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Locke Lake board candidates meet with residents


July 14, 2009
BARNSTEAD — The hope that new faces might move the Locke Lake Colony Association in a new direction was shared by the small group of residents who gathered at the lodge on the evening of July 10 to meet five of the seven candidates vying for seats on the board of directors this year.

Before allowing the candidates to introduce themselves, Peggy Gingras (herself a candidate) said she had organized the informal round table discussion, along with fellow candidate Judy Cropper, in the hope of learning what association members wanted to see take place as the Colony heads into the future.

Mike Joly, a resident of the Colony for seven years, felt that he would bring a "variety of skills" to the table due to his past involvement with youth activity programs and his 38 years as a lead installation technician for Verizon.

When he and his wife first toured the Colony, he said, they knew Locke Lake was where they wanted to stay.

"I want to keep it that way," he added.

While he felt changes were needed within the Colony, Joly said he also believed the board should consider those changes as a group, and work together to steer the Colony in a new direction.

Cropper, a former board member who stepped down in 2007 in order to devote more time to her growing family, said her experience as the head of a wholesale distribution company had given her skills in marketing and customer service, and taught her "how to budget to make a profit."

Commenting that she had seen both good things and bad things from the board during her previous term, she echoed Joly's desire to see the board work as a group to take the Colony in a more positive direction.

"I have no agenda," she said, adding that her primary concern was finding a way to get the Colony into "better shape" both physically and financially.

Stating that she had been a social worker throughout most of her professional life, Gingras said she also had no agenda, and wanted to see the Colony restored to "the way it used to be" when she and her husband first moved to Barnstead, with amenities like the golf course brought back up to snuff.

Explaining that she had been "very disturbed" by the behavior of the board in recent months, she said that while she felt it her duty to submit letters to local news outlets chronicling the events at board meetings, she wanted to end the negativity.

"I want to see positiveness," she said. "No more negative."

A resident of the Colony for 11 years, Judy Strachan said she and her husband hadn't had much to do with the community when they first moved to Locke Lake.

Explaining that she had decided to get involved after seeing the political situation within the Colony "go downhill" over the past few years, Strachan said she wanted to the community "get better."

"We need to work together, not against each other," she said, adding that she hoped the bickering and back-biting would "go away" with the introduction of new faces to the board.

"I want to see the place flourish," she added.

Bruce Grey, the only incumbent present at the candidates' forum, has served on the board of directors for the past two years, and also sits on the town budget committee.

Agreeing with Gingras that the Colony's amenities should be brought up to snuff, Grey called attention to some of the positives that have emerged over the past few years, such as the board's focus on road maintenance (where he said the Colony has fared better than the rest of town) and the decision to purchase a new F-550 maintenance truck (which he said has "sped up a lot of what we have to do" and cut down on plowing time).

Stating that he felt the board was beginning to move in a better direction than it was a few months ago, Grey pointed out that the Colony's assessment dropped by $31 this year.

Q&A

A recent spate of letters to the editor by Gingras and others criticizing the behavior of the current board came under fire from an audience member who said her physician had laughed at her during a recent appointment when she told him she lived in Locke Lake.

The letters, she said, have turned the Colony into a laughing stock throughout the area.

Cropper explained that the letter-writing campaign was initiated in response to a dispute over the administrator's contract, and grew more intense as the actions of the administrator and Colony Association President Mike Ranaldi became more and more unacceptable to some residents.

"We weren't getting anywhere [at board meetings]," Gingras said. "Things were not being done that should have been done."

Voicing her hope that a new board would help move the situation forward, Gingras said her decision to run for the board stemmed from her realization that it was time to, in her words, put her money where her mouth was.

"We need to show what we want the Colony to become," she said.

Recalling that a resident who attended the last community round table at the lodge brought up the idea of reviving the community-wide spaghetti suppers that used to take place at the lodge on weekends, Cropper said she and a group of like-minded residents planned to hold one on Saturday, Aug. 1.

Grey said it would help to have a volunteer step forward to coordinate community events.

Voicing her concerns about board members stepping down in the middle of their terms if they find it difficult to cope with the nature of their position, resident Rita Wolfe asked each of the candidates to state whether or not they were willing to commit to a full two-year term.

Gingras said she was personally committed to two years, but noted that there was a one-year position available on the board as well, due to a former board member's decision to step down in the midst of a term.

"We're a nine-member board, not a five-member or a seven-member board," she said, suggesting that there should be a system in place to appoint alternates (preferably runners-up in the election) to replace board members who step down early.

Grey commented that it would be nice to see more people step forward to run for the board.

Noting that the Colony's relationship with the current board of selectmen was the friendliest one in years, Grey (who said he had always opposed the "Private Community" sign that was recently removed from the entrance onto Colony Drive) advised the remaining candidates that the Colony's past history of setting itself apart from the rest of Barnstead had generated hard feelings on the part of townspeople and public officials.

Pointing out that the thoughts voiced by former selectman Ed Tasker (who stated during a public hearing on break-ins at the Colony in 2007 that he considered Locke Lake an "itinerant community" and would not care to associate with any of its residents) were shared by many in town, particularly those old enough to remember when the Colony was founded, Grey suggested that future board members and residents alike start trying to repair some of the damage by referring to themselves as "North Barnstead," rather than "Locke Lake."

Grey's wife, Joyce Parsons (who also serves on the board of directors), explained that Colony founder Jim Locke made a number of promises to the town that he failed to keep, creating a strong anti-Colony sentiment within the community.

For example, she said, Locke assured local taxpayers at the time of the Colony's founding that it would not add children to the school system, only to break that promise with by-laws that allowed families to move into the development.

As a result, she explained, residents who had, in some cases, been paying as little as $600 a year in taxes on large pieces of property saw the town's tax rate climb higher and higher as Locke Lake's growing population generated an increasing demand for services.

The "Private Community" sign, she said, heightened the animosity toward Locke Lake by giving townspeople the impression that Colony residents were trying to shun them.

Responding to Wolfe's initial question, Joly said he had "never quit anything," and was "not starting now."

"I'm not ashamed to say I live in Locke Lake," he added in response to Grey and Parsons' comments, explaining that he grew up in Marblehead, Mass., where a similar situation occurred, with luxury condominium complexes driving up the local tax rate.

"Costs go up," he said. "It's a reality, and everybody has to learn to live with it."

The election results will be announced during the Colony Association's Annual Meeting on Saturday, July 25.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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