Council approves spending $275k on downtown 'gateway'

LACONIA — The City Council last night authorized the expenditure of not more than $275,000, drawn from the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Fund for improvements to what has been dubbed "Gateway Plaza" on the north side of the Main Street bridge over the Winnipesaukee River.

The plan consists of adding four elements to the existing space. Planting beds edged with granite curbing, each with two shade trees, would be placed in front of Sawyer's Jewelry to the west and near the entrance to the parking garage to the east. In addition, to the planting bed there would be a brick island with planters and benches on the west side of the foot of Main Street. A green space, ringed with shade trees and lined granite seating, would front the Grace Capital Church, accented by circular brick plaza, 20 feet in diameter, at the corner of Main Street and Beacon Street West. Finally, a brick island with planters and would lie along Beacon Street East overlooking the Winnipesaukee River.

The Main Street Initiative, which had expressed misgivings about an earlier, more extensive and expensive proposal, endorsed the project.

In response to a question from Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that the Downtown TIF Advisory Board would be presenting a more comprehensive proposal for improvements in the near future. She stressed that the plan for the Gateway Plaza must be incorporated into the design for the reconstruction of the Main Street bridge and submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation by next week.

NOTE: City Manager Scott Myers reported that the volume of recyclables collected at the curbside in the two weeks between August 5 and August 16 represented $23.1-percent of the total tonnage of solid waste , compared to 24.8-percent for the prior two-week period. He noted that together with half the 30.85 taken to the remote sites, recyclables topped 30-percent of the total solid waste stream. "We're seeing really strong compliance across all areas of the city," he said, adding that after the first few weeks of the new collection regimen the number of violations has diminished significantly.