City budget review begins in earnest with presentations on roads, police & parks

LACONIA — The City Council began its review of the 2015-2016 budget recommended by City Manager Scott Myers this week with presentations from the Department of Public Works (DPW), Police Department and Recreation and Facilities Department. The fiscal year begins on July 1 but it is not unusual for the council to delay final passage until sometime in July so that the Legislature can finish its work and revenue numbers will be clearer.

The highlight of the DPW's budget is a proposed increase in spending on street repairs to begin implementing a pavement management program intended to raise the 306 streets in the city and 82 miles of road to at least "fair" condition. For some years the city has spent approximately $1.3 million on street repairs. The 2015-2016 budget recommends increasing expenditures to about $1.7 million.

In 2012-2013, an inventory and assessment of city streets found that the average "pavement condition index" (PCI)was 63 on a scale where 56 to 70 represents "fair." At the same time, the survey found that 26.2 miles, or 32 percent, of streets are in "failed" to "poor" condition with PCI s between 0 and 55 while 55.8 miles, or 55.8 percent, of streets are in "fair" to "good" condition with PCIs between 56 and 100.

Roads in "fair" condition deteriorate rapidly and the cost of maintaining a road in "fair" condition is a third or a quarter that of repairing a road in "poor" or "failed" condition. Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, explained that lending priority to the maintenance of roads in "fair" condition makes optimal use of the available funds. At the same time, some streets in "poor" or worse condition can be improved each year. Altogether five or six miles of roadway would be either repaved or reconstructed each year. The goal of the program is to raise the average PCI of city streets to at least 70 in the next eight to 10 years.

Councior David Bownes (Ward 2) asked if once the goal was reached, would spending on street repairs be reduced. Moynihan said that he anticipated that to maintain streets "fair" condition, allowing for inflation, would require annual expenditures of between $15 million and two million for the foreseeable future.

The Police Commission has proposed a budget of $4,979,238, an increase of 2.7 percent, about half of which is represented by a $107,859 increase in salaries and benefits for the 41 sworn officers and 10 civilian employees. Police Chief Chris Adams told the council that his top priority was funding the position of Prevention-Enforcement-Treatment (PET) Coordinator for 12 months. The position, held by Officer Eric Adams, was created in 2014 to address the sharp rise in substance and abuse addiction but was funded for only one-half year.

Captain William Clary advised the council that the cost of policing Motorcycle Week is projected to rise as officers from other departments, who have been paid $34 per hour, will expect to be paid the rate they receive for private details, which ranges between $50 and $75 per hour. He said that $70,000 was budgeted for this year's rally and he anticipated spending close to that amount, but expected to expenditures to exceed $70,000 in 2016. Clary said that the number of both out-of-town officers and New Hampshire State Police has been reduced by 25 percent in the last five years as attendance at the rally has declined and the overall atmosphere has gotten tamer.

Additional seasonal personnel was also a priority for Kevin Dunleavy, director of Pars and Recreation and Facilities. He explained that the department's responsibilities have grown with the opening the Weirs Community Park, expansion of the WOW Trail and downtown riverwalk and improvement of Bobotas Field at Laconia High School. The positions , together with contracted increases in salaries and benefits, account for the $19,403 increase in the department budget, from $666,034 to $685, 437. He said that most of the $50,000 recommended for the maintenance of would be spent on athletic fields and said that the smaller parks —Rotary Park, Wyatt Park, Sanborn Park, Stewart Park — required greater investment.

What happened to Aerosmith? MW concerts shrink in stature

LACONIA — What was originally billed as four nights of live music and boxing matches at the Weirs Drive-In during Motorcycle Week has shrunk to two concerts, one headlined by Quiet Riot and another by Hoobastank.

Yesterday the Motorcycle Technical Review Committee (MTRC) approved the proposal presented by Michael Trainor, site manager for the promoter, Vesslerglobal Partners, LLC of Jefferson, North Carolina, to stage the concerts on Thursday and Friday of the annual rally and operate a parking lot at the drive-in during the remainder of the rally. The permit limits attendance at the concerts to 5,000.

The MTRC is requiring the promoter to post a $10,000 bond to meet the cost of the police detail and fire protection for the event, which had not been posted at press time, and to provide a site plan detailing the arrangements for parking.

When news of the original plans broke in April, speculation was rife about what bands would play to such large crowds, with the smart money betting on Aerosmith. Soon afterwards the promoters dropped boxing from the marquee, explaining that the schedules of fighters could not be matched to the rally.

Last month the MTRC permitted Vessler Global to stage concerts throughout the rally, with approval for crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 on Thursday, 20,000 on Friday and 30,000 on Saturday. As recently as two weeks ago Veslergobal announced "LaconiaFest," a three-day music music festival featuring "Classic Rock, Punk Rock, Country, Top 40 and even EDM," or electronic dance music, and, according to the website, performances by Attica, Leaving Eden, Tierra Blanca and Laura Comfort and an appearance by the cast of the television drama Sons of Anarchy.

Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said that the promoters ran short of time in seeking to book the bands they expected to bring to Laconia. However, he added that they have already begun putting together a line-up for a series of concerts at the 93rd running of the rally in 2016.

LRGH ER will more than double in size

LACONIA — The Planning Board this week approved the plan of LRGHealthcare' to renovate and expand the emergency department at Lakes Region General Hospital, which with the construction of new space and the renovation of existing space will more than double the size of the ER facility.
In 1986, the emergency department was moved to one of the oldest parts of the building and was last renovated in the 1990s. Mitchell Jean, director of risk management at LRGHealthcare, told the Planning Board, the project will address a number of issues hindering the operation of the department. The inadequate waiting space will be enlarged and storage space added to alleviate congestion in hallways where equipment is kept and, on occasion, patients are housed. The existing department is not on level ground, which hampers the movement of patients and access to the helipad, which requires transporting patients up a steep incline. Treatment rooms are small and separated only by curtains, compromising the privacy of patients and increasing the risk of infection. There are no means of segregating patients suffering from mental illness, who may be held at the hospital while awaiting a bed at New Hampshire Hospital. The nursing station is awkwardly located and the radiology unit, with a CAT scan and MRI, are not convenient to the emergency department.
The project will add some 9,400-square-feet of new space to the 7,900-square-feet that currently houses emergency services. The ground will be leveled to eliminate slopes and inclines. Almost half the existing space will be thoroughly renovated. The department will have two entrances — both with heated pavement, one for ambulances leading directly to the clinical area of the facility and another for patients leading to a triage desk and waiting room.

There will be two trauma rooms near an elevator that will take those patients that must be airlifted to another hospital to the helipad on the upper level. Altogether there will be 20 treatment rooms, each of 300-square-feet, including one designated and equipped for bariatric patients, divided evenly between the new and existing space and served by two nursing stations. Finally, for patients with mental illness there will be four secure holding rooms with dedicated access. The department will have direct access to the operating room, ensuring the timely treatment of trauma patients requiring immediate surgery.
As part of the project the radiology unit housing scanning equipment will be relocated to 2,700-square-feet of newly built space adjacent to the emergency department. The proximity of the radiology unit will support the partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital to diagnose and treat patients with strokes by means of video conferencing and image sharing technology.
Along with the construction and renovation at the hospital, a parking lot with 72 spaces will built at the corner of Highland Street and Fairview Street, an issue of concern to residents of Fairview Street, who are regularly disturbed by the lights and noise of personnel coming and going with the three shift changes at the hospital. One gentleman, who asked not to be identified, said, "this will be a killer for us. We don't get any sleep."
Jean offered to erect a six-foot high fence and plant arbor vitae along the property line to shield the abutting properties from the lights and noise. City Councilor David Bownes, also a member of the Planning Board, told Jean the abutters "have listened to you and want you to listen to them (the hospital) and all be good neighbors." Jean assured the board that LRGH would do all it could to minimize the impact of the parking lot on neighboring properties.

Jean said that the cost of construction was estimated at approximately $13 million and the total cost of the project, including designing, engineering, equipping and furnishing the new emergency and radiology departments would by about $21.7 million. He expected renovation and construction to begin in August and to be completed in two years.