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Moultonborough voters deadlocked on $590,000 village sidewalk proposal

MOULTONBOROUGH — The future of fireworks and the village highlighted the Town Meeting that ran for six hours last Saturday.

A warrant article to forbid the use of "consumer" fireworks within the town, where "display" fireworks requiring a license would be be permitted, failed on a vote of 123 to 86. However, a second article restricting the use of "consumer" fireworks to the hours between noon and 10 p.m., excepting from the Fourth of July and New Years Eve when fuses could be lit until midnight and 15 minutes past midnight respectively, carried by a clear majority.

The village was the theme of three major articles. First, voters followed the recommendations of the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Budget Committee by agreeing to appropriate $275,000 for the purchase of the so-called Adele Taylor property by a vote of 176 to 62.

The 5.09-acre lot at 970 Whittier Highway (Route 25), which abuts properties belonging to the school district, Bank of New Hampshire and Huggins Hospital in the village commercial zone, was a centerpiece of the Village Charette Report accepted by the Planning Board in January 2013. In June the trustees approached the Board of Selectmen and the School Board with an offer to sell the property to the town and donate the proceeds from the sale to the School District, and a price of $240,900, matching the assessed value in 2012, was negotiated.

The selectmen convened a committee to consider possible uses for the property. Although 56 specific uses were suggested in the course of committee meetings and public hearings, the panel offered four perspectives and found that "the property is well suited for combining any number of uses and it is not the intention of this study to suggest that there is only a single potential use for the property."

In keeping with the Village Charette Report, Safe Routes to School Travel Plan and 2008 Master Plan, the property could provide access and egress to the school district property from Route 25. Alternatively, the committee found that the property could house a multipurpose community center. The committee also heard that the property presented an opportunity to develop a park in the center of the village. Finally, the report notes that residents expressed "considerable concern" that if the town does not acquire the property "anything can happen there" in compliance with the zoning ordinance.

By a similar margin of 171 to 68, voters approved an article to appropriate $17,500 for a site study pursuant to the report of The Blue Ribbon Commission Report on Community Services and Facilities. Dovetailing with one of the suggested uses for the Adele Taylor property, the report recommended that "the town pursue development of a facility that includes an indoor gymnasium, recreation department office, program and storage space that would be on existing school land or property adjacent to school facilities."

However, an article to spend $590,000 to complete the first phase of the village sidewalk project failed as voters deadlocked 101 to 101. The project included the design, engineering and construction some 2,560 linear feet of sidewalks and cross walks along Route 25, as well as costs of acquiring property and easements. The warrant article excluded a spur of 1,130 feet from Route 25 to Moultonborough Academy originally included in Phase 1.

Neither the selectmen nor the advisory budget committee recommended the project. Supporters stressed that sidewalks were a component of the Master Plan adopted in 2006 and would enhance the safety of pedestrians, especially senior citizens and school children.

Speaking against the project, Josh Bartlett of the Planning Board said that there was nothing to demonstrate the need for sidewalks, a view that was echoed by others who claimed that foot traffic in the village was sparse.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 12:49

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Hector's Returns to 24th Annual Taste of the Lakes Region

MEREDITH — The 24th annual Taste of the Lakes Region will be held from 4-7 p.m. at Church Landing in Meredith on Sunday, March 30, and will feature more than 20 of the Lakes Region's finest restaurants serving up samples of their culinary specialties for the benefit of the Laconia Altrusa Club's community projects.

Over the years the event has raised nearly $300,000 for the Altrusa Club's efforts in promoting literacy, and providing scholarships, according to Carla Peterson of Hector's Fine Food & Spirits, which has been represented at all but one of the events.

Peterson and her husband, Carl, moved to the Lakes Region from Connecticut in 1986 after buying Hector's, which celebrates its 30th year in business this year.

''We had a couple of little kids and thought it was a nice place to move to,'' says Peterson, who bought the restaurant through real estate agent Nancy LeRoy, who also recruited her to join the Altrusa Club.

She was one of the club members who attended a Taste of the Seacoast event put on by the Altrusa Club in Portsmouth, which served as the model the local club sought to emulate when they held the first Taste of the Lakes Region at Pheasant Ridge Country Club in Gilford. Over the years it has grown to become a Lakes Region tradition.

''It's a great way to start the spring. It's like a big garden party and comes during mud season when people have cabin fever and want to get out and enjoy themselves but it's not quite warm enough to spend a lot of time outdoors,'' says Peterson.

Carl Peterson says that Hector's seafood stuffed mushrooms have become so popular at the event that they will be served again this year in response to popular demand while chef Peter Cullen will be preparing one of their new menu items, Sonoma Chicken.

Cullen said the dish features grilled chicken in a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce topped with mushrooms and onions and freshly grated parmesan. ''It's something on the lighter, healthier side,'' says Cullen.

Tickets cost $25 per person and can be purchased at Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith, or in Laconia at Hector's or at the Coldwell-Banker Residential Brokerage on Court Street. Because there is a cash bar at the event, no one younger than 21 will be admitted.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 12:17

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Scotia Technology sues seacoast company over A-10 aircraft components

LACONIA — A local aerospace company has filed a lawsuit against a seacoast company for failing to properly clean and perform a special kind of treatment of stainless steel tubing that was subsequently sold to the  Boeing Company which used them in the wings of the A-10 Aircraft used by the U.S. Air Force.

According to pleadings obtained from the Belknap County Superior Court, Scotia Technology, a division of Lakes Region Tubular Products Inc., said it lost more that $2.5 million fixing the deficiencies.

Scotia was notified by Boeing on Feb. 12, 2012, that the stainless steel tubing cleaned by Areodynamics Inc. of Seabrook, was leaking under hydraulic pressure from pin holes.

"On April 9 Scotia Technology was required to issue a Notice of Escape to Boeing and the matter was reported to the Air Force," said the pleading. "At the Hill Air Force Base in Utah and at the Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia, the Air Force suspended A-10 operations."

Scotia claims that the Air Force's A-10 program required them to replace all of the tubing at no cost to Boeing. Scotia also had to expedite its production schedule and ship the replacement tubing in time to meet the Boeing deadline September 2012 imposed by the Air Force.

The specialized kind of treatment — called passivation — involves cleaning recently molded stainless steel piping to remove any production materials like iron or iron compounds that may linger after machining and fabricating.

If not property done, these corrosive agents can lead to extreme pitting and the possible failure of stainless steel components.

The suit said that Aerodynamics "holds itself out as accredited and certified by the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program" and said it complied with all required protocols.

Scotia claims that Aerodynamics used an alkaline solution that did not meet necessary standards, that one of the tanks the company used was not big enough to properly clean large tubes, and the rinse water was room temperature and not the required 140-160 degrees.

The suit also says that all of Areodynamics tanks were not labeled, that there was not enough nitric acid in the passivation bath, and that the tubes could not be rinsed in de-ionized water after the passivation bath because Aerodynamics used the same tub for both processes.

The suit also claims the drying operation at Aerodynamics was insufficient.

Scotia claims that they retained the independent company Materials Research that determined the chloride ions in the alkaline cleaning solution and in Seabrook tap water "were the root cause of the pinhole leaks in the stainless steel tubes."

Legally, Scotia filed a claim for breach of contract, breach of implied warranty of workman quality, a violation of the N.H. Consumer Protection Act, intentional or negligent misrepresentation and negligence.

At a scheduling hearing last week, Belknap County Judge James O'Neill determined both sides should be ready for trail by the end of 2015, but said both should reconsider mediation before moving forward to trial.

Lawyers for Scotia said mediation hasn't worked in the past and that Scotia fears that Aerodynamics will declare bankruptcy before mediation and trial.

Aerodynamics attorneys said the case is very complex, involves matters of national security, and that it will take a great deal of time to compile the discovery items that it anticipates will be requested by Scotia.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 01:14

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City officials seek to fix bill exempting RVs from property tax

LACONIA — City officials and state lawmakers are scrambling to fix a bill that threatens to shrink the city's total assessed valuation by $10 million, trim its property tax revenues by $200,000 and add 10 cents to its property tax rate.

Senate Bill 333, sponsored by Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), would exempt from property taxation recreational vehicles remaining in any one city, town or unincorporated place for fewer than 45 days as well as recreational vehicles stored or placed rented on a rented campsite at a recreational campground or camping park no matter for how long.

The bill carried the Senate by a unanimous vote of 24-0 in January and is scheduled to be heard by the House Municipal and County Government Committee of Tuesday, April 1, at 10:30 a.m.

The statutory definition of a recreational vehicle includes motor homes, vans, pickup campers and tent trailers as well as recreational trailers of 400 square feet or less. The definition includes so-called "park models," which may be 12-feet and 36-feet long with pitched roofs and gabled windows that resemble miniature cottages with room to sleep as many as 10 people.

Jon Duhamel, the city assessor, has counted 423 recreational vehicles parked at a dozen campgrounds year around with an aggregate assessed value of $9,994,500. They have been taxed for years, but would become exempt from property tax if the bill were enacted. He estimates that the city would forgo more than $220,000 in revenue.

Meanwhile, at Bristol Shores on Newfound Lakes in Bristol, Christina Goodwin, the assessing assistant, said there are 183 "park models" with a total value of nearly $8 million that would become exempt from property tax, representing almost $160,000 in foregone revenue to the town. In Alton, Tom Sargent, the assessor, said that currently there are 147 units with a value of $900,000, but a campground with space for another 147 is in the offing. "Because our tax rate is so low the revenue impact is only about $12,000," Sargent said," but that pays for a part-time secretary."

Laconia City Manager Scott Myers contends that recreational vehicles permanently parked in campgrounds do not comply with the intended definition of a recreational vehicle, but are more akin to seasonal camps and cabins of fewer than 400 square feet on private lots, which are liable to property taxation. He points out that these recreational vehicles are not registered as either motor vehicles or trailers, a sign that their owners, most of whom reside in another state, do not intend to move them. Likewise, he notes that manufactured housing is defined as a unit of 320 square feet or more, while units that qualify as recreational vehicles, which are in campgrounds throughout the year, measure between 369 square feet and 408 square feet. He questions if the distinction is sufficient to tax one but not the other.

Apart from the loss of revenue, Myers claims that those living in these units avail themselves of municipal services, if only on a seasonal basis, and should contribute an equitable share to their cost.

Forrester introduced the legislation at the request of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association, whose lobbyist Henry Veilleux this week proposed an amendment intended to mitigate the fiscal impact on municipalities. The amendment would exempt only those recreational vehicles less than eight-feet, six inches in width, leaving all wider units liable to property taxation.

Veilleux said that this provision would entitle municipalities to tax the "park models," which represent the bulk of the assessed valuation of recreational vehicles. He estimated that the amendment would enable Laconia to recapture at $6,568,000, or 66 percent, of the assessed valuation. The amendment would leave all the units at Bristol Shores taxable.

Myers expressed reservations, explaining that the issue was not confined to the "park models." He said that other units meeting the statutory definition of a recreational vehicle were effectively permanent, if seasonally occupied, structures, many with porches, decks and other extensions. "They are not intended to be moved," he said.

The issue arose in the wake of two court decisions. In 1999, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a truck trailer could be assessed and taxed as a building "if by its use it:  (1) is intended to be more or less permanent, not a temporary structure;  (2) is more or less completely enclosed;  (3) is used as a dwelling, storehouse, or shelter;  and (4) is intended to remain stationary." Two years later the Belknap County Superior Court applied this standard to eight trailers at the Hack-Ma-Tack Campground at The Weirs, when the City of Laconia taxed eight trailers on the property as buildings.

On the strength of the court decisions, the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) urged municipalities to apply the criteria strictly. Some did, but others found the cost of assessing the units and billing their owners, many of whom reside outside the state, outweighed the revenue collected.

Forrester said that she received calls from campground owners and municipal officials in different communities troubled by the inconsistent application of the law. In particular, she found that recreational vehicles parked at the 117 campgrounds in the state were treated differently by different municipal assessors. Some are taxed as real property while others are not. Some municipalities bill the owners of the recreational vehicles while others, unable to identify the owners, bill the owners of the campgrounds. Her bill, she said, is intended to bring order to what she called "a crazy quilt."

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 12:29

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