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Therrien wins Sled Dog Derby in just 2nd try

LACONIA — Quebec mushers continued their recent domination of the World Championship Sled Dog Derby by taking the top three spots in the 86th annual open race held over the weekend.
Rejean Therrien of LaPierre, Quebec, racing in only his second Laconia derby, emerged as the winner, edging out Guy Girard of St. Thomas de Joliette, Quebec, by 29 seconds, Therrien led by 24 seconds after Friday's first heat, increased his lead to 57 seconds on Saturday and withstood a strong finish by Girard on Sunday to post an overall time of 2:31.29 to Girard's 2:31.58.
Another Quebec musher, Jack Trottier of St. Gabrielle de Rauli, who was last year's runner-up, finished in third lace with a time of 2:33.13. Trottier posted the best time on Sunday with a 54:12 performance.
Taking the fourth and fifth spots were Vermont mushers Jim Blair of Eden with a time of 2:34.25 followed by Doug Butler of Bristol who finished with a time of 2:37.23.
Sixth place finisher was Claude Bellerive of Charette, Quebec, last year's winner, with a time of 2:37.31.
New Hampshire mushers Keith Bryar Jr. of Moultonborough and Chris Carter of Penacook placed 12th and 13th.
Carter's wife, Angie, won in the six-dog class with a three-day total time of 58:13, followed by Melanie Bellerive with a 58:45 performance and defending champion Jocelyn Bradbury at 58:48.
Therrien, who has been racing sled dogs for 38 years, said that Sunday's heat was the most difficult. ''It was hard. There was a lot of snow and wind. My team, worked hard.''
He started with 16 dogs on Friday, dropped it to 14 on Saturday and 11 on Sunday. His team of Alaskan Husky and German Pointer crosses was led by twin four-year old sisters Junier and Laska.
Therrien brought 23 dogs from his kennel to the race and his six-dog team team driven by his daughter took seventh place in that race.
A carpenter, Therrien has finished in the top three in every race that he has run this season, including a 40-mile race held in Charette, P.Q.
''It's a lot of hard work to get the dogs on condition for these races. But we give them lots of love and they respond,'' he said.
Runner-up Girard, who placed third in both the 2011 and 2013 races, said he was very pleased with his team's performance and said that he'll be back next year to try and win it all.
He started with 13 dogs on Friday, dropped to 11 on Saturday and 10 on Sunday. He said that 70 percent of his racing team is female, because they are easier to train and work harder, and that his lead dogs are both 6-year-old females, Guru and Kelley.
A retired oil refinery worker, Girard has been a musher for over 30 years who keeps in shape in the off season by running in 26.2 mile marathons. ''I was in Boston last year and raced in the Montreal marathon in September,'' says Girard.
Trottier, 36, is a fisheries biologist for the Canadian government whose specialty is endangered species. Has been racing sled dogs since 2008 and says that he marvels at how competitive the teams are with eight of them finishing on Friday with times of less than 50 minutes on the 15-mile course.
He said that in posting the best time on Sunday he had to make one stop in which he switched over his dogs and that may have been the difference between a higher finish as he was only a minute and 15 seconds out of second place and a minute and 44 seconds out of first place.
''That's all part of the game,'' he said, adding that mushers not only compete but cooperate to help each other out.'
''We do it for fun and there's a lot of respect for the other mushers,'' says Trottier.
The mushers were especially appreciative of the hard work of Jim Lyman and the members of the Laconia Sled Dog Club's trail grooming team, which kept the trails in good condition despite Sunday's high wind and drifting conditions.


Quebec mushers Jack Trottier, third place; Rejean Therrien, winner, and Guy Girard, second place, got together to congratulate each other before the start of the awards ceremony for the World Championship Sled Dog Derby, held Sunday afternoon at the Laconia Country Cub. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 01:19

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Passerby reports house fire in Gilmanton

GILMANTON — A quick-thinking passerby likely saved the life of a Powder House Road man early yesterday morning when he knocked on his door and told him his house was on fire.

Fire Chief Joe Hempel said yesterday morning he is still piecing together the sequence of events but said the Fire Department got a phone call for a house fire near 513 Province Road at 4:48 a.m.

He said Belmont Engine 2, that was just returning from a medical call and was ready to go, was the first emergency vehicle to arrive and found the side or an "ell" of the home completely engulfed in flames. They said a car parked next to the ell was afire as well.

Hempel said Engine 2 was able to knock down a lot of the flames while the rest of the responders were able to set up a water source from a hydrant in the center of Gilmanton's Four Corners.

Firefighters immediately called for a first alarm because of the windy and sub-zero temperatures.

"There was no exposure (to other buildings)," Hempel said, "but it was very windy and cold."

He said fire equipment doesn't work very well in sub-zero weather and has a tendency to freeze solid almost instantly should the water stop flowing. He also said the biting cold takes it toll on firefighers and other first responders.

Hempel said the home owner was in a rear bedroom while the fire appeared to have started in a wood stove on the other end of the house. He said he thinks the home had smoke detectors but he is still investigating.

Hempel said crews from the N.H. Department of Transportation and the town's Public Works Department were called for sanding and salting the area.

He said no one was injured and believes the homeowner is staying with friends or family.

Hempel said the bulk of the damage was to the ell portion of the house while the main body sustained minor smoke and water damage.
"The home is repairable," he said.


CUTLINE (Gilmanton Fire) A one-alarm fire charred ell of a single family home on Powder House Road early Monday morning. The homeowner was able to get out after being notified by a passerby who also reported the fire. (Photo courtesy Gilmanton Fire Department)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 01:10

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Commission adds $650k in revenue to reach budget goal

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners held an all-day work session on the building of the 2015 county budget Friday and came up with a revised proposal which will meet the goal set by the county convention of reducing the proposed increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes from 10 percent to 2 percent.
Last week convention Chairman Frank Tilton called for reducing the amount to be raised in taxes for the proposed $27.3 million county budget by $1.1 million and asked the commissioners to come up with $400,000 in reductions after the convention identified over $700,000 in salary and health insurance cuts.
Commissioner Dave DeVoy said that the commissioners on Friday accepted the convention's proposed payroll and health insurance budget cut numbers, which amounted to a $749,000, but added back $335,000 in expenses, most of which came through increasing the contingency line by $510,000.
DeVoy said commissioners made that change in contingency in order to keep department budgets lean but allow for unknown or unanticipated projects and costs without resorting to the need for supplemental appropriations.
Revenue projections were increased by $750,000 by commissioners, with $650,000 of that coming in the nursing home budget, which commissioners discussed at length Friday with Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue.
Commissioners DeVoy and Hunter Taylor (Commission Chairman Richard Burchell was not present) were told by Logue that because state funding through the Department of Health and Human Services is uncertain at this time it was pretty much a guessing game as to what the county can expect.
That prompted commissioners to say that they think that the legislature should press for full state funding at recent levels and not pass along tax increases to the county.
The increased revenue projections, minus the $335,000 in added expenses, allowed the commissioners to come up with a $400,000 adjustment in the proposed budget.
The revised budget proposal will be submitted to the county convention when it meets at 6 p.m. tonight at the Belkap County Complex. The meeting will be preceded by a 5 p.m. meeting of the convention's Executive Committee at which commissioners will present requests for about $60,000 in budget transfers to pay the county's unpaid legal bills for 2014.
Commissioners decided Friday to drop two proposed capital projects; $60,000 for replacement of windows at the Belknap County Courthouse and $75,000 for a time and attendance system for the Belknap County complex. Also cut from the budget was $27,600 from the IT Department for an electronic medical records project for the nursing home.
Other reductions included $45,000 for electricity and $14,000 for fuel at the nursing home.
Among the increased expenses is $39,923 for the Corrections Department to hire a consultant to produce a program for a new community corrections plan supported by commissioners.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 01:08

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Hill Budget Committee backs proposal to redirect students to Newfound

By Thomas P. Caldwell

HILL — Concerned about a potential $2.13 increase in the 2015 property tax rate from a school budget that shows a 10.61 percent increase from current-year spending, a Hill Budget Committee majority nevertheless endorsed the figure following a public hearing last week.
Gerard Desrochers made the motion to accept the Hill School Board's budget proposal, noting that an increase in tuition accounts for $191,541 of the $204,134 increase over the current year. "My rationale at this point," he said, "is that the School Board presented a fairly reasonable budget."
Selectman Mike Brady disagreed, saying school costs continue to rise and it is time to take steps to contain those costs. "We're looking at a $2 budget increase for 250 students," he said. "The school has to be operated in the proper way."
Brady noted that Hill used to operate with a teaching principal, and he said there is no problem having a teacher instruct a combined classroom when class sizes are around 10 students in the elementary school.
Principal Jay Lewis said parents appreciate being able to meet with their principal, which had been a problem when Hill had a teaching principal. He also noted that there is a certification issue: "I'm (certified as a) highly qualified principal, but not a highly qualified teacher."
As for combining classes, Lewis noted that, with the new educational standards, Hill already is facing problems with the one combined classroom it has. "The way the new standards are set up, it's very grade-level-specific. We have to be creative with our schedule now, but to do it with another class, we don't have enough staff."
He also noted that the smaller classes are not consecutive, so it would mean combining classes that are separated by a grade in between, posing an even greater challenge.
The higher tuition results from an increase in Franklin's budget combined with a decreasing enrollment in city schools. Voters will be deciding whether to end its Authorized Regional Enrollment Area agreement in Franklin and, instead, send its students in grades 7 through 12 to the Newfound Area School District, but although the tuition amount would be less, Hill would be obligated to pay Franklin for lost building aid, making total costs comparable, whichever district the voters choose.
If they choose Newfound, Hill parents would have the option of continuing to send students currently attending Franklin schools to the city, although they would be responsible for transportation.
The latest figures show Hill sending 22 students to the middle school and 44 to the high school.
During the public hearing, parents questioned the Franklin tuition figure, noting that the Franklin School Board had offered to open up the AREA agreement to renegotiate tuition using Newfound's formula, which would save Hill some $100,000 in tuition. The school board noted that doing so would take time so they would not have an agreement in time for next year, and said there was no guarantee that Franklin's offer would hold.
Many had questions about the difference between an AREA agreement and a tuition agreement, with the school board responding that a tuition agreement provides more flexibility than an AREA agreement because it does not require involvement by the state Board of Education.
"Either way," said Desrochers, "the receiving district holds all the cards."
Some parents brought up the fact that Sant Bani School in Sanbornton is closing its high school after this year and they said Hill parents who currently send their children to the private school will be looking for alternate placement, which could increase Hill's tuition costs.
Lewis said Sant Bani reports that there would be at most four students coming back to Hill if the parents did not choose another private school.
Responding to Brady's concerns, School Board Chair Shelly Henry said, "I understand the tax rate is going up, but I'd hate to see education suffer because of it."
"When do you actually take steps to reduce costs?" Brady responded.
The Budget Committee voted to support the $2,128,133 budget as proposed by a vote of 8-4, then went on to discuss the separate warrant articles.
While agreeing with Article 6 to transfer $7,000 from the school district's unexpended fund balance to an expendable trust fund for special education, the Budget Committee cut a similar $7,000 expenditure in half in Article 7, that would add to money to the building and maintenance expendable trust fund.
The budget unanimously supported Article 9 which would close out a fund for heating and transfer the $365 remaining to the building and maintenance expendable trust fund.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 01:13

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