Still waiting on City Council's plate is proposal to spend $1.3M on additional downtown improvements
LACONIA — While the City Council this week approved the recommendation of the Advisory Board of the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District to fund improvements at the Main Street bridge over the Winnipesaukee River, it deferred a decision on six other projects proposed by the board. City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that he expected the council to address those recommendations by September.
After the so-called "Gateway Plaza" at the bridge, the Advisory Committee, recommended constructing the ramp to carry the riverwalk past the Landmark Inn for $181,000, completing the section of the riverwalk behind Walgreen's for $121,800, building a pocket park at the junction of Water Street and Pleasant Street for $290,000, extending the riverwalk from City Hall to Church Street for $300,000, beginning phase 2 of the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street for $400,000 and erecting a kiosk with signage to the WOW Trail and riverwalk near the library for $25,000. Altogether these projects are estimated to cost $1,317,800.
The effect of these projects would be to complete the stretch of riverwalk along the north bank of the Winnipesaukee River from the Fair Street Bridge to the Church Street Bridge, except for the crossing of Beacon Street West. Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that the connection would be made when Chinburg Builders completes the commercial development planned at the Beacon Street West Condominiums. Ultimately a second stretch of riverwalk is planned to extend along the southern bank of the river and join the first at the two bridges to form a continuous loop.
The Advisory Board proposes to fund these projects with a borrowing serviced by the revenue from the TIF District, which consisted of 287 properties spread over 145.5 acres with an aggregate assessed value of $70.3-million when the district was established in 2004. Tax increment financing consists of delineating TIF districts, then applying half of the future property tax revenues that accrue from the increase in assessed value generated by new construction, expansion or renovation of property in the district to service borrowings used to fund public improvements within it. The downtown TIF account has a current balance of $311,353.
Myers projected the balance to increase by $173,687 in fiscal year 2014 and to grow by 1.5-percent each year thereafter, which he described as a conservative estimate. Over the course of 20 years the TIF district would generate $4,016,280 enough to service a borrowing of $1.5-million at 4.249-percent and leave a balance of $1,922,828 in the TIF account. Alternatively, a borrowing of $2-million for the same term at the same rate would leave a balance of $1,226,115.
Myers said that since the TIF district generates the revenue to defray the principal and interest payments on the borrowing, the debt would have no impact on the amount to be raised by property taxes, which is limited by the tax cap.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 02:27
Judge orders man accused of burning wife's belongings to leave Gale Street home; she had already moved out
LACONIA — After contemplating for nearly 10 minutes in total silence, yesterday Judge Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division ordered a local man accused of burning his wife's belongings Monday afternoon and then assaulting two police officers who came to put the fire out to leave the home until his case can be adjudicated on August 20.
He also ordered John W. Swett, 53, of 53 Gale Avenue to post $1,500 cash bail — $500 to get out of jail immediately and $500 each week for two weeks. Swett is also ordered to surrender any firearms within his control and to report weekly to court until his trial. He must also get professional or pastoral counseling.
Swett is accused of two counts of simple assault (on police officers), criminal mischief (for allegedly burning his wife's belonging), obstructing a government official (for turning off a garden hose being used by a police sergeant to douse the fire), one count of disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest (for allegedly slipping a handcuff and getting into a roll-on-the-ground fight with the arresting officer.)
According to affidavits police filed with the court, Swett's estranged wife had been living away from the home for about six weeks. Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, who was arguing for $15,000 cash-only bail, said she left because she was afraid of him, however to date no paperwork has been submitted to the court regarding domestic violence.
Swett's wife was in court yesterday taking hand-written notes.
According to Sawyer, Swett was convicted of simple assault in 2010 and his wife was the victim. Yesterday Judge Carroll ordered Swett not to contact his wife by any means.
Sawyer also said Swett had substance abuse issues, however the affidavits make no mention of alcohol or drugs during the encounter with police.
Affidavits indicate Swett had allegedly spoken to his wife on the telephone and told her he was going to burn her things. The triggering event, said Sawyer, was her taking money from a bank account.
Sawyer said yesterday when the first police officer arrived, just before 4 p.m. Monday, he found a fire about 4-feet high in a fire pit and what appeared to be woman's shoes and boxes of paperwork nearby.
When the officer asked him what he was burning and if he had a fire permit, he said he was burning wood and he would get a permit. The office said it appeared to him that Swett was burning books and papers, and Swett replied he was burning wood bi-products.
Swett allegedly kept repeatedly telling Officer Kevin Shortt to "get the (explicative) off his property" while Shortt was trying to determine what Swett's problem was.
At one point, said affidavits, Swett turned the hose on the fire, reminded Shortt it was raining, and announced the fire was out. He repeatedly told him to get off his property.
Swett reportedly went inside and Shortt walked to the front door to speak with him. At that point Shortt's affidavit said Swett was initially rude but when he realized Shortt wasn't going away, he "took a breath and stated he was sorry for his behavior but he was very upset with his wife."
When Shortt asked why, Swett alleged that "she stole all the money." Affidavits said he told Shortt, who by this time was joined by two other officers including a sergeant, to go look in the pit for himself if he wanted to know what was burning.
It was, said police, when they went to use the garden hose to put out the fire that Swett allegedly lost his temper and became physically abusive to them.
A man who said he witnessed the altercation called The Daily Sun on Tuesday and said the police were aggressive and one of them over-reacted when Swett called him an "old fart."
"These cops just came looking for a fight," said the witness, adding one of the officers "lost control."
Swett's attorney Allison Schwartz acknowledged that her client had a few misdemeanors in his past but said he was no flight risk, was a contractor with an ongoing and substantial project, and would agreed to any bail terms ordered by Judge Carroll. She said he is a member of a local church.
She said Swett contributes to society by working as a private building contractor and if he were held on cash bail that he couldn't post, would likely loose his current building contract that would trigger a cascade of financial events that could cost him and his estranged wife their home.
She also said he supports his two young adult children — one of whom lives in the home and one who is in college.
Swett has posted the first $500 of his bail and is free tonight.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 02:20
BELMONT — A group of citizens interested in the future or non-future of the historic Gale School has formed with the intent of saving the empty building from possible demolition.
The group, consisting of Ken Knowlton, former School Board Chair Pret Tuthill and Diane Marden, is in its infancy and has not made any recommendations said Knowlton.
"We realize the town is not interested in it," he said.
When she last night informed the Shaker Regional School Board of her discussions with town officials about the old school, Superintendent Maria Dreyer said she has no idea what the citizen's group is going to propose but she wanted the board to know of its existence.
"This is the last hurrah," said Knowlton, who said the three of them have an idea but are unwilling to share it with anyone until they have completed the logistics.
The Gale School belongs to the school district and for years the district and townspeople have wrestled over what to do with it. The building sits up on a shoulder of Bryant Field, behind the Belmont Middle School. Knowlton said it has not been used as a school since the late 1950s or early 1960s.
At the most recent selectmen meeting on July 15 and as part of the town's overall study of every town-owned building, Building Inspector Steve Paquin said the Building Assessment Committee indicated it was beyond repair and likely had no historic value other than the sentimental one from the citizens of Belmont.
He said it would likely fall apart if it were to be moved in one piece and the simple logistics of where it is and its size would indicate it could be nearly impossible and very expensive to relocate.
Dreyer told the board last night that she met with the town administrator and Selectman Ron Cormier who told her the town "would support the (school) board's stand if we wanted to raze it."
One of her suggestions was to incorporate pieces or parts of the Gale School into the new pavilion the town is building in the village center as part of the Village Revitalization Project. She said when 10 schools in her former school district in Florida were destroyed by a hurricane, some of the clapboards from the wooden ones were incorporated in to new schools by getting local people to sponsor and inscribe them.
She told the board that if they were to try and incorporate some of the Gale School into the new pavilion, the administrative and legal process would need soon because the pavilion, which is paid in part by a federal grant, must be finished by December of 2014 and covered into a warrant article by March of 2014.
Members of the board said the latest numbers to either rehabilitate it, move it, or raze it are about 8-years-old and need to be current before they could continue their discussion.
"We really have to see how we can fiscally work together," Dreyer said.
Dreyer also said the meeting she held with town officials was to discuss better cooperation all around between the town and the school district and included plowing, the sharing of facilities with the town Department of Parks and Recreation and the plans for the reconstruction of School Street.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 02:15
LACONIA — In a letter to the Belknap County Commission, the City Council this week added its voice to those who have already expressed misgivings about the process of planning for a new correctional facility.
The council acted in response to a report by Ricci Greene Associates that recommended constructing a county corrections facility at an estimated cost of $42.5 million as well as incrementally increasing personnel, which would raise the annual payroll from $1.6 million to $4.2 million.
After Mayor Mike Seymour and several councilors recently visited the county jail, the council acknowledged "the need for improvements." Likewise, they said that they realized that the estimates for a new facility were just that and understood the commission believed the cost could be significantly reduced. Nevertheless, the council urged the commission "to take a different approach in determining what should ultimately be built" by starting with what county taxpayers can afford.
The council reminded the commission that the city budgets within the limits of property tax cap, which restricts the annual increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes, including the county tax. Moreover, the city bears about a fifth of the county tax, the largest share among the 11 municipalities.
"In doing some very rough calculations, " the letter read, "the Laconia City Council is very concerned that this project, along with the staffing, will eat up most if not all of the City's allowable tax cap increase" and "for more than just one year."
The councilors indicated their wish to maintain "an open dialog" with the commissioners about what they called "the affordability approach" and offered to meet at time.
The commissioners have insisted that estimates offered by Ricci Greene Associates are based on a conceptual plan for the facility. That plan envisions a two-story, 94,450-square-foot facility with 180 beds, plus five for inmates requiring medical care. A third of the beds — 44 for men and 16 for women — would be reserved for inmates awaiting trial, on work release, undergoing treatment or on electronic monitoring. The remaining 120 beds — 88 for men and 32 for women — would be allotted to maximum, medium, and minimum security inmates as well as those with special needs. The major feature of the project is the community corrections component, an array of therapeutic services, educational programs and vocational training to prepare inmates for a successful return to the community. Rici Greene projected that operating the facility would require 49 full-time employees, 21 more than are currently on the payroll.
The commissioners have insisted that by designing and engineering the project, significant reductions in cost can be identified and achieved.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 02:14
- Budget Committee member sees falsehood in Alton school bond flyer
- Laconia man charged with DWI for 2nd time in a week
- Muskrate star scores inning run as Laconia hosts league All Star Game
- City Council votes to put $382K into downtown 'gateway' project
- Tilton mother & ton arrested on drug charges
- Family of Plymouth man murdered 2 years ago offers $10,000 reward