Parking ban criticized by some businesses


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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‘A slap in the face’

$1.6M raise for Gilford teachers loses Budget Committee support


GILFORD — With $1.6 million in raises for teachers at stake, at least two members of the Budget Committee have said they will not support the proposed increase in teacher salaries as negotiated by the School Board and the Gilford Education Association.

"This is a slap in the face of the Gilford taxpayers," said Budget Committee Vice Chairman Kevin Leandro.

Budget Committee Chairman Norman Silber and Leandro said that, in their opinion, the contract was not negotiated on behalf of the wishes and desires of the Gilford taxpayers.

"As it stands right now, I don't think it's going to pass the Budget Committee," Leandro said Thursday.

The teachers union and the School Board, whose negotiating team was Sue Allen and Karen Thurston, agreed to a contract that calls for a school year 2017-2018 increase in salaries of $296,819. The second year calls for an additional raise of $258,198 plus the $296,000 from the first year or $538,017. The third year, 2019-2020 calls for an additional $245,392 plus the previous $538,017 or $783,449. The total increases in salary and benefits over the next three years will be $1,618,285 more that this year.

Leandro said that based on today's total assessed property values and using 7 cents per $1,000 for a tax rate calculation, this could bump the tax rate 21 cents per $1,000 valuation in the first contract year, 38 cents in the second contract year, and 55 cents in the third year.

"This is the cost before the school buys one computer or one book, and it's a time of declining enrollments." said Leandro.

Leandro and Silber contend that while these increases include a provision in the contract that the teachers gradually pay more of the cost of the premiums for their health insurance, from 5 percent in year 1 of the contract, graduating in steps to 10 percent of the premium in year 3, the three-year contract does not consider any future increases in health insurance costs.

"I'm sure not going to bet that health insurance costs will drop over the next three years," said Leandro.

Another bone of contention the leadership of the Budget Committee has with the proposed contract is the small amount of increase that teachers will pay for their insurance.

Leandro said he would have liked to see it go up 5 percent each year of the contract to where teachers would be paying 20 percent of their premiums by school year 2019-2020.

Both Kirk Beitler and Leandro say the Gilford School District's insurance plan qualifies as a "Cadillac plan" under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, however, in 2015 Congress delayed the excise tax provisions, meaning they wont come into effect until 2020.

Silber and Leandro have sent a request to Beitler asking him to request the School Board try to renegotiate the contract to prevent it from getting a non-support vote from the Budget Committee, which means it has a greater chance of failing during the March town vote.

The School Board next meets at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 3. The agenda is to complete its work on the default budget, which has also not met muster with the Budget Committee.

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Plows and poetry at the Laconia DPW


LACONIA — "Other towns may have one, but we've got two — a big one and a little one," remarked Dan Camire of the Department of Public Works, eying the pair of brightly painted snowplows standing in front of the department's headquarters on Bisson Avenue.

"The big plow was sitting in some bushes out back of the Messer Street garage for 25 years," Camire said, "all rusted, badly rusted."

Camire, who is said to be able to fix most anything, took it upon himself to restore the plow.

"I sandblasted it, primed it and painted it," he said. The sharply angled blade, topping out at more than 5 feet, cuts an imposing figure.

"When you saw this coming down the street, you got out of the way," he said, explaining that the department used to attach the plow to its road grader. The smaller of the two, fitted to a wheeled vehicle, was used to clear the city sidewalks.

The number "27" painted on the blades of the small plow represented the department's address — 27 Bisson Ave. — but, appropriately enough, as each employee of the department is assigned a number, it also matches the "27" borne by Camire. "It took me a few weeks to figure that out," he confessed.

The large plow was built in 1967 by Frink Sno-Plow Inc. of Clayton, New York , at the center of the archipelago of 1,864 islands straddling the border with Canada into St. Lawrence River. Founded by Carl Frink, the company was among the earliest manufacturers of snowplows and and put the first steel its plow into service in the winter of 1919-1920, opening and clearing state roads from Watertown to Alexandria Bay. Known for performance and innovation, Frink introduced the front mounted "Vee" plow, the side mounted "leveling wing" systems and ultimately the front mounted "one-way" plow. In 2000, Frink America was acquired by Everest Equipment Corporation, which four years later became a subsidiary of Wauseau Equipment Corporation, which still offers plows bearing the Frink name.

Frink plows even moved one aficionado to rhyme:

The wind it howled and the snow it flew
And so did Dailey's "Number Two"
The engine roared as the Frink Sno-Plow
Bored into a bank of snow.

But the bank was big and hard to bust
Five feet deep with a good hard crust.
Out backed the Sno-Plow, Listen! Hear?
Fred shifted into a lower gear!

Once more the Sno-Plow jockeyed right
Into the bank with all its might.
As the Plow drove into the giant bank,
The steel frame groaned and almost shrank.

But the bank was hard and deep and wide,
So Dailey opened the throttle wide.
The drive wheels turned but the plow stood still
While the engine worked with an iron will!

Dailey was forced to shove the clutch
Cause as for headway, there wasn't much.
And then he saw that he was stuck!
No way out – he must give up!

But he kept his courage, every bit
He said, "Now, Fred, you'd better get!"
He backed once more to get more power,
For the snow grew deeper every hour!

The Sno-Plow started out, once more
It tore up the bank with a savage roar!
And the next instant he was going again
Throwing the snow like a frozen rain!

Now, I will stop my rickety talk,
After expressing just one more thought.
What would we poor farmers do
If it wasn't for Dailey and his "Number Two"?

– Author Unknown –

 12-29 DPW yellow plows

Dan Camire stands alongside the pair of vintage snowplows he spared from rust and restored to beauty that welcome visitors to the Department of Public Works. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

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