sure," he said.

Both candidates expressed support for regionalizing municipal services, an issue brought to the fore by the announcement that Laconia and Belmont would share one fire chief.

"I'm all for it," said Olmstead. "Regionalization is the way to go," echoed Nickerson, who said an opportunity was lost when the Winnisquam Fire Station was closed.

Asked to describe his objective in one word, Nickerson spoke about the success of the selectboard then, pressed as his time expired, remarked "continuity."

"Communications," Olmstead answered, explaining that he believed the selectboard could do better job of keeping residents informed as well as providing opportunities for residents to address the board. Nickerson took exception to these remarks, reminding Olmstead that the selectmen provided ample opportunity for residents to speak at their meetings.

One questioner noted that the property tax rate in Sanbornton is the second highest in Belknap County and asked the candidates about their plans to lower it. Nickerson said that the town has convened an economic development committee, which is developing a plan to expand the commercial tax base. At the same time, he noted that many residents wish to preserve the rural character of the town and are opposed to expansive commercial development. He indicated that small family businesses, operating in existing properties placing few if any demands on town services offered the most promising option.

Olmstead said the school budget is the largest component of the tax rate and pointed out that reducing expenditures by $100,000 would lower the tax rate by only 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Without offering specifics, he said that spending could be reduced, but warned against "balancing the budget on the backs of town employees." He also said that it would be self-defeating to waive property taxes in order to attract businesses.

"That idea doesn't work for Sanbornton," he said.

Both Nickerson and Olmstead said they would open to changing the time of meetings of the Board of Selectmen to enable working people to attend them. Nickerson noted that the board has met at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. and now meets at 5 p.m. "It's easy for some and harder for others," he said.

Olmstead or Nickerson John Olmstead

Nickerson or OlmsteadDavid Nickerson

Sanbornton chief bids for fulltime firefighters

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

SANBORNTON — Voters will again be asked to add two full-time firefighter/EMTs to a department staffed by on-call and per diem personnel, which Fire Chief Paul Dexter said is increasingly hard pressed to ensure the town of the emergency services it requires. A year ago, the proposal fell just four votes short of the required majority.

"We schedule according to the availability of our members," Dexter, the lone full-time member of the department, said Tuesday, "not the needs of the community or the department. I can't tell my volunteers when to work."

A proposed warrant article requests $135,200 for the salary and benefits of the two firefighter/EMTs, which would increase the department's operating budget by more than a third. The additional personnel would enable the department to staff a 12-hour daytime shift from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week, with one full-time firefighter/EMT and one part-time per diem firefighter/EMT. Dexter said that ideally he would like to hire two full-time firefighter/paramedics.

Dexter explained that currently the department runs four shifts: a daytime shift from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; an evening shift from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; a nighttime shift 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., and a morning shift from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. He said that the department can guarantee coverage only for the daytime and nighttime shifts and even then only one per diem firefighter/EMT and the chief or the chief alone may be on duty during the day.

The morning and evening shifts, when on-call firefighters are leaving and returning from work — often from outside the town — may or may not be staffed. Together these shifts represent nearly a third of the department's call volume. "Our response time on these shifts may be 20 or 30 minutes," Dexter said, adding that "30 minutes for a cardiac patient is death."

About half of all calls for service, the overwhelming majority for medical emergencies, occur during the daytime shift, a reflection of the aging demographic of the town. Dexter said that while Sanbornton has always been predominantly a residential community, it has increasingly become a retirement community as seasonal second homes have been converted to year-round primary residences by older homeowners.

"We're seeing more slips, trips and falls as well as congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)," Dexter said. "people who are really sick and need to go to the hospital. It's not the overuse of emergency medical services."

Dexter said that last year he predicted "a landslide either way" and was surprised by the margin of four votes and this year has simply sought to make the best case based on the numbers.

The Board of Selectmen recommended the warrant article with Karen Ober and Johnny Van Tassel voting in favor and chairman Dave Nickerson dissenting, while the Budget Committee recommended against it.