City looking into legislative remedy that would allow it to continue to maintain 'problematic' streets

LACONIA — The City Council on Monday night assured residents living on so-called "problematic" streets that it will do all it can, including seeking a legislative remedy, to resolve the issues surrounding them without adversely affecting the interests of property owners.

"We are going to make every effort to rectify this situation in the next two years," declared Mayor Ed Engler. At the same time, City Manager Scott Myers explained that the discussions are underway with the city attorney as well as public officials and legal counsels from other municipalities that find themselves in similar straits with an eye to drafting legislation what would be introduced in 2018. In the meantime, he said that the city would continue to provide the same level of maintenance and services to the streets in questions as it has in the past.

The "problematic" streets, some 40 of them representing seven miles of roadway, are those that cannot be documented as having ever been formally accepted as class 4 and 5 public highways. State law stipulates that only class 4 and 5 public highways — and not private roads — can be maintained and improved at public expense. Moreover, Primex, the city's insurance carrier, has advised city officials that it considers these streets private roads. By plowing and maintain these streets in violation of state law, Primex claims that the city has forfeited its sovereign immunity as well as its coverage for any personal injury or property damage arising from its presence on them.

The council, on Monday, formally designated six streets as "emergency lanes," which state law entitles the city to maintain, not for the sole benefit of the abutters, but to serve a public purpose by providing timely access to other city streets or facilities. As "emergency lanes," Bell Street Extension between Franklin Terrace and Franklin Street and Crossover Street between Durkee Street and Addison Street will enable plow trucks to travel continuous, uninterrupted routes. Likewise, Lane Road and Pickerel Pond Road from Meredith Center Road and Parade Road represent efficient plow routes that reduce reducing the time and cost of snow removal. Channel Lane and Hillcrest Drive both provide access to city sewer pump stations.

A number of residents of Hillcrest Drive attended the meeting, several of whom expressed concern that designation as an "emergency lane" rather than a public highway could impair the value of their properties. Hillcrest Drive was built in three phases, but only the first section was apparently ever accepted as a city street. Those who purchased homes in the second and third phase of the subdivision, located off White Oaks road, said that they were not informed of the status of the roadway and assumed that their properties were on a city street. Two said that had they known they would not have bought property on Hillcrest Drive.

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Laconia expected to avoid heaviest of Wednesday's snowfall

By DAVID CARKHUFF

LACONIA — The late-weekend storm that snarled traffic across New England only dropped 9 inches of snow in Laconia, for 20 inches of snow depth, according to local weather data.
And when another storm rolls in today and tonight, the snowfall will be lighter here than elsewhere in New England, according to Chris Kimble, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
"For the Laconia area, we're not expecting as much, maybe 4 to 7 inches," he said. "We're expecting higher amounts further east. In Maine, it will be worse."
In Gray, where the the National Weather Service is based, more than 14 inches of snow fell during the Sunday and Monday storm for a snow depth of 26 inches, according to agency reports.
The National Weather Service forecast states, "Another strong upper trough of low pressure will move east to southeast from the upper Great Lakes Wednesday allowing a coastal low to rapidly intensify off the Maine coast by Wednesday night bringing potentially heavy snows across a good portion of Maine and New Hampshire. The system slowly exits into the Canadian maritimes Thursday but with lingering snow in the morning tapering to scattered snow showers."

 

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Hearing on effort to rescind SB-2 for Shaker schools is Thursday

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Voters can comment on a petition to rescind SB-2, or official ballot voting, in the Shaker Regional School District, during a final public hearing at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16, at Belmont Middle School.
The first public hearing was Tuesday night in Canterbury.
Article 8 asks voters to rescind SB-2, the form of Town Meeting which involves a deliberative session and a voting day.
"If voters do approve to rescind SB-2, we'd go back to the traditional town meeting," said Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Michael J. Tursi.
At the district's deliberative session, no amendments were passed, leaving the warrant intact for the Tuesday, March 14 voting day, reported Sean Embree, chairman of the school board.
A motion from the floor to cut $1 million from the proposed budget failed on a voice vote, Embree said.
Article 2 calls for approval of a collective bargaining agreement with teachers, including increases in salaries and benefits. The proposed contract has no increases to the current salary scale and no increase to health insurance contributions, Tursi said. The school board approved use of year-end fund balance to cover the first-year cost in Article 2, the collective bargaining agreement, Tursi said.
Article 4 calls for an operating budget for the 2017-2018 school year of $22,475,634, with a default budget of $22,526,566. The proposed operating budget, according to the district, is up $287,085 or 1.4 percent.
The collective bargaining agreement calls for increases in salaries and benefits at current staffing of $356,313 in 2018-2019; and another $359,483 in 2019-2020, according to the budget. Tursi said the district anticipates a 7.1 percent increase in the cost of health insurance in the next year.
Voting day is Tuesday, March 14, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Belmont High School.

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