Heritage Commission drawing line in sand at Hathaway House

LACONIA — "I think it's planned demolition by neglect," said Charlie St. Clair, speaking to the City Council last night about the failure of Cafua Management Company, LLC to maintain the Hathaway House next door to its Dunkin' Donuts store on upper Union Avenue.

In 2008, when construction of the Dunkin' Donuts was approved, Gregg Nolan of Cafua assured the Planning Board that the Hathaway House would be painted, in a color of the city's choosing, and fitted with fire alarm and suppression systems as required by the Fire Department. He said that Cafua Management Company had no immediate plans for the building other than to preserve it. City Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6), at the time, lauded Nolan for his decision to preserve the Hathaway House, telling the board that "working with these people was wonderful. I can't say enough about them."

Again last night Bolduc said that after speaking with Nolan he believed the company would repair and paint the building when a maintenance crew was available.

"I don't think he has ever been serious about saving the Hathaway House," insisted St. Clair, whose mother owned the building where she operated a clothing store. "He couldn't care less about you or the city. It's all about making money."

St. Clair's remarks followed a plea by Dorothy Duffy on behalf of the Heritage Commission that the city strengthen its efforts to preserve historic buildings. In a statement, read to the council by Pam Clark, who chairs the commission, Duffy wrote that its members are "distressed and feeling derelict in our duties and reduced to doing the opposite of our intent. We are razing stately old dwellings to build parking lots." She attached photographs of buildings that have been both preserved and demolished along with others the commission fears are at risk.

In chairing the commission, Clark told the councilors she finds herself signing the permits to demolish the buildings she believes the commission was created to preserve. For instance, the Baker House on Mechanic Street, is being to demolished to expand the car lot at Cantin Chevrolet. "We haven't really accomplished anything," she said, "and we haven't had support from the community."

Clark wondered if there were some way to revise the demolition permit to afford historic buildings greater protection and was encouraged to discuss the issue with City Manager Scott Myers and Planning Director Shanna Saunders. She said that registering buildings as historic landmarks was the surest way to protect them, but that required the consent of the owner.

Clark said the commission needs resources and indicated she intended to submit a budget request later this year. The commission, she continued, also needs more members, particularly individuals with an appreciation of architecture and an ability to research deeds.

Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2) said the commission has fulfilled its role, which he said is "to sound the alarm," but was hard pressed to suggest what more could be done to preserve properties their owners preferred to demolish and redevelop.

Although Clark acknowledged that the commission faced a dilemma, returning to the Hathaway House she declared "we will fight to the end for this building."

NOTE: On the recommendation of Mayor Mike Seymour, the City Council authorized City Manager Scott Myers to meet with officials of Aavid Thermalloy, LLC to discuss changing the name of Primrose Drive South, where the company's headquarters are located. Recently the firm, which was begun in Laconia in 1964, announced that it was returning its corporate headquarters to the city from Concord. Seymour said that Primrose Drive South is often confused with Primrose Drive North on the opposite side of Lexington Drive and in recognition of the firm's presence in the city it could be renamed "Aavid Drive." . . . . . . The City Council unanimously agreed to a new two-year contract with LRGHealthcare to provide ambulance services to the city. City manager Sacott Myers said that the agreement mirrors that which expired in June. LRGHealthcare will pay the salary of the deputy chief for medical services, Shawn Riley, as well as of the four senior paramedics. The contract does not provide for the purchase of an ambulance, but can be renewed and amended to include a new ambulance if necessary.