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Humane Society denies charges brough in lawsuit by former executive director

LACONIA — The New Hampshire Humane Society Board of Directors said yesterday that it denies all of the allegations made against it in a wrongful termination suit filed by former Executive Director Maria Di Maria.

Di Maria, according to the suit filed Tuesday in the Belknap County Superior Court, was fired from her job on December 12, 2013. She has been in the position for just over four years.

Among her claims are that the Board of Directors fired her when she complained that contract veterinarian Dr. Brenda Stowe was not following the Humane Society's mission statement of finding "forever" homes or shelter for lost, abandoned and unwanted animals.

Di Maria also alleges Stowe falsified birth records of some kittens and performed neutering or spaying procedures on some cats that were not fully anesthetized.

In her suit she claims that some of the board members along with the business manager conspired to get her fired after she made known her concerns.

In a written statement made yesterday, the board of directors said they "(wish) to express its full support of our employee Dr. Brenda Stowe, who upon investigations of the allegations, we believed to have served to exercise the organization's mission with exemplary judgment and compassion."

Di Maria said that one point during her tenure, she was accused of being the reason a local insurance agency could not obtain "Directors and Officers" liability insurance from their, at the time, current underwriter. She said she later learned a different underwriter had offered to underwrite the policy.

Di Maria said she had obtained "D & O" insurance after learning the first underwriter was no longer insuring humane societies and that she bought the policy from a different insurance company.

One week after Di Maria's dismissal, two of the members of the board that voted to fire her, former President Bill Phenix and Vice President Joseph Thornton resigned for unknown reasons.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 12:46

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Fratello's adding deck for outdoor seating

LACONIA — Twenty-two years after the red brick landmark in Lakeport that last housed Indian Head Bank became Fratello's Italian Grille the restaurant is about to undergo a change.

Chris McDonough, who with his brothers Mark and Mike owns the restaurant and its companion in Manchester, presented plans to the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) this week to replace the solarium with an indoor dining room and add an outdoor deck. He told the board that the solarium has become difficult to heat in the winter and cool in the summer and demand for outdoor dining in the warmer months has grown.

The 740-square-foot solarium will be replaced with an enclosed room of the same dimension, crowned by a tower with a faux copper roofed tower overlooking Union Avenue. The deck, with 575 square feet of space, will line the north side of the building, above the main entrance.

This week the ZBA unanimously granted the variance required to extend the deck into the setback from Union Avenue, but the deck will be no nearer to Union Ave. than the existing building.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 12:34

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Gilford DPW union agrees to new contract

GILFORD — Selectmen and the union representing the employees of the Department of Public Works have agreed on a three year contract that will run from April 15, 2014 through March 30, 2018 if the cost items are approved.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represents the DPW employees.

Under the new agreement, DPW employees will continue to be eligible for merit raises between zero and 4 percent annually, based on performance evaluations, and will continue to contribute 10 percent of the premiums for their health insurance.

The estimated additonal costs to the taxpayers for the cost provisions of the new contract are zero in 2015, $7,602 in 2016, and $7,942 in 2017. The cost items need to be approved by a majority of those voting in at the 2015 annual town meeting.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said other terms or changes include clarifications on who is eligible to be a member of the bargaining unit; the elimination of a merit raise upon completion of a probationary period; some amendments to procedures on promotions and transfers; and a one time 15 cent hourly wage increase to take effect in 2016.

The union also agreed to adopt the town of Gilford's policies on the Family Leave and Medical Act, vacations, sick leave, and bereavement leave.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 12:31

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School Board aims to get public involved in developing its new strategic plan

LACONIA — The Strategic Planning Committee of the School Board is targeting October 18 as a day for school "stakeholders" to come together and provide their individual thoughts about the School District's goals for the next five to seven years.

Committee members said last night that they would be sending invitations to a wide variety of individuals in Laconia, including business owners and leaders, parents, politicians, as well as former students and local college administrators, for their input into Laconia's education goals.

The subcommittee said it wants a multi-generational look at the School District and suggestions on what the district should look like in the future.

A strategic plan identifies the short, medium, and long-term goals of a school district and how to best deploy available resources to achieve those goals.

Although no decision has been made, there was some discussion Tuesday night about hiring a facilitator and/or adviser to oversee the process.

Strategic Planning Committee Chair Mike Persson initially said he thought a facilitator would be useful for the October 18 goals meeting.

Member Joe Cormier said he felt the district should hold the October 18 before making a decision to hire a facilitator. "Let's have this group get together and then look at the results from the October 18 meeting and create a bullet document about what we've surmised," he said.

Once the committee has heard the goals as identified by the people in the community they will most affect, Cormier said it then would be the time to reorganize and refine the community input, define specific focus areas, and possibly consider a facilitator to help move the plan to completion.

Persson suggested using a neutral facilitator like New Hampshire Listens. He also suggested that there are members of the Laconia community who are experienced facilitators who already know the community and the school system who would be willing to help.

Cormier also noted that the Laconia Planning Department is working on a revise of the city master plan and he said it might be a good idea to look at what the city is doing and engage some of the same resources.

Superintendent Terri Forsten said she has already spoken with city Planner Shanna Saunders who said that if any portion of her master plan work is related to the Laconia School District she would inform her.

According to the city of Laconia website, as part of the City of Laconia's Master Plan Update Process, the city has been awarded a number of planning grants to help it with its goal of developing a new master plan.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 12:28

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