2 key March votes would put construction of Belmont's Winnisquam Scenic Trail on front burner for 2014

BELMONT — The money for Phase I of the Belmont's portion of the Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail is ready to be build in the spring of 2014 said selectmen at their meeting last week.

The 1.7-mile long trail will extend from the Agway store on Route 3 near the Mosquito Bridge to the Laconia city line. It will run behind the Belknap Mall and will provide walking and bicycle route into Laconia and will cost $755,872 — 80 percent of which is being reimbursed by a N.H. Department of Transportation Highway Grant.

The Laconia City Council voted Monday night to approve a package of seven downtown enhancement projects that include extending the city's WOW Trail from Veterans Square to Fair Street. Private trail supporters say they will soon have sufficient funds to complete the trail from that point to Belmont, which will mean about nearly four continuous miles of walking and bicycling trails in the two communities.

There are two articles that will appear on Belmont's Annual Town Meeting warrant that must be approved so the Belmont portion of the trail can be completed. No new additional taxpayer money is needed, however one article will require voters to re-purpose about $62,000 raised years ago by voters for a second phase of the trail that will not likely be built in the near future.

According to Planning Administrator Rick Ball, each year for three years in the mid 2000s, voters agreed to put $20,000 a year into a Capital Reserve Fund for Phase II of the trail.

Town officials said the $62,000 that is in that account must be applied to Phase 1 in order to complete it. The re-purposing of a capital account requires a 2/3 majority vote but will not require any additional money to be raised by taxpayers.

In additional voters will be asked to "gross appropriate" or raise an appropriate the sun of $142,050 for the trail — all of which is already available.

Ball said that a yes vote on both of the two warrant articles will allow the trail to be built in 2014.

He said the state Department of Transportation agreed that the Phase II money can be used to complete Phase I but the hurdle is conveying the message to the voters to the degree that they will give the town the 2/3 majority it needs to take the money from Phase II to Phase I.