Corner Slice opens for business

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — Things in the Four Corners nearly returned to normal yesterday when the Corner Slice opened for business at 11 a.m. In two weeks when the gas pumps are operating, it'll be the happening place to be in town.

Three years in the planning stages, Henry and Rachael Vigeant are now offering pizza, subs, a three-generation recipe for Henry's "famous" chicken tenders, and a chicken Parmesan that is prepared to order.

Vigeant has owned three restaurants in the past — one in Seabrook, one in South Boston and one in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He moved his family to Gilmanton about four years ago.

"I wanted a farm and found a beautiful piece of land," he said. "I love it here."

"I grew up in Lowell and it's very congested," he said. "I don't want to go back to that."

For the better part of the past 40 years, the Corner Slice building was where people in the Four Corners either met or ran into their neighbors. Before the Vigeants, four different businesses operated there with the owners before them operating a deli.

Yesterday, the first day the Corner Slice was open, was just like old times. One gentleman ate a pizza and chatted with the couple at the table next to him. A father and son came in for a cold drink and a sandwich, and one family ran into a second family in town and caught up on the summer's goings on.

Vigeant said the Corner Slice will also feature "the cheapest super unleaded gas" for miles around.

"Super" will be their draw, saying he hopes to attract snowmobilers, people who boat and others who want or need to use high octane super fuel. "I want to be about 40 cents lower than the rest," he said.

He said he is about two weeks away from having finishing his classes on gas station management.

Vigeant said he spent the better part of three years trying to get the Corner Slice open and much of it was trying to identify the bank that actually owned the property and the person who had owned it.

Once that was accomplished, he said a friend bought the building and Vigeant is leasing it from him.

His next steps were state and local hurdles including identifying what kind of septic system he had.

"I knew where it was but I didn't know what it was," he said, adding there were no approval plans in the state archives.

He said the former owner found a piece of paper from 1977 regarding the septic system but it appears the four previous owners ran it for 40 years without any state permitting.

With the piece of paper, he had the information about his septic system and once he designed a new one to be on file in the event that the existing one failed.

He said the Zoning Board of Adjustments was probably the most frustrating hurdle because they told him he needed a change-of-use from convenience store to restaurant.

Vigeant said the prior use included a deli, cigarettes, convenience store and gas. His is deli and gas. He is approved for 23 seats and has 19 in there now, many of them replicas of old metal tractor seats.

"I just dropped two things and now they say I'm a restaurant," he said, adding that they told him that one seat makes a restaurant but a Gilmanton Iron Works store has eat-in capacity but they aren't classified a restaurant.

He said that he doesn't want to belittle them but wished the rules were the same for all.

"I've had three restaurants and this one has been more of a regulatory nightmare than all three of the others combined," he said.

The Corner Slice is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

08-12 Corner Slice 1

The Corner Slice opened to eager customers Thursday in the old convenience store at the Four Corners in Gilmanton. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

08-12 Corner Slice 2

Old tractor seats give the new store a rustic look. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

Shaker District reports higher number of disciplinary actions, but less severe cases

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT – While crowding on school buses has resulted in increased disciplinary action at Shaker School District, early intervention for behavior problems seems to be having a positive effect.

Elementary School officials told board members recently that a good deal of the discipline reports at Belmont Elementary School are caused by the same handful of students.

Administrator Ben Hill said much of the increase in disciplinary cases in the past two years can be attributed to a small number of students who ride the bus, and most of the other increases involve horseplay, refusals to cooperate and disruptive behavior.

One of the reasons for increased bus activity, he said, is the elimination of two buses, meaning there are more children on each bus.

Severe disciplines are not as high as they used to be, said officials, because teachers are trying to intervene earlier and creating more responsive classrooms using positive behavioral intervention techniques.

The good news is that the number of suspensions, either in school or out of school, has declined from 91.5 in 2014-15 to 30.5 in 2015-16. Administrators said early intervention has helped them keep more children in the classroom, as opposed to sending them to separate rooms or home.

Additionally, said Hill, 50 percent of the days for suspension can be attributed to one student.

The report presented to the School Board last month says Belmont Elementary School administrators have identified a need for staff training and more teachers need to be trained in responsive classroom techniques and positive behavior intervention strategies.

Belmont Middle School saw similar increases in the same categories of what administrators call the three "Ds" - disruptive, disrespect and defiance. They have also see a bump in cell phone use violations.

Many of these incidents, said Assistant Superintendent Aaron Pope, were single incidents with multiple participants and each participant get a violation.

Pope said that in 2015-16 they had a group of "aggressive eighth-grade students" but the school's goal is to keep him or her in a classroom for as much of the day as possible, rather than send a child into the Student Support Center for the entire day during an in-school suspension.

"We want teachers to handle it," said Pope.

Administrators said they asked the students what they would like to see changed and, as expected, many replied they want changes in the cell phone policy and dress codes, which the school is not willing to change.

All administrators for all three Belmont schools said absenteeism and truancy is their biggest concern.

All administrators said that they have been known to got to homes from which students have high truancy rates. They said the school resource officer occasionally goes, but that it's not really their job.

There is no "truant" officer in Belmont.

The administrators also said some parents find it acceptable to pull a child from school for an entire week. When the administration tells them that only so many absences are allowed per trimester, some parents have a hard time hearing that.

"We're OK with the push back (from parents)," Pope said. "We want kids in school."

Belmont High School administrators are all new to the school district but said after a preliminary review of the statistics, they would like to see an in-school suspension option such as the Student Support Center at the Middle School. The issue, they said, is a lack of space.

Belknap House shelter operations draws concerns

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Leonard Campbell of New Hampshire Catholic Charities Inc. spoke to the City Council this week, seeking to allay concerns raised by councilors about the operation of Belknap House, which will offer shelter to homeless families between October and May.

Campbell provided the councilors with written responses to 29 questions, ranging from how Belknap House will finance its operations to where will families go when they leave the shelter.

Campbell explained that Belknap House will serve only families, not individuals, and only families from Belknap County, who must be referred to the shelter by one of the 10 towns in the county. With capacity for 19 individuals, he said the maximum number of families at the shelter would be nine, assuming eight families of two and one of three.

The towns will contract with Belknap House to provide shelter and the welfare directors of the towns and the director of Belknap House will develop guidelines for admission. No one convicted of domestic abuse or serious criminal charges would be admitted and no drugs, alcohol or weapons will be permitted on the property. The town of origin will be responsible for educating any children at the shelter, including the cost of transporting them to school.

Foremost among the concerns of councilors was the prospect that when their stay at the shelter, comes to an end, families will remain in Laconia and seek assistance from the city. Campbell explained that state law prescribes that the town that refers families to Belknap House will be responsible for finding them shelter or providing them assistance once they leave. "Laconia is protected," he said.

The goal, Campbell said, is to limit stays at Belknap House to three weeks, after which they will be expected to return to their town of origin. Likewise, if families violate the rules of Belknap House and are asked to leave, he said they would be expected to go to the town they came from. He said that Belknap House would inform the welfare director in Laconia of a family leaving the shelter and of their town of origin.

However, Campbell he acknowledged that if a family found shelter or employment in another municipality, including Laconia, "Belknap House cannot force where a person will go."

"How can you say they will go to their town of origin?" asked Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5). "I see a big burden to Laconia."

Mayor Ed Engler wondered if the business plan for Belknap House had changed from providing shelter in the winter months for the "permanent" homeless population in the city.

Campbell replied that "We're not serving Laconia's homeless population," explaining that the most urgent need is shelter for the 200 children in the county identified as homeless. Serving families and children, he emphasized, requires a "dry shelter," devoid of drugs and alcohol.

Referring to the "River Crew," the homeless group tended by Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith, Campbell said "with them, we couldn't have a dry shelter. They are alcoholics, and they're not ever going to be anything else." He allowed some may go through spells of sobriety, but added that their likelihood of remaining sober "is between nil and none."

"Families we can make a difference with," Campbell told the council.