Traffic counts suggest Motorcycle Week activity still declining

LACONIA — Traffic during the 91st running of Motorcycle Week in June recorded at 10 locations by the Lakes Region Planning Commission was less than in 2014 and, on the last weekend of the rally — when rain fell or threatened — volume was the lightest of any year in the last 10 years at nine of the 10 locations.

The commission counted traffic (in both directions) between Saturday, June 13 and Sunday, June 21 at Funspot and the Weirs Channel Bridge on Rte. 3, White Oaks Road on Rte.-11B, the Chamber of Commerce and Margate Resort on Weirs Boulevard, Union Avenue, Parade Road, Rollercoaster Road, Watson Road and Lakeside Avenue.

The total average daily traffic volume at the 10 locations during the nine days of the rally was 117,208 vehicles in 2015, compared to 156,894 in 2014, a decrease of 25 percent. Traffic volume declined by between 8 percent and 46 percent at all 10 locations. The steepest decline in traffic volume was recorded at the Weirs Bridge, where the average daily volume of 16,042 vehicles was 46 percent below the 29,553 counted in 2014. From last year to this year, average daily traffic volumes also tumbled 34 percent at the Margate Resort, 33 percent on Rte. 11-B and 30 percent at Lakeside Avenue.

The traffic volume on the last weekend of this year's rally — Friday the 19th, Saturday the 20th and Sunday the 21st — was the lowest recorded at nine of 10 locations since 2006, with the tally at the Weirs Bridge topping the count in 2009 representing the lone exception. For the past several years the Weirs Bridge, which was closed to four-wheel traffic during the last four days of Motorcycle Week, has remained open to all vehicles as traffic volumes have diminished.

Traffic volume on the last three days of the rally this year was significantly below the historic average for the same three days between 2006 and 2014 on each of the three days and at all 10 locations. Compared to the historic average traffic volume was 25 percent lower at Funspot, 23 percent lower at the Weirs Bridge, 43 percent lower at Rte. 11-B, 27 percent lower at the Chamber of Commerce, 48 percent lower at the Margate Resort, 16 percent lower on Union Avenue, 18 percent lower on Parade Road, 28 percent lower on Rollercoaster Road, 25 percent lower on Watson Road and 34 percent lower on Lakeside Avenue.

The greatest volume at each location was posted during the 24 hours on Saturday the 13th, Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th. The least traffic was counted on Monday the 15th and Tuesday the 16th, both of which were rainy days.

Newfound freshmen making news friends & overcoming old fears

LACONIA — Some 26 incoming freshman at Newfound Regional High School in Bristol took part in an aerial adventure at Monkey Trunks, next to Funspot, yesterday.
The students, who spent the morning taking on the challenge of the high ropes adventure course, are taking part in the Newfound Bridge Academy, a voluntary program for eighth graders transitioning to the high school.
Amy Yeakel, who is charge of the extended learning opportunities program at the high school, said that one of the benefits of the program, which serves abut 50 students during two four-day sessions in July, is that it provides an opportunity for students, many of whom have attended school up to this point in different communities, to get to know one another.
New this year to the school district are students from Hill, who had previously attended the Jenny Blake Elementary School and the Franklin Middle School. The district serves students from six other communities, Bristol, New Hampton, Alexandria, Bridgewater, Hebron and Danbury.
''On Wednesday we were at Wellington Sate Park on Newfound Lake in Bristol and the students did some GPS work, which helps them learn survival, skills,'' said Yeakel.
She says that the goal of the program is to reach the children at a crucial time in their lives and help them get ready to be able to make good decisions, which lead to becoming responsible adults.
Topics which are covered include note taking strategies, homework tips, test taking suggestions, anti-bullying, stress reduction, and general orientation to the high school building and associated logistics. Yeakel says that the Monkey Trunks experience helps the students develop confidence in their abilities to handle stressful situations and to provide positive support for one another.

''One of the girls had a real fear of heights. But we persuaded her to put on a helmet and harness and watch other members of the group. After a little while she overcame her fear and wanted to get out on the ropes and zip lines with the other kids,'' said Yeaklel.
Casey Kasey, a 13-year-old from Bristol, said that the Monkey Trunks course was ''fun, but challenging,'' while Mason King, 14, from New Hampton, said that from his standpoint the aerial adventures was ''a really good fun time.''

City & LRGHealthcare agree to 2 more years of ambulance service agreement

LACONIA — The City Council this week approved a two-year contract between the city and LRGHealthcare to continue the partnership begun in 1997 that City Manager Scott Myers said enables the Fire Department to operate "the best emergency medical service delivery system in the state."

Under the agreement LRGH bears a significant portion of the costs of operating the ambulance service in return for keeping all of the revenue generated. Covered expenses include the salary and benefits of the deputy chief of Emergency Medical Services and four senior firefighter/paramedics as well as $127,000 per year, which represents about half the cost of the four most junior firefighters. In addition, LRGH funds up to 1,000 hours of overtime, based on the average rate of senior emergency medical technicians (EMT)-paramedics to ensure sufficient personnel for special events, like Motorcycle Week, and periods of peak demand.

LRGH also pays for the ambulances, along with the equipment, medications and supplies they carry., the fuel they burn and the maintenance they require. There are currently four ambulances in the fleet, the oldest purchased in 1997 and the newest in 2012 at a cost of $252,000. Recently purchases of three hydraulic lift stretchers, one hydraulic tail gate lift, three cardiac compression devices,three EKG monitors and three medical pumps totaled some $175,000

Noting that the contract does not include the purchase of an ambulance, Myers explained that ambulances are replaced on a five-year cycle and since the last was acquired in 2012, the next would be bought in 2017, the year the agreement expires.

For its part, LRGH sets the rates, bills the fees for ambulance service and keeps the proceeds. In 2014, LRGH paid the city $813,549 in direct costs for the ambulance service. At the same time, LRGH billed $1,154,228 for these services, but, collected just $612,646 and spent $167,551 doing so. In other words, Myers said that LRGH effectively contributed $368,454 to the city.

In 2014, there were 2,646 calls for emergency medical services, representing two of every three calls for service to which the Fire Department responded, and  213 occasions when three ambulances were deployed simultaneously and 510 times when two ambulances were deployed simultaneously. Altogether 1,841 patients were transported, of whom 1,402 received advanced life support measures.