Gilford firefighter honored for Mass. rescue that occurred during time-off

GILFORD — Firefighter Nick Proulx was awarded the 2015 Liberty Mutual Insurance Firemark Award Wednesday evening for rescuing a 20-year-old man on Easter Sunday after he fell through some thing ice while snowmobiling in Massachusetts.

According to Suzi Mard, who presented Proulx the award, Proulx was visiting his family in Methuen for the holiday when one of the other people at dinner witnessed the snowmobiler go through the ice.

She said Proulx's father called 911 while Proulx, who is an 8-year veteran of the Gilford Fire/Rescue Department and trains with his department regularly on ice rescues, ran to the water.

In an interview given by Proulx and his father to the Lawrence Eagle Tribune in early April, Proulx's father said his son knew where he kept his life preservers and his canoe.

Mard said Proulx used the canoe to get himself over the thin ice to reach the young man and pull him from the water. She said he waited while the Methuen Fire Department responded, as is protocol, and the Methuen team pulled the canoe with Proulx and the young man to safety.

In the Eagle Tribune article, both Proulx and his father, who is a fire instructor in Concord, N.H., complimented the Methuen Fire Department and Police Department for their quick response.

At Wednesday's presentation at Town Hall, Mard said no one in Methuen knew who Proulx was but reporter Peter Francis found him and wrote the story. She said the Liberty Mutual team learned of the rescue by reading it in the newspaper.

She said the Firemark Award goes annually to someone who best represents his or her community and who performs an act of heroism.


CUTLINE: Gilford Firefighter Nick Proulx (right) gets the Liberty Mutual Annual Firemark Award from Suzi Bard of Liberty Mutual Wednesday night at the Selectboard meeting. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Phase 2 of WOW Trail clears 2 big hurdles

LACONIA — The Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail this week overcame the second of two obstacles that have slowed construction of the stretch from Veterans Square to Belmont when the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) granted the wetlands permit required to cross Durkee Brook.

The permit was required for the grading and filling necessary to provide drainage for the trail, replace an existing culvert, construct a boardwalk and build a 26-foot bridge over the brook. In May, Lawrence Joyce, whose residence — the last on the north side of Court Street — abuts the railroad tracks right-of-way where the the trail will be built, asked DES to deny the permit.

The northwest corner of Joyce's home sits on the boundary between his lot and the state's land and his lot reaches to within about 10 yards of the shore of Lake Winnisquam. Joyce claimed the impervious surface of the trial would add to the stormwater run-off on to his property. Moreover, since the trail would be fenced, he would no longer enjoy access to the lake. Finally, Joyce said that pedestrian and bicycle traffic along the trail would jeopardize the safety and security of his property and, with the fence, obscure his view of the lake and compromise the privacy of his home.

HEB Engineers, Inc., the firm designing the trail, responded to Joyce's objections on behalf of the WOW Trail. They assured DES any increase in run-off would be negligible, not least because the trail will be sloped away from adjacent properties and stormwater collected in a ditch lined with stone. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation confirmed that Joyce has neither rights nor permission to cross the railway to reach the lake and noted he would be required to apply and pay for a lease to do so. Finally, HEB Engineers conceded that the fence would "likely detract from the aesthetics" of Joyce's lot, but added that the WOW Trail is seeking state permission to erect a split rail wooden fence rather than a chain link fence, which would be more attractive.

DES granted the permit over Joyce's misgivings, but noted that its decision can be appealed to the New Hampshire Wetlands Council within 30 days.

Meanwhile, finessing a way past two abandoned wooden sheds along the railway just north of Water Street, had hindered the final design of Phase 2 of the trail for months. The New Hampshire Bureau of Rails designated the sheds, which have been neither used nor maintained since regular rail traffic ceased years ago, as "historic" structures to be preserved not demolished. Since the sheds stand in the route of trail through the railroad right-of-way, a way around them had to be found.

Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, said that negotiations were opened with Lionel Labonte of Stratham Tire, which owns the property surrounding the sheds, for easement that would allow the trail to bypass them. Last December, before agreement was reached, Labone passed away. However, Beetle said that Labonte's daughter, Denise Littlefield, who succeeded her father at the firm, offered to donate enough land to bend the trail around the sheds. In addition, Stratham was among the corporate supporters of the annual WOW Ball in May to benefit the project.

Beetle said that on the advice of HEB Engineers bids for the construction will be solicited in the winter with an eye toward beginning work in the spring of 2016 and completing the project in the next construction season. He said that the WOW Trail has approximately $750,000 in hand, including $400,000 appropriated by the city, and has already funded the design and engineering portion of the project.

City Council to seek 'stakeholder' input on possible changes to zoning in Weirs Beach area

LACONIA — While persisting with its effort to offer guidance to the Planning Board about studying changing the zoning at the Weirs, the City Council this week agreed to solicit the views of stakeholders — property, business and home owners — before framing any formal recommendations.

In taking the initiative to advise the Planning Board, the council has departed from past practice by which changes to the zoning ordinance have generally originated with the Planning Board. City Council always has the final word.

In 2006, a "Smart Growth" team, sponsored and funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency that visited the city, recommended rezoning the Weirs, most of which lies within the commercial resort (CR) district which extends northward from White Oaks Road to the Meredith town line However, no changes were proposed until this spring, after the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted one property owner and denied another a special exception to sell automobiles in the CR district. The decision prompted the City Council to ask the Planning Board to review the uses in the CR district.

The board responded by proposing to rezone Weirs Boulevard from the Naswa Resort to Lake Street from CR to Shorefront Residential (SFR) and Lake Street from CR) to Commercial and to change 10 permitted uses within the CR district. When business interests objected to restricted commerce along the boulevard, the council scuttled the proposal.
In returning to the subject this week, Mayor Ed Engler said "it is not our purpose to revisit the earlier proposal nor is our conversation limited to Weirs Boulevard. He encouraged councilors to consider the boundaries and uses of the entire CR zone. And he reminded the council that only it could make changes to the zoning ordinance.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) said that zoning should encourage the highest and best use of private property that increases real estate values and spurs economic activity. As the hub of a popular tourist area, he suggested the Weirs should be zoned to fill a "competitive niche".
Engler was more specific, suggesting that the CR district might be broken up into two or more different districts. In particular, he said that the frontage along Route 3 between the Weirs Channel and Meredith town line could be designated for commercial uses, leaving the remainder of the land for residential or mixed use development. Engler expressed concern that the current zoning allows both commercial and residential development throughout the Weirs and asked whether some land should be reserved solely for commercial uses.
Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), who serves as the council's liaison to the Planning Board, said that zoning issues will be addressed by the Master Plan, which is in the course of being prepared.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders assured the council that the land use and economic development sections of the Master Plan will be completed in the spring of 2016.
Lipman, who has voiced impatience with the process of drafting the Master Plan, said that the issue of zoning at The Weirs could be pursued along "parallel paths".
Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) repeatedly proposed that the council invite members of the public to express their views. "Let the people come to us and tell us what they want," he said.
Engler said that the council could either refer recommendations to the Planning Board or hold a public hearing, sound the opinion of stakeholders and then approach the Planning Board. Without dissent the council chose to schedule a public hearing, to which interested parties would be invited and all interested parties would be allowed to speak.