Council approved $250,000 addition to Lakeside Avenue project (535


LACONIA —The City Council this week agreed to extend improvements to Lakeside Avenue at The Weirs beyond Tower Street to Foster Avenue while at the same time endorsing the recommendation of City Manager Scott Myers to install parking kiosks rather than parking meters along the street.

In June, the council voted to authorize spending $1.35 million, funded by borrowing serviced by the Weirs Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, to bury overhead utilities as well as install new street lights, concrete sidewalks with brick accents, and stamped colored concrete crosswalks between Route 3 and Tower Street.

Extending the underground utilities, adding street lights and install concrete sidewalks from Tower Street to Foster Avenue is projected to add $250,000 to the cost of the project, bring the total cost to $1.6 million. The Weirs TIF District will fund the entire project by paying the debt service on a borrowing with a term of 20 years.

Only Councilor Brenda Baer (ward 2), who voted in favor of the original project to Tower Street, dissented. After Myers explained the financing of the project Mayor Ed Engler asked, "Everybody understands the numbers we're talking about?" and Baer replied "Unfortunately."

When the improvements were discussed at an earlier meeting, Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) remarked that the success of the city's investment at The Weirs would depend on the business and property owners at resort investing in the improvement of their properties.

This week, Robert Ames of Half Moon Enterprises reminded the council that "There has been lots of investment on the street" and pointed to the Weathervane Restaurant, Tower Hill Tavern and Cozy Inn along with the removal of a water slide, new facade on the arcades, new dining room at the Winnipesaukee Marketplace and other improvements.

Nevertheless, Hamel repeated his concern. He recalled that his parents both worked at the Winnipesaukee Pier and that he has been visiting The Weirs for all his years, then said "It's been the same for my 65 years." Noting the investment the city is making to enhance the resort, he turned to the property and business owners at The Weirs and said "It won't help if the people that own property up there don't invest in it. We have to all be in on this."

Meanwhile, the question of whether to replace the parking meters on Lakeside Avenue with kiosks or meters has arisen from time to time without being either resolved. This week Meyers presented an comparative analysis of the cost of installing 18 kiosks or 105 meters to serve the 210 parking spaces. The estimated costs of purchasing and operating kiosks and meters for three years are $170,325 and $192,480 respectively while the annual operating costs are $18,985 for kiosks and $39,060 for meters.

Moreover, Myers said that kiosks issue a receipt for a specific amount of time, which is displayed on the dashboard of the parked car, while the time purchased on a meter remains there for another motorist when the parked car is moved. Without free time on meters at empty spaces, parking revenue is expected to increase with the introduction of kiosks.

Myers said that the purchase and installation of the kiosks could be funded by drawing on unexpended funds from several accounts in the city budget.

Court to hear Free the Nipple case Friday


LACONIA — The city is legally free to enact public decency ordinances, countering the claim by three women who freed their nipples on Memorial Day at Weirs Beach and were cited by police, said City Prosecutor James Sawyer said Thursday.

In his objection to a request to dismiss the case against Heidi Lilley, Kia Sinclair and Ginger Pierro, Sawyer says RSA 47:17 states that cities are authorized to pass ordinances for "order and police duty. To regulate the police of the city; to prevent any riot, noise, disturbance, or disorderly assemblages..."

Specifically, wrote Sawyer, "cities may also enact ordinance(s) to restrain and punish 'all kinds of immoral and obscene conduct, and to regulate the times and places of bathing and the waters of the city and the clothing to be worn by bathers and swimmers.'"

He said Weirs Beach is defined as a "commons" or a piece of property set aside for public use and that the city's public nudity ordinance is relevant to this.

The three women are participants in the Free the Nipple campaign, which seeks gender equality and speaks against body shaming and their perceived rape culture that blames the victim.

Sawyer said that the defendants argue that New Hampshire is a Home Rule state, which means that a municipality cannot criminalize something not made criminal by the state, is not an applicable argument because, it that was correct, "(it) would render all police power ordinances unnecessary or a mere duplication of statutory mandate."

Using zoning as an example and citing case law to support it, Sawyer said that one set of rules may work for one community but not another because of their individual characters, geography, identity, current community standards and morals.

He said if the state legislature didn't want individual communities to regulate the common areas of their town, then the city couldn't make rules regarding operation hours for libraries and parks or to prohibit using bicycles, rollerblades or other similar items at Smith Track.

Sawyer said there is nothing in state law that stops the city from passing an ordinance on public nudity or exposing female nipples in public.

He said there is no actual conflict between state law and Laconia's ordinance because conflict only occurs when a municipal ordinance allows "that which a state statute prohibits and vice versa."

As for Lilley's, Sinclair's and Pierro's claim that the ordinance violates the Equal Protection Clause, Sawyer said that equal protection demands "that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike."

"The male body and the female body are different," wrote Sawyer, adding that the Equal Protection Clause doesn't pretend that men and women are the same.

He said the U.S. Supreme Court "'has consistently upheld statutes where the genders classification is not invidious, but realistically reflects the fact that the sexes are not similarly situated in certain circumstances.'"

Regulations such as the public nudity ordinance, Sawyer said, have an important government objective which is to protect the public's sensibilities..., which is an objective based not on cultural stereotypes but on "real 'physical difference between the sexes which have implications for the moral and aesthetic sensitivities of a substantial majority of the country.'"

As to whether Laconia's ordinance violates the First Amendment Rights to self expression and free speech, Sawyer puts it to a four prong test, namely that it is within the city's right to enact it; that it furthers an important government interest, that the city's interest is unrelated to free expression and the restriction is no greater than is essential to Laconia's interest.

Sawyer said the ban on exposing nipples has nothing to do with suppression of free speech saying that other courts have said they "cannot accept the view that an apparently limitless variety of conduct can be labeled 'speech."

He said Laconia's ordinance seeks to prevent the public health, public safety, morals and public order and also prevents the secondary effects of increased crime and reduction of property values.
He said the movement is not inhibited its participants having to cover their nipples.

"The are able to advocate the benefits of nude sunbathing albeit while fully dressed," he wrote, quoting a ruling from Florida.

Trial is scheduled to begin today (Friday) at 8 a.m. in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Hunt continues in Meredith for suspect in shooting of Belmont woman


BELMONT — Police believe the man who allegedly shot a 33-year-old Massachusetts woman in the head on Tuesday afternoon on Arlene Drive may still be in the area. State and local police continued to search for suspect Jason Cuocolo, 42, of Belmont, and spent much of the day on Thursday scouring the woods and other possible hiding spots in an area off Route 3 near the Laconia border.

10-13 Jason M. Cuocolo
As a State Police helicopter circled overhead, several three-man teams of troopers plus a K-9 traipsed the forested terrain surrounding the Vacation Escape Motel, formerly known as The Great Escape, at 34 Daniel Webster Highway.
Using the parking lots at Ready Equipment rental the site of the since razed Jade Island restaurant as a staging area, police also searched
wooded areas between several residential neighborhoods and used the dog to comb the Town Line Cottages, which remains closed and sports a for sale sign. Teams searched sections of Needle Eye Road, and behind Pirates Cove miniature golf. They also spent time on Tracy Way off Parade Road.
Vacation Escape Motel manager Nancy Brown told police Cuocolo asked her for a room Tuesday night, according to The Concord Monitor.
Lt. Scott Gilbert of the State Police Major Crimes Unit said Thursday that Cuocolo appears to have ditched the car he allegedly stole at gunpoint from someone else at the Belmont home in Meredith but there haven’t been any other vehicles reported stolen from the area.
“If he was going to leave the area, he would have likely used the vehicle he stole,” Gilbert said.
He said Cuocolo does not have a car registered in his name.
Belmont and State Police responded Tuesday afternoon at 1 p.m. to a report of a woman who had been shot in the head at 24 Arlene Drive. On Wednesday, police surrounded Vacation Escape after getting information that Cuocolo may be staying there. One unidentified man who had outstanding warrants for an unrelated crime was taken away by police in handcuffs due to the search.
Gilbert said Thursday that police have learned the victim and Cuocolo knew each other, likely from an association they had in Massachusetts. He said Cuocolo had been living in New Hampshire and she lived in Massachusetts.

“No doubt they were at least acquaintances over the past several months,” he said.
Gilbert said the victim, who has not been identified, remains in critical but stable condition at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. He said she has been able to communicate with police and is expected to survive her injuries.
A search of Laconia Family Court records found that Coucolo has no history of domestic violence.
Police ask that anyone with information call them, and note that the public should consider Cuocolo armed and dangerous.