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Alternative for Lakeport Landing? City Council defers decision

LACONIA — The City Council last night deferred its decision about what to do with the city property on Union Avenue, which is leased to Lakeport Landing, at the request of attorney Rod Dyer, representing the marina, who expects to present a proposal that would enable the firm to acquire the lot.

The property, 0.81 acre, lies between the roadway and railway and runs from Elm Street northward to halfway between Harrison Street and Walnut Street. The property was leased to Lakeport Landing in 1985 for 10 years with two 10-year renewal periods, which have been exercised. In 1987 Lakeport Landing constructed a 9,840 square-foot building on the lot. The property has an assessed value of $389,600 of which the building represents $263,200. The lease expires on November 1, 2015 and the tenant has no right to extend it further. At the termination of the lease all buildings and improvements on the lot become the property of the city.
The council has been advised that it cannot negotiate exclusively with Erica Blizzard, the owner of Lakeport Landing, to either sell or lease the property.
Mayor Ed Engler reminded the council of its options. First the council could nothing, in which case ownership of the land and building would revert to the city when the lease expires. Second, the council could lease or sell the property to the private party that offered the most favorable terms or bid highest purchase price. He said that the council has considered subdividing the property and selling the portion where the building stands while retaining the remainder as a parking lot.
Dyer suggested that the council has another option. He explained that the property was purchased from the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1958, not acquired by tax deed. He referred to a section of the city code (183-8), which addresses the sale of city-owned property not acquired by tax deed. It provides that if the council has declared the property "surplus" and "available for sale," the city manager may entertain a written offer "from any private party." The council may authorize the city manager to have the property appraised. Then the council itself may oversee negotiations conducted by the city manager or authorize the city manager to negotiate the terms of the transaction. The final sale must be approved by two-thirds majority of the council.
Engler recalled that in the 1980s, before the property was leased, its sale to Paul Blizzard, then the owner of Lakeport Landing, was challenged by Irwin Marine, whose facility abuts the property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the sale. Dyer said that the city chose to sell the property by a competitive bidding process, but failed to properly inform all potential bidders. He said that the process he suggested, which is followed when selling lots in the Lakes Business Park, is an alternative to competitive bidding permitted by city ordinance.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) said that the council is bound to protect the taxpayers from litigation and would seek the advice of legal counsel. Dyer said that although he had consulted fellow attorneys, he was not prepared to offer a formal proposal and asked the council to defer any decision for at least 90 days to enable him to do so. The council unanimously agreed.
Russ Thibeault, speaking as a friend of the Blizzard family, told the councilors they were faced with balancing the interests of the property taxpayers with those of a thriving business. "They are not competing interests," he said, explaining that the interests of each could be served without adversely affecting the other. Alluding to Irwin Marine's interest in the property, he cautioned the council against jeopardizing the viability of one business to enrich another.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 02:44

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N.H. Humane Society vet says former director’s claims are false

LACONIA – The veterinarian included in the lawsuit filed by the former director of the N.H. Humane Society has filed an affirmative defense in a case filed against her.

In her response filed last month, Dr. Brenda Stowe denied that Mary Di Maria made any complaints to her face about the way she treated animals during the two years the two worked together. Stowe said Di Maria only made what she says are false claims against her after the N.H. Humane Society investigated Di Maria and fired her.

In a suit filed in September in the Belknap County Superior Court, Di Maria is claiming she was wrongfully terminated from her position after she reported that animals were being euthanized without approval, that surgery was being performed on animals that were not property anesthetized, and that some sick kittens were not attended to in a timely matter.

Stowe has denied all of the specific allegations regarding her level of care, saying animals were euthanized "only as necessary and consistent with the NHHS Euthanasia Policy and her sound professional judgment."

Some of Di Maria's claims centered around a dog named Sinatra that Stowe determined had some temperament problems and was overly aggressive. Di Maria claims Sinatra was sent to a different shelter and later successfully adopted.

Stowe's rebuttal claims Sinatra had cornered and attacked a previous owner and that "there was a high level of concern among staff about this animal's temperament." Stowe said she had no knowledge of what happened to the dog after it was taken to a different shelter.

Di Maria also accused Stowe of denying pain medication to a stray Chow dog. Stowe denied the accusation, saying the pain medication was administered to the dog immediately, and after the seven-day waiting period expired and the dog showed no signs of improvement, it was euthanized.

Stowe noted that Di Marie agreed with her about the decision to put the dog down.

Stowe admitted that on or about Oct. 13, 2013, she wrote to the board of directors to express her concerns about Di Maria.

Di Maria was fired by the board of directors on Dec. 11, 2013. Within weeks of the vote to fire her, former Board President Bill Phenix and Vice President Joseph Thornton resigned. Both declined to speak about their resignations to the Daily Sun.

Stowe has also denied committing any unlawful acts or engaging in any improprieties as was claimed by Di Maria.

In asserting her affirmative defense, Stowe claimed five affirmative defenses – that Di Maria failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, that there is no cause of action for an at-will employee, that there is no cause of action within the scope of employment, that Di Maria is barred from bringing a claim because of her own inequitable conduct, and that Di Maria is barred from suing her because her own actions, and not Stowe's actions, are what caused Di Maria's dismissal.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 01:40

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Alton property tax rate rises by 3%

ALTON — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration has set the 2014 tax rate at $13.85 per $1,000 of assessed value, 41 cents -- or 3 percent higher than the 2013 rate of $13.44.

The total assessed valuation rose by $65,708,875, or 4.5 percent, from $1,453,281,942 to $1,518,990,817, and the amount to be raised by property taxes increased by $1,512,833, or 7.8 percent, from $19,296,558 to $20,809,391.

The town portion of tax rate rose from $3.68 to $3.85 and the school portion from $5.86 to $6.28, while the state education tax dropped from $2.50 to $2.35 and the county tax from $1.40 to $1.37.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 02:19

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County Commission to recommend 6.8% budget increase

LACONIA — When the Belknap County Convention meets on Monday, Dec. 8, the Belknap County Commission will recommend a $27.3-million budget for 2015, which represents a 6.8 percent increase in expenditures and a 10 percent increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes,
The proposed increase in expenditures is the first since 2009, when the budget rose by 3.7 percent, before decreasing every year since. Likewise, the amount to be raised by property taxes has also fallen every year since 2009, when it grew by 0.9 percent.
The budget proposes expenditures of $27,330,778, which less revenues from sources other than property taxes of $12,296,021, leaves $15,034,757 to be raised by property taxes -- or $1,371,443 more than the $13,663,314 raised this year.
Despite the increase, County Administrator Debra Shackett described the commission's proposal as "a very lean budget." She said that "the commissioners are maintaining the services that the county provides" and stressed that "there are no new projects in this budget."
Personnel costs account for the largest share of the increased expenditures. The budget includes a 3 percent step increase for eligible employees, that is, those not at the top of their pay scale, based on their job performance as well as a 1.4 percent cost-of-living allowance (COLA) for all employees. This would be the first pay raise since 2012. The cost of the health insurance plan in which most employees are enrolled is budgeted to rise by 6.4 percent, and the less popular plan by 4.9 percent.
The budget for the Corrections Department funds the benefits of two positions created in the 2014 budget that were not filled this year because funding for the benefits was withheld. It also includes funding for the compensation and benefits of one additional officer. There is also funding for the compensation and benefits of a human resource director, a position that has been vacant for about six months, in the administrative budget.
Only two capital projects are funded by the budget — replacement of windows at the Belknap County Courthouse and a time and attendance system. The commission stripped funding for schematic design of an expanded, renovated or rebuilt county jail along with improvement of the HVAC system at the existing facility. However, the commissioners provided funding for the purchase of four cruisers in the Sheriff Department's budget.
The commission recommends drawing $1,775,000 from the fund balance to offset property taxes in 2015, The fund balance is estimated to have a balance of about $2.6 million at the end of 2014. The budget projects that $500,000 in excess revenue and $300,000 in operational savings will accrue to the fund balance in 2015. Withdrawing $1,775,000 would leave an estimated balance of $1.7 million at the end of 2015..
In 2013, when Moody's Investor Service reaffirmed the county's Aa2 bond rating, it noted that "sizeable fund balance growth" could raise that rating while "draw down of reserves" could lower it. The rating affects the county's cost of borrowing.
Two of the three commissioners who prepared the budget — John Thomas, a Belmont Republican, and Ed Philpot, a Laconia Democrat — will be succeeded by Republicans Richard Burchell of Gilmanton and David DeVoy of Sanbornton in the new year. The newly elected Belknap County Convention, which must adopt a budget within 90 days of Jan. 1, consists of the 18 Republican state representatives elected in the county earlier this month, seven of whom will be serving their first term.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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