Gilmanton officials dispute change in meetings location

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — It's been a topic of discussion for years, but the meeting office space next door to the town clerk/tax collector's office is now a private office for that official and the supervisors of the checklist, despite the desire of many board members who met there to stay put.

According to Town Administrator Paul Branscombe, all boards will now meet in the upstairs auditorium.

But, and according to multiple emails obtained from the town, with the exception of the selectmen, most chairmen of town boards and the recently ousted former selectmen's Chairman Michael Jean were not in agreement.

"I guess I find (this) hard to understand when our town has functioned so well with our meetings downstairs," wrote Zoning Board Chairman Elizabeth Hackett in an email to the assistant town administrator.

"I still want to use the small conference room as do most of the Planning Board members," wrote Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni.

One of the problems with using the auditorium is acoustics.

"I wish they could consider what could be done to improve sound muffling upstairs," wrote former selectman Betty Ann Abbott.

Branscombe said Thursday that curtains have been installed to close off the stage area and he is looking into some prices for some portable microphones.

"In the summer, if memory serves, it is unbearable upstairs," said Abbott.

Branscombe has recommended purchasing a few ceiling fans to try and cool the area in the summer and to circulate the air in the winter.

Former Chairman Michael Jean said earlier this week that he thinks his reluctance to agree with the other two selectmen had something to do with his ouster as chairman.

"I didn't agree with that decision," he said, adding he's not exactly sure when the decision was made or who made it.

"I left you a message to say that you were quite correct we do not need to bring this matter up at a BOS meeting as it has nothing to do with the general public," wrote Branscombe to board member Steve McWhinnie on May 31 in an email not included in The Laconia Daily Sun's Right-To-Know request for all of the emails regarding this decision but one that was widely circulated and reached a quorum of the selectmen.

Jean said earlier this week he thinks that because all of the town's board meetings were held in that room, it should have been discussed and voted upon in public. He said he voiced that opinion to Branscombe in a private email on July 1.

Lakes Region Tennis Association has graduation in Laconia

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The players were smaller, the courts were smaller and the nets were lower but there was some high quality tennis being played at Memorial Park Thursday night.

The tennis celebration for the children from six local communities was made possible by the Lakes Region Tennis Association, the United State Tennis Association of New England and some generous local sponsors who made it possible for children from ages 5 to 14 to play tennis twice a week at local courts with all of the coaching and equipment provided.

Mike and Amber Gagnon and Hazel Gaudette from Laconia were at Memorial Park to watch their children play. Likely the youngest ones in the crowd, for a while the three of them had a court to themselves but willingly shared when the program expanded to four courts.

"They're excited about this," said Gaudette. "On days without tennis, they wanted to play anyway."

Jennifer Tyrrell of Franklin's three children have been in the program for two years. Last year was Franklin's first year with the LRTA program.

"We had coach Andrew (Caulfield)," she said. "He needs to coach everybody."

Caulfield is from Gilford, led the Gilford High School tennis team there to three state championships, graduated as class president in 2015 and now attends UNH.

Guylaine Ivester of Franklin said the program has been wonderful for her whole family. Her boys played in the final round robin against two Laconia girls and said the whole family is playing tennis four nights a week at Odell Park.

"My husband is happy he has future tennis players," she said.

She said that one of the things she likes about tennis is that is children can be "part of a team without getting lost in the team."

"For us it's going very well," said Gilford Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene.

The Gilford portion of the program saw 61 young athletes participate in the six-week program.

"To offer free lessons is not something we would be able to do," said Greene. "Financially we could not maintain a program of that size."

Laconia Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunleavy echoed Greene.

"Without all of the volunteers, coaches and equipment we would not be able to support this program," he said.

What's exciting to Dunleavy is that it seems that largely because of this program and the LRTA, local interest in tennis has grown. His department recently did some key repairs at the Memorial Park courts and the City Council recently approved money to completely redo the Leavitt Park tennis courts.

"The thing about tennis is that it can be an affordable option for kids who don't have a lot of money," he said. "It's like basketball in that regard."

Head coach and key proponent of the LRTA Kamal Gosine, said this past summer has been the best he's seen yet.

"It's getting bigger and bigger," he said, noting that his employer, MB Tractor and Equipment allows him to work his schedule around the games. He said his truck is filled with tennis equipment. "We started out with nothing and now we're running five programs for six communities."

"What we want to do is to encourage tennis," he said, adding that one of the goals of LRTA and the USTA is to encourage high schools to include more tennis programs in their athletic schedules.

Kamal also noted that some hugely successful professional tennis players have earned healthy scholarships for college for playing tennis.

Although the program is over for this year, Kamal said there are established programs for next year in Laconia, Gilford, Meredith, Tilton, Northfield and Franklin. He hopes to expand it into a couple more towns next year.

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Coach Kamal Gosine congratulates Manuela Kemp and Madeline Mousseau after winning the finals during the LRTA celebration evening bringing together players from Laconia, Gilford, Tilton/Northfield, Franklin and Meredith at Memorial Park on Thursday evening. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Emily Hansen was one of the recipients of the "Good Sportsmanship" award during the final evening of LRTA lessons combining the towns of Laconia, Gilford, Tilton/Northfield, Franklin and Meredith at Memorial Park on Thursday evening. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Robotics camp - GHS FIRST team teaches younger kids how to team up with tech

By ALANA PERSSON, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — Loud cheers could be heard throughout the room as two newly created robots battled each other during the Gilford Robotics Camp. Through the noise and battles, a young girl said that she was having a great time at the camp, which seemed to be mirrored by the other children, ages 8 to 11, who were chanting excitedly for the robots they had made.

This summer marks the inaugural robotics camp for younger children in the community, and was created by a group of high school students are part of the Gilford High School FIRST Robotics team. Brad Parker, Connor Craigie, Noah Presby, Topher Weimann and Cameron White have all spent their high school years invested in robotics, and shared that they had a love for robotics since a young age. Eager to inspire youth to pursue robotics as they get older and raise money for their upcoming competition season, the boys were able to get approval from Gilford School District for the camp that would charge each student a small fee.

Although there were more people looking to be a part of the camp, the group was only able to accept 16 kids for the 2016 summer program, as they could only provide four robotics kits that would each be assigned a team of four kids. The goal of the week was to introduce to youth the opportunity to build robots, while focusing on teamwork. After creating their own robots, the kids would then battle them against each other, similiar to what is experienced at the high school level of robotics competitions.

"We hope that through this camp it makes kids want to get involved in robotics own the road," said Parker, who added he is glad he was able to be a part of the GHS robotics team and go to recent competitions.

Last year, the GHS robotics team won the FIRST district competition and moved onto the New England Regional Championship. Although last year's team did not have the opportunity to move on to nationals, they returned to Gilford with the Entrepreneurship Award and the Innovation Control Award. They look forward to another year of competition under the mentorship of Jackie and Chris Drever.

"Anyone in the area who wants to start their own robotics team but doesn't know where to start is more than welcome to contact us and we will help other teams figure out how to get started," said Jackie Drever.

The Gilford Robotics Team is not limited to Gilford High School students. Anyone from a surrounding community who would like to be part of the team is able to join. Meetings begin in December. For more information on how to be a part of the Gilford High School FIRST Robotics team, or how to start a robotics team can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gilford High School and ask for Jackie Drever.

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The group of kids participating in the Gilford Robotics Camp cheer on homemade robots as the battle each other on Wednesday afternoon. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Gilford High School robotics team members and camp creators, Brad Parker, Connor Craigie and Noah Presby all said they were happy with the outcome of the camp and hope to hold it again next year. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)

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The inaugural Gilford Robotics Camp is taking place this week, led by the members of the Gilford High School FIRST Robotics Team, who are hoping to inspire youth in the community to pursue robotics as they get older. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

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