Power up with solar benches in Laconia


LACONIA — Laconia has joined Cambridge, Massachusetts; Austin, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and some 50 other cities in more than 20 states and Canadian provinces as a home to Soofa benches, which not only offer a place to sit but also charge mobile devices by capturing and storing rays of sunlight.

The benches, one at the millstone fountain at the corner of Pleasant Street and Main Street and the other on the boardwalk at The Weirs, are fashioned of metal and wood to a modern design and seat three while charging mobile devices with solar power. They were developed, designed and manufactured by by Soofa of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an enterprise begun and managed by three women from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, one of whom vacations in the Lakes Region.
Melissa McCarthy, who owns and operates The Studio, first brought the benches to the attention of the Main Street Initiative in 2014 and this year Bree Henderson of Polished and Proper began soliciting investment on GoFundMe.com to finance the purchase and installation of the benches. Henderson said Tuesday that the $5,000 raised from local individuals and businesses during the past six months marked the first transaction financed through GoFundMe, which led Soofa "to give us a deal, two for one."
"The benches," McCarthy said, "are a way to enhance the image of Laconia as a forward moving, energetic place to be." She added that she is not aware Soofa benches elsewhere in New Hampshire. "The closet benches I know of are in Boston," she said. "If you need some juice, it's here."
Henderson explained that the battery cell holds eight hours of charging power. At the same time, the bench can be programmed to collect other data, such as environmental data that will enable the city to monitor its air quality. The entire device is powered exclusively by sunlight and has no operating costs.


Melissa McCarthy, Bree Henderson and Stacey Lucas, from left, relaxed on the Soofa bench near the millstone fountain downtown while charging their cell phones with the power of sunlight captured by the solar panel between them.

Route 106 delays should lighten up soon

BELMONT — Route 106 project manager Chuck Flanders said Tuesday that Wednesday should be the last day crews are laying the base coat along the construction area.

He said crews have already finished the base coat nearest the Laconia city line.

"Now that we have pavement, it's likely that we'll be back to two lanes for a while," Flanders said.

Meredith to get life-size statue of comic strip character Archie

MEREDITH — A life-size statue of the comic strip character Archie, who was the creation of long-time Meredith resident Bob Montana, will be installed in the community park on Main Street by the time this town celebrates its 250th birthday in the summer of 2018.

Selectmen looked with favor on the proposal to have the statue located on town property when it was brought before them at a workshop Monday afternoon by architect Chris Williams and Jim McFarlin of the Greater Meredith Program, which is already working to obtain designs for the proposed statue, which will be built entirely with funds raised by program.
"This will be done at no cost to the town," Williams told selectmen.
McFarlin said that the GMP Design Committee has already gained permission to create the likeness of Archie from the copyright holder and is looking for a life-size bronze or similar material statue and has made contact with area sculptors capable of handling the project and completing it so that it can be installed in July of 2018.
"This is a way of paying tribute to Bob Montana's role in our community." said McFarlin, who said that it will be similar in scale to the statue of Polyanna in Littleton. "People come from all parts of the country just to have their picture taken with the statue." said McFarlin.
He said that GMP had originally planned to have the statue located on private property but decided that it might have to move the statue if the property was sold and thought it would be a better idea to have it placed on public property so that it would not have to be moved.
Selectmen reacted favorably to his request that the town accept the statue and place it in the community park.
Montana was a nationally known comic strip artist who had created the Archie comic book character in 1941. Over the next 35 years it would run over 750 newspapers.
He moved to Meredith from New York City with his wife in 1948 at the age of 28 after buying an old New England style farmhouse where they would raise four children, organic vegetables, chickens, horses and sheep.
He was active in the Meredith community, including ice racing on Meredith Bay, and lived there until he died of a heart attack on Jan. 4, 1975, while cross-country skiing.


This 1954 photo shows Bob Montana with his iconic character Archie, which will be immortalized, likely in bronze, in a statue to be installed at the Meredith community park. (Courtesy photo/Alchetron)