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City Council approves extras for bridge project; over Bolduc's objection, railings will be black

LACONIA — City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council this week that after city and state officials reviewed the bids for the Main Street Bridge project the process of awarding the construction to R.M. Piper, Inc. of Plymouth, the low bidder, is underway.

Myers explained that the cost of construction is approximately $3.3 million, of which the state will bear 80 percent and the city 20 percent. However, since the state will contribute only to the cost of replacing the existing structure, there are three elements the city has chosen to add to the project that are not eligible for matching funds, but must be funded solely by the city.

These are the widening of the approach along Beacon Street West, overlooks or "bump outs" on either side of the bridge and decorative lighting to closely match the vintage street lights downtown. The council approved the widening early last year and it was included in the design and accounted for in the bids.

The overlooks and lighting have been discussed but not approved. Four overlooks were proposed, two on each side of the bridge, extending four feet from the deck of the bridge. They will be trapezoids, tapering in length from 14 feet to 6 feet and covering about 40 square feet. A light will be placed at each overlook. In addition, there will be lights at each of the four corners of the bridge.

The widening was estimated to add between $50,000 and $55,000, the overlooks $10,000 and the lighting $15,000 — $75,000 to $80,000 altogether — to the cost of the project. However, the bid prices were $23,500, $6,800 and $18,750 respectively for a total of $49,050.

While there was unanimous support for funding all three elements, on seeing photographs of how the bridge would look, Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) expressed strong misgivings about painting the railings on the bridge black. He reminded the council that the black railings on the Elm Street Bridge soon showed signs of wear and required a fresh coat of paint. Both Myers and Paul Moynihan, director of public works, assured the council that the black paint was a suitable finish for the railings, for which the state is bearing the cost.

Bolduc was insistent, but was the lone dissenter when the council voted to approve the three elements, along with the black railings.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 02:15

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Worman's claim that county overspent administrative budget is hotly contested

LACONIA — A claim by Belknap County Convention Chairperson Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) that the amount appropriated for wages in the 2013 Belknap County administrative budget account was overspent by $63,000 last year brought immediate challenges from Belknap County commissioners and her fellow representatives, none of whom publicly supported her contention, at Monday's night convention meeting.
''We had a clean audit. You mean to tell me that our auditors aren't doing their job?'' shot back Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont).
Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) did a quick computation of the amounts appropriated and the amounts actually expended last year which he said showed that the administration salary account was actually underspent by $31,000.
Huot said that he used the budget form which the county is required to submit to the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration to obtain his information and asked how Worsman had obtained her total since her total wasn't on that form.
''You only find it on my spreadsheet, not on any others,'' said Worsman, who earlier in the meeting had circulated her own budget spreadsheet.
At one point during the discussion she said that making the computations was a confusing issue but persisted on saying that there was ''a clear movement of salaries.''
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that she was at a loss to understand how Worsman could come up with the number that she did and said that the money had been spent exactly as appropriated.
Shackett said that part of her salary, 30 percent, is paid for from the nursing home budget, as are parts of other salaries in the administration and finance departments.
''We do it this way because it is in the best interest of the county.'' said Shackett, who said that apportioning the salaries allows the county to recoup state funds through the nursing home budget.
She explained that the county has been apportioning salaries that way or the last five years and that it was recommended by auditors in 2009. A change in the budget format last year resulted in the accounts being moved to different lines but the practice hasn't changed.
Shackett had explained the process for allocating salaries at the start of the discussion of the administrative, finance and IT budgets and said that in past years the salary allocations had been tallied and adjusted at the end of the year but now adjustments are done weekly.
Rep. Robert Greemore (R-Meredith), who chairs the Administration, Finance and IT subcommittee, said that the allocation process was confusing and Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) suggested that a budget footnote might make it easier to understand. He was supported by Rep. Tilton, who said ''explanations in writing are good.''
Several times during the meeting, representatives asked Shackett for information which she said she would have been happy to provide if she had known what the subject of Monday night's meeting was going to be.
''What is she going to do, use a crystal ball?'' asked Commissioner Thomas, who said that there was no written agenda for what was going to be discussed and as a result all of the county department heads attended the meeting, even though only the outside agencies and administration, finance and IT budgets were discussed.
Shackett and Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) said that many of the issues discussed Monday night could have been resolved at last year's budget review hearings if members of the convention had asked them questions.
''We weren't allowed to explain any of these,'' said Philpot.
There was also a discussion of the dispute over line item budget authority, an ongoing battle in which the convention has voted to file a lawsuit against the commission but has yet to do so.
Rep. Tilton said that the convention doesn't like the way the commissioners used the contingency line item and that he wanted to see the convention zero out that line and create a contingency fund.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 02:11

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Woman charged with DWI after 2 pedestrians hit

LACONIA — After allegedly backing her car into two people then losing control on entering the new Weirs roundabout and striking a retaining wall on Monday night, a Meredith woman was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

Dylan Anderson, 20, of 120 Pinnacle Park, Meredith was released on $1,000 personal recognizance bail following her arraignment in 4th Circuit Court — Laconia Division yesterday.

According to a police report, officers were dispatched to a disturbance at 63 Endicott Street East (Route 11-B) at 9:14 p.m. They were told that Anderson, who was driving a black Volkswagen Jetta had hit two people as she backed out of the driveway of a residence. Witnesses said that the two who were struck had tried to stop Anderson from leaving, believing she was impaired.

Anderson drove northbound on Endicott Street East toward Meredith, but lost control at the roundabout, crossed into the southbound lane and collided with the retaining wall just west of the roundabout.

Anderson, along with the two allegedly hit by her car, were treated for minor injuries at Lakes Region General Hospital.

The incident remains under investigation.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 02:01

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City manager gets an 'A' & a nice raise

LACONIA — The City Council this week unanimously agreed to raise the salary and sweeten the retirement contribution of City Manager Scott Myers, bringing his compensation and benefits to a level comparable to that of his peers.

Mayor Ed Engler said that when Myers was hired two-and-a-half years ago he had no experience as a city manager, although he had served four terms as mayor of Dover. The council was very impressed with him and his depth of knowledge, said Engler, but he still represented something of a risk and consequently started at a salary of $90,000, $25,000 less than his predecessor Eileen Cabanel was earning when she resigned.

Myers received two raises of $5,000 following his initial evaluations, one after six months and another after 18 months. With his third review in December the council found not only that he had proven himself but performed exceptionally well, yet he was being paid much less than his counterparts in similar municipalities.

The council voted to award Myers another $5,000 increase effective February 3, 2014 then to raise his salary from $110,000 to $112,500 as of July 7, 2014 and from $112,500 to $120,000 as of January 5, 2015.

In addition, the council raised the city's contribution to the city manager's deferred compensation retirement plan from 7.5 percent of salary to 11percent, placing him on a par with other municipal employees with the exception of police officers and firefighters, for whom the employer contribution is greater.

"Myers has shown himself more than capable," Engler said, "and deserving of compensation matching the market rate for his position. This package of raises represents a significant step in that direction."

For his part Myers expressed his appreciation to the councilors for their vote of confidence and said he looked forward to serving the city for years to come.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 01:58

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