Laconia parking garage repair work underway; level 2 expected to reopen in time for Pumpkin Festival

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that access to the middle deck of the downtown parking garage is expected to be restored by the end of next week, in time for the space to be used during the Pumpkin Festival the next day.

Bob Ayers of R.M. Piper, Inc. of Plymouth, who is supervising the work, said that where the exposed steel has been weakened by corrosion, at the foot of vertical beams supporting the ramps and along the runners of the ramps themselves, supports are being strengthened by welding fresh steel over the corroded sections. In addition, he said that some of the galvanized steel pans, into which the concrete was poured to form the ramps, are also corroded and will be reinforced with four-by-four pressure-treated lumber as a temporary measure.

City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that he has yet to receive an estimate of what the work to reopen the garage will cost. He indicated that the upper deck will likely remain closed through the winter and repairs on the remaining ramps undertaken next spring. Bob Durfee, an engineer with Dubois & King, Inc., is assessing the condition of the entire garage, but has yet to complete his report.

City officials closed the garage on September 28 when an inspection found that the steel supporting the ramps had been compromised corrosion. A week earlier Durfee began assessing the condition of the garage at the request of Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works. Durfee said that he expected to find some damage that would require repair, but did not anticipate the extensive corrosion he found. The most severe damage, he explained, is to the ramps, where the concentration of road salt is greatest.

The garage was built in 1973 and opened in 1974. Durfee said that the garage with its exposed steel supporting ramps and decks is the only one of its kind he has encountered in the northeast, where reinforced concrete is preferred for its capacity to withstand constant exposure to road salt during the winter. Since then it underwent a major upgrade in 1996, which included repainting the steelwork. In 2005, repairs were made to the decks and the middle deck was overlaid and sealed and leakage into the commercial spaces beneath the garage was addressed in 2008.

As part of condominium-like arrangement, the city owns approximately two-thirds of the parking spaces on the second and third levels of the garage, as well as the access ramps. 

Belmont ready to break ground on Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail

BELMONT — Ground will be broken early next week for Phase I of the Lake Winnisquam Scenic Trail according to Rick Ball, Belmont Land Use technician.
Ball says the 1.8-mile long trail will extend from the Agway store on Rte. 3 near the Mosquito Bridge to the Laconia city line. It will run behind the Belknap Mall and will provide walking and bicycle route into Laconia and will cost $726,278 — 80 percent of which is being reimbursed by a N.H. Department of Transportation Alternative Highway Grant.
He said $99,012 has been set aside to provide engineering and oversight for the project, which has been in the works for about 12 years and is part of a Transportation Enhancement Program funded through state and federal highway money.
The phase 1 pathway will mostly run in the railway right-of-way, along the shore of Lake Winnisquam. A chain link fence along the trail, separating the pathway from the railroad tracks, will cost about $200,000, according to Ball.
Nelson Companies of Center Conway has been awarded the contract for the project with HEB Engineers, Inc. of North Conway doing the engineering.
Ball said that work will continue to around Thanksgiving this year and that the 10-foot wide paved walkway will be completed in the Spring of 2016. When completed the trail will link up with Phase 2 of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) trail in Laconia, which will extend from Veterans Square to the Belmont town line and provide nearly four consecutive miles of walking and biking trails in the two communities.
Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, says he anticipates that bids for the project will be sought by the end of the year with work getting underway next Spring.
Two obstacles that have slowed construction of the stretch from Veterans Square to Belmont were overcome recently.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) granted the wetlands permit required to cross Durkee Brook in the vicinity of Bartlett Beach. The permit was required for the grading and filling necessary to provide drainage for the trail, replace an existing culvert, construct a boardwalk and build a 26-foot bridge over the brook.
Meanwhile, finessing a way past two abandoned wooden sheds along the railway just north of Water Street, had hindered the final design of Phase 2 of the trail for months. The New Hampshire Bureau of Rails designated the sheds, which have been neither used nor maintained since regular rail traffic ceased years ago, as "historic" structures to be preserved not demolished. Since the sheds stand in the route of trail through the railroad right-of-way, a way around them had to be found.
Beetle said that negotiations were opened with Lionel Labonte of Stratham Tire, which owns the property surrounding the sheds, for easement that would allow the trail to bypass them. Last December, before agreement was reached, Labonte passed away. However, Beetle said that Labonte's daughter, Denise Littlefield, who succeeded her father at the firm, has offered to donate enough land to the city to bend the trail around the sheds. That donation has not yet been finalized.
He said that the WOW Trail has approximately $750,000 in hand, including $400,000 appropriated by the city, and has already funded the design and engineering portion of the project.

Phase I of the WOW Trail extends from Lakeport Square south to North Main Street, again largely following railroad tracks.

Laconia water rate found to be among very lowest in the state

LACONIA — According to the annual survey of water rates compiled by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, only four water system in the state charge less than the Laconia Water Works.

The annual water rate for a single-family home in the city is $220.30, less than half the average annual rate of $473.60 for the 103 water systems reported by the survey.

Seth Nuttelman, superintendent of the Laconia Water Works, said that the low rate reflects the abundant supply of water, the large customer base and significant investment in infrastructure. He explained that the most expansive water systems enjoy economies of scale and lower unit costs while regular investment ensures operating efficiencies.

Laconia Water Works last raised its rates in January 2012. Nuttelman said that because the rate of return has diminished, he has begun to consider another increase to ensure the system can fund the cost of its operations and invest in its infrastructure. He anticipated that any increase would be modest and rates would remain among the lowest in the state.

In the Lakes Region, only the Gunstock Acres Village Water District in Gilford, where the average annual rate is $400, and the Belmont Water Department, with an annual average rate $417.91, charge less than the state average.

The average annual rate is $533.28 in the Tilton-Northfield Water District, $612.46 in Meredith, $810 in Alton and $1,439.92 in the New Hampton Village Precinct, which is the highest rate reported in the survey.