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Belknap Mill Society confident of historic building's bright future despite current financial troubles

LACONIA — "The Belknap Mill is facing financial challenges not unlike those of other non-profit organizations that promote the arts and culture," said Chris Santaniello, president of the Belknap Mill Society, which owns the historic building.

"The history of the mill has been up and down," Santaniello continued, explaining that its financial condition reflects its limited funding stream. Recently the challenges have increased the pace of turnover among officers and trustees. This year the board of trustees announced in January was succeeded before the summer ended and Santaniello, the executive director of Lakes Region Community Services who began the year as vice-president, is now president.

The mill, which was constructed in 1823, is the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the United States. Santaniello said that the age of the building adds to the cost of routine maintenance and necessary repairs. She said that the society has drawn from its reserves to fund unforeseen capital expenditures and has struggled to replenish them.

Santaniello said that the boiler, which she described as "historic, like the building," has failed for want of a part that no longer exists. "We're working on that now," she said, acknowledging that a new boiler would be beyond the society's reach.

There are three rental units within the mill, two of which are occupied by law firms. An employment agency had long leased the third unit, consisting of three offices, a conference room and kitchen, but that space is currently vacant. With capacity for 220 on the third floor and two smaller rooms on the ground floor, the society also rents space for functions, from large meetings and social functions to intimate receptions and small gatherings. The society offers educational programs and operates a gift shop. However, donations represent the most significant source of revenue.

Santaniello said that operations have been "streamlined to bare bones," by trimming staff and reducing hours. Meanwhile, she stressed that efforts are underway to develop a stable revenue stream and add to reserves for capital expenditures. She emphasized the importance of developing supportive partnerships with with other organizations and institutions in the city and region.

"The mill is a gem, a proud structure," Santaniello said. "It is Laconia, the center for so many activities and programs. And it will continue to be."

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 11:40

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Long sought Weirs Park to open on Wednesday

LACONIA — When the Weirs Community Park opens next week the cutting of the ribbon will crown two decades of dedication and perseverance on the part of Don Richards and those he lauded as "a small band of brothers and sisters who quietly worked thousands of hours" to bring this gift to the city.

The park stretches over some 27 wooded acres adjacent to the Weirs Community Center and Weirs Beach Fire Station, which the city acquired in 1976 with a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund administered by the National Park Service. Originally the site of an Abenaki village, the land was acquired by a local entrepreneur recently returned from Switzerland with visions of building an alpine village. Lucerne Avenue, bordering the park to the west, and the trails tracking intended roadways across the site, are the traces of his dream. The property was home to a summer camp for girls, Camp Arcadia, from 1890 until 1945. Richards said that a large condominium complex was planned for the property when the city purchased it.

Most of the land will remained wooded. The park features a pavilion with adjoining picnic area, with space for gas grills, a rustic playground and outdoor amphitheater with seating for 120 with attached restrooms for men, women and families. Boulders and stones from the site highlight the landscaping. The walking trails, which will be open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers in winter, are named and marked. The park is lit and will be open between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days a week throughout the year, but closed to all motorized vehicles.

Richards said that the history of the property will be incorporated into the park. In partnership with the Abenaki Tribal Council, information will be prepared to tell visitors about the relationship the Native Americans enjoyed with The Weirs in general and the site in particular. A stone arch, through which the girls of Camp Arcadia passed to church services and sing-alongs has been preserved.

"All the departments of the city — in particular the Planning Department, Parks and Recreation Department and Department of Public Works — had a hand in the project," Richards said. "I don't think we could have asked for better city government during the past 10 years."

Echoed by Richards, Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, lauded his predecessor, Phil Rowley for his contribution to the success of the project. "He was with us from the beginning, in the pipe dream stage," Richards said.

Altogether Dunleavy estimated the cost of the project at close to $700,000, a significant share of which was raised by the Weirs Community Park Association and Weirs Action Committee, chiefly by parking motorcycles and cars each year for the past 10 years during Motorcycle Week.

Following a luncheon for invited guests at the Weirs Community Center at noon the ribbon will be cut to officially open the park on Wednesday, October 15 at 1 p.m.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 11:31

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Family seeks missing Laconia man

LACONIA – A city man is missing and his wife Megan and other members of his family are asking the public for any information they may have about him.

Kalem Beane, 33, was last seen leaving his home on foot at 69 Merrimac Street on Wednesday at 2:40 p.m.

Beane is about 5-feet 8-inches tall, weighs 225 pounds, and has dark hair that he wears in a buzz cut. He wears wire rimmed glasses.

He was last seen wearing a dark blue T-shirt, a gray zippered sweatshirt, gray sweatpants and tan hiking boots. His wife said he was carrying a black backpack.

"He's dressed like he was just running to the store," Megan said.

She said Beane has an iPhone with him but has turned it off. She also said he had no cash on him but is carrying a bank card that hasn't been used.

"We checked his family and his friends," she said, adding she and her brother-in-law have gone to all his favorite fishing spots but have not been able to find him.

She said she wants him to turn his phone on and let them know he's ok.

"I just want him to come home," she said.

Megan has reported Bean's disappearance to the Laconia Police who are investigating.

If anyone has seen Beane or knows of his whereabouts, they are asked to call the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252.

 

Kalem Beane

Caption: Kalem Beane

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 11:54

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Gilford Police warn of scam artists posing as IRS

GILFORD — The Gilford Police Department received four similar complaints from residents recently advising they had been contacted by individuals alleging to be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees who were looking to collect money.

The IRS has been warning consumers to not fall prey to this type of sophisticated phone scam or other types of e-mail phishing scams that have been targeting taxpayers throughout the country.

In phone scams, victims are told they owe money to the IRS and that it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. In e-mail phishing scams, victims receive correspondence from what appears to be the IRS directing them to update their e-file information immediately by following a link to a bogus website intended to mirror the actual IRS website.

Victims refusing to cooperate are typically threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver's license. In many cases, alleged IRS callers become hostile and insulting.

As a reminder, the Gilford Police Department advises taxpayers that the IRS will not ask for credit card information over the phone, nor will they request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. Individuals receiving e-mails should not respond to phishing emails or click on any provided links.

A few other characteristics of scammers are they will use fake names and IRS badge numbers, they may be able to recite the last four digits of Social Security Numbers, they may spoof the IRS toll-free number to make it appear as if the IRS is calling, they will often have "background noise" mimicking call site locations and they may immediately call back after making threats purporting to be police.

Taxpayers are urged to access the actual IRS website at www.irs.gov and to educate themselves under the Tax Scam heading located in the middle of the page.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 01:58

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