Gilford Airport Plaza wants to build new access

03 17 Airport Plaza

The Gilford Planning Board on Monday will review a plan for a new driveway to the Gilford Airport Plaza from the end of the Laconia Bypass. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)


GILFORD — Owners of the Gilford Airport Plaza plan to build an access road from the end of the Laconia Bypass.

"The center is only 50 percent occupied and in need of upgrade and improvements to the infrastructure and building," reads a narrative before the Gilford Planning Board, citing the need for a second access.

On Monday, March 20, at 7 p.m., the board will review an amended site plan application for this improvement.

The "entrance only" driveway to the plaza "is located for safety, ease of access and least impactive option to the existing highway system," the applicant, WJP Development LLC, wrote. The company narrative states that WJP Development "is in the process of considering renovations and expansion," adding, "Discussions with prospective tenants have been difficult, due to access being limited to the one entrance point."

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation granted access through a controlled access right of way, the applicant noted.

"They're also proposing to repave and stripe the parking lot, proposing new lighting in the parking lot and new sign locations," said John Ayer, planning and land use director for Gilford.

The new access road will not provide an exit onto Old Lake Shore Road.

"You can't exit out of that driveway. DOT has tight restrictions on that," Ayer said.

Left-hand turns off Old Lake Shore Road onto the new road will not be allowed, he said. Right-hand turns, however, will be allowed, he said.

"If you want to get into that parking lot, you either have to come off the bypass, from the direction of Wal-Mart, or you have to come in the other way," through the existing access from the intersection of Route 11 and Route 11C, Ayer said.

The proposal does not affect the size of the 60,328-square-foot commercial building, Ayer said.

"No building expansion. For the umpteenth time, there's no Market Basket going into that development. Everybody and their dog thinks that Market Basket is going there," Ayer said.

"I've been hearing that for years," he said, citing a persistent rumor.

The development is occupied by a movie theater, an industrial wholesaler and Gilford House of Pizza.

In the justification, the owner noted that disturbance of 6,240 square feet of wetlands is a better option than the alternative of a new shopping center in a "comparable commercial zone in this community," which would "disturb significant acres of undeveloped land."

The burden of debt

Proposals address skyrocketing New Hampshire student debt, highest in the nation


PLYMOUTH — Justin Siewierski expects to graduate from Plymouth State University next year owing $25,000 to be repaid over a decade.

He's getting off cheap.

The Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access and Success found that 2015 graduates of New Hampshire colleges and universities had an average student debt load of $36,101, highest in the nation.

A growing recognition of this financial burden can be found in pending legislative proposals and in the governor's budget plan.

Meantime, people like Siewierski will need to find a way to stretch paychecks on entry-level jobs to cover college loans.

03-16 Justin Siewierski"Coming out of school, my payments will be about $250 a month," said Siewierski, 20. "It will be like buying a brand new car, except I won't have a brand new car."

In fact, a car is one of the things he'll need to buy when he graduates with a degree in English and a teaching certificate.

Money he earns editing his university's newspaper and working as a part-time sports broadcaster help pay his college expenses, which are about $23,000, including housing and a meal plan.

Senate Bill 228, pending in the state Legislature, seeks to retain college graduates in the state through four annual $1,000 awards to offset student loan debt.

Also, Sen. Dan Innis' Senate Bill 41 would provide grants for student debt relief for skilled technology workers who stay working in this sector in New Hampshire for at least three years.

Innis, R-New Castle, said that under his bill, the state would provide $2,500, to be matched by the employer.

"This helps the tech sector attract new employees," Innis said. "There are 3,000 openings now in our technology sector. It also helps young people to be attracted to or to stay in our state."

He sympathizes with students facing student loan debt.

"It's rough," said Innis, who is a professor at the University of New Hampshire. "I think any relief we could provide to students is a good thing."

In his budget proposal, Gov. Chris Sununu sets aside $5 million in a debt assistance program for nurses, care workers and clinicians fighting the state's substance abuse crisis. He also designated $5 million for a scholarship program and $10 million for community college infrastructure.

New Hampshire is last nationally in per capita support for higher education, according to a report by Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit organization. Lack of state support contributes to high tuition.

"Tuition is high at Keene, Plymouth and UNH," Innis said. "It's pretty simple. It takes money to run a university and you've got to find the money somewhere."

Tom Horgan, president of the New Hampshire College and University Council, said the state also has some of the highest community college tuition rates in the country.

Nationally, tuition and fees at public universities have quadrupled over the last 40 years. Student borrowing has skyrocketed from $24 billion in 1990-91 to $110 billion in 2012-13, according to the Pew Research Center.

"I think debt is hugely burdensome for students, not only in New Hampshire but across the country," Horgan said. "There are lots of studies showing students taking on this debt and not being able to buy a house or do the things you or I could do when we graduated."

03-16 Brett AllardA typical home mortgage lasts 30 years, and that's just how long Brett Allard expects to be making payments on his college loans.

Allard is a Plymouth State University graduate who went on to complete his law degree at the University of New Hampshire. He works for Wescott Law in Laconia.

High student debt loads are a given among many of his college friends.

"It's not overly discussed, in my experience," he said.

A successful law career could be lucrative enough to pay off a fair amount of debt.

But Horgan notes that all college degrees have value, and are typically an excellent investment. 

"Over the span of a career you will make a million dollars more than someone with just a high school diploma and you'll be unemployed at just a fraction of the rate of someone with just a high school diploma," he said.

"Studies also show your health will be better, your children will be more likely to go to college and you'll be happier in your work."

To access an interactive map on student debt and information on how to contact your congressional representative or senator, see

03-16 college Report Card



And what about the future?

College expert Dr. Robert Ronstadt, or simply Dr. Bob, as he is known, has helped many families in the Lakes Region find ways to pay for college without going broke. Despite the current situation, he remains optimistic.

Dr.RobertRonstadt"There's no place for New Hampshire to go but up in terms of its dismal student debt ranking."

He sees a rejuvenated New Hampshire just a few years from now.

"The year is 2034," he said. "I'm dead, but life is good in the Granite State. Somewhere I'm smiling because The Laconia Daily Sun has just reported that New Hampshire leads the nation in providing low-cost, debt-free college educations for its residents. From 50th to No. 1. Gov. Sununu VII is elated. He says, 'Everything changed in 2025 when state government finally got out of the liquor business. The lucrative sale of its liquor assets, plus the growth of liquor licenses tripled the yearly revenues the state used to get from its state liquor stores. We used part of that revenue gain to increase our support of health and education in the state. We've seen real improvements in higher education. Our best kids stay in-state to go to college. More remain here after graduation. Because they aren't laden with debt, they are starting new businesses and buying first homes at faster rates than ever. We now see growing numbers of college graduates who just a few years ago could never have afforded a college education. It's great because they pay higher real estate and other taxes. And they tend to vote Republican.'" Yes, being 1st, rather than 50th, is good. 

Power is slowly being restored to cold homes after winter storm


LACONIA — More than 4,500 homes and businesses were without power in the Lakes Region Thursday, two days after a powerful storm blew through the region, knocking down power poles and sending trees into service lines.

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative said the outage include 810 customers in Tuftonboro, 665 in Sandwich, 2,516 in Moultonborough, 44 in Center Harbor and 156 in Gilmanton and 181 in Meredith.

The cooperative said its electric distribution system sustained significant damage.

"In Tuftonboro, NHEC line crews and engineers will work to restore power to the Melvin Village substation by re-routing power from two nearby substations," according to a cooperative statement. "This will allow service to be restored to approximately 1,600 members in those three towns, once damage is also repaired on the local distribution system.

"There are still numerous locations where trees and branches have come down on wires and must be cleared before power can be restore"

It urged people to stay well back from downed power lines, and said it could be Friday evening before all scattered outages are restored.

About 10,000 customers served by the co-op were down Wednesday.

MetroCast, which provides digital telephone, Internet and cable television services, was also working on outages in several Lakes Region communities on Thursday.

It planned to have all service restored by late Thursday or early Friday.