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Council hears outpouring of support for Colonial project

LACONIA – In a moment of community unity, the City Council voted unanimously to support the financial package backed by the city for the purchase and renovation of the Colonial Theater.

Room 200A at City Hall was packed with supporters – some who chose to speak and others who just wanted to listen to others and witness local history being made.

"Savor tonight," said former Mayor Paul Fitzgerald, who along with former Mayors Rod Dyer, Matt Lahey and Mike Seymour, was on hand to lend support and witness the vote. "Never again will citizens come in and thank you."

Speaking on behalf of himself, Dyer said he thought the attempt by the city made in 2010 to purchase The Colonial was the last best hope.

"I'll take that back," he said, saying the theater had been an anchor to the city and for the past 20 years has been a "black hole" in the center of downtown.

Reading into the record a statement from Bank of New Hampshire President Mark Primeau, Dyer read a statement from him saying that the bank was one of the oldest businesses in the city and would do everything possible to make the renovation a reality.

"This is definitely the last opportunity to save the Colonial and restore its place as the heart of downtown," said Primeau.

According to the resolution passed by the City County, the city has agreed to use its fund balance to lend $1.4-million dollars to the Belknap Economic Development Council that created its own 504(c)(6) entity to purchase the building. The closing must occur before July 27.

The real estate secures the loan and the BECD LLC will pay interest only for 12 to 18 months and after which the note will be repaid in full to the city.

After the note is repaid, the city will lend $2 to $3 million to the same entity – again interest-only and secured by the real estate to renovate the building and the auditorium. The theater will be operated as a city auditorium for an additional seven years and will determine who uses it and at what cost.

There is an option for the city to purchase the theater from the BECD at the end of that time. If the city refuses the option, the loan will be repayable at that time.

A number of other members of civic organizations and public bodies stood in support of the project. They included School Board Chair Joe Cormier, Zoning Board Chair Steve Bogert, and Pam Clark of the Laconia Historical and Museum Society and of the Laconia Heritage Commission.

Also speaking in favor were representatives from various theater groups including the Laconia Streetcar Company, David Stamps – the founder of Laconia Main Street, and Kate Bishop Hamel of the N.H. Business Alliance.

Members of the community at large also spoke in favor of the project. Matt Sousa said he's lived here since the 1980s and called the project "inspiring news."

"The Colonial is a way to show of our community and the best of it," he said.

Pastor Mark Warren of the Grace Capital Church said that in the face of hopelessness, this represents a change of heart.

"It's not only the economics but it's from the heart," he said generating applause from the 75-strong audience.

Karen Barker said she supports the renovation and its financing package but worries about its long-term viability. She encouraged the whole community to be creative and said she would like to see as much business as possible awarded for local "folk" - meaning local contractors and their employees.

Even a man from Tilton whose wife is a Laconia native came to the meeting to say how his wife was so pleased to hear the news. He said he saw "Mission Impossible" with her at the Colonial and told the Council they made a "Mission Possible."

Each Council member spoke in favor of the project.

Ava Doyle of Ward 1 said she had friends in Indiana who are from Laconia who heralded the news. Ward 2 councilor David Bownes quoted his children and said "Laconia Rocks."

Henry Lipman of Ward 3 explained the financing and explained how state law allows this kind of public participation when the public good outweighs the private good.

Ward 4 Councilor Brenda Baer said she ran for City Council 10 years ago on a platform of revitalizing Laconia while Ward 5 Councilor Bob Hamel said he and his wife are long time supporters of the theater and performing arts and he is proud to be on the City Council that brings them back to the city center.

Ward 6 Councilor Armand Bolduc, who also served as mayor, said he's been on the council for 32 years.

"This is the fourth time and it's finally going to happen," he said. "I can't wait to see it completed."

While there are some detractors who generally support the renovation but don't support using public money to finance it, none of them were at last night's special meeting.

In the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Edward Engler explained that the city used a non-public session to hammer out the details on May 26, the results of which weren't revealed until June 15.

Engler said the purchase and sales of real estate by the city is a legitimate use of the Right To Know Law's non-public session clause.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 01:56

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Two Belmont officers assaulted during melee on Saturday night

BELMONT — Two Belmont police officers were assaulted after they had been dispatched to a large gathering on Forest Drive Saturday evening and separated a man and woman who were arguing.

Police Lt. Rich Mann said neighbors called the police at 9:30 p.m. to report a large gathering and what sounded like the beginning of a fight.

When the first officer arrived he saw a man and a woman arguing. After he separated them, he was surrounded by a group of intoxicated adults who were seemingly unhappy about having a police officer in their midst.

As the second officer arrived, said Mann, the group was surrounding the first officer and Jeremy Cole, 37, of Brook Road in Sanbornton allegedly pushed him. Mann said he also assaulted a second officer and was zapped by a Taser and taken into custody.

When a second man attempted to interfere with the two officers he was pepper-sprayed and back up from Northfield, Gilmanton, Barnstead and Alton were called.

Cole was charged with two counts of simple assault on a police officer — an enhanced penalty offense — and one count of resisting arrest. He was later released on personal recognizance bail and given a court date of Aug. 6.

Erika Cole, 34, of Brook Road in Sanbornton, was charged with hindering apprehension for trying to get between her husband and the arresting officer during the arrest. She was released on $1,000 bail and given the same court date.

Mann said it was apparent to police that over-consumption of alcohol played a major role in the crowd's "aggressive and irrational behavior."

He said the incident remains under investigation and further charges against others who were aggressive toward officers could be forthcoming.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 01:22

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Sanders, Surging in Polls, draws huge crowd at Laconia rally

LACONIA — One of the largest crowds in recent memory to turn out for a campaign event in this city showed up for a campaign rally Sunday afternoon at the Lake Opechee Inn's Conference Center, where Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke to more than 400 people.

Acknowledging how important New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary is to his campaign, Sanders told the enthusiastic crowd, "If we can win here, we will have momentum which will carry us all around this nation.''

Sanders, the Independent U.S. senator from Vermont, buoyed by a poll last week which showed him trailing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton by only eight points, 43-35, said that Sunday was a good day as he had drawn more than 300 voters at a Rochester event and more than 500 in Durham, and said that the reason he was drawing big crowds is that his message on income inequality is resonating with people.

"We're telling it like it is and we're telling the truth and people across America are responding,'' he said.

The 73-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who describes himself as a democratic socialist, was mayor of Burlington, Vt., for eight years before being elected to U.S House in 1990, where he served eight terms before being elected to the Senate in 2006. During that election, in which he again ran as an independent, he was backed by the Democratic Party, with which he continues to caucus.

Sanders called for a transformation of American politics, ''a revolution'' which he says is needed because for the last 40 years most of the economic gains have gone to the wealthy. ''The rich are getting richer and the middle class is disappearing. Economic inequality is the moral issue of our time,'' said Sanders.

He said that it is ''profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans own as much wealth as as 90 percent of the people,'' and said, ''enough is enough. They cannot have it all.''

He said that the American media and both the Republican and Democratic parties have fallen down on their responsibilities to address the problem of 99 percent of the wealth being generated in the country going to the top 1 percent, and said that the situation is so absurd when eight members of wealthiest family in America, the Waltons, who own Wal-Mart, earn more in one year than 130 million Americans at the lowest end of the economic ladder.

'''They earned 157 billion in two years. That's more wealth than is owned by 40 percent of the American people. That has got to change.''

He decried the lack of concern for their fellow citizens shown by the wealthy, whom he says continue to evade their responsibilities by hiding their money in accounts in the Cayman Islands. ''They must accept their fair share of responsibility,'' said Sanders, maintaining that he wealthy have set up a rigged economy and are now taking control of the nation's politics through unlimited and unaccountable spending on campaigns brought about by the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sanders called for a constitutional amendment to outlaw massive contributions and for publicly-financed elections.
He said that the average American family is making $5,000 less a year than it was in 1999 and that the country needs an economy which works for the middle class, not just a handful of billionaires.

Sanders said youth unemployment is untenably high -- 33 percent for whites, 36 percent for Hispanics and 51 percent for African-Americans -- and that the United States leads the world in the number of people it incarcerates. ''It's time to rethink the way we deal with young people and create jobs rather than jails.''

He called for a $15 minimum wage, free college education at all public universities for all students who qualify, as well as family medical leave and sick time .

Sanders also supports universal healthcare, a ''Medicare for all'' plan, as well as a one trillion infrastructure plan over five years which he said would create 13 million jobs.

He said that the current-day Republic Party is intent on repealing Obamacare, which he said would take health insurance away from 27 million people, and wants to cut back on Medicare and Medicaid while reducing Pell grants for college students by $90 billion over 10 years.

Sanders said that he intends to campaign in every state, even those which vote heavily for Republicans, and wants to reach out to working class Republicans, whom he says are voting today for candidates who want to take away their healthcare, send jobs overseas and pass tax cuts for the wealthy,

''We've got to reach out to our Republican friends who are working class, and get them to support our agenda,'' said Sanders.

Among those in the audience who said that they would vote for Sanders were Bob and Mary Bee Longabaugh of Alton, Paul Duncanson of Franklin and Jim Lintner of Franklin.

''He's a fireball, and I like that,'' said Lintner.

Dave Pollak of Laconia, who was recently elected chairman of the Belknap County Democratic Party, said that he is neutral in the campaign but was greatly impressed by the turnout for Sanders and the organizational skill of his campaign.

''He's showing that he's a serious candidate and that he's offering real answers,'' said Pollak.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 01:18

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Man arrested for multiple Fall 2014 stalking charges involving same woman

LACONIA — A former local man has been arrested on multiple outstanding warrants that range from misdemeanor harassment charges to a felony stalking charge that dates back to September through November in 2014.

Gregory R. Mortrud, 53, of 27 Fair St. faces two counts of felony stalking, four counts of harassment, four counts of violating a protection order, four counts of breach of bail, and one count of criminal threatening.

After a video appearance in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on Thursday, Judge Jim Carroll ordered him held on $2,000 cash-only bail and $10,000 personal recognizance bail. Mortrud has posted bail and is no longer incarcerated.

According to multiple court documents obtained from the court, Mortrud started harassing his victim on September 13, 2014 by allegedly sending her text messages and Facebook messages at inappropriate times of day. He was also charged with stalking for allegedly laying outside her apartment door and repeated telling her to answer him.

He was arrested and given an an order to stay away from the victim.

The next day, Mortrud was arrested for allegedly following the victim into a local drug store. He was charged with breach of bail and violation and contempt of a protection order.

Motrud's next reported contact with the victim was on September 25, when he allegedly parked his bicycle in a parking lot near her apartment. Police were unable to find him and issued a warrant for his arrest for a second violation and contempt of a bail order and a second charge of breach of bail.

Five days later, he allegedly called and texted her, asking if she was having a nice walk. The victim called police. Police say he called while the investigating officer was there and he overheard Mortrud asking her if she had a nice walk. A warrant was issued for his arrest for harassment and a third violation of a protection order.

On October 1, Mortrud allegedly sent the victim 23 more text messages that included one that called her "a whore". The responding officer requested a warrant for violation and contempt, harassment and default or breach of bail.

On October 3 he allegedly contacted her again. This time the responding officer was able to listen to a conversation the victim put on speaker phone. Additional warrants were issued for harassment, breach of bail, and violating an order of protection.

On October 25, he allegedly contacted her again — this time using a different cell phone and one that police traced back to one of Mortrud's relatives who said he hadn't made the calls but that Mortrud had access to the phone. An additional warrant for breach of bail was granted.

November 11 appears to be the final contact. Morturd allegedly sent the woman Facebook messages that escalated in language until he sent her a smiley face with a bullet hole in its head with blood running down. As second smiley face pictured with a gun was sent. He allegedly used a false name to bypass her Facebook block on his real name. Police got additional warrants for felony stalking, criminal threatening and harassment.

Lt. Allan Graton said yesterday that police recently learned Mortrud was living at 27 Fair St. He said officer went to the home and arrested him Wednesday night without incident.

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 June 2015 12:31

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