LACONIA — The Planning Board this week approved the plan of Chinburg Builders to add 37 residential apartments at the Beacon Street West development and, at the same time, decided to recommend to the City Council that the riverwalk follow its original route along the waterfront, contrary to the recommendation of the Downtown Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) Advisory Board.
The new units will be divided between two buildings. The large, currently empty building on the site, originally intended for commercial use, will house 30 apartments. The remaining seven units will be in a new 6,230-square foot building straddling the Perley Canal, built on the footprint of the structure that collapsed under a snow load some years ago.
Chinburg's decision to rebuild over the canal for residential use prompted reconsideration of the proposed route of the downtown riverwalk. That section of the riverwalk runs along the Winnipesaukee River at the rear of the Beacon Street West Condominiums, but stops short of the Perley Canal. Closing the gap over the canal to Beacon Street West and extending the path from City Hall to Church Street would complete the riverwalk along the north bank of the river.
Originally Chinburg planned to build a restaurant over the canal and granted the city an easement to incorporate the riverwalk into the project. Jeff Spitzer, the firm's senior project manager, told the TIF Advisory Board that the riverwalk would be both compatible and desirable in conjunction with a restaurant or other commercial use. But, he said that following the course of the easement past the apartments, within feet of their windows and patios, would compromise the privacy of residents.
Rather than follow the river, Chinburg instead proposed routing the riverwalk around the building, crossing the Perley Canal with a bridge behind the building then turning a corner before joining Beacon Street West. The developer agreed to fund the cost of constructing this segment of the riverwalk.
The TIF Advisory Board agreed to present both the original and alternative plans to the Planning Board, but voted three-to-two to recommend the route preferred by the developer.
The Planning Board approved Chinburg's plans for the two buildings, with the caveat that they be reviewed by its architectural sub-committee. But, the board also voted to recommend that the City Council, which controls the easement for the riverwalk, hold the project to its original route. Warren Hutchins, chairman of the Planning Board, said that Chinburg will be asked to explore designing the residential building to accommodate the riverwalk with the architectural sub-committee.
The ultimate decision whether to execute the original easement or relinquish it and negotiate a new easement for an alternative route rests with the City Council.
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 April 2014 01:28
Conty commission agrees to new contract with nursing home union, setting up funding showdown with lawmakers
LACONIA — The Belknap County Commission yesterday ratified a one-year collective bargaining agreement negotiated with State Employees Association (SEA) on behalf of 80 full-time employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home. Funding will still have to be approved by the Belknap County Convention.
Contract talks with employees of the Department of Corrections and Sheriff's Department remain underway.
The 2014 county budget adopted by the Belknap County Convention level funded the employer share of health insurance benefits at $1,272,449 but nothing for wage increases or associated payroll costs. The costs of the contract include $267,343 more for health insurance, $22,361 for a cost of living adjustment of 1.6-percent, $35,759 for merit increases for eligible employees and $10,705 for associated payroll costs, for a total of $336,170.
The agreement provides for the employees' share of health insurance premiums to increase from 6.5-percent to 16.5-percent for a single person plan, from 5-percent to 15-percent for both a two-person and a family plan. However, the contribution would remain unchanged for employees who participate in three health management programs that include the health assessment, biometric screening and on health awareness program as defined by HealthTrust.
Norm O'Neil, county human resources director, told the commissioners that the agreement reflected the ongoing effort to engage employees in wellness programs that have been shown to reduce long-term health care costs. He said that HealthTrust has recognized Belknap County for its levels of participation.
Neil Smith of the SEA, who negotiated the agreement, noted that the Health Benefits Review Team, convened by the county administration, has become a model for addressing and managing the cost of health insurance benefits across the state.
In the same vein, the contract would forbid smoking or any other use of tobacco products throughout the Belknap County Complex beginning on July 1 of this year.
The contract provides a cost-of-living-adjustment of 1.6 percent, equal to the rate of inflation. together with merit increases averaging 2.1 percent, for which some 60 employees are eligible. O'Neil said that since employees went without wage increases in 2013, the raise represents an increase of 1.85 per year for the two-year period.
The agreement includes an incentive to reduce the use of sick time from 52 hours per year per employee to 40 hours. If the 80 employees together meet the target , each employee would would receive up to three days to care for an ill or injured family member. collectively meet the target, or two years.
Smith acknowledged the county convention's concerns about personnel costs, but recommended the commission present the cost items to the convention for approval. "We'd have the convention weigh in on this contract rather than wait," he said. "If it doesn't meet with success, we'll have learned something."
Smith said that contract negotiations on behalf of employees of the Department of Corrections were near agreement, but talks with the Sheriff's Department "as not as close as we'd like."
NOTES: Norm O'Neil, the director of Human Resources for Belknap County, tendered his resignation when the Belknap County Commission met yesterday. "I really don't like this," remarked John Thomas of Belmont, chairman of the commission, who went on to praise O'Neil for his contribution to strengthening personnel policy and improving employee morale since he was appointed in 2009. Echoing Thomas, Commissioner Steve Nedeau of Meredith offered "to put in a word for all the county employees you have assisted during your tenure." Neil Smith of the State Employees Association, with whom O'Neil has negotiated contracts, was so effusive in his praise for his counterpart that O'Neil asked him to stop. . . . . . County Administrator Debra Shackett reported that the increase in the cost of health insurance premiums for 2014 would be 6.2 percent, less than half the 13.4 percent anticipated, describing the news as "the silver lining" to the budget. . . . . . Shackett also announced that former Superintendent of the Corrections Department Richard Grenier, who in March was elected to the Board of Selectmen in Gilford, has been named to the Jail Planning Committee. Grenier has openly expressed misgivings about the direction of the process of planning for a new correctional facility.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 12:23
MEREDITH — LRGHealthcare had its best year financially in several, officials told the organization's annual meeting yesterday evening.
The regions largest health-care provider showed a 2 percent operating margin for the fiscal year ending last September, according to Henry Lipman, senior vice president and chief financial officer.
LRGH's net income for FY2013 was just over $4.5 million. Total revenues for the period were $220.5 million on expenses of $216 million, he noted.
Lipman and Dr. Robert Evans, chairman of LRGH's Finance and Investment Committee, last night gave an overview of LRGH's financial situation to the annual meeting of the organization's corporators held at Church Landing at Mills Fall in Meredith.
Lipman said the 2 percent margin compared to 1 percent for the prior fiscal year, and Fiscal Year 2011 when the company barely broke even. In Fiscal Years 2010, 2009 the health-care provider lost money, he said.
Lipman attributed the improved financial picture to "a lot of little things" which helped to improve the company's bottom line. He noted that the lower number of patients being readmitted to the hospital meant the hospitals — Lakes Region General and Franklin Regional — paid less in penalties to Medicare. He also said that patients had fewer complications during their hospitalizations, which helped to lower costs. In addition, he said that LRGHealthcares participation in the Granite Health Network — a collaborative effort involving LRGH and five other New Hampshire hospitals — helped to reduce other costs.
Lipman said that uncertainty of federal health policies in the future was one area for concern. In particular, he noted proposals to eliminate the higher reimbursements for so-call critical access hospitals, of which Franklin Regional is one. Another proposal to eliminate or reduce certain federal community hospital programs could have an impact as great as $7 million on LRGHealthcare, he said.
On the other hand, Lipman was optimistic that the increased number of people who are expected to be insured under the Affordable Care Act would help the company get reimbursement from patients who until know have not had insurance. He said the number of newly insured patients could be about 3,000.
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 April 2014 01:47
LACONIA — Police said yesterday they are investigating a case of criminal threatening with a knife after an altercation between two youths Saturday night at 8 p.m.
The Daily Sun learned of the altercation after receiving an e-mail from a concerned citizen who said a group of teens had been picking on some younger teens in the neighborhood around River Street and that one of the older boys had threatened on of the younger boys with a knife.
While the tipster feared the older teens belong to a group calling themselves the "Crazy White Boys", police said yesterday they are familiar with various groups of teens around town but hadn't heard anything about this particular group.
Police said the incident with the knife was reported to them and the teen who allegedly brandished it turned himself into them early yesterday morning.
Chief Chris Adams said it is reasonably normal for certain groups of teens to associate with each other but when any one group threatens another group with any kind of violence, the police take it very seriously.
He said police are very much aware of many groups in the city but said he is reluctant to label them "gangs."
He said once police get word that a group of kids are starting to name themselves, they're pretty quick on nipping it in the bud.
A police supervisor said in this specific instance, the two teens in the altercation knew each other and while an arrest has since been made, the supervisor was reasonably confident there would be no additional violence.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 12:42
- Lipman strongly challenges need for 3rd mechanic at public works
- Hill says it needs to realign itself to provide better educational opportunities for its children
- Victim said to have been selling pot at time of armed robbery
- Laconia presents lawmakers with other side of campground trailer taxation issue
- Parent-excused absences said a big problem at LHS
- Belmont couple comes home to find intruder