U.S. Department of Education identifies Gilmanton as Blue Ribbon School

GILMANTON — A decade after being designated as "a school in need of improvement", under No Child Left Behind standards, the Gilmanton Elementary School has been named one of 335 National Blue Ribbon Schools by Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education.

Begun in 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Program recognizes schools for their academic excellence as measured by state and national assessments as well as schools achieving progress in improving the academic performance of their students. Gilmanton Elementary School was honored for its academic excellence.

John Fauci, school superintendent, said yesterday that "the school is a mirror of the community and when the community the supports its schools good things happen." Apart from the staff of the school, from the janitors to the teachers to the principal, he said that the award reflects the support of the School Board, Budget Committee, parents and not least the voters of Gilmanton. "They have all given us the resources we need to be successful," Fauci said.

Principal Carol Locke, who began her career at the school as a reading teacher in 1987, said simply "without our staff, all the people in the school, including the janitors, cooks, aides and teachers, we couldn't have earned this award. Everyone," she stressed, "worked very, very hard for this."

Fauci underlined "the culture and climate conducive to collaboration" at the school, explaining that "it's a bottom-up rather than top-down school. We make better decisions collectively than we do individually."

Emphasizing the role of the teachers, Locke said that "they know their students. What they can do, what they can't do and make sure they do what they need to do."

In November, Fauci and Locke, accompanied by Debra Bergeron, assistant principal, and Jan Drinen, a teacher, will travel to Washington for a ceremony where they will receive the award on behalf of the school and the community.

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Parking garage closed for structural repairs

LACONIA — City officials yesterday closed the downtown parking garage until further notice after an inspection revealed that a number of steel beams and joints supporting the ramps have been compromised by corrosion.

Bob Durfee, an engineer with Dubois & KIng, Inc., said yesterday that Paul Moynihan, director of public works, had asked the firm to make an assessment of the parking garage, which began last week. He said that he expected to find some damage that would require repair, but did not anticipate the extensive corrosion he found. The most severe damage, he explained, is to the ramps, where the concentration of road salt is greatest.

Moynihan said that on the strength of Durfee's findings the ramps between the middle and top deck of the garage were closed last Wednesday and, after further inspection, the remaining ramps were closed and the garage evacuated early Monday evening.

Durfee said that the garage, which was built in 1973, with its exposed steel supporting ramps and decks is the only one of its kind he has encountered in the northeast — where reinforced concrete is preferred for its capacity to withstand constant exposure to road salt during the winter. Moynihan said that crews seek to minimize the amount of salt used on the ramps.

Durfee said that the next step will be to test the strength of the steel where the corrosion is most severe, which is done by measuring the amount of steel lost and calculating the strength of what remains, and identify the necessary repairs.

Moynihan said that once the assessment is complete the necessary repairs required to reopen the garage would be undertaken as soon as possible. He noted that R.M. Piper, Inc. of Plymouth, the firm that just finished reconstructing the Main Street Bridge, is prepared to make the repairs and Bob Ayers, who supervised the bridge project, joined Durfee and Moynihan at the garage yesterday. He indicated that repairs represented "not less than a two week project and with a very real potential of the garage not reopening for four weeks".

There are approximately 200 parking spaces in the garage. The ground level, together with the southerly third of the middle and top decks and southerly stairwell, are privately owned while the remainder of the garage is owned by the city, which holds easements to cross the ground to the ramps and stairway.

While the parking garage remains closed overnight and two-hour parking restrictions in the downtown area will not be enforced by city police.


CAPTION: Corrosion, caused by more than four decades of exposure road salt, has eaten through the steel at a joint in the underpinnings of one of the ramps at the parking garage. "We have a few places like that," said Paul Moynihan, director of public works. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

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Council OKs Changes to Demo Ordinance

LACONIA — With little discussion, the City Council last night adopted an amendment to the demolition ordinance recommended by the Heritage Commission, which is intended to afford greater protection to historic buildings in the city.
The amendment, which has been 18 months in the drafting, would apply the ordinance to a greater number of properties than the current law and provide more time to explore alternatives to demolition. The ordinance applies to buildings at least 50 years old and demolition of more than 700-square-feet of floor area, which in the judgment of the code enforcement officer qualify as "significant buildings."
To qualify as "significant" a building must satisfy at least one of the four following criteria. First, it must possess features and qualities that would qualify it as "a historical, cultural or architectural landmark" by national or state standards. Second, it must be constructed to an uncommon design or with unusual materials that could only be reproduced with great difficulty and at great expense. Third, buildings of such architectural value or historic importance that their demolition would adversely impact the public interest would qualify. And finally the preservation of the building must contribute to protecting and preserving a place or area of historic interest.
The remainder of the ordinance prescribes the process triggered when an application is made to demolish a building. First, the code enforcement officer shall determine if the building qualifies as "significant". If it qualifies, the applicant must be informed within five business days that the application for a demolition permit must be reviewed by the Heritage Commission at its next regularly scheduled meeting before the building can be razed.
If the commission determines the building to be demolished is not significant, the applicant shall be informed and the demolition may proceed. On the other hand, if the commission determines the building is "significant" it shall schedule a public hearing at its next monthly meeting, of which the applicant will be informed within two business days. In addition the date, time and place of the hearing will be noticed by signage on the building and in the local newspaper.
If an alternative to demolition cannot be agreed at the public hearing, the commission and applicant shall meet within 10 days. If still no agreement about the future of the building can be reached, the commission may petition the City Council to defer issuance of the demolition permit for another 60 days to allow time to pursue alternatives, including acquisition or relocation of the building. When all options have been exhausted, the owner of the property may proceed with demolition. With the consent of the owner the commission shall photograph the building and encourage salvage of its significant features.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked Pam Clark, who chairs the Heritage Commission, if there is an inventory of "significant" buildings, indicating that he was concerned to avoid a situation in which someone purchased a property with the intent of demolishing only to discover afterwards it was subject to the ordinance. Clark said that there is not such a list, but during her eight years on the commission only twice have public hearings been held and demolition permits delayed. She said that surveys are being taken downtown, in Lakeport and at The Weirs and expected a list of the most significant buildings in each neighborhood would be identified.
Since the Zoning Board of Adjustment, taking the place of the Building Code Board of Appeals, held two public hearings on the proposal, the council chose to adopt it without holding another public hearing.

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