City manager will hold 'informal conversations' wiht potential Lakeport property buyers

LACONIA — City officials yesterday clarified the decision the City Council took when it met this week with respect to selling the property on Union Avenue, which has been leased to Lakeport Landing, Inc. for the past 30 years. The city manager has been asked to hold "informal conversations" with the two companies that have expressed interest in buying it in order to answer questions about the city's detailed position and gauge the level of remaining interest.

The property, a 0.81 acre strip between the roadway and railway was leased to Lakeport Landing in 1985 for 10 years with two 10-year renewal periods. The lease will expire on October 31, 2015 and the tenant has no renewal rights. In 1987 Lakeport Landing constructed a 9,840-square-foot building on the lot. Under the terms of the lease, ownership of the land and building would revert to the city at the expiration date.

In January, Erica Blizzard, who owns and operates Lakeport Landing, offered to purchase the property for $331.400 and subsequently Irwin Marine, which operates on the abutting lot, submitted a more recent offer of $335,000. Meanwhile, earlier this month Capital Appraisal Associates, Inc. of Concord pegged the market value of the land and building at $480,000.

With Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) absent, five of the six councilors discussed the issue in a non-public session prior to their regularly scheduled meeting, but remained divided. Reading from a prepared statement in open session, Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) offered a motion to negotiate the sale of the property solely with Blizzard. "First do no harm," she began. "We are dealing with people. We are dealing with our neighbors." She recalled that the council agreed to sell the former police station on Church Street to Binnie Media for $1 in an effort to revitalize downtown and said that selling to Blizzard would "build confidence with the business community." Baer urged her colleagues to "do the fair thing, the right thing." Only Councilor Armand Boluc (Ward 6), whose ward includes the property, joined with Baer and her motion failed by a vote of three-to-two.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) then moved to reject both offers, which fell short of the appraised value of the property, and to authorize City Manager Scott Myers to conduct "informal conversations" with representatives of Lakeport Landing and Irwin Marine to inform them of terms and conditions of a sale of importance to the city.

Mayor Ed Engler said on Wednesday that the city manager was not directed to negotiate a sale of the property, but only to sound the two parties on reactions to four specific issues and report to the council when it meets on Monday, June 8.

First, he said that the city expected the sale price to match or exceed the appraised value of the property.

The city will also require an assurance that the owner of the property will not alter or demolish the existing building unless the change sustains or increases the existing taxable value of the property.

If the current tenant is displaced by the sale, the mayor said that the city will require the date of possession by the new owner be deferred for up to two years from the date of the closing to provide time for Lakeport Landing to secure new quarters. Should this provision be invoked, he explained that beginning when the lease expires on November 1, 2015, Lakeport Landing would pay a monthly rent consistent with the appraised value of the property.

Finally, Engler said that the property must be conveyed with easements enabling the city to maintain water and sewer lines as well as the retaining paralleling Union Avenue.

NOTES: The City Council on Tuesday authorized the expenditure of $15,000 from the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund to purchase and install a new system of security cameras at the parking garage. Police Chief Chris Adams told the council that the system will enable dispatchers to monitor activity at the garage in real time and immediately dispatch an officer to investigate untoward incidents at the facility. He said that quality of the video footage will be superior to that of the system it will replace, which was owned by the landlord and required a contract with Metrocast.. . . . . . In response to concerns from food vendors operating during Motorcycle Week, who must close at 11 p.m. on the first Friday and at 12:30 a.m. thereafter while other venues remain open, the council agreed to allow food vendors to operate until 1 a.m. As it did a year ago, the council decided to allow beer tents to open on the Friday before the first official day of the rally. The Police Department reported that the crowds on Friday were minimal and the early opening required no additional personnel. . . . . . Mayor Engler reported that the Belknap Mill Society has given the city a replica of the bell that hangs in the cupola of the mill in recognition of its contribution of $5,000 to the society. He noted that the donation was made possible by Aavid Thermalloy, which celebrated its 50th anniversary by giving the city $20,000 that was shared evenly among four civic organizations, including the Mill Society. . . . . . Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, reminded the City Council of the ongoing effort to install signs designating U.S. Business Route 3 along Court Street and Union Avenue. St. Clair said that signage was erected after construction of the bypass, but the Department of Public Works (DPW) , which provides signage within the so called urban compact, did not replace it when it fell into disrepair. Since the city controls signage on the portion of the compact that falls within the compact, St. Clair hopes the council will direct the DPW to restore it and urge the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to erect similar directional signs at entrances to the bypass.

Woman said to have beat on driver/boyfriend from back seat

LACONIA — A former Laconia woman was ordered held on $500 cash-only bail after allegedly provoking a fight with her boyfriend while on Messer Street last Sunday.

Nicole Manley, 33, of 42 Bow St. in Franklin is charged with one count of disorderly conduct, one count of domestic violence simple assault, two counts of simple assault and one count of breach of bail.

According to affidavits, at 9:30 p.m. police responded to Lyman Street and allegedly saw Manley in the middle of the street yelling at the victim.

The victim and his sister both told police that Manley had been in the back seat of the truck and kept hitting the male victim while he was driving.

They said she began hitting the victim, stopped temporarily while they all went to the Laconia Spa convenience store, and continued hitting him as they drove along Messer Street until he asked her to leave the truck while on Lyman Street.

Police said Manley was being "loud and disruptive" while they were on Lyman Street. They said she kept verbally yelling at the victim and telling him she was going to "beat him up".

Manley also allegedly admitted that the two were driving around while drinking, which for Manley was a violation of a bail order.

According to police affidavits, Manley was arrested while she lived on Fair Street for hindering apprehension. Police said she refused to cooperate with them on May 7 when police received a tip that Chad O'— a locally wanted  — was at her residence.

O'Connor, who was believed to be armed and was the subject of a 3-day manhunt in the city, was able to slip away from police that night allegedly because of Manley's actions.

O'Connor was caught by city police on May 10 after trying to run from them while on Academy Street.

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, neither Manley nor O'Connor have posted bail.

Shaker delays 'culture' study to new school year

BELMONT — The Shaker Regional School Board decided by consensus Tuesday night not to hire PCG Education of Boston to conduct a so-called "culture" study district schools.

Board Chair Sean Embree said in a media release yesterday that the reason the board chose to pass on spending $19,400 on the study was because PCG Education said it would need to customize a study and it didn't think the customizations could be accomplished within the time frame set by the school district.

"There simply isn't enough time to get this done and get the surveys out before the end of the school year," said Embree.

While the school district has said it already had planned on conducting some kind of culture study before March's annual district meeting, voters petitioned a non-binding warrant article on to the annual warrant demanding the board allow District Moderator Roy Roberts to name six people to a committee to either develop or contract a study.

Three of the complaints voiced against district management include not listening to the parents who wanted all-day kindergarten, alleged high turnover levels among, and a decision to eliminate a science teacher at the High School.

At the district meeting, the science teacher and full-day kindergarten were added by the voters and a teachers contract was passed, all three of which added about $489,000 to the 2015-16 school budget.

Despite the decision not to go forward with the PCG-Education study at this time, Embree said the board fully intends to get the culture study done.

"The board wants to get this done but we want it done right," Embree said.
"We feel this is very important for the district and we don't to rush the process."

Laconia woman named state's Volunteer Coordinator of the Year

LACONIA — Nikki Lyons vividly remembers the first time she got to see up-close how Make-A-Wish touches the lives of seriously ill youngsters.

Little David wished for a castle, and Make-A-Wish made it come true. The castle was built in David's backyard. Volunteers worked behind a long, high drape so David couldn't see what was going on. When it was finished it was time for the unveiling.

Then-Gov. John Lynch was there to proclaim David the lord of his castle. Lyons, then strictly a volunteer for Make-A-Wish, was one of those waiting to pull down the curtain, letting David see for the first time what he had long wished for.

Lyons saw the look of amazement on David's face. Lyons talks about that day, identifying David only by first name, in keeping with Make-A-Wish's policy.

"Kids (with life-threatening medical conditions, like David) have been ripped out of their childhood and are fighting an adult battle," says Lyons, a Laconia resident, who earlier this month was honored by Gov. Maggie Hassan at the state's Volunteer Coordinator of the Year. "Granting these kids' wishes provides hope and strength to keep fighting." And just as importantly, she adds, "It makes them able to be children again."

Volunteers are indispensable to organizations like Make-A-Wish. Make-A-Wish New Hampshire has 500 volunteers, according to Julie Baron, the organization's president and CEO.

Some volunteers go out and meet with youngsters and their families to find out what the child's wish is. Others help out in the office and assist the nine-member staff in various ways. Still others organize or help run fund-raisers. And then, there are Wish Ambassadors — those have benefited personally from Make-A-Wish — who go out to speak to other families and to community groups about how the organization touched their lives, and with the public's generosity can touch even more.

As director of volunteer services for Make-A-Wish New Hampshire for almost three years, Lyons has been responsible for recruiting, training and retaining volunteers.

Lyons graduated from Keene State College with a degree in communications. For a time she considered a career in television news, but realizing that being a TV news reporter wasn't for her, she took a job as a marketing assistant at Taylor Community. It was while she was at Taylor that Lyons got to meet Baron and they became good friends. Baron would ask Lyons about her interests and her goals.

"I didn't realize at the time she was interviewing me," Lyons recalled.

Lyons started with Make-A-Wish NH as a volunteer herself. Soon she was hired part-time to oversee the volunteers. As Make-A-Wish NH grew to meet more and more wish requests, the demands on Lyons grew to the point where she was working full-time.

It's hard to imagine anyone who would be better suited to enticing people to give their time and energy to helping bring smiles to seriously ill children's faces.

"I want (a job) where I wake up every day and jump out of bed with excitement," she said. "I feel really passionate about what I do. I just love children."

"Nikki is a great fit for Make-A-Wish," says Baron. "She has that knack of finding the right job for the right volunteer and to help them understand the work of the organization."

The mission of Make-A-Wish remains the same as when Baron was hired to head the organization a dozen years ago. But its reach has grown phenomenally.

During Baron's first year as the head of Make-A-Wish NH, the organization granted 39 wishes. This past year it granted 90 out of the 112 wish requests it received. Baron's goal is simple. "We want to be able to grant every wish" we receive, she says.

Lyons and Baron know that to achieve that goal requires more and more fund-raising.

The average wish costs $10,000, says Lyons. The most common wish is for a trip, with Disney World being the most popular destination. But there are other wishes, too. One child wanted a Barbie experience, another a tree house.

The wish one that still brings Lyons to tears is Garrett, who due to his life-threatening illness had lost the ability to walk. He wished for a trip to Cambodia so he could go there to build wheelchairs for bombing victims who were unable to walk. Today Garrett is in college in South Carolina, where he is involved on a on-campus organization that helps support Make-A-Wish, says Lyons.

With the challenge to grant more and more wishes, means the need to raise more and more funds. Even before Lyons received the award from Gov. Hassan at the Governor's Conference on Volunteerism ceremonies in Concord she was making the transition from her job as volunteer director to Make-A-Wish NH's director of community outreach, a position in which she will be working with community organizations and activists who host big-time fund-raising happenings, like car shows and golf tournaments, to smaller-scale events, like bake sales and car washes. One local event that Lyons will be closely involved with is the Timberman Triathlon in August, which attracts a contingent of competitors who in the past have raised upward of $80,000. 

In order for Make-A-Wish to consider a wish request, there needs to be a referral from a qualified medical professional that a child, between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 years, has a life-threatening medical condition. Most of the children have been diagnosed with some form of cancer. But there are other serious illnesses which are life-threatening, such as cystic fibrosis, Lyons explains.

Lyons stresses that while the child's illness must be life-threatening, that does not mean that they have to be dying. But it is that association of Make-A-Wish with youngsters who have been diagnosed as terminally ill that sometimes makes families hesitant to reach out to the organization.

"These parents are not referring their child because they think it makes it look like they are giving up on their child," she said.

Both Baron and Lyons say their personal experience with a family member who died from cancer helps them see more clearly and feel more deeply how important Make-A-Wish is.

Baron said that watching her mother battle cancer helped her to see that strength and hope can mean so much.

One of Lyons' cousins died of leukemia when he was 4. And while Lyons never knew the cousin — he died a couple of years before she was born — she has vivid memories of her aunt and uncle going to the hospital where the cousin was treated and giving Christmas presents to the cancer patients there. "Having someone battle a life-threatening and ultimately terminal illness has had an impact on our family," she says.

In thinking about the award she has received Lyons is quick share the credit. "I am very privileged to work with some of the most passionate people I have ever met in my life," she says, "volunteers, staff, and board members."