Parking garage closed for structural repairs

LACONIA — City officials yesterday closed the downtown parking garage until further notice after an inspection revealed that a number of steel beams and joints supporting the ramps have been compromised by corrosion.

Bob Durfee, an engineer with Dubois & KIng, Inc., said yesterday that Paul Moynihan, director of public works, had asked the firm to make an assessment of the parking garage, which began last week. He said that he expected to find some damage that would require repair, but did not anticipate the extensive corrosion he found. The most severe damage, he explained, is to the ramps, where the concentration of road salt is greatest.

Moynihan said that on the strength of Durfee's findings the ramps between the middle and top deck of the garage were closed last Wednesday and, after further inspection, the remaining ramps were closed and the garage evacuated early Monday evening.

Durfee said that the garage, which was built in 1973, with its exposed steel supporting ramps and decks is the only one of its kind he has encountered in the northeast — where reinforced concrete is preferred for its capacity to withstand constant exposure to road salt during the winter. Moynihan said that crews seek to minimize the amount of salt used on the ramps.

Durfee said that the next step will be to test the strength of the steel where the corrosion is most severe, which is done by measuring the amount of steel lost and calculating the strength of what remains, and identify the necessary repairs.

Moynihan said that once the assessment is complete the necessary repairs required to reopen the garage would be undertaken as soon as possible. He noted that R.M. Piper, Inc. of Plymouth, the firm that just finished reconstructing the Main Street Bridge, is prepared to make the repairs and Bob Ayers, who supervised the bridge project, joined Durfee and Moynihan at the garage yesterday. He indicated that repairs represented "not less than a two week project and with a very real potential of the garage not reopening for four weeks".

There are approximately 200 parking spaces in the garage. The ground level, together with the southerly third of the middle and top decks and southerly stairwell, are privately owned while the remainder of the garage is owned by the city, which holds easements to cross the ground to the ramps and stairway.

While the parking garage remains closed overnight and two-hour parking restrictions in the downtown area will not be enforced by city police.


CAPTION: Corrosion, caused by more than four decades of exposure road salt, has eaten through the steel at a joint in the underpinnings of one of the ramps at the parking garage. "We have a few places like that," said Paul Moynihan, director of public works. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

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Council OKs Changes to Demo Ordinance

LACONIA — With little discussion, the City Council last night adopted an amendment to the demolition ordinance recommended by the Heritage Commission, which is intended to afford greater protection to historic buildings in the city.
The amendment, which has been 18 months in the drafting, would apply the ordinance to a greater number of properties than the current law and provide more time to explore alternatives to demolition. The ordinance applies to buildings at least 50 years old and demolition of more than 700-square-feet of floor area, which in the judgment of the code enforcement officer qualify as "significant buildings."
To qualify as "significant" a building must satisfy at least one of the four following criteria. First, it must possess features and qualities that would qualify it as "a historical, cultural or architectural landmark" by national or state standards. Second, it must be constructed to an uncommon design or with unusual materials that could only be reproduced with great difficulty and at great expense. Third, buildings of such architectural value or historic importance that their demolition would adversely impact the public interest would qualify. And finally the preservation of the building must contribute to protecting and preserving a place or area of historic interest.
The remainder of the ordinance prescribes the process triggered when an application is made to demolish a building. First, the code enforcement officer shall determine if the building qualifies as "significant". If it qualifies, the applicant must be informed within five business days that the application for a demolition permit must be reviewed by the Heritage Commission at its next regularly scheduled meeting before the building can be razed.
If the commission determines the building to be demolished is not significant, the applicant shall be informed and the demolition may proceed. On the other hand, if the commission determines the building is "significant" it shall schedule a public hearing at its next monthly meeting, of which the applicant will be informed within two business days. In addition the date, time and place of the hearing will be noticed by signage on the building and in the local newspaper.
If an alternative to demolition cannot be agreed at the public hearing, the commission and applicant shall meet within 10 days. If still no agreement about the future of the building can be reached, the commission may petition the City Council to defer issuance of the demolition permit for another 60 days to allow time to pursue alternatives, including acquisition or relocation of the building. When all options have been exhausted, the owner of the property may proceed with demolition. With the consent of the owner the commission shall photograph the building and encourage salvage of its significant features.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked Pam Clark, who chairs the Heritage Commission, if there is an inventory of "significant" buildings, indicating that he was concerned to avoid a situation in which someone purchased a property with the intent of demolishing only to discover afterwards it was subject to the ordinance. Clark said that there is not such a list, but during her eight years on the commission only twice have public hearings been held and demolition permits delayed. She said that surveys are being taken downtown, in Lakeport and at The Weirs and expected a list of the most significant buildings in each neighborhood would be identified.
Since the Zoning Board of Adjustment, taking the place of the Building Code Board of Appeals, held two public hearings on the proposal, the council chose to adopt it without holding another public hearing.

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Council Leery of Proposed Noise Ordinance

LACONIA — The City Council last night shrank from scheduling a public hearing on changes to the ordinances regulating noise and licensing loudspeakers proposed by the Committee on Government Operations and Ordinances and instead scheduled "an informal information session" on the proposal at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, October 13.
The noise ordinance, chapter 167 of the city code, stipulates that is unlawful for any person or corporation to make "any loud, unreasonable noise or any noise which would annoy disturb, injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace, safety, convenience, welfare and prosperity of a reasonable person" within the city limits.
The committee suggested two major additions to the ordinance. The first, which would apply to apply to residential and commercial properties throughout the city would specify that a noise "plainly audible," in the judgment of the police, within 50 feet of the property line of the property where it originates, particularly between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday would represent a violation. The proposal closely echoes ordinances in Manchester, Nashua and Portsmouth. The second change would apply to persons "yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing in the street, particularly between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., would also constitute a violation. This change would address unruly crowds spilling out of bars and clubs at closing time.
The committee also proposed extending the hours for the operation of outdoor sound equipment. Currently, outdoor loudspeakers cannot be operated later than 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The committee recommended extending the hours to 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively, and allowing loudspeakers to operate until 11 p.m. on the weekday night before federal holidays.
The committee will also recommend stiffening the penalties of repeated violations of the noise ordinance, by fining violators $100 for the first offense. $250 for the second offense and $500 for all subsequent offenses. The ordinance currently provides for a fine of not more than $250 for all offenses.
Don Richards, a resident of The Weirs who has served on the Planning Board for the past 18 years, told the council that by expending the hours for outdoor loudspeakers the proposal took "a negative direction to the homeowners and condo owners and other residents. If you don't live in an area where noise is a problem," he explained, "it can seem like a light problem." He said that he preferred the ordinance as it stands with effective enforcement. The proposal, he said caters to businesses, "but completely throws residents and homeowners under the bus."
Richards's remarks moved Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1), who chaired the committee that drafted the ordinance, and Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) to suggest postponing a public hearing and in favor of an information session.

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