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Recession conincided with increase in number of Belknap County farms

LACONIA — While the Great Recession took a heavy toll on most sectors of the economy in Belknap County, farming became more popular, if not necessarily more profitable, according to the Census of Agriculture compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Between 2007 and 2012, the number of farms in the county rose from 270 to 302, and increase of 12 percent, which was more than twice the 5 percent rate of increase in the state, where the number of farms grew from 4,166 to 4,391. Likewise, the acreage farmed in the county grew at four times the pace in the state, from 23,378 acres in 2007 to 23,887 acres in 2012, or by two percent, compared to a rate of 0.5 percent across the state. While the number of farms and expanse of farmland increase the average size of farms shrunk by nine percent, from 87 acres to 79 acres, mirroring the trend in the state, where the average farm decreased from 113 to 108 acres.

The census reported 482 farm operators in Belknap County in 2012, 128 of whom counted farming as their primary occupation, just two more than in 2007. In the county only 55 farms hired workers in 2012, together employing 263 people with a total payroll of $1,471,000.

Total sales of farm products rose just 1.3 percent from 2007 to 2012, from $7,668,000 to $7,765,000 in 2012. However, average farm sales dropped from $28,400 to $25,711, a decline of 9.5 percent. Meanwhile, total expenses climbed 13 percent, from to $8,274,000 $9,362,000. Only 22 farms received payments from the federal government, which rose from $120,000 in 2007 to $194,000 in 2012.

In Belknap County, crops, including nursery and greenhouse produce grown on 152 of the 302 farms, represented $4,752,000 in sales, more than 60 percent of the total while livestock and poultry, raised on 132 farms, accounted for more than $3-million in sales. Sheep ranching and wool production recorded the steepest increases in the five period as the number of farms raising sheep lambs rose from 22 to 32, and the number of animals by half, from 321 to 471, while the output of wool jumped from 1,425 pounds to 2,195 pounds.

Meanwhile, according to the annual report of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, serving 30 municipalities in Belknap, Carroll and Grafton counties, found that the number of residential building permits peaked at 1,200 in 2004 then fell to 200 a year from 2009 to 2012. Likewise, the number of acres subdivided, which averaged 3,000 from 2000 to 2011, shrank to less than 1,000 in 2012.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 12:01

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WEEKEND — 12th Annual 'Brenda's Ride' expected to include at least 250 'Friends'

LACONIA — In 2003, five years after Brenda Ganong underwent successful treatment for breast cancer, a friend suggested staging a charitable motorcycle ride "for the girls." But, speaking from experience, Ganong said, "No, let's do it for the men too, because they suffer too."

The first Winnipesaukee Run Against Breast Cancer in 2003 drew four sponsors and about three dozen motorcyclists. The event grew over the next several years. But by then Ganong said that she found close friends and family members with different types of cancer.

"The stress on breast cancer was too personal," she said, explaining her decision to christen the event Brenda's Ride with Friends.

Conceding "everything depends on the weather," Ganong said she expects 250 or more motorcyclists at the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound on Saturday morning for the 12th annual running of Brenda's Ride with Friends.

"We'll have riders from Massachusetts, Maine, New York and Rhode Island as well as from all over New Hampshire," she said.

The original handful of sponsors has swelled to 40 "and growing," she said. She expressed her gratitude to the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound for hosting the event and J.J. Santoro of Winner's Circle Auto Sales of Tilton, the gold sponsor of the ride.

Chaperoned by police escorts, the motorcyclists will ride to Waterville Valley, pause for refreshment, then return to The Weirs for a cookout, music and silent auction. Axis, led by Matt Langley, will provide the music, and Cheryl Testa the food.

"She'll make 40 pounds of pasta salad and serve everyone in 20 or 25 minutes," Ganong said. "As soon as we get to Waterville Valley I'll tell her to get cooking."

All the proceeds from the ride will benefit the Oncology Department of LRGHealthcare. Ganong emphasized that the funds will be distributed directly to patients "for the simple things that get them through the day, like groceries to hold them over, gas in the car to get to their treatment and warming blankets." Since the first ride, almost $70,000 has been raised to assist cancer patients, she said.

Motorcycles will leave the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound at 10 a.m. sharp. Riders may register between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. for $30 per person. For further information, call (603) 520-7996.

CAPTION: Brenda Ganong, in the saddle, and Mary Ellen Nelson, who she calls "my right hand and sometimes my left too," have set the stage for the 12th annual Brenda's Ride to fight cancer "one mile at a time." (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).

Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 01:50

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Investigators focus on accused abductor's Gorham home

By Barbara Tetreault

The Berlin Daily Sun


GORHAM — For a third day, N.H. State Police and FBI investigators continued to comb through the home of Nathaniel Kibby, charged in the kidnapping of Conway teen Abby Hernandez last October.
Residents of the Gateway Trailer Park in Gorham, where Kibby has lived since 2009, said law enforcement officials have said they expect to be there all week.
Kibby was arrested at his 104 Brookside Drive home just after noon Monday and is being held on $1 million cash bail. The charge is a class B felony carrying a maximum sentence of seven years.
Residents of the park describe the 34-year-old Kibby as a loner who tended to keep to himself. He had a reputation for being opinioned and keeping guns at his home. But residents also said they never saw or heard Hernandez despite the close proximity of the homes there.
Increasingly residents speculate Hernandez may have been held in the Conex industrial storage container at the back of Kibby's mobile home.
One neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said Kibby had built a false wall in the container and used one section for storage. In the other section, the neighbor said Kibby created a space that he called a "man cave" where he could work on various vehicles. The neighbor said there is electricity to the container, and he said Kibby told him last year he put in soundproofing so he could use it as a small firing range.
Gorham tax records show Kibby purchased the three-bedroom mobile home in 2009 and last year it had a value of $19,200. The storage trailer is listed on the tax card but no value is assigned to it.
The neighbor said Kibby had owned a black Chevy S-10 pickup truck but last fall changed vehicles and currently was driving a Honda Civic.
The street in front of Kibby's home is closed off with yellow crime scene tape blocking public access. Residents on the street are required to show identification to get into their homes. Investigators have been seen bringing material out of the mobile home in bags, and yesterday afternoon boxes could be seen on the lawn.
With Hernandez and her mother Zenya Hernandez sitting in the front row, Kibby was arraigned in Conway District Court Tuesday and bail was set at $1 million.
Investigators have released few details about the case. In a press conference after the arraignment, Associate N.H. Attorney General Jane Young called Kibby's arrest the first step in an ongoing investigation.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Laconia Police department policy on towing comes into play in drug suppression hearing

LACONIA – A Meredith man police found slumped over the wheel of his car in the Laconia Parking Garage in April is using the Laconia Police Department's own policy on towing as grounds to suppress evidence of heroin possession and being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon.

Kory MacDonald, 28, formerly of 129 Meredith Center Road, #6, is also charged with one count of falsifying physical evidence for allegedly trying to hide a spoon, a lighter, and a white baggie during his arrest.

According to MacDonald's attorney, Wade Harwood, police went to the Laconia Parking Garage on April 7, and saw MacDonald's car parked in a parking space. The officer saw what she believed to be an illegal drug and knocked on his driver's window.

When MacDonald responded, the officer removed him from his car and placed him in the back seat of her cruiser. Once he was out of the car, two officers conducted an "inventory search" of the car and found what they alleged was heroin and a knife.

According to Harwood, police had no right to conduct an inventory search in order to tow it back to the station.

He said state law states a car can only be towed for seven specific reasons – six of which have no bearing on this case. He said the seventh one is that a car can be towed if the drive has been arrested and the car is an obstruction to the normal flow of traffic.

He said the operative word in the previous sentence is "and," and in this case both criteria were not met. In MacDonald's case, Harwood argued that the car was parked in a legal parking spot in the parking garage.

"It is illegal for the police to tow any car unless authorized by RSA 262:32," wrote Harwood.

He said any evidence obtained in a search contrary to RSA 263:32 must be suppressed.

As to the inventory search, he said the law and the police department's own policy provided that an officer can only do an inventory search if a car is to be towed. The reasons for a legitimate inventory search are to prevent injury to an officer from something that may be in the car, to protect the owner's property, and to protect the police department against a later claim of theft or of mishandling of property.

Further, he said the Laconia Police Department's own police on inventory search addresses only how one should be conducted not the circumstances under which a car may be towed.

Harwood said the policy doesn't provide authority to tow a car, but only provides guidance on how the search was to be conducted once a car had been towed.

The policy also states, said Harwood, that "if an an officer has probable cause and time to get a search warrant, one should be obtained."

Harwood wrote that Subsection 3 and 4 of the LPD policy said a vehicle should be inventoried when it "is towed at the request" of the members of this department. He also said Subsection 8 states that a car can only be towed if it was involved in a crime and is to be impounded by members of this department.

He argued that since there was no legal right to tow the car, it never should have been subject to a police inventory without a search warrant.

In this case, he said the officer acted upon what she believed to be illegal drugs in the car. However, if the officer thought there was contraband in it, the officer should have gotten a warrant. Because it was legally parked, he said one of the two officers could have stayed with the car while the other got the warrant.

Dept. Belknap County Attorney Carley Ahern countered by saying that the inventory search of the vehicle was legal and she preserved her right to file a memorandum of law before the suppression hearing.

MacDonald is being held in the Belknap County House of Corrections in lieu of $10,000 cash or corporate surety bail.

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 July 2014 12:00

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