Abenaki, a community's ski area

With a 0-14mpg blast Elizabeth Gagne holds on tight as she loads the rope tow at the Abenaki Ski Area in Wolfeboro.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

With a 0-14mpg blast Elizabeth Gagne holds on tight as she loads the rope tow at the Abenaki Ski Area in Wolfeboro.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

WOLFEBORO — Though it's been in operation for 80 years, Abenaki Ski Area has lately been something of an unknown entity outside of the Wolfeboro area. The secret's getting out, though, thanks to the dramatic improvements which the town-owned facility has undergone over the past decade, highlighted this year by a new lodge.

Over the past decade, the ski hill has been kept ever busier with club teams, school groups, and, when it's open to the general public, it is a favored place for beginners as well as local kids.

"For those of us who have been involved in it for a long time, it's very gratifying," said Ted Newman, of the Friends of Abenaki, a fundraising organization. The current state of the ski hill is due to generous support, both from private benefactors as well as Wolfeboro taxpayers, he said, though it was not too long ago that the recreational facility was at risk of being abandoned.

The Abenaki Ski Area, located on Route 109A, dates back to 1936, when the members of the Abenaki Outing Club cut the first trails on the land known as Poor Farm Hill. A rope tow and base lodge were added shortly thereafter. For the following two decades, the hill was popular among skiers, both locals and visitors from throughout the Northeast.

By the 1990s, though, inconsistent snow conditions led to a pattern of infrequent use. The area never opened in the winters of 2003-2004 or 2005-2006. There were fewer than 1,000 skier visits in the year in between. There were grumblings in town by some who felt the town should quit spending its resources on the facility, since it was used so little, and let the trails return to forest. Fortunately for young local skiers, there were enough who felt differently. The Friends of Abenaki was organized in 2005. By the winter of 2006-2007, the group had added a new snow groomer, a new rope tow for the beginner hill, and most importantly, portable snow-making equipment.

"If you're going to have a beach, you need to have water to swim in," said Newman. The same goes for a ski area: it isn't much good if there isn't snow. The portable snow guns made it possible for the hill, with its four trails, to have consistent snow as long as there is cold weather.

If you make snow, skiers will come. Nearly 2,000 skier visits were recorded in the winter of 2007-2008. That figure has grown each year, with 7,436 visits last winter.

Abenaki now has permanent snow-making equipment, fed by a pond at the base of the hill. Earlier this winter, the town cut the ribbon for its new lodge, which replaced one built in 1940, and which enjoyed broad support in the town.

The new lodge represented the most expensive upgrade sought by the Friends of Abenaki. In 2014, the group had plans drawn up for a four-season lodge, which would cost $600,000. The group was able to raise $350,000 through private donations, and asked the town to contribute the rest. The warrant article, at Town Meeting, was given 80 percent support, a gleaming seal of approval by the taxpayers. Afterward, it was learned that the town could use grant money to cover most of the taxpayers' burden.

Support for the lodge project surely indicates how valuable residents consider their ski hill. Christine Collins, recreation director for the town, said the resident rates for use are kept very affordable. Wolfeboro children can buy a season pass for $30, a family season pass for residents is $105. Nonresident rates are more, but still a fraction of the cost at a larger ski area. Rental equipment is also available, at a similarly reasonable rate.

"We wanted to keep it affordable for the residents," said Collins. After all, town funds are utilized for the upkeep of the property. "They are paying for it through their taxes."

Newman noted that the Abenaki Ski Area opens skiing to many who wouldn't be able to make it to Gunstock or King Pine.

"Like many towns, we're not all wealthy here," he said. Many of his fellow townspeople struggle economically, he noted. "The have families, we want to accommodate all of them."

Monday and Tuesday are reserved for schools and club teams. The ski hill is open Wednesday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., and opens at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Collins said that there is a group of a few dozen local youngsters who treat the ski area as their after-school club, taking the fast rope tow up to the top of the 200-foot-high hill, zooming down the 1,300-foot run, and then grabbing the rope to do it all again.

Some of those kids have grown up to be teenagers that come back to work at the facility, many more will become parents whose children will take their first runs there. Alongside them will be other children, whose parents spent many a winter afternoon on that very slope.

As Newman said, it all goes back to that same sentiment 80 years ago, that a group of people can come together to make something good.

"Really, it's about community involvement," he said.

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January 2016 Belknap County Indictments

The following people were indicted on Jan. 21 by a Belknap County grand jury.

An indictment is not an statement of guilt but a determination by an independent panel of grand jurors that enough evidence exists to warrant a criminal trial.

• Joshua J. Debour, 30, of 1 Eastbluff Highlands in Meredith was indicted for two counts of disobeying an officer.

• Russell Holliday, 56, formerly of 71 Annis Drive, #4, of Gilford was indicted for two counts of kidnapping, once count of criminal threatening with a deadly weapon, one count of reckless conduct, one count of being a felon in possession of a handgun, one count of attempted aggravated felonious sexual assault, and two counts of simple assault.

• Robert Lilly, 40, of 397 Union Ave., Apt. 2, Laconia was indicted for one count of being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon (a knife) while in Gilford.

• Alfred J. Morin, 31, of 72 Batchelder St., #3, Laconia was indicted for one count of theft by unauthorized taking and one count of possession of a controlled drug, methadone.

• Randy Nadeau, 33, of 40 Bay St., Laconia was indicted on six counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault for alleged acts on a child under 13 year of age in 2014.

• Raime Shaw, 35, of 22 Willow St., Laconia was indicted for operating a motor vehicle after being deemed an habitual offender.

• Keith Robertson, of 27 President Road in Manchester was indicted for possession of methamphetamine.

• Edward Burke, 32, of 281 N. State St. in Concord was indicted for attempted theft by unauthorized taking greater than $1,501 in Laconia.

• Kayla F. Miner, 25, of 177 Gold St., #1, was indicted for possession of a controlled drug clonazepam and for possession of a controlled drug crack cocaine.

• Shawn Petraw, of 94 Daniel Webster Highway, Center Harbor was indictment for possession of methamphetamine while in Meredith.

• Elizabeth Vozzella, 33, of 235 Cole Hill Road, Lunenberg, Vermont, was indicted for theft by deception greater than $1,501 for creating a false impression she was soliciting money for disaster relief for Nepalese citizens.

• Danny Ray Thomas, 60 formerly of 16 Eaton Ave. in Meredith, was indicted for one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault and misdemeanor sexual contact for acts committee in Meredith between January 2001 and November 2003.

• Oliver Blackstone, 29, of 52 Blackpoint Road, Alton was indicted for witness tampering.

• Steven Belanger, of 485 Laconia Road, Tilton was indicted for burglary for an act in Belmont.

• Teresa J. Bailey, 56, of 20 Bog Road Concord, was indicted for theft by unauthorized taking in Barnstead.

• Gregory Potter, 33, of 8 Greenleaf Court, Belmont was indicted for two counts of second degree assault - domestic violence an one count of simple assault - domestic violence.

• Ronald E. Murray, 41, of 316 Manchester St. Manchester was indicted for bail jumping for failing to appear in Belknap County Superior Court in Laconia.

• Jarrod Hoage, 24, of 64 Valley Road, New Durham was indicted for possession of marijuana while in Alton.

• Braelin Chagnon, 23, of 304 Suncook Valley Highway, Alton was indicted for possession of methamphetamine and indicted for possession of marijuana.

• Leroy H. Boynton, III, 48, of 35 Northbrook Road in Belmont was indicted for possession of methamphetamine and indicted for possession of clonasepam.

• Selina Armes, 34, of 2652 Lakeshore Road, Gilford was indicted for three counts of possession of a controlled drug - morphine, buprenorphine, and alprazolam.

• Angela Gauthier, 32, of 93 River Road in Tilton was indicted for one count of being a felon in possession of a long rifle with a suppressor, one count of possession of methamphetamine, one count of possession of Tramadol, and one count of being a felon in possession of a handgun.

• Michael Storey, 31, of 93 River Road in Tilton was indicted for one count of possession of Tramadol and one count of possession of methamphetamine.

• Paul E. Haskell, IV of 627 Weirs Blvd., #6, was indicted for willful concealment, third count, in Tilton.

• Christopher Miles, 34, of 103 Blueberry Lane, Apt. 86, was indicted for possession of methamphetamine.

• Danny Ray Thomas, 60, of 16 Eaton St. in Meredith was indicted for three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of pattern aggravated felonious sexual assault for acts alleged to have occurred in Meredith between November 2003 through November 2008.

• James McGonnell, 29, of 276 Rantoul St. in Beverly, Massachusetts, was indicted for one count of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon (a wine bottle) and one count of simple assault – for incidents in Laconia.

• Andrea L. Cross, 43, of 33 Pine St., #32, in Laconia was indicted for sales of methamphetamine, one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, one count of possession of methadone with intent to sell, one count of possession of heroin with intent to sell, one count of possession of heroin, one count of possession of methamphetamine, one count of possession of methadone, and one count of sales of methamphetamine.

• Sabrina Bostwick, 19, of 145 Kendall St. in Franklin was indicted for one count of conspiracy to sell heroin in Laconia.

• Susan F. Spurr 40, of 8 Vining Way in Northfield was indicted for possession of fentanyl and one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled drug in Laconia.

• James M. York, 32, of 11 Jewett St., Apt. E, in Laconia was indicted for one count of sales of heroin.

• Keith Lafoe, 42, of 736 Union St., #3, was indicted for two counts of sales of heroin.

• Gary Gach, 55, of 7 Church St., #106, was indicted for possession of crack cocaine.
• Ryan B. Tuttle, 25, of 23 Salt March Pond Road was indicted for two counts of assault by a prisoner while he was incarcerated at the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Note: This story was updated to correct the record on Richard Lilley.

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12 school jobs may be cut - Laconia works to meet budget cap

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — School District administrators have identified about 12 positions that could be eliminated in order to pass a budget that will meet the requirements of the city's tax cap.
Business Administrator Ed Emond told members of the Budget and Personnel Committee last night that four of those spots could come from Woodland Heights Elementary School, saving the district $260,000. He said all four, plus one special education teacher, will come from retirements.
Emond and Superintendent Phil McCormack said class size would remain within acceptable standards or a maximum of 25 students per class for kindergarten through second grade and a maximum of 30 students for grades 3, 4 and 5. Despite an increase in the number of students needing special education services, McCormack said other special education teachers will take higher case loads.
Two teacher positions could be cut from the middle school, saving $130,000. These positions are also from retirements.
Administrators said there would be a total savings of $380,000 from the middle school, but most of that discussion happened in a nonpublic session because of the personnel issues involved. The district will reduce extracurricular and athletic offerings at the middle school level to save $15,000.
Four core-curriculum teacher positions could also be eliminated at the high school for a savings of about $300,000. Administrators declined to be more specific, saying the adjustments involved personnel matters and were not subject to open disclosure. Administrators are also targeting $20,000 in savings at the high school from extracurricular and athletic offerings.
Any cuts to extracurricular programming and athletics will be based on student participation as a factor of the cost of the program.
Administrators also said two grant positions funded through the SAU will be eliminated, saving $56,000.
With some reworking of other programming, administrators identified a total of $1,300,000 in the 2016-2017 district budget, which should make up for the $1,221,449 they think they will be short because of the lower amount of tax revenue in 2016-2017.
With no inflation, the school district expects to get an additional $358,000 from taxes based on the value of building permits or the increase in property valuation; however, the district needs an additional $1.2 million to continue with the programming and staffing levels it currently has.
The suggested cuts presented last night are the preliminary recommendations of the administration to the Budget and Personnel Committee. The proposal will be discussed by the entire School Board and changes may be made.
Emond said the district also needs some money to be able negotiate in good faith three new union contracts that will all expire June 30, 2016.

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