Police charge man with robbing Petro Mart


LACONIA — Police used a broken tail light and a cashier's description to locate a Northfield man who allegedly robbed the Petro Mart convenience store on Lexington Drive in the north end at gunpoint Saturday night.

01-30 Benjamin KelsoBenjamin Kelso, 22, of 117 Rand Road is charged with one count of armed robbery and is being held on $25,000 cash-only bail at the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Affidavits said the cashier left the building at 7:33 p.m. but was immediately accosted by a white man with a gun wearing a black winter hat, a black scarf and a black hooded sweatshirt over a gray sweater and a red undershirt. Surveillance footage also showed his jeans were faded in the front and rear around the thighs.

Video showed the cashier go back in the store, empty the cash register and cede to the robber about $700. The man fled on foot from North Main Street toward Lexington Drive.

The tape, according to affidavits, also showed that the robber got out of a black Toyota Corolla that had a passenger-side tail light that was not working. The car left the parking lot.

Within minutes of the robbery and the description of the car being broadcast over the police radio, Gilford Police called to say that they had been in contact with a car just like that on Jan. 27 and gave city police the license plate number they had run through their system.

The plate number led them to the owner of the car and her address on Batchelder St. After finding the car parked in front of 12 Batchelder St., police went to the owner's apartment where they found Kelso, who was wearing the same clothing as was shown in the video.

Because he was wearing shorts, police allowed him to dress and said he donned pants that looked like the ones in the surveillance footage.

Police searched the apartment and found a black handgun, a hat, a scarf, a sweater and hooded sweatshirt that all matched what he was allegedly wearing in the surveillance video. No mention was made of the $700.

01-30 Kelso armed robbery vid

This is from surveillance video of a robber at the Petro Mart in Laconia Sunday night. (Courtesy Laconia Police)

Two from Laconia named to Union Leader’s ‘40 Under 40’


LACONIA — The New Hampshire Union Leader has placed two young professionals at work in the city in distinguished company by naming Tate Aldrich, chairman of the English Department at Laconia High School, and Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Corporation, to its annual "40 under 40" list for 2017.

Justin SlatteryA native of Pelham, Slattery, 36, graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in political science and earned his master's degree in business administration for Plymouth State University. He joined John Lynch's successful campaign for governor in 2003 and served on his staff during the first three of his four terms. After spending two years with Hire Vision Staffing of Concord recruiting software engineers, Slattery returned to public service at the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development. In 2014, he came to the Belknap Economic Development Council where he has played a key role in the project to renovate and restore the Colonial Theatre.

"It's a very nice and very humbling honor," Slattery said of earning a spot among the 40 under 40. He said that he is moved to contribute the community because "New Hampshire is my home" and has "provided me many opportunities." He serves as a director of Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam Trail and the 200 X 2020 Workforce Development Initiative as well as a member of advisory committee of the block grant program of the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority while chairing the board of directors of the Alliance of Regional Development Corporations. "I've got plenty to do here," Slattery said. "I'm not going anywhere."

Tate AldrichAt 30, Aldrich is among the youngest to be honored. In 2009, five years after graduating from Laconia High School, he returned with his degree in English from the University of New Hampshire to teach and his year was named New Hampshire Teacher of the Year. He considers his career both "a big honor and a big responsibility" as well as an opportunity to contribute to the community where he was raised. Sharing his origins with his students, he said, enables him to appreciate their circumstances and moves him to enrich their lives.

Outside the classroom, Aldrich has played a part in both "Stand Up Laconia," a coalition of volunteers from all walks of life come together to tackle substance abuse, and "Got Lunch!," a pioneering program to prove needy young people with nutritious meals during the summer vacation. He said that he hopes he is setting an example of civic responsibility for his students. Aldrich has also working with "Stay, Work, Play," the organization aiming to encourage more young people to pursue their careers in New Hampshire.

"It's not only an honor to represent the city of Laconia," said Aldrich, one of two teachers among the "40 Under 40." "It's an honor to represent the educators of our state. Real teaching," he continued, "requires educators to immerse themselves fully in their communities. He added that he represents all the teachers at Laconia High School and elsewhere "who've committed themselves to improving the lives of young people. I hope our 40 stories serve as an inspiration to others."

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Offer made to Buy Briarcrest Estates


LACONIA — Almost three years after residents of Briarcrest Estates, organized as the Lakemont Cooperative Inc., purchased the manufactured housing park, they are weighing an offer to buy it from Hometown America Corporation, which also bid to buy the property three years ago.

Since the New Hampshire Legislature residents of manufactured housing parks were granted the opportunity to acquire their parks in 1987, 121 parks have passed into cooperative ownership and none have reverted to private ownership.

The offer was disclosed to residents at a meeting on Saturday morning and after some discussion, they agreed by a show of hands to meet with representatives of Hometown America Corporation in April, when summer residents have returned to the park.
"At the moment, it's going nowhere," Don Vachon, president of the Lakemont Cooperative said on Monday. .

Briarcrest Estates, which opened in 1988, stretches over 183 acres, divided between Laconia and Belmont, and consists of 241 home sites, 200 in Laconia and 41 in Belmont. The park is the third-largest property taxpayer in the city, with taxable property valued at $6.3 million.

In July 2013, the owners of the park, Mark and Ruth Mooney, tentatively agreed to sell the park to Hometown America for $10 million. In compliance with state law, the terms of the transaction were disclosed to the tenants, who had 60 days to make a counteroffer by presenting a purchase-and-sales agreement. The law requires the park owner to bargain in good faith with the tenants or their organization. The Lakemont Cooperative Inc. was formed and, with assistance from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, matched the offer from Hometown America Corporation. After some resistance, the Mooneys agreed to sell to the cooperative, which has owned and managed Briarcrest Estates since April 2014.

Following earlier discussions, Doug Minahan of Hometown America Corporation wrote to Don Vachon, president of of the cooperative, on Jan. 17, outlining the firm's offer. The company offered to retire the outstanding balances on a $8 million loan from TD Bank and $2 million loan from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund as well as pay the prepayment penalty of $873,000 on the bank loan, closing costs and real estate transfer taxes associated with the transaction.

Hometown America Corporation pledged to honor all current leases, which provide that rent increases are limited to the rise in property taxes and inflation rate, along with any special assessment levied to fund improvements in the park. The company proposed raising rents from $435 to $455 in October 2017 and tying increases in rents for new residents to inflation, with a minimum increase of 3 percent and maximum increase of 7 percent. The company offered to invest $350,000 in improvement to the park in the first year of its ownership. At the same, the company said it would seek to have the park designated for those 55 and older as soon as possible.

Vachon insisted "It's an unsolicited offer, period. A fire-from-the hip proposal."

Meanwhile, he stressed that the Lakemont Cooperative is in sound financial condition, a judgment confirmed by several other residents familiar with the finances of the organization. Others acknowledged that some capital improvements will need to be undertaken in the near future, the cost of which will be borne by a special assessment on residents, but they noted that the annual operating budget together with any additional capital expenditures, must be approved by the members of the cooperative. And, they noted, a private owner, will incur the same costs and recover them by assessing residents.

However, several residents, who asked not to be identified, said there has been some turnover in the leadership of the cooperative and some dissension among its members as well as difficulty in recruiting volunteers to contribute to managing the park.

"It's like a little village with all its own quirks," Vachon remarked. "We have to tell them it's their park."

01-31 Briarcrest Estates map

Briarcrest Estates is located at 100 Diamond Place, Laconia. (Google Maps graphic)