‘Michael Kitch Day’ declared for Friday

04-25 Kitch-Engler

Laconia Daily Sun reporter Michael Kitch is congratulated by Laconia Mayor Ed Engler following the reading of a proclamation marking Kitch’s 14 years of covering the Laconia City Council on Monday.  (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Sun reporter ends 14-year career


LACONIA — Veteran reporter Michael Kitch, who is seldom at a loss for words, found himself tongue-tied Monday night at the Laconia City Council meeting after Mayor Ed Engler honored him for his dedicated coverage of civic affairs.
Kitch, 75, is retiring Friday after 14 years with The Laconia Daily Sun.
Engler read a proclamation noting Kitch’s distinguished and tireless reporting.
“Michael Kitch is a widely respected journalist who has earned accolades for the intelligence, fairness and clarity of his many articles,” Engler said.
The proclamation designated Kitch, a Concord resident, an honorary citizen of Laconia and declared this Friday Michael Kitch Day in Laconia.
Given a chance to speak publicly to the city officials he has so dutifully covered, Kitch opted for a round of handshakes.
On Tuesday, Kitch extended appreciation to those who have helped him cover the city.
“I want to express thanks to city officials, city employees, volunteer members of boards and commissions and everyone else in this city that I’ve dealt with for being unfailingly cooperative, helpful and generous with their time because without that you can’t do your job,” he said. “I consider a lot of the people, in fact most of the people I’ve dealt with over the years as more than just sources of news but as friends.”
Kitch said it has been exciting and gratifying to work for a publication that has thrived at a time when the newspaper industry has struggled with declines in circulation and advertising.
He recalled the early days of his career with The Laconia Daily Sun when the newspaper started under the direction of Engler, who is now president of the Sun.
The Laconia Citizen was the long-established newspaper in the city.
Kitch said 15-hour days were not unusual in the early days.
“Here comes a new newspaper in the only town north of Boston with two dailies,” he said.
“It starts in a competitive market and just puts the legacy paper out of business and thrives. I think it’s pretty remarkable and it’s really been a lot of fun to be a part of that.”
One of his fondest memories is of reporting the controversy about exotic dancing in Gilford, which ended with the decision of the U.S. District Court that nothing could be done to stop it. Although he seldom wrote headlines, he took credit for “Gilford strippers covered by First Amendment,” which topped the front page the next day.
Engler said Kitch “brought almost instantly a level of credibility to the newspaper when he started writing for us. Because he was clearly very intelligent and a very good writer who could not only write fairly but also understand and cover very complex issues. That gave the paper a significant advantage because it’s rare to find someone writing at the small city level who can do that.”
He added that Kitch was “obviously helped tremendously by the fact that he had such an easygoing, winsome personality. People just liked him. And that opened a lot of doors.”
“I’ll miss his biting humor and knowledge of the area as a reporter,” said managing editor Ginger Kozlowski. “Michael will be a hard guy to replace.”
Kitch hold’s a master’s degree in history from Indiana University and an undergraduate degree from Duke. He did graduate studies at Oxford in England and taught at the University of London for 12 years.
He plans an active retirement that will include freelance writing and consulting work.

04-25 Kitch

Laconia Daily Sun reporter Michael Kitch shakes hands with Laconia city councilor David Bownes as councilor Henry Lipman, right and Ava Doyle, left look on following the presentation of a proclamation by Mayor Ed Engler recognizing Kitch's 14 years of covering the council on Monday. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Fewer people are defaulting on taxes around Lakes Region


LACONIA — The city of Laconia and nearby towns report a decline in the amount of property placed under tax liens for delinquency.
Execution of liens, the legal process that can lead to municipalities acquiring properties with overdue property taxes and selling them at public sale, typically occurs in the spring.
Laconia Tax Collector Lindsey Allen reported that on Friday, April 21, she completed the city's tax lien for 2016. The liens totaled $762,446. Last year, the city put liens on a total of $871,459 in property, Allen reported.
The city of Laconia reports, "Property taxes are typically due in July and December. If the taxes are not paid by the following March, a lien is recorded on the property at the Register of Deeds. If the delinquent taxes (redemptions) are not paid within two years and one day of the tax lien date, the property is conveyed to the city by deed and subsequently sold at public sale by sealed bid."
In Sanbornton, the mid-April tally of properties in default and subject to liens reached $233,000, well above last year's level of $167,000 in properties with liens, Town Clerk Marla Davis reported. But Davis said that the mid-April total likely will drop by June 16, when she compiles the list of properties subject to liens. Before June 16, residents with late taxes will pay all or a portion of what is due to help bring the value of property in default down to a typical level, she predicted.
"I'll probably only go to lien for $167,000, which is normal for Sanbornton ... or less," she said.
"Each year, it's very close to the same amount since I've been in office," Davis said, describing the pattern of the past four years.
"I get a lot of payments after federal taxes have been filed, so between April and June when I go to lien, I get a lot of payments," Davis said.
The same group of property owners typically fall behind on their property taxes, she said.
"For the most part, you usually see the same properties coming up on lien year after year. It's usually the same individuals year after year," Davis said.
"Some people, for whatever reason, leave their properties in lien until the deadline time, when they have no choice, when the town is going to take their property, and then they pay it off," Davis said.
In Sanbornton, only one property with a lien has been taken by the town in the past decade, Davis estimated.
"And that was an estate matter, and they purchased the property right back," she said.
Franklin City Clerk/Tax Collector Katie Gargano said the tax lien for 2016 was $374,347. In 2015, the tax lien was $393,467, she said.
Last June, the Franklin City Council voted to accept tax deeds on properties that had been placed under liens. "City Manager Elizabeth Dragon explained that the majority of the properties that are taken at tax deed time are in less than desirable condition," reported minutes of a selectmen's meeting.
The town's practice, according to selectmen meeting minutes, "is to demolish them, clean them up, make them green space with restricted covenants and sell them to the abutting properties."
In Gilford, Town Clerk Denise Gonyer reported that last year's liens are pending. On May 8, she plans to compile the list.
"Gilford is typically between $400,000-$500,000 in tax liens each year," Gonyer reported. "The balance on the 2015 tax lien as of today's date is $200,764.16 (plus interest and costs), which shows 48 percent (almost half) of the tax lien has been paid in the past year."
Gilford has been trending toward fewer tax liens being placed "and the current tax bill being paid in a timely manner," Gonyer reported. "Typically the day after taxes are due we are collected in the low- to mid-ninety percentile range and mid- to high-ninety percentile range by the end of the year."
In 2012, the town of Gilford executed liens on 252 parcels valued at $564,879; in 2013, the town executed liens on 274 parcels valued at $497,657; in 2014, the town executed liens on 243 parcels valued at $442,643; and in 2015, the town executed liens on 213 parcels valued at $413,157, Gonyer reported.

For certain taxpayers who fall behind on their property tax payments, help is available. In March, in an opening address at the National Tax Lien Association's 20th Anniversary Conference, Executive Director Brad Westover announced the establishment of a nonprofit foundation to help preserve homeownership for elderly, disabled citizens or military veterans who owe back taxes but qualify for hardship assistance. More information is available at ntlafoundation.org or at ntla.org.

The New Hampshire Board of Tax Appeals also offers waivers and exceptions for some taxpayers in need. "The board has authority to decide appeals involving property tax exemptions, tax deferrals and tax credits," notes the board's website, https://www.nh.gov/btla/appeals/exemptions.htm.

Transfer station dilemma: Sanbornton’s weekend trash languishes in overfilled cans


SANBORNTON — Town residents who enjoy get-togethers on weekends in the summer will need to adjust to the hours of operation at the local transfer station.
The trash accumulated during a weekend party may end up overflowing trash cans on the property until the following Friday.
Selectmen briefly entertained the idea of opening the transfer station on Mondays, to provide a place for summer residents to dump their weekend trash before departing for the week. But the idea was rebuffed.
The summer hours at the Sanbornton Transfer Station, located at 184 Shaw Hill Road, are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., effective April 1 to Sept. 30.
Selectman John Olmstead said he received an inquiry of why the Sanbornton Transfer Station couldn't be open Friday, Saturday and Monday instead of Friday, Saturday and Thursday, so trash could be disposed of first thing Monday after a busy weekend of entertaining.
Parties on the weekend may yield trash that has no where to go without the transfer station being open on Mondays, said Selectman Karen Ober.
But part-time staff gravitate to jobs at the transfer station because they know they can block off Thursday through Saturday and then work a second job somewhere else, she said.
"We did that for the reason of personnel because it was easier for them to know they had three days in a row, and they could get a second job somewhere else and plan on that," Ober said. "But my thought is people who are here for the weekend, and need to go to the dump, have to wait a whole week with trash on their property."
Transfer station manager Kevin Austin said, "The town doesn't like change, and we're finally getting them on board with Thursdays."
Selectmen also acknowledged that federal holidays frequently fall on Mondays, especially in the summer, which would thwart the effort to provide Monday openings. Selectmen left the days of operation alone.
In 2016, the town handled 204 tons of single-stream recycling, up from 194 tons in 2013; 180 tons of construction and demolition material, up from 155 tons in 2013; and 537 tons of residential solid waste, up from 433 tons in 2013, according to the town report.