A 24-hour cleanup for the city

LACONIA — After all hands at the Department of Public Works worked around the clock clearing streets and sidewalks of snow, city officials lifted the snow emergency declaration at noon on Friday and began eying the prosper of another, much lighter storm, forecast for Saturday.

Wes Anderson, director of Public Works, said Friday that his people worked continuously from 7 a.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. Friday and would be "winding down" when the emergency is lifted at noon. He said that the storm passed around midnight on Thursday and drivers finished plowing and began salting streets around 5 a.m. on Friday while "a couple of trucks continued to dress up the main roads" and other crews began removing snow from from downtown streets.

"I caught a cat nap," said Anderson, who has a cot in his office. He said that he expected snow removal operations to end around noon on Friday to allow crews to get some rest in anticipation of light snow Saturday night. when an inch or inch-and-a-half could fall. Crews will resume work on Tuesday morning to remove the remaining snow and clear and sand sidewalks for children returning to school.

– Michael Kitch

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Storm delights skiers, spares region from outages

12-31 weather 

A plow truck clears Interstate 93 northbound toward Tilton around midday on Friday. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

A nor'easter that dumped nearly a foot of snow in Belknap County spared the region the type of widespread power outages plaguing Maine and delighted skiers and snowboarders with fresh powder.
At Gunstock Mountain Resort, all six lifts and 37 out of 55 trails were open Friday. A foot of snow fell on the Gilford resort.
"We've got good lines, we're parking out of the place, and it's a good day for skiers and riders," said Mike Roth, director of marketing and sales, on the heels of the overnight storm. Calling Friday a "bluebird powder day," Roth said the resort eased into its New Year's Eve celebration with ideal conditions.
"Certainly, coming off a drought year last year, this is a nice way to start a season," he said of this winter's consistent snowfall. Gunstock opened Saturday, Dec. 3, roughly when operators hoped to launch.
On Saturday, the ski area will feature the Gunstock Rocks New Year's Eve Celebration, with skiing and riding until 11:30 p.m., followed by live music and family entertainment in the Main Lodge; Smores at the Fire Ring from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Torch Light Parade by the Learning Center at 11:50 p.m.; and the Midnight Mountainside Fireworks.
For more about the Gunstock Rocks New Year's Eve Celebration, visit www.gunstock.com.
The Thursday-into-Friday storm dumped 10.8 inches of snow on E. Laconia; 10.1 inches on southwest Belmont; 9.1 inches on southwest Meredith; and 9 inches on northeast Meredith and Laconia, according to unofficial observations transmitted to the National Weather Service after 11 hours of storm activity.
Highest snowfalls observed in New Hampshire included 20 inches in Bartlett; 17 inches in Ossipee with snowfall counts throughout Carroll County ranging from 10 inches in Wolfeboro to 15 inches in Wakefield; 12 inches in Pembroke; and 17.2 inches on Mount Washington.
Highest snowfalls observed in Maine included 29 inches in Kingfield; 27 inches in Starks and northwest Oxford; and 25 inches in Parsonsfield.
On Thursday, Concord logged record snowfall of 8.3 inches, breaking a 1956 record of 7.1 inches; and the weather service reported 22.3 inches of snow accumulated in Concord for the month.
New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, which serves 83,000 homes and businesses in 115 New Hampshire communities, reported only a scattering of outages.
"We were definitely spared the worst of it, the highest (level) in outages that we saw was 1,000 members," said spokesman Seth Wheeler.
The brunt of outages came between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Thursday, with the Deerfield and Thornton areas hardest hit, he said.
Those outages generally resulted from branches dropping on wires and were repaired quickly, Wheeler said.
"It wasn't nearly as bad as we thought it could be," he said.
Temperatures dropped into the 20s, keeping the snow dry; and even east and south of Manchester, where forecasters warned conditions could be bad for power lines, the snow wasn't as wet and heavy as expected; and winds also didn't gust as high as predicted, Wheeler said.
Central Maine Power Company reported more than 100,000 Mainers without power after the nor'easter rolled through a southern swath of that state. By late Friday morning, an estimated 86,000 customers were without service as the last of the heavy snows moved out of central and northern Maine, the company reported.
The city of Laconia lifted a "snow emergency" parking ban at noon Friday. The ban originally was called to last through Friday.
The National Weather Service predicted a half inch or an inch of new snow from a weak storm system on New Year's Eve.

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City wrestling with care of private roads

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — "I think a severe can of worms has been opened up and I aim to point every one of them out," Cal Dunn told the City Council this week after the Department of Public Works failed to sand the steep stretch of his private road at the end of Garfield Street.

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson, director of Public Works, had already opened the can of worms. When  the council next meets on Jan. 9 he will present a report on the ambiguous status of any number of streets in all parts of the city, which his department may or may not be required to maintain. Anderson said Wednesday there are four categories of streets on his list, including private roads, which city officials believe municipalities are not obliged to maintain but instead prohibited from maintaining. There are also private roads that provide access to public streets or serve some public purpose that can be designated "emergency lanes" and maintained at public expense. There are also streets built to city standards with the intention of being accepted as public streets — Tremont Street between Pleasant Street and North Main Street is one —  which somehow have not been formally accepted. These streets may be improved and accepted, either solely at the expense of the city or by the betterment process, which includes a contribution from residents in the form of a surcharge on their property taxes.

Dunn lives at 217 Garfield St. on a lot beyond the intersection with Tilton Avenue and past a small brook reached by a 350-foot steeply sloped stretch of private roadway that he built and maintains. The city-owned right-of-way also extends past Tilton Avenue, but then is sliced diagonally in half by the property line of a private lot, leaving two pie-shaped scraps of roadway, one the southern extent of the city's right-of-way and the other the northern extent of Dunn's private road.

Dunn explained that in the 1950s and 1960s, the city plowed and sanded as far as the first lot past the brook. In 1975, when Dunn purchased the two southernmost two lots and built the private road to reach them, he said that he undertook to plow, repair and maintain the road and in return the Department of Public Works agreed to sand it. Dunn said that for the past 42 years the department has sanded the road.

That is, until Dec. 18, when after rain fell on a foot of snow, icing the road, and without notice the department failed to sand. He said that he spoke with Anderson who told him the city was not responsible for the private road and questioned his assertion that the city had sanded the road in the past, a remark he found "very shady." He described their conversation as "very distasteful" and said the city was "acting like small, immature children."

Dunn told the councilors that since he was being denied municipal services either his tax rate or assessed value of his property should be adjusted. Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) reminded him that the 240 homeowners at Briarcrest Estates also go without city services, but their properties are taxed at their full assessed value.

Dunn calculated that cost of applying 500 pounds of sand to his 24-foot wide 350-foot roadway would amount to $1.50 and offered to make a contribution to the city. He pointed out that trash collection had also been suspended and access for emergency vehicles was hindered.

"This is not a convenience," Dunn insisted. "This is a necessity. In essence, this is a public right-of-way, not just somebody's driveway." He said that state law forbids the city from withholding services it has provided in the past and repeated that personnel of the Department of Public Works have sanded the road for 42 years.

City Manager Scott Myers acknowledged that perhaps Dunn should have been informed the road would not be sanded, but insisted that state law forbids municipalities from spending public funds to maintain private roads. However, he told Dunn that he would speak with the city attorney about his claim that the city was not entitled to withdraw services that it had routinely provided for a number of years. Myers noted that the city has compiled "a comprehensive list" of what he called "streets in limbo," which the council will consider at its next meeting.

Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 30 and Bob Hamel (Ward 5) suggested that in the meantime Myers could reach an arrangement with Dunn to address his concerns. Myers repeated that he would consult with the city attorney, but stressed his reluctance to enter any agreement before the council had an opportunity to consider the issues posed by the other streets in question.

Lipman also suggested Dunn consider asking the city to accept his private road as public street.

"That is not an option," Dunn replied. "As long as I live it will remain a private road." Remarking that he had "a premonition" and was known for foreseeing the future, he said "The city is going to continue sanding this or I'm going going to receive a helluva reduction in the taxes on three homes."

According to the New Hampshire Municipal Association, private roads are hard roads to travel. On the one hand, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in 1952 that municipalities may only maintain private roads if the maintenance is "subordinate and incidental" to maintaining a public street and if the owner of the road pays the municipality for the services. On the other hand, in 2007 the same court found that plowing, salting and sanding and other maintenance and repair of a private road may be taken to mean that the municipality has implicitly accepted it as a public street. Consequently, the association advises its members against maintaining private roads.

12-29 map

This map shows the southern end of Garfield Street, with the city owned right-of-way highlighted in yellow and the dotted line beyond it defining the private road ending in a cul-de-sac. Cal Dunn owns the two southernmost lots numbered 20 and 21 on the map, also shown below. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

12-29 Cal Dunn street

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