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Plan to build kids' camp on Paugus Bay island draws protest

LACONIA — A scheduled hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) on a proposal to develop a summer camp for underprivileged children on Big Island in Paugus Bay was postponed at the request of the applicant in the face of stiff opposition from mainland residents.

Since the 2.3 acre island, located about a quarter-mile due east of the South Down Shores gated community's marina, is in the single-family residential zone, where a camp is not a permitted use, Scott Everett, who purchased the island in 2012 and seeks to develop the camp, has requested a variance from the ZBA.

Soon after abutters were notified of the project, the Planning Department received nearly a dozen letters and a number of e-mails, mostly from residents of Paugus Park Road, expressing misgivings about the project. Some of the protesters were at City Hall on Monday night.

Local attorney Rod Dyer, representing Everett, said that on reading the correspondence from abutters he concluded that a formal hearing would not offer an appropriate forum to address their concerns. Instead, he told Steve Bogert, chairman of the ZBA, that he preferred to withdraw the application for the moment and meet with the abutters informally. He emphasized that Everett has no intention of abandoning the project, but has only chosen to proceed after seeking to resolve the issues raised by abutters.

Everett, the founder and president of Supreme Lending, a mortgage lender headquartered in Dallas, Texas, who was raised and still summers in the Lakes Region, acquired the island for $725,000. This year he conveyed the property to N.H. Big Island Co., with the intention of developing a camp,owned and operated by a charitable corporation, which he would endow.

Of the three islands in Paugus Bay — Plummer, Big and Little — Big Island is the second largest. It sits about 400 yards east of the marina at South Down Shores and 1,500 feet north of Paugus Park Road. The only structures on the island are a three-bedroom seasonal camp of approximately 1,250-square-feet, which was built in 1950, an outhouse and dock. The camp is served by a dug well that likely draws water from the lake. The electric service to the island has not operated for some time.

Everett proposes to convert the camp to a lodge with cooking and dining facilities as well as quarters for counselors. Campers would be housed in five cabins, each about 12 feet by 20 feet divided two 12-foot-square rooms housing four campers for a total capacity of 20. Dyer said the camp is intended for young girls aged between 12 and 12. Water, sewer, electricity and cable would be routed to the island through a sleeve beneath Paugus Bay.

Dyer said an oral agreement has been reached with the South Down Beach Club to provide utilities to the island and applications have been made to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to run utilities under the railroad tracks and to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission to bring electricity to the island. Likewise, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has been approached about rehabilitating the existing docking facility.

In their letters, abutters raised a number of issues. Some feared that the sewer line would represent an environmental risk. Others said that the heavy boat traffic in the bay would endanger the safety of young campers. One woman said the bay was a popular venue for water skiers, wake boarders and jet skis and the presence of campers could lead to imposition of a no wake zone that would curtail these activities. Several abutters said that the camp would diminish the value of mainland properties while a camp operated by a charitable corporation would be exempt from property taxation.

Dyer said that he understood abutters have legitimate questions and concerns, but was confident their questions could be answered and their concern addressed.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:57

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Owner of stolen Donzi offers $5,000 reward

LACONIA — The man who had his boat and trailer stolen from Lakeport Landing Marina last week is offering a $5,000 reward that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who took it.

Dave Elkins said the black 27-foot Donzi was his "baby."

"I'm not much of a car guy but I love my boats," he said, speaking from his office in the Boston area yesterday.

Elkins said this is the second Donzi he's owned and he searched all over the eastern seaboard for one that hadn't been used in salt water.

He found this one in Maryland and said this was his fourth season with it. He also said this particular model isn't made any more and that Donzi didn't make many of them.

Elkins is the father of three teens who he said were heartbroken when they realized the boat had been stolen. "My wife was in tears, my kids were shaking," he said.

He said the boat and the trailer were parked at the marina and he doesn't keep a plate on his trailer because he stores the boat there during the winter.

"I keep it covered and in the same spot," he said.

Elkins said he finds it hard to believe a boat got stolen from Laconia.

"I used to keep a boat in Charlestown (Mass) and nothing ever happened to it. Who thinks a boat is going to get stolen in little ole Laconia," he said.

Police were able to see a while Toyota Tundra with two men in the cab leaving the marina when they reviewed video surveillance tape from nearby Avery's Restaurant. He also said it appears the person who took the boat took a right turn on to Elm Street after stealing it.

Elkins said the Laconia Police have been very helpful and that Chief Chris Adams called him personally.

The boat was covered with a black canvas cover when it was stolen.

Any one with any information is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:45

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Meredith selectmen & library trustees remain at odds

MEREDITH — After meeting in a workshop session yesterday, the Board of Selectmen and Board of Trustees of the Meredith Public Library appear no closer to agreement on a "Memorandum of Understanding" that would clarify the relationship and delineate the responsibilities of the town and the library.

Tension between the selectmen and trustees has arisen against the background of a state statute that vests library trustees with a measure of autonomy, particularly over compensating employees. In 2012, the trustees created a new position, filled it with an existing employee and reclassified it by three pay grades, raising the hourly wage of the incumbent by 19 percent. Town manager Phil Warren acknowledged the statutory authority of the trustees, but reminded them that the town's personnel policy authorizes the selectmen to amend "salary plan" on the recommendation of the town manager. He also that in approaching the budget, the selectmen had agreed "no new positions and no re-classifications."

Earlier this summer the selectmen presented the trustees with a draft, which provided that "in order for the town to be able to defend and uphold various legal, personnel and liability matters, it is necessary that all employees and departments, including the library, follow all town ordinances, policies (including the personnel policy) and administrative regulations." The other major component of the draft recognized that the library is a town building and provide for the town to administer and manage its day to day "maintenance and operation."

The trustees prepared a draft of their own that was circulated to the selectmen. "This redraft smell like a lawyer," Selectman Lou Kahn remarked yesterday. "I don't like lawyers, because I was one."

Colleen Nolan, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, told the selectmen that the trustees intended to prepared a personnel policy for library employees. Erin Apostolos, director of the library, assured the selectmen that the policy would be consistent with the town's policy "for the most part," but indicated that the outstanding issue remains "who has the final say."

Selectmen Peter Brothers said that while he was eager to see the library's personnel policy, he was also somewhat concerned. He noted that the relationship between the town and library may expose the town to liabilities arising from personnel practices and issues, particularly as the treatment of employees must conform to both state and federal laws. Kahn added that while state law purports to define the relationship between the town and the library, a federal court may apply a different standard.

Town Manger Phil Warren pointed out that a federal court recently ruled that both McDonald's Corporation and its franchisees are jointly responsible for the employees at privately owned franchises. "That is my concern," he said, suggesting that the town could find itself liable in a situation of the library's making.

Both Kahn and Brothers were surprised to find the trustees reluctant to yield responsibility for maintenance to the town. "If you want to go looking for a plumber," Kahn said, "that's up to you, but we thought taking over the maintenance would be an improvement." Brothers said that responsibilities are not clearly defined and delineated and that the memorandum was intended to "eliminate the guesswork."

Paul Eldridge of the Board of Trustees reminded the selectmen that "you run a municipal corporation and we run an educational institution. They can't be run the same."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:37

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Newfound, MV & Franklin courting Hill students; Winnisquam says no thanks

by Thomas P. Caldwell

HILL — The Winnisquam Regional School District has declined this town's request for proposal (RFP) to provide educational services for Hill students in grades 7-12, citing time constraints. The Hill School Board had asked in early July for proposals to be submitted by Aug. 13, in time for Hill's next school board meeting. While Winnisquam found that to be too short a deadline for a formal response, the Merrimack Valley and Newfound school districts did respond, as did Franklin, the school district Hill currently utilizes under an Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement.
School Administrative Unit 18 Business Administrator Michael O'Neill said the request did not seek specific tuition figures; only a model of how the districts would calculate the cost per pupil. Franklin's response was that it would continue using the current model which multiplies total per pupil charges by the number of days the Hill pupil is registered in the Franklin schools, then dividing by 180, with the total payment made in two installments, in October and April.
Franklin's per pupil cost is based on the appropriated operating costs of the Franklin Middle School and Franklin High School for the previous academic year, minus an agreed-upon expense for special education tuition and transportation, adjusted to exclude field trips. That total then is divided by the latest average daily membership (ADM) attendance number reported to the N.H. Department of Education.
Superintendent Robert McKenney told the Hill board at the Aug. 13 meeting that individual members of the Franklin School Board, and others in Franklin, had asked him to "bring a message of peace" and indicate that Franklin wants Hill to continue its relationship with Franklin schools.
Hill School Board Chair Shelly Henry responded that she is "struggling with the words from Franklin" coming through the lips of a superintendent who represents both Hill and Franklin. "You spoke of 'we want Hill to stay,' but you are with our district, too," she said.
McKenney said he thinks it is in Hill's best interest to stay with Franklin.
School Board Vice-Chair Nancy Coffin reminded the superintendent that "We're coming at it from the perspective of what's best for our students, and with the cuts that have taken place in Franklin, we're looking at what the school is not able to offer."
Henry agreed: "It comes down to funding and what they're able to do under their (property) tax cap."
The Hill School District voted last year to investigate its options, with its current 10-year AREA agreement with Franklin coming to an end.
School Administrative Unit 46 (Merrimack Valley) in its written response to Hill stated its interest "in discussing a mutually agreed upon arrangement with the Hill School District" and went on to highlight "a few of the unique opportunities Hill students will be afforded should MVSD be your choice."
The district emphasized its decades-long experience in "hosting and acclimating students from neighboring districts" and said, "A hallmark of our district is seen in the support we regularly receive from our local communities. This is exemplified by the fact that the district's budgets have passed every year since the incorporation of the District (1965)."
Merrimack Valley also noted that it is 20 miles from Hill and that both the middle and high school underwent significant facility upgrades in 2007. "Our physical plants and athletic complex are the envy of many visitors."
The letter concluded by saying, "We look forward to the chance to discuss and specify the scope of services and enter into a mutually beneficial agreement with the Hill School District."
Newfound, in addition to sending three documents in response to Hill's request, also sent its school board chair, Ruby Hill of Danbury, to observe and answer questions. The district's paperwork included a letter of interest, a formal response that outlined in general form the scope of services and how it would calculate the tuition rate, and an overview of the Newfound Area School District and its offerings.
Hill resident Gerard Desrochers observed that Merrimack Valley is another 15 minutes beyond Franklin and he said the district already picks up elementary students as early as 5:45 a.m. Adding another 15 minutes would be even harder on the children, he said.
As to Newfound, Desrochers said he was concerned with the troubling situation at Newfound, where the district is operating under a two percent (property) tax cap. "We don't know what their long-term situation will be," he said. "Franklin's been operating under a tax cap for a lot longer, and they're having trouble maintaining programs. With their tax cap, Newfound may be facing the same thing in not too many years."
Henry said the next step for the Hill School Board would be to meet with its attorney to review the responses and establish how to proceed in negotiating potential agreements with the interested parties.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 12:29

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