LACONIA — A proposal to reconfigure the west end of Veteran's Square met with a cool reception when Planning Director Shanna Saunders presented it to the City Council on Monday night.
As proposed the plan would convert the intersection of Pleasant with Veteran's Square and Beacon Street West into a simple four-way junction by eliminating the circle that enables west bound traffic through Veteran's Square to reverse direction by rounding. In place of the circle, the curb in front of the Congregational Church of Laconia, UCC would relocated between 60 feet and 40 feet forward into Veteran's Square but there would still be three lanes — two west bound and one east bound.
The five angled parking spaces in front of the church would be relocated at the new curb. The driveway between the Congregational Church and its adjacent Parish Hall would be expanded to a handicap-access turnaround and four angled parking spaces in front of the Evangelical Baptist Church would be retained. Likewise, the six parking spaces on the north side of Veteran's Square, alongside the railroad station, would remain.
The pavement and sidewalk would be removed from the area between the new and existing curb and sidewalk, which would become a landscaped sublawn, bordered by the relocated curb on Veteran's Square and an extended curb on Pleasant Street. The memorial and flagpole would be relocated from the circle to the sublawn, to which benches would be added.
Other than the change to the flow of traffic through Veteran's Square the traffic pattern would remain the same. Traffic entering Veteran's Square from Pleasant Street could turn right on to Beacon Street West, which would remain one-way, left into Veteran's Square or proceed down Pleasant Street, which would also remain one-way. The plan does not include traffic signals at the reconfigured intersection.
Saunders said that the plan enhances the safety of pedestrians, who must cross several lanes of traffic and a considerable expanse of pavement, to cross the square as well as simplifies the flow of traffic. In addition, she said that the plan would prevent motorists leaving the Bank of New Hampshire parking lot turning into the one-way traffic on Pleasant Street then eastbound into Veteran's Square, which is a concern to the police.
Saunders estimated the project would cost approximately $280,000.
Saunders explained that the plan grew from concerns to improve the flow of traffic through and around downtown expressed in the Master Plan in 2007 and repeated in 2012 when the council rejected a plan to open Beacon Street East and Beacon Street West to two-way traffic and improve the intersections around the loop. She said that with the Congregational Church planning to improve access to the church and David and Maureen Kennedy converting the Evangelical Church to a restaurant Holy Grail an opportunity arose to revisit the the intersection where Veteran's Square joins Pleasant Street.
Saunders said she had canvassed opinion among the abutters, including the owners and tenants at the railroad station as well the WOW Trail and New Hampshire Department of Transportation, and the the next step would be for the Planning Board to hold a public hearing on the plan.
Both Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) and Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) said that since the plan was outlined in the newspaper they had heard from residents, all of whom were opposed to it.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), chairman of the Finance Committee, raised concern at the cost while Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) suggested the project belonged on the "backburner."
Mayor Ed Engler asked if anything would be done to improve the movement of traffic through the intersection of Pleasant Street and New Salem Street, particularly since the next phase of the WOW Trail would increase the number of pedestrians passing through the intersection. Saunders said that because its proximity to the railroad crossing nothing could be done to alter the intersection.
Engler asked for a straw poll of the councilors to determine if they considered the project a low, medium or high priority. With Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) confessing he knew too little to offer an opinion, the remaining five councilors agreed the plan was a low priority. However, at the same time, the council encouraged Saunders to sound the general public.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 08:29
LACONIA — Maryly Matthewman spends nearly every Monday afternoon in jail.
For about three or four years, she has been volunteering her time at the Belknap County House of Corrections as a knitting coach for some of the incarcerated women.
Recently, the yarn coffers got so low that Belknap County Department of Corrections Program Director Tamara McGonagle thought she might have to stop the program.
She sent an e-mail to Len Campbell of N.H. Catholic Charities, who forwarded the message to Alan Robichaud at Granite United Way and anyone else he could think of. And the yarn came pouring in.
"We have had an incredible amount of donations," McGonagle said yesterday, saying some came from area churches but much of it came from about 40 private donors.
On Tuesday, the table in the classroom was piled high with multiple types of yarns in a multitude of colors.
Matthewman and volunteer Irene Gordon sat at the table giving instruction to about six women who were knitting a variety of things.
One woman was knitting herself a pocket book while another was wrestling with her first attempt at knitting.
And many of the women, including "H" who, after knitting mittens for her oldest child and a blanket for her youngest, was working on a baby blanket with a hoodie for the Carey House — the transitional homeless shelter operated in part by the Salvation Army.
"H" said she learned how to knit while incarcerated but thinks its something she'll continue once she is released.
She said she finds it very relaxing but challenging at the same time.
Nearly all of the programs, except those mandated by law, for women in the Belknap County House of Corrections are assisted by community volunteers. In addition to knitting, "H" is a member of a book club, a Bible study class, an art class, a writing class and a Yoga Class — all assisted by volunteers.
"H" said she enjoys most of them except poetry. "And I'm not a very good artist," she added.
On the same side of the table sat Pam — an older inmate who was knitting what will become a small pocketbook.
"We really appreciate these women coming in and doing this for us," she said.
"Tamara has a lot of classes," she said, noting that the poetry class was on of her favorites. She said she especially likes it because there are no men in it.
"When there are guys in it it gets weird," she said.
Pam said her real handicraft specialty is quilting — something she learned from her grandmother.
She said she likes knitting and considers it a "pleasure" that the program allows them to do something for their families as well as the community through the Carey House.
"Even though we've made a mistake in society, we can do something to help others who are less fortunate," Pam said. "Most of the stuff we have done is donated.
As to the women who volunteer with their programs, Pam and "H" both said they are wonderful.
"They're non-judgmental and willing to listen," Pam said, saying Gordon, Matthewman and the other women who come to knitting class on Monday are people who just enjoy sitting around and knitting and chatting.
"Its relaxing," said Pam. "People are willing to see past the crimes, that we have the ability to things beyond break the law."
CUTLINE: (Knitting in jail) Maryly Matthewman and Irene Gordon volunteer on Mondays to teach a knitting class for women at the Belknap County House of Corrections. The yarn is primarily donated by churches and private citizens and the women use it to make blankets for the Carey House — a transitional homeless shelter affiliated in part with the Salvation Army. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 02:05
LACONIA — On the recommendation of City Clerk Mary Reynolds, the City Council will consider modifying the procedure for conducting municipal primary elections or doing away with them altogether. The City Council this week referred her proposal to its Government Operations and Ordinances Committee for study and a recommendation.
In 1995 voters amended the City Charter to eliminate partisan elections, in which party caucuses nominated the candidates for mayor and city council, and instead hold primary elections to choose the two candidates who appeared on the general election ballot. Primaries for city offices are held in September of odd-numbered years.
In a memorandum to the council, Reynolds explained that since the change was introduced, relatively few primary elections have been contested and very few voters have cast ballots. For example, in 1997, when the first primary was held, only one candidate entered the primary for City Council in each of the six wards and only two candidates entered the mayoral primary. With no contested races, just 7 percent of registered voters went to the polls.
In the eight primary elections between 1997 and 2011 voter turnout has averaged 9 percent. In 2001, when turnout reached a high of 18 percent there were four candidates for mayor, along with five city council candidates in Ward 3, three in Wards 4 and 5 and two in Ward 6. In three of the past eight elections — in 2003, 2009 and 2011 — primary elections were held even though there were not more than two candidates for either mayor or any of the six council seats. In 2011, only 259 of 8,422, or 3 percent of registered voters went to the polls, just 21 of them in Ward 2 and another 22 in Ward 5, at a cost to the city of approximately $39 a vote.
Last year when there were three candidates for mayor but no more than two for any of six city council seats the turnout was six-percent.
Along with the mayor and city councilors, primary elections are also held to nominate candidates for the the seven seats on the School Board, whose members serve staggered requiring a primary every year, and three seats on the Police Commission.
Reynolds said that cost of conducting municipal primary elections is approximately $8,600, which does not include about $1,000 for police details at the polling stations at Woodland Heights Elementary School and Laconia Middle School. The cost consists of $3,900 for printing ballots, $1,000 for materials at polling stations and $3,700 in wages of poll workers.
Laconia is one of three of the state's 13 cities to conduct municipal primary elections. In both the other two — Manchester and Keene —the charters authorize the city clerk to deem a primary election election unnecessary if no more than two candidates file for any particular office.
To spare taxpayers the cost of elections that more often than not are unnecessary Reynolds proposed either adopting the procedure followed by Manchester and Keene or abandoning primary elections entirely. She told councilors that if they choose to act on her recommendation an appropriate amendment to the City Charter would be put to the voters at a special municipal election on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, the date of the general and School Board election. If voters approved, the primary election process would either be discontinued or modified in 2015.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 01:54
Revised plan for renovation & expansion of Laconia's Central Fire Station unveiled; estimate is $4.1M
LACONIA — With the renovation and expansion of Central Station next on the list of major capital projects, Fire Chief Ken Erickson and Deputy Chiefs Charles Roffo and Kirk Beattie presented a revised plan for improvements to the building to the City Council this week.
Roffo explained that the department proposes to renovate 13,135 square feet of the existing station to serve as an apparatus bay and training area and to construct a two-story, 12,000 square foot addition to house the administrative offices and dormitory. He estimated the cost of the project at $4,187,000, more than $777,000 less than the original plan prepared in 2008, but emphasized that because the estimate is based on a conceptual plan, not an engineered design, the figures could change.
Erickson said that because the department has reduced the size of its fleet and no longer houses a mechanic, the station, with the addition of one bay at the south end of the building where a driveway now leads to the rear parking lot, will accommodate all its apparatus. The new addition would have public access and parking off Tremont Street, eliminating vehicle and pedestrian traffic from the apron in front of the apparatus bay.
The wing would also house an emergency operations center that could double as a community room, which would qualify for a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With a pitched roof, topped by a cupola, Erickson said that the brick building would have an improved visual impact on the neighborhood.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked why the department preferred to expand the station to house all its apparatus rather than continue to store vehicles at the Lakeport Station. Erickson explained that in an emergency firefighters have to fetch apparatus from Lakeport, which lengthens response times. "I have no use for that facility," he said of the Lakeport Station, which has been closed since 1982 and has not housed student firefighters for several years.
Erickson suggested the city sell the property.
"Let's not do it on the cheap," Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), adding that another council should not be revisiting the shortcomings of the station in 15 years. "Make sure it is adequate for your mission," he said.
The Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Committee ranked improvements to the Central Fire Station ninth among capital projects to be undertaken in 2014-2015.
NOTES: The City Council formally accepted an easement granted by Mike McCarthy, owner of Faircourt Plaza Condominium at the corner of Fair Street and Court Street, for future improvements at the intersection. The easement consists of a strip approximately 148-feet long and five-feet wide along the east side of Fair Street and a triangle with sides of 25 feet at the junction with Court Street. Planning Director Shanna Saunders explained that the easement was granted when the Planning Board approved construction of the building that houses Advanced Auto Parts. She said that the Department of Public Works will conduct a traffic study at the intersection in anticipation of proposing measures to enhance safety. . . . . . The City Council also accepted the drape that hung in the Moulton Opera House as a gift to the city, which will be restored and displayed in the Laconia Public Library. The opera house was on the second and third floors of the block overlooking Bank Square at the corner of Main Street and Water Street, built in 1886 to house O'Shea's Department Store. The building was demolished in 1970 and the drape stored in a private home for more than 43 years. The drop curtain, a copy of John Antwerp's "Morning on the Nile" painted by Eugene Cramer in Columbia, South Carolina, depicts several dhows, one laden with camels, freight and passengers, plying the river beneath the rising sun with the great pyramids in the distance. Christine Hadsel, director of Curtains without Borders of Burlington, Vermont, called it "the most exquisite" in her experience of restoring more than 200 drapes. The Laconia Historical and Museum Society is seeking a "Moose Plate" grant from the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources to fund restoration of the drape.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 01:43
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