Deal with church will net city 7 more downtown public parking spaces

LACONIA — The City Council this week approved an arrangement with the Congregational Church of Laconia that will enable the city to add a half dozen public parking space to the central downtown lot.

Endorsed by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Board, the arrangement arose from the church's construction of a public walkway between the church and parish hall connecting the parking lot and Veterans Square beneath a pedestrian bridge between the two buildings.

The church has granted the city an easement with a term of 50 years at the rear of the church for nine parking spaces, which the city will construct and pave at an estimated cost of $35,000 to $40,000. Six of the spaces will be open for public parking and three spaces will be reserved for the church. The driveway curb cut leading from Pleasant Street to rear of the church buildings will be closed, enabling the city to stripe an additional parallel parking space on Pleasant Street.

When Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) questioned the arrangement, City Manager Scott Myers explained that the city had relinquished two parking spaces to make room for the dumpster required by the Holy Grail Restaurant and Pub along with several spaces behind the old police station on Church Street to accommodate its conversion to the studios of Binnie Media. The church, he said, offered an opportunity to recover foregone parking spaces.

NOTE: Two snow storms and freezing rain in March added to the deficit in the winter maintenance budget, which will rise again when the cost of the April snowfall is tallied. The March storms cost $44,716, pushing expenditures to $489,226, or $83,226 more than the $406,000 budgeted.

Aluminum dock thefts being discovered

GILFORD — A number of second-home owners have returned to their summer retreats on Lake Winnipesaukee to find little or nothing remaining of their aluminum boat docks and lifts, which had been pulled from lake and stored on shire. They had been broken down and likely sold as scrap.

Jim Hatem, a resident at Chanticleer Shores who lost the frame to his dock and parts from his lift, said yesterday that several of his neighbors suffered similar losses., including the disappearance of a 40-foot dock from a property near Ellacoya. He added that he heard reports of similar incidents on Dinsmoor Point Road and at Ames Farm in Gilford, at Locke Lake in Barnstead and at a marina in Moultonborough.

"I've never seen anything like it before," said Paul Goodwin of Watermark Marine Construction, "ever". Noting that his firm removes and resets docks at between 400 and 500 properties, he said that "a lot of people are not here yet" and suspected that many more waterfront residents will report damaged and missing docks and lifts in coming weeks. .

From what he had seen, Goodwin believed the thieves were somewhat organized and well equipped. "They must have had power tools, may be even a small generator, to cut up frames," he said, "along with a truck or snowmobile and sled to haul away the aluminum. Hatem said that at his property there was no sign a vehicle had been driven to the shoreline. Instead, he thought the thieves traveled across the frozen lake.

Lieutenant Kris Kelley of the Gilford Police yesterday confirmed that his department was pursuing three investigations. He said that as with any theft of metal the scrap dealers have been contacted and alerted. Kelley said investigating the incidents is challenging because the docks could have been ransacked almost any time after residents closed their seasonal homes. He urged all victims to report the incident to their local police department.

Goodwin said the cost of docks and lifts varied with their size, but pegged the cost in "thousands of dollars". He said there is little that can be done to safeguard docks and lifts through the winter. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services requires them to be hauled ashore, eliminating the option of moving them to deep water. They can be secured with cables or chains, but that would not prevent them from being taken apart or cut into pieces. The cost of storing them securely would be significant.

Docks and lifts are not necessarily covered by all homeowners' insurance policies. Hatem said that he had heard of some not covered at all and none with complete coverage. some are not covered at all.

"It's very discouraging," Goodwin said, repeating "I doubt we've heard the end of this."

Bridge to Parish House: Congregational Church begins work on project to connect buildings via elevagted walkway

LACONIA — Two downtown buildings that have been neighbors for nearly 50 years are soon to be married. The Congregational Church of Laconia - UCC broke ground yesterday on a project to build a second-floor bridge joining the gothic, century-old church, located at the corner of Pleasant Street and Veterans Square, with the next-door Parish House. The project is the third of four capital improvements the church is undertaking, which will cost a cumulative $800,000.

"About three years ago we realized that there were certain capital projects we needed to accomplish," said Rev. Dr. Warren Bouton. The church has already renovated its kitchen and upgraded its elevator, and plans to improve the foyer at the church's entrance from Pleasant Street. The enclosed bridge between the two buildings, which is expected to cost $425,000, will allow for parishioners to travel from from the church to the Parish House, for programs such as Sunday school, without having to go outside and cross a driveway. Also included in the project will be what Bouton calls a "welcome center," a ground-level entrance that will enhance the safety and comfort of people using the elevator to enter the church.

Because the circa 1959 Parish House does not have an elevator, the bridge will allow less mobile church members and visitors to access the second floor of the Parish House by taking the elevator to the second floor and then crossing the bridge across the driveway.

Bouton said that the church's building team wanted to connect the two buildings without blocking the foot traffic that often flows between the church and the Parish House. People often use the driveway to walk to the farmers' market held in the municipal parking lot behind the two buildings, or from the lot to access nearby restaurants. "This driveway is a thoroughfare for the community," he said. The passageway will no longer be open to vehicle traffic, however.

The church has hired Bauen Corporation of Meredith to complete the work.




A ceremonial ground-breaking was held for the project to connect the Congregational Church of Laconia - UCC to the Parish House next door via a second-story bridge. Shown here, left to right in the back row, are church members Bob Bengtson, Ted Tunnicliffe, Dan Tinkham, Ray Vercoe, Alida Millham, site superintendent Wayne Dale, and church member John Kreitler. In the front row, left to right, are church members Sandy Brallier and Peg Petrie, Associate Pastor Paula Gile, Rev. Dr. Warren Bouton, and project manager Greg Smith. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)