Briarcrest: Board slows clock on potential sale of manufactured home park

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The board of directors of the Lakemont Cooperative, which owns, manages and operates Briarcrest Estates, has has scrapped meetings in February and April to consider an offer from Hometown America Corporation to purchase the manufacturing housing park after residents wintering in warmer climes said that the schedule would effectively exclude them from the process. Instead, Don Vachon, president of the board, told residents that the special meeting will be held in June to coincide with the annual meeting of of cooperative.

Last week the board announced it had scheduled an "informational" meeting on Feb. 25 and special meeting of the members of the cooperative on April 8, when a vote would be taken to accept or reject the offer. Apart from the "snowbirds," several past officials of the cooperative voiced misgivings about what Orry Gibbs, a former director, called a "rush to a decision." Gibbs was echoed by Katherine Carlson, also a former member of the board who still serves on its finance committee, and Jim Cowan, the first president of the cooperative. All three questioned the wisdom of dissolving the cooperative and selling the park. As a cooperatively owned park, control of both the annual operating budget and expenses for capital improvements rests with the residents of the park.

Gibbs said Monday that she is pleased that the board has rescheduled any vote on Hometown America Corporation's offer to acquire the park and hoped that the time would be used to hold one or more meetings, at which residents would be fully informed of the ramifications of relinquishing ownership of the park to a private corporation. She said that those meetings should include representatives of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and TD Bank, which loaned the cooperative the funds to purchase the park, as well as officials Hometown America Corporation.

Hometown America Corporation has offered to retire the outstanding balances on a $8 million loan from TD Bank and $2 million loan from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund as well as pay the prepayment penalty of $873,000 on the bank loan, closing costs and real estate transfer taxes associated with the transaction. In addition the firm has pledged to honor all current leases, which limit annual rent increases to the rise in property taxes and inflation rate, together with any special assessment levied to fund improvements in the park. The company has offered to invest $350,000 in improvements to the park in the first year of its ownership. And the offer included a commitment to restrict the park to residents aged 55 and older, a measure residents rejected by a wide margin at the annual meeting of the Lakemont Cooperative in 2015.

Mark and Ruth Mooney open Briarcrest Estates in 1988. The park stretches over 183 acres, divided between Laconia and Belmont, and consists of 241 homesites, 200 in Laconia and 41 in Belmont. The Lakemont Cooperative matched an offer from Hometown America to purchased the park ffrom the Mooneys for $10 million in 2014. Since the New Hampshire Legislature granted residents of manufactured housing parks the opportunity to acquire their parks in 1987, 121 parks have passed into cooperative ownership and none have reverted to private ownership.

Suspicious Belmont fire

Garage destroyed but home was uninhabited

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — A suspicious blaze at 30 Corriveau Road that destroyed a two-car garage and nearly took the house with it is being investigated by police and fire officials.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said firefighters were alerted at 9:41 p.m. Saturday and the on-duty Belmont lieutenant called for reinforcements before he arrived.

Finding the garage completely engulfed in flames, Erickson said they sought additional assistance from Franklin, Gilmanton, Sanbornton, Barnstead and Tilton-Northfield to augment the crews from Belmont, Laconia and Gilford who were already there.

Erickson said the blaze was so intense that about 20 cars had stopped along Route 106 to watch it burn.

He said firefighters were able to knock down the bulk of the fire and spare damage to the main body of the attached house. He said the roof and attic of the house was damaged by flames but there was considered smoke and water damage throughout the rest of the house. He said the house is repairable.

Erickson and Belmont Police Lt. Rich Mann both said the house was unoccupied and had been taken through a foreclosure at least a year ago. Both said it hadn't been lived in for a least a year.

Mann said his officers spoke to the neighbors who said the house was shown regularly by various real estate agents and it is unlikely the home had been being used by squatters.

Erickson said there was electrical service to the house but is not saying whether or not it was turned on.

Anyone with any information or who may have seen something or someone suspicious in the area on Saturday is asked to call the Belmont Police at 267-8351.

02-07 suspicious Belmont fire 1

Below, fire rages at 30 Corriveau Road in Belmont Saturday night. The fire drew the attention of dozens of people along Route 106. At top is the home after the fire. No one lived in the home, which had been foreclosed on. (Courtesy photos)

02-07 suspicious Belmont fire 2

Gilmanton voters restore Fire Department account at Town Meeting

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — Voters restored $5,000 to a part-time salary account for the Gilmanton Fire Department on Saturday during a brisk  deliberative session of Town Meeting, where the warrant otherwise underwent few changes.
"The salary line pays for vacation and sick time as well as two per-diem shifts weekly," Fire Chief Paul Hempel III said Monday, explaining the contested budget request.
During "Super Saturday" on Jan. 7, Budget Committee Chairman Brian Forst made the motion to reduce the part-time wages line by $5,000, to $24,000, according to minutes of the meeting. Stan Bean seconded the motion, and it was approved, the minutes reflected. All told, the Budget Committee reduced the bottom line of the fire department to $631,516, a reduction in the amount of $5,900.
At Saturday's deliberative session, Hempel urged voters to reconsider the reduction to part-time salaries, a plea that prevailed. Other Budget Committee reductions to the fire department budget — $300 to a custodial and housekeeping line item; $400 to office supplies; and $200 to a lease/rental copier line item — remained intact in the town budget.
Hempel said he wasn't present to defend the part-time salaries line during Super Saturday, and because the department hadn't spent all of the funding, the Budget Committee gave it a closer look. But he expressed relief that voters restored the $29,000 part-time salary account as part of the town's operating budget.
"Any of those funds that are requested are necessary," he said.
Article 8, for the proposed town operating budget, requests $3,619,691. If this article fails, a default budget of $3,649,393 will take effect.
Voting for the town and school district will be held on Tuesday, March 14, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., upstairs at the Gilmanton Academy Building. The deliberative session of School District Meeting is Saturday, Feb. 11, at 10 a.m., at the Gilmanton School.

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