SUV hits Union Ave. utility pole with terrific force

LACONIA — The driver of a Jeep Cherokee that hit a utility pole off lower Union Avenue in Laconia was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital early Christmas Day for treatment of what were described by emergency responders as a severe leg injury. Few details were available at press time, but the Fire Department reported that the vehicle struck the pole — midway along the driver-side — with such force it pushed the frame of the Jeep more than halfway into the passenger cabin. The driver was ejected on impact and when first responders arrived on the scene was being attended to by bystanders. (Photo courtesy Laconia Fire Department.

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Fluid Dynamics: LHS students get hands on experience controlling robotic arms

LACONIA — Members of Laconia High School's applied physics class are having fun programming hydraulically controlled robotic arms to do some precision lifting.

The robotic arms are made from kits that students have assembled themselves. The arms are moved by applying pressure to liquid-filled syringes which are connected by tubes to the hand-like gripping devices and lifting parts of the arms, helping give the students insight into fluid dynamics and the principles which make things in the real world actually work.

The syringes are color-coded so that the students know which part of the arm will be affected by their actions, as well as exactly how much pressure it takes to make the desired move.

In recent weeks they have been developing a task-oriented approach in which the arms perform a variety of functions in lifting objects and transferring them to different types of containers.

The students were then asked to provide a written list of instructions on each step needed to accomplish those tasks and on Monday were visited by a group of freshmen in the Foundations of Math class who had to follow those instructions, which included the use of decimals, in order to have the mechanical arms to perform the tasks which were outlined.

''Getting the procedure exactly right is the key. The students have to be very organized and very careful to provide detailed instructions so that other people can follow them precisely,'' says College and Career Ready Applied Physics teacher Jo-Ann Gilbert.

Alexis Johnson, 16, a junior, was one of those who set up program which freshmen Kaya Jenkins and Serina Mitchell used to pick up and move objects. Johnson said that knowing how to describe each step required a lot of thought and took the better part of day to complete.

Justin Bilodeau, an 18-year-old senior, said that fluid dynamics is ''something that I could get into.'' He is currently specializing in preparing for a career in the plumbing and heating field.

Matt Roman, a 17-year-old senior who will be attending the Universal Technical Institute in Norwood, Mass., next year to prepare for a career as an automotive technician, said that he is very familiar with fluid dynamics, having already learned about brake systems and power steering in his classes at the Huot Technical Center.

He made his program more difficult by using round objects which needed extra precise movements and required those who were following the instructions, like freshman Justin Padua, to learn how to have the arms grip round objects at the exact center point.

''The students love these kind of hands on challenges and it really gets them involved. It's also fostered a lot of cooperation because they all help each other out and learn a lot from what the other teams are doing. They're learning that it takes practice and the good use of technology to make things work the way you want them to,'' said Gilbert.

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Marine Patrol buying 1.4-acre lot at Glendale

CONCORD — The Executive Council this week unanimously authorized the Department of of Safety to purchase property abutting the headquarters of Marine Patrol at Glendale in anticipation of constructing a new building to house the agency.

The state is purchasing the 1.4-acre lot at 17 Dock Road, owned by Lakeside Realty LLC where Glendale Marine Ltd. operates, for $1,345,000 plus $3,000 in closing costs with funds accrued by the Navigational Safety Fund. The elongated lot lies between the waterfront lots where the Town Docks and the Marine Patrol headquarters are located, which are owned by the town and state respectively, and the 3.3-acre parcel backing on to Route 11, also owned by the town, which serves as a parking lot.

Last year, when the project was being planned, Assistant Commissioner of Safety Earl Sweeney explained that as the new headquarters would be constructed on the site of the old, the additional land is not required for the new building, but instead for facilitating the operations of the agency.

"It's pretty tight quarters up there," he said of the Glendale neighborhood on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Last year, the Legislature appropriated $9,379,313 in the biennial capital budget to replace the headquarters building. The new building has been designed by the Samyn-D'Elia Architects of Ashland and the department has reviewed three bids for the project, all within the budget. The construction contract, which must be reviewed by the Attorney General, has yet to be presented to the Executive Council for its approval.

The new headquarters will include office space, a dispatch center and a lobby for issuing boat registrations. Along with areas for training and testing boaters, the building will feature a holding cell where violators can be held before being taken to the Belknap County Jail.

During construction, which will begin with demolition of its headquarters, Marine Patrol will operate from the building on the former campus of the Laconia State School that last housed the Lakes Region Community Services Council. Sweeney expects work to begin in early summer and be completed in 2016.

The existing headquarters was originally built in the 1950s to store boats and later converted to serve Marine Patrol. In 2009, an assessment of the building found that ''the building is experiencing settlement in several different directions," or as Sweeney put it "it is slowly sinking into the lake." In addition, the building is not accessible to the handicapped, its roofs fall short of snow load requirements it is heated by three inefficient systems burning two different fuels and its drainage system poses a risk to water quality.

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Gilford selectmen going to bat for shopping center owner

GILFORD — An effort by the owners of the Airport Plaza to rehabilitate the the 40-year-old shopping center on Lake Shore Road (Rte. 11) have been stymied by the state Department of Transportation.

The center is known locally as the home of Gilford Cinemas 8.

According to correspondence obtained from the town of Gilford, DOT officials have refused to allow WJP Development LLC of Portsmouth permission to have direct access to the plaza from Route 11.

Meanwhile, town selectmen are going to bat for the project, urging DOT to reconsider its decision.

WJP said discussions with prospective tenants have been difficult because the only access to the plaza is from Old Lake Shore Road and those tenants have said they would like a second entrance.

WJP hired local engineer Steven Smith & Associates to create a conceptual site plan whereby the company would purchase and build an entrance at the base of the lights at the exit of the Laconia Bypass onto Route 11. The exit would remain where it is now, on Old Lake Shore Road.

Smith submitted his plan to the administrator of the DOT Bureau of Right-of-Way along with a check for the $500 fee on August 5.

On Oct. 14, the DOT chief of property management denied WJP's request saying, "I have processed your request through a departmental review and it was determined that the department will deny the granting of this access point due to drainage and safety issues this point will create."

Last week, the town of Gilford intervened on behalf of WJP, after selectmen learned of the rejection and felt that the project wasn't given proper consideration.

In a letter sent to DOT, selectmen said the Airport Plaza is "very important" to the Gilford economy but that in its current condition is an eyesore and is not financially sustainable.

Selectmen said they support WJP in its efforts to revitalize and revamp the old strip mall and said they expected the DOT to play a "pro-active" role in assisting the town as opposed to being a "roadblock" toward development.

"Surely in this day and age, with the engineering expertize that is available to the developer and NH-DOT, it should be fairly routine to design a site plan that will adequately mitigate any legitimate drainage and safety issue that may arise," wrote selectmen.

Selectmen also noted that, given the importance of the project to Gilford, the DOT should not have been so dismissive of the project but instead should have offered to help.

Selectmen also suggested that the state agency "become familiar" with the goals, objectives, and strategic initiatives set forth on the DOT website.


CAPTION: (Airport Plaza) With the Gilford Cinema 8 on one side and a restaurant on the other, the middle of the Airport Plaza lies empty and unused. At this point in time, the DOT has blocked at attempt by the owner to add a second traffic access point. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

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