City manager reports positive economic signs

LACONIA — There are indications of positive economic signs evident in Laconia, City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council last night.
Building activity, motor vehicle sales and property tax collection are all encouraging trends that Myers reported.
Myers said that from April 1 to Aug. 31 the city issued building permits for construction that, all told, is expected to add $12.5 million to the city's property tax base, compared to $6.2 million in new building value over the same peiord last year and $7.5 million in 2011. The manager said that a majority of the $12.5 million was associated with two projects: $6 million for the Walmart expansion on the Laconia/Gilford line and $1 million for a new auto parts store being built at Court and Fair streets.
He also reported a noticeable up-tick in motor vehicle sales. "(Local) auto dealers are seeing the best sales in several years," he said. Both private individuals and businesses modernizing their fleets were contributing to the higher volume of sales, he added.

Laconia's current budget projects the city will take in just over $2 million from motor vehicle registrations. Vehicles that have been registered since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1 have resulted in $374,482 in revenue. An increase in the number of new vehicles registered means more revenue because the registration fee is based on a vehicle's model year and its original factory list price.
Myers also reported that property tax collections are running at 95.38 percent for the 2013 first-half collection, which he called the highest collection level in recent years.
In other business, Myers reported that the public's response to the city's new mandatory recycling program continues to be generally good, but more progress is needed. He told the council that the amount of recyclables that are being picked up curbside every other week now amounts to about 23 percent of the total trash haul for a two week period. He hoped that the level of participation would increase in the coming weeks.
The council approved funds for improvements to municipal facilities. It unanimously approved an $850,000 bond issue to fund replacing the surface of the Smith Track at Opechee Park and for construction at the Weirs Community Park. The work on the Weirs park is expected to cost $550,000, while the Smith Track project has a price tag of $300,000. The council also approved spending up to $80,000 to re-shingle the roofs on City Hall and the Leavitt Park and Tardif Park clubhouses, as well as to remove lead paint and repaint the Leavitt Park Clubhouse. The council rejected a suggestion that metal roofs be installed on the three buildings because that would have added more than $42,000 to the cost.
NOTES: The council unanimously approved making the intersection of Washington and School streets in Lakeport a 4-way stop. Washington Street resident Greg Elliott, in pressing for the change, said making traffic approaching from all directions stop before entering the intersection was necessary in view of the number of children living in the neighborhood as well as those using the playing fields at nearby Leavitt Park. "We're just looking to save a life," said Elliott. . . . . . City Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) asked if there were steps the city could take to encourage owners of deteriorating buildings to take advantage of a tax incentive program which allows the city to abate a portion of their property tax in return for building improvements. Myers said the program applies to buildings in downtowns and village centers and that the improvements need to contribute the public good. Myers said he would look at the program in greater detail and report back to the council. . . . . . Myers reported that he had named Ken Malone to the board of the Laconia Housing Authority. Malone, a certified public accountant, will fill the 13 months remaining in the term of Ruth Stuart, who recently resigned. . . . . . Mayor Mike Seymour paid tribute to Bob Kingsbury who died Saturday. Seymour noted Kingsbury's military service which included combat duty during World War II in Europe, as well as serving a term as one of Laconia's representatives in state House of Representatives. Seymour extended condolences to Kingsbury's children and grandchildren. . . . . . The council approved transferring a lease for a hangar at the Laconia Airport from American Aviation Corp. to James and Eugene LaBrie.