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Tension at LHS over plan to convert drama space to weight room

LACONIA — When the School Board meets next week it will likely find itself in the midst of a controversy brewing over converting classrooms adjacent to the auditorium at Laconia High School, which have been used by the school drama club and local performing arts organizations, to a strength training and aerobic exercise facility.

The issue came to light earlier this week when Jessica Alward of the Laconia Streetcar Company wrote to Barbara Luther of the School Board expressing concern about the condition of the auditorium, where the lights failed on the opening night of the company's production of "A Few Good Men" on Saturday. On Tuesday, Alward posted her letter on Facebook. After deploring the state of auditorium, Alward wrote, as if in passing, "now I'm hearing that the performing arts classrooms and storage areas are being taken over by the athletic department. It somehow doesn't seem right," she continued, to take away what little space the drama/music kids have for yet another sports facility."

Alward posted her letter on Facebook at 11:38 a.m. on Veteran's Day. Just before 3:00 p.m. she posted that "The principal (Jim McCollum) says that this is not going to happen. That there are no plans to make such changes," then added "but then I have an e-mail from a faculty member that says he has been informed that this is happening. Also the fact that the rooms are now completely empty is a cue."

Alward stressed yesterday that her son was a member of the football team and she did not seek to discount the importance of athletic programs, but instead to advocate that "equal consideration should be given to all activities."

In the meantime, on Wednesday The Daily Sun received an flyer from Patrick O'Reilly on behalf of Laconia Youth Football announcing fundraising events sponsored by each organization to benefit "new health and wellness facilities at LHS." The flyer explains that "this project entails moving the existing weight room and relocating it into a revamped strength training room and aerboic/cardio room." The facility will be open to members of the community as well as to students and teachers.

Yesterday McCollum acknowledged that he was aware of the growing controversy, but said that because Alward had written to the School Board he could not speak about to it to the press and referred questions to School Superintendent Terri Forsten.

Forsten volunteered that she shared Alward's misgivings about the state of the auditorium, but said that she could not speak directly to the issue of displacing the performing arts to make space for an athletic training room. Likewise, she said she was not in a position to comment on the fundraising efforts begun by Laconia Youth Football.

Questions about how to allocate space within the school buildings, Forsten explained, fell to the principals. "This sort of thing happens all the time," she said. "It's pretty common." She noted that priority must granted to "classrooms, space for students" and ventured "there is enough space to accommodate it all." However, she allowed that anyone with questions could approach the superintendent or the School Board.

Forsten said that she expects to present the issues raised by Alward to the School Board when it meets on Tuesday, November 18 — in the course of her superintendent's report.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 01:37

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Commissioners-elect will pull plug on Logue appeal

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners plan to appeal the Belknap County Personnel Committee's decision to reinstate Mathew Logue as administrator of the Belknap County Nursing Home to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
"We're absolutely going to appeal,'' said John Thomas, chairman of the Belknap County Commissioners, who said commissioners are going ahead with the appeal even though two incoming commissioners, Richard Burchell and Dave DeVoy, say they do not intend to support an appeal of the Logue personnel matter.
Logue is currently on administrative leave, with pay, pending the outcome of an appeal of the committee's decision.
''It is counter-productive, in our view, to spend time and the public purse on a course of action which has been repudiated by the voters,'' Burchell and DeVoy say in a letter to the editor published in today's Daily Sun.
DeVoy, a Republican, last week defeated Democrat Dave Pollack in a race for the county commission seat which was vacated by two-time commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia).
Thomas was defeated in his bid for re-election in the Republican primary in September by Burchell, who is currently clerk of the Belknap County Convention and a member of the personnel committee. Burchell voted on October 10 as a member of the committee to reinstate Logue, who had been fired by the commission in late August .
In late August the commission terminated Logue for what it termed willful insubordination, lack of cooperation and inability to perform his duties in a timely manner, claiming that he was "untruthful and unreliable'' in dealing with county officials. Logue appealed his termination to the personnel committee, composed of Representatives Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, Robert Greemore (R-Meredith), the vice-chairman and Burchell (R-Gilmanton).
The committee held a day-long public hearing on October 6, at which attorney Mark Broth of Manchester presented the case against Logue and Logue spoke in own defense.
Four days later the committee voted unanimously to reinstate Logue, after finding his defense of the charges against him to be "credible and persuasive''.
The decision of the committee was met with disbelief and anger by a number of employees of the nursing home, more than 40 of whom signed a petition requesting that Logue not be reinstated. Belknap County Finance Director Glen Waring at that time termed it ''not worth the paper it's written on''
The motion for a rehearing filed by attorney Broth alleges that the Personnel Committee's decision is '''unlawful, unreasonable and irresponsible.''
The motion also says the committee's decision ''leads to an absurd result with dangerous implications for the county as an employer. In essence, the Personnel Committee has found that a county employee can refuse to perform job duties if the work assignment runs contrary to the employees ''sincerely held beliefs.''
Broth further maintained that the committee's decision ''has effectively told employees that rather then take responsibility for your decision, it is acceptable to lie to your employer.''
Thomas said yesterday that he has already seen the letter from the incoming commissioners and that he wasn't surprised by it. ''They've been trying to insinuate all along that the present commissioners have been breaking the law. The whole convention, with a few exceptions, have been like little sheep following the lead of chairman Worsman,'' said Thomas.
He said that the present commission is also working on an appeal on a ruling by Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill III which prohibits the commissioners from transferring more than $300 between budget line items without approval of the Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee.
But the only incumbent commissioner left to pursue those appeals after the first of the year is commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith), who presumably would be outvoted by the incoming commissioners.
''As commissioners elect, we would like to state that Belknap County has wasted much time and money on lawsuits. Vanity aside, the current County commissioners should respect the wishes of the voters of Belknap County and out an end to expensive legal wrangling,'' Burchell and DeVoy wrote in their letter.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 01:32

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Recount confirms Hosmer was the winner

CONCORD — A recount conducted by Bill Gardner, the New Hampshire Secretary of State, here yesterday confirmed that incumbent Democrat Andrew Hosmer of Laconia kept the seat in the New Hampshire Senate from District 7, defeating the challenge of Republican Kathleen Lauer-Rago of Franklin in the general election last week.

When the votes were counted the night of the election, Hosmer held a margin over Lauer-Rago of 132 votes, less than one-percent of all ballots cast — 9,543 to 9,411. The recount increased Hosmer's margin to 155 votes — 9,578 to 9,423.

Attorney Jay Surdokowski, who represented Hosmer at the recount, said that it took all day to recount the 19,001 ballots. He said there were no major swings, with Webster, where Hosmer gained 13 votes, the only district in which the net gain for one or the other candidate reached double digits.

In winning re-election to his second term in the Senate, Hosmer was the lone Democrat to be returned to the Statehouse by the voters of Belknap County, although the election was decided by Hosmer's margins in the Democratic-leaning towns of Canterbury and Andover in Merrimack County.

District 7 consists of the city of Laconia and towns of Belmont,and Gilford in Belknap County and the city of Franklin and towns of Andover, Boscawen, Canterbury, Northfield, Salisbury, and Webster in Merrimack County.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 12:45

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Nightclub owner meets with Gilford fire chief

GILFORD — After speaking with Fire Chief Steve Currier while the Board of Selectmen met last night, Tom Lyons and Will Drew told him they expected to correct the conditions that led to the closure of the Lakes Region Cafe & Tavern last week by early next week, in hopes of being able to reopen the venue.

Carrier said that his department's concerns were the shut-off valves on the gas pipes and the fire suppression systems on the ventilation hoods in the kitchen along with the fire alarm system and emergency exit lights. "We're concerned about the risk of fire and getting people out of the building safely in the event of fire," Carrier said.

Drew and Lyons, accompanied by a half dozen employees of the club attended the Selectboard meeting to urge town officials to allow the nightclub to operate. Drew told the board that it was difficult to invest in improvements to the building when he was paying close to $30,000 a year in property taxes and the business was not earning because the town forced it to close. The selectmen unanimously renewed Drew's entertainment permit, but advised him that reopening the business would depend on satisfactorily addressing the issues raised by the Fire Department.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 02:18

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