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Search for new Gilford police chief starts with call for volunteers to serve on committee

GILFORD — Selectmen are asking for volunteer residents to serve on a committee to help select the next town police chief.

The search committee will be tasked with reviewing applications, selecting candidates for interviews and making recommendations on finalists for a process that will commence in January of 2014.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said yesterday that the vast majority of the decisions, discussions, and interviews made by panelists will be in non-public sessions under the provisions of RSA 91-A:3, or the N.H. Right-to-Know law.

The need for a full-time permanent police chief was triggered by last week's resignation of former Chief Kevin Keenan.

Keenan was placed on a paid administrative leave on August 29 and in the weeks immediately following his leave, Lt. James Leach has been acting chief. Lt. Kris Kelley has been acting deputy chief.

The Police Department employs 17 full-time sworn officers and two part-time officers. Both the selectmen and the Budget Committee have given tacit approval for an 18th uniformed officer to be added to the ranks.

As well as sworn officers there about of six full-time civilian staff and dispatchers. The department does all of its own dispatching.

Selectmen have also given the nod to a $1.2 million addition to the existing police station at Town Hall, although the Budget Committee has yet to vote on it. There is an presentation to the Budget Committee by the architect on January 9 at 6 p.m.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 02:14

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Belmont chief will wait a year to ask for new fire truck

BELMONT — Fire Chief Dave Parenti said Monday the department won't be asking selectmen for the money to buy a fire truck at the 2014 Town Meeting.

He also said, and Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin confirmed, that selectmen agreed with Parenti at their meeting on November 18 that the town wouldn't refurbish Engine 2 — the oldest attack engine in the department's fleet.

Selectmen made their recommendations after two separate viability assessments done within the past month on the 1997 Pierce ES460 is that it is not in the best financial interests of the town to refurbish it.

The work would have have cost the town as much as $200,000.

Parenti said the Fire Department will be able to keep Engine 2 — which is its third response engine as well as the one that moves up to second when one of the other two is out of service or at a call — on the road and working using money from the regular annual maintenance budget.

He said some issues like spots of rust that have eaten through the body as well as some critical exhaust problems will be repaired. He said the brakes are "okay" for right now.

Parenti said the critical repairs will be done in part this year but mainly from the maintenance line for 2014.

He said when the capital improvement budget talks begin in late summer of 2014, he will recommend purchasing a new fire engine at that time.

The earliest he said a warrant article could go to voters is 2015 and there is about nine months of time needed to build a fire engine should voters approve it, meaning the earliest the department could have a new engine in service would be late 2015 or early 2016.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 02:08

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Kevin Halligan picked to be grand marshall of annual Laconia Holiday Parade on Saturday

LACONIA — Husband, father, athlete, coach, farmer and entrepreneur, Kevin Haligan will join the ranks of those honored to lead the Laconia Downtown Holiday Parade this Saturday, Nov. 30 beginning at 11 a.m.
Halligan is a friendly bear of a man who seems like he could throw a great party and then be the life of it. He is well known to many in Laconia ("I think I know everybody — well, 80 percent of the town") as the owner-operator of Local Eatery in Veterans Square and the Laconia Village Bakery on Main St., and also for coaching Laconia Youth Basketball.
Halligan is still unsure of his mode of parade transport. "I might walk, use an antique car, ride a sleigh — but I'd love to drive a beefed-up go-kart, since I want to get one anyway." Whatever way he goes, he will be accompanied by his wife Gillian and their four children: daughters Sierra (age 9), Devyn (8), Savanah (3), and son Jamison (1).
"They don't exactly know what grand marshal means. But I told them we'd be up at the front of it, and they're excited. My girls were in the parade with Lakes Region Gymnastics two years ago, and they were supposed to be in it again this year with the Girl Scouts. But now they have to ride with dad!" Kevin himself has often watched the parade but never before been in it. "I' m just not a public figure. But it's exciting, cool. It'll be fun."
Halligan played football at Laconia High School — linebacker and tight end — and the team he captained at LHS won the 1999 championship. He also coached football at Gilford High.
The Local Eatery will be part of the Holiday Parade happenings. From eight to noon on Parade Day, he'll be serving a Farm Breakfast. It's also a fundraiser to provide vouchers to the disadvantaged to buy local.
''They need more funding for the program. And I want to do that each month so people can have a good breakfast" says Halligan.
The parade will feature high school bands, floats and marchers. It starts out at Wyatt Park in the South End and will head up through the city's downtown area to Veterans Square. All downtown businesses will be open throughout the day.

The traditional lighting of the city's tree in Veterans Park will follow the parade.
The parade is sponsored by the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the Laconia Main Street Initiative, the Bank of New Hampshire, Franklin Savings Bank, the Soda Shoppe and The Laconia Daily Sun.

CAPTION:
Kevin Halligan serves up food at the New Hampshire Coffee Festival which was held in downtown Laconia in October. He will be grand marshal of this year's holiday parade. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 02:02

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With no attractive options open, Newfound will stay the course on school configuration

BRISTOL — Concerns about decreasing student populations and the state of some school buildings prompted the Newfound Area School Board to consider reconfiguring the educational structure of the district. Following a report from the superintendent on Monday evening, members concluded that the current class grouping is appropriate, unless the downward census continues over the next few years.
Board Chair Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater said the board's request that Superintendent Stacy Buckley look into reconfiguring the school district came about because the trend of falling student populations is showing no sign of leveling off and because his town had asked the board to look into what cost savings might be realized by consolidating some of the schools.
As the first of the superintendent's goals for the 2013-2014 academic year, Buckley, in her first year on the job, made a comprehensive investigation into the history of the seven-town district and the capacity of its schools. She looked at current enrollment and utilization of space at the schools, and how shifting the configurations would affect the various buildings and the delivery of education.
Specifically, she looked at having all of the elementary schools provide kindergarten through Grade 8 or kindergarten through Grade 6, or returning to a K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 structure; or even doing a total reconfiguration that would group all pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students together at the Danbury school, grades 1-3 at Bristol Elementary, and grades 4-5 at the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School, keeping the higher grades where they are.
Included in her analysis was the possible closing of another outlying school, as the district finally succeeded in doing with the Alexandria Village School after many attempts and plenty of push-back from residents in that town. When the Newfound Area School District had formed, part the agreement was that none of the small, outlying schools would close without the residents of that town supporting it. The only school to close prior to Alexandria's was the Bridgewater Hill school in the early years of the Newfound District.
One by one, Buckley described the pros and cons of each option, with the cons outweighing the pros. She concluded that it was not feasible to adopt a K-6 or K-8 option because it would create the need for additional staff members while adversely affecting the district's ability to provide for unified arts and athletics and, in the case of K-6, the loss of foreign languages and algebra. There also would be additional costs to align the curriculum between schools and update the libraries at the schools, as well as creating scheduling problems with more lunch periods to fit in to accommodate all the students.
The superintendent acknowledged that the 4-4-4 arrangement the district originally had when it built the new high school "can work" but she said many parents object to having fifth graders interacting with eighth graders. Making that move would potentially allow the district to close the Danbury and New Hampton elementary schools, but with additional costs in transportation.
Transportation was the only reason for objection to her "radical" option of grouping the students by grade at different schools, Pre-K and K, 1-3, and 4-5. Jeff Levesque of Groton said that would be the perfect option, once the district can teleport students from their homes to the distant schools they would be attending.
Buckley said that, if the board wanted to pursue one of the options, she would recommend setting up a committee to study it in greater detail.
"If cost is a factor, would it be more cost-effective to close Bristol Elementary School, the New Hampton Community School, Newfound Memorial Middle School, and Danbury Elementary School, and build a new school?" she posited.
Her final suggestion, to create a facilities committee to look into issues of space, utilization, and the need for maintenance on the district's buildings, was the one the board took to heart after accepting her report. Ruby Hill of Danbury made the motion to establish a standing facilities committee to do long-range planning, and the motion passed unanimously. Migliore asked the superintendent to make a recommendation on the structure of the committee. Buckley had said it would be helpful to have members of the community as well as staff and board members taking part.
In ending her presentation, Buckley raised the question of whether it would be better for her spend her time looking at curriculum, instruction, and assessment, rather than restructuring the district. Aligning curriculum, she said, was the most pressing issue among the staff who are concerned about students arriving in seventh grade from the various schools with different levels of skills and different "vocabularies".
Throughout her talk, Buckley stressed that she looks at the system as being one district, rather than seven towns. While each town has its own character, and should preserve that character, she said that, educationally, it is important for all students to receive the same education.
"Everyone, both staff and students, should have a good space to work and learn," she said.
Although he ultimately voted for the facilities committee, Lloyd Belbin of Bristol said he felt the school district should look at acquiring land for new buildings before going ahead with a facilities committee. "We can go on for years with what we've got," he said.
Migliore repeated a recommendation he has been making at the last few meetings, that the community view the DVD "Community and Consequences" which is on the district website. It describes the problem of young people leaving the state for employment elsewhere, partly because of a lack of affordable housing here. That has created many problems for communities and school districts, accounting — along with the trend toward home schooling — for the decreases in student populations in the public schools.
He noted that, while the trend looks to continue for some time, it could change with some school districts looking to split up and align with other districts. The Hill School District has been making overtures for some time about withdrawing from School Administrative Unit 18 and tuitioning its students to Bristol. On the other hand, Migliore noted that there had been a move by Danbury at town meeting to withdraw from Newfound and join another district, which would reduce revenues for the district.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 01:50

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