MEREDITH — "It may seem slow to some people, but we'll try to speed it up," said Don Lyford of the N.H. Department of Transportation (DOT), speaking Thursday to a committee of local stakeholders that first convened in 2006 to address traffic congestion in the Rte. 3/Rte. 25 corridor. Gene McCarthy of McFarland Johnson, Inc., the project manager, assured the panel "we'll start getting into the meat of the project."
Two-and-a-half hours later the committee found itself at the intersection in question, which the American Automobile Association once ranked the 17th worst bottleneck in the country, with limited funding and awkward choices.
In June 2009, McFarland Johnson prepared a report for the DOT outlining a half-dozen plans for improving the flow of traffic from the junction of Rte. 3 and Rte.104 along Rte. 3 through the intersection of 3 and 25, across Rte. 25 to Center Harbor, a distance of 4.2 miles. However, with only $5 million allocated for the project and the prospect of more funding bleak McCarthy said "it doesn't make sense to be looking at the whole four miles."
Instead, McCarthy told the committee the scope of the project would be narrowed to "the village core," from the 104 and 3 junction to the intersection of Rte. 25 and Pleasant Street and allowed "that may start to shrink."
"You throw the rock in the pond and look at the 99th ripple," remarked Jack Carty, "our problem is the intersection of 3 and 25."
"Well get to 3 and 25," Warren Clark assured him, "but we'll talk about a lot of things to get there."
When Rusty McLear asked "is the money there," Lyford replied "yes and no. I'm not saying you can't find a dime over $5-million."
Lou Kahn, who chairs the committee, sought to force the pace, observing that "we've had experience in this town of finding that the money had moved on when we didn't act fast enough."
Faced with selecting a preferred alternative, the committee quickly rejected two similar options, each consisting of a roundabout at the intersection of 3 and 25 and two other roundabouts — one to the north on Rte. 3 and another at the junction of Rte. 25 and Pleasant Street — which would be joined by two or three-lane bypass roadway crossing Hawkins Brook.
"Keep it simple," said Kahn. "This is not simple." He said that the cost of acquiring land and constructing a road and bridge would far exceed the $5 million budget. "This is DOA," Carty agreed. this is DOA."
Likewise, the committee discarded a plan to turn the corridor into a string of beads with a grassed median strip and one-lane roundabouts at 104 and 3, Terrace Avenue, Mill Street, Church Landing, Lake Street, 3 and 25 and Pleasant Street. John Edgar, director of community development, pointed out that the plan would eliminate left turns, which he said "anywhere in the corridor are a hassle if not a hazard. " Others said that by slowing traffic the plan presented an opportunity to transform Rte. 3 from a highway to a "main street," in keeping with the character of the town center. But, all agreed the cost would be far beyond the available funding.
As Carty and Clark foresaw, discussion returned to the 3 and 25 intersection. McCarthy reminded the committee that congestion could not be eased without reconfiguring the intersection. DOT estimates that northbound traffic on Rte. 3 passes through the intersection at a rate of at least 900 vehicles per hour at peak times in the summer while Rte. 25 carries between 700 and 800 vehicles per hour westbound at the same time.
Three options were presented to the committee — a one-lane roundabout, a two-lane roundabout and an elliptical roundabout open to two-lanes of northbound traffic from Rte. 3 at its southeast corner.
The committee favored a one-lane roundabout, which would have the least impact on the surrounding properties. However, when the flow of traffic through a one-lane roundabout was simulated, the queues either side of the intersection lengthened. "It's worse than it is now," Clark said. "If that's what is going to be like, go back to the drawing board."
Although the elliptical roundabout fared no better, Kahn suggested the engineers reconfigure it to accept a higher volume of westbound traffic from Rte. 25 and run fresh simulations.
A two-lane roundabout at the intersection markedly lessened the congestion. But, a majority appeared to share the opinion of Rusty McLear that "it's more pavement than we need as a town, except on summer weekends."
Kahn said that his hope to find a solution "in my lifetime that is as inexpensive as possible, with as little land acquisition as possible and with minimal impacts on existing businesses."
Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 11:05
LACONIA — Sporting umbrellas while proudly wearing baseball hats and jackets, Red Sox fans from all over the Lakes Region waited in line in a solid rain Friday afternoon at the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound restaurant to take pictures of their family and friends with the 2004, 2007 and 2013 World Series trophies.
The line kept growing throughout the afternoon, testament to the love affair the fans have with their team, fair weather or foul, and what it has meant to them over the years. After 86 years with no title to show, the Red Sox have now won three in less than 10 years, more than any other team so far in the 21st century.
''My father Walter Milliken was a diehard Red Sox fan. But he died just before they won the 2004 World Series. I wished he could have lived to have seen that trophy,'' said Donna Brown of Meredith, who said that she and her husband, Ernie, attended a Red Sox game for the first time ever last summer on the day that the Carl Yazstremski statue was dedicated.
''It's a dream come true,'' said Patty Lance of Meredith, who was waiting in line with her grand-son Colby Hurd, 9, so that she could take his picture with the trophies.
Colby is a soccer player but his older brother, Nick, who is 18, pitches for Inter-Lakes High School and couldn't make it to the trophy show because he was at baseball practice.
One of the first through the line was Nathan Hardy, 14, of Belmont, who said that he wished that there were a lot of miniature World Series trophies at the event so that people could get one to take home.
He recently received a copy of Sports Illustrated autographed by Red Sox outfielder Johnny Gomes, he of the gnome-like beard, who was featured on the cover.
''We met him at a baseball card show at the Raddison in Manchester and my son sent him an autographed picture of himself. Nathan's a Special Olympics Gold Medalist with 25 trophies,. It was really nice of Johnny to send him the magazine,'' said his dad, Darrin, who said his son has won medals in skiing, basketball, bowling and track and field and plays T-ball.
''He loves baseball and watches it all the time. We're going down to Boston on opening weekend to see the Red Sox,'' said Hardy.
Mark Roman of Laconia has been a Sox fan for 37 years and says his brothers are also great fans.
''I couldn't miss a chance to see these trophies. We had a lot of years of disappointment until 2004.''
Kevin Fisk, who ran Kevin's Cafe in Moultonborough until recently and is looking for a new waterfront location for his restaurant, says he'll be going to Boston to watch the Red Sox on April 8, says he used to be a regular at the New Hampshire Baseball Dinner at the N.H. Armory , where he often saw Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk.
Mitch Hamel, a local realtor and member of the Laconia Parks and Recreation Commission, said ''it's nice to be able to have these three championship seasons,'' and said that one of his best memories of recent seasons was having Red Sox owner John Henry pour champagne into his soda cup when the Red Sox celebrated winning a division series at Fenway Park.
Bob Galeckas of Gilford, a former Bay Stater, says that he's old enough to remember when he thought he'd never see the Red Sox win a World Series. ''After 1986 and that loss to the Mets I though we'd never win. I remember those losses in 1975 and 1967 before that. It's just great to have these trophies come here.'' said Galeckas.
He's very high on the Red Sox' chances of repeating as champions, something they haven't done since 1915-16. ''I like Pedroia and Ortiz, when he isn't crying, and John Lester. Daniel Nava is a great story and I love to see the young kids like Boegarts and Middlebrooks,'' says Galeckas.
The trophy tour is co-hosted by WZEI 101.5 FM.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 10:59
LACONIA — Attorneys from New Hampshire Legal Assistance have challenged a recent change to the city's welfare guidelines clarifying that someone whose assistance was suspended for failing to comply with the requirements of the program must become compliant before reapplying for assistance.
The prior guidelines stipulated that, subject to two conditions, the welfare officer was not bound to accept an application from a recipient who has been disqualified for failing to accurately disclose all income and other resources, participate in the work program, search for gainful employment or seek other specified sources of public assistance.
The first condition provided that any applicant contesting their disqualification can request a hearing. The second, and more controversial condition, used to read "that a recipient who has been suspended for at least six months due to noncompliance may file a new application."
City officials who administer the welfare program expressed concern that recipients — and their advocates — were interpreting the second condition to entitle them to file a new application for assistance six months after being disqualified regardless of whether or not they have resolved the issues leading to their suspension. Consequently, they asked the council to strike the language from the guidelines, which the council, after some debate, did on March 10.
This week Daniel Feltes and Stepahnie Bray of the Concord Office of New Hampshire Legal Assistance wrote to Finance Director Donna Woodaman, who oversees the Welfare Department, and Suzanne McCormack, who administers general assistance, questioning the amended guidelines.
First, noting the reference to suspensions of six months, Feltes and Bray claim that state law neither contemplates nor permits suspensions of six months, adding that in 2012 the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down such a provision in Manchester. Furthermore, they observed that the council rejected language that would have authorized the welfare officer to consider issues of non-compliance when weighing an application submitted six months or more after suspension. By refusing to accept applications for assistance without reviewing the applicants' circumstances, the attorneys charge this would deny applicants their rights of due process guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions.
City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that city officials sought advice of legal counsel before recommending amendments to the welfare guidelines to the City Council. "I am very confident that what we have adopted satisfies both the spirit and the letter of the law," he said, acknowledging that New Hampshire Legal Assistance takes a different view.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 10:42
LACONIA — Earlier this week the School District Budget and Personnel Committee reviewed some of the smaller capital and maintenance items that school officials indicated they wanted in their budgets for 2014-2015.
Some of the biggest items are at the High School and include landscaping and irrigation for the front lawn for $20,000, paving the south side parking lot for $30,000 and replacing the bleacher rails in the gymnasium.
Business Administrator Ed Emond said other things that should be done at the High School include repairing the fencing for an estimated $10,000, replacing one or two of the fire doors for $15,000, repairing some of the classroom ceilings for $15,000 and repairing some of the windows in the older section of the school.
The Laconia Middle School has asked for an increase in the number of video cameras and strategically locating or relocating some of those that are already there. Emond explained that in the three years since the school has been open, they have identified some "blind spots" including the front sign that was recently vandalized.
The administration recommends a water-bottle filling station for $1,500 and an auto-scrubber for the floors for $8,000.
A request from the SAU to refurbish the rest of the wood floors at the Harvard Street office building was nixed by the committee. Members said future efforts should be concentrated on replacing the boiler that failed three times this winter but all agreed an $80,000 boiler was not possible in the 2014-2015 budget.
The district's elementary schools appear to be in good shape with the exception of the oldest portion of the Pleasant Street School roof.
Emond recommended "roof crickets" or drainage channels to prevent water from ponding on certain parts of the roof. He said there is no leaking right now but that won't last forever.
The proposed expenditure is $5,000 for the roof crickets and $8,500 for sump pump roof drains.
Elm Street elementary School is requesting some outdoor cameras for $800, a carpet replacement for $1,500 and some playground improvements and repairs for $1,400. Emond said the school administration had initially asked for a landscaping shed for equipment but told the committee he recently learned the Huot Center students will be building the shed saving about $2,000 from the original estimate of $5,000.
At Woodland Heights Elementary School the administration team requested changing the exterior wall building lights to LED-type lights for $4,800. Emond said some savings would be gained through electricity costs.
Emond also said there are some areas of Woodland Heights schools that could use some painting including the cement staircase that the students use as an emergency exit.
The total requests from the building supervisors team is about $200,000. Committee members said the projects will be funded as the district gets a better understanding of its final budget.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 April 2014 12:50
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