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No more parade? City debates continuing Fourth of July event


LACONIA —The Fourth of July parade passed in not much more than the blink of an eye — 12 minutes and 20 seconds to be exact — with more than a dozen politicians, whose steps accounted for all but 3 minutes, easily representing the largest contingent of marchers.

"It was embarrassing," one member of the sparse crowd lining the route said flatly.
The Civil Air Patrol provided a color guard and Laconia Middle School provided a small band. There was a pair of antique automobiles and a fire engine. The mayor and four city councilors marched along with the gaggle of politicians.

"It was disappointing," agreed Kevin Dunleavy, director of parks and recreation, whose department stages the parade, "but it always is. The parade has always been a struggle."

Dunleavy said that for years the Opechee Park Club managed the parade before handing the reins to the Laconia Kiwanis Club, but for the past several years the task has fallen to the Parks and Recreation Department, with help from Kiwanians Chet Cilley and Jim Fortier. "It's a lot for us to manage," said Dunleavy. "It's hard to do what we need to do to make it a success."

Dunleavy said that the department directly approaches local businesses, civic groups, youth league teams and other organizations to encourage them to join the parade while at the same promoting the event on social media. With school out, he added, it is especially difficult to enlist a marching band. The parade once began earlier in the day, but the starting time was moved to 4:30 p.m., closer to the opening of festivities at Opechee Park, in hopes of attracting more participants. "It's difficult to get people to participate," Dunleavy confessed.

Moreover, the Fourth of July is perhaps the most demanding day of the year for the department. Apart from arranging the celebration and fireworks at Opechee Park, the holiday begins early and runs late for department employees. Dunleavy said he was at Weirs Beach at 3:30 a.m. on the morning of the Fourth, where he evicted a group pitching a tent, and at 5 a.m. a crew arrived to clean the beach. He estimated there were some 1,500 people on the beach shortly after it opened at 7 a.m.

"Between supervising at Weirs Beach and Opechee Park," it's all gotten to be too much for us," Dunleavy said. "I think we're going to look to see if anyone wants to manage the parade, to see if there is another interested party."

Failing that, he said that doing away with the parade is "definitely a possibility," hastening to add that "It's not that we don't want to have a parade. But, it's a community event and we need the community to support and participate for it to be a success."

By contrast, Dunleavy said that celebration at Opechee Park "met or exceeded all our expectations."

Weirs housing plan revived


LACONIA — Racked by a financial scandal and the great recession, a major residential development at The Weirs, which was abandoned a decade ago, has been revived under new ownership.

Phoenix Capital LLC of Andover, Massachusetts, proposes to develop a 21.4-acre tract on Endicott Street East, where Vatche Manoukian, a Nashua developer, planned Shaker Hill Estates, a community of 126 townhouses. The project was approved by the Planning Board in 2006, the land was cleared, and about $1 million was invested in infrastructure. But, Manoukian ran afoul of Financial Resources Mortgage Inc., the Meredith firm that collapsed when its Ponzi scheme turned sour. When Manoukian declared personal bankruptcy in 2009, the real estate market was in the grip of recession and the project laid fallow until this spring.

Phoenix Capital will present two conceptual designs for what it calls Lakewood Village to the Planning Board next week. The project would be built on a flag-shaped lot fronting on Endicott Street East and abutting the Weirs Community Park to the west. The development would be served by the existing infrastructure, which includes storm drains and sewer lines. Both designs provide for 53 single-family homes and 17 duplexes along roadways looping through the property and around a large green space in the rectangular portion of the lot. The lots would range in size between 4,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet, and each dwelling unit would be about 2,200 square feet and projected to sell at between $250,000 and $300,000. The development would include a small park and playground as well as offer access to the Weirs Community Park.

Although the Planning Board approved the original project, that approval has expired. If its conceptual design passes muster, Phoenix Capital will be required to submit a site plan and proceed with the planning process once again.

Shaker hill-7

Townhomes and single-family homes at The Weirs will be built according to this plan if approved by the city. (Courtesy graphic)

Woman faces felony after allegedly stealing a soda


LACONIA — A city woman is facing a felony charge after allegedly throwing batteries at a Family Dollar store clerk and taking a soda Tuesday.

Affidavits from police said Melissa Melhorn, 25, who police say is transient, is being held on $500 cash-only bail after appearing in the Belknap County Superior Court for robbery.

Police said Melhorn was already banned from the store as a previous condition of bail. One of the employees saw her, knew she had been banned and told her to leave.

As the employee was following her, Melhorn allegedly grabbed some batteries off a display and threw them at the employee. Police said Melhorn walked to the front of the store and grabbed a bottle of soda and tried to walk out with it.

The employee followed and Melhorn allegedly threw the soda at her, so she backed away. Melhorn allegedly went back into the store, grabbed the soda and left.

Melhorn is also charged with one count of criminal trespass, breach of bail and simple assault.

Police said Wednesday that any theft where force is used is considered a robbery.

In court, Melhorn was represented by Public Defender Jesse Friedman, who waived the arraignment, agreed to the state's request for $500 cash bail, and waived a probable cause hearing, reserving his right to make an argument at a future date.

Friedman told the court that if he was to make an official argument as to probable cause, he said he did not believe the information in the affidavit could sustain a felony robbery charge as it pertains to the use of force.

Judge James O'Neill said there was no need for a preliminary probable cause finding.