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LRPA has enough money to stay on the air through Oct. 22

LACONIA — Denise Beauchaine, station manager of Lakes Region Public Access television, said yesterday that there are sufficient funds to operate the public access channel — Channel 25 — until midnight on Wednesday, October 22, but not beyond.

Earlier this week Kim Perkins, the LRPA bookkeeper, advised Beauchaine that there were sufficient funds to meet two payrolls "then LRPA will be out of money." The station employs four people in addition to Beauchaine, one full-time, one part-time and two contractors., and has an annual operating budget of about $130,000.

Beauchaine said that the board of directors have tentatively scheduled an emergency meeting on Saturday morning at the station when, among other things, it will discuss removing its equipment from its studio space at Laconia High School.

LRPA has been drawing from its reserves to sustain operations since July 1, when member municipalities entered a new 10-year contract with MetroCast Cablevision. Under the new contract each municipality will operate educational and governmental channels (24 and 26), which broadcast only to the municipality where the programming originates while LRPA would provide public access on channel 25 airing programs from individuals and organizations from the member municipalities. However, the municipalities, which had contributed to funding the operation of LRPA, withdrew their support. and, at the same time, MetroCast withheld its annual $30,000 grant to LRPA, leaving the station without a revenue stream.

Although the board of directors prepared an alternative business plan, which included soliciting commercials sponsorships, with aim of raising $300,000, the money ran out before it was pursued.

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Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 12:47

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Reval drops value of taxable property in Belmont by 17%

BELMONT — Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin told selectmen Monday the total value of taxable property in the town has been reduced by $130 million, or about 17 percent.

She said the results of the property revaluation project are nearly complete and the new total value of the town will be about $650 million — down from $788 million.

Each property's value should be as close to a true market value as possible, or at a 100 percent ratio. Last year, figures published by the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) showed Belmont at 123 percent — meaning the town total valuation was estimated to be 23 percent higher than its current actual value.

Over the past two years, the town has undertaken a complete list-and-measure and the revaluation is complete. The company that conducted the revaluation, Commerford Nieder Perkins, LLC is holding meetings with property owners who are challenging their new values.

Beaudin said once the challenges are completed, the town will get the exact valuation and the 2014 tax rate will be set by DRA. She expects tax bills will go out in the second week of November.

After a complete revaluation, generally about one-third of property owners see their values go up, one-third will see them go down, and one third will stay the same.

However, because the amount of money authorized by the town and the school district at their respective town meetings in March remains the same, the tax rate — which is set by the DRA — is projected to increase significantly.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 11:44

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Belknap Mill Society confident of historic building's bright future despite current financial troubles

LACONIA — "The Belknap Mill is facing financial challenges not unlike those of other non-profit organizations that promote the arts and culture," said Chris Santaniello, president of the Belknap Mill Society, which owns the historic building.

"The history of the mill has been up and down," Santaniello continued, explaining that its financial condition reflects its limited funding stream. Recently the challenges have increased the pace of turnover among officers and trustees. This year the board of trustees announced in January was succeeded before the summer ended and Santaniello, the executive director of Lakes Region Community Services who began the year as vice-president, is now president.

The mill, which was constructed in 1823, is the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the United States. Santaniello said that the age of the building adds to the cost of routine maintenance and necessary repairs. She said that the society has drawn from its reserves to fund unforeseen capital expenditures and has struggled to replenish them.

Santaniello said that the boiler, which she described as "historic, like the building," has failed for want of a part that no longer exists. "We're working on that now," she said, acknowledging that a new boiler would be beyond the society's reach.

There are three rental units within the mill, two of which are occupied by law firms. An employment agency had long leased the third unit, consisting of three offices, a conference room and kitchen, but that space is currently vacant. With capacity for 220 on the third floor and two smaller rooms on the ground floor, the society also rents space for functions, from large meetings and social functions to intimate receptions and small gatherings. The society offers educational programs and operates a gift shop. However, donations represent the most significant source of revenue.

Santaniello said that operations have been "streamlined to bare bones," by trimming staff and reducing hours. Meanwhile, she stressed that efforts are underway to develop a stable revenue stream and add to reserves for capital expenditures. She emphasized the importance of developing supportive partnerships with with other organizations and institutions in the city and region.

"The mill is a gem, a proud structure," Santaniello said. "It is Laconia, the center for so many activities and programs. And it will continue to be."

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 11:40

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Long sought Weirs Park to open on Wednesday

LACONIA — When the Weirs Community Park opens next week the cutting of the ribbon will crown two decades of dedication and perseverance on the part of Don Richards and those he lauded as "a small band of brothers and sisters who quietly worked thousands of hours" to bring this gift to the city.

The park stretches over some 27 wooded acres adjacent to the Weirs Community Center and Weirs Beach Fire Station, which the city acquired in 1976 with a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund administered by the National Park Service. Originally the site of an Abenaki village, the land was acquired by a local entrepreneur recently returned from Switzerland with visions of building an alpine village. Lucerne Avenue, bordering the park to the west, and the trails tracking intended roadways across the site, are the traces of his dream. The property was home to a summer camp for girls, Camp Arcadia, from 1890 until 1945. Richards said that a large condominium complex was planned for the property when the city purchased it.

Most of the land will remained wooded. The park features a pavilion with adjoining picnic area, with space for gas grills, a rustic playground and outdoor amphitheater with seating for 120 with attached restrooms for men, women and families. Boulders and stones from the site highlight the landscaping. The walking trails, which will be open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers in winter, are named and marked. The park is lit and will be open between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days a week throughout the year, but closed to all motorized vehicles.

Richards said that the history of the property will be incorporated into the park. In partnership with the Abenaki Tribal Council, information will be prepared to tell visitors about the relationship the Native Americans enjoyed with The Weirs in general and the site in particular. A stone arch, through which the girls of Camp Arcadia passed to church services and sing-alongs has been preserved.

"All the departments of the city — in particular the Planning Department, Parks and Recreation Department and Department of Public Works — had a hand in the project," Richards said. "I don't think we could have asked for better city government during the past 10 years."

Echoed by Richards, Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, lauded his predecessor, Phil Rowley for his contribution to the success of the project. "He was with us from the beginning, in the pipe dream stage," Richards said.

Altogether Dunleavy estimated the cost of the project at close to $700,000, a significant share of which was raised by the Weirs Community Park Association and Weirs Action Committee, chiefly by parking motorcycles and cars each year for the past 10 years during Motorcycle Week.

Following a luncheon for invited guests at the Weirs Community Center at noon the ribbon will be cut to officially open the park on Wednesday, October 15 at 1 p.m.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 11:31

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