Normal wear or neglect? - Meredith selectmen defend condition of Prescott Park

10-19 Prescott Park field-fence


Prescott Park in Meredith, especially the basketball court and playground, appear in need of maintenance. Here, the fields are lush and green, but a protective rail on the fence needs replacement.  (Laconia Daily Sun photos/Adam Drapcho)



MEREDITH — Responding to a resident troubled by the condition of Prescott Park, where he said "There is really nothing to look forward to," Town Manager Phil Warren after walking the park last week said "I did not find a run down, damaged, poorly maintained facility."

Earlier Kenny Hill, in a letter printed in The Laconia Daily Sun, wrote that visiting the park is "an enraging experience." In particular, he said the the baseball diamond is in "despicable condition," claimed the basketball court "has never been maintained for as long as I can remember," called the playground "nothing more than a splinter trap," and described the skate park as "rundown." He also referred to "the entirely inexcusable racial symbols spray painted on the back of the concrete backstop." Writing that "I am absolutely ashamed of our parks department," Hill continued that "this is just another case of of a government body dropping the ball when it comes to doing anything productive for the community they are supposed to serve."

In a subsequent interview, Hill reaffirmed that he believes the park has been "neglected" and added that when he took his young nephew to the restrooms "It was so disgusting I wouldn't take him there." He said that he is 24 years old and had often played baseball and basketball in the park as well as taken his niece and nephew to the playground. "As long as I can remember the park has been in this condition," he said.

After his letter appeared, Hill said, "I have received an overwhelming amount of support from other members of our community, including through social media" and thanked those who have shared "their own concerns they have come across visiting our town's park."

Warren said he went to the park on a rainy night and found "well maintained, green soccer and baseball fields," despite the drought that prevailed throughout the summer. He acknowledged there are weeds in the infield, explaining that because of the proximity of the park to Hawkins Brook, the fields are managed organically, without the application of chemical herbicides. He said that the weeds are pulled by hand after the close of the baseball season.

"Clearly, the NBA will not be playing here," Warren said of the basketball court, which he said "is in presentable condition" and "safe to play on." He said that Vint Choiniere, director of parks and recreation has requested funding to resurface the court in past, but other priorities have taken precedent.

Rejecting Hill's description of the playground as "a splinter trap," Warren said that the playground is covered "with a material that encapsulates the wood to prevent splintering." He estimated the playground is between 30 and 40 years old, but "still safe." The skate park, he continued, is closed for the season, but is repainted in the spring every year before it reopens. Warren said the Parks and Recreation is in the process of preparing a master plan, which will will include a schedule for replacing outworn equipment in all the parks and playgrounds.

"it would be nice if we could replace everything at the park with new," Warren said, "but resources are finite."

Hill also said that the Community Center "is actually more of a profit center than a community center," explaining that "It seems much of the time the building is open it is dedicated to private events."

Warren countered that each week the Community Center "provides over 30 hours of non-programmed use," in addition to offering programs for children, adults and senior citizens and hosting meetings of town boards and committees as well as civic organizations.

Both Prescott Park and the Community Center, Warren insisted "are well maintained by competent, committed staff and will continue to be." When Warren raised the matter with the selectmen this week, effectively repeating the remarks he made to The Laconia Daily Sun, Selectman Bev Lapham said, "I pride myself on the condition of our parks and it got my hackles up when I read that letter." Likewise, Selectman Jonathan James said that the Parks and Recreation Department does "a very good job," adding that if improvements are necessary, resources should be provided to make them.

10-29 Prescott Park basketball court

The basketball court at Prescott Park needs a bit of weeding and care, but is still playable. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Ready for winter - Gunstock set for prime ski season after strong summer


GILFORD — Despite the drought, there will be no lack of water to make snow to line the slopes during the upcoming season, said Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock Mountain Resort.

"We have no worries," Goddard remarked, explaining that since 1985 the resort has had a seasonal impoundment near Cobble Mountain that holds 80 million gallons of water drawn from Poor Farm Brook. He said that usually the resort begins drawing water in the middle of October, but this year the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services granted a special exception and the impoundment began to be filled in early September.

"We're three-quarters full now, "Goddard said, "and should be at capacity in two or three weeks."

Along with the impoundment, the resort also can turn to a smaller, stream-fed retention pond. He said the resort uses between 110 million and 130 million gallons of water for snowmaking during a typical season.

Goddard said that the testing of snowmaking has begun and he expects that with the cooperation of air temperatures and humidity levels, the resort could begin making as early as the middle of November.

After a snowless winter that dropped sales 25 percent, Goddard said that the resort enjoyed a robust summer season. Gross revenues climbed 7 percent, from $2.44 million to $2.82 million as attendance at every attraction increased along with sales of food and beverages. In particular, the mountain coaster, the latest addition to the resort's offerings, met all expectations and camping increased 5.5 percent.

In addition, Goddard said that the wake of the slow winter season he challenged the staff to achieve efficiencies and reduce expenses. As a result, he said the payroll was trimmed by $80,000.

"The weather helped," Goddard said of the long dry summer, but he also suggested that the stronger economy boosted confidence and encouraged spending.

Shaker Regional developing its first SB2 budget


BELMONT — The Shaker Regional School District began its first foray into SB2 territory this week by scheduling a meeting with the building principals, the School Board and the new Advisory Budget Committee Tuesday night.

At that meeting each department head, or building leader, presented his or her budget proposal to the two boards.

District Business Administrator Debbie Thompson said this is the first step in creating the annual district budget that will appear on a ballot in March.

At last year's election and School District Meeting, voters abandoned the traditional form of School District Meeting where the budget and warrant articles are discussed, amended and voted upon in one day. They adopted the Official Ballot Law, commonly referred to as SB2, meaning voters will go to a deliberative session where the final budget is set. On Election Day in the spring, voters will decide in a up-or-down vote on the final budget as well as warrant articles as amended at the deliberative session.

The School Board also determined that the district should have an Advisory Budget Committee and has named three people from Belmont and two people from Canterbury to that committee. Thompson said that they are still seeking a third Canterbury resident.

Members of the Advisory Budget Committee are Roger Matt, Mark Mastenbrook and Shirley Wood from Belmont and Priscilla Lockwood and Doug Russwick from Canterbury.

Thomspon said any Canterbury resident who is interested in serving should contact the Shaker Regional School District for more information.