Laconia man missing since mid-January


LACONIA — Family and friends are searching for Henry Joseph Caruso II, who has been missing since the middle of January. Caruso, a native of Laconia, where his family has lived for two generations, was last seen downtown and neither relatives not friends have been able to contact him since.

03-04 Henry Caruso IICaruso is 26 years old and stands about 6 feet tall and weighs about 140 pounds. He has blue eyes, dark hair and thick eyebrows. His name, "Caruso," is tattooed in large letters on his left ribcage. He is a manual laborer who usually seeks work locally, often as a landscaper, and is known as a free spirit who enjoys the companionship of friends and listening to music. Friends say he may be anxious and troubled by the recent death of his father and pending birth of his son.

His disappearance has been reported to the police and anyone with information about his whereabouts may contact his family 603-273-2674.

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$500,000 Block grant sought for Child Advocacy Center


LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners approved applying for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant on behalf of the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center. The grant will enable the center to purchase and renovate the building at 95 Water St., which it moved into in 2015.
The building is owned by the Granite United Way and was formerly the main office for the Lakes Region United Way, which merged with Granite United Way several years ago. The building was once located on Pleasant Street next to the Congregational Church and was the home of Saint James Episcopal Church until the mid-1960s.
The approval came following a public hearing Monday.
The center is part of a statewide network of advocacy centers which helps young victims of physical and sexual abuse and has been located in Laconia since 2006.
Director Meghan Noyes said that in 2015 the center handled 225 investigations of physical or sexual assaults involving children in the Lakes Region area.
The center coordinates child abuse investigations using a multi-disciplinary team approach. Professionals from law enforcement, child protective services, victim advocacy, the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, the Belknap County Attorney's Office, and medical/mental health professionals join together at the Child Advocacy Center to investigate child abuse and provide best practice care to children and their families. Children are interviewed by one person in a child-friendly, neutral environment by trained Child Advocacy Center staff. The child and family receive on-site support services and referrals to appropriate community resources.

Net gain? Push for tennis in city schools hits up against budget woes


LACONIA — Like an ill-timed lob, an effort to reinstate tennis in Laconia schools may arrive in front of school board members at the worst possible time, when they are grappling with budget cuts and a grim financial outlook.
"Given the kind of budget situation we're in, I'm not optimistic," said School Board member Michael Persson on Friday when asked about what he thought of reinstating tennis, a program cut from the district about three years ago due to budget pressures.
"Unfortunately, we have a limited amount of funds under the tax cap," Persson said.
The Lakes Region Tennis Association, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who are passionate about tennis, vows to bring tennis back to schools, and they say they can do it without seeking district funds.
"We just want them to at least put a sign-up sheet out to see what interest there is," said Kamal Gosine, head coach for the association, in a recent interview. The association won't be asking for a budget line, he said.
"This is totally free" for the school district, Gosine said.
On Friday, Gosine confirmed that he sent a letter to Superintendent Brendan Minnihan and other school officials floating the idea and asking for a decision.
This week, Minnihan reported that he received the letter, and noted, "This request would need to be discussed at a future school board meeting as well as discussed with other individuals. No decision has been made at this point."
Persson said new sports typically come with costs such as stipends for the coach, pay for officials and travel expenses. It's unclear if tennis could be folded into the school district cleanly without any cost to the district, but Gosine and others with the association are making this pitch.
In a Jan. 31 email to school officials, Gosine wrote, "We have the resources to help you in accomplishing these goals. What we need first is to get the schools to set up a sign up sheet at the middle and high schools. We are not going to cut any person from the team if they sign up. We will provide the equipment as needed, as well as some free boot camps to get the kids ready for the season, this we can do at your gyms. We can start the program in your gyms and then move to the public courts. Please let me know if we are in agreement and if you will post a signup sheet letting the kids know that we are here to help them and the schools with a Tennis Program."
One of the goals of the Lakes Region Tennis Association has always been to bring back tennis to Laconia High School through a grassroots tennis program for younger kids. The idea has been to create demand for a high school team by getting kids playing in elementary school and middle school, according to the association.
If it doesn't get done this year, Gosine said he fears it won't happen at all.
With a self-funded approach, a Laconia-based school-sanctioned tennis program could swell into a successful option, he said.
Persson said that tennis — like other sports or after-school activities — can provide much-needed activities for teens between 2 and 6 p.m., a "critical time" when students may be unattended and prone to get into trouble.
But any proposal for a new sport or activity will receive careful vetting by the School Board, based on the budget.
Last year, the Laconia School District cut its budget by $1.6 million, and Persson said teachers are the lowest paid in the Lakes Region as a result of deferred raises.
"We have teachers that are four years behind on the salary schedule," he said.
This year, Persson said he expects "substantial cuts" as part of another tough budget year.
Last June, in a budget hearing statement, Persson reported, "In order to get to the same pay levels given our 2015 teacher census, Laconia would need to increase its school budget by $1,705,163 to get to Gilford's level, $2,774,888 to get to Inter-Lakes' level and $3,217,711 to get to Concord's level."
The Laconia School Board Budget and Personnel Committee, chaired by Persson, is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, to discuss the budget. The Laconia School Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7. Both meetings are at the Laconia School District Administrative Building, 39 Harvard St.

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