Belmont officer’s family homeless after fire

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — A Belmont police sergeant and his family are now homeless after fire damaged the Sawtooth Road home yesterday afternoon.

There was no one home during the blaze and no one was injured.

Fire Lt. Brian Cattrell said the fire was spotted by either a neighbor or a passerby who reported the fire to 911. He said when he arrived, he saw flames coming from the first and second stories and immediately called for a second alarm, which brought crews from multiple neighboring communities.

He said the two first crews there entered the home with two separate lines through the front doorway and were able to knock down much of the fire.

Cattrell said the kitchen area had the most damage, but there was smoke, heat and water damage throughout the entire home. He said he's not sure what the cause of the fire was.

He said the displaced family has relatives in the area and will be able to stay with them.

The initial call came over the radio that there was an empty police cruiser in the driveway and that flames were lapping over the left side of the house. The home belongs to Sgt. Steve Akerstrom who was out of town on personal business and had left his take-home cruiser in the driveway.

Lt. Rich Mann of the Belmont Police Department said that he and his department are grateful that Akerstrom and his family are safe. He said it's too soon to know what his police department will be doing for Akerstrom and his family but said he should have more information next week.

Man towing sheep in Moultonborough arrested for DWI

MOULTONBOROUGH – A man hauling four sheep from Tamworth and Sandwich to Sanbornton was arrested for driving while intoxicated after police stopped him on Route 25 for having speeding and defective brake lights.

Complaints from Tamworth and Sandwich, said police, said the driver was unlawfully passing vehicles of the left and driving erratically.

Police said Christopher Archibald, 34, no address given, of Sanbornton was released on personal recognizance bail.

The four sheep in the trailer were taken by tow truck driver Doug Murphy of Doug Murphy Towing to his business until their owner could come from Sanbornton to retrieve them.

Archibald was also cited for two yellow line violations.

– Gail Ober

City’s rich, poor populations grow while middle shrinks

LACONIA — As the number of residents of the city living in poverty has risen in the past four years, the number of households and families with incomes of more than $100,000 has also increased, while the number with between $35,000 and $100,000 have decreased.

According to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the portion of the population with incomes below the federal poverty level climbed from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 15.9 percent in 2014, or from 1,886 to 2,545 individuals.

At the same time, the bureau estimated in 2014 there were 1,145 families with annual incomes of less than $35,000, or 7.7 percent more than the 1,063 reported in 2010. The estimated 1,904 families earning between $35,000 and $100,000 in 2014 was 14.3 percent less than the 2,223 reported in 2010. Finally, the bureau estimated that the incomes of 1,131 families exceeded $100,000 in 2014, compared to 898 families of similar means in 2010, representing an increase of 25.9 percent.

The data for households presents a different but similar profile. The number of households with incomes below $35,000 shrank from 2,530 to 2,454 between 2010 and 2014, a decrease of 3 percent. But, the number of households with incomes between $35,000 and $100,000 also decreased, from 3,425 to 3,008, or by 12.2 percent while the number with incomes of more than $100,000 increased by 12.4 percent, from 1,223 to 1,375.

This data tracks a report by the Census Bureau that between 2007 and 2013 income inequality in New Hampshire increased at almost twice the national rate and faster than in any other state, with Carroll, Grafton and Belknap counties setting the pace.

The most comprehensive measure of income inequality is the so-called Gini Index, an international measure created by the Italian statistician Carrado Gini in 1912 and widely applied ever since. The index assigns zero to perfect equality while a value of one indicates that a single individual or family earns all the income and the rest earn nothing.

Using three-year averages, in New Hampshire the Gini Index rose from 0.414 in 2007 to 0.435 in 2013, a 5 percent increase. Carroll County posted the highest index of 0.468, followed by Grafton County at 0.46 and Belknap County at 0.44. However, during the same period the index rose 10 percent in Belknap County, twice the rate of the state as a whole and the greatest increase among the 10 counties.

The income distribution is reflected in changes in the local housing stock between 2000 and 2010. During the decade, the number of seasonal homes rose 55 percent, from 1,477 in 2000 to 2,293 in 2010, with the 816 additional seasonal units representing 62 percent of the growth in the total housing stock. With the increase, seasonal homes grew from 17 percent to 23 percent of all dwelling units in the city.

Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Laconia fell 2.8 percent, from 16,411 to 15,951, but the number of housing units climbed 15 percent, from 8,554 to 9,879, as 1,325 new units were built. At the same time, the number of occupied units rose by only 114, from 6,724 to 6,838, an increase of 1.6 percent, while the number of "vacant" units jumped by 1,211, from 1,830 to 3,041, an increase of 66 percent.