Muskrats general manager, mayor work to clarify relationship

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The new ownership and management of the Winnipesaukee Muskrats, who are seeking permission to sell beer and wine during home games at Robbie Mills Field, may have had some fences to mend with city officials judging by the exchange between the team’s general manager, Kristian Svindland, and Mayor Ed Engler when the City Council met this week.
After Svindland outlined plans for the upcoming season, Engler raised several “governance issues,” which he said represented “gray areas” in the relationship between the team and the city. He reminded Svindland that the city, in partnership with the Bank of New Hampshire, invested in improvements at Robbie Mills Field to accommodate the team, has a seat on its board of directors and entered a contract with the nonprofit corporation that operates the franchise to lease Robbie Mills Field.
Yet despite being a stakeholder, the city only learned that the franchise was sold to new owners and the team was renamed from the Laconia Muskrats to the Winnipesaukee Muskrats from a press report. Last year, three businessmen — Ira Blumenthal, Todd Hewett and Andy Minckler — purchased the franchise from its original owners, Jonathan and Noah Crane, and appointed Svindland general manager.
Engler pointed out that the city entered a contract with the Cranes which has not been amended to reflect the change of ownership. Moreover, he said that last year the contract was amended to require completion of the deck atop the left field wall by Nov. 30, 2015, adding that since the project was not finished the contract is technically null and void. Granting that the contract of a corporation can be assigned to new owners, Engler asked “Who is accountable? Who do we have a contract with?”
Svindland readily accepted responsibility.
“It’s on me,” he said. “My bad.”
He said that he was not aware the city was a stakeholder or of its contract with the Cranes.
On his part, Engler conceded that there may be some confusion over the responsibilities of the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Svindland said he approached the Parks and Recreation Commission, which agreed to extend the deadline for completing the deck by a year. Engler reminded him that the contract has not been not amended to include the extension. The mayor suggested clarifying the governance structure, particularly the relationship between the corporation, City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission. He said that clarification is necessary because the future of the unfinished deck and the owners’ request to sell beer and wine at home games remain outstanding and the role of the City Council in resolving them is unclear.
Svindland assured the council that completing the deck is “a goal of the new ownership” and said that they hope to show progress or complete the project this year. He said that he suggested changing the name of the team to appeal to the wider Lakes Region and indicated that he was already finding sponsors and partners beyond the city. The aim, he noted, is to have a corporate entity or nonprofit organization sponsor each of the 22 home games. In addition, the team intends to erect a sign on Parade Road directing motorists to Robbie Mills Field, whhich will be designated as the home of the Laconia Sachems as well as the Winnipesaukee Muskrats.

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Preparing for Taste of the Lakes Region

Sponsors of the 26th Annual Taste of the Lakes Region met earlier this month to discuss plans for the restaurant sampling event, to be held on Sunday, April 3, at Church Landing in Meredith. Shown here, from left, are Carla Peterson and Nancy LeRoy of Altrusa of Laconia, Rick Hopper of Binnie Media, and Ginger Kozlowski of the Laconia Daily Sun. For ticket information, visit altrusalaconia.com. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

 

Sponsors of the 26th Annual Taste of the Lakes Region met earlier this month to discuss plans for the restaurant sampling event, to be held on Sunday, April 3, at Church Landing in Meredith. Shown here, from left, are Carla Peterson and Nancy LeRoy of Altrusa of Laconia, Rick Hopper of Binnie Media, and Ginger Kozlowski of the Laconia Daily Sun. For ticket information, visit altrusalaconia.com. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

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Belmont and Laconia agree to share one fire chief

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT/LACONIA— Belmont selectmen have agreed with the Laconia City Council that fire chief services for both communities should be combined, meaning that Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson and Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Beattie will assume management control of the Belmont Fire Department.

The agreement was supported in a nonpublic session by Belmont Selectmen on Monday and by the Laconia City Council in a nonpublic session later that evening. Selectman Ruth Mooney said the selectmen met with acting Fire Chief Sean McCarty on Tuesday and with the entire Belmont Fire Department staff Wednesday morning. She said Erickson met with all of the Belmont staff after their meeting.

"I couldn't be happier or more supportive," said Mayor Edward Engler. "Hopefully, this is the first step toward a much greater level of inter-municipal cooperation with the delivery of essential services."

It's been about three weeks since former Belmont Fire Chief David Parenti resigned to take a job in Massachusetts. Selectman Jon Pike said that Laconia City Manager Scott Meyers initially reached out to Belmont Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin about the idea of consolidating chief services.

At a subsequent meeting between Engler, Mooney, Beaudin and Meyers, they agreed to bring it to their respective boards, who supported the idea.

"This is the greatest thing that ever happened," said Pike, who said in the long run this agreement could save both communities a great deal of money. "I hope it works out the way it's intended."

Although the actual agreement has not been completed by both legal teams, Engler and Pike said that the Belmont Fire Department will still be the Belmont Fire Department and the employees will still be Belmont employees, members of their own union and Belmont selectmen will still control hiring and pay.

He said the highest ranking officer will report to Erickson and Beattie.

"We think it's a positive for both communities," said Mooney, who went on to say that she thinks it will broaden training and diversification for the Belmont employees and that it will be a good thing.

"I think it's a positive move forward," Mooney said alluding to the fact that different consolidations of services have been discussed in "back rooms" for 30 years.

Mooney called the arrangement "groundbreaking" and said she thinks each department will benefit from the arrangement.

Engler said he wanted to "congratulate Ruth Mooney and her fellow selectmen for them being brave enough to think outside the box. They're doing all of us in the Lakes Region and great service."

"The shared goal her is more efficient and cost effective delivery of essential services.," he said.

Engler and Mooney said that once the inter-municipal agreement is hammered out, both the Belmont selectmen and the Laconia City Council will have to approve it before it can go into effect.

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