Busy Corner building to be demolished

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The Heritage Commission this week granted the permit to demolish the building at the junction of Union Avenue and Church Street, which since has stood as a landmark at what has become known as "Busy Corner," to enable CVS to construct a small park on the site.

However, the commission attached three conditions and a request to its approval. First, the commission stipulated that the lamppost at the corner must be "preserved in working order." The sign reading "Busy Corner" atop the building must be donated to the Laconia Historical & Museum Society. Finally, the curved step leading to the front door of the building must be retained as a plinth for a memorial to Busy Corner. The commission has asked that smoking be forbidden in the park and a sign erected to that effect.

Catherine Tokarz said yesterday that the demolition permit was filed submitted by the current owner of the property, which will be conveyed to CVS shortly. She said Planning Director Shanna Saunders is discussing the conditions with representatives of CVS property, but as yet there has been no official response from the company. 

For many years, the building at Busy Corner housed a drug store with a popular lunch counter and J. Oliva Huot, a former mayor of Laconia and congressman representing New Hampshire sold real estate from an office at the rear of the building. More recently the building has been home to a law office, nail salon and barbershop.

The postage-stamp-sized lot of 0.058 of an acre is nearly a perfect isosceles triangle with two sides of 94.12 feet and 94.85 feet and a third of 55.81 feet. CVS plans to place a paved doughnut with a planted center in the space, which will be bounded on either side by perennial grasses and shrubs. Three granite benches will be placed around paved circle.

The park will be constructed and maintained by the company which adjoins the 1.59 acre lot where the CVS store was built in 2010.

Busy Corner frontbusy corner back

Belknap County Corrections could get new metal roof

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners are eyeing the possibility of using part of an $8 million bond issue for a community corrections facility for a new roof for the Belknap County complex.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said Thursday that the commission is working out the details of a contract with Bauen Construction of Meredith as construction manager for the project that calls for a guaranteed not to exceed maximum price of $7.3 million for the 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed facility.
"We're looking to fund the roof project as part of the bond issue" said DeVoy, who said that Dustin Muzzey, county facilities manager, has obtained estimates for the roofing project which show $700,000 for replacement of the existing roof and $580,000 for a metal roof which would be built over the existing roof.
He said the commissioners were looking forward to having a discussion with the Belknap County Convention, which in November unanimously approved an $8 million bond issue for the project, about using some of the bond issue funds for the roof project.
Muzzey said replacing the existing roof would be more costly because it would involve not only removal of the shingles, but also replacing the ice and water shields beneath them. A metal roof would be built over top of the current roof and attached to it.
DeVoy also said that the commissioners are still exploring the possibility of obtaining a bond anticipation note of about $3.9 million to fund the project on a piecemeal basis in 2016 and waiting until the following year before floating a bond, which he anticipates would result in a savings to the county on interest costs.
Commissioners met Thursday afternoon to finalize preparations for a meeting with the Belknap County Convention on Monday, Feb. 1, at 6 p.m., at which the 2016 budget will be discussed.
Commissioners reviewed the history of the county's fund balance which shows that it increased to $4.3 million last year, a nearly $500,000 increase over the previous year, thanks to $1.3 million in excess revenues and $1 million in operational savings.
The major part of the excess revenue came from the Belknap County Nursing Home, where revenue was $1 million more than anticipated.
Budget changes made by the commissioners included reducing a number of the group health insurance lines in several department budgets, reflecting changes in department's personnel and new insurance coverage for about 20 members of the Teamsters union who switched to a new point of service plan.
Commissioners also approved adding wages for two employees in the Sheriff's Department and wages for a receptionist at the Belknap County Nursing Home.
Other changes included adding wages for converting eight part-time positions in the nursing home to three full-time positions and for changing a part-time cook's position at the county home to a full-time position.
The bottom line of the budget calls for spending $35,235,571, $13,764,301 of which would be raised through local property taxes, some $72,872 less than last year.

County to shortchange local nonprofits?

By Michael Kitch
THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A subcommittee of the Belknap County Convention this week recommended withholding funding in the 2016 budget from the Belknap Economic Development Council and Genesis Behavioral Health and significantly reducing appropriations for the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Service, Belknap County Conservation District, Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties and Greater Lakes Region Child Advocacy Center.
The five-member panel, consisting of representatives Ray Howard (R-Alton), George Hurt (R-Gilford), Robert Fisher (R-Laconia), Robert Luther (R-Laconia) and Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), made its recommendations after a review of funding for so-called "outside agencies."
Officials of several of the agencies yesterday began urging their constituencies to ask members of the county delegation to maintain their funding at the level recommended by the county commission.
In 2015, the county appropriated $75,000 to Belknap Economic Development Council and $34,200 to Genesis Behavioral Health and the Belknap County Commission recommended continuing to fund both at the same amount in 2016.
Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Council, said that "we believe the council has provided quality services in an efficient manner by building economic opportunities and development for our and businesses. This is one step in the county budget process," he continued, "and we look forward to participating moving forward."
In a memorandum to board members, Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis Behavioral Health, said that the funding supports adult outpatient services, in particular those seeking to stay at home rather than enter a nursing home, to avoid incarceration or to remain employed. She said that she was "taken aback" by the committee's action, which she said was based on "misrepresentations" of the agency's financial circumstances.

Lisa Morin, program coordinator of the Belknap County Conservation District, said that the recommended reduction would more than halve the agency's budget, leaving only enough funding  for one part-time position. Without the necessary funding services to landowners, businesses and municipalities would be entirely curtailed or severely limited, she said.
The subcommittee also recommended trimming $35,000 from the $152,217 appropriation for the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Service, $43,000 from the $92,400 appropriation for Belknap County Conservation District, $35,000 from the $89,905 appropriation for the Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties and $550 from the $11,000 approppriation for the Greater Lakes Region Child Advocacy Center, all of which were proposed by the Belknap County Commission.
Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of the Belknap County Delegation, said "I anticipated something like this." He said that although the delegation will hold a work session on the budget on Monday, Feb. 1, he did not expect much time would be devoted to what he called "the controversial issues." However, he stressed that the agencies and public would have an opportunity to question the recommendations of the subcommittees at a public hearing on the 2016 county budget to be held on Tuesday, Feb. 16, beginning at 7 p.m.