City Council blesses dog park, Lezama family donating $100,000


LACONIA — There were 2,191 dogs registered in the city in 2015, one for every seven people, representing almost 14 percent of the bipedal population, and they may soon have a playground all to themselves.
The City Council this week gave its blessing to the proposal by Happy Tails Dog Park to construct fenced play areas for dogs and puppies in the South End of the city and authorized City Manager Scott Myers to negotiate a leasing agreement with the organization for the use of the property. The approval is contingent on securing $100,000 is donations to construct and maintain the park as well as approval of the project by the Planning Board.

Last month, Ginny Martin, president of Happy Tails Dog Park, told the council that a donation of $100,000 from the Lezama family will finance construction of the park and endow a fund for its maintenance and requested that the family's name be incorporated into the name of park.
The dog park would be sited on part of a 25-acre rectangular tract between the end of Spruce Street and Growtth Road, which is owned by the city. The city acquired the land in 1976 with a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established by Congress in 1965, which the restricts the property to recreational uses.
Happy Tails Dog Park proposes to lease two acres at the southeast end of the property. John Rokeh, of Rokeh Consulting LLC of Chichester, has prepared a plan for the park, which includes two abutting enclosures, each 78 feet by 130 feet, one for large dogs and another for small dogs, and a third separate enclosure, 20 feet by 60 feet, for puppies. The park would be reached from the end of Growtth Road, where a 20-foot gravel driveway would lead to a graveled parking lot with spaces for 19 vehicles. The park would not not be served by either water or electricity, and Martin expected the annual maintenance costs to fall between $1,500 and $2,000. The park, Martin said, would be managed, policed and maintained by members of Happy Trails Dog Park.

Original drape found as work begins on Colonial Theatre


LACONIA — While work is underway at the Colonial Theatre, "We still have a long way to go," said Mayor Ed Engler at the City Council meeting on Monday.

Engler explained that by demolishing and removing the partitions that divided the auditorium into five motion picture theaters and projection rooms, the space will be opened for the engineers and architects to assess what must be done to restore the venue to its original condition. He remarked that photographs taken during the demolition process have revealed the beauty of the auditorium and noted that the original drape or curtain was found hanging high above the stage.

This stage of the project is being undertaken by Bonnette, Page & Stone Corporation and supervised by Bob Ferguson, a veteran of many historic restorations, including the Gale Memorial Building that houses the Laconia Public Library, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Engler said that the $14.6 million financial package to fund the restoration itself remains to be assembled. He said that an essential component of the package will be $2 million in contributions from private benefactors, both corporations and individuals. He noted that the fundraising effort has begun and already made "substantial progress. We've still got a lot of money to raise, " the mayor continued, adding that a he expects a public fundraising campaign to begin early in May.

The financing for the project is scheduled to be in place by Dec. 1 and restoration of the theater to begin in January. Engler anticipated the work to take nine or ten months and looked forward to "cutting a ribbon" around Thanksgiving next year.

Many administrative changes coming at Laconia School District this summer


LACONIA — Amy Cammack-Hinds will be the new assistant superintendent of schools for student support services as of July 1. She will be focused on special education, homeless families, alternative education and Title I funding programs, according to Superintendent Dr. Phil McCormack.

Cammack-Hinds, who will earn $102,000, will take over all Special Education and "give consistent oversight and bring cost efficiencies" to the program," said McCormack.

Cammack-Hinds is currently the special education director for the district and is the student services coordinator for the high school. She was the assistant superintendent for the Franklin School District, as well as a special education teacher, case manager and director until she came to Laconia schools in 2011.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Denison University in Ohio and as Master of Education in education leadership from Plymouth State University.

The school year beginning July 1 will see a number of other changes in top administrative positions as well, most significantly when new Superintendent Dr. Brendan Minnihan takes over the top spot from McCormack, who was serving as interim this year and is slated to retire in June.

In addition, long-time Business Administrator Ed Emond has announced his retirement and current Assistant Superintendent Kirk Beitler will become the superintendent in the Gilford School District.

Dr. Allison Bryant will assume the role of middle school principal. Bryant is the current academic coordinator for teaching and learning at the middle school, having been in Laconia since 2013.

Bryant was an English and language arts teacher with the Shaker Regional School District until she joined with Laconia. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion from Goshen College in Indiana, and Master of Teaching and Writing from Plymouth State University and a Doctorate of Education in Teaching, Learning and Leadership from Northeast University in Boston. She will earn $96,000.

Current middle school superintendent middle school Principal Chris Ennis will take over for 39-year veteran Adult Education Director Peggy Selig, who will retire at the end of June. Ennis will be paid $95,134.