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Priority to customers or employers again question regarding downtown parking

LACONIA — For the second time in less than a year, the City Council began wrestling with how to allocate parking spaces in the center of the city between the customers and the employees of downtown businesses.

In January, the council agreed to designate 34 of the 38 vertical parking spaces on the east side of New Salem Street — on the north side of the railroad station — for all-day parking, leaving four spaces immediately behind the station restricted to two-hour parking for patrons of the businesses housed in the building. The 38 spaces had been evenly divided between two-hour and all-day parking.

In reallocating the spaces the council was responding to business owners, who found that all-day parking for their employees had become scarce after Lakes Region Community Services occupied the old Federal Building on North Main Street.

At the same time, the council prohibited on-street parking on Harvard Street between North Main Street and Dartmouth Street, where congestion posed risks to motorists leaving the Laconia Clinic lot by the Harvard Street exit.

Both changes were introduced for a trial period set to expire with the lifting of the winter parking parking ban, when the council would assess the impact and decide whether or not to make it permanent.

In returning the issue to the council this week, City Manager Scott Myers confessed that the expiration of the trial period in the spring slipped his mind. He said that since the changes were made he was not aware of any adverse effects and recommended the council act to make them permanent.

Although no reservations were expressed about banning parking on Harvard Street, building owner John Moriarty, speaking for the executive committee of the Main Street Initiative, asked the council to restore the two-hour parking spaces.

"You can plan for the past or plan for the present," Moriarty said during a Tuesday interview, "but the real challenge is to plan for the future." He noted that there is 75,000-square-feet of vacant commercial space to be occupied on Main Street. Anticipating future commercial development downtown, including the conversion of the former Evangelical Baptist Church to a restaurant and a use for the rotunda at the center of the railroad station, he said projected a need for parking that turns over frequently.

"We are looking of a long-term parking solution for downtown." Moriarty said. He suggested quantifying the number of employees requiring all-day parking downtown and allocating spaces for them. He estimated that between the parking garage, outdoor parking lots and on-street spaces there is space for more than 1,000 vehicles around the loop formed by Beacon Street East and Beacon Street West, enough to accommodate both employees and customers.

Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) agreed, remarking that the city was investing in projects to attract businesses downtown and sufficient parking for customers was essential.

However, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) stressed the needs of two major employers — the Laconia Clinic and Lakes Region Community Services — and urged the council against taking any action. "It's not an immediate issue," he said. ""Extend it as is."

The council agreed to return to issue at its next regularly scheduled meeting on November 12.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 02:19

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Gun said stolen during N. Main St. assault

LACONIA — A 22-year-old city man was held at the Belknap County Jail last night or charges that he assaulted another young man at a North Main Street apartment and stole a handgun from him. Kenneth B. Dukette of Dewey Street refused bail and will be arraigned this morning in 4th Circuit Court - Laconia Division. He is charged with robbery, first-degree assault, criminal threatening (two counts), criminal restraint (two counts), simple assault and default of bail conditions.

According to a police report, officers responded to a report of a robbery and assault at 1166 North Main Street at 3:51 p.m. on Tuesday. A 26-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman reported that Dukette and another, unknown, male had assaulted the man and threatened the life of both victims with a firearm before stealing at least one firearm, a handgun. Dukeete and his alleged accomplice were said to have fled in a black vehicle with a paper license plate.

Two hours later, an officer spotted the black vehicle on Highland Ave. and followed it out Gilford Ave. and into Gilford. The car was stopped near the Laconia Bypass once other cruisers had arrived and Dukette was taken into custody.

The was no word last night about the identification of the second male suspect.

Police ask that anyone with information about the incident contact them at 524-5252 or contact the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.




Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 02:12

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As privatization talk heats up, Sanbornton DPW chief leaves for Northfield

SANBORNTON — Johnny VanTassel is resigning his position as the Director of Public Works and will be taking a similar position in the town of Northfield. His last day on the job here is November 22.

Northfield Town Administrator Glenn Smith said yesterday that VanTassel will be the highway superintendent, with supervisory responsibilities over highways and sanitation, roads, the transfer station, the parks, and the cemeteries.

VanTassel said yesterday that he will continue to live in Sanbornton and will continue to contribute to the community. He said he was very grateful to the town for the opportunities it has given him and enjoyed his time working there.

Van Tassel started with the town as a part-time employee at the transfer station and worked on weekends as a backhoe operator, becoming the operations managers. Under previous Public Wroks Director John Thayer, VanTassel became the highway foreman and he took over as director when Thayer left about 18 months ago.

In the 10 or so years since Gene Auger retired as the elected road agent and the position went from being elected to being an appointment by selectmen, the town has had five directors: Ralph Carter, Lenny Boudrias, John Hubbard, John Thayer, and VanTassel.

Over the same period of time, selectman's meetings have often been dominated by people who have come to the board to complain about the work being done by the Highway Department and its employees.

That, plus the ability of trained heavy equipment operators to earn more money in larger communities, has led to a reasonably high turnover rate.

The town has also completed a nearly $1 million DPW building.

Within the past month, Sanbornton selectmen have decided to seek information about whether or not it would make sense to privatize the Highway Department. To that end, they created a committee to examine all of the possibilities.
On October 15, Selectmen named Jeff Jenkins of the Budget Committee, Fire Chief Paul Dexter, retired finance director Curt McGee, Andy Sanborn, Mark Thurston, and Ralph Rathjen to the Highway Privatization Committee.

Draft minutes of last week's meeting say that Planning Board member Bill Whalen declined to serve on the committee and selectmen, by a 2-to-1 vote, added Evelyn Auger as the seventh member. Selectman Karen Ober voted against Auger's appointment.

According to the draft minutes of the October 23 meeting, VanTassel said he will still serve as a non-voting adviser to the recently created committee.

The committee is tasked with exploring all possibilities for the future of the DPW and is expected to take as much as a year to complete its work. Selectmen have said that the earliest any possible change to the DPW structure would be the 2015 annual Town Meeting.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 02:09

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Belknap Mountain Road to be closed for Trick or Treating on Thursday evening

GILFORD — To ensure the safety of pedestrians during Trick or Treating activities, Belknap Mountain Road will be closed to vehicular traffic, between Potter Hill Road and the Gilford Elementary School, police announced on Monday.  The street will be closed between the hours of 4:30and 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 31st.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 03:29

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