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Mill Society looks to volunteers to raise funds for repairs & operations

LACONIA — The executive committee of the Belknap Mill Society will recommend that the Board of Trustees accede to the will of the majority of voting members by suspending discussion of selling the historic building and undertaking an effort to overcome the financial challenges overshadowing its future.

Twice in as many months, first at an informal meeting in January and at the annual meeting this week, overwhelming majorities of the non-board members present opposed the trustees' proposal to negotiate the sale of the mill to the city. Allison Ambrose, who has succeeded Christine Santaniello as president of the society, said that the trustees would not pursue a course opposed by the membership.

Ambrose explained that at both meetings members were asked if they would volunteer their services to efforts at sustaining the society's ownership and management of the mill. She said that "a couple dozen volunteers" stepped forward. "We are very encouraged by the support we've received from the community and membership," Ambrose said.

The executive committee, Ambrose continued, will recommend that the volunteers be assigned to a committee to mount a capital improvement campaign and membership drive as well as "make the attempt to generate additional operating income." Ambrose expected the trustees would meet soon and if they endorse the recommendation of the executive committee, a letter outlining the initiative and committee assignments will be sent to the members.

"Time is of the essence," said Ambrose, who said that the society has sufficient financial resources to operate for several more months and, through the marketing efforts of managing director Beth San Soucie, perhaps longer.

Attorney Pat Wood, who is among those most opposed to selling the mill, said he was confident the society could muster the resources required to own and operate the mill. He estimated that $300,000 would be required to fund the most urgent repairs to the building, including the installation of a new boiler, renovation or replacement of the roof and refurbishment of the windows.

Wood suggested that income from leasing office space on the second and fourth floors, together with fees from renting the function rooms on the first and third floors, would represent about half the annual operating budget. Some of the balance, Wood suggested, would be met by increasing memberships and decreasing expenditures, especially by persuading the City Council to forgive the $6,000 in property taxes levied on the rented space in the building. Wood anticipated that the society might require financial assistance from the city, perhaps as much as $50,000 a year, "for a limited period of time."

"Everything is possible," Wood said. "We can move mountains, if we want to. I'm guardedly optimistic."

Less sanguine, Ambrose said "it's absolutely worth giving it a try and definitely worth the effort."

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 February 2015 12:20

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New, easy to recall phone number turns into disaster for Bristol real estate company

BRISTOL — A ringing telephone heralds the cha-ching of a cash register to a newly opened business, but not at Newfound Properties where phone calls inspire the dread of a death knell.

Last spring Michael Capsalis opened the real estate agency at 802 Lake Street, investing some $250,000 in renovating the building and thousands more in a roadside sign, "for sale" placards, stationary and a website. He also chose what he believed was a promising telephone number from those offered him by FairPoint Communications — 744-8400 — which was displayed on all the firm's materials and advertising. .

"I chose because it was the best number," Capsalis said. "When they told me it was available, I said 'you're kidding' and took it." He said that when the phones were installed in May "the tail lights weren't even out of the driveway" when the phone began ringing — for Waste Management, the huge trash hauling and disposal firm that counts the City of Laconia among its clients. It manages the city's transfer station on Meredith Center Road.

Capsalis said that he quickly discovered 744-8400 had been the number of Waste Management's facility in New Hampton for more than 30 years before it was disconnected one year and one month before it was assigned to Newfound Properties. He said that Waste Management closed its office in New Hampton, but took no steps to reroute calls to the facility or to remove the number from its website or from telephone directories.

"We've received more than 4,000 calls for Waste Management since we opened last May," Capsalis said, which he calculated represented 97-percent of all calls to his agency. "They call day and night, every day of the week, Saturdays and Sundays," he continued. "Their customers call and their employees still have the 744-8400 number."

Capsalis said that one woman called repeatedly to complain that her television set had not been collected and another woman from Laconia frequently calls to have her dumpster emptied. "We're getting all their grief," he remarked. "We're getting cussed at. We're running two businesses and 97 percent of it we don't get paid for." He said that truck drivers call at all hours of the day and night asking someone to open the gate at the New Hampton facility, which still serves as a waste transfer station.

Capsalis said he approached the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission and was told that the number for a local business can be reassigned one year after it has been disconnected while the number of a national business must be disconnected for three years before it can be reassigned.

Although Waste Management serves 27-million residential commercial, industrial and municipal customers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, FairPoint has claimed that 744-8400 is a local number. Capsalis said that last fall FairPoint offered to assign him a new number and asked how much it would cost his firm to change all its informational materials. "They even agreed to waive the change fee," he said, "but since I sent them the estimate in October they have refused to respond to correspondence and phone calls."

Capsalis said that he spent two months trying to persuade Waster Management to remove the number from their websites and finally reached someone he knows only as Patrick in Chicago who finally saw to it after being threatened with legal action.

So far Capsalis has been been reluctant to request a new telephone number. He estimated the cost of replacing all the materials bearing the hexed number would approach $10,000. "It may not sound like much," he remarked, "but I haven't got it."

"We're at our wits end," Capsalis said, adding that one of his agents told him " 'I'm tired of being a secretary for Waste Management.' We don't want any money", he continued, "We just want it fixed."

In the meantime, Capsalis and his agents are relying on their cell phones.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 February 2015 05:38

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Laconia man said to have burned down wife's house ready to plead guilty

LACONIA – A former Taylor Street man has tentatively agreed to serve two to four years in the New Hampshire State Prison for allegedly setting his wife's house on fire in September of 2014.

John E. Woodbury, 51, also agreed he would undergo mental health and substance abuse therapy if the court accepts his plea offering.

The state alleges that on September 5 at the late afternoon and following an argument with his wife, Woodbury set the house the two shared at 44 Taylor Street on fire.

According to police affidavits, Woodbury was calling his wife and one of his wife's friends on their cell phones and leaving messages with a blow-by-blow account of what he was doing.

When police and firefighters arrived, Woodbury was standing across the street with his dog watching the house burn.

Witnesses said he made no effort to help firefighters drag the four-inch hoses down the street as did other neighbors and onlookers.

During a probable cause hearing held in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, a deputy fire chief testified that during his investigation, which was conducted with the assistance of a N.H. state fire marshal, they examined every possible way the house could have caught fire and were able to eliminate all of them except arson.

Deputy Fire Chief Charles Roffo also testified that there were two points of ignition — one on the back porch in the left rear of the house and one in the bedroom in the right front of the building.

Roffo said there was no fire in the basement and there was much less damage done to the two middle rooms than at the ignition points.

Woodbury is scheduled to plead guilty Tuesday morning in the Belknap County Superior Court.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 February 2015 11:56

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Hosmer raises ire of 'concealed carry' advocates with 'half baked' comment in letter

LACONIA — State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) found himself in the cross-hairs of the distaff wing of the gun lobby this week. In reply to an e-mail from Susan Olsen of Warner, legislative director of the Women's Defense League of New Hampshire, touting legislation to repeal the requirement for a license to carry a concealed firearm, Hosmer wrote "thank you for contacting me but your points are half baked at best."

In support of Senate Bill 116, Olsen wrote it "will allow women who are legally able to defend themselves and their children INSIDE their homes to legally defend themselves and their children OUTSIDE their homes without seeking the permission of the Legislature and local law enforcement." Under the current law, she pictured a victim of domestic abuse or stalking compelled "to cower behind closed doors and drawn draperies for as long as 14 days while waiting for her local police chief to determine whether he believes she is suitable" to carry a concealed firearm.

Hosmer was met by a volley of rebukes from supporters of the bill, some of which appeared on GraniteGrok, the local Internet blog, to which Olsen contributes. In a prepared statement, the Women's Defense League of New Hampshire wrote it was "taken aback that a sitting N.H. Senator would treat any Granite Stater in this manner," found his "response to a woman asking him to support women's rights offensive," and asked him to apologize.

Kimberly Morin, a conservative advocate, called Hosmer's remark "condescending misogynistic and rude" and dismissed his professed concern for victims of domestic violence, charging that when given "a chance to actually help the women he pretended to be so concerned with . . . he's turning his back on them."

"Such a fine and upstanding example of 'political civility'" this is not!", sniffed Skip Murphy, the founder of GraniteGrok.

Writing on GraniteGrok, Steve MacDonald asked "Is State Senator Andrew 'Half-Baked' Hosmer implying that Susan Olsen should just stay in the kitchen where she'll be both safe and can get better at baking/" Meanwhile, Olsen, who described herself as "a little old lady who is armed and fabulous," posted her picture on the blog above the line "Baking Bad."

Hosmer said yesterday that he was "inundated" with phone calls and e-mails. Although he conceded his tone was "sharp", he declined to temper his opposition to the bill. "The introduction of a weapon into a tense domestic situation does not increase the likelihood of a positive outcome," he said. "I can attest to that as a former prosecutor in hundreds of domestic violence cases." He said that the current law requiring a license, does not deny weapons to those who need them and that police chiefs approve "99-percent" of all applications.

Yesterday, when SB-116 carried the Senate on a party line vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats, including Hosmer, against, the senator found a half-pint of Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked ice cream on his desk.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 February 2015 02:26

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