Parking garage to re-open in time for Pumpkin Fest

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that the repairs of the ramp leading to the middle deck of the parking garage are expected to be completed on Thursday and the parking spaces restored to the inventory on Friday.

Myers said that the preliminary estimated cost of the repairs falls between $80,000 and $120,000, which includes stripping the corroded sections of the exposed steel of lead paint and welding fresh steel to reinforce the weakened members of the structure. Since lead paint poses an environmental hazard, the residue was contained and vacuumed then placed in sealed drums and shipped to an appropriate disposal site, all of which added to the cost of the project.

Meanwhile, the assessment of the structural condition of the parking by Dubois & King, Inc., which was interrupted by the repair work, will resume. Myers said that the assessment will focus particularly on the section of the garage atop the commercial spaces on Main Street, where leaks have occurred in the past. He indicated that once the assessment is done and the extent of any further repairs is determined city officials will be able to consider the future of the structure.

Meanwhile, on Friday some two-hour parking spaces in the parking lot adjoining City Hall will be closed to enable electricians to lay the wiring necessary to support the vendors attending the Pumpkin Festival on Saturday. Myers said that the number of closed spaces should not present a major inconvenience and the 15-minute spaces will remain open.

4 candidates vying for 2 seats on Laconia Police Commission

LACONIA — With the mayor and four of six city councilors running without opposition, the most competitive race on the municipal election ballot is the four- cornered contest between Mike Gagnon, Jonathan Muller, Tom Tarr and incumbent Doug Whittum for two seats on the Police Commission.

Whittum, the lone incumbent in the field, was first elected to the commission in 2007. He developed a close relationship and deep respect for the Police Department , especially the school resources officers, during his long career as a teacher, guidance counselor and principal in the Laconia school system. Whittum also spent 40 years as a seasonal officer with Marine Patrol. As a commissioner he has been a strong supporter of the community policing and "Problem Oriented Policing" (POP) initiatives pursued by the department.

A native of Gilford, Gagnon graduated from Keene State College in 1998 then spent eight years in the real estate business in Scottsdale, Arizona before returning to the Lakes Region to join his father Jerry at JG Realty in 2007. He said that his interest in the Police Commission was triggered at a event sponsored by Fusion, a group fostering civic engagement and leadership, when Warren Clement, the retiring commissioner he seeks to succeed, suggested he consider the Police Commission.

Gagnon said that he began attending meetings of the commission and enrolled in the Citizen's Police Academy to become acquainted with the work of the department. He said he was impressed by the relationship between the officers and the public as reflected by the consistently high marks on the report cards citizens complete after engaging with the police. Likewise, Gagnon said he is impressed by the approach the department has taken to the scourge of addiction by concentrating on treatment. "They are trying something," he remarked, "and it's an amazing approach."

Gagnon stressed that "my goal is just to be involved and lend my voice when it is needed." He is the only candidate not to have put up signs, but conceded "there may be a sign coming soon to your lawn," Readily acknowledging that "all the candidates are well qualified," he said "one may have an advantage of greater experience."

That would be Tom Tarr, who last year retired after a career of 40 years in the criminal justice system, beginning as a probation and parole officer in 1974, becoming director of the probation and parole division at the New Hampshire Department of Corrections in 1985, and concluding as the chief federal probation officer in New Hampshire. He said that following his retirement he was wondering how to put his experience to use at the local level when he saw the advertisement for a vacancy on the Police Commission.

Tarr said that his experience matched the major responsibilities of the Police Commission such as overseeing budgets, contracts and the general operation of a law enforcement agency. In particular, in light of the challenge of substance abuse he highlighted his role in introducing the first federal drug court and treatment program — LASER (Law Abiding Sober Employed Rehabilitated), which he said posted a 70 percent success rate.

"I really just want to serve my city," said Jonathan Muller, who grew up on Dartmouth Street, graduated from New Hampton School and Plymouth State University, and for the past 17 years has owned and operated a successful landscaping business. He said that he is troubled by the prevalence of addiction, mental health issues and homelessness on the streets of the city and doubts that the police have sufficient personnel to address the problems.

Muller said he has ridden with officers on all three shifts and discovered there are times when only a sergeant and one or two officers are patrolling the entire city."There are not enough officers on the street," he offered. He suggested the commission should "think outside the box," in particular by considering the "Volunteers in Police Service" (VIPS) program. He explained that the programs provide one or two volunteers, trained to guidelines and standards set by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, to each shift who conduct welfare checks and traffic control. He described policing as "a tough job" and said he was running for the commission to see "what we can do to help them, It's also a great way to give back to the community."


Petition calls for special town meeting to take up dump picking

SANBORNTON — More than 100 residents petitioned the Board of Selectmen last week to convene a special Town Meeting with the purpose of restoring the practice of "dump picking" at the transfer station.

Last month, at the recommendation of Primex, which carries the town's property and liability insurance, the selectmen curtailed the tradition of turning one person's trash into another person's recycled treasure by allowing residents to comb through the leavings of their neighbors. The decision sparked an immediate reaction from residents who consider the tradition an efficient means of recycling useful items as well as a significant medium for the social life of the town.

Town Administrator Charles Smith said yesterday that the town clerk has confirmed the validity of the petition. He added that the selectmen have not had an opportunity to discuss the issues raised by the petition and declined any further comment.

State law provides that "in towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants upon the written application of 50 or more voters or 1/4 of the voters in town, whichever is fewer, and in towns with 10,000 or more inhabitants upon the written application of 5 percent of the registered voters in the town, so presented not less than 60 days before the next annual meeting, the selectmen shall warn a special meeting to act upon any question specified in such application."

Sanbornton is scheduled to hold its regular Town Meeting in March.