Guarino to stay in race

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Sheriff clarifies that Gilmanton candidate was not arrested last year as result of civil suit


GILMANTON — Donald Guarino, the selectman's candidate who was arrested on Feb. 15 over his failure to appear in court over a civil case, pushed back on Wednesday, insisting he's staying in the race and pointing out that he did not get arrested last year as previously reported.
On Feb. 15, Donald Guarino was arrested as he turned himself in with the sheriff's office, according to initial information from the Belknap County Sheriff's Office. The initial report stated that Guarino was arrested twice last year on the same small claims charge, both times for failure to appear. But on Wednesday, Sheriff Michael Moyer confirmed that Guarino was not actually arrested in those two previous instances, although warrants for his arrest were issued.
"The only time we've arrested him pertaining to this case was Feb. 15 on the civil warrant with $1,000 bail," Moyer said.
"There were two other warrants issued, but they were vacated. Mr. Guarino is correct, he was never arrested for those two. Somehow he got them vacated," Moyer said.
"I haven't been arrested three times on this," Guarino said Wednesday, arguing this element of the story cast him in a far more negative light. The arrest stemmed from a civil case out of Concord.
Rick Watrous, a former legislator who lives with his wife in Concord, said he hired Guarino as a contractor in November 2013 to work on the couple's sunroom and to shore up the foundation, but that much of the work remained uncompleted. In 2015, Watrous won in small claims court. The court ruled that Guarino failed to fulfill the contract. That's when the trouble really started for Guarino.
Guarino said the 6th District Court sent electronic notifications of his court dates, but he said he didn't receive these email messages.
"This is all done electronically out of the 6th District Court, everything is electronic, it's a no-paper system, and I'm not savvy like some people. I missed a court date. Once I realized I had missed it, and I received the call from the Belknap County Sheriff's Department, I went up there and I took care of it," he said.
Guarino said he submitted motions to vacate, which were granted. "I had no reason not to appear," he said.
The notion of outstanding warrants for his arrest struck him as absurd.
"I'm not driving around eluding police," Guarino said.
But when he was arrested last month after a third missed court appointment, Guarino said he took responsibility.
"On the last court date, It was absolutely my fault, so when the Belknap County Sheriff's Department called me, I went up there," Guarino said.
Guarino said he is considering an appeal of the July 29, 2015, decision of Judge Kristin Spath, who found Guarino guilty of breach of contract.
Time ran out on his hearing, Guarino said, a procedural issue that could form the basis of an appeal.
Guarino said Judge Spath was looking at the clock at the time that Watrous was making his closing arguments, and "she said, 'I've heard enough.' I never had the opportunity to submit my closing arguments."
Guarino said he understands he can't appeal the judge's decision based on the outcome, but he felt unfairly treated. "I actually felt she should have continued the case to the following day," he said.
"I have considered an appeal," he said, calling the resolution "deficient."
"All of these things have been difficult on my end," Guarino said.
The former Gilmanton selectman ran afoul of the law as a selectman in late 2014. He pleaded guilty Dec. 4, 2014, in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, to a violation level charge of forging a vehicle inspection sticker.
Guarino said he will not withdraw from the March 14 election, despite these past incidents.
"I'm not stepping out of the race. I made a stupid mistake a number of years ago, I scraped a sticker off one pickup truck and placed it on another. I apologized, I paid the fine. It was a total lack of judgment. This is a whole different deal, it's a civil case. I actually think the customer received a value."
Guarino said he's proud that he preserved a tile floor while jacking up a floor for a new foundation, and he repaired a post in the corner supporting the header. "I never billed for any extra work," he said.
Calling the civil suit a "terrible situation," Guarino said he recognized the impasse. "I didn't believe that we could work through it," he said.

"Because of the fact that the relationship had deteriorated, I thought it was mutually agreed that we were done. And I said he could have the funds that were left to purchase the windows and finish the siding."
Other aspects of the job, such as a spray-foam insulation addition, showed professionalism, Guarino said, as he defended his workmanship. And he said his billing was reasonable.
"I do all the labor, I buy all the shingles. You bring all that in at $6,000, all the additional work, on a job that I think the total price tag was in the vicinity of $12,000," Guarino said. "It's just unfortunate."
Asked if a pending May 4 failure-to-appear hearing in the Concord District Court and his required payment of the court-ordered restitution would end the matter for him, Guarino hedged.
"It depends upon the appeal process. If the appeal won't be heard for some technical reason — which I haven't filed the appeal — then I'll close this out," he said.
Guarino said people are emailing him with expressions of support, and two people have offered to help him pay off his restitution.
Asked why the news of his Feb. 15 arrest came out right before the March 14 election, Guarino laughed.
"This is all about the election. This reflects national stuff. It's small town politics at its finest," he said.

Guarino took issue with his opponent, incumbent Selectman Marshall Bishop, for saying Guarino is a "nice person" but someone, under the circumstances, who should step down from the race.

"I think it's really important to realize that this conflict that Marshall Bishop is having with the town of Gilmanton is costing the taxpayers," Guarino said, referring to ongoing litigation over site-plan approval for Bishop's business, Gilmanton Winery. Guarino said the lawsuit has cost the town $4,431. "This conflict is costing us," he said.

"I'm totally committed to the town, I'm head of the Fourth of July Association, I've had previous experience as a selectman, multiple terms as a selectman. I'm in the Academy. My name is on a plaque in the Academy, one of the original members of the Academy Restoration Committee," Guarino said.

"I think Marshall Bishop is a nice person, and I think it's a shame that he's suing the town of Gilmanton, and I think he should step down," he said.

Bishop, in a selectmen's candidate statement, said, "It's not about me. It's about the board because we make a decision as one. So it's not about me. It's about what we as the board can do for the town."


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 Selectman Marshall Bishop at a recent meeting of the board in Gilmanton. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)


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Gilmanton selectman's candidate Don Guarino said he still enjoys community support. Here, signs for his election are located along Route 107. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)

Stabbing suspect held


LACONIA — Melissa Mooney, 32, was held in Belknap County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bail after pleading not guilty to charges of first degree assault, a class A felony, and possession of narcotic drug, when she was arraigned in Belknap Superior Court on Wednesday.

03-07 Melissa MooneyMooney was arrested on Tuesday after allegedly stabbing Jason Tarr, with whom she was living in a closet on the third floor of an apartment building at 123 Union Ave., the day before, in the midst of an argument about money and drugs. She was at the courthouse, but did not appear at the arraignment, where she was represented by attorney Ted Barnes of Concord.

According to the affidavit, as police were en route to Baldwin Street, where Tarr lay bleeding, a caller reported that Mooney had stabbed her boyfriend. One witness told police that Mooney followed Tarr from 123 Union Ave. toward Baldwin Street, shouting "Where's my money?" As the two crossed Union Avenue, the witness told police that Mooney appeared to stab Tarr in the back then continued to follow him, yelling "Give me my money. I need to leave before the cops get here."

A second witness, who knew Mooney by sight, told police that from her home on Baldwin Street she saw and heard the pair arguing, then followed Mooney as she returned to 123 Union Ave., where she locked herself in the closet. Police forced entry, detained Mooney for questioning and found a bloodstained jacket, drug paraphernalia and a cell phone, along with two knives, one with blood on the blade. A search of Mooney's purse found 4.7 grams of methamphetamine.

Meanwhile, the affidavit records that Detective Kendra Neri spoke with Tarr at Lakes Region General Hospital, who according to the affidavit, told her "I was stabbed by my girlfriend." Asked who that was, Neri reported he replied "Melissa Mooney" and added she wanted to use his money to buy heroin. When interviewed by police, Mooney denied having stabbed Tarr.

Restoring the Colonial Theatre

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The interior of The Colonial Theatre has been cleared of the divisions into five separate theaters and awaits restoration. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)

 Downtown project gets approval for site plan as fundraising efforts continue


LACONIA — Lorraine Benoit recalls the magical feel of sunlight streaming through the entry of the ornate Colonial Theatre in 1951 when she got a job as an usherette at age 16.

A $14 million project to restore the 103-year-old building and surrounding property may just return a little of that magic.

Architect Rob Turpin also hopes to create a fun destination and foster downtown development.

We want people to have a great time here,” Turpin said in the building on a freezing Monday morning. “Obviously, with the theater being restored, we'll bring back a lot of the grandeur, but beyond that we want to make sure their experiences here are fabulous. If they see and appreciate the level of detail with the revitalization work, that's icing on the cake.”

A 3D rendering of the project shows a brick building with clean lines, expansive windows and the trademark vertical "Colonial" sign. The city Planning Board gave conditional approval to the project's site plan Tuesday.    

The yearlong work to refurbish the theater, 14 apartments and four commercial units is to begin in late spring or early summer. The theater hasn't been used in years, and major work will be needed on electrical, plumbing and heat and air systems.

It began its life with 1,400 seats, but will have 750 seats, including 300 in the balcony, after restoration. Modern standards require wider seats and aisles.

Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, which is the entity that owns the Colonial properties, said 300 people have contributed $1.5 million in a public fundraising campaign. Federal and state tax credits and grants as well as a city loan are part of the overall funding package. The city provided a short-term loan of $1.4 million to the BEDC in July 2015 that enabled the BEDC to buy the properties from Patricia Baldi.

We think this will be a catalytic project for Laconia and the region,” he said. “We know we will have a strong economic development effect. Property tax values will grow. Jobs will be created.”

Hints of grandeur can be seen in the entryway's smudged dark and light marble, crumbling gold plasterwork and dusty purple-tinted prism glass.

In an effort to restore the theater in a historically accurate way, Turpin's Laconia architecture firm has interviewed people with knowledge of its history, including Benoit, the one-time usherette.

He has also studied other restoration projects, including the 1924 Colonial Theatre in Keene, the 1915 Palace Theatre in Manchester and the 1878 Music Hall in Portsmouth.

Benoit's first memories of the theater were as a 9-year-old girl, when it cost 12 cents to see a show. This was well after the days when it mainly hosted vaudeville acts.

When she got her job there as a junior in high school, she felt privileged.

On sultry summer afternoons, the theater was cool inside, as it always was,” she remembered. “I was standing in the alcove space next to the cashier's cage, and the sunlight was streaming in through the main entry, illuminating the entire lobby.”

She once stepped outside and saw John Carradine, the famous actor, and got his autograph.

Brian Waldron, 39, has different memories of the theater. He recalls going there in the 1980s after it was divided into several small cinemas.

He now owns a hair salon in Concord, a city that has had its own downtown revitalization. New energy and economic investment has flowed to the area. He thinks the same thing can happen in Laconia.

Concord's downtown was a sleepy place before it got a facelift,” Waldron said. “Now it's a walking downtown, with places where people can commune. The arts are really the driver.”

He sees similar potential for Laconia's downtown, and he has a personal interest. Waldron is a singer-songwriter who performs in Concord and elsewhere. He would like to see the Colonial Theatre become a venue for him and other musicians:

Absolutely. I'd love to play there,” said Waldron.

 Colonial 1

The above view of the Colonial Theatre shows it from Main Street. Below is the view from Canal Street, which shows an entrance to the upper-level apartments. (Courtesy Misiaszek Turpin Architecture)

Colonial 2



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This postcard image shows what The Colonial Theatre looked like when it opened in 1914 as a venue for vaudeville. It later served as a movie house. (Courtesy photo)

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The marquee of The Colonial Theatre in 1949 for the showing of "Mighty Joe Young." (Courtesy photo)