From ashes of Workout World comes Fitness Focus at downtown garage

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Brandon Borghi, right, son of Fit Focus owner Steve Borghi, will be managing the business when it opens. With him are conner Dever, left, and Tristan Comb. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Steve Borghi will play a mulligan by opening Fit Focus, which he describes as a "full-blown fitness club," in the same downtown space where his similar venture — Work Out World —foundered on a broken partnership, unpaid debts and tangled litigation before it opened for business in 2009.

Borghi, a resident of Alton Bay, said Monday that work is underway renovating and equipping the 30,000-square-foot space attached to the downtown parking garage last occupied by the Grace Capital Church. He expects Fit Focus to open in between six and eight weeks. He said he is leasing the space with an option to purchase it from its owner, Daniel Di Sangro of Roslindale, Massachusetts, and has invested approximately $2 million in renovations and equipment.

Last June, when Borghi first announced his plans, he indicated that he intended to purchase the property. However, he said that because of the uncertainly surrounding the future of the downtown parking garage, which is structurally entwined with the six commercial units attached to it, he decided to lease the largest of the units. He said that the club will provide 100 pieces of cardiovascular equipment as well as strength machines and free weights while offering both scheduled fitness classes and personal training sessions. He anticipates that the center will employ some 30 people either full or part time. Memberships will range between about $20 and $50 per month.

"I'd like finish what I was trying to do before," Borghi said in June. In September 2008, Borghi, who then owned more than 30 Work Out World fitness centers, most of them in New England, purchased the Laconia property in partnership with DiSangro and his wife Joanne and Gabrielle Susi of Canton, Massachusetts; together doing business as Downtown Crossing LLC and Downtown Fitness LLC.

Borghi began advertising for memberships for Work Out World Laconia in November 2008 in advance of a scheduled opening in January. However, when the fitness center failed to open, the New Hampshire Attorney General began receiving complaints from those who paid for memberships. In May 2009, Borghi was charged with two misdemeanor and two felony violations of the Consumer Protection Act. Borghi pleaded guilty in August and was given a 30-day suspended sentence and ordered to refund 240 memberships while Downtown Fitness LLC was fined $15,000.
Meanwhile, Borghi's partners, the DiSangros and Susi, filed suit against him, alleging he misappropriated funds for his personal use. Downtown Crossing LLC and Downtown Fitness LLC were placed in receivership in July and a month later creditors were informed that since Work Out World Laconia had outstanding debts of more than $100,000 and no source of income they would not be paid what they were owed.
In February 2010, the partners reached a settlement of the lawsuit resting on what Borghi called at the time an "exchange of assets." Borghi left the partnership and paid an undisclosed of money. The DiSangros ultimately acquired the property, which they have now leased to Borghi.

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Ready to settle

Gilford man was suing over recordings made on school buses

By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — For the second time in as many months, a Gilford man who filed a federal lawsuit claiming his children were illegally recorded as they rode the bus to school has told a judge a settlement is being discussed.

William Baer, who sued the Gilford School District, the superintendent of schools and First Student, the company that holds the busing contract, filed notice in U.S. District Court on Jan. 12 that "the parties are currently involved in discussions which may result in the resolution of this matter."

Attorney Jared Bedrick of Rochester, who represents Baer, asked that the Jan. 17 deadline for submission of motions for summary judgment by both sides be extended 30 days to allow the parties "to fully explore the possibility of settlement."

Early last month, Bedrick wrote in a joint mediation statement that should efforts to negotiate an out-of-court settlement fail, the parties were planning to hiring a mediator after the key witnesses in the case had been questioned under oath.

The request for an extension of the summary judgment deadline was jointly signed by Bedrick and by attorney Daniel Deschenes of Concord, who represents now retired SAU 72 Superintendent Kent Hemingway and First Student Inc.

A motion for summary judgment, if granted, can bring a quick end to a civil case. It represents a final decision by a judge that no factual issues remain unresolved to be heard at trial, and that the case can be decided based on rulings of law.

Baer filed suit last December 2015, on behalf of his two minor children, charging that state and federal wiretapping laws were broken when they were recorded without warning, as no signs were posted, as they rode on a school bus en route to class.

The suit seeks both statutory and punitive damages as well as the award of attorney's fees and legal costs. The plaintiffs have requested a jury trial and are also asking the court to order the defendants to bring the current fleet of buses into compliance with state and federal law.

It was sparked after one of the Baer children was summoned to the principal's office and questioned about an incident that had occurred on the bus. During the conversation, the principal referenced an audio recording of the student made during his bus trip.

In response, Baer's son cited the school handbook, which detailed that state law requires that any bus using recording equipment must post a sign warnings riders that they might be recorded. That bus did not have a warning sign, nor did the majority of other buses that transport Gilford students, the suit charges.

Jury selection and the trial which is estimated to last two to four days is now scheduled to occur during a two-week period beginning in mid-May. Judge Landya B. McCafferty has been assigned to preside.

Meredith library trustees seek attorney’s guidance on new building

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The Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library on Main Street falls short on space and spurs safety concerns, trustees say. On Thursday, Jan. 12, the library board voted to authorize a discussion with the neighboring Baptist Church about an access for library staff, after Library Director Erin Apostolos warned that employees are afraid of falling on the ice when arriving at work. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — Uncertain about how to launch a fundraising campaign for a new library building, library trustees plan to consult Concord attorney Biron Bedard and pick his brain.
Bedard, who lives in Meredith, is managing director of Ransmeier & Spellman P.C., a law firm with offices in Concord and Alton.
Library trustee Duncan McNeish said he sat next to Bedard at a Monday, Jan. 9, workshop of Meredith Selectmen where the library board made its case for a new building. Later, McNeish invited the attorney to sit down with library board members and share his advice.
"He's skilled in dealing with these issues," McNeish said at a meeting of the library board Thursday. "He has some very good ideas of what to do in terms of enhancing our outreach efforts."
The 9 a.m. meeting on Thursday, Jan. 19, with Bedard is likely to be called as a nonpublic session not open to the general public. Under state law, exceptions to open meetings include "consultation with legal counsel." Reasons for nonpublic sessions include "consideration of legal advice provided by legal counsel, either in writing or orally, to one or more members of the public body, even where legal counsel is not present." Acquisition of real estate is another condition.
"That is not an open meeting because we are consulting with our lawyer," said Beverly Heyduk, chairman of the library board.
Trustees wrestled with the task of convincing voters that the historic Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library building — an ornate multi-level building on Main Street — no longer suffices as a home to the public library. Limited parking, space and accessibility are among the chief complaints. Trustees point to more serious concerns, such as fire and safety code violations on the second and third floors.
"If we are to stay here or the town is to occupy this building, the second and third floors of this historic building need to be attended to," McNeish said.
McNeish agreed to research costs of upgrading the building to meet fire and safety codes. "That should be a responsibility of the town," he said.
Already, the board has unveiled a pair of choices. Cost to stay at the existing 3,300-square-foot library, including renovations and construction of a 12,000-square-foot addition, would reach $4.145 million, according to library board consultant Ron Lamarre. In the board's preferred choice, the town could build a 14,000-square-foot library for $3.15 million on the Robertson property, a parcel at Parade Road and Route 3.
Heyduk said the preference for moving was not taken lightly. "There are serious safety issues, and our patrons are the most important responsibility of ours," she said.
Town Manager Phillip Warren Jr. said he suggested to the town's capital improvement program advisory committee that voters be asked to support placing $50,000 in an expendable trust fund, with $30,000 to support a feasibility study on use of the Robertson property. This would be a de facto "yes or no" question about moving, he said at the selectmen's workshop.
But library trustees, who are contemplating a warrant article of their own, debated what to ask voters.
"It can't be for a general overview, it has to be for a specific purpose," McNeish said.
Trustee Pam Coburn said the board should fund-raise on the basis of a "vision" rather than a particular place or plan.
"The library is going to need money, this building is going to need money," she said. "If we stay here and expand here, we have to renovate this building. If we move out and they don't mothball this building, the town has to renovate this building."
Heyduk suggested making a plea for repair and maintenance of the existing building while also fund-raising for a new library. Other trustees warned that the public could perceive a mixed message.
Coburn warned, if a two thirds vote is required for permission to move, "that vote is doomed to fail."
Coburn also cautioned against the expendable trust fund article.
"The public is not ready. If we have that warrant article that's tied to the new site, and the vote is framed that way, we will fail and it will put us backward," she said.
"We have to separate this building and its needs from what the library is supposed to be doing," Coburn said.
Heyduk said, "I think we have spoken in soft voices, and it's time now to say what the issues are in a stronger voice so people do understand."
Trustee Jane Ramsay, who told selectmen she could not access parts of the existing library building, said the additional cost to renovate should make the case. "It's going to cost you a million and a half to get me in and out of this library. Who wants to spend that money?"
Heyduk said, "What we're up against is an emotional attachment to the library being in this building."
Another meeting of the Meredith selectmen is expected Monday, Feb. 6, prior to Town Meeting on March 15. Library trustees moved their February meeting to 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, so they would have time to submit a warrant article.

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