Laconia Housing Authority adopts first-ever strategic plan

LACONIA — Faced with new challenges due to changes in traditional funding sources, the Laconia Housing Authority recently adopted its first-ever strategic plan.
Richard Weaver, executive director of the authority, said the three-year plan has three major goals;
1. Achieving and sustaining financial stability in the face of a changing funding environment;
2. Raising the profile of the authority in the community and communicating more effectively with tenants, government officials and business leaders;
3. Facing and embracing change organizationally and technologically.
“It is essential that Laconia Housing Authority become more strategic about identifying and achieving goals that support its mission,” said Weaver.
He said the plan was created through a deliberative process over several months involving the Laconia Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, staff, and stakeholders from around the region involved in both the public and private sectors.
The completed plan was adopted by the commissioners in October and calls for the agency to reduce its own operational expenses by 2 percent annually for the next three years as well as increasing program revenues by 10 percent by the end of 2018.
It also calls for assuming property management responsibilities at Normandin Square Apartments and Scott and Williams Condominium Association by July 1, 2016. There are 60 units in the building which is currently managed by Stewart Property Management .
Other properties managed by the Laconia Housing Authority include Sunrise Towers, 98 apartments; the Tavern Inn/Stafford House, 50 apartments; Northfield Village, 36 apartments; Perley Pond Townhouses, 35 apartments and Orchard Hill II in Belmont, 32 apartments.
The authority also manages other properties with a total 407 units, making it responsible for 718 apartment units.
“We’re the only public housing authority in the area, with Concord and Rochester the nearest to us,” said Weaver, explaining why projects in Northfield and Belmont are now managed by Laconia.
It is also looking at expanding property management services to projects not owned by the Laconia Housing Authority as well as determining the financial impact of loan refinancing on existing properties and the financial impact of disposing of properties it currently owns.
The plan also calls for exploring the feasibility of a staff or contract grant writer/public relations advisor to seek out and apply for grants and donations on a regular basis. Deadline for completion of this goal is Oct. 1, 2016. It is also looking at becoming a member of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s very important that we become recognized as a contributing member in the housing services and community development efforts in the region by civic and industry leaders and the general public,” said Weaver.
The Laconia Housing Authority is applying for $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for energy improvements to the Scott & Williams building at 22 Strafford St.
The money would be used to implement the recommendations of a energy audit which found that the four-story building uses more energy than any other building of its type and size in New Hampshire. Improvements are needed to the central heating system, fresh air ventilation and insulation in the basement crawl space. The largest item will be to install a combined heat and electric power system so that the building can generate its own electricity.
“Many of these retrofits were proposed when the building was originally remodeled about 10 years ago, but there wasn’t enough money to complete them. It’s a large building with high ceilings and many windows and can be much more energy efficient with this retrofit,” said Weaver.

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Laconia football to face bigger schools next year

LACONIA — Although the Laconia High School Sachems will be representing the smallest school in Division II on the gridiron for the next two seasons, Coach Craig Kozens said, "We will get kids and we will compete."

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has yet to finalize the schedules for 2016, but Division II, consisting of schools with enrollments between 590 and 945, will shrink from four conferences to two — North and South— with 11 schools, which remain to be determined in each. Eight teams will qualify for the playoffs with the conference champions as top seeds followed by the next best six teams from either conference as determined by a rating system.

Tentatively, Laconia is slated to play in the North Conference, along with Kennett, Plymouth, Kingswood, Gilford/Belmont, St. Thomas Aquinas, Lebanon, Hanover, Merrimack Valley, John Stark, and Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton.

While Gilford has competed in Division III, next season will be the first for the cooperative Gilford/Belmont program after playing at the junior varsity level for the past two years. Likewise, the Hillsboro-Deering Hopkinton cooperative program will make its debut in Division II.

Each team will play a nine-game schedule, likely including eight games against conference opponents and one against a team from the South Conference.

Kozens said that with teams from 22 schools — all larger and some much larger than Laconia — competing for a spot in the playoffs will be challenging. He said that last season the Sachems drew from a pool of less than 50 players and with injuries and illness fewer than 40 closed closed the season.

"I'm guessing they looked at our reputation and not our numbers," Kozens said, adding that he would prefer enrollment of 600 to qualify for Division II.

However, Kozens said that Laconia's game against Gilford/Belmont, tentatively scheduled to cap the season, will offer a rivalry between neighbors that is likely to attract a large crowd.

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Dogs, birds die in Moultonborough house fire caused by gas grill

MOULTONBOROUGH – A two-alarm fire that killed two dogs and five birds at a home on Route 25 Saturday night was caused by a malfunctioning gas grill according to Fire Chief David Bengston.
"It was started by a gas grill on the back porch. The couple were getting ready to cook and had problems with the grill and the fire extended to the house,'' said Bengston.
He said that the fire at 768 Whittier Highway was reported at 6:08 p.m. by the owners, Terrance Jatko and Shirley-Ellen Dale, who told the first responders at the scene that no one was inside the home but animals were still inside.
Firefighters were able to rescue three dogs who were downstairs but were unable to reach the five birds and two dogs on the second floor of the building because flames had spread rapidly.
Bengston said that firefighters were able to contain the fire but not before it burned through a portion of the roof. He said the building is uninhabitable but not a total loss and it will be up to the insurance company and the owners to decide what course to follow.
During the fire traffic was rerouted around Rte. 25, which was closed for about three hours.
American Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers met with the couple displaced by the fire to ensure they had a safe place to sleep with food, clothing and other essentials.
Moultonborough firefighters were assisted by fire crews from West Ossipee, Ashland, Center Harbor, Holderness, Sandwich, Tamworth and Tuftonboro.
Weirs Engine 5 from Laconia covered Center Harbor while firefighters from that town were assisting Moultonborough at the scene.

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