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Some Belmont Mill bricks crumble when door frame is removed

BELMONT — Selectmen authorized the town administrator to contact a structural engineer Monday night to get an estimate on fixing the interior brick work in the front hallway on the historical Belmont Mill after it partially collapsed Saturday.

According to Building Inspector Steve Paquin, the brick work around the front door crumbled Saturday morning after town employees removed it to replace the framing.

"The steel frame was rotted at the bottom," Paquin said yesterday.

He said once the door came out, the brickwork crumbled, causing some damage to the front stairwell, which provides access to the bell tower that is not used. He said they were able to use wood to shore up the frame and the building is structurally safe and sound.

The primary entrance to the Belmont Mill is on the other side of the building where there is an elevator. Paquin said this entrance was only used by the day care center and, in an emergency, there are still two ways to get out of the center .

Paquin explained that interior brick was not built to withstand any outside elements such as water and that because the building was open for a number of years after it burned, some of the brick has been compromised.

He said engineers from Bonnett, Page and Stone in Laconia were there for about 90 minutes Tuesday and will be coming up with a repair solution.

"I have asked them to fast-track it because I really want that entrance open," Paquin said.

When told of the interior wall collapse, selectmen agreed that this could be a recurring problem throughout the interior of the building and that a great deal of the interior brick may have to be removed.

Ultimately, said Selectman Ruth Mooney, the town may have to build a "building within a building."

Paquin said he couldn't comment on the size and scope of the issue until the town gets the engineering report, but noted that the historical element of the building is its exterior.
He said many of the interior walls have already been replaced but there are some places, and the front stairwell is one of them, where that had not happened.

In related news, Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin informed the board that the fourth floor and the portion of the second floor former occupied by the Lakes Region Community College Culinary Arts Program is no longer required to meet low-to-middle income usage, saving the town $21,000 this year.

The mill was partially restored using a $1 million USDA Community Development Block Grant that restricts its use to low-to-middle income uses.

This means the town won't have to reimburse the Community Development Finance Authority $21,000 to use the second floor space for the Department of Parks and Recreation.


Last Updated on Friday, 28 February 2014 01:07

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Davis Place apartment building owner looking for new homes for tenants

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that the N.H. State Fire Marshal is still working to determine the cause of a 4-alarm building fire on Davis Place that took the life of a local man Tuesday night.

He said the name of the victim is not being released at this time, pending autopsy.

The six apartment building at 64 Davis Place is owned by Lloyd "Red" Wylie, Jr., who lived in one of the apartments. When reached yesterday, Wylie said he was not home that night and has no idea what caused the fire.

He said his primary goal right now is to find alternative housing for his remaining tenants. He said he is working with other area landlords and others in the community to seek temporary and/or permanent housing for his displaced tenants.

Wylie said he has a place to stay and has a lot of family in the area who have been very supportive of him.

He was not prepared to speak about his tenant who died only to say that it was a "terrible thing" and that he was a "really nice guy."

Erickson said the bulk of the fire burned the center section of the building and, while it is possible to rebuild the center, he said there is considerable fire, smoke and water damage to the rest of the building.

Wylie said that's it's just too soon to tell what will happen in the future.

The Salvation Army in Laconia will be accepting donations at their store, located at 177, Union Avenue, for the families affected by the Davis Place Multi-Unit apartment fire that occurred yesterday. Donations to the affected families must be marked as "DAVIS PLACE FIRE" and may be dropped off at the Salvation Army's Laconia location. The Salvation Army will also be providing the families with vouchers to receive items from their store.

For more information on American Red Cross New Hampshire's Community Partnerships, please contact Karen Dudley by calling (603) 438-2426.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 February 2014 01:00

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Grant in hand, Land Trust expects to break ground on riverfront apartment building by summer

LACONIA — The Laconia Area Community Land Trust has been awarded a grant of $286,108 by NeighborWorks America, a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress that finances community development.

Linda Harvey, executive director of the trust, said yesterday that she was "thrilled by the award," which she explained consists of $200,000 earmarked for capital projects while the balance is applied to operating expenses. She said that the $200,000 will be added to the financing package for the construction of Rivers Edge, the three-story apartment building to be built on the former F.W. Webb property tucked between Union Avenue and the Winnipesaukee River.

Harvey said that the trust is preparing to close on the purchase of the property as well as the $7.1 million financing package and expects to break ground in late May or early June. She described the project as one of the largest and most complex the LACLT has ever undertaken.

The 1.87-acre property describes a triangle, with 685 feet of frontage on the river — 598 feet above Avery Dam — representing its longest side and bordered on the other two sides by Arch Street and Union Avenue. However, its frontage on Arch Street is limited by a 0.34-acre lot that runs more than half the length of the street from its intersection with Union Avenue. The footbridge below the dam links the lot to the Rotary Park, Belknap Mill, One Mill Plaza and City Hall.

The building will consist of two wings, paralleling Union Avenue and Arch Street and joined in the middle to form a "V." The building will house 12 one-bedroom units, each 675-square-feet and 20 two-bedroom units of 864-square-feet. The ground level will be faced with brick and the upper levels with vinyl siding. The riverfront will be landscaped and include walkways designed to accommodate the downtown riverwalk, which the city plans to construct along both banks of the river.

Like all the projects undertaken by the LACLT, the units will be offered at affordable rents and property taxes will be paid on the apartment building.

The LACLT is one of 235 local organizations serving 4,500 communities that comprise the network of NeighborhoodWorks America.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 12:58

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Laconia man dies in apartment building fire along Winnipesaukee River; 6 units destroyed

LACONIA — A local man perished in a fast-moving four-alarm fire at a six-apartment building on the south bank of the Winnipesaukee River Tuesday night. Firefighters battled the flames until morning.

A sturdy door that wouldn't budge apparently prevented a team of good Samaritans from entering the man's apartment and attempting a rescue.

The man, whose identity is being withheld pending an autopsy by the state's Chief Medical Examiner Office, lived alone in one of the middle apartments at 66 Davis Place. He was remembered by his neighbor Michael Hilson as someone who was very friendly and who liked to get exercise by walking around the neighborhood.

"He was a very nice, older guy," Hilson said yesterday. "Very fit."

American Red Cross officials said six people and several dogs and cats were displaced by the fire. The agency provided victims with immediate financial assistance, food, clothing, lodging, coats, bedding, linens and a storage container.

The fire was called in to 9-1-1 at 10:47 p.m. and dispatchers from the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid building off Parade Road said their cameras recorded the flames from over a mile away. Within five minutes of the call, smoke and flames could be seen from Highland and Winter Street. on Hospital Hill.

Two young area men who spoke to media at the scene said they lived in an apartment on nearby Church Street and were taking out their garbage when the saw the flames. One of them said he called 9-1-1. They said it looked like the fire started near or under a rear porch in one of the middle units.

The building consists of six, two-story apartments lined up in a row.

The young men said they ran to the building and knocked on one door at an end unit and helped one person out. They said when they got to the victim's door, they began pounding on it, saying they knew the man and knew he was very hard of hearing.

"We tried to break down the door but we couldn't do it," said one of the young men. He said a police officer joined them briefly while they were pounding on the front door and made them leave so they wouldn't get hurt.

Hilson said he sleeps in the back of his own house and didn't know anything was out of the ordinary until he heard sirens. He said he looked out his front door and saw flames coming from across the street.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that first-responding crews from Laconia and Gilford tried fighting the fire from the inside of the building for about 40 minutes but once the fire burned through the roof he said he had to remove the teams from inside and mount an outside attack.

"We did an aggressive search and attack," he said, noting at one point he had seven separate teams with hoses inside the building. He said firefighters knew there was one person inside and two people who weren't accounted for in the early stages of the blaze.

He said the heat from the blaze burned a Laconia firefighter around his ears and neck when the flames "flashed over" one of the teams fighting the blaze from the inside.

Fighting the fire, he said, was made even more challenging by the 0-degree temperatures and icing around the building and the equipment. On Wednesday morning, bushes around the house were covered with ice.

The N.H. Fire Marshal was working with Laconia firefighters to determine the cause. As of yesterday morning, the scene was still being secured by Laconia police.

Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Chief Jim Hayes said Tuesday night the blaze was the first multiple-call incident since the LRMFA installed its computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) system in November of 2013.

Moments before the Davis Place fire was reported, Belmont and Laconia were sent to a first-alarm structure fire on Lamprey Road in Belmont.

Hayes said the CAD system automatically eliminates vehicles when they are dispatched meaning the two dispatchers no longer have to determine by hand what equipment is available.

Hayes said while it's not unusual for there to be overlapping incidents in the 35-town area covered by LRMFA, Tuesday was the first time since November that both Belmont and Laconia had a major structure fire at the same time.

"They use the same resources for a first alarm fire," he said.

He said since Belmont had a structure fire, all Belmont resources were automatically directed toward Lamprey Road. Because the Davis Place call came within a minute of the first call, first responders from Laconia who were starting to head to Belmont were diverted.

Hayes said Belmont's supervisor knew the Laconia fire was more serious than the Belmont fire — the people in the Lamprey Road home were out of the house — and told dispatch to send non-Belmont resources to Laconia first and "back-fill" his call.

Fire companies called to Laconia came from as far away a Holderness to the north and Concord to the South. Two units from Gilford, two from Meredith, one from Sanbornton, one from Franklin, one from Center Harbor and one from New Hampton went to Davis Place along with Concord and Holderness. He said one crew from Tilton-Northfield was sent to Laconia after clearing from Belmont. Two Stewart's ambulances also responded — one to the fire and one to a medical call on Beacon Street West.

Hayes said crews from Moultonborough, Gilmanton, Barnstead, and Loudon were sent to cover nearby communities.

Also assisting in at the scene were the Community Emergency Response Team, LRMFA, and Laconia Police. The control of the house was given to the N.H. Fire Marshal Office whose representatives are working with Laconia to determine the cause.

Hayes said the police role in a major fire is critical because they are tasked with identifying the people who fled the fire but likely sought shelter elsewhere because of the extreme cold.

For at least some of the night, two people were unaccounted for and Hayes said the LPD did a great job of finding and identifying them.

"They have a way of asking direct, pointed questions," he said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 03:14

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