Bank of NH donates $500,000 to Colonial Theatre project


LACONIA — In its 185th year, the Bank of New Hampshire jump started the capital campaign to restore and reopen the Colonial Theatre, another of the city's most venerable and cherished institutions.

Calling the theater "an iconic part of our community," Mark Primeau, president and chief executive officer of the bank presented a check for $500,000 Wednesday toward the capital campaign, with the goal of raising $2 million before the year is out.

"I challenge the business community to step up," he said. "It's a wise investment."

Randy Eifert, chairman of the Belknap Economic Development Council, recalled that almost a year to the day ago the council and the city announced they had partnered to acquire and restore the theater. Since then, he said, the time, energy and talent of many individuals have brought the project to the brink of beginning the restoration of the building in January.

In particular, Eifert expressed thanks to Kevin Sullivan of Weeks Commercial Real Estate, who brokered the purchase without accepting a fee, John Giere of Wescott Law, who managed the legal spadework, Chris Kelly of Re/Max Bayside, who is managing the property and Bonnette, Page & Stone Corporation for preparing the theater for restoration.

Introducing Primeau, Rod Dyer of the Cultural Arts Center of the Lakes Region, said that the Bank of New Hampshire "has always stepped forward," noting its generous contributions to the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, Boy & Girls Club of the Lakes Region, Laconia High School, Laconia Public Library and LRGHealthcare.

"This is a significant day," Dyer remarked. "Onward and upward!"

He said the project is projected to have an immediate economic impact of $10,555,000 and increased spending of $2.2 million and spawn 70 new jobs, 47 of them in the construction industry paying $73,600 a year.

Mayor Ed Engler said that the generosity of the bank came as no surprise. He stressed that the bank is "its people and the role they have played in the life of our community," singling out the late John Goddard and Don Beane, both longtime directors of the bank, who he called "our neighbors, our friends."

The purchase, restoration and reopening of the theater," Engler said, "has touched a nerve in the city of Laconia and the Lakes Region. We still have a lot to do," he continued. "All signs are looking good. No red flags raised so far. But, we need every contribution imaginable from the community." He said that a public fundraising campaign will begin shortly after Labor Day.

06-02 Colonial donation

Mark Primeau, president and chief executive officer of Bank of New Hampshire, right, and Barry Leonard, his executive vice president, set the pace for the capital campaign to raise $2 million for the restoration of the Colonial Theatre with a $500,000 contribution made under the marquee Wednesday. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

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There is now a great view from the upper right balcony box overlooking the main floor and stage area as the final pieces of steel joists were removed from the Colonial Theater last month. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

State School sale inches forward


CONCORD — Following the withdrawal of legislation to lease the former Laconia State School site on North Main Street for a substance abuse treatment and recovery center, the prospective sale of the property regained momentum when the governor and Executive Council met Wednesday.

Executive Councilor Joe Kenney (R-Wakefield) put the issue on the agenda and Gov. Maggie Hassan and the five councilors were joined by Mayor Ed Engler of Laconia and Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services Vicki Quiram and her Deputy Mike Connor.

The 2016-2017 state budget directs the Department of Administrative Services to sell the Laconia State School property and includes $2 million in projected revenue from the transaction. In December, five months after the budget was adopted, Connor told city officials that the agency would list the property on the open market in April for approximately six months before granting the city an opportunity to exercise its right of "first refusal" to purchase it, if necessary by matching the highest and best offer submitted. However, as yet no steps have been taken to sell the property.

The entire property stretches over about 245 acres, divided into five parcels, and houses 24 buildings. Three of the parcels, including the 10.24 acres of the Robbie Mills Sports Complex and two undeveloped parcels, are leased to the city for 99 years. The main campus straddling Right Way Path consists of approximately 200 acres. In 2012 the state appraised the property for $2.16 million.

The property was offered to the city for $10 million in 2012. Following an appraisal, the city submitted a counteroffer of $2.16 million, which the state rejected. For reasons only state officials can explain, the property was offered to Belknap County for $1.76 million. When the county declined the offer, the property was shopped on the open market, but no offers were received.

Engler said Quiram stressed that before the property could be marketed a number of issues must be addressed. In 2013 the state carved out a 117-acre parcel at the southeast corner of the property where the 911 call center is located, which is provided water by towers in the northwest quarter of the main campus. The so-called "designated receiving facility," home to sex offenders with developmental disabilities or acquired brain disorders and deemed incompetent to stand trial, stands at the north end of the site. There may also be easements granted for snowmobile trails. These, and perhaps other encumbrances on the property, must be addressed in the course of a sale.

Quiram said that her department would prepare a request for proposals in order to enlist a real estate broker to market the property once again. Engler said that Quiram and the executive councilors agreed that the city, as an interested party and prospective purchaser, should participate in the process of addressing these issues, which will likely lead to attaching conditions to the sale of the property. Engler said only that he is hopeful that the process of preparing the property for sale and listing it on the market will go forward in a timely manner without further delays.

Wiggin to retire - Two have filed for job as Belknap County sheriff


LACONIA — Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin confirmed Wednesday that he will not seek a fourth term.

Appointed to take the place of former Sheriff Dan Collis in 2008 when he left to take a job in the private sector, Wiggin served that term and successfully ran twice for the seat, winning in 2010 and 2013.

As of Wednesday, two candidates have announced a desire to succeed Wiggin. Belknap County Deputy Sgt. William Wright and former Laconia Police Chief Michael Moyer.

Wright, who filed his paperwork at the Secretary of State's Office Wednesday, has worked for the sheriffs department for 11 years and is currently the commander of the Belknap County Drug Task Force. He lives in Belmont.

From 2010 until 2016, Wright served a special deputy and task force officer for the U.S. Marshals Service Posse. He began his career in law enforcement in Belmont and served in the U.S. Marines and later in the New Hampshire National Guard. Wright was at one point a certified firefighter.

Moyer served for more than 20 years as a Laconia Police Officer, rising through the ranks to be named chief of police in 2007. He retired in 2011 but has kept his police certification active and is currently a part-time evidence manager with the Laconia Police. He lives in Belmont.

During his time as Laconia's chief, Moyer led the department as it became one of a handful of New Hampshire police departments that became a credentialed law enforcement agency – a status it maintains today.

Wright said that if elected, he would like to bring the Sheriff's Department into the Belknap County communities for better collaboration purposes.

"(All police departments) rely on each other, and the sheriff should help bring us all together," he said.

He said he's like to see better public relations from the sheriff, especially as it relates to better communications from all local law enforcement.

He supports keeping the Belknap Regional Special Operations Group, of which he was a member for year. He said he would also like to see the Sheriff's Department play a more active role in accident reconstruction and community policing.

Moyer said he has the leadership capabilities to run the department, but said customer service is most important to him. He said the general public and taxpayers are customers and deserve to be treated that way.

He said he would like to review some of the sheriff's department's policy and procedures and will continue with the BRSOG.

"Our team is very well trained," he said. "I was impressed with them when I was chief and considered them very reliable."

Neither Wright nor Moyer consider themselves to be overly political but both are registered Republicans and so will face each other in a primary.