Raises nixed

Gilmanton voters say no to teacher contract, ballots are counted in the dark


GILMANTON — In a difficult election where a storm knocked out power and ballots were counted by lantern light, teachers saw their collective bargaining agreement with the school district rejected at the polls.

Gilmanton voters turned down the collective bargaining agreement reached between the Gilmanton School Board and the Gilmanton Education Association calling for increases in salaries and benefits of $41,311 in 2017-2018; $129,327 in 2018-2019; and $133,211 in 2019-2020.

Article 12, the collective bargaining agreement between the district and teachers, failed — the only school district article to do so.

This article failed 423-384.

Due to concerns with health insurance costs, the Budget Committee voted against recommending the teachers' contract.

As costs continued to rise, the GEA put forth a proposal in the new contract to switch to a high deductible plan of $2,000 for single coverage and $4,000 for a two-person or family plan, allowing the district to shoulder a higher percentage of the cost but not a greater amount, officials said. The 85 percent share that the district now pays for teachers' health insurance was slated to rise to 97 percent under the contract, but the cost to the district was not expected to rise because of the teachers' willingness to take on higher deductibles, teacher Erin Hollingsworth explained. She and others urged the contract's support at the deliberative session of School District Meeting, but voters turned it down.

The vote rejecting the teachers' collective bargaining agreement was 423-384, according to Rachel Hatch, administrative assistant in SAU No. 79, Gilmanton School District.

A pair of three-year school board terms drew three candidates: Michelle (Smithers) Heyman, Michael Teunessen and incumbent Frank Weeks.

In final voting, Weeks and Heyman won the two School Board seats.

In a candidates' forum last week, the School Board hopefuls described their backgrounds.

Heyman is a former student at Gilmanton Elementary School and a graduate of Gilford High School in 1994. She earned a business administration degree at University of New Hampshire. Heyman said she has been involved with the high school options committee (Gilmanton maintains a tuition agreement with Gilford High School), the school improvement committee and the space needs committee. Heyman served as president of the Parent-Teachers Association.

Weeks said he taught for 40 years, in Alton, Farmington and Rochester. Weeks questioned the level of deductibles in the teachers' contract, $2,000 for single teachers and $4,000 for couples or families. He pointed to his younger son's time at Gilmanton Elementary School, which gave him a positive drama and music experience and taught him Spanish. Weeks served on the School Board for six years and previously held a School Board seat at St. Thomas Aquinas. He is also involved at Gilford High School with performing arts and athletics.

Hatch said vote counting occurred in the worst of conditions.

"We did all the absentee ballots last night in the dark, by lantern," she said Wednesday, after a nor'easter finally ended and power was restored.

"It was a perfect storm, literally," Hatch said.

The ballot machine was damaged during one of the outages, so another machine had to be acquired, and once they found a place with power, staff had to feed every single ballot back into the machine by hand, she said.

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Gilmanton poll workers had to deal with a power outage on Election Day due to the blizzard. (Courtesy photo)

Tiny House takes the stage

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 Matt Towke, of the building construction program at the Huot Technical Center, is nearly as proud the Tiny House as he is of his students who built under his direction and oversight. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

Huot Tech students to display their construction project at NH Home Show


LACONIA — On Friday morning, the tiny house built by students of the Huot Technical Center during the last several months will be hauled to the Radisson hotel in Manchester where, together with four others like it, it will be featured at the 50th annual New Hampshire State Home Show.

Tiny House New Hampshire is a workforce development initiative sponsored but he New Hampshire Lottery, which introduced the "Tiny House, Big Money" scratch ticket, with a top prize of $10,000 along with a chance to win the best of the five tiny houses in the eyes of the judges.

Matt Towle, the teacher who directed and oversaw the project, the dozen students who did the work and the members of the Lakes Region Home Builders Association, who contributed expertise and materials, have all earned their rewards with the completion of the house. Now, they all have eyes on the prize.

The house, built on a trailer,provided by the New Hampshire Lottery, is just 192 square feet, with an 80-square-foot loft. Towle began with an off-the-shelf design, but refined and re-engineered it. Jeremy Doucet of the Lighthouse Construction Group of Gilford said the project posed more challenges than building a conventional home. All the essential elements — living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom with shower, as well as plumbing, heating and wiring — be fitted into a confined space and the 7-ton home must be built to withstand the rigors of highway travel at 60 mph.

The house is crowned by an elegant dormer. The gable ends are highlighted with natural bark while the remainder features novelty and board-and-batten siding. The windows, aluminum on the outside and wooden on the inside, are both durable decorative. Remarking on the choice of materials, Bob Glassett of Pella Windows and Doors said that "we could have gone cheap, but no, we decided to do it right."

There are 13 windows in the house, one for Towle and each his dozen students — Alexis Albert, Kris Belanger, Robert Brough, Austin Carbone, Joshua Catalano, Mary Davis, Corey Getman, Samuel Guyer, Ian Hearn, Nathan Kierstead, Bryson LaChapelle and Cole Manion. Albert and Davis are the first two women to complete the building construction program. Towle also credited the plumbing and heating class, taught by Mike Schofield, for their contributions to the project.

Likewise, Towle expressed his appreciation to the Lakes Region Home Builders Association, the largest regional chapter in the state, whose members devoted their time, knowledge, skill and resources to ensure the success of the project. He said that many builders in the region construct custom homes and shared their unique skills and craftsmanship with his students. The association even provided an exacting customer to cast a sharp eye over their workmanship.

For the students, whose forerunners built garden sheds and bob houses, the tiny house presented a unique opportunity to build a complete home, albeit a small one. "I love building and this is the whole thing," said La Chapelle. Colin Horton, who completed the program two years ago and now works for Wood 7 Clay of Gilford, said he was envious.

Belanger said that his participation in the program has lent direction and meaning to his education while working on the tiny house has contributed to earning him a job with a local contractor. Kierstead, who works with his father, a roofing contractor, and intends to continue in the building trades, said that the tiny house project has been a "a good learning process" with emphasis on communication and teamwork.

"This is their project," Towle said of his students. "They are really invested in it "

With tiny houses becoming increasing popular, the work of the students has become an example. When the Lakes Region Home Builders hosted an open house during construction a builder from Tuftonboro with a client interested in building three tiny houses to rent in the summer, said, "It's very well built," and "I've learned a lot about how to go about it."

A couple from Concord, in the midst of building a tiny house of their own, wished they had seen the students' project before they began.

Treating the home show as something of an away game, Towle hoped for a strong show of support for students in Manchester this weekend . The show opens on Friday, March 17, at 1 p.m., and runs on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Tiny House Village will be on Pleasant Street, next door to the Radisson hotel.

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The interior begins to come together. (Courtesy photo)

No juice - Thousands without power after storm

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Mike Gilbert, climber for Sonny and Sons Tree Service, uses a chainsaw to remove portions of a large pine tree that fell on a home on Hoadley Road in Belmont. Many trees in the area were blown down during Tuesday's storm. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)


BELMONT — Watching as a pine tree was removed from his roof on Wednesday, John Mandriol said the storm that blew through a day earlier was like "freaking Armageddon."

His home on Hoadley Road was one of several that were damaged in a Nor'easter that dropped more than a foot of snow and raked the area with gusts topping 50 mph. One 16-year-old girl died in a traffic accident on a snowy road in Gilford.

Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid said it dispatched emergency services for 163 calls Tuesday, compared to about 69 on an average day. Those calls included 103 fire reports, including trees down on wires, as well as 12 motor vehicle accidents and 37 medical incidents.

MetroCast, which provides telephone, Internet and cable television services, had an outage that disrupted service to customers in communities served by its Belmont office. By Wednesday evening, the company said about half those communities, including Laconia, were back online. Its phone system for reporting outages was also restored about the same time, after being down since Tuesday.

Meanwhile, electrical utility crews restored power to nearly 40,000 customers statewide, but another 10,000 remained without electrical service in Belmont, Moultonborough, Tuftonboro, Sandwich, Center Harbor, Meredith, Gilmanton and elsewhere. Most should have their service back by Thursday night, the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative said.

Mandriol said that during the storm, he and his wife went on their front porch to look at a tree that fell on a power line leading to an outbuilding. That's when they heard a tree falling in their direction.

"I looked up and saw that coming at me," he said. "I thought I was a dead man."

The couple emerged unhurt.

"I'm the luckiest man on the face of the Earth," Mandriol said.

March snowstorms aren't unusual, but winds like this are extraordinary, said Bob Marine, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Gray, Maine.

"The strong winds were widespread throughout New England," he said. "That much of an area under those kind of strong winds, that's what made this unique."

Snow accumulations of a foot or more were reported at numerous locations. Laconia had 18 inches. The peak wind recorded at Mount Washington was 123 mph.

Many residents were startled by the ferocity of the blow.

"It was almost like a jet motor, a constant roar for hours," said Rich Savary, who was trying to prevent water pipes from freezing in his home in Belmont on Wednesday. Without power for his furnace, the home had dropped to 39 degrees.

Mark Rancourt rode out the storm in his home in Belmont with his wife and two young children. His generator was going Wednesday. He lost three tall pine trees but luckily they fell in a direction away from the home.

"It was quite honestly pretty petrifying," he said. "It was the worst I've seen. We've had some pretty bad storms here, but I've not seen carnage like this."

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These homes on Hoadley Road in Belmont had to deal with damage from falling trees after Wednesday's blizzard. (Courtesy photos)