Council wants more legal advice on Lakeport Landing property

LACONIA — While the City Council this week once again deferred its decision on the future of the lot on Union Avenue owned by the city and leased to Lakeport Landing marina, a majority of councilors appeared to welcome a fresh proposal that would enable the marina to continue using the property.

The property, a 0.81 acre strip between the roadway and railway was leased to Lakeport Landing in 1985 for 10 years with two 10-year renewal periods. The lease will expire on November 1, 2015 and cannot be renewed again. In 1987 Lakeport Landing constructed a 9,840-square-foot building on the lot. Under the terms of the lease, ownership of the building, which, with the land, is assessed for $389,600, would revert to the city at the expiration date.

Anticipating the expiration of the lease, Erica Blizzard, the owner of Lakeport Landing, approached the council last year seeking to secure ownership or retain use of the property. Attorney Rod Dyer, representing Blizzard, suggested ways the council could negotiate the sale of the lot to Lakeport Landing and last month Blizzard submitted an unsolicited offer to purchase the property for $331,400. However, the council has been advised by its attorney that it cannot negotiate exclusively with Blizzard, but should it chose to sell the property must do so through an open, competitive process.

This week Dyer proposed that the council simply extend the current lease. "I disagree that the lease cannot be extended," he told the councilors, recalling that he had extended many leases for many clients during his legal career. "There is no reason willing partners cannot amend and extend an existing lease," he insisted."There is nothing to prevent the city from extending the current lease," he repeated.

Dyer reminded the councilors of the importance of the lot to Lakeport Landing and of the investment the marina has made in the property as well as the drawbridge and railroad signals located where the railroad tracks cross the foot of Paugus Bay. "Fairness comes into play," he remarked.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked Dyer why he had not made this proposal at the outset. Dyer replied that he had suggested a negotiated sale, but the council was advised that any sale must be opened to all interested parties. Irwin Marine, whose property on Union Avenue abuts the lot, has expressed interest and, apparently, so has nearby Paugus Bay Marina.

Bruce Wright of Irwin Marine questioned Dyer's proposal, noting that the city and the marina were not two private parties negotiating the disposition of private property. Because the lot is public property, he said that the city "is in a different arena and subject to a different standard." Wright urged the council to dispose of the property by "a fair and open process," stressing that "it's the right and proper thing to do." Then alluding to the lease granted to Paul Blizzard, Erica's father, he added "that's not what originally took place 30 years ago."

The council voted unanimously to direct City Manger Scott Myers to seek an opinion from city attorney Walter Mitchell about extending the current lease  or creating a new one and, at the same time, to obtain an independent appraisal of the property on which the terms of a sale or lease could be based.

Earlier, at a workshop before the meeting, there was little support among councilors for subdividing the property into two lots, one to the north with the building and 24 parking spaces for sale or lease and another to the south with parking for between 12 and 14 vehicles, which would be retained by the city.

Mayor Ed Engler asked if the council wanted to consider the the future of the adjacent Lakeport Fire Station lot. Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) . described the station as a "unique buidling and valuable property" and said that Lakeport residents are bent on preserving it. While the building could be leased and put to another use, he said that the city should not sell or demolish it.

Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) said that the council should address the two issues — the Union Avenue lot and the Lakeport Fire Station — separately.

Small number of homes = large number of OD calls

LACONIA — From the outside, the two family home at 96 Fair St. looks like one of the many that pepper the downtown streets of the city.

Inside, the walls would likely tell a very different story.

"I couldn't believe it. I was dumbfounded," said homeowner Harry Bean when he learned from the Laconia Police that officers had responded nearly 50 times to his Victorian Style rental property in the past 13 months.

Bean, who in conjunction with members of his family, owns about 80 apartments in Laconia — some multi-family buildings near and on Union Avenue and many just like the one on Fair Street — well-kept homes painted in traditional Victorian fashion.

He learned that his Fair Street home was a problem when he was called by The Daily Sun to ask him about the latest non-fatal overdose police logs said occurred in the building.

After meeting with Laconia Police Capt. Bill Clary and Sr. Patrol Sgt. Gary Hubbard he said he also learned the victim in this case didn't live in the Fair Street home but was "crashing" there.

Since "crashing" is against his apartment house rules, he said he is seeing whether or not eviction is proper.

"I don't condone this type of activity," he said, noting he would continue working closely with Laconia Police on some of the "problem houses".

Police logs over the past several months show multiple overdoses — both fatal and non-fatal — have occurred in the same locations. One is on Winter Street, one is on North Main Street, one is on Union Avenue, and the Landmark Inn also sees its fair share.

Clary also confirmed there are a "handful" of people in the city who have overdosed on some kind of drugs more than one time and sometimes at the same address.

Sources say one man on North Main Street has overdosed three times on opiates only to be revived by Narcan — an opiate antidote administered by fire officials — all three times.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said in 2014 the fire department administered 43 doses of Narcan and without a doubt, they have saved a few individuals more than once. He also said some times, paramedics will administer more than one dose of Narcan to the same person at one call so record keeping as far as number of overdoses is tough. Names are protected by federal privacy laws.

According to police logs, many drug overdoses — fatal and not fatal — involve people who are officially "transient" — not exactly homeless and living in the streets, but "couch surfing" or living friend to friend or family member to family member.

This and the fact that up until recently, overdose calls came to police and fire as "medical aid" calls have made them hard to quantify for police. On any given 24-hour period, police can respond to up to 10 medical calls and the vast majority are just that, medical calls that don't necessary need police assistance or intervention.

Clary said yesterday that his department recently made a change to the police log program so as to try and separate "overdoses" from "medical aid" calls. He said since the days that Bill Baker was chief the police have responded to most medical calls.

"We haven't changed or refocused (by going to medical calls) but now we go with a different purpose," he said. "Now it's to possibly investigate a crime or a crime scene."

He said by creating a category of "overdoses" they are getting a handle on the statistics but they're not always accurate.

"For example," said Clary. "What if an elderly person accidentally takes an extra pill or gets their medications confused. Is that an overdose?"

"We (police and fire department) get a fair number of those calls," he said.

In addition, Clary said statistically the city police records show that 10 people died from heroin overdoses last year, however the N.H. Medical Examiners Office recorded eight.

"We went through every single one of them. Where the discrepancy is, I don't know," he said. "We want to be able to answer that question."

Right now, he said police are waiting for the results of four autopsies stemming from deaths in the city police believe are from heroin.

"But (heroin) in our opinion," he said, noting that only the medical examiner can determine a cause of death and toxicology results can take months in a state with only one lab.

Erickson said recently a new phenomenon has risen in the city police call "roll bys."

Erickson said a "roll by" is when people take a person who has potentially overdosed on heroin and the load him or her into the car and "roll by" the emergency room entrance and drop off the victim on the sidewalk.

"We had it happen four times in one weekend," he said.

Clary said lately he's seen a number of victims dragged out of apartments and left in the hall or on the sidewalk.

"They leave him or her there because they don't want the victim in their apartment," he said, confirming this is what happened about two weeks ago when police found a person dead from an apparent overdose on Merrimac Street. He said the call came from people who were with the victim who simply left and made an anonymous call.

Police Chief Chris Adams said yesterday that while there is an epidemic of heroin in Laconia (as well as all over New Hamsphire and the rest of the nation) the vast majority of people in the city don't do any drugs at all.

He said heroin and drug abuse follow the same adage that police from many generations have used — 95-percent of the crime in a city is committed by five-percent of the people. And if (those five-percent) didn't do it, they know who did.

He said the department has made strides in combating the heroin problem, including the appointment of Officer Eric Adams as a anti-drug coordination office.

Following an overdose — fatal or not — Eric Adams does a follow up and has had some recent success in getting people in to treatment programs, when available. He meets with family members and friends and works toward getting help for those who need it.

"It's a positive thing," Chris Adams said.


CUTLINE: (Fair Street) Police have responded to this house on Fair Street almost 50 times in the past 13 months with one of the more recent calls being a non-fatal drug overdose of someone who doesn't live there. The landlord is working with police to address the problem.

CUTLINE: (Winter Street) This Winter Street apartment house was the sight of an apparent fatal drug overdose that happened a few weeks ago. City Police are still waiting for the final autopsy and toxicology results.

Auditors report Laconia is on strong financial legs

LACONIA — The city administration, especially the Finance Department, received high marks this week when Scott McIntire of Melanson Heath, the independent auditors, reported to the City Council on the city's financial condition as of June 30, 2014.

McIntire noted that actual revenues exceeded projections by $349,161 and actual expenditures were $1,911,472 less than budgeted appropriations, leaving an excess of $2,260,633, which represented "very strong operating results." Likewise, he stressed that the unassigned fund balance $5,574,412, representing 10.5-percent of total general expenditures, reflected the city's "good solid financial position."

McINtire said that the city's outstanding debt of $8,788,000 and the school district's outstanding debt of $26,410,000 amounted to 16 percent and 21 percent of their legal borrowing limits respectively. Furthermore, he said that nearly three-quarters of the outstanding principal will be retired during the next 10 years.

NOTE: Following a second public hearing, at which no one spoke, the City Council unanimously approved a zoning ordinance restricting the dispensing, cultivation and process operation of marijuana for medicinal purposes to the industrial districts in the city. The Legislature authorized the use of marijuana to treat specified medical conditions and he New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has received proposals from non-profit corporations to operate facilities in four geographic zones, one of which consists of Belknap, Rockingham and Strafford counties. DHHS has not disclosed where the applicants propose to operate nor has the agency awarded licenses.