By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — "I've been waiting for this for years," said Joe Driscoll, a founding member and first president of the Weirs Action Committee, after city officials presented plans for reconstructing Lakeside Avenue to a few dozen residents and business owners at the Weirs Community Center this week.
Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, explained that the essence of the project will consist of replacing the water main, improving the storm drainage and improving the sanitary sewer, then reconstructing the roadway with new new curbing and sidewalks between US Route 3 (Endicott Street North) and Tower Street, a distance of 2,200 feet. Bump-outs would be added to each of the four crosswalks to enhance the safety of pedestrians. At the same time, Moynihan said that said that moving the fire hydrants to the bump-outs would limit the loss of parking spaces to less than half a dozen.
Driscoll, who has sometimes bridled at the city's treatment of The Weirs, said he is pleased with the project, but regrets that it reaches only as far as Tower Street, rather than go another block, where Lakeside Avenue is lined with commercial properties, to Foster Street.
What Moynihan called the "base project" is estimated to cost $1 million. City Manager Scott Myers included borrowing the amount to undertake the work in the budget he recommended to the City Council last month. He said that cost includes paving the sidewalks with asphalt, but noted that concrete sidewalks could be installed for an additional $70,000.
In addition to the base project, Moynihan presented a menu of additional features, which altogether would add another $1.7 million to the cost of the project. Of these, burying the overhead utilities, a longstanding priority of the Weirs Action Committee, is the most expensive at an estimated cost of $700,000. Moreover, if the 14 utility poles are removed, 12 street lights hung from those poles would have to be replaced. Moynihan said that replacing the lights, which at a height of 30 feet illuminate the entire street, would require lining both sides of the street with 50 LED lights mounted 16 feet high and spaced 75 feet apart, at a projected cost of $250,000.
Myers noted that burying the utilities will require four property owners on the south side of Lakeside Avenue to consent to placing sector cabinets and transformers on their lots. He said that a decision to bury the utilities must be made in June to enable Eversource to start work in the fall as the timetable prescribes.
Moynihan suggested that the parking meters could be replaced with 14 solar-powered kiosks that accept either coins or credit cards at a cost $150,000. Likewise, the crosswalks could simply be painted at no additional cost or finished with inlaid markings for $30,000 or stamped colored concrete for $60,000. Finally, Moynihan added $20,000 for placing benches and stonework on the bump-outs.
Myers said the base project would be funded by $1 million in the budget. The cost of the additional items, including the burial of the utilities, would be defrayed by a borrowing serviced by proceeds of the the Weirs Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. He said that in the two years since the TIF District was established, it has accrued a balance of $30,000, not enough to fund the likely debt service. He suggested that the city could share a diminishing share of the debt service until the TIF district accrued sufficient funds to carry it all, which he expected may take five years.
The timetable for the project calls for the water, drainage and sewer work to begin the day after Labor Day and be completed this fall. At the same time, work to bury the utilities would also begin in the fall with the transfer from overhead to underground scheduled for the winter of this year and the spring of next. The roadway and sidewalk would be reconstructed next spring and the final pavement laid in the fall.
The next step is to winnow the additional features to be added to the base project. Myers said that the Weirs TIF Advisory Committee will meet on June 1 and he expected the City Council to consider the project when it meets on June 13.
Lakeside Avenue in The Weirs
What bump-outs would look like.
Robert Ames, foreground, and Charlie St. Clair examine the plans for Lakeside Avenue. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)