Old Town Hall project progressing in Bristol but it won’t be ready for elections

BRISTOL — Work at the Old Town Hall is progressing but the building will not be ready in time for November elections, selectmen said at the board's Sept. 25 meeting.
Town Administrator Michael Capone said the roof work is done, chimney repairs have been completed, and the sills and duct work also were completed within the $49,350 bid. Next to be done is the drywall work, for which the town had a bid of $850.
Capone said that, even allowing $200 as a contingency on the drywall work, the town has nearly $6,000 left in its budget for work on the building and he suggested accepting Richard Batchelder's $2,750 bid for exterior work that involves wood trim and clapboard on the southeast corner where the old jail cell is. For another $2,000, he said they could have the clapboard extended all the way to chimney. In separate motions, the selectmen agreed to both.
With the traditional voting place still not ready for occupancy, voting will continue to take place at Marion Hall on West Shore Road. Holding elections there means officials have to move in the voting booths and ballot machines and cover the floors, then remove all of the equipment. The advantage is that there is more parking and easier access than at the Old Town Hall.
Residents are divided on which polling place is better with some complaining of the distance to Marion Hall and the preference for tradition while others welcome the change and hope they will be able to continue casting their votes there.
In other business, selectmen approved the paving of the municipal parking lot next to Union Lodge, with Highway Supervisor Mark Bucklin noting that the Masons' lot was the last paving project on his list.
With that $8,900 expenditure, Town Administrator Michael Capone said $61,000 remained in the paving budget. While that was too little to take on another road project, he said the town could address problems with the parking area at the municipal building where ice buildup was a constant problem during the winter.
Bucklin suggested that the town might get a good price on town office project by combining it with the Masons' lot and he agreed to speak with the contractor about it.
Selectmen granted the town administrator authority to sign an agreement not to exceed $10,000 for paving the town office lot.
The board approved the purchase of new street signs to direct traffic on North Main Street, now a one-way street, back to the main routes. One would be at the corner of North Main and Mayhew streets, directing traffic to Route 104 east; another at the intersection of North Main and Union streets for those going to Route 3-A; and a third at the intersection of Union and Lake streets, showing Route 3-A North and South and directing them to Route 104. The cost is $650 — $700, Capone said.
In discussing the Harriet Drive road project, Bucklin said the development has upgraded the road so it will meet town requirements. All is in place except for surfacing the road as required by the town, Bucklin said.
Chair Rick Alpers questioned whether the town should hold the development accountable to a standard that was not in place when the road project began. After some discussion, the selectmen agreed to put acceptance of the road on the agenda for a future meeting.
Bucklin provided updates on other projects and discussed the bids for winter sand, due Friday, Oct. 3. He also reported on the arrival of a new sidewalk tractor; progress on the installation of new doors and windows at the highway garage, and progress on a road service management program.
Turning to the newly established economic development task force, selectmen agreed to extend the deadline for people to apply for positions on panel. While five people have formally applied to serve on the task force, others have said they just learned of it.
Selectmen awarded a fuel bid to Dead River Company, with Capone noting that he had worked with School Administrative Unit 4 Business Manager Michael Limanni in securing bids for both town and school purchases. While Fred Fuller had submitted a comparable bid, concerns about the company's future led them to shy away from that oil company.
Selectmen agreed to have Capone notify Integrys Energy Services that it will be switching to Public Service of New Hampshire for its electricy. Capone said that October marks the end of the fixed energy price contract and, after that, Integrys' rates could rise to market levels.
The board postponed a decision on whether to accept Norwood Energy's offer of $58 per REC for every renewable energy certificate the Minot-Sleeper Library earns with the solar array on its roof. Capone said the New Jersey-based power company comes highly recommended and, while the town could try to market its RECs itself, it would not be worth it with the 20 credits per year that the library is able to earn. Should the town eventually power all of its municipal buildings with solar energy, the revenues might justify that, he said.
The library intends to use the revenues it receives from its REC sales for maintenance.
On a related note, Capone noted that the town has filed its grant application for a solar array at the wastewater treatment plant. The $1.25 million PUC grant would require a $150,000 match from the water and sewer department.
Bristol had good news from Melanson Heath & Company of Manchester which delivered a positive audit report to the town for the budget year ending Dec. 31, 2013. The accountants gave special recognition to the municipal departments for pulling together all the documentation the accounting firm needed for its review.
While the town's governmental activities balance sheet showed a negative net position, the auditors explained that it was because of the impact of the Central Square project that reconfigured the downtown area while replacing water, sewer, and electric lines beneath the roads.
Revenues above the budgeted amount allowed the town to end the year with a positive fund balance even though the town had used last year's unassigned fund balance to reduce taxation rather than using it for town expenses. Combined with the unexpended funds turned back in by the various departments, the town was able to put back into its fund balance almost all of the money returned to the taxpayers last year.
The auditors also gave the water and sewer department, which operates as an independent entity, good marks, noting that the fluctuations from last year are not significant.
Overall, the accountants liked the progress they were seeing in addressing deficiencies, the most notable of which is the assignment of values to capital assets such as buildings and streets. All communities are going through this change in accounting practice to better reflect their actual value and Bristol is making good progress, the report said.
Another concern is the segregation of duties but the accountants acknowledged the problem of working with a small staff. New accounting software for the town will eliminate the issue, they said.
The firm is researching deficit fund balances over the past 10 years, reconciling them with invoices to make sure everything is properly recorded.
Another recommendation is for the town to do more internal audit functions for better departmental budget oversight. The accountants acknowledged that is not easy to do on top of regular duties, but Bristol is making progress there, too.
An audit of the Central Square project is nearing completion and the accountants said they will be coming back with a "clean opinion" on that, as well.

Meredith to host Lakes Region Energy Fair on Oct. 18

MEREDITH — The Energy Committees of Meredith and Center Harbor will host the Lakes Region Energy Fair on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Inter-Lakes High School.

Ken Colburn, who chairs the Meredith Energy Committee, said that the event has been scheduled to coincide with the advent of colder weather. There is no charge to attend and everyone — home and business owners, as well as anyone interested in reducing the volume, cost and environmental impact of energy consumption.

The fair will feature an array of vendors. In addition there will be more than a dozen sessions on energy efficiency and conservation throughout the day. Chris Johnson of the Center Harbor Energy Committee said the fair will offer "something for everyone," from information about alternative technologies to financing opportunities.

For more information visit the Lakes Region Energy Fair on Facebook or contact Angela LaBrecque, Meredith Town Planner, at 677-4228 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

City applying for $500,000 transportation grant to improve sidewalks & trails leading to schools

LACONIA — The city has applied to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation for a $500,000 matching grant, which would be applied to developing and improving sidewalks and trails leading to schools.

Altogether seven projects with an aggregate cost of approximately $1-million are proposed. Two of the projects — 2,000 feet of the second phase of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail from Veteran's Square to the Belmont town line and 400 feet of the downtown riverwalk from the Perley Canal to the Church Street Bridge — have already been funded by the Downtown Tax Increment (TIF) fund and represent the 50-percent match for the grant.

About 1,000 feet of sidewalk along Opechee Street would be improved at a cost of $50,000 to provide a safe passage between Messer Street and Laconia Middle School. The sidewalks along 600 feet of Stevens Street and 1,200 feet of Winter Street leading to Woodland Heights School would be improved with curbing and sublawns and a speed table to slow traffic would be installed near the school.

The downtown riverwalk would be extended along River Street, south of the Church Street Bridge, to connect with the stretch to built at River's Edge, the apartment building to be constructed by the Laconia Area Community Land Trust on the property formerly occupied by the F.W. Webb Company.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders told the City Council this week that the grant application represents a joint effort of LRGHealthcare, Laconia School District, Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health and the WOW Trail. She said that the program requires a 20-percent match and indicated that providing a 50-match could work to the city's advantage.

Bill Martel celebrates birthday number 90

LACONIA — Bill Martel, the long-time owner of Martel's Bait and Sport Shop on Winnisquam Avenue, marked his 90th birthday yesterday with a quiet lunch with his wife of 64 years, Helen, at T-Bones Restaurant
Over the weekend, he was treated to a very special party which was put together by his daughters Diane Marchek of Meredith, Debbie Messineo of Concord and Donna Somma of Trumbull, Conn., a festive occasion marked by Christmas lights, root beer floats, cakes and balloons and counters filled with every kind of candy imaginable.
"That's my weakness. I love candy and sweets,'' says Martel, who is something of a legend in the world Lakes Region fishermen, having been a long-time fishing guide on Lake Winnisquam and one of those master anglers profiled in Dr. Hal Lyon's 2003 book ''Fishing in the Smile of the Great Spirit.''
Martel said that his father began selling bait as a boy from his mother's grocery store at 88 Winnisquam Avenue in 1917 and later operated a water taxi service and boat rental agency before opening Martel's in the wake of the Great Hurricane of 1938.
Not long afterward, Martel's grandmother, who kept shop while his father caught bait, broke her hip. "I was 13, still in school at St. Joseph's," he recalled. "I left school to work in the shop. It was ice-fishing season and we had to keep the business going."
During World War II Martel joined the service and became a combat engineer, landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 29, 1944, just three weeks after D-Day.
''I was one of only two guys in the unit who spoke French, so that was pretty handy. The beachhead was only a couple of miles deep when I arrived and we saw a lot of shelling and anti-aircraft fire at German planes overhead. It was like the 4th of July every night'' recalls Martel.
He remembers one close call in which a German Messerschmitt made a strafing run right towards him and he saw bullets tearing into the ground on both sides of him as he ran for cover. ''The pilot was so low I could see his face,'' recalls Martel, who found out later that day that the German aircraft had been tailed by an American P-51 fighter and was downed a short distance away.
He recalls working to build many Bailey bridges over rivers and streams to replace those taken by out American aircraft or destroyed by the retreating Germans and his unit went all the way into Germany during the final phases of combat.
Following the war he came home to Laconia in 1946 in resumed working with his father, who in addition to the bait business was also a licensed fishing guide. He also met his wife to be, Helen Blackey, who worked at the Lund Ski factory, just across the river from the bait shop.
He said that he and his wife lived on Court Street after getting married in 1950. But his father-in-law, who was a builder and carpenter, helped build them a house on Ridgewood Avenue where they have lived ever since.
Martel says that fishing was "fabulous" when he returned from the war. "I guided on the lake for 25 years and we caught all the fish," he says with a laugh.
He said that during those years, Lake Winnisquam supported the largest population of smelt in New England, and that the smelt were large and made great bait.
But fishing went south on Winnisquam during the 1960s, due in large part to the untreated sewage which entered the lake, causing algae blooms, which slowly sapped the lake of oxygen and caused large fish kills. Martel said when the the fishing turned sour after copper sulfate was applied to the lake in the mid-1960s to eliminate the algae.
"It ruined the lake and just about killed all the smelt. It almost put us out of business. I had to take people fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee because there wasn't anything to catch in Winnisquam,'' he recalls.
He said that it took Lake Winnisquam a long time to become a good fishing spot again but that it has never come back to what it was like in the 1950s. ''They stocked a lot of fish but the smelt never came back to where they used to be,'' says Martel.
In addition to fishing Martel was also was an avid hunter, having bagged 22 deer over the years
He sold the shop in 1985 but continued to work for a variety of new owners until five years ago when he retired.

Bill Martel, long-time owner of Martel's Bait Shop, marked his 90th birthday yesterday. Not only has he been honored as a master angler but was also an avid deer hunter. He displays the antlers from one of the 22 deer he bagged while hunting in New Hampshire. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)