'Mr. Laconia' - Peter Karagianis Sr. remembered for saving the Belknap Mill, his Clean Water efforts

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Peter S. Karagianis, a long-time local businessman and civic leader who is credited with leading drives to save the Belknap Mill from the wrecking ball and to clean up New Hampshire's lakes and rivers, died Saturday at the age of 99, just six weeks short of his 100th birthday.
His son, S. Peter Karagianis, who worked at the Laconia Spa and later at Happy Jack's Cigar, Pipe & Tobacco Shop with his father until he retired a few years ago, said Karagianis was a good father who always made him feel special.
"I can remember him coming in and saying 'Let's go down to Bill's Diner for lunch.' On the way, we'd stop by at the Belknap Mill and we'd look at the brick walls. He always included me in everything he did," said Karagianis.
He said that his father had a remarkable ability to connect with people from all walks of life and to be able to persuade them to work together for causes which benefitted the whole community.
He said his father was the son of Greek immigrants who ran a retail fruit business in downtown Boston, and was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1916 and grew up in the Central Square area of Cambridge. He graduated from Cambridge Ringe Technical School, and in the 1930s he worked for Stop and Shop, opening stores in Connecticut, Rhode Island and on Cape Cod. Because his four brothers were already in the armed services, he received a deferment during World War II and worked at the General Electric plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, in the aircraft engine division.
Because the outcome of the war with Japan was still in doubt, he was finally drafted but never shipped out, because V-J day came shortly thereafter. He moved to Laconia in October of 1945 and purchased what would become known as the biggest little store in town, the Laconia Spa, which at that time was located at the corner of Main and Mill Streets in downtown.
He quickly became involved in both the economic and political life of the city, working with the Laconia Chamber of Commerce to promote Motorcyle Week and being elected to the City Council and later the state Legislature, where he became chairman of the Belknap County Delegation. He also served as president of the Chamber of Commerce and was the winner of the Jim Irwin Award. He was
Former House Speaker George B. Roberts Jr. of Gilmanton recalls stopping in at the Spa with his uncle during the early days after Karagianis came to the city.
"He and my uncle would talk politics and the economy for an hour or more while I was standing there looking at the candy, which was at eye level. I'd buy some and there would always be more pieces in the bag than I had paid for. I told my uncle and he said 'That's because he's a good man."
Roberts said Karagianis played a key role in saving the mill by helping to convince the Belknap County Delegation to accept a federal grant for the project after the Laconia City Council had turned down the money in 1974, and in helping to pass House Bill 50, which established the Winnipesaukee River Basin Project, a regional sewer treatment system, in 1972.
He recalled that Karagianis had gone to Department of Housing and Urban Development's Boston office with him to help convince them that the county qualified as a unit of government eligible to accept funds of behalf of the mill and that he was a staunch and effective advocate for the causes he worked for.
Karagianis had mortgaged his own home to help raise funds for the Save the Mill Society, which had been formed to prevent the mill from being town down.
"He was a rock as far as this community was concerned, and so important in a variety of ways, like saving the Belknap Mill and starting the Lakes Region Clean Waters Association,'' said former Laconia Mayor Rod Dyer, who said that Karagianis' contributions to the city created "a legacy very few people will ever leave."
He recalled being on opposite sides of issues with Karagianis when Dyer was mayor of Laconia and the Clean Waters group pressed for a ban on new construction inn the city until a new sewage treatment plant could be built.

"That wasn't something which the city looked favorably on, but we were able to work together with the group to get House Bill 50 passed which set us up to receive federal funds for the project," said Dyer.
He recalled that the Clean Water group developed the slogan "Don't Do It in the Lakes" as part of ts effective campaign on behalf of cleaning up the lakes and was an example of what an involved group of citizens can accomplish.
Roberts recalled that when William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, came to Laconia to talk about the project that Karagianis drove out to greet him at Laconia Airport in a big Buick.

"He told me to drive on the way back and sat with Ruckelshaus in the back seat," he said, "and filled him in on all of the details of the project."
During the meeting that followed, Ruckelshaus announced that Laconia would be receiving the EPA's first-ever grant for a regional sewage treatment system.
In 1985, he was dubbed "Mr. Laconia" by Edwin Chertok, former Laconia Mayor and Belknap County Commissioner. He was a 70-year member of the Laconia Kiwanis Club, where in the 1950s he led the Laconia High School Key Club as a councilor. He was a also Mason for over 70 years, and in 1975 he was honored as a "33rd" degree Shriner.
His son said his father would frequently tell him, "The best thing I ever did was to move to Laconia." And from the praise his father has received, it is evident that many people think that his move to Laconia was one of the best things that ever happened to the city.

05-17 Karigiannis PETER 2008-A

Former Belknap Mill Society President Dick Metz joined Peter Kariganis Sr. to ring in the new year in 2008 at the mill. (Laconia Daily Sun file photo)

Laconia man held on $20,000 bail after firing gun near officer

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A man whose actions led to a SWAT team being called to a Laconia home Friday afternoon said Monday was only "uncooperative," and not "threatening," according to his defense lawyer.

While arguing for personal recognizance for Ernest Lee Thompson, 32, of 246 Country Club Road, Public Defender Justin Littlefield said the events of last Friday were "a little bit blown out of proportion" and his client was not threatening the police officer who came to serve him a stalking notice.

He said Thompson just didn't want to be served with the papers that would have given him a date to appear Monday in the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division.

"This is very significant event," said City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer who argued for $50,000 cash-only bail, but seemed content with the $20,000 ordered by Judge Michael Garner Monday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Police from four different departments and the Belknap County Special Operations Group blocked off Country Club Road and parts of Frank Bean Road during the early afternoon of May 13 after Thompson allegedly fire several shots from a handgun away from a police officer but in a residential area where police said someone could have been hurt or killed. About 30 minutes after the last SWAT team went in, Thompson surrendered without further incident.

Thompson faces one count of felony criminal threatening for allegedly firing a gun in the sight of and in the presence of Patrol Officer Michelle Cardinal, one count of misdemeanor criminal threatening for telling her to get off his property because his dogs bite, and two felony counts of improper influence or refusing to be served a notice by an officer by threatening her with dogs and with a gun. He also faces one count of felony reckless conduct.

Affidavits obtained from the court said Thompson was being served with a notice to appear in Franklin Circuit Court for a hearing on a stalking petition that had been denied by the court.

All totaled, police said Cardinal had two interactions with Thompson and one with his wife that day. The first was when she first got to the home and told him why she was there. She said he refused to open the door but she said she could hear his dogs barking and he told her that she should go away because the dogs bite.

Cardinal returned to her patrol car but said Thompson's wife came to speak with her, so she got back out of her cruiser and was explaining the notice of service when Thompson came out of the house for a second time. She said she noticed a handgun in his waistband and watched as he walked toward the garage and fired it several times. She said his arm was at his shoulder.

Affidavits said when Sarah Thompson laughed, Cardinal said, "That's terrifying" and got in her cruiser and left. She said she heard him yelling after her that he was never served and was not going to court.

In court Monday, Littlefield said that Thompson was "uncooperative" but not "threatening" toward Cardinal on Friday. He said Thompson never pointed the gun at her but went to a separate location on the property to fire it.

Sawyer said that Thompson's statement that his dogs bite was threatening toward Cardinal to the degree that she held the "flimsy" outside door shut in the event the dogs did try to leave the house. He also said that police recovered 12 bullet casings from the area where Thompson allegedly did his shooting and that those bullets could have gone anywhere.

"His purpose of shooting that gun was to send a message," Sawyer said. "She got that message."

After setting bail at $20,000, Littlefield asked for a corporate surety but the request was denied by Garner.

Man suspected in string of burglaries in Gilford

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — A local man who police say is transient is being held on $1,000 cash-only bail for one count of receiving stolen property.

Gilford Police said Monday that Zachary Gouette, whose last known official address was in Meredith, is also a suspect in three additional home burglaries this month that are within a quarter mile of the home where he was staying on 12 Breton Road.

Affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, said police received a call from a homeowner at 10:58 p.m. Friday reporting that he had some items stolen from a home on Lake Shore Road near where Gouette was staying with friends. A police dog traced the scent back to 12 Breton Road.

Police were approached on Saturday morning by a woman who lives nearby and who told them her daughter had been letting Gouette stay with them. She and her daughter told them they found some things in the house that didn't belong to them, one of which was a small bank-like cash register that had been reported stolen as the most recent burglary.

They also told police that they hadn't been sleeping in the home for a few days because there was no electricity and that on the night of May 13, Gouette told them he was staying at the Landmark. They told police this was weird because he told them he didn't have any money.

Affidavits said they were able to recover some information from a cell phone belonging to one of the women that Gouette was using and, along with other physical evidence, arrested Gouette on Saturday in Laconia while he was working.

Police said they expect to charge Gouette with three additional burglaries that took place on May 2, 6 and 7.

During his video appearance in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia District, Gilford Prosecutor Eric Bredbury said Gouette is on probation and is being held on a temporary hold. He asked for $2,000 cash bail.

Public Defender Justin Littlefield said Gouette has tested negative for any drugs during his probation time, said he has a job in a restaurant in Laconia, and should be released on personal recognizance bail with any restrictive conditions the court decided he needed.

Judge Michael Garner ordered Gouette held on $1,000 cash bail. He said no to Bredbury's request for a source-of-funds hearing.