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Plymouth contracts out management of water & sewer district

by Thomas P. Caldwell.

PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District has chosen Utility Partners, the national company that has provided utility management services to the Town of Ashland since 2010, to operate the town's wastewater treatment facility on an interim basis.
Unlike Ashland, where the company hires the staff to operate the town's wastewater treatment facility and sewer collection system eight hours a day, five days a week, Plymouth will be contracting with Utility Partners to send a manager to oversee the village district crew one day a week, but he will be available by phone at other times. Initially, the manager will spend five days getting to know the system and the workers before switching to the one-day-per-week schedule.
The three-month contract at $85 per hour will satisfy the N.H. Department of Environmental Services' requirements for plant operation. Plymouth has not been in technical compliance since the resignation of the wastewater superintendent, followed two weeks later by that of the district administrator, earlier this spring.
According to Commission Chair Judith D'Aleo, the DES requires that operators match the grade of the treatment facility. In Plymouth's case, it is a Grade 3 plant, requiring a Grade 3 operator. The current staff members have Grade 1 and Grade 2 certifications. Utility Partners will provide the appropriately credentialed supervisor to satisfy the state and help the district determine its long-term strategy.
Merelise O'Connor, the interim district administrator, noted that Utility Partners also provides bulk purchasing advantages that could further reduce costs.
The initial, three-month contract may be extended if it works out well; and there is an option of hiring the company full-time, as Ashland does, in which case Utility Partners could hire those already working at the plant. The commissioners noted that hiring the company is less expensive than what the village district has been doing.
D'Aleo said after the meeting that exploring the options was not a direct result of the resignations. "We're always looking at staffing issues and trying to be more efficient," she said.
Also at the May 20 meeting, the commission agreed to appropriate $25,000 to continue funding O'Connor's position through Municipal Resources, Inc.
Citing new work responsibilities, Commissioner Steve Kahl said he would have to reluctantly resign from the board, but he agreed to continue through June 6 and said he would "keep my nose in the process" as the district moves ahead with its search for a new groundwater source. Kahl has served on the commission since 2009.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 May 2014 01:25

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Commercial building boom in Belmont

BELMONT — Commercial building permits are on the rise, according to Town Planner Candace Daigle, bringing some positive economic news to this southern Belknap County community.

Daigle said she has had six separate site plan review requests including two from Winnisquam Marine. One is a request for a new building on the corner of Sunset Drive, where Sarge's Store used to be, and a second one — still in the development phase — is for the renovation of the former Winnisquam Fire Station into a show room.

"It's exciting if not daunting to be a part of this," she said.

She said Winnipesaukee Truck is planning a new building on Rte. 106, across from First Student Bus Company and Pensco Company, which owns the building that houses The Vault and Church Street Laundry, is working on a new application for an another 4,000-square-foot commercial building on its Church Street site.

She said owner Scott Williams told her that the newly renovated Belmont Village looks so nice that he would like to have a second commercial building in the area.

Daigle said developer A.E. Mitchell has started construction on an expansion of Belmont Self Storage on Rte. 106 at Eastgate Park and is readying to begin building a self-serve car wash and an office building on Prescott Hill also on Rte. 106.

She said there is also a change of tenant application coming forward for the former Pasta Patio restaurant building on Rte. 3 and the restaurant will reopen as Mama Mia's.

Daigle also said the department is flooded with residential building permits. She said the long winter delayed many of the construction projects that would have typically started in March and April.

She said most of the residential permits are for home improvement projects and not new housing.

"People are putting their money into their existing homes," she said. "It's a trend we've seen in the past few years."

Last Updated on Friday, 23 May 2014 01:16

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Clean-up work on lower Liberty Hill has begun

GILFORD — Work to remove the toxic coal tar discovered beneath four house lots off lower Liberty Hill Road has begun with the clearing, fencing and preparation of a 4.5-acre site where nearly 140,000 tons of contaminated soil will be excavated, transported, treated and returned. The project, which is estimated to cost approximately $17 million, will be undertaken in two phases during this construction season and the next.
Yesterday, officials from Liberty Utilities, the corporate successor to the gas company that originally disposed of the coal tar more than a half-century ago hosted a tour of the site, stressing the extensive measures that have been taken to limit the impact of the project on the neighborhood and safeguard the heath and well-being of its residents.
Jim Ash of GEI Consultants, Inc. of Woburn, Massachusetts has overseen the remediation of the site since the contamination was reported in 2004 and is the principal architect of the operation to remove the contamination. He explained that altogether 93,000-cubic-yards of soil, of which between 40,000 and 45,000 are expected to be contaminated and require treatment, will be excavated. The soil will be trucked to ESMI (Environmental Soil Management ) Companies in Loudon, where the contaminants will be removed by thermal treatment, then returned to the site for backfill. Some 50,000 cubic yards of soil will be stockpiled on site for use as backfill.

The excavation has begun at the southern end of the site while the supporting infrastructure for the project is located to the north. Next year the site will be flipped as the northern portion is excavated.

David Boram, construction manager of the site, said that four trucks, each leaving with 20-cubic-yards of contaminated soil and returning with an equal load of clean fill, will make four round-trips each day, timed not to coincide with the school bus schedule. Trucks will enter at the northern end of the site, dump clean fill at a designated stockpile and collect contaminated soil stockpiled on a secure site, pass through a wheel-wash station and leave by the north gate. He expects the 34-mile run to Loudon and and back to take about an hour and a quarter. He said that the proximity of ESMI's facility has significantly reduced the cost of the operation.

Excavated areas will be backfilled as the work progresses. "There will not be a large, deep hole on the site," Ash said.

Ash said that apart from when trucks enter and leave the site will be secured at all times. Throughout the operation levels of dust, fumes, noise and vibration will be monitored electronically in real time around the clock at a number of locations around the site. For each condition threshold levels have been designated, which he described as "very conservative." For example, the threshold for vibration is equivalent to that of someone walking across the living room floor, the noise level is below that of lawnmower, and the sensor for dust is triggered before it is visible to the naked eye. Moreover, two thresholds have been set for each condition: an action threshold, which once reached requires immediate corrective measures steps, and an alert threshold, representing two-thirds of the action threshold. All conditions can be monitored on a laptop computer on site.

A lined retention pond has been constructed on site to capture groundwater from the contaminated soil before it leaves the site to be treated. The water will be pumped into an adjacent water treatment plant erected on site. After being treated to standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Resources, which Ash described as "essentially drinking water standards," the water will be discharged, in appropriate volume and at moderate velocity, toward Jewett Brook, west of the site.

In the 1950s the coal tar, a by-product from a manufactured gas plant in Laconia, was dumped in a sand and gravel pit on the south side of lower Liberty Hill Road, which was subsequently reclaimed and divided into house lots. However, it was overlooked until 2004, when in the course of litigation it came to the attention of KeySpan, the corporate successor to the original gas company. KeySpan was itself acquired by National Grid in 2007, which was acquired by Liberty Utilities in 2012.

Mary Casey, who oversees environmental, health and safety for Liberty Utilities, said that the company will post a weekly update on its website — www.lowerlibertyhillsite.com. — throughout the project. The company will also maintain a hotline — 603-216-3600 — and respond to questions and comments from the public within one business day.


CAPTION: Jim Ash of GEI Consultants, Inc. of Woburn, Massachusetts (above) points to one of a number of stations that continuously monitor, air quality, vibration and noise in real time at the site on lower Liberty Hill in Gilford where work has begun to remove coal tar dumped there in the 1950s while (at right) Ash (left) and his colleague Tom Shock follow the results on a laptop in the field office. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Last Updated on Friday, 23 May 2014 01:12

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Lafond admits guilt through plea bargain

LACONIA — Facing eight charges arising from the collision that took the life of one teenage girl and severely injured another on Messer Street last April, Amy Lafond yesterday pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and second degree assault, along with possession of of a narcotic drug and unlawful possession of a prescription medication.

The state dropped the charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison along with a misdemeanor drug offense and three traffic violations.

Lafond is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday, May 29, at 10 a.m.

Ashen and drawn, Lafond, who has been held in the Belknap County Jail in lieu of bail since her arrest, remained impassive throughout the proceedings in Belknap County Superior Court, responding to Justice James D. O'Neill III's instructions and questions with barely audible yes and no answers.

Lilyanna Johnson and Alyssa Miner were struck by the Jeep Cherokee driven by Lafond while on the sidewalk near the crosswalk at the south end of the Messer Street Bridge at approximately 2:30 p.m. on April 19. Lafond was traveling northbound on Messer Street toward its intersection with Opechee Street. A car going in the same direction had stopped at the crosswalk, apparently to enable a number of Middle School students to cross the street. Lafond skirted the stopped car, crossed into the southbound lane of Messer Street and mounted the raised sidewalk, hitting the two girls.

Johnson died from her injuries while Miner suffered a fractured pelvis and ruptured spleen as well as severe lacerations and internal injuries.
Following yesterday's hearing, attorney Mark Sisti, who represented Lafond, said that "she insisted on a plea. She wanted to make sure that the victims' families did not have to go through this trial."
Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Gulbrandsen told the court that the Johnson and Miner families accepted the negotiated plea, but asked that Lafond serve a minimum sentence of six-and-a-half years in prison.

"No amount of time diminishes the pain and suffering these families have felt," she said.

Negligent homicide, a class B felony, carries a sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years in prison. According to the plea agreement, Lafond is required to undergo counseling and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and forfeit her driver's license indefinitely. She will be forbidden to contact by any means, either directly or indirectly, the family of Lilyanna Johnson, and to make restitution amounting to $120,000.

Second degree assault, a class B felony, also carries a three-and-a-half to seven year sentence to be served consecutively with six months of the minimum suspended on condition she undergo counseling and treatment for substance abuse. Again Lafond may not contact the family of Allyssa Miner and is required to make restitution of $140,000.

The three-and-a-half to seven year sentence for possession of a narcotic drug was agreed suspended, conditional on her good behavior for 10 years while on parole. Finally she was given a suspended sentence of a year in the Belknap County House of Corrections for unlawful possession of a prescription drug, a misdemeanor.

In accepting the plea bargain as appropriate, Sisiti told the court that it ensures that Lafond, who recently turned 53, will be incarcerated or paroled until she is 67 years old. With time served and good behavior, he expected she will serve five years and four months in prison.

Guldbrandsen told the court that there was not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lafond was impaired when the collision occurred, in which case the negligent homicide charge would haven risen to a class A felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment. Therefore, she accepted the plea of guilty to the charge of negligent homicide for failing to maintain a proper lookout.

Presenting the state's evidence in the case, Guldbrandsen said that one witness reported that Lafond was holding a cell phone before the collision. Moreover, police executing a search warrant of her cell phone found that she had received three calls and a text message in the four minutes surrounding the time of the collision.

The Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team, Gulkdbrandsen said, confirmed that Lafond, while traveling northbound on Messer Street crossed the double yellow line into the southbound lane at the junction with Opechee Street, then climbed on to the sidewalk, where she struck the two girls, struck the guardrail on the bridge and caromed across the roadway to come to rest in the northbound lane. Analysis of images of Lafond's vehicle captured by a surveillance camera mounted on Irwin Motors property indicated that she was traveling at 40 miles per hour, 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.

Following the incident, Guldbrandsen recounted, Lafond was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital where she told Officer Ben Black of the Laconia Police "I may have blinked for 30 seconds at the time of the collision.

Guldbrandsen said that the attending nurse found a 30 milligram oxycodone pill in Lafond's clothing. A blood test, Guldbrandsen said, measured 166 nanograms per milliliter of oxycodone in Lafond's bloodstream, which Guldbrandsen said was well above the 10 to 100 nanograms per milliliter common among patients using the drug as prescribed. In the course of searching Lafond's vehicle Officer Jeff Wholley found gabapentin, a prescription medication for managing pain. Lafond had no prescription for either drug.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 May 2014 01:06

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