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Bank of New Hampshire divests its stake in The Tavern

LACONIA —Most did not learn that the Bank of New Hampshire had an ownership stake in The Tavern, home to 50 units of affordable housing operated by the Laconia Housing Authority (LHA), until the bank announced this week that it has transferred its interest in the property to the LHA.

Richard Weaver, executive director of the LHA, said yesterday that the bank and the LHA entered their partnership in 1997 to purchase The Tavern from the Stafford family, who operated the former hotel as an apartment building. What was then Laconia Savings Bank, together with the Village Bank & Trust of Gilford, contributed $607,000 to the $2.4-million financial package with which the LHA acquired and renovated the building. Laconia Savings Bank acquired Village Bank & Trust and ultimately changed its name to Bank of New Hampshire.

The financial package also included loans of $1,260,000 from Meredith Village Savings Bank and $500,000 from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

In return, Weaver explained the banks received low-income tax credits against their federal tax liabilities as well as complied with their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which encourages regulated financial institutions to address the credit needs of the communities where they operate. He said that the LHA managed and operated The Tavern as the general partner while the banks were limited and silent partners.

With the expiration of the tax credits, the bank transferred its share of The Tavern to the LHA, making it the sole owner of the building. Weaver said that recently the LHA was awarded a Community Development Block Grant of $500,000, which leveraged another $125,000 from energy efficiency programs through Public Service of New Hampshire (electric) and Liberty Utilities (natural gas), and the Public Utilities Commission's Solar Rebate Program. As a result of improved energy efficiency the LHA has reduced its energy consumption at The Tavern by 29 percent, sparing some $23,500 in annual costs.

Originally built as the Laconia Tavern Hotel in 1912, The Tavern it was advertised as an upscale hotel with luxury amenities. The 100 rooms came with or without private baths, telephones, and hardwood floors with rugs. Elevators, electric lights, and its own automobile garage made this hotel very modern. The most famous of its guests was President Eisenhower. It was operated as a hotel until the early 1970s when it was converted into apartments and subsequently became known as the Stafford House.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 11:04

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Gilmanton to lose its corner store

GILMANTON — The Gilmanton Corner Store, a local landmark for over 60 years which has served as a meeting place where locals can swap stories and opinions and also an informal bus stop for generations of local students, will close its doors at the end of the business day on Sunday.
''We didn't survive the winter,'' says owner Jeff Wichterman, who has owned the store since September of 2011 and had grand ideas of remodeling the store with wooden shelves and warm, welcoming colors when he bought it.
He says that he'll most likely be returning to his former job at the Meredith Station convenience store, where he worked for several years before buying the corner store. He hopes to either sell the store and the building, which he owns, or lease the store to someone who will operate it.
He summed up his feelings in a letter addressed to town residents which reads in part ''I realize that a store like this is more than just a store...it becomes a meeting hall, a lounge, an information booth and a bus stop where people can wait for rides to pick them up. As much as closing the store will leave a hole in my life, I know it will affect many of you as well. It has been an honor to get to know the customers and citizens around town. I will miss all of you, and wish you all the best.''
Wichterman, who grew up in Pittsburgh, Penn. and is still a Steelers fan, has been involved in running convenience stores for over 10 years and moved to New Hampshire along with other family members in 2006. ''I sort of followed the family up here and then found this opportunity.''
He's already created a strong bond with his regular customers, who he says made him feel welcome as a part of the community.
Mickey Daigle, who has been a customer at the store since 1973, when he first moved to town, says he has known all of the previous store owners and that losing the store is a big loss to the town.
''It's a good place to come and have coffee in the morning. There's a regular group that meets here to tell lies and solve all of the town's problems. I'm hoping that somebody else will come along and reopen it.''
John Albertelli says that he's been coming to the store ever since he was 9 years old and says that the store has always been a meeting place, especially in the mornings.
"'My family bought a place on Sawyer Lake in 1962, so it's been 53 years I've been a customer. I'm amazed at how much politics get discussed here. It's also the biggest rumor mill in town. Some days I've come in three times to get something to eat and talk with people,'' says Albertelli.
Wichterman says that he's seen people come in to buy something and spend the next 45 minutes talking with other customers. ''You don't find that at convenience stores like Cumberland Farms. There's a real strong sense of community here and that's one of the things I'll miss the most.''
He said that he couldn't have run the business without loyal and hard-working employees like Mary Robinson and Kevin Farquharson ''Without them I would have probably closed long ago. They put their hearts and souls into the store.''
Albertelli says that the store's customers will now have to go either to the Gilmanton Iron Works store of convenience stores in Belmont and that they'll all miss their local gathering spot.
''I hope he finds a buyer. We need our corner store,'' he says.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 10:49

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Sunday's annual Taste of the Lakes Region event will feature lobster meatballs by Lago - 352

By Rachel DiMaggio

MEREDITH — Lago, part of the Common Man restaurant family, will be bringing some Italian flavor to The 25th Annual Taste of the Lakes Region event on Sunday, Marach 22. This Altrusa Club of Laconia fundraiser will take place at Church Landing from 4-7 p.m.
Lago is perched on Bay Point in Meredith and offers a panoramic view of Lake Winnipesaukee. Chef Jeff Woolley and the rest of the kitchen crew create authentic Italian dishes like Pollo Marsala (chicken sautéed in Marsala, mushrooms, and more) and Frutti di Mare (fish stew in marinara broth). Lago also serves American Italian favorites, including Parmesan chicken and shrimp scampi.
Sean Brown, who has been the general manager of the restaurant since it opened in 2004, shared his perspective on the differences between Northern and Southern Italian flavors. Brown describes Northern Italian fare as being heartier, with smoked meats and corn as a starch. Where Northern Italy tends to rely on butter in its sauces, Southern Italy turns to olive oil. Southern dishes include more tomatoes and wheat pasta since those crops grow well in the region.
The LAGO dish showcased in this year's Taste of the Lakes Region is a lobster meatball, which is a new addition to the menu. Brown shared the story of how this dish came into being. "Meatballs are definitely something people identify with Italian culture, and lobster is something people identify with New England culture. We ran them for a special, and they were a big hit... They were a guest favorite." These meatballs are made with traditional veal and minced lobster.

In total, 20 regional restaurants are bringing samples of their most popular dishes to the event. And Hermit Woods Winery will also be sampling fruit and honey-honey based wines.
Tickets to the Taste event cost $25 per person, and, because alcohol will be served from a cash bar, attendants must be 21 or older. Tickets may be purchased online (www.altrusalaconia.com), Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Laconia, and Hector's Fine Foods & Spirits.

CAPTION: Lago restaurant chef Jeff Woolley in front of a hand-painted map of Italy. (Rachel DiMaggio photo)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 10:26

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Sanbornton woman hurt in weekend snowmobile accident

SANBORNTON — An unidentified Perkins Road woman was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital by ambulance Saturday at 6 p.m. after she rolled-over a snowmobile she was driving and broke her leg.

Fire Chief Paul Dexter said the said the woman was riding on private property and carrying a child with her when the snowmobile slipped sideways. Dexter said she tried to put her foot down to stop the slide but the machine rolled on to her.

Dexter said the woman was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia by Tilton-Northfield Fire Department. The child was unharmed.

He said the timing of the accident came at a time when the Sanbornton Fire Department has few call firefighters at hand. He said four of them responded after a third tone by Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid but the response time by Sanbornton was poor and Tilton-Northfield had already been asked to respond.

"It was a rough call," he said, noting that a paramedic was needed for pain control and the woman needed to be carried in a litter about 400 feet through some very deep snow.

The Sanbornton Fire Department has three paramedics, however all of them were working at their primary jobs or were unavailable at 6 p.m. that Saturday.

Dexter said there are two times during the day when staffing levels are poor — from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 4 p.m., when the day staff leaves until 7 p.m. when the night crew signs it. He typically takes the calls from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.

He had asked for two full-time firefighters to help cover the gaps in coverage during the most recent budget year but the voters narrowly rejected the warrant article.

When asked about mutual aid, he said that in order for mutual aid to work, a town must be willing to support its own firefighting and emergency needs.

"When we're tied up on a call and we get a second call, that's when we depend on mutual aid," Dexter said.

He said surrounding communities shouldn't be first the responders to any Sanbornton incidents unless the town's fire and rescue crews are already at another incident.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 01:26

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