Low bid for building Belmont recreation trail would still put project 9% over budget

BELMONT — Three sealed bids for the construction portion of Phase 1 of the Belmont recreational trail were opened yesterday afternoon and all three were above the $690,000 allotted.

An additional $99,000 is set aside for engineering and oversight, meaning the town has $780,000 to spend on the project.

The bids were opened by Belmont Land Use Technician Rick Ball and recorded by Timothy Higginson, an engineer with the Louis Berger Group Inc. which designed and is overseeing the project.

Bids were submitted from John Lyman Co. for $1,297,295, from Busby Construction for $872,872, and from Nelson Companies of Center Conway for $726,278.

Ball said the Nelson bid plus the engineering means the project is about 9 percent over budget.

Ron Mitchell, who has been leading the fund-raising for the trail for 12 years said the next step is to submit the bids to the N.H. Department of Transportation and to evaluate them for accuracy.

Mitchell said he thinks that construction companies have plenty of work these days and are having trouble finding employees, which could be why they had so few bids.

"It's not like it was two years ago when (construction companies) were screaming for work," he said.

The trail has been being planned for about 12 years and is part of a Transportation Enhancement Program funded through state and federal highway money. The phase 1 pathway will mostly run in the railway right-of-way between the Belmont-Laconia line and the Mosquito Bridge, along the shore of Lake Winnisquam.

Father & Son exit Belmont mobile home fire just in time

BELMONT — Firefighters from four communities extinguished a fire yesterday at 5 p.m. at a mobile home on Lamprey Road.

The blaze substantially damaged the middle section of the home and Fire Chief David Parenti said it extended into the ceiling.

The home is owned by Laconia photographer Ian Raymond's wife and her two sisters. Raymond was at the scene and said his son, who is renting the home, had taken a shower and noticed smoke coming from the area of the hot water tank.

Raymond said his son grabbed his grandson and immediately left the building and then called 911.

"I'm so glad this didn't happen at night," Raymond said noting the child's bedroom is on one side of the mobile home and his son and daughter-in-law's bedroom is on the other side. The fire burned in the middle of the home right near the front entrance.

Parenti said the first responding engine noticed heavy fire coming from the center of the home and called for a first alarm bringing crews from Laconia, Gilford and Tilton-Northfield to the scene.

He said Belmont and Laconia firefighters made an "aggressive inside attack" and were able to knock down the bulk of the flames, however it had begun to spread into the attic.

"It is very fortunate that the occupants got out of the home and then called," said Parenti. "I just can't stress that enough."

The chief also noted that the occupant had taken down the smoke detectors in the kitchen/living room area because he had burned some food and they kept sounding.

Parenti said that the fire started in the area of the hot water heater but they hadn't determined the exact cause yet.

Raymond said his son and family would be staying with family.

New town administrator shakes the tree (380)

GILMANTON — Last month, at his first meeting of the Board of selectmen, Paul Branscombe, the newly appointed town administrator, indicated that town officials need to change the way they do business, and in his first report to the board this week he underlined his earlier remark.

"Our intent here is to bring civility, professionalism, collaboration, transparency and public trust back to the Town office," Branscombe wrote in his report. He went on to note several changes already made or under way.

The Finance Officer, Marie Mora, who had been working in the selectmen's office, has moved to the town administrator's office. Branscombe noted that on his first day at work, Mora told him she intended to resign "as it had been total chaos and turmoil during her three months working in the Town office," but fortunately decided to stay.

Brascombe reported that at the first meeting of what will be monthly meetings of department heads, it was decided to resurrect the Joint Loss Committee, required of every employer of 15 or more employees, and establish a personnel policy committee.

In addition, he offered several recommendations. He observed that there appeared to be too many meetings of the selectboard each month with non-public sessions, the minutes of which are sealed. He proposed meeting twice a month, once when public comment would be invited and once in a work session "where the board can roll up their sleeves and get things done with no public comments."

The selectmen, Branscombe recommended, should attend a workshop for public officials tto familiarize themselves with the current procedures and protocols. In the same breath he reminded the board that one selectman cannot give instructions to the town administrator or town employees without the concurrence of the full board, which can only be achieved at a meeting of the board.

Branscombe recommended abandoning the practice of placing departmental budget items in the town office budget and assigning them to "the respective department budget so as to accurately reflect the cost of that particular department."

Above all, Branscombe told the selectmen that "we can no longer do full-time with part-time employees ... it simply doesn't work." He indicated that he would present a specific proposal for extending hours of work to the selectboard when it meets on Aug. 25.