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National Night Out event in Belmont signals shift to approachable, community-oriented police force

BELMONT – About 150 people, most of them children, gathered at Sargent Park last night for this town's second annual National Night Out – a nation wide community outing to bond local police departments with their citizenry.

For Police Chief Mark Lewandoski, Belmont's event was a way to make the Belmont Police more approachable.

"We've definitely moved into a mode where we want to be more community friendly," Lewandoski said as he looked around at all of the children playing and talking to his police officers. "We want our officers to be integrated into the community."

Lewandoski said he wants people to be comfortable reaching out to members of the police department and calling them when they need them.

One woman named Katie had five children with her who were all enjoying the bouncy house, the ice cream and the hotdogs.

"I want my kids to know the police and to learn a little bit about them," she said. She added that all of her children were looking forward to the K-9 demonstration – this time featuring two K-9s from the N.H. State Police – a drug dog and a patrol dog.

"Next year," said Lewandoski, "we'll have a dog of our own."

Last month, selectmen voted unanimously to purchase and train a K-9 and make Master Patrol Officer Evan Boulanger the department's K-9 handler.

For Boulanger, who was the primary organizer of last night's party, the event was about getting to know the people in the community and for the people in the community to get to know him.

He said about 18 months ago, Lewandoski told his department that it was going to be more focused on the community and the people who live in it.

Boulanger said people by nature are reluctant to change and he and the rest of the department "dug in their heels a little bit" but within six months, he said the entire department was 100-percent community focused.

He said now when he stops into a store or a business on a shift or goes to a park and visits with the people there, they all know his name.

"Guess what, some of them actually like me," he said.

National Night Out for him is like "cop therapy."

"This shows us why we really do this job," he said. "There's a time to kick down doors and a time to be a member of this community."

Last night in Belmont, it was all about the community.

Helping with National Night Out were the Belmont Rotary, the Belmont Fire Department, the Belmont Selectmen, the N.H. Dairy Association that helped the department provide ice cream for everyone, and the Driving Toward Zero organization that aims to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents to zero.

National Night Out is an event begun 31 years ago by the National Town Watch Association. Now held in communities throughout the country, National Night Out is designed to foster stronger relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 August 2014 12:09

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Water rate for Belmont residents of Briarcrest is quadruple that of Laconia

BELMONT — Of the 241 units in Briarcrest Estates, 41 are in Belmont where residents may pay as much as four times as much for their water than their 200 neighbors in Laconia. And it seems nothing can be done to overcome the disparity.

"The property taxes and water rates in Belmont are ridiculous," said George Blaisdell, who has pursued the question of water rates with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC), New Hampshire Attorney General and, most recently, the board of directors of the Lakemont Cooperative, which purchased the manufactured housing park in June.

According to Blaisdell, in 2001 when Mark and Ruth Mooney, who developed and owned Briarcrest Estates, expanded the park into Belmont they considered connecting the additional units to the Laconia Water Works, which served the remainder of the park. However, the Mooneys chose instead to connect to a community water system they owned, Lakeland Management Company, Inc., which had provided water and sewer service to some 115 customers in Belmont since 1987.

The Mooneys could not be reached for comment and Seth Nuttelman, superintendent of the Laconia Water Works, said that he was not aware of the factors underlying their decision. However, Nuttelman noted that for a water system to connect to Laconia's mains it would have to meet particular specifications.

In 2004, the Mooneys sold Lakeland Management Company, Inc. to White Rock Water Company, Inc. , a community water system serving customers in Bow owned by Theresa Crashaw of Gilford. In February, both White Rock and Lakeland were acquired by Abenaki Water Comopany, a newly- formed, wholly- owned subsidiary of New England Service Company, Inc., a publicly traded corporation headquartered in Plainville, Connecticut.

Soon after the transaction closed the PUC approved a rate schedule for the residential customers of Briarcrest Estates, consisting of a quarterly customer charge of $97 and an additional charge for metered service of $5.3388 per hundred cubic feet (hcf), or 748 gallons, of water used. The national average of water usage is ten hcf units per person per quarter. At these rates the annual cost of water for a two-person household would consist of customer charges of $388 and usage charges of $427 for a total of $815.

By contrast, a two-person household at Briarcrest Estates served by Laconia Water Works using the same amount of water would pay a quarterly base rate of $20 and a usage rate of $1.45 per hcf, which amounts to $196 a year.

Nuttelman said that the disparate rates are a function of economies of scale. Abenaki Water Company serves 158 customers in a limited section of Belmont, but must bear the capital costs of maintaining its wells, pumps, mains and meters. With relatively few customers the operating and capital costs per unit are very high.

Nuttelman said that Laconia Water Works cannot acquire a private community system nor can it sell its water to private entities. Moreover, he said that his department cannot extend either supply or service beyond the city limits without the expressed approval of the City Council.

Orry Gibbs, president of the Lakemont Cooperative, said that Blaisdell has approached the board of directors about addressing the issue. However, short of acquiring Abenaki Water Company, which would be far beyond the means of the cooperative, she said there is nothing the board can do. She said that the cooperative has its hands full managing the park and is in no position to own and operate a water company. "I feel terrible for those people," she said of the Belmont residents of the park. "It has been an ongoing problem and I truly wish there is something we could do for them."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 10:45

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Moose struck by 2 vehicles on Parade Rd.

LACONIA — Occupants in two vehicles escaped injury Monday night after colliding with a moose on Parade Road (Route 106) near the intersection with Turner Way.

Stanley Piper, 86, of Gilford said he and a friend were heading south on Parade Road at about 9 p.m. returning from an outing in Moultonborough heading south when a truck headed north from Laconia struck the moose.

Unable to stop, Piper said he then hit the moose.

"He was quite big," said Piper who said he's lived in New Hampshire all of his life and this is only the second moose he's ever seen. He said he never really saw the animal until he hit it. "(The impact) threw us against our seat belts," he said.

Prior to Monday night, the closest Piper had come to such an incident was nearly hitting a deer on Interstate 93.

Piper said he was lucky because the vehicles behind him weren't following too close and so were able to stop and help them.

He also said the man who first hit the moose — identified by police as Carl Peterson, 66, of Meredith — was driving a big pickup truck.

"It was a 'two-tonner' anyway. A real big truck," said Piper. "I'm glad for him the truck was big enough to handle it."

Police said the moose was killed and a New Hampshire resident who wanted the meat and was able to remove the moose from the middle of Parade Road took it away. The road was closed to traffic for a short time.

Piper said he was very grateful to the others on the road who stopped to help him and his friend. He also said the police were very comforting and kept them from getting too upset.

Police said the damage to both vehicles was considerable and both had to be towed. Piper said his car needs a new radiator and is already in the shop.

A state Fish and Game officer said it's not unusual to see an occasional moose in the Lakes Region, although moose strikes are more common further north.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 11:16

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School district official says stolen truck was taken from inside Huot Center building

LACONIA — School District officials said yesterday that the Ford F-350 pickup allegedly stolen by a Florida man with ties to the area was locked in the automotive section of the Huot Technical Center before it was stolen.

Business Administrator Ed Emond said the building is checked daily throughout the weekend and was locked. He said the school district is working to see how the two men who allegedly stole the truck got into the building.

Dennis LeFebvre, 33, of 14188 44th Court in Summerville, Fla., has been charged with one felony count of receiving stolen property, driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.

Laconia Police, who arrested LeFebvre on an outstanding warrant, gave his address in its police log as 14 Kimball Road, #27 in Gilford.

Belmont Police said yesterday it appears LeFebvre was with a second man, who has not been identified.

Emond said he saw pictures of the truck, and said there appears to be about $2,000 damage done to the undercarriage.

Lt. Rich Mann said his department’s investigation shows the truck apparently went off the road on Mile Hill Road and struck an embankment, then returned to the road.

He said a resident called the police and a Belmont officer saw the truck and stopped it on Dutile Road.

LeFebvre is being held on $750 cash only bail in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 11:53

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