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Campton team & WInniquam's Megan Fife shine at Mathcounts meet

PLYMOUTH — The team from Campton Elementary coached by Dave Hamnett captured first place in the regional Mathcounts competition for elementary and middle school-age students held at Plymouth State University on February 7. Megan Fife of Winnisquam Regional Middle School was the individual champion.

55 students from 10 different schools participated in the regional event. The top three teams qualified to complete in the state championship competition on March 7. The team from Belmont Middle School coached by Carol Gadomski came in second, followed by the team from Laconia Middle School coached by Bob Clay.

Two Campton students — Roger Babin and Iyan Siwik — finished right behind Megan Fife in the individual competition. Joey Spinale from Belmont was fourth. All will compete in the state event, as will three other students who placed individually in the top ten, though their teams finished lower than third. That list includes Ethan Whitman and Jacelyn Laclair of Plymouth Elementary and Sophie Leggett of Gilford Middle School.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 01:48

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Myers gives council preview of 2016 budget picture

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers offered what he called "a 30,000 foot" view of the 2015-2016 city budget, which he will present next month, when the City Council met this week, cautioning that the preparation of the plan is still in the early stages.

The annual allowable increase in the total amount of money raised locally by property taxes is limited by the city's tax cap. The cap limits the annual increase in total amount raised by property taxes to the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index — Urban (CPIU), for the prior calendar year, plus an additional amount tied to the value of new construction, which is calculated by multiplying the value of building permits less the value of demolition permits issued between April 1 and March 31 by the prior year's property tax rate.

With annual increase in the CPI of 1.6-percent and new construction estimated at $29 million, Myers calculated that the amount to be raised by property taxes to fund municipal expenditures could be increased by approximately $500,000. Wages, including cost-of-living adjustments and step increases required by collective bargaining agreements, he said will add some $300,000 to the budget. Increased contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System, he projected would add another $187,000.

Myers said that the city has been assured that the increase in health insurance rates will not exceed 3.4 percent, which would be offset by changes in enrollment and employee contributions, keeping total expenditures flat.

Ideally, Myers said that investment in municipal infrastructure, particularly street repairs, will increase by $400,000. He said that capital outlays will also include expenditures for sidewalks, drainage and bridge maintenance.

Myers expected revenues from sources other than property taxes to increase moderately, with returns from motor vehicles setting the pace with projected growth of $125,000. Fees and licensing, along with distribution of the Rooms and Meals Tax and Highway Block Grants from the state, he anticipated to rise more modestly.

Through seven months of the current fiscal year, Myers said that the budget is 58 percent expended while expenditures are tracking slightly under budgeted appropriations and revenues are running slightly above estimates. He anticipates that with unspent appropriations and unanticipated revenue the city will end the year with a surplus of several hundred thousand dollars.

Councilors have been asked to provide Myers will their budget goals when they next meet on March 9.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 01:45

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Council declares Lakeport Landing lot to be surplus property but it's only a first step

LACONIA — Following a public hearing this week the City Council voted unanimously to declare the strip of land along Union Avenue owned by the city and leased to Lakeport Landing marina surplus property and to weigh the future of the property at a workshop beginning at 6:30 p.m., prior to its next regularly scheduled meeting on March 9.

The property, 0.81 acre, lies between the roadway and railway and runs from Elm Street northward to halfway between Harrison Street and Walnut Street. The property was leased to Lakeport Landing in 1985 for 10 years with two 10-year renewal periods. The lease will expire on November 1, 2015 and cannot be extended further. In 1987 Lakeport Landing constructed a 9,840-square-foot building on the lot. The property has an assessed value of $389,600 of which the building represents $263,200. At the termination of the lease all buildings and improvements on the lot become the property of the city.

Last month Erica Blizard, who succeeded her father Paul as owner and operator of Lakeport Landing, offered to purchase the property for $331,400. Earlier she explained that the lot houses the firm's offices and showrooms and while the marina owns three other buildings on lower Paugus Bay, it could not offer boat sales at the location without the property.

The council has been advised that it cannot negotiate exclusively with Blizzard, but should it chose to sell or lease the property do so through an open, competitive process. However, City Manager Scott Myers told the councilors that the process need not take the form of auction that would lease or sell the property to the highest bidder. Instead, he suggested the city could set criteria for the development and use of the property so long as they applied equitably to all potential bidders and the responses to the criteria could then be weighed alongside the offering prices in awarding the bid.

Alternatively the council could do nothing, in which case ownership of the land and building would revert to the city when the lease expires. the council has considered subdividing the property and selling the portion where the building stands while retaining the remainder as a parking lot.

Attorney Rod Dyer, representing Blizzard, urged the council to declare the property surplus, explaining that it would then have the opportunity, but not the obligation, to lease or sell it. He said that no public need for the lot had been demonstrated in the past 30 years. Moreover, he claimed that access to the lot was not assured since the Bureau of Rails, a division of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, no longer grants easements to cross the tracks, but instead issues licenses that can be revoked.

Attorney Suzanne McKenna, representing neighboring Irwin Marine, asked if the property is declared surplus and offered it for lease or sale, there would be a competitive bidding process in accordance with the city ordinance (183-3), which applies to the sale of property acquired for unpaid real estate taxes.

Warren Hutchins, who said he was speaking as a private citizen and not as chairman of the Planning Board, advised the council "not to divest the land from the city inventory." He said that the future use of the adjacent lot where the former Lakeport Fire Station stands could determine the ultimate value and use of the lot. He noted that Union Avenue is a very narrow but heavily traveled roadway representing a "major safety area" and that the strip of land could be part of a solution. In addition, he said that the building at the southeast corner of Union Avenue and Clinton Street, which houses the Lakeport Opera House, is being sold, foreshadowing changes at this major intersection. With "many factors at play," Hutchins said the city should not relinquish the property.

"I have my wildcat scarf on," said Dorothy Duffy, who also asked the council to retain municipal ownership of the property, primarily to provide parking for local businesses. "Parking has always been an issue in Lakeport," she said, adding that the lot would provide addition spaces without demolishing more historic buildings.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 01:39

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Alton will consider going without school superintendent

ALTON — Following a 2 1/2 hour meeting with their attorney, the Alton Central School Board yesterday made no decisions and voted to seal the minutes, said Vice Chair Terri Noyes.

She said the board decided to discuss the type of administration they would like to have going forward and it will be one of the topics discussed at the March 2 board meeting.

Noyes said the board will take public input about how a future Alton Central School administration would be structured.

Alton Central — a K-8 school contained to one building — would not be the first school in Belknap County to investigate an alternative theory of administration.

Following the retirement of Gilford School District Superintendent Paul DiMinico, a non-binding referendum was petitioned on to the school district warrant and two-thirds of those who voted supported an administrative plan to be headed by a business manager instead of a superintendent.

The School Board disagreed and stayed with the traditional, superintendent model. A lawsuit was filed by three of the supporters of the business administrator approach but the school district prevailed when a Superior Court judge ruled that the School Board — the elected body — administers the school district.

Noyes said she has no idea what the board will decide but did say that this would not the first time the Alton Central School District has considered alternative administrative models.

As to the immediate issue of the school district contracting with a company formed by current Superintendent William Lander and former Curriculum Director Sydney Leggett — now principal of Gilford Middle School, Noyes said those discussions took place in non-public sessions with the attorney and, at this point in time, no additional information can be released.

At their last meeting, the board voted unanimously to reconsider the contract with Lander's company that was approved by three members in a non-public session held 10 minutes before the SB 2 deliberative session.

The March 2 School Board meeting will take place in the library of Alton Central School and begins at 5 p.m.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 01:34

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