by Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School District Budget Committee finalized its recommendations for the 2015-2016 school year following a public hearing on Jan. 9, lending its endorsement to a petitioned warrant article that would bring the middle school football program under the umbrella of Newfound athletics.
The petitioned article calls for the district to provide $15,000 per year to support the feeder program known as the Junior Bears. Until now, the Friends of Newfound Football has funded and operated the program at Newfound Memorial Middle School.
The Friends organization also supports the high school program which, like the Junior Bears, began as an independent athletic program but since has become taxpayer-financed, although the Friends maintain the field.
During the budget committee deliberations, Friends President Lynn Comeau of Hebron clarified that the cost of operating the program is about $8,000 per year but that the $15,000 figure would also provide money for uniforms and helmets that need replacing. She expects actual costs next year to be less than $15,000, providing a surplus that the program could carry forward to reduce future years' spending.
Superintendent Stacy Buckley said that, although the article calls for ongoing payments, it would require a new appropriation each year.
During the sparsely attended public hearing, several supporters spoke of the value of the program to students who might not excel in academics or other sports. Football Coach Andrew Szendre noted that the Division III coaches had chosen Newfound as having the best overall sportsmanship from players, coaches, spectators, and the home climate. The team also has helped with regional events such as the New Hampshire Marathon and raised money for the local food pantry.
Other speakers questioned whether adding another sports program would be prudent when there are academic needs that are not being met. Money for textbooks was cut to meet the district's tax cap and the guidance department has been pared back.
Budget committee member Christen Dolloff of Bristol cited those concerns later, saying she had a hard time supporting the article when she is hearing guidance counselors saying the students need more assistance.
Others, however, said the football program answers some of the problems guidance faces in meeting students' needs. Jeff Bird of Bridgewater gave an impassioned plea for the committee to support the article, saying the program builds a sense of community. He noted that bringing the program into the school district brings another level of safety to the participants, as well, as the district can conduct concussion tests, while the Friends cannot.
Harold "Skip" Reilly of Alexandria made the motion to support the article, saying the program builds confidence and character. When it came to a vote, only John Jenness II of New Hampton voted against supporting the article.
The budget hearing attracted a small audience of 15, most of whom were connected with the schools. Chair Simon Barnett of Danbury reviewed the warrant articles, highlighting the budget impacts of the two-year teacher's contract, and he dispensed with a close review of the proposed budget, instead focusing on changes the Newfound Area School Board had made to the administration's original proposal and the items the budget committee adjusted.
The budget committee had added back $93,000 for replacement of the roof and drainage at the middle school; $10,960 for refurbishment of gymnasium floors; $16,000 for a projection system in the high school auditorium; and $10,000 for the painting of buildings.
The total proposed budget is $21,948,204, an increase of $2,767 from the current-year budget.
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:48
CONCORD — Employment in the Lakes Region will increase 6.3 percent during the decade between 2012 and 2022, the third slowest pace among the nine planning regions in the state, according to projections by the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.
The Lakes Region consists of two cities — Laconia and Franklin — and 28 towns in Belknap, Grafton, Carroll and Merrimack counties. All 11 municipalities in Belknap County are included in the region. The agency chose to develop the projections for planning regions because they represent areas of greater economic coherence than counties.
The agency projects total employment in the Lakes Region to grow from an estimated 44,222 to 46,987 during the 10-year period, an increase of 2,765 jobs. Employment in the goods-producing sector — manufacturing, construction, agriculture and mining — which together provided 6,865 jobs in 2012, is projected to shed 45 jobs, a decrease of 0.7 percent. Employment in manufacturing is projected to slip 3.9 percent, or by 177 jobs, which represents "a drag on growth". The construction sector is expected to add 109 jobs.
Employment in the service sector is projected to expand by 2,818 jobs, an increase of 8.1 percent from an estimated 34,639 jobs in 2012 to a projected 37,457 jobs in 2022. Health care and social work, which provided 5,762 jobs in 2012, are expected to account for 40 percent of the projected growth by adding 1,138 jobs, an increase of 20 percent. Most of the remainder of the projected growth in employment is represented by additional jobs in hospitality, retail trade and educational services.
Government, which employed 3,501 people in 2012, is projected to add 178 jobs, 132 of them in municipal and county government.
The three regions projected to post the greatest increases in employment are the Rockingham region, including the Seacoast, the Southern Region, centered on Manchester, and the Upper Valley, anchored by Hanover and Lebanon, where employment is expected to expand by 14.7 percent, 14.1 percent and 10.2 percent respectively. The lowest rates of growth are projected in the North County and Southwest, where employment is expected to expand by 4.8 percent.
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:41
LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention has set a deadline of noon on Friday, January 23 for candidates to express interest in filling a two-year vacancy on the Belknap County Commission.
The District 3 Commission seat vacancy was created by the resignation of Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith), who had two years left in his term, which was effective as of January 1.
Candidates for the vacant seat must be from the towns of Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford or Meredith and will be asked to file a cover letter and resume with the Belknap County Administrator's office.
Convention chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) says that the entire convention will be involved in the interview process for the applicants for the position and that the convention hopes to have a new commissioner seated by the end of the month.
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:28
BELMONT — The Shaker School Board delayed taking action on the possible demolition of the historic, now abandoned Gale School Tuesday until after Building and Grounds Manager Doug Ellis gets the final costs for asbestos removal.
The demolition of the school and the preservation of the bell and steeple would go on a warrant article at the district meeting for voter approval.
The school building is located on a perch behind the Middle School, at the edge of Bryant Field.
Ellis said Tuesday he has budgeted $65,000 — $42,500 for the demolition and $15,000 for preserving the bell and the steeple. He also factored in $7,500 for contingency and said the school will do the landscaping itself.
The $65,000 doesn't include preserving, moving or storing the bell or the steeple said Ellis.
The plan now is to preserve the bell and steeple, but at Tuesday's meeting Belmont Board member Richy Bryant said he wasn't willing to support a warrant article to demolish the school unless there was a solid plan for how they will preserve and store the bell and the steeple.
"What do we do with a steeple and a bell?" he asked. "Have we talked to the historical people?"
Bryant also wanted to know how much it would cost to store the steeple and where it would be stored.
Belmont member Donna Cilley noted the Heritage Commission opposes the demolition of the school but she suggested the school district made a formal outreach to the commission to see if it is interested in the bell and the steeple.
Business Administrator Deb Thompson said there is $5,000 in a trust to preserve the school it its entirely and she would have to ask the N.H. Department of Revenue and Administration if it's possible to re-purpose the trust so the money can be used to preserve the steeple and bell.
Superintendent Maria Dreyer said that theoretically, a land mark from a previous school would be incorporated into the next school that is build. There are no plans for building any schools in the district in the foreseeable future.
The Gale School was built in 1894 and was later named for the same Laconia banker — Napoleon B. Gale — whose name is on the city's public library. His will instructed that $10,000 of his estate was to be donated to the Town of Belmont. Gale represented Belmont in the state legislature in 1868-69.
By the mid 1950s, the school was being used only for administrative office space and its rooms were further relegated to use only for cold storage when the new elementary school opened in 1985.
The demolition of the Gale School has been a hot-button topic in Belmont for years. The Save the Gale School Committee — a non-governmental association of people in Belmont who don't want the school demolished — has repeatedly come up with suggestions to save the school but, to date, no one has come up with the money to do anything.
Additionally, efforts to relocate the school to a different piece of property have never been realized because there has never been a viable option for a relocation site.
While nearly all of the desire to save the school comes from Belmont residents, the school belongs to the Shaker Regional School District that educates students from Belmont and Canterbury. In the past, Canterbury School Board members have said that they do not want to see the school destroyed, but they don't see their community's tax dollars being spent to save it.
Ellis said he would get answers to the steeple and bell moving and storage questions and report back to the board in time for the meeting Monday morning.
The School Board is having a meeting at 10 a.m. Monday to vote on the final budget, which may or may not include full-day kindergarten, and to vote on whether or not to add a warrant article for the demolition of the school.
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 January 2015 01:25
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