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WOW Trail board predicts Phase 2 construction will start in spring

LACONIA — The WOW Trail board of directors anticipates that construction of the second phase of recreational pathway, which stretches from Veterans Square to the Belmont town line, could begin next spring.

Speaking at the WOW Trail annual meeting, Gretchen Gandini, executive director, said that she expected the design work would be complete before the year is out and the funds for the project would be in hand by the coming of spring.

Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail board, said that HEB Engineers, Inc. of Conway has estimated the cost of constructing the second phase at $975,000, stressing "this is only an estimate." This figure is in addition to the $151,552 that has already been spent on this phase of the project.

In 2007, the WOW Trail contributed $71,881 to the cost of rebuilding the Fair Street Bridge in anticipation that it would carry the trail across the Winnipesaukee River. Since 2011 another $79,671 has been spent on design and engineering.

Treasurer Suzanne Perley reported that net proceeds from fundraising events — the WOW Ball, WOW Fest and BOW WOW Fest — and contributions amounted to $134,504 in the year ending June 30, 2014, and there is $306,000 in cash on hand.

The City Council agreed to apply $400,000 from a larger borrowing underwritten by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Fund to the project. And the trail was one of two recreational projects to be awarded state tax credits worth $125,000 by the New Hampshire Community Development Financing Authority. The sale of those credits to private business will net down to $100,000 for the cause.

Perley estimated that approximately $200,000 remains to be raised to fund the construction the second phase of the trail.

Beetle said the second phase, unlike the first, crosses and brook and wetlands and requires a bridge and two boardwalks. Apart from raising the funds, he said that easements remain to be negotiated with two property owners.

Beetle described the project, which was originally conceived 13 years ago, as "complicated and difficult," regretting that "it has gone so slow. But we're moving ahead," he continued. "Not at the pace I would like," he conceded, "but we are moving along. I'd like to see it done in my lifetime."

The WOW Trail presented its award for volunteer service, named in honor of the late Councilor Fred Toll, who initiated the project, to Dr,. Barry Chapin. Gandini said that Chapin is "on the trail every day " and routinely picks up debris and makes minor repairs. "He does it all on his own time, with his own tools," she said, "and deserves a big public thank you."

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 12:07

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Selectmen will lift ban on fireworks in Gilford

GILFORD — Selectmen last night instructed Town Administrator Scott Dunn to rewrite the town's fireworks ordinance, lifting the ban and restricting their use to certain times.

The board reviewed a proposed draft ordinance that would allow fireworks in the town — currently they are banned — but only to residents or visitors who have permission from property owners, during certain hours, and through Fire Department permitting.

Fireworks have not been allowed in Gilford since 1988.

As part of a consensus, the board decided to eliminate the permitting portion of the draft ordinance in favor of something that would allow them between the hours of noon and 10 p.m. except on the Fourth of July when they would be allowed until just after midnight.

Selectmen Richard "Rags" Grenier brought fireworks to the table again two weeks ago, but during that meeting was undecided about what he wanted to do about them. He only knew that he didn't want to continue with a blanket prohibition.

Last night he told the board he was better prepared and wanted an simple ordinance that allowed fireworks. He suggested that Gilford follow the town of Belmont's lead and tie them to a noise ordinance.

Grenier said he didn't like the idea of having the fire chief sign off on permits he personally doesn't feel are in the best interests of public safety.

Dunn explained that a new noise ordinance must go through Town Meeting but a change to the existing ordinance could be done by selectmen.

Selectman John O'Brien has been the most vocal about banning fireworks, while Selectman Gus Benevides has been most vocal about allowing them. The ban was re-codified last year when former Selectman Kevin Hayes sided with O'Brien.

Knowing he was out-voted, O'Brien has pushed for the most restrictive possible ordinance.

Hayes was at last night's meeting and urged the board to continue the ban. He said that he lives in a wooded area and fears that the reckless use of fireworks could cause a fire.

Hayes noted that he needs a permit from the Fire Department to have a campfire in his back yard in a specially designed pit and thinks, at a minimum, the same should apply to fireworks.

Although last night's meeting was not an official public hearing, two other member of the public spoke briefly in support of keeping the fireworks ban. Both said they feared fire and both live in wooded areas.

Dunn said he would draft an ordinance that allows fireworks between the hours of noon and 10 p.m. with the exception of the Fourth of July when they will stop at 12:15 a.m. The public hearing will be held on September 10 at 7 p.m. in the meeting room in the town offices.

Fireworks displays by professionals are allowed in Gilford.

In other business, after a public hearing, Selectmen voted unanimously to make Cat Path one way with entry from Route 11-B (Intervale Road) only.

All but one resident said they supported the one-way restriction even though they acknowledged it could be difficult to get up the hill in the winter.

Speed bumps will also be installed in the non-plowing months and a sign will be placed in the town's right of way on Route 11-B directing traffic to use the primary intersection at Route 11-B and Route 11OA (Cherry Valley Road) to access Gunstock Mountain Resort.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 01:28

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Cost of repairing Belmont Mill put at $1.4M

BELMONT — Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin told selectmen Monday night that engineers estimated it would cost $1.4 million to repair the historic Belmont Mill.

The $1.4 million, Beaudin said, would repair or shore up the fourth floor, re-point and seal the brick work on the exterior, and repair the mechanical systems to include the air handling and air conditioning system.

The price tag to retrofit the building for use as a town offices is $2.7 million and represents a medium- to long-term plan the town is exploring.

Selectmen said Monday that if the town invests money, they want the building to be usable for at least 50 years. Beaudin said a space needs study indicated that the mill could hold all of the town offices plus the Senior Center for the next 50 years.

The building was initially renovated using a loan from the USDA Community Development Block Grant Program which restricts uses to those that serve low- to moderate-income individuals and families.

Beaudin said there are 5 years left on the block grant clock.

The restriction does not allow the building to be used for town offices, with the exception of the Welfare Department and the Department of Parks and Recreations because of their work with low to moderate income families. As it stands now, the Parks and Recreation Department offices are in the mill but the welfare offices are elsewhere.

The fourth floor is currently unusable. The Lakes Region Community College Culinary Arts program left the building after a structural engineer determined parts of the fourth floor were unsafe for a commercial restaurant.

Beaudin told selectmen that she has been looking at possible grants and loans from Rural Development that allow community uses such as town offices.

She said she has found one loan program with a 30 year term and a 4.25-percent interest rate.

But until the five-year restriction on the CDBG loan had ended, Beaudin said selectmen are very reluctant to spend 2.7 million on a building they can't use today and they are more likely to spend the smaller amount to get the building to where the fourth floor can be used safely.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 12:47

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PSU breaks ground on 'transformative' ALLWell North Building

PLYMOUTH — Plymouth State officials yesterday hosted a ceremonial ground breaking for the university's $32 million Active Living, Learning and Wellness (ALLWell) North building and said that the new structure is a major step in advancing PSU's position as a national leader in health and wellness education and in opening new avenues for innovation and regional economic development.
"This is a transformative moment for Plymouth State University," says President Sara Jayne Steen. "ALLWell North will be the largest classroom on campus at almost 108,000-square-feet and provide much-needed classroom and research space for our health and wellness programs as well as expanding recreational and athletic opportunities for students and the region."
The new facility will have as its centerpiece a 200-meter indoor competition-sized track, accompanied by seating for more than 6,000 people.
Because of its large event venue capacity and increased campus visitation, a third-party economic development report estimated that the building will generate more than $4 million per year in local economic impact. Approximately 250 jobs will be created during construction, and 17 new permanent jobs will be created.
''This is a perfect facility at a perfect location,'' said Jeff Rose, Commissioner,of N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development, who added that the new facility will play a key role in helping supply skilled people in the state's workforce, particularly in the health field and the tourism industry.
Steen said that some of the fastest growing majors at PSU are in the health fields, including Exercise and Sport Physiology, Health Education and Promotion, Physical Education, Athletic Training and Adventure Education.
She said that increased enrollment comes at a time when the state's aging population will demand a marked increase in the number of Bachelor and Master's-prepared allied health professionals. Increased demand for trained professionals in Outdoor and Adventure Education are also anticipated in the state's tourist economy.
John Clark, athletic director at PSU, said the indoor track will serve as the starting point for the re-establishment of a PSU's men's varsity track and field program and the addition of women's varsity track and field beginning in fall 2015.
''It's going to be one of the finest tracks in New England,'' said Clark, who said that having an indoor practice facility will help PSU attract top-notch student athletes. He said that it will also be a magnet for college and high school track meets which will bring competitors from all over the state or the area.
Julie Bernier, PSU Provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. said "Successfully preparing future health and wellness professionals requires a synergy between academic and experiential learning.'' She said that the new field house, double the size of the current one in the Physical Education Center, features retractable mesh partitions to allow the space to be further divided into as many as four smaller spaces for simultaneous uses including instruction, community programming, recreation, training and fitness activities.
The track at the new facility will be named for George Davis, PSU class of 1963, who said that the new track and field programs will involve 50 young men and 50 women, 80 of whom wouldn't be attending PSU without the new track.
Davis, who enjoyed a 42 year career as a track and field coach at both high school and college level, said he was deeply moved by the decision to name the track after him. ''It's a dream of most people involved in track and field to have this kind of honor.''
The building is the second facility in a comprehensive plan that began with the opening of the PSU Ice Arena in 2010.
Construction is expected to last 15 months with occupancy scheduled for fall 2015. Harvey Construction of Bedford is the general contractor. Rist-Frost-Shumway Engineering of Laconia, is providing engineering services for the project. Architects are Sasaki Associates, Watertown, Mass., which also designed the PSU Ice Arena.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 12:30

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