Council directs flashing school zone lights be installed at Messer & Opechee intersection

LACONIA – At the urging of the City Council, flashing school zone warning lights will soon be installed on Messer Street in the area where on Friday a car collided with two Middle School students walking away from school, killing one and seriously injuring the other.
The council on Monday directed City Manager Scott Myers to get the lights installed as soon as possible using funds already in the city budget.
The move came after Police Commissioner Armand Maheux, speaking as a private citizen, urged that the lights be installed. Maheux lives on Irving Street, about two blocks north of the Messer Street Bridge where Lilyanna Johnson and Alyssa Miner, both 14, were walking when they were struck by a car driven by Amy Lafond, 52, of 10 River St., Laconia. The accident occurred about two blocks from the school which, according to the school's web site, has an enrollment of about 600 students.
Myers said that he would work with the city Police and Public Works Departments to get the lights installed as soon as possible.
Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said police would start this week conducting a traffic study to, among other things, document how fast traffic moves on Messer Street, a popular thoroughfare for motorists traveling between the downtown area and Lakeport. Currently the posted speed limit on the street is 30 mph.
Under state law, school zones have a reduced speed limit when children are present and/or the warning signs are flashing. The speed in these zones is 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.
Adams told the council that the investigation into the accident was continuing. He declined to predict how long the investigation would take or when the accident report might be completed.
"We don't want to rush," Adams said. "There are a lot of pieces, and I don't want to make any guestimates about how long this will take." But the chief said he was at the same time mindful of the "public sensitivity" surrounding the case.
Mayor Michael Seymour urged the public to be patient "particularly as the accident investigation continues."
Seymour used Monday's council meeting as an occasion to commend the police and members of the Laconia Fire Department for their efforts related to the accident. He also praised school officials, particularly Superintendent Bob Champlin and Middle School Assistant Principal Chris Ennis, for providing support to the students affected by the tragedy and especially for the members of the two girls' families. The school was open Saturday and Monday so any students who wished could talk with counselors. Grief counselors are also scheduled to be at the school today, the mayor said.
NOTES: The council approved the application for two $12,000 planning grants for the Laconia Housing Authority under the Community Development Block Grant program. One grant would be to pay for a capital needs assessment of Stafford House, a 50-unit, low-income housing facility. The second grant would pay for looking into moving the Laconia Housing Authority's offices out of Sunrise Towers to another downtown location and converting the offices into additional living units. . .  . .  . The council also authorized extending the special parking regulations near the Laconia Clinic until Oct. 1. Presently the regulations prohibit curbside parking on Harvard Street. In addition the two-hour limit on many parking spaces behind the old railroad station has been lifted.