Council defers decision on selling Lakeport Fire Station and land


LACONIA — The City Council this week tabled the offer of Erica Blizzard, the owner of Lakeport Landing Marina, to purchase the Lakeport Fire Station after a public hearing at which only one person spoke in favor selling the property while nearly a dozen urged the city to retain ownership of the property and preserve the building.

The first steps in offering the property for sale are for the council to hold a public hearing and afterwards decide whether or not to declare the property "surplus," a decision the council deferred by tabling the matter. The issue is overshadowed by a tentative settlement of a lawsuit brought by Blizzard against the city, which apparently hinges on granting her an opportunity to purchase the fire station.

For 30 years, Lakeport Landing operated a showroom on a parcel on Union Avenue leased from the city until the lease expired and ownership reverted to the city last November. Blizzard offered to purchase the property her firm had leased, but the City Council decided it was bound to accept competitive bids. Irwin Marine , which operates on the abutting lot, submitted the highest offer, which the city accepted. Blizzard brought suit, claiming the bidding process was flawed. The court granted Irwin Marine's petition to intervene in the litigation then ordered all three parties to to seek to settle the dispute through mediation, which they did last month.

Soon afterward, Blizzard offered $127,700 for three lots, which together amount to less than an acre, where she would construct a showroom. The lot housing the Lakeport Fire Station is 0.32 acres and the lot abutting it to the rear of the building is 0.195 acres. The two lots include some 132 feet of municipal right-of-way — Railroad Avenue. Blizzard's offer includes granting an easement to the city confirming its right to Railroad Avenue and, to the extent possible, an undertaking to make parking spaces on the north side of the street available to the general public for parking. The third lot, a 0.81-acre strip between Union Avenue and the railroad is what remains of the larger parcel the city leased to Lakeport Landing, most of which was assigned to Irwin Marine.

Steve Whalley of HKPowersports described Union Avenue as "the backbone of the commercial part of the city" and urged the council the sell the property. He anticipated the fire station would be replaced with a new building that would be added to the tax rolls. Whalley asked the council to "Do nothing to block commercial development in our town."

However, Whalley was outnumbered by those opposing the sale of the property. Joe Higgins, a retired fire captain from Boston, strongly recommended retaining the station as "a strategic point of control for a future emergency." The Fire Department has surrendered its interest in the station, which has not operated since 1981, but has served as a dormitory for student firefighters and housed fire vehicles from time to time until relatively recently. The building currently serves as a garage for vehicle of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). The expansion and renovation of Central Fire Station was designed to render the Lakeport Fire Station redundant and includes space for the CERT vehicle, which has been garaged at the station.

Catherine Tokarz of the Heritage Commission reminded the council that the station, built in 1955, qualifies as a historic structure. Without addressing the sale of the property, she urged the council not to allow the building to be destroyed, but instead to require it be preserved and maintained. She was echoed by several speakers, including Bob Fortier of the Lakeport Association, who said flatly "I don't want to see the building torn down."

Fortier was also among several speakers to tell the council that the parking on the property is essential to the businesses at Lakeport Square. Chip Avery, who has operated a restaurant on Railroad Avenue for 32 years, said "It is the only parking in Lakeport" and said the sale of the lots is "not acceptable." Mike Conolly said that one business after another in Lakeport have failed for want of adequate parking, adding that if the spaces are lost, they cannot be replaced.

After the hearing, Councilor Hamel (Ward 2) made the motion to table, which carried unanimously with Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) absent. However, following the vote Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) proposed that before proceeding further the council should commission an appraisal of the property.

Mayor Ed Engler noted that Blizzard's offer matched the city's assessment of the value of the land, excluding the building, and said because she must vacate the property she has leased by next November, the council should make a timely decision. He advised the councilors that if they choose not to sell the property, they could spare the expense of appraising it simply by declining to declare it surplus. However, the council voted to order the appraisal and revisit the issue when it is complete.

Meanwhile, Myers said that since Blizzard submitted her offer for the property a handful of others have expressed interest in purchasing it.

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The land under consideration. (Google Maps)

Gilford Fire Training Center catches fire while unattended


GILFORD — The Fire Department Training facility off Lily Pond Road near the transfer station burned for real on Oct. 4, rendering it useless for any training.

Fire Chief Steve Carrier said his department was called just before 8 p.m. for an outside fire somewhere near the airport and found the roof of the training center burning.

"There wasn't much we could do," said Carrier, who noted the roof had pretty much collapsed before they got there. "We just got some water and put it out."

The training facility was approved in 2009, constructed in 2010 and used by area departments as a training place for extinguishing fires. Built out of metal trailers, it had three floors of "burn rooms" that had wooden studs and drywall nailed to the studs. It had a stairways and a roof so firefighters could practice using ladders.

Area fire departments would light the burn rooms on fire, extinguish them, and then replace the drywall for the next time.

Carrier said the facility was last used earlier that morning by Laconia and Belmont firefighters who had planned three days of practice. He said on that Tuesday firefighters were training on the second floor and their training had ended around noon. He said a couple of them returned around 3 p.m. and dropped off the replacement drywall.

Carrier said they didn't notice anything and neither did the Recycling Center Manager who was there until 4:30 p.m.

"The only thing I can think of is that something was smoldering under the eaves of the roof," Carrier told the selectmen Wednesday night. "We have had issues with fire lapping over the second-floor roof."

"It was an unfortunate accident," he said.

He told the board it didn't appear as if someone had vandalized the facility and the official cause is listed as "undetermined."

He told selectmen that the insurance carrier would be sending an adjuster next week. He also told the board they will have to clean up the site.

The training facility was built using about $25,000 of town money plus a number of donations, including one for $5,000 from Meredith Village Savings Bank. Hundreds of volunteer hours from area firefighters went into the project.

Carrier told selectmen that he hopes they get some money from the insurance company and that there are enough volunteers to help rebuild at least some some part of the facility.

Selectmen wanted to know if there was any response from Laconia and Carrier told them the chief came to the fire that night and was "very upset."
He said the two have spoken.

"There's not a lot to talk about at this point," Carrier said.

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A fire destroyed the roof of the Fire Department Training Facility off Lily Pond road last week, rendering the facility unusable. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

Extreme 'Punkin Chunkin' comes to NHMS next weekend

LOUDON — How far do you think you could chuck – or "chunk" – a pumpkin? With the right equipment, it might be nearly a mile! And distance is just what pumpkin throwers are looking for when they enter the Extreme Chunkin event the weekend of Oct. 15 and 16 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

10-15 American ChunkerLaunched from air cannons, catapults and trebuchets, pumpkins will be flying high.

Nearly 20 teams from six states are competing in the event, including the world record holder, the American Chunker, a $180,000 air cannon from Merrimack. Last year the American Chunker shot a pumpkin more than 4,500 feet across the speedway's land.

"This is an awesome regional event that will really give us an opportunity to hone in on what we need to do to prepare for the World Championship in November," said Brian Labrie, owner of American Chunker. "The good news is that there will be lots of good air cannons to compete against at the speedway. Extreme Chunkin is a very beneficial event for us."

Along with the Air Cannon Division, Extreme Chunkin will feature Trebuchet and Catapult/Torsion divisions, as well as – for the first time ever – Eastern Propane and Fuel Youth Division.

"There is a concerted effort to get kids involved because they are the future of this pumpkin chunkin," said Labrie. "This year's Extreme Chunkin is going to be 10 times what it was last year. People are really going to enjoy everything this event has to offer."

"We started the youth division this year to encourage young people to learn about math, physics and engineering," said Steven Seigars a partner in the International Chunkin Coalition. "What better way to learn than hands-on experience? The United States ranks 24th in the world in science; we need to change how we teach it. Tuning and tweaking a machine helps to reinforce concepts."

There will be five youth tems taking part in the Eastern Propane and Fuel Youth Division. All are from New England and 17 and younger.

On top of the launching events, New Hampshire Motor Speedway will have a number of opportunities for attending fans to participate in various activities, including airbrush tattoo artists/stations, a carnival archery tent, go-karts, and different food and drink vending services.1015 giant trebuchet

Exhibition events include a 200-foot crane that will be making drops on every half hour – including a 700-pound pumpkin, while the 2015 trebuchet champion, Yankee Siege II, will feature top-of-the-hour jaw-dropping launches of cars, pianos, and a 1,200-pound pumpkin.

It all begins on Saturday morning with the Extreme Chunkin 5K, a road race to honor former Nashua Police Chief Don Gross – one of the founding members of the International Chunkin Coalition and Nashua PAL – who died tragically in January.

The month of October is a busy one at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with Extreme Chunkin set for Oct. 15-16 and the 24 Hours of Lemons on Oct. 22-23. For more details and ticket information on these events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, or to purchase tickets to the 2017 July and September NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekends, stop by the ticket office, visit, or call Fan Relations at 603-783-4931.

10-15 World Chunkin trophy

Tentative Extreme Chunkin' 2016 schedule:

Saturday, Oct. 15
8 to 9 a.m. – Extreme Chunkin' 5K - Don Gross Memorial Run
8:15 a.m. – Captains Meeting and Pumpkin Weigh-In
9 a.m. to noon – Round 1 of Competition for Distance, Firing 8- to 10-pound pumpkins for open competitors
9:30 a.m. – Crane Drop (100 foot crane boom)
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Car Show (antique race car and car show)
10 a.m. – Yankee Siege I
10:30 a.m. – Crane Drop
11 a.m. – Yankee Siege I
11:30 a.m. – Crane Drop
Noon – National Anthem
Noon to 1 p.m. – Halftime Show – Yankee Siege I
1 to 4 p.m. – Round 2 of Competition for Distance
1:30 p.m. – Crane Drop
2 p.m. – Yankee Siege I
2:30 p.m. – Crane Drop
3 p.m. – Yankee Siege I
3:30 p.m. – Crane Drop

Sunday, Oct. 16
8:15 a.m – Captains Meeting and Pumpkin Weigh-In
9 a.m. to noon – Round 3 of Competition for Distance (Final Round)
9:30 a.m. – Crane Drop
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Car Show (antique race car and car show)
10 a.m. – Yankee Siege I
10:30 a.m. – Crane Drop
11 a.m. – Yankee Siege I
11:30 a.m. – Crane Drop
Noon – National Anthem
Noon to 1 p.m. – Halftime Show – Yankee Siege I
1 to 3 p.m – Free Fire
1:30 p.m.– Crane Drop
2 p.m. – Yankee Siege I
2:30 p.m. – Crane Drop
3 p.m. – Yankee Siege I
3 to 4 p.m. – Awards

2016 Extreme Chunkin Teams – as Sept. 22

Air Cannons
American Chunker
Chunkin Under de Influence
Second Amendment Too
Yankee Doodle

Hurling Chunks
Launch-Ness Monster
The Clark Chunkers
Tired Iron
Yankee Siege II

Chunk Norris (Catapult)
Dayton Destroyer (Catapult)
Mista Ballista (Torsion)
Pumpkin Warrior 3 (Catapult)
Sir Chunks-A-Lot (Catapult)
Socket Monkey (Catapult)

Youth Trebuchet
Yankee Scout
'Ya Buddy'

Special feature events and half-time shows by Yankee Siege I (6 time World Champion Trebuchet coming out of retirement) and special drops by a 100 foot Crane! See Pianos, 55 gallon water barrels, pumpkins of all size and who know maybe a car flying in the air over speedway grounds!

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