Meredith contractor settles consumer complaint

By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — A local building contractor has agreed to repayment and penalty terms in relation to consumer complaints filed with the state.

Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald announced on Thursday that Gerard Michael Healy, owner of Mike's Home Improvement of 25 Lang St., Meredith, had entered into a consent judgment that requires repayment of $40,676 in deposits and a $3,000 fine, as well as prohibiting him from accepting any future deposits relating to his business for 10 years.

Healy allegedly took deposits for various home improvement projects that he subsequently failed to perform, and did not refund the deposits, according to MacDonald. The complaints covered a period from April to November 2016.

Belknap County Superior Court approved the consent agreement on April 27. Under the terms of the agreement, future customers will purchase and own the materials needed for contracted work by the company. Mike's Home Improvement will have a payment schedule to reimburse the customers who previously made prepayments, and Healy will have to pay $3,000 in civil penalties to the state.

Healy did not return a call seeking comment on the consent judgment.


Baer: City School Board ‘out of touch’

City Council opposition emerges to proposed teacher contract that would force override of tax cap

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A teachers contract approved by the School Board and the Laconia Education Association faces opposition by the City Council, which must agree to fund the plan before it can take effect.
In backing a five-year contract that would call for the council to override the property tax cap, the board is "whistling in the wind," Councilor Brenda Baer said Wednesday.
"They are out of touch," she said. "I think the council majority would oppose any change to the tax cap."
An override would require a two-thirds vote of the City Council. It also relies on voter approval of a modification of the cap so the School District could make large budget increases in coming years. The five-year contract would put teacher salaries at or above most other districts in the area.

Baer said supporters of overriding the cap don't adequately consider people who can't afford tax increases. 
"They forget the highest percentage of the population is the seniors who are no longer working, but living on Social Security, or pensions, savings and the willingness to live with less," she said. "They forget that over 60 percent of our students qualify for free lunches, breakfast and sometimes dinner."
Councilor Henry Lipman said his preference is also to stay within the tax cap.
"I'm of a mind that we should be able to work together within the cap," he said. "Generally, we've done 12 or 13 budgets within the tax cap and have been able to do some creative things to help schools along the way."
The tax cap, approved by voters 12 years ago, limits increases in property tax collections for the city, school and county budgets based on a formula tied to changes in the Federal National Consumer Price Index (urban) and new building permits less demolitions.
The school district would realize more than $500,000 in additional property tax revenue under the cap this coming year. This would lead to an increase in property tax rates by 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $36 on a $200,000 home.
If the City Council allowed the tax cap to be exceeded by $300,000 to make the contract work, the additional burden on taxpayers would not be that great, School Board member Mike Persson said.
He gave a presentation on the contract to School Board members before they approved it Tuesday night.
Persson said an adequately funded school system would ultimately attract more middle-class families to Laconia and expand the property tax base.
Retention of quality teachers has been difficult because teacher salaries in the city compare poorly to other nearby towns, he said. A teacher with a bachelor's degree and eight years of experience in Laconia earns $41,826 yearly, compared to $56,612 at Inter-Lakes, $54,218 at Plymouth and $46,661 at Gilford.
Yearly teacher pay in the district now ranges from $36,412 for a first-step teacher with a bachelor's degree to $73,250 for a teacher in the 18th step and with a master's degree plus 30 credits.
Persson praised past council actions.
"The council has shown a willingness to invest in the city's future in the past and I believe they would do the right thing by approving a modest override and letting the voters decide the issue in November," he said.
School Board member Mal Murray also said there's a chance the City Council could approve a tax cap override, particularly given the wage disparity between Laconia teachers and their colleagues in nearby towns.
"Council members will realize, if they don't do something soon, we will have teachers leaving en masse," he said.
The School Board is exerting pressure on the City Council to make a politically difficult decision to raise taxes in an election year, but Murray said such pressure comes with public service.
"That's their job as a council," he said. "I get pressured as a School Board member. As issues come up, there's pressure not just on the City Council but on all of us."
Deborah Clarke-Tivey, president of the Laconia Education Association, noted that if the City Council doesn't approve the tax cap override, the school district and association representatives will have to go back to the bargaining table.
She called for a tax cap override, saying retaining a quality education system should be a priority for the public.
"I would hope that the taxpayers value what their educators in the city have done and would value the youth in the city," she said. "Our members are excellent educators who love this city and its children and most have stayed with the district for many years despite the fact they could earn far more by teaching elsewhere."

 

Lots of opportunity for job seekers

Lakes Region unemployment is down but fair draws workers

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — There are hundreds of jobs available in the Lakes Region, and area businesses taking part in a Spring Job Fair Wednesday at the Belknap Mall were putting their best foot forward in an effort to fill those jobs.
"I think most of the 40 businesses which took part were happy with the results. It was pretty busy here during lunch time and many companies said they were getting some quality applicants," said Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.
She said that finding workers is getting more difficult in the Lakes Region, where unemployment is down to 3.2 percent according to state the Department of Employment Security. The department's April report showed that Belknap County has a workforce of 30,270 and that there were only 980 unemployed workers.
"Finding workers anywhere is difficult," said Cynthia Makris, general manager of the Naswa Resort, one of several hospitality businesses taking part in the job fair.
Manning the Naswa booth were Sarah Benoit, reservations and sales manager, and Tania Srour, who is from Australia and works full-time in the food and beverage area.
They said that there are plenty of jobs available at the Naswa, ranging from servers and cooks to dock crew and groundskeeping, both full-time and part-time.
Kamal Gosine of MB Tractor and Equipment in Tilton said that he's looking for mechanics, especially diesel mechanics, for the company, which has four other locations and recently acquired a fifth, making it the second largest Kubota dealer in the country.
"Any military people I see, I'll grab them and see if they're mechanics," said Gosine. "We need people with those kinds of skills badly. There's a lot of competition for them. We're looking for high school graduates who want to learn and we'll help them go to school so they can join our team."
One of those applying for a job with MB Tractor was Paul Cote, 50, of Laconia, who said that he's been out of work since last September. He said that he served eight-and-a-half years in the Navy and was a fork-lift operator on an aircraft carrier, a skill that he thinks would be useful to many employers.
Lauren Lecuyer of Gilmanton said she was eager to see what jobs were available where she could make use of customer service background in a manufacturing environment, and talked with Chris Guilmett of Engraving Awards and Gifts, a Lakeport-based firm which is looking for graphic designers, customer service representatives and production workers.
The company will soon be making the transition to a larger facility, having recently purchased the Madeira USA building a few hundred feet away from its current location on Franklin Street in Lakeport.
Manufacturing, firms represented included New Hampshire Ball Bearing, Vitex Extrusion, Vutek , Rochester Shoe Tree and Titeflex Aerospace.
Titeflex is currently looking at filling 13 engineering and manufacturing positions at its expanded facility in O'Shea Industrial Park and its booth attracted the attention of William Paquette of Laconia. He said he is working in manufacturing in Maine but would like to find a good-paying job closer to home.
Also well represented at the job fair were banks, health care providers, retailers and the food service industry.
Gifford said "A lot of people looking for work or a career change took the opportunity to meet with employers, a lot of whom are commuting out of the area and looking to work closer to home. The Lakes Region has many full-time, part-time as well as seasonal positions available and employers are challenged with finding qualified candidates. This event was an opportunity for the Chamber to promote those employers and the positions they are seeking to fill."

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Paul Cote of Laconia talks with Kamal Gosine of MB Tractor and Equipment Company about a a job application at a job fair hosted by the the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce at the Belknap Mall. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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William Paquette of Laconia fills out a job application with Titeflex Aerospace. Currently employed in Maine, he is looking for a manufacturing job closer to home. Erin Connolly and Brita Stevens of Titeflex said the company is looking to hire 11 employees. It was one of 40 companies taking part in a job fair hosted by the the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce at the Belknap Mall. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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