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Hybrid roundabout proposed in Meredith

MEREDITH — The Rte. 3-25 advisory committee yesterday decided to look at a hybrid one-lane roundabout plan for the critical intersection, which would feature a traffic light as well as a roundabout configuration.
The hybrid roundabout idea was suggested by Rusty McLear, who described himself as ''a pro-roundabout guy''. He said that the light would only be operational during peak hours, which amounted to three or four hours, two days a week for about 10 weekends a year.
Gene McCarthy of McFarland Johnson, Inc., project manager for the DOT, said that he wasn't sure what the impact of a hybrid roundabout would be on traffic flow. He said that hybrid roundabouts create a pause in traffic as it enters the roundabout but that data is sketchy on how well they work.
McLear's suggestion came after Rte. 3-25 committee member Warren Clark said that he thinks that the model used by Johnson, which recently concluded that a signalized intersection at Rte. 3-25, will move more cars than a one-lane roundabout was flawed.
''I question the model,'' said Clark, who said that he wanted to see some ''pro-roundabout experts'' before making a decision on whether to support a signalized intersection or a roundabout. He said that he is convinced that a series of roundabouts are the answer .
McCarthy said that the criteria used for assessing the effectiveness of roundabouts has changed in recent years as they have become more popular. ''It used to be that the only data we had was from England. What we've found from studies in this country is that they're not as effective in moving traffic here as in England. American drivers are more hesitant and don't drive through them as fast as the English do,'' said McCarthy.
Committee member Jack Carty said that he thinks a roundabout should be as free as possible of interruptions and said that he thinks the immediate goal should be to solve the movement of traffic at the current stoplights in Meredith. He said that a series of roundabouts would actually slow the flow of traffic southbound on Rte. 3 to Rte. 104 and compound problems at the Rte. 3-25 intersection.
''If we can solve the problem at Ground Zero maybe we can tackle the other issues later,'' said Carty.
The committee decided to look at the impact of a roundabout at Lake Street which would also include a two-phase crosswalk with a raised median where pedestrians could pause halfway across the street. There would be no left turn in either direction due to the raised median.
Also under consideration is a pedestrian overpass bridge at Dover Street which would have elevators as well as stairways at both ends. The bridge would have to be 18 and a half feet high and would be covered.
It would also have to be maintained by the town and the elevators alone would cost at least $240,000 according to Meredith Town Manager Phil Warren.
The next meeting of the committee, which is chaired by Selectman Lou Kahn, is scheduled for November 6 at 3 p.m.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 12:55

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Near 100 take the time to Re-Imagine Laconia

LACONIA — Polishing the city's dulled image, strengthening its flagging economy and fostering a younger population were major themes to emerge when more than 90 residents from all walks of life — from high school students to retirees — gathered at the Belknap Mill Wednesday night to "Re-Imagine Laconia" by tackling the question, "What is important for Laconia to grow and thrive for a successful future?"

The community conversation was sponsored by the Orton Foundation, facilitated by New Hampshire Listens and hosted by the Planning Department. Planning Director Shanna Saunders said yesterday that "the whole process went wonderfully." In particular, she noted that "the whole tenor of the meeting was lovely," explaining that she was impressed to see so many people engaged in civil conversation about the future of the community. "You didn't have to use your voice to be heard," she remarked."The turnout was terrific."

The discussion was designed to identify major values and priorities within the community in anticipation of preparing a new Master Plan. The key recommendations and comments will be forwarded to the City Master Plan Advisory Team and incorporated into the vision statement that will lend direction to the plan.

Participants were divided into 11 groups, each seated around a table and accompanied by a neutral facilitator who guided discussion around four questions common to all groups. All participants were provided with a brief demographic and economic profile of the city. After an hour and three quarters of conversation each group reported its major findings.

"Image" appeared in four of the reports. One group stressed "spinning the positive, not focusing on the negative" while another reported "there is a lot of negativity in terms of who we are." One women remarked "Laconia has a long way to go" and another remarked "it is sad to drive through downtown." Three other groups spoke of improving the appearance, "beautifying," the city. More active enforcement of the property code was a priority of one group. One participant, discouraged to hear a litany of the city's ills from one gentleman, asked "why are you here" and was told "I love the place."

Four of the 11 groups called for the appointment of a city economic development director and virtually every group included one aspect of economic growth or another, most often the creation of jobs, among its priorities. Most groups stressed the importance of the public schools and community college in the development of a skilled workforce, some favored incentives for businesses and one recommended establishing a business incubator.

Half the groups addressed the city's aging demographic profile by highlighting the need to attract and retain young individuals and families, especially professionals. "How do we get them to stay or if they leave, how do we get them back," one man asked.Some emphasized the need for more amenities, like entertainment and dining venues, while others highlighted the arts or suggested events and celebrations.

Saunders observed that the conversation was very different from the talk at a similar event in 2005 when much of the discussion revolved around the lakes. At the same time, the city was in the midst of a housing boom that aroused concern about the management of residential growth and loss of open space. Nor did the revitalization of downtown in general and restoration of the Colonial Theater in particular command the attention it drew in the past.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 12:53

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LRPA has enough money to stay on the air through Oct. 22

LACONIA — Denise Beauchaine, station manager of Lakes Region Public Access television, said yesterday that there are sufficient funds to operate the public access channel — Channel 25 — until midnight on Wednesday, October 22, but not beyond.

Earlier this week Kim Perkins, the LRPA bookkeeper, advised Beauchaine that there were sufficient funds to meet two payrolls "then LRPA will be out of money." The station employs four people in addition to Beauchaine, one full-time, one part-time and two contractors., and has an annual operating budget of about $130,000.

Beauchaine said that the board of directors have tentatively scheduled an emergency meeting on Saturday morning at the station when, among other things, it will discuss removing its equipment from its studio space at Laconia High School.

LRPA has been drawing from its reserves to sustain operations since July 1, when member municipalities entered a new 10-year contract with MetroCast Cablevision. Under the new contract each municipality will operate educational and governmental channels (24 and 26), which broadcast only to the municipality where the programming originates while LRPA would provide public access on channel 25 airing programs from individuals and organizations from the member municipalities. However, the municipalities, which had contributed to funding the operation of LRPA, withdrew their support. and, at the same time, MetroCast withheld its annual $30,000 grant to LRPA, leaving the station without a revenue stream.

Although the board of directors prepared an alternative business plan, which included soliciting commercials sponsorships, with aim of raising $300,000, the money ran out before it was pursued.


Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 12:47

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Reval drops value of taxable property in Belmont by 17%

BELMONT — Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin told selectmen Monday the total value of taxable property in the town has been reduced by $130 million, or about 17 percent.

She said the results of the property revaluation project are nearly complete and the new total value of the town will be about $650 million — down from $788 million.

Each property's value should be as close to a true market value as possible, or at a 100 percent ratio. Last year, figures published by the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) showed Belmont at 123 percent — meaning the town total valuation was estimated to be 23 percent higher than its current actual value.

Over the past two years, the town has undertaken a complete list-and-measure and the revaluation is complete. The company that conducted the revaluation, Commerford Nieder Perkins, LLC is holding meetings with property owners who are challenging their new values.

Beaudin said once the challenges are completed, the town will get the exact valuation and the 2014 tax rate will be set by DRA. She expects tax bills will go out in the second week of November.

After a complete revaluation, generally about one-third of property owners see their values go up, one-third will see them go down, and one third will stay the same.

However, because the amount of money authorized by the town and the school district at their respective town meetings in March remains the same, the tax rate — which is set by the DRA — is projected to increase significantly.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 11:44

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