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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Selectmen want public input before deciding circus request
Gilford:
By HARRISON HAAS
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Selectmen in Gilford considered a request to bring the circus into town Wednesday evening and plan to hold a public hearing on the matter after hearing from members of the Recreation Committee and the American Legion.

American Legion Post 1 of Laconia has requested the use of the Gilford Village fields for two days next summer to stage the Kelly-Miller Circus. The event would be fund-raiser for the Legion post's programs. Selectmen voted 2-1 to hold a public hearing to decide whether the town should or should not allow the circus to use the Village Fields.

Don Vachon from Post 1 attended Wednesday evening's meeting to answer any questions of the selectmen.

"We are looking for a way to raise some additional funds to support some of the events we participate in and sponsor," Vachon said who estimated the event could bring in between $3,000 and $5,000.

The proceeds would help go toward scholarships that the American Legion awards to students in the community. Vachon said last year around $2,800 was awarded to four students in Gilford alone.

The request for the circus was presented to both Laconia and Gilford. Laconia denied the proposal a few weeks ago. Members of the Legion asked to use Opechee Park, but the Recreation Commission in Laconia voted down the idea because of the possible damage that could occur from the circus.

Vachon said Gilford was not a backup location for the circus; rather, Laconia responded quicker to the request. Members of the Gilford Recreation Commission met on Nov. 1 and recommended not allowing the circus by a vote of 3-2. Commission members highlighted several concerns with the biggest one being the potential damage to the village field which was the primary reason the proposal was denied in Laconia.

Other problems the commission felt the circus would create included the potential impact on recreation staff, restrictions to the use of other facilities at the field during the circus and the potential negative impact on neighbors within the Village because of traffic and the arrival and departure times of the circus.

Selectman Gus Benavides asked Vachon if the circus would be hesitant in signing any waiver that would hold it responsible for any damage on the field. Vachon said they would "absolutely" sign it since the circus would follow whatever conditions were required by the town.

Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene expressed misgivings about the circus proposal.

"The big concern is the potential field damage," he said. "My bigger concern is not if it gets repaired, but rather when it would get repaired."

Greene said the Parks and Recreation Department uses the field in conjunction with other organizations and groups throughout the year. If the field were to become damaged, repairs would need to be done immediately since any delay could negatively affect the programs.

"If the fields are damaged, we would have no place to put the activities," Greene said.

Selectman John O'Brien asked if the Meadows field could be used. Vachon said there would be a problem if there was significant rainfall since it would be a "mud fest." When asked about the possibility of using Gunstock, Vachon said a user fee would be involved.

Recreation Commission Chairman Thomas Francoeur expressed mixed feelings.

"It's a great project, I'm just concerned about the field," he said.

Vachon said if the circus is not held in Gilford, it would most likely be held somewhere down south, such as Concord.

"The damages would be addressed immediately because it's their [the circus'] responsibility," said Vachon.

Benavides moved that there be a public hearing on the proposal to allow members from the public to speak. Benavides and O'Brien voted in favor of holding a public hearing while Selectman Chair Kevin Hayes voted no to the idea.

A special event permit will have to be filed with the town by the American Legion, at which point a public hearing will be scheduled when the Legion can present its proposal and residents will be allowed to speak. Selectmen will take all comments into consideration and make a decision that evening.

If passed, the circus would take place on Saturday, July 2, and Sunday, July 3, with two shows each day, an early show around 4:30 p.m. and a later showing at 6:30 p.m.

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