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Laconia Police get Twitter account, new software

LACONIA — The Police Department has set up a Twitter feed in order to keep residents apprised of local police news, administrators told the Police Commissioners yesterday.

The Twitter feed is "laconianhpolice" and anyone can sign up to receive the feeds.

Captain Bill Clary said they plan on using it for public safety updates and announcements that impact the overall community and, on occasion, to issue crime updates.

Clary said a recent example of how the department's Twitter account was used was to let the general public know about the recent arrest in an arson investigation.

Commissioner Doug Whittum asked if the police could use Twitter for wanted persons and Clary noted that when the main office of Bank of New Hampshire was robbed they used the Twitter feed to get the news out quickly.

Clary said that even though an arrest has been made for two of the recent spate of arson fires that have plagued the city, the investigation is still active and ongoing.

He said detectives have a lot of follow up and investigatory work to complete and ask anyone with any additional information to contact the Laconia Police.

Police also used $6,000 from the CALEA (Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agency) certification to purchase a computerized documentation management system that will be used to manage all of their internal compliance paperwork.

According to the Power DMS Website, it is the only system specifically designed to manage CALEA certified internal documents such as training qualifications, and personnel records.

More importantly, said Lt. Al Lessard, it will cut down on the mountain of paperwork that must be filed. As an example, he said if an officer attends a certification class — like firearms qualification — a paper copy of must be filed in a many as 10 different files for tracking purposes. Once the system is set up, he said the department will need to scan the paper once and the system will direct an electronic copy to all of the appropriate files.

To pay for the software, the department reduced the amount of money spent on an outside consultant used to maintain certification, which will now be handled internally by an administrator with support from one of the sergeants.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 February 2014 01:55

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Pay day for people in roof shoveling business

LACONIA — With recent heavy snow and rain and freezing rain in the forecast for early today, many city homeowners have been busy in the last few days cleaning off their roofs or hiring someone to do it for them.
Mike Greer and Kris Kessler of Lakes Region Chimney Pro were out yesterday morning clearing a roof in South Down Shores and had five more lined up for the rest of the day.
''We'll probably finish up real late,'' said Greer, who said that parts of the moderately pitched roof they were working on had three feet of snow and that the piles of snow which accumulated next to the home as they shoveled were a foot or more higher than the tops of the first floor windows.
''While I was up near the peak of the roof shoveling this morning I had two calls from people who wanted their roofs cleared off. We've got so any calls that I'm having to turn people down because we can't get to them,'' said Greer.
Kessler said that the sudden demand has come due to concerns of possible roof collapses due to the heavy weight of the accumulated snow and rain and freezing rain which was predicted to start last night.
''We've only done a half dozen roofs all winter, but now we're getting bombarded with calls,'' said Kessler.
Both he and Greer will be out shoveling roofs all day today, as will Mike Mooney of Gilford, a mechanic at Irwin Marine, who has a sideline business with his brother clearing roofs. ''People have been calling us like crazy and we're putting a crew together to help us out,'' said Mooney.
Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that the most recent rash of collapsed roofs due to heavy snowloads came in 2008, when the city saw 22 buildings collapse.
''They can come down with little or no warning and it's not just flat roofs which collapse,'' said Erickson, who says that rain is particularly dangerous as it adds a great amount of weight to the roof.
''A gallon of water weighs eight pounds and the snow acts just like a sponge, soaking up all that weight. Water-soaked snow can weigh as much as 50 pounds per cubic foot,'' he says.
Erickson says that ice dams at the roof line can prevent water from draining, adding to the strain on the roof and making the water back up and leak into a home.
He says that snow on pitched roofs should be removed with a roof rake and that snow removal from flat or slightly pitched roofs should be removed from the edges first and not moved from the middle to the edge until the edge is cleared. "You have to work in stages and not add too much weight to the roof with snowblowers or a lot of shovelers,'' said Erickson.
He said that while removing excessive snow and ice buildup homeowners should be careful not to damage gas and oil service to the building; keep all chimneys and vents clear to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up into the building; and keep all exits clear of snow, so occupants can escape quickly if a fire, or other emergency, should occur.


CAPTION shovelroof 3,4
Mike Greer and Kris Kessler of Lakes Region Chimney Pro shovel snow from the roof of a home in South Down Shores in Laconia. They shoveled six roofs yesterday and were totally booked for today. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 21 February 2014 01:52

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City likely to be saddled with cost of cleaning up old burn dump

LACONIA — The city may soon find itself saddled with the cost of addressing lingering contamination from a burn dump that operated on Frank Bean Road and Morin Road for some three decades between the 1920s and the 1950s.

The area in question is off Rte. 107, near the Laconia Ice Arena.

A third report on the site, prepared for the city at the request of the New Hampshire Departmental of Environmental Services (DES) by Sovereign Consulting, Inc. of Concord concluded that "a plan for mitigation of future risk at these properties is warranted."

The burn dump is part of a site that sprawls over some 75 acres on either side of Frank Bean Road, most in the city and some in Gilford. which also includes an abandoned landfill. The burn dump itself extends over four lots — two residential and two commercial — totaling about 3.5 acres. Three of the lots abut one another on the west side of Frank Bean Road and the fourth is bordered by Frank Bean Road to the west and Morin Road to the east.

The property was owned by Leon Morin, who either leased it the city as a disposal site or accepted refuse from the city for incineration.

The site first drew the attention of DES in May, 2003 when David Farley, doing business as Dolphin Point, LLC, a marine contractor, complained of encountering buried refuse and foul odors while excavating for a foundation on his lot on Frank Bean Road. The lot is flanked to the south by a property leased to CBH Landscape Contractors and to the north by a residential parcel.

In 2008, Weston Solutions, Inc. found levels of six metals as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatics hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are byproducts of burnt fuels, in samples collected across the 75 acres, including the burn dump. Levels were sufficiently elevated to warrant further investigation.

Three years later Terracon Consultants, Inc. reported that a thin layer of clean fill covered the site and concluded that surface soils were unlikely to pose a significant risk to human health. However, DES replied that a risk assessment of surface soils would not diminish the requirement for mitigation, suggesting resources would be better applied to remedial measures, and requested further investigation.

Sovereign sunk 11 monitoring wells and 20 soil borings to determine the extent and nature of materials at the burn dump. The report estimates the dump stretches along Frank Bean Road for about 1,000 feet and is 250 feet wide at its widest point. Likewise, the dump is between 15 feet and 20 deep, though some refuse was found at a depth of 32 feet. Assuming dimensions of 1,000 feet by 200 feet by 15 feet, the report estimates the contains approximately 110,000 cubic yards of "burn dump material."

Like the earlier investigations, Sovereign also found metals and PAHs in excessive concentrations, In addition, chlorinated VOCs were detected on three of the four lots, trichloroethylene on one lot and petroleum residues on another. But, the report noted "significant adverse impact to native soils has not been documented." Nor did samples of private wells serving the four lots indicate adverse impacts to the quality of drinking water.

Sovereign suggested that a mitigation plan could include some combination of removing and covering the burn dump materials along with changing or restricting the use of the site. The report noted that each of the four parcels will be evaluated separately and specific measures to address the risk of exposure to harmful materials applied to each. Meanwhile, the report recommends further sampling of drinking water and groundwater and additional borings to define the southern extent of burn dump materials.

DES has yet to respond to the report and its recommendations. City Manager Scott Myers said that he will update the City Council on the next steps in addressing the situation when it meets on Monday.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 February 2014 01:45

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Tax cap means city has a big stake in county budget fight

LACONIA — Apart from the 268 county employees no one has a greater stake in the outcome of the struggle over the 2014 Belknap County budget than officials of the City of Laconia, who could be faced with squeezing unforeseen expenditures of nearly $176,000 within the bounds of the property tax cap.

The Belknap County Commission has proposed budget of $26,570,997, which would raise $14,445,359 in property taxes, an increase of four-percent.

In defense of their budget the commissioners have explained that it represents an increase in expenditures since 2008 of only 1.5-percent. Moreover, they calculate that the increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes would raise the county tax rate by five or six cents in the eleven municipalities in the county. The higher rates would add to the annual property tax bill of the owner of a $300,000 home by amounts ranging from $13.68 in Belmont to $18.25 in Meredith.

In Laconia. the county tax rate would climb by six cents from $1.47 to $1.53 and increase the tax bill on a $300,000 home by $17.81. "Six cents to me as an individual taxpayer doesn't sound like a big deal," said Mayor Ed Engler. "But, multiply that over the whole city and its nearly $110,000. Because of our tax cap," he continued, "the City Council must approach this from the perspective of the whole city, not as individual taxpayers."

The tax cap limits the annual increase in the amount raised by property taxes, including the county tax, to the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index — Urban (CPI-U), for the prior calendar year, plus an additional amount representing the value of new construction, which is calculated by multiplying the value of building permits less the value of demolition permits issued between April 1 and March 31 by the prior year's property tax rate.

Applying a CPI-U of 1.5-percent against the 2013-2014 tax commitment of $39,8-million, City Manager Scott Myers calculates that the rate of inflation will allow $597,500 of additional expenditures in 2014-2015. Likewise, he estimates that $15-million in the assessed value of new construction will permit another $331,200 in increased spending. Altogether, Myers projects the amount to be raised by taxes can rise by $928,700, or 2.3 percent, which is divided proportionally between the city, schools and county.

Last year the county apportionment of $2,655,238 was 6.6 percent of the total amount to be raised by property taxes in the city If the share of the county tax remained constant and rose in pace with the tax cap allowance, it would be projected to increase by approximately $61,500 in 2014. Any greater increase in the county tax must be offset by reducing expenditures elsewhere in the municipal/school budget to comply with the limits of the tax cap.

While the county budget proposed by the commission may add pennies to the county tax rate, it would increase the city's apportionment by more than $107,000.

Furthermore, this year the county has eliminated the appropriation for the city and 10 towns belonging to the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association (LRMFAA) from its budget. Instead of being billed through the county tax, the municipalities will be billed directly by the LRMFAA according to a formula consisting of the sum of three factors — a fixed charge, assessed value and total population. As a result, the cost to Laconia will rise from $106,731 to $130,000.

Taken together, the $107,000 increase in the county apportionment and the appropriation for the LRMFAA amount to more than $237,000. Less the $61,500 projected to fund the anticipated increase in the county apportionment, the commissioners' budget would raise city expenditures by about $175,500. This represents almost a fifth of the additional spending allowed by the tax cap and would have to be offset by commensurate reductions in the city budget.

"The commissioners' budget would force the city to rob Peter to pay Paul," said Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of the executive committee of the Belknap County Convention.

Acknowledging that the tax cap is a constraint the city chose to impose on itself, Engler said that "the county commission and convention have to appreciate where we're coming from."

The county convention is preparing a budget, which remains a work in progress. However, so far the convention has trimmed the commissions' budget by $858,350, virtually all of it in personnel costs. Currently the convention proposes to spend $25,712,64 and raise $13,551,598 in property taxes, a decrease of 2.4 percent.

The effect on the city would be to reduce its county apportionment by $66,883 — from $2,655,238 in 2013 to $2,588,355 in 2014. Setting the reduction against the $130,00 billed to the city by the LRMFAA leaves a outstanding balance of some $63,000, or approximately the increase in the county apportionment city officials projected.

In other words, the city would be able to meet its obligations to the county within the limits of the tax cap without offsetting reductions in either the city or school budgets.

"We're looking after the city's interests and the county's interests," Tilton remarked.

Engler said that the experience with the county budget foreshadows the challenges the city will face if and when the county commission and convention begin to address the renovation or reconstruction of the county jail.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 February 2014 01:38

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