Corrections workers up for first raise in four years

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Unionized employees of the Belknap County House of Corrections will vote Tuesday on a proposed contract with the county which would provide them with their first pay raise in four years.
Beknap County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) did not reveal details of the proposed contract but said that he is very hopeful that the contract will win approval of union members so that commissioners can bring it before the Belknap County Delegation in the near future.
Commissioners when they met last week discussed what they called a "consensus agreement with corrections employees" which was described as cost-neutral and said that it was similar to the collective bargaining agreement between Teamsters Local 633 and the county which was approved by a 10-5 vote by the County Delegation last August.
The employees at the Corrections Department are members of one of the three unions of county employees represented by the State Employees Association. The other two unions cover employees of the Belknap County Home and the Belknap County Sheriff's Department.
The contract which was approved last August with the Teamsters, who represent 23 mid-level managers in several county departments, provided a 1.4 percent pay raise as well as step increases, which increased total compensation by 4.4 percent for eligible workers.
It also provided for health insurance changes from an HMO plan to a "site of service" plan which provides for $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 deductibles on single, two-person and family plans for which the county now pays the entire bill. Currently employees pays 5 to 6.5 percent of the premiums for the HMO plan.
DeVoy said in August that the change reduced the amount the county pays for the current HMO plan by as much as $4,000 per employee. Several legislators who voted against the contract said at that time that they though it was a good agreement but didn't like the idea of the county assuming the entire cost and not having employees continue to pay a percentage of the premium costs.

Gilford considers change for troubled 11-A/B intersection

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — Selectmen gave the go ahead to Public Works Director Peter Nourse Wednesday night to determine about how much it would cost to reconfigure the intersection of Route 11A and Route 11B.

Nourse's suggestion is to eliminate the western-most part of the triangle and reconfigure the northern part of the triangle to form a "T" intersection with Route 11A, or Cherry Valley Road.

"I believe the intersection would be safer if it was 'T'd' up," he told selectmen.

This is not the first time selectmen have discussed eliminating the western merge lane from Intervale Road or Route 11B to Cherry Valley Road. For about two years, conversations between town officials and the DOT took place because the selectboard wanted to build a memorial park there to honor police officer and firefighters. The goal was to have it ready for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

At the time, the DOT was not interested in the suggestion, and, because both are state highways, the decision was and is within their purview.

Nourse told selectmen that in the course of his conversations with the officials from the DOT, they are interested for safety reasons but said the state can't pay for it. He told selectmen on Wednesday that if the state were to pay for it, it would have to be added to the "10-year plan."

"It is their desire to have as many "T" intersections as possible," he said yesterday.

Selectman Richard "Rags" Grenier said that he felt the possible reconstruction was not needed because the triangle "works the way it is."

The other selectmen, who both said they had nearly been in accidents there, were more interested in hearing about how much it would cost. Nourse said yesterday that in speaking with DOT officials he learned there is a possibility of a minimum amount of state grant money available from a sub-program of the New Hampshire safety improvement grants that address intersections proven to be dangerous or that have the potential to be dangerous.

Nourse is expected to report back to selectmen once he has a clearer idea of how much it would cost.

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Local officials are thinking of removing the highlighted part of Route 11B in Gilford rather than wait for the state to take up the project. (Map courtesy Google Maps)

LRCC welcomes resident students with new apartment building

BY MICHAEL KITCH LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — "This is not a dormitory," said Larissa Baia as she opened the door to a spacious carpeted and furnished apartment with a patio offering a view of Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains beyond. "We think it's a game changer," she added.

Baia, vice president of student services at Lakes Region Community College, explained that the college has leased a four-story apartment building with 48 one-, two- and three-bedroom units at the foot of Provencal Road, about a mile northwest of the campus, to provide housing for its students. The building is one of a pair built by Dick Anagnost, a prominent developer from Manchester.

Only NHTI, Concord's Community College, among the seven colleges of the community college system, offers housing, but in dormitories not apartments.

"This makes us unique," said Scott Kalicki, president of the college. "It gives us a leg up."

Baia explained that access to the apartments will be limited to students, who will gain entry not only to the building itself but also to their particular floor with their student identification cards. Nick Walton, the residence director who lives in a ground-floor unit, said all guests must be accompanied by a student and register with a security officer on entering the building. Three security cameras are mounted on each floor and at least one resident assistant will be housed on the three upper stories. Security, Baia stressed, is a high priority.

The units on the ground floor will be reserved for short stays, Baia said, explaining that students in the marine and automotive technology programs may be on the campus for a week or even a day or two. The remainder of the building will house students enrolled for the semester. Lounges and study rooms provide communal spaces for residents and there are laundries on the second and fourth floors.

The building is separated from the college by a woodland crossed by an unimproved pathway. Baia said that students have been directed not to use the path, but instead to drive to the campus. However, she said that the college intends to improve and light the pathway to provide safe and secure passage between the apartments and the campus.

"It would be an eight minute walk," she said.

Baia said that the apartments are priced to reflect the cost of comparable housing at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University and Keene State College. The cost to a student sharing an apartment, which includes all utilities including Internet access, is $3,600 for a semester of 15 weeks, while a student with a single unit would pay $3,950. Student loans can be applied to the cost of housing.

Walton said he is responsible for matching and pairing those students seeking shared housing.

"It's difficult to do just from paperwork," he conceded, "but we do our best to honor their requests."

He said that some 20 students are currently living in the building and that number is expected to increase at least fivefold with enrollment for the fall semester in September. Altogether, there is capacity for 200 students.

Community colleges, Baia said, have long been perceived as "commuter schools," but more students are seeking other options.

"They want the college experience of living and learning," she continued. "We can offer that."

Walton agreed, remarking that "they are snagging applications as soon as they see the building."

She anticipated the housing would enhance the attraction of college's fire science, marine technology and automotive technology programs, which draw students from Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.

"The apartments will be a huge thing for these programs," she said.

Kalicki said that the housing option positions the college to recruit "way outside the boundaries of our region to the farther reaches of the state," especially for a program like fire science, which is not only the only one of its kind in the state but also the closest for students from neighboring states. At the same time, he said that a resident student population will also have positive effects on the city.

Kalicki said that Anagnost has offered the college an opportunity to lease the other building at the site, which would double its capacity for residential students to 400.
"We're not ready to go there yet," he said, "but we'll see how this goes. It's a great opportunity for the college and the city."

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Lakes Region Community College offers two bedroom apartment units for their students.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Spacious living room / kitchen area in a two bedroom apartment unit available for students at Lakes Region Community College.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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A double bedroom within a two bedroom apartment unit with walk-in closet offers comfortable living space for students at Lakes Region Community College.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)