By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Charlie St. Clair, the owner of the Laconia Antique Center, said he could not remember the city ever declaring a snow emergency and imposing a parking ban that remained in place for 24 hours after the storm was expected to end. “This is New Hampshire,” he said, adding that he saw no need to close city streets, especially those downtown, to parking until Saturday morning.
John Moriarty, president of the Downtown Main Street Initiative, said that St. Clair was among a dozen of the some 90 business owners in the city center to express concerns. He said that most of the merchants he spoke with intended to open for business on Friday despite the parking ban. Moriarty stressed that the parking lots and parking garage would remain open throughout the storm and suggested that anyone planning on going to appointments or shopping downtown call ahead to ensure their appointment had not been canceled or the store would be open.
City Manager Scott Myers said that prohibiting on-street parking throughout the city is intended “to allow our crews to do an efficient job,” He said that “we are aware of the interests of the business community, but public safety is our highest priority.” He emphasized that the municipal parking lots at City Hall and on Main Street would remain open along with the first deck of the parking garage. “There will be parking space downtown,” he said.
Wes Anderson, the director of public works, said that the department prepares for storms based on the most reliable weather information. “Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong,” he said, “and when they’re wrong, we’re wrong. There are two reasons for declaring a snow emergency,” he continued, “to get cars off the streets so we can clear them and to make space to put the snow.” He thought this was the first snow emergency the city had declared in 12 years.
“This is a significant event,” said Myers. The National Weather Service at Gray, Maine, he said, spoke with “high confidence” of snowfall of between 12 and 16 inches, with accumulations of 1 to 3 inches an hour Thursday night when winds were forecast to reach 40 mph. The snow was forecast to slow around 2 a.m. Friday morning then add another inch by dawn.
Anderson said “My guys have started and will work till it’s done,” emphasizing the importance of not compromising the safety of employees He explained that according to their contract, his people began work as usual at 7 a.m. on Thursday with the expectation of working through the night and into Friday morning. A dozen vehicles, he said, will be plowing streets and sidewalks during the storm.
“I don’t have any spare people,” Anderson said, adding that personnel from other departments, part-time workers and private contractors will supplement his staff.
He said that although there will be time for short rests during lulls in the storm, he expected his people would work throughout the storm and another six to ten hours after it stops clearing the streets before taking a significant break. “That’s a guess,” he said.
Myers said that “if there is a reason to lift the parking ban earlier, we’ll certainly do that.”
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