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FairPoint will host customers' IT equipment at N. Main Street building

LACONIA — FairPoint Communications, Inc. has announced the opening of a data center serving its commercial customers at the company's property at 762 North Main Street.

The data center provides commercial enterprises and public institutions with a secure off-site facility to house their information technology equipment and computing capacity in a closely controlled environment. Data centers enable these organizations to tailor and arrange their IT systems to meet demand without incurring the costs of adding space or staff while keeping control over their equipment and data. Spaces as small as half a rack or as large as cages of thousands of square feet are available.

The data center offers a secure connection over the largest fiber-core Ethernet network in northern New England and with multiple choices of redundant network connections, customers can configure the optimal connection for their needs.

In a prepared statement Chris Alberding, vice-president of product management, said that "as more organizations seek to reduce capital expenses and adapt to the ever-evolving technology and regulatory landscape, we continue to see the need for data center services."

Jeff Nevins, a spokesman for FairPoint, said that as the facility, which consists of 24,000-square-feet on two stories, will be fully automated and remotely monitored — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will not generate employment.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:52

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Laconia police union rank & file rejects negotiated 3-year contract

LACONIA — The membership of the Laconia Police Association has rejected the proposed three-year contract that was recommended by its team of negotiators and approved unanimously by the Police Commission at its May meeting.

The union's existing two-year contract expires at midnight on July 1 and was approved by the City Council on June 26, 2012.

Although details of the contract itself are not made public until it is accepted by the membership and approved by the City Council, Police Chief Chris Adams said some provisions like health insurance and cost-of-living adjustments are consistent with what commissioners approved for non-union employees in May.

Non-union employees will get cost-of-living raises of 2-percent in the 2014, 2.25-percent in 2015, and 2.5-percent in 2016.

Commissioners also approved the elimination of the more comprehensive health insurance plan previously available to non-union employees, however employees will be given a $250 stipend over the next three years as compensation for higher out-of-pocket expenses.

In addition, the commission voted to contribute $1,000 per non-union employee annually to a Health Savings Account as an offset for higher deductibles. The money can accumulate but an employee cannot take the money with them if they leave or retire.

Commissioners also agreed that non-union employees contribution to the premium will be 8-percent in 2015, 9-percent in 2016, and 10-percent in 2017.

The police department plan for non-union employees is consistent with that offered to other non-union employees who work for the city of Laconia.

Adams said he and union President Jeff Wholley are still communicating. Wholley was unavailable for comment.

On June 12, City Council rejected a three year contract that the union of Laconia firefighters had agreed to. Terms of that agreement were not publicly discussed either.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:28

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Council adds & subtracts its way to $115k reduction of proposed tax bill

LACONIA — The City Council this week stopped short of adopting the 2014-2015 municipal budget, but with a mix of budget adjustments, revenue increases and expense reductions, sketched a scenario that would trim the amount to be raised by property taxes and lower the projected rise in the property tax rate while applying more resources to the scourge of illicit drugs.

The council's plan would reduce the amount to be raised by property taxes by $115,000, or three-tenths of one-percent, from $36.1-million to $36-million. At the same time, the projected increase in the property tax rate of 31 cents, from $22.08 to $22.39, would be reduced to 25 cents, leaving a rate of $22.33. The owner of a median priced home of $200,000 would be spared $12 in property taxes by the council's action.

The council is expected to adopt the budget at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 14.

Last week City Manager Scott Myers recommended raising the projected revenues from motor vehicle registrations by $30,000, from $2,150,000 to $2,180,000, reducing the appropriation for the employer's share of health insurance premiums by $30,000 and eliminating a $20,000 appropriation for preparing the Master Plan to reflect receipt of a grant for the purpose. Together these changes to his original budget proposal represent a net gain of $80,000.

After what Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, called "an informal give and take," Mayor Ed Engler conducted a straw poll on a handful of proposals offered by Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4).

The council agreed to eliminate $25,000 for a study of the intersection of Court Street and Fair Street from the capital outlay budget. With support from Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), Baer suggested cutting some or all of the $39,500 appropriation for Lakes Region Public Access television. On advice from Myers the council agreed to reduce the appropriation by $10,000.

After some discussion with School Superintendent Terri Forsten and members of the School Board the council agreed to increase School District revenues by $30,000 and decrease expenditures by the same amount for a net impact of $60,000.

Initially Lipman asked school officials to cut their budget by $50,000. Instead, Forsten proposed to increase revenue $50,000 in anticipation of increased reimbursement of special education costs. "I'll be up front," Lipman told her. "I can't support the plan you just outlined."

Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) agreed that "it's not okay to adjust the revenue line."

When Hamel suggested raising revenues and cutting expenses by equal amounts, school officials withdrew to confer and later accepted the proposal. "There's no reason not to ask the schools to help out the taxpayers," he said.

Joe Cormier, a member of the School Board, said that there was 20 percent turnover in the teaching staff of the three elementary schools and the $30,000 could be teased from the salaries and benefits of the new hires.

Meanwhile, the council agreed to appropriate an additional $50,000 to the Police Department to strengthen targeted patrolling for drug enforcement as well as to coordinate community programs aimed at preventing and treating drug abuse. Lipman foresaw "a collective effort to get a the demand side" while conceding "it may not work, but I'm willing to give it a shot."

Councilors also readily agreed to add another $10,000 to the overall budget, $7,000 to service the debt on the high estimate to construct a new fire station and $3,000 increased dues to the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. Altogether the additional expenditures amount to $60,000.

The adjustments, higher revenues and lower expenses amount to $175,000. Less the $60,000 in additional expenditures, the net effect would be to reduce the tax commitment by $115,000.

Two other proposals failed to gain a consensus of the council. Baer proposed eliminating the $32,000 appropriated to fund the salaries, benefits and related expenses of four firefighters for five weeks. The firefighters were hired with a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant of $642,028 from the federal government, which expires in April 2015. Baer said that since there is no plan for funding the positions once the grant expires and the additional personnel have not led to a significant reduction in the cost of overtime, she believes the positions should be eliminated for the last five weeks of fiscal year 2015 budget.

Likewise, Baer also sought to withhold a $15,000 appropriation for the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail. Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, reminded the council that businesses and individuals have been contributing as much or more than the city to the project, which is a priority in the Master Plan. "We need your support. We need your help," he said. "I'd like to ask you for more money."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:20

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Well wishers wave Alan Robichaud into retirement

LACONIA — Friends, co-workers and members of the social services network that he helped create stopped by Tuesday afternoon to wish Alan Robichaud well on his last day on the job as community development director for Granite United Way's Central Region,.
Robichaud, who has worked in the social services field since 1972, said he's proud of working to make a difference in the lives of people and has been inspired throughout his career by the very kind of people who showed up to wish him well.
''These are people who give their lives to help others,'' said Robichaud who recalled the example of Jim Piet, who had cerebral palsy but persevered and for 17 years was president of the New Hampshire Disabilities Council and is now married and has children.
''He hired me as executive director of the council and I learned a lot from him. He couldn't drive so I drove him around a lot. Once we went all he way to Washington, D.C. and I sat with him as he testified before Congress in support of more spending on behalf of people with disabilities. I was very impressed with him'' said Robichaud.
He said that he has seen people overcome biases and prejudices in order to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others, like Roberta Gallant who spent most of her early life at what was then Laconia State School and emerged as a forceful and articulate advocate for those with disabilities.
Robichaud said that another inspiration is Annie Forts of Moultonborough, who has Downs Syndrome and started her own non-profit, the Annie Forts "Up'' Syndrome Foundation, which helps developmentally disabled people.
Over a long career in social services, Robichaud has won numerous honor, including the ''Heart of Your City'' award from Citizens Bank and WMUR-TV in 2012, the George "Pete" Harris award from Genesis Behavioral Health, a Good Scout Award from the Daniel Webster Council and the Norm Marsh Award from the Belknap Economic Development Council in 2007. Earlier this year he was presented with the Captain Ralph Bristol Award by the Central Region of Granite United Way at its annual meeting.
Robichaud is the former executive director of the Belknap County Citizens Council for Children and Families as well as the executive director of the N.H. Developmental Disabilities Council and administrator for the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, among other positions.
He was also instrumental in the formation of the Financial Stability Partnership, Better Together and the 200 by 2020 Initiative, as well as the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health.
He says that he is planning to take the next six months to relax and enjoy time with his wife, Debbie, and family.
''I've got my first grandson coming next month and I've got a son on the West Coast I haven't seen for a while. So there are lots of things 'I'm looking forward to,'' said Robichaud.

CAPTION:
Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith of Laconia, who have worked with homeless people in the city to create art, share memories with Alan Robichaud, center, who spent his last day on the job as community development director for the Granite United Way's Central Region. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:07

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