Chafee brings campaign for president to Belknap Democrats

LACONIA — Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee brought his bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination to Lakes Region Community College last night at a meeting of the Belknap County Democrats.
A one-time Republican who left that party in 2007 after losing his seat in the U.S. Senate to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2003 and said that he is proud of that vote.
''I didn't trust Bush and Cheney and I did my homework. I didn't believe them,'' said Chafee, who pointed out that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Cinton ''had this one wrong".'
Chafee, who comes from a family of liberal Republicans and was appointed to U.S. Senate to complete the term of his late father John Chafee in 1999, while serving as mayor of Warwick, Rhode Island. He won re-election in 2000 but after his defeat in 2006 became an independent and won the Rhode Island governorship in 2010 running as independent.
He supported Barack Obama in both 2008 ad 2012 and in 2013 joined the Democratic Party.
''It took me 30 years to become a Democrat,'' said Chafee, who said that after he graduated from Brown University he went to Bozeman, Montana, where he studied to become a farrier and spent the next seven years working at harness race tracks in Canada and the United States before returning to his home state where he became involved in politics.
He said that his most important political experience was working at the local level as a city councilman and then as mayor where he had to make sure that the streets were plowed and garbage was picked up.
He said that his voting record in the Senate was at odds with most his fellow Republicans but he always maintained good relations with his colleagues in the party. He did not vote for Bush as president in 2004, writing is the name of Bush's father, and opposed eliminating the estate tax and for increasing the top federal income tax rate. He also voted against drilling in the Arctic and supported a minimum wage increase. He is pro-choice and a supporter of same sex marriage.
''I voted against tax cuts and for gun safety,'' said Chafee, who said that as governor his top priorities were schools, roads and bridges and that he was proud of being able to reverse revenue cuts to higher education.
Chafee said that in foreign policy he would look to embrace international agreements, ensure that there was no torture and eavesdropping by the government and seek ways to end costly military involvements overseas so that the money can be brought back home and used for education.
He also said that he would support bringing Edward Snowden home and dropping all charges against him, maintaining that Snowden had not given away secrets but instead had turned the evidence of widespread spying on American people to the New York Times.
He also called for conversion to the metric system, maintaining that it would help American manufacturers to be more competitive in the global marketplace.




Former State Representative Lisa DiMartino of Glford, center, talks with Democratic presidential candidate Lincon Chafee, right, at a meeting of Belknap County Democrats held at Lakes Region Community College Wednesday night. At left is Dave Pollak of Laconia, who was elected as Belknap County Democratic Party chairman at the meeting. (Roger Amsden photo)

Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee brought his presidential campaign to a meeting of the Belknap County Democrats at Lakes Region Community College in Laconia Wednesday night. (Roger Amsden photo)

Dartmouth Med chopper makes emergency landing at Laconia Airport

GILFORD — A helicopter on its way to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon with a patient in respiratory distress, made an emergency landing at the Laconia Municipal Airport yesterday after reporting mechanical difficulties.

Firefighters and an ambulance from Gilford responded but the helicopter had already landed safely. The patient was transferred from the DHART LZ to a Gilford ambulance and transported to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia to await a different DHART LZ to finish the trip to Lebanon.

Deputy Fire Chief Brad Ober said because the chopper landed safely, Laconia firefighters were diverted to LRGH to be on the scene for the second helicopter and Belmont firefighters were sent back to Belmont.

In cases of possible aviation difficulties that include potential landing problems to an actual crash, crews from Laconia and Belmont will automatically respond to the airport.

CUTLINE: Gilford Firefighters transfer an unidentified patient from a DHART LZ helicopter to an ambulance at the Laconia Airport yesterday afternoon. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

A detour too far? State seeks input on repair cycle for Weirs RR bridge

LACONIA — Officials of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) outlined two plans for reconstructing the bridge where Rte. 3 crosses the old Boston & Maine railway line at Weirs Beach — one that would close the bridge and complete the job in a month and another that would keep one lane open and complete the job in four months — to a group of local officials and business business owners gathered at City Hall on Tuesday night.

The bridge dates from the 1890s when the split stone abutments were built and the concrete slab was added when the bridge opened in 1933. It was added to the so-called Red List of failing bridges in 2009, currently ranks 40th on the DOT's bridge priority list and is scheduled to be rebuilt in 2020. Although the bridge has no posted weight restrictions, the deck and superstructure are both rated "poor" and the abutments are rated "fair". A traffic count in 2011 found that the bridge carried a average of 13,000 vehicles — five percent of them trucks — daily during the summer season.

John Sargent, a design engineer at the DOT, said that the location of the bridge in the center of the Weirs and its place in the regional traffic network posed challenges for the project. He explained that if the bridge is closed to through-traffic during construction, traffic would have to be detoured around an 18.3 mile loop — a half-hour drive — which would mirror the re-routing of traffic when the bridge over the Weirs Channel is occasionally closed to four-wheel vehicles during Motorcycle Week. Consequently, planning a route for emergency vehicles to bypass the bridge is a high priority.

At the same time, Sargent said that if the bridge were kept open to one-lane traffic its proximity to Lakeside Avenue, Channel Lane and private driveways as well as the lack of stacking space for stopped vehicles would require an elaborate signalized intersection. Even then, he expected, there would be significant congestion during the four months of construction. Moreover, phasing construction over four months would add an estimated 25 percent to the cost of the project.

Bob Durfee, an engineer with Dubois & King who has worked at Weirs Beach, called closing the bridge "a non-starter" because of the volume of traffic flowing along Rte. 3 throughout the year. However, others agreed with the man who said "four months would be far too long for businesses" and urged the DOT to build the bridge "as quickly as possible."

Sargent said that closing the bridge would require detouring traffic and finding a by pass for emergency vehicles was a priority. He suggested it might be possible to route traffic along Channel Lane to an unimproved private right-of-way that runs north of the Paugus Bay Campground and connects with Hillard Road. He said while the road would be passable by ambulances and cruisers it would require some improvements to carry larger vehicles like ladder trucks.

Alternatively, Jeff Thurston of Thurston Marine said that the firm has an easement to cross from its property to the Weirs Beach Drive-In Theater, which is owned by Patricia Baldi, and access Rte. 3 beneath the marquee, which might also provide a bypass. "The toll we would charge would be minimal," he quipped.

The timing of the construction, which should avoid both the summer traffic and the winter weather, also presents a challenge, Sargent said. "March is the best roll of the dice," Thurston remarked.

Mark Richardson, administrator of the Bureau of Bridge Design at DOT, said that there is $1.5 million for the project allocated in the Ten-Year Highway Plan. He anticipated the design and engineering would be completed in time to solicit bids in 2019 and undertake construction in 2020.