Original drape found as work begins on Colonial Theatre


LACONIA — While work is underway at the Colonial Theatre, "We still have a long way to go," said Mayor Ed Engler at the City Council meeting on Monday.

Engler explained that by demolishing and removing the partitions that divided the auditorium into five motion picture theaters and projection rooms, the space will be opened for the engineers and architects to assess what must be done to restore the venue to its original condition. He remarked that photographs taken during the demolition process have revealed the beauty of the auditorium and noted that the original drape or curtain was found hanging high above the stage.

This stage of the project is being undertaken by Bonnette, Page & Stone Corporation and supervised by Bob Ferguson, a veteran of many historic restorations, including the Gale Memorial Building that houses the Laconia Public Library, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Engler said that the $14.6 million financial package to fund the restoration itself remains to be assembled. He said that an essential component of the package will be $2 million in contributions from private benefactors, both corporations and individuals. He noted that the fundraising effort has begun and already made "substantial progress. We've still got a lot of money to raise, " the mayor continued, adding that a he expects a public fundraising campaign to begin early in May.

The financing for the project is scheduled to be in place by Dec. 1 and restoration of the theater to begin in January. Engler anticipated the work to take nine or ten months and looked forward to "cutting a ribbon" around Thanksgiving next year.

Many administrative changes coming at Laconia School District this summer


LACONIA — Amy Cammack-Hinds will be the new assistant superintendent of schools for student support services as of July 1. She will be focused on special education, homeless families, alternative education and Title I funding programs, according to Superintendent Dr. Phil McCormack.

Cammack-Hinds, who will earn $102,000, will take over all Special Education and "give consistent oversight and bring cost efficiencies" to the program," said McCormack.

Cammack-Hinds is currently the special education director for the district and is the student services coordinator for the high school. She was the assistant superintendent for the Franklin School District, as well as a special education teacher, case manager and director until she came to Laconia schools in 2011.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Denison University in Ohio and as Master of Education in education leadership from Plymouth State University.

The school year beginning July 1 will see a number of other changes in top administrative positions as well, most significantly when new Superintendent Dr. Brendan Minnihan takes over the top spot from McCormack, who was serving as interim this year and is slated to retire in June.

In addition, long-time Business Administrator Ed Emond has announced his retirement and current Assistant Superintendent Kirk Beitler will become the superintendent in the Gilford School District.

Dr. Allison Bryant will assume the role of middle school principal. Bryant is the current academic coordinator for teaching and learning at the middle school, having been in Laconia since 2013.

Bryant was an English and language arts teacher with the Shaker Regional School District until she joined with Laconia. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion from Goshen College in Indiana, and Master of Teaching and Writing from Plymouth State University and a Doctorate of Education in Teaching, Learning and Leadership from Northeast University in Boston. She will earn $96,000.

Current middle school superintendent middle school Principal Chris Ennis will take over for 39-year veteran Adult Education Director Peggy Selig, who will retire at the end of June. Ennis will be paid $95,134.

Speed table on Gilford side of Summit Avenue OK’d, but similar work denied on Laconia side


LACONIA — Within days of the Gilford selectmen deciding, against the advice of Director of Public Works Peter Nourse to install a speed table on the north side of the bridge leading to Governor's Island, the City Council, on the unanimous recommendation of its Public Works Committee, refused to follow suit by putting a speed table on Summit Avenue south of the bridge.

Summit Avenue runs approximately a third of a mile northward from NH Route 11B to the foot of the bridge that carries traffic to Governor's Island, then continues over the span into Gilford and crosses the island to join Edgewater Drive midway along the north shore. Parking is prohibited on both sides of the road, which is lined with just seven residential properties. A speed table is a type of wide speed bump.

Although the speed limit on Summit Avenue was reduced from 35 mph to 25 mph some years ago, residents continued to complain about speeding traffic, and last September petitioned the City Council for a stop sign at the intersection with Wentworth Cove Road. The council denied the request, but asked City Manager Scott Myers to explore the the prospect of installing a speed table to slow traffic.

In its report to Paul Moynihan, Laconia's director of Public Works, McFarland Johnson, Inc. of Concord described two alternatives, a "parabolic" speed hump approximately 12 feet long and rising to 3 inches at its center, and a flat-topped speed table with 6-foot tapered ramps on either side leading to a 10-foot flat-topped section, without recommending either. Speed humps and tables, the engineers reported, typically reduce speeds by between 20 percent and 25 percent. The estimated cost of the first option was $6,500 and of the second $7,500.

Richard Homsi of 84 Summit Ave., who originally requested the stop sign, insisted "we need to slow the traffic down," claiming that "many, many cars are doing more than 45 mph and many are over 50. It's not something being imagined. Not one person up here barking." He warned "someone is going to get killed and I don't want to see it."

The committee was not persuaded. Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6), who chairs the panel, noted that Summit Avenue is in very poor condition and will likely be rebuilt in the near future.

"Why install a speed bump when it will have be torn up when the road is repaired in a couple of years?" he asked.

Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) said that a traffic count of 300 vehicles per hour is the minimum required to qualify for traffic control measures, which is almost twice the volume on Summit Avenue.

"The numbers do not support it," Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) said flatly, before offering a motion not to recommend a speed table to the council and striking the item from the council's agenda.

When the committee considered Homsi's request for a stop sign earlier this year, Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said that data collected by a traffic recorder mounted on Summit Avenue tracked more than 1,000 vehicles for two days and while a half dozen drivers were clocked at more than 50 mph, the average speed on both days was slightly below the posted limit.

Meanwhile, last week the Board of Selectmen in Gilford agreed to install a speed table on Summit Avenue on the town's side of the bridge in response to a request from the Gilford Island Association. Nourse told the board that traffic monitoring indicated that 64 percent of motorists obey the speed limit of 25 mph that applies throughout the island, and speeding is confined to a limited number of habitual offenders.