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City Council to hold May 27 hearing on proposal to limit use of primary elections

LACONIA — The City Council this week unanimously voted, on first reading, to amend the City Charter to authorize the City Clerk to declare a primary election unnecessary if no more than two candidates file for any particular office.

A public hearing on the amendment will be held during the next regularly scheduled meeting of the council on Tuesday, May 27. Voters will have the final say in November.

The amendment would also move the filing period for municipal elections, which currently opens on the first Wednesday in June and closes on the following Friday, to August, approximately a month before the primary on the second Tuesday of September.

In addition, the amendment would tighten the requirements for write-in candidates to qualify for a place on the ballot for the municipal election in November. The provision that the two candidates receiving the most votes in the primary are declared the winners and placed on the ballot, would carry a rider stipulating that a person who had not filed a declaration of candidacy and received fewer than 35 write-in votes would not be eligible for a spot on the general election ballot. The rider is intended to ensure that any write-in candidate who earns a place on the general election ballot has demonstrated an intent to serve by mounting a write-in campaign as reflected by polling a minimum number of votes.

The amendment would apply to the primary elections for the mayor and city councilors, seven members of the School Board, whose members serve staggered terms, requiring a primary every year, and three seats on the Police Commission.
Laconia is one of three of the state's 13 cities to conduct municipal primary elections. Both the other two — Manchester and Keene — follow the procedure prescribed by the amendment.

In the eight primary elections between 1997 and 2011 voter turnout has averaged 9 percent. In three of the past eight elections — in 2003, 2009 and 2011 — primary elections were held even though there were not more than two candidates for either mayor or any of the six council seats. Last year when there were three candidates for mayor but no more than two for any of six city council seats the turnout was 6 percent.
Reynolds said that cost of conducting municipal primary elections is approximately $8,600, which does not include about $1,000 for police details at the polling stations at Woodland Heights Elementary School and Laconia Middle School. The cost consists of $3,900 for printing ballots, $1,000 for materials at polling stations and $3,700 in wages of poll workers.
After the public hearing, the City Council will likley order the proposed amendments to be placed on the ballot for the municipal election. The amendment, including any substantive changes made following the public hearing, must be approved by the New Hampshire Secretary of State, Attorney General and Department of Revenue Administration.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:57

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Director outlines timeline for development of new Laconia Master Plan

LACONIA — Planning Director Shanna Saunders outlined a budget of some $120,000, consisting entirely of grants, and timetable of between 24 and 30 months for the preparation and completion of a new Master Plan to the City Council this week.

Saunders told the councilors that the 2014-2015 budget appropriates $20,000 for the Master Plan, which together with equal appropriations in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 brings the total allocated for the project to $60,000. She explained that municipal funding would be offset in whole or in part by grants.

Saunders said that the Orton Family Foundation of Middlebury Vermont and Denver, Colorado has awarded the city $75,000 worth of in-kind technical services, including services, analysis, mapping, communication and outreach. The Carsey Institute of the University of New Hampshire, which administered the New Hampshire Listens program, has contributed similar services valued at $25,000. And the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has underwritten the preparation of the Master with a cash grant of $20,000.

Saunders said that she expects to begin work on the Master Plan in June and complete the first four chapters of the plan — community character, land use, economic development and housing — in a year and aim to finish the other chapters — transportation, natural resources, cultural and historic resources and community facilities and services — by December 2016. State law recommends that municipalities revise their master plans every five to 10 years. The city last adopted its master plan in May, 2007.

Note: The City Council approved the request of the Weirs Action Committee to designate the new roundabout at the junction of Endicott Street and Weirs Boulevard as Blackstone Circle. In 1922, the City Council named the intersection Blackstone Square in honor of Guy H. and Herbert W. Blackstone, brothers who died during the First World World. The brothers were the sons of Captain Herbert A. Blackstone, a shipbuilder from Maine, who settled in Laconia in 1886 after building the "Eagle," which was launched at Lakeport that year. He also built the "Lamprey" and "Cyclone" and captained the "Maid of the Isle" and "Mouint Washington." His second wife, Mary, owned and operated Blackstone's Lunch, Gas & Oil at The Weirs in the 1940s, before selling the business in 1945, when its name was changed to Handy Landing.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:52

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Strong pitching staff expected to be core of improved Muskrats this season

LACONIA — I'm excited," said Noah Crane, general manager of Laconia Muskrats. "This is by far the best roster we've put on the field, especially the pitching staff. All our players start for their college teams, which gives us a lot depth."

After a 2013 season marked by recurrent rain that dampened attendance and numerous injuries that hampered performance, Crane is looking forward to Friday, June 6 when the Muskrats open their fifth season in the New England Collegiate Baseball League by hosting the Vermont Mountaineers at Robbie Mills Field. "Last year every team in the league was challenged by bad weather," he said, adding that he was "encouraged" that paid attendance at home games shrank only by 600.

Last year, following a promising start that kept the Muskrats in contention in the Eastern Division through the All-Star break, injuries idled two-thirds of the starting pitchers, most of the middle infielders and several members of the bullpen crew. The Muskrats lost eight of their last 10 games to finish three games below .500, missing the playoffs for the first time.

Crane believes that he has assembled the players who will return the Muskrats to the postseason. Among the pitchers, Jordan Sheffield, a righthander completing his freshman year at Vanderbilt, where his coach Tim Corbin described his arm strength and overall pitching tools as "not common for a young man." He was was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 13th round after earning All-America honors as a high school senior. Adam Frank, a junior from Dartmouth, who has won eight of 10 decisions and held opponents to a batting average below .250 in his first two seasons, was drafted by the Oakland Athletics as a high school senior. Adam Grantham, a sophomore righthander from Arkansas State, was drafted by the Atlanta Braves after an impressive high school career.

The pitcher sure to draw thew most attention is Mariano Rivera, Jr., a sophomore righthander from Iona College. Crane said that while he has yet to post numbers matching his father, he has good velocity and "lots of room to grow." Cory Geisler of Texas State, a southpaw has won three games this year without a loss while pitching to an earned run average of 1.78 and holding hitters to a batting average of .200. As an outfielder he is the team's second leading hitter with average of .307.

"We're very strong at the corners," Crane said. At third base, Braxton Martinez enjoyed one of the best freshman seasons ever at St. Louis University, hitting for an average of .314 with 76 hits in 62 games, and as a sophomore is among the team leaders in hits, average and runs batten in. Ben Miller, a freshman at Nebraska, was recruited as a left-handed pitcher, but found himself at first base and leading the team in hitting with an average of .362.

D.J. Rulhman, a junior shortstop from Seton Hall, is batting .371 and slugging .457 to lead his team while making just five errors in 42 games. Crane said that Cornelius Copeland of St. Petersburg College, brings range and speed to the middle infield, while his teammate Cory Baptist, who at six feet, four inches and 220 pounds, can pitch as well as play first base and the outfield, is "a big time hitter."

"We have a lot of talent, along with versatility and depth," Crane said. "Now we're hoping for good weather."

Crane said that this season the scheduling format has changed so that each of the six teams in the North division will play each other six times, three at home and three away, while playing a home and away series of two games against each of the six teams in the South division. Apart from Laconia, the North division consists of the Keene Swamp Bats, Vermont Mountaineers, Sanford Mainers, Holyoke Blue Sox and North Adams Steeple Cats. Crane said that the would reduce travel times and costs while enhancing divisional rivalries.

Crane said that plans to complete the terrace atop and behind the green monster ran afoul of the severe, prolonged winter weather. He explained that a crew of students from the Huot Technical Center had been enlisted to complete the project, but lingering winter weather delayed the start of the work until there was not enough time remaining in the school year to finish it. The project was started before the 2012 season and has never been finished.

The 30 players, manager and two coaches will be arriving around the beginning of June. Crane said that although while homes for 25 have been arranged, another eight remain to be found. He urged anyone willing to provide an aspiring big league ballplayer with a bed and breakfast during the season to contact him directly by e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the team website, www.laconia muskrats.com.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:46

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Cafua files plan for new building on Hathaway House site

LACONIA — Cafua Management Company, LLC, which owns the lot at 1106 Union Avenue that holds both a Dunkin' Donuts store and the Hathaway House, has submitted plans at City Hall to redevelop the portion of the property where the Italianate home stands.

Last September, Cafua , which purchased the property in 2000, applied for a permit to demolish the Hathaway House, sparking a frantic effort to preserve it. After meeting with Greg Nolan of Cafua, to discuss alternatives to demolition the Heritage Commission ultimately conceded that if the building was to be preserved, it would have to relocated. Last month the commission agreed to search for a private developer interested in moving, renovating and owning the building.

Cafua proposes to construct a 4,850-square-foot retail building on the northern half of the 1.6-acre lot. The building would would be reached by a spur off the existing entryway to Dunkin' Donuts, eliminating the need for a fresh curb-cut. The building would be divided into three units, two of 1,650-square-feet and one of 1,550-square-feet and would be served by 27 parking spaces, 11 more than required.

In addition, with the removal or demolition of the Hathaway House, Cafua intends to improve the traffic flow through Dunkin' Donuts by adding a loop at the northwest corner of the site, which would carry vehicles to the drive-through window. At the same time, delivery trucks, which have parked in the entryway alongside the Hathaway House would be assigned a dedicated lane to circle the building and park on the south side of the lot.

The Heritage Commission will meet at 5 p.m. today when an update on the effort to preserve the Hathaway House is expected.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:21

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