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Some take strong exception to starting school before Labor Day

GILFORD — So far it's been a good summer for Sawyer's Dairy Bar but owner Larry Litchfield fears it may come to an early and abrupt end one week before Labor Day because he'll lose much of his summer help to the start of classes.

Because Labor Day is on September 1 this year, the first day of school for six Lakes Region School Districts is August 26. Litchfield employs about 45 to 50 local students in his restaurant and dairy bar — most of whom attend local public schools.

"The resort industry has always been plagued by the schools," he said yesterday, noting that traditionally school always started after Labor Day.

Laconia School District Superintendent Terri Forsten said the primary reason she prefers the August starting date is because of the weather.

"The nights in August are cooler and the schools stay cooler during the day in late August," she said.

She noted that students are hard enough to teach at the end of the school year and keeping them there until potentially the third or fourth week in June, coupled with hot and humid inside temperatures, would not help them academically.

However, Forsten is not unsympathetic to Litchfield's plight.

"I actually worked in a diary bar during the summer when I was in high school," she said, adding she thinks the summer work experience is an invaluable one for young people.

She said that the Laconia School District begins school on a Tuesday and the students will attend for three days. She said having Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday off should give the local businesses access to the student work force to see them through the holiday weekend.

As goes Laconia, so goes the rest of the school districts that send their students to the Huot Regional Techincal Educaiton Center on the Laconia High School campus. All of them have the same three-day entry into school in the last week of August.

Setting the school calender and designating the first day of school has always been contentious, said Newfound Regional School Board Vice Chair Vincent Paul Miglioni.

The Newfound School Board set the first day of school for September 2 — bucking the wishes of its school district administrators and teacher representatives.

"It was difficult this year," he said. "This year parents had a preference for after Labor Day."

School Board Chair Ruby Hill said the compromise for the later starting date was to give the teachers all of the professional days they wanted during the school calender. She said the input she got from the parents and the business community told her that they would prefer the later start date.

Hill also said that the Newfound area is very tourist oriented and she felt that sending school buses on the narrow roads that are crowded with tourist traffic would be less safe than waiting to start school until the tourists went home after Labor Day.

Hill came to an opposite conclusion about the role of weather than Forsten did — she said it was hotter in August and more likely to be rainy and cool in June.

Litchfield contends there is an educational component to a summer job that can't be replicated — like showing up for a shift, learning to interact with customers, self presentation, and the satisfaction of earning a pay check.

"I like to say that I teach Real World 101," he said. "Most of these kids come to me straight from mommy's house and don't even know how to wipe down a counter."

For Litchfield, one solution lies in passing a state law forbidding schools from starting before Labor Day. He cited laws in Virginia and Michigan as examples and said he has spoken to some of his local legislators about passing a similar law in New Hampshire.

And it would not be the first time the state has considered such legislation. In 2007, New London State Rep. Randy Foose, a Democrat, introduced legislation that would prohibit school from starting before Labor Day.

Now retired from lawmaking, Foose said yesterday that the bill he introduced was and is something he truly believes in.

"I think New Hampshire is making a big mistake that translates to lower summer revenues," he said. "We flourish in the summer."

Foose, whose father was a high school principal, and Litchfield agree that in this instance the state speaks from both sides of its mouth.

"The state is spending huge amounts of money to promote tourism and we have education interfering with that," Litchfield said.

"Kids need summer jobs," said Foose who said he had two grandsons who were unable to get the jobs they wanted because they weren't going to be available for the last two weeks of summer.

As to his bill, Foose said it died in the House Committee on Education when some members of the Republican majority played the "local control" card and said each school district should be able to decide for themselves.

"We should be thinking about what is appropriate for the whole state," he said, saying one other problem with each district deciding for themselves is the coordination of sports and educational opportunities like regional technical schools whose focus is increasingly on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Foose said that he still strongly believes in a statewide mandate and would serve as a statewide spokesman should there be some new impetus for legislation.

Litchfield said that hiring local student help is "what his business is all about" but lately has been adding foreign students to his staff because of the early start to the school year.

"More importantly, the left hand and the right hand of government is out of sync," he said.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 12:50

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Police drug buy sting nets Laconia man

LACONIA — A Garfield Street man has been charged with one count of sales of methadone after being caught up in a police sting operation.

Patrick McIntire, 25, of 41A Garfield St. was ordered held on $10,000 cash only bail after appearing in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.

According to affidavits, detectives said they spoke with a confidential informant on November 13, 2013 who told them he or she had just sent a text message to McIntire regarding the purchase of some methadone.

McIntire allegedly responded back that he could get him or her three methadone pills for $30 as well as some tramadol.

The informant told police McIntire agreed on a price of $26 for "all three" and a detective gave him $30 in cash with the serial numbers and denominations recorded.

After the informed was checked for money, drugs and weapons, detectives watched him or her walk down Lincoln Street and head toward Garfield Street. The informed returned with three white pills detectives identified as 10 mg tablets of methadone.

Using the information and evidence, police obtained a warrant and arrested McIntire on Monday.

According to a spokesman for the N.H. Department of Corrections, McIntire is on probation for a conviction in 2013 for possession of a controlled synthetic drug. His probation is scheduled to end on September 15, 2015.

The spokesman said there was an outstanding warrant for McIntire for failing to report to his probation officer on May 28. He said the warrant had been issued on June 17.

A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for August 7.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 12:17

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Laconia police officers say 'yes' to latest union contract proposal

LACONIA — Police officials said yesterday that negotiators have agreed on the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement for the Laconia Police Association and it has been approved by rank-and-file members.

The proposed contract, said Capt. Bill Clary, was scheduled for a union membership vote yesterday now will go before the Police Commission for discussion and possible approval on Thursday.

This would be the second contract proposal to go before the Police Commission this summer. The first was approved by the union's negotiating team, approved unanimously by the commissioners, but was rejected by the rank-and-file.

Clary said this time, the commission wanted to wait to see if a proposed contract was acceptable to the LPA membership before it acts on it.

The Commission is gathering in a "non-meeting" tomorrow morning to discuss the contract but Clary said the meeting was also posted as a regular meeting because the commission could later vote publicly to accept or reject it.

If all parties agree, the contract will go to the City Council, which must endorse the cost items contained in it in order for them to take effect.

As of this writing, non of the city's four unions have a contract with the city. All agreements expired on June 30 but general terms remain in effect under the state's so-called status quo doctrine.

In June, City Council declined to fund a new contract negotiated by administrators with a union representing firefighters.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 12:12

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Recession conincided with increase in number of Belknap County farms

LACONIA — While the Great Recession took a heavy toll on most sectors of the economy in Belknap County, farming became more popular, if not necessarily more profitable, according to the Census of Agriculture compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Between 2007 and 2012, the number of farms in the county rose from 270 to 302, and increase of 12 percent, which was more than twice the 5 percent rate of increase in the state, where the number of farms grew from 4,166 to 4,391. Likewise, the acreage farmed in the county grew at four times the pace in the state, from 23,378 acres in 2007 to 23,887 acres in 2012, or by two percent, compared to a rate of 0.5 percent across the state. While the number of farms and expanse of farmland increase the average size of farms shrunk by nine percent, from 87 acres to 79 acres, mirroring the trend in the state, where the average farm decreased from 113 to 108 acres.

The census reported 482 farm operators in Belknap County in 2012, 128 of whom counted farming as their primary occupation, just two more than in 2007. In the county only 55 farms hired workers in 2012, together employing 263 people with a total payroll of $1,471,000.

Total sales of farm products rose just 1.3 percent from 2007 to 2012, from $7,668,000 to $7,765,000 in 2012. However, average farm sales dropped from $28,400 to $25,711, a decline of 9.5 percent. Meanwhile, total expenses climbed 13 percent, from to $8,274,000 $9,362,000. Only 22 farms received payments from the federal government, which rose from $120,000 in 2007 to $194,000 in 2012.

In Belknap County, crops, including nursery and greenhouse produce grown on 152 of the 302 farms, represented $4,752,000 in sales, more than 60 percent of the total while livestock and poultry, raised on 132 farms, accounted for more than $3-million in sales. Sheep ranching and wool production recorded the steepest increases in the five period as the number of farms raising sheep lambs rose from 22 to 32, and the number of animals by half, from 321 to 471, while the output of wool jumped from 1,425 pounds to 2,195 pounds.

Meanwhile, according to the annual report of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, serving 30 municipalities in Belknap, Carroll and Grafton counties, found that the number of residential building permits peaked at 1,200 in 2004 then fell to 200 a year from 2009 to 2012. Likewise, the number of acres subdivided, which averaged 3,000 from 2000 to 2011, shrank to less than 1,000 in 2012.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 12:01

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