Some pushing for hiring of city economic development director

LACONIA — The City Council expressed scant interest in hiring an economic development director when the subject was broached during a discussion of the Planning Department's budget this week.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders told the council that "we've heard the need very strongly," referring to the public meetings and outreach efforts undertaken in the process of preparing the Master Plan. In particular, she said that Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Committee has expressed support for the initiative.

Saunders, together with Kevin Dunleavy, director of the recreation and facilities department, provide staff support to the committee. Saunders noted the establishment of additional TIF districts at The Weirs and in Lakeport and said that in addition to providing administrative support to all three TIF boards, an economic development director could assist with marketing the city, attracting new businesses and applying for grants.

"We need help," Pat Wood, a member of the Downtown TIF Advisory Committee. He said the committee discussed hiring an economic development director and concluded it would be "a tremendous boon to the city as well as the TIF districts." Noting that the TIF advisory committees consist of volunteers, he said that the investment in professional assistance to them represented support for their contribution to the city. He explained that the proposals of the advisory committees, like recommending a route for the riverwalk or designing the gateway plaza, required the negotiating easements, engaging consultants and engineers, that are beyond the authority of volunteers and placed heavy burdens on Saunders and Dunleavy. At the same time, An economic developer could also shepherd  entrepreneurs seeking to open businesses or develop property through the planning and permitting process as well as serve as a "cheerleader" for the city

Wood reminded the council that the city once had an economic development director, who was let go when the Belknap Economic Development Council was originally formed in the early 1990s. He suggested that the position could be funded by the TIF districts, which accrue income from the future property tax revenues that accrue from the increase in assessed value generated by new construction, expansion or renovation of property within them.

However, City Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, called the suggestion "a strategic mistake". He explained that the Belknap Economic Development Council is pressed to fund its operations and the city would gain more by collaboration than duplication.

"You're pushing a rock up a hill with me on this," he told Saunders.

City Manager Scott Myers said he could "see some value" in a part-time administrative position to coordinate the activities of the TIF districts and Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) encouraged his colleagues to "keep an open mind about the value of an economic development coordinator."

Mayor Ed Engler said that the revenue accruing to the TIF districts should be not be applied to personnel costs but instead used to service debt on borrowings to finance capital improvements.

Despite the cool reception from the council, Wood said that he was not discouraged and intended to pursue the proposal.

Bikers flock to Flo's for free trim, shave or boot shine

LACONIA — For those who are cruising up Lakeside Avenue at Weirs Beach this Motorcycle Week, a manicure, boot shine, goatee trim or a clean shave may be something that sounds appealing.

And now, for the first time in the 92-years of the Laconia rally, and thanks to rally sponsor Progressive Insurance, it can happen and it can happen for free.

"Progressive provides excellent customer service and this is just and extension of that," said Matt Mondek who is one of Progressive's ambassadors.

Patrick Jansen, the official spokesman for Flo's Chop Shop — "Flo" being the bright, red-lipsticked saleswoman with the dark up do in Progressive Insurance commercials and ads — said Progressive wants people to know that it is the number one insurer for motorcycles since it started insuring them in 1964.

He said many times bike insurance is more like protecting a treasured piece of artistry when one considers all of the work and special attention owner/enthusiasts put into them.

"Its all about customer service and Flo's Chop Shop is customer service at its best," he said.

To show how they care, Jansen, who is the owner of Sin Central — a hot-rod and Harley Davidson shop in Atlanta, Ga. — said he was recruited by Progressive for Flo's at because of his reputation for excellence in restoring motorcycles and hot rods.

He said Sin Central is also known for donating a considerable amount of money annual to help Atlanta's children and Progressive wanted a company that was community-minded as well as professional.

"This is about beards, bikers and boots," he said, noting Progressing recruited some of the best in the business for Motorcycle Week.

Jansen said Progressive has brought to Laconia 10 brand ambassadors — eight women and two men — three barbers and three shoe shiners.

The shoe shiners are from Shinola Shoe Shine of Chicago and, according to their Facebook page, bring their services to Progressive for shows all over the world.

The professional barbers are from SHED Barbers in Austin, Texas. Michael Regino said they were approached by Progressive for Flo's Chop Shop in Laconia and were thrilled to be invited. He said his barber shop in South Austin takes barbering back to 100 years ago when there were hot towels, straight razors and all of the barbering traditions. A customer at SHED Barbers can also get a free beer or whiskey while waiting.

"I would return to New Hampshire in a heart beat," said Regino, noting he is staying on the lake and the water is so clear he can see the bottom.

Jansen said he had been riding for years and has been to the Laconia Rally a number of times. He said he stays in a friend's house on Lake Winnipesaukee and just loves coming to Laconia.

"From Atlanta, this is a big change in scenery," he said.

Jansen said Flo's Chop Shop plans on becoming regulars at Motorcycle Week in Laconia.

"Everyone here is so welcoming, Charlie (St. Clair) and Jen (Anderson) are just the best," Jansen said, referring to officials of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. "We'll be back, definitely."

Insurance executive survives small-plane crash

LACONIA — A local man was flown by helicopter to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center yesterday morning after crashing an airplane on his property about 500 feet southwest of his private, grass airstrip.

Police officials confirmed the pilot is 80-year-old Tom Volpe who lives at the property on Hadley Road, just north of South Down Shores/Long Bay gated communities.

Firefighters said it took them about 25 minutes to stabilize Volpe and extricate him from the aircraft. He was taken by ambulance to the former Laconia State School property, where he was transferred to a DHART Helicopter. Volpe suffered face, head and possible chest injuries and Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that responding EMTs and paramedics were able to stabilize him before putting him on the helicopter.

Volpe suffered a punctured lung, multiple facial injuries and an back injury.

Neighbor and friend Bill Kratochvil said he has flown a few times with Volpe and that he owns two planes — a bi-plane and a white Piper Tri-Pacer. Though kept at a distance by the relatives of the property owner, it appears the plane that crashed was the Piper Tri-Pacer.

"He is into flying a lot," said Kratochvil, noting Volpe served on the Laconia Airport Authority at some point in the past.

Volpe's son Stewart, died after a plane crash in the same area on April 15, 2000. He succumbed to his injuries 10 days later.

Volpe has long been president of Melcher & Prescott Insurance Agency in Laconia. He has been a principal owner there since he and the late Edward Miller bought the company in 1959. 

NTSB is investigating the crash.


CUTLINE: (SUBMITTED PHOTO) Laconia emergency crews remove a local man from his plane after it crashed on his own property just after 8:30 a.m. on Hadley Road.


According to the 2000 NTSB crash report, Stewart Volpe's plane took off headed south, climbed to 50-100 feet or "just over the tree-line" and began circling to the right. The plane completed 360-degree turn and was 10- to 15-feet nose high when the nose dropped. The plane's owner told investigators that he heard the engine running during the turn was couldn't recall if the engine was running during the drop. NTSB investigators determined there was something wrong with the fuel as it was "green in color, cloudy and resembled muddy water."