Sparkler farce sends LFD to Weirs condo

LACONIA — Firefighters responded to a reported fire at Overlook condominiums off Weirs Blvd. around 5:30 p.m. to find one young man and four young women alarmed that an errant sparkler threatened to touch off a brush fire.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that one of the women went to a bedroom on the second floor of the unit where she lit a sparkler only to quickly fear it would set the room alight. Opening the glass slider, she tossed the spitting sparkler on to the balcony where it landed atop a discarded Christmas tree. When the tree caught fire, she threw it off the balcony. It landed amid brush and mulch near the porch on the ground floor, sparking a small fire that was quickly extinguished.

"You just can't make this stuff up," said Erickson, who added that all were spared a more serious situation because the tree was so dry and burned so quickly.

Divided council grants an extra hour of music for Harry Potter convention's masquerade ball

LACONIA — The City Council struck a blow for peace and quiet this week by denying the request of The Margate Resort to extend the hours for amplified music outdoors from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday, May 24, then by a single vote agreed to let the music play until 10 p.m.

The lakeside resort is hosting MISTI-Con, which describes itself as "an immersive Harry Potter fan convention" held every other year, over the Memorial Day weekend from Thursday 21 to Sunday May 24. Kyle Parisi, general manager of the Margate, said Tuesday that this will be the third time MISTI-Con has visited the resort. He said that in 2011 the event drew some 400 people and two years later the number grew to 600.

This year, Parisi said that organizers expected between 800 and 1,000 to attend. The Margate resort is fully booked and the downtown Landmark Inn, owned by the same company, is accepting reservations. Parisi said the conventioneers are mostly affluent young professionals aged between 25 and 35, many from New York and Boston.

This year MISTI-Con has opened the event to local residents by offering individual and family passes to "The Wizarding World's Fair" without requiring registration for the convention itself.

The event closes with a Sunday night "Ministry Masquerade Ball" beginning at 7 p.m. and ending at midnight in a tent pitched on the West Lawn of the resort. The city's loudspeaker ordinance limits the use of outdoor sound equipment to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, except during Motorcycle Week.

Two weeks ago, Caroline Snyder, event manager, first presented the request for later hours to the council, but offered few details and acknowledged that nearby property owners had not been informed of the event. The council advised her to canvas the neighbors and tabled the request pending their response. When Snyder returned this week she told the councilors that a letter explaining the request to extend the hours of amplified music was sent to the 22 property owners at Eastern Shores Condominiums as well as Shaw's, China Bistro and the Paugus Bay Plaza Condominium Association, all of which are across Lake Street in Gilford. She said there has been one response from a woman who said she was "excited".

Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and David Bownes (Ward 2) spoke in favor of granting the request to extend the deadline until 11 p.m. Lipman said that there was no evidence the sound would have adverse impacts on others and granting the extension would be in keeping with the city's interest in supporting its hospitality industry and encouraging tourism.

However, Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) reminded his colleagues that some years ago when the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound made a similar request, the council denied it. Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) warned against making exceptions for some but not others. Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) expressed concern that the sound would carry across Paugus Bay.

After the council voted three-to-two to deny the request, Lipman suggested granting a one hour extension, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., which won over Hamel's vote and carried by a majority of three-to-two.

"I guess that's the best they can do," Parisi said of the compromise. " They may not be overly happy, but they will manage with 10 p.m."

Balance is everything at police motorcycle training school

LACONIA — From a distance, the orange cones set up for police motorcycle training school don't seem to have any rhyme or rhythm and the lone motorcyclist navigating them just appears to be just riding around.

Up close, individual circular, square and lengthwise patterns become evident as Laconia Master Patrol Officer Robb Sedgely carefully navigates his way through them on a tarmac at the Laconia Municipal Airport.

Sedgely, who is expected to complete his training by today, will be the fifth motorcycle police officer active in the Laconia Police Department and one of two who will be on routine patrol throughout the city this summer. Officer Richard Bassett will share the patrol duties while Sgt. Gary Hubbard and Lts. Rich Simmons and Al Graton won't be on regular motorcycle duty but are trained and ready if needed.

The motorcycle class for area officers is offered once annually and is taught by Alton Police Officer Sean Sullivan and Gilford Police Officer Kevin Baron. Both share routine motorcycle shifts in their respective communities.

Baron said training teaches motorcycle officers how to navigate tight turns designed for mobility in traffic jams and weaving safely through traffic to reach an accident or crime scene.

"Don't forget," he said pointing to the cone course set up to resemble a traffic jam. "Each cone represents another motorist's fender or foot."

Other exercises train an officer to avoid debris on roads, how to come off an sharp turn and stop a 700-pound motorcycle within a few feet and how to "lay it down" and not get injured if it comes to that.

"I've got bruises all over the outsides of my legs," said Sedgely with a grin after he took a short break from his training. "I've probably dumped it 200 or 300 times."

For safety (of the motorcycle) all of the trim and outer metal is wrapped in firehose to prevent damage during training.

"Balance is everything," Sedgely said, noting that a motorcycle officer pretty much carries on his or her person everything an officer in a cruiser carries including, in some communities, a computer.

"Everything is moving but his head stays in a straight line," said Baron while pointing as Sedgley navigated an "S" turn course.

Sedgley, who has been riding a motorcycle for years, said riding as a police officer is a whole new concept.

"This has been one of the toughest courses ever," he said, noting the precision that must be used to navigate through the course. "You have to learn to trust the bike. It wants to go in a straight line."

"I definitely have a new appreciation for every cop who rides one of these," he concluded.