No parking on railroad right of way

Paugus Park Road notice surprises residents who’ve used land for 50 years


LACONIA — The state has sent a letter to people living along narrow Paugus Park Road notifying them that they must stop their decades-long practice of parking in a railroad right of way.

Mark Tetelman, who has owned a home there for 36 years, said that many residents depend on the gravel area near the tracks as a place to put their cars, and that they didn't appreciate getting a letter like this without any prior discussions or meetings.

“Out of the blue, we got this letter saying to stop,” he said. “We were shocked.”

Paugus Park is a dead-end road that runs between the railroad tracks and the homes, which sit on the shore of the bay. Many of the homes in the area have only a small driveway and no garage. The road, which outlets to Van Buren Road, is so narrow that emergency vehicles could be blocked by extensive street parking.

“This is a 1940s community,” Tetelman said. “Some of the homes have room for one car or no cars.”

On Monday, numerous cars could be seen parked in the right of way, a few feet from railroad tracks, which is used in the summer for a tourist train. Also in the right of way were boat trailers, lumber for some nearby residential construction projects and even a garden.

Louis Barker, railroad planner for the state's Transportation Department, said in the June 16 letter that the encroachments on the right of way were seen during a recent joint inspection with city officials planning to put a drainage ditch in the area. He also said all encroachments must be removed by July 16.

“Staff from the department and the city will be conducting inspections to ensure removal,” he said. “Additionally, upon completion of the city's drainage improvements, no use of the state-owned railroad corridor will be permitted.”

Barker said Monday that there is a process by which people can ask to use surplus state land, but such uses are not usually permitted in the gravel portion of a railroad right of way.

“That's a safety envelope, if you will,” he said. “A minimum of space must be kept along the tracks.”

Wes Anderson, Laconia's Public Works director, said the ditch needs to be built because water is backing up on Paugus Park Road and damaging the roadway. The depth of the ditch will vary depending on drainage requirements along various sections of the road.

He said water is collecting in the area because "nature and residents" have blocked drainage paths and ditches that flowed to culverts and into the bay.

"The city, to correct this problem, is taking the opportunity presented by the state's effort to eliminate encroachments into their right of way, to improve the drainage on the road. Work will begin July 17, with removal of trees and brush from the area between the road and the tracks."

Jean Ray, who has lived in the area since the 1960s, said drainage was not a problem until the city allowed construction of the Nature's View neighborhood above Paugus Park Road.

She was surprised that after all these years, the state would bring up the parking issue.

“We were told we're not supposed to park over there because we don't own it,” she said. “Of course we've been parking there for 50 years. We know it belongs to the railroad, but nobody has ever said anything.

“Some people don't even have driveways.”

She acknowledged there can be improper encroachments on the track.

“Last week, a truck was parked on the tracks,” she said. “The train had to stop and blow the horn until it was moved.”

07 11 Paugus Park railroad parking

Cars were parked in the state railroad right of way Monday along Paugus Park Road. Residents were surprised to learn recently the state does not want the area used for parking. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)

Paugus Park Road map

Paugus Park Road runs along the western shore of Paugus Bay. (Courtesy Google maps)

Prison labor shortage: 4 Belknap prisoners sent to Sullivan County


LACONIA — The Belknap County Corrections Department has sent four prisoners to the Sullivan County Corrections Department, which requested the transfer due to a lack of inmate labor at their community corrections facility.

Belknap County Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray told the Belknap County Commissioners last week that the request came from Dave Berry, Sullivan County's corrections supervisor, who said that the county's community corrections program has reduced the inmate population so much that there is little inmate labor available.

Gray said Sullivan County is paying all the costs for the prisoners, including medical, and for the costs to transfer them to Sullivan County.

Berry, who was assistant Belknap County Corrections supervisor when he left to take on the Sullivan County position in January 2015 after a 21-year career in Belknap County, said that when he called Gray “I asked him for as many prisoners as he could give me. We had only 59 prisoners and were short of help with kitchen, laundry and grounds work.”

Berry said he is asking other corrections facilities in the state if they have inmates available to transfer to to his facility and credits the success of the county's corrections center's programs in helping reduce prison population.

“Eighty percent of our inmates never come back,” he said.

That's happening in a county which at one time had the highest recidivism rates in the state. Belknap County used the system Sullivan County developed as a model for the $8 million, 18,000-square-foot, 72-bed community corrections facility, which is nearly completed.

The Sullivan County project, which was the first of its kind in the state, represents a new direction in the handling of inmates for the county as it concentrates efforts and resources on re-entry instead of incarceration. Sullivan County officials first discussed plans to improve facilities and programming in 2005, following a study that revealed more than 80 percent of inmates booked into the county jail required some form of treatment programming.

Sullivan County officials ditched plans for a new $38 million county jail in 2008 and opted instead to build a $5.6 million community corrections facility.

The 72-bed Sullivan County Community Corrections Center is a 20,000-square-foot facility which was built adjacent to existing county jail in Unity in 2009. The center has 32 treatment beds, 16 work release beds and 24 beds for female offenders.
Sullivan County also spent $1.3 million on renovations at the county jail, which holds up to 100 inmates.

The corrections center provides work-release opportunities and a focus on treatment and programming for inmates close to release, and is designed to better help inmates transition back into the community.

Berry said the program has been so succcessful in reducing the population of the jail that he has been able to hold back on hiring new corrections officers and still has two vacancies he doesn't see the need to fill.

Transfer of funds to fight Tardif lawsuit approved


LACONIA — The Belknap County Delegation's Executive Committee approved the transfer of $19,000 from contingency to legal services to pay for a pending appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in a suit brought against the delegation by former Laconia Mayor Tom Tardif.

The action came at the conclusion of a three-hour quarterly budget review by the committee Monday morning after Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) asked the committee to reconsider its earlier decision to table the transfer, which had been sought by the County Commission.

The question of which budget line the legal services request should be on occupied nearly an hour of time with Executive Committee Chairman Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont) suggesting that it should be on the administration line, rather than the delegation's, because commissioners and County Administrator Debra Shackett were the ones who had contact with attorney Paul Fitzgerald, who is defending the county in the case.

Vadney said that he was upset that the delegation didn't find out until recently about the bill. “When a budget line goes over by 400 percent we shouldn't have to wait until the quarterly review to find out about it,” he said. Other members of the committee said they were concerned that the bill didn't specify the number of hours worked on the appeal of the hourly rate .

Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy said that he didn't know about the bill until June 15, shorty after it was received. He said there was no attempt to keep anything secret from the delegation.

The committee did table another transfer request of $15,000 to pay higher debt service interest costs and voted to take up the issue later in the year.