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Far from true that Weirs Beach to Lakeport RR is rarely used

To The Daily Sun,

I'm responding to Jennifer Bailey's Aug. 3 letter about making better use of the railroad corridor between The Weirs and Laconia/Lakeport.

I'll start by saying I have a small dog in the fight. I'm a part-time conductor on the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad.

Jennifer's comment about the corridor having "admittedly seasonal and very rare railroad usage" is far from true.

The train starts to run in the middle of May each year. Then, after the fabled Laconia Bike Week, when we shuttle many, many people from Lakeport to The Weirs along the line Ms. Bailey wants to rip up, we operate a daily schedule from the middle of June to just after Labor Day. Often there are special charter dinner trains that operate after 4:30 p.m. during the summer season.

Three times a day small children and people of all ages wave to us on the train as we travel the nine miles from Meredith to Lakeport/Laconia. The train brings great delight to tens of thousands of people in the area.

The season extends into late October when tens of thousands of people ride the train to enjoy the fall color along the corridor.

I'd say this is not rare railroad usage by any stretch of the imagination.

I can tell you firsthand the train is a major tourist attraction, pumping untold dollars into the Laconia and surrounding communities. Each day before I load passengers I ask them where they're from. People come from all over the USA to ride the train. Just yesterday I had a family on the train from England and another one from Spain. Last week Italians and Puerto Ricans were on my train.

The train also has a fantastic collaboration with the MS Mount Washington cruise ship. We have people ride the train for 90 minutes, they get off to ride the grand lady of the lake and then we have the passengers ride the rails back to Meredith to end their day.

Ms. Bailey also forgets one very important thing. The rail line is a spur line to Lincoln. If you tear up the tracks between Lakeport and the Weirs, how is it the railroad gets rolling stock and new locomotives up to Meredith? Do you just wave a magic wand and a 140-ton locomotive levitates down to the tracks from the sky?

The railroad tracks are used by thousands during the winter as an active snowmobile route.

In closing, I suggest that Ms. Bailey attend the next homeowner's association meeting of South Down Shores and share the details of her proposal. I believe that will make for an interesting evening.

Tim Carter

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County is managed by team of pros whose work in scrutinized

To The Daily Sun,

To the residents of Belknap County:
I don't like to respond to letters in the newspaper, but there is a point where I believe an answer is appropriate. I am responding to the letter written by Gordon Blais about me and the management of Belknap County.
I don't provide a direct public service like many of my co-workers in the nursing home, jail, county attorney's office, Restorative Justice, Registry of Deeds, or sheriff's department. What I do is oversee the financial, organizational and administrative services. I provide the elected officials with information, prepare reports, assist them with budget development and management and recommend best practices; I facilitate discussions, and make sure their policies are implemented. I have received at least "above average" performance reviews from all of my employers throughout my career. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is working with department heads, employees, and our counterparts in other counties to discover better ways to provide services or protect taxpayer's money. I enjoy meeting with members of the public, although we don't get many visitors at the commissioner's office, and I try to make myself accessible to anyone who has questions or seeks information about the county.
The county is managed by a team of professionals. Even in the face of political turmoil and nasty letters to the editor, we work together, support one another, and make sure the job gets done. We are a large organization; approximately 250 employees, with well over $50,000,000 running through our accounting system. We provide services that are not glamorous, but are necessary in our society. Along with these services come payroll, accounts payable, treasury and banking, receivables, budgeting, capital improvement planning, risk management, and human resources; together, these make up the county's administration. When you need county services, you expect them to be managed by professionals — and they are. We are fully accountable to the public, through the county commissioners. The commissioners hold the managers accountable and poor performance is not tolerated.
Our work is highly scrutinized; I've been challenged by people far more respectful and knowledgeable than Mr. Blais, and enjoyed the opportunity to improve. Regardless of the continued comments that have never been backed up with any credible information, and have actually been proven to Mr. Blais to be wrong, he seems to enjoy regurgitating the same false information.

I was found to be qualified for my present position when I applied for it. The commissioners who hired me conducted a fair and impartial recruitment. It was widely reported on at the time. I have enjoyed a very good professional reputation in the Lakes Region, where I have worked in the local government field for 25 years. There are no secrets, there is no conspiracy, and there is no secret agenda. I work hard for Belknap County, just as I did for the Town of Gilford, and the Town of Bristol before that. I'm proud of my record of public service and all the professionals I've learned from along the way.
It is difficult to focus on work (and my work is highly detailed and highly scrutinized, as I mentioned before!) with the distraction of a former employee's husband misdirecting his anger and threatening to "take up his musket to continue his fight". He has been directed by my attorney to stop his slanderous writing. He has been told by two Boards of Commissioners that they find no merit to his accusations. His continued yelling in anger at public meetings is very distracting, rude, and yes, personally scary.
We do not need a clean sweep. We're in the midst of one. We've lost more excellent managers and employees in the past year than most organizations would be able to sustain. Remember, this organization is yours. There is too much hard earned taxpayer money at stake, to continue dismantling this well managed and efficient operation.
The county remains an excellent employer. In spite of the politics, in spite of the accusations, and the hostilities that unfortunately exist in the public arena, Belknap County employees including the county administrator, come to work every day and do their jobs; serving the public in a conscientious and caring way.

Debra A. Shackett

Belknap County Administrator

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