Belmont approves state and federal improvement of Jamestown and South Road

BELMONT – After considerable discussion, selectmen voted 2-to-1 to allow the N.H. Department of Transportation to improve the intersection of South Road and Jamestown Road.

The $1.6-million, projected to be completed with money awarded to the state through a federal highway safety program, will improve visibility and provide some additional space through the intersection.

Selectmen Chair Ruth Mooney is against the project. Voting against it, she said that improving the intersection will increase commercial traffic on both roads, meaning the town will ultimately have to spend more on paving and upkeep.

She said that since one of the neighbors at the intersection voluntarily cut back some of the brush that was inhibiting sight lines, she said the number of accidents has gone to one from 20 in 2010.

The project has been in the development and engineering phase since 2012 when the DOT approached the town with the federal offering.

Selectman Jon Pike felt the $1.6 million price tag was too high, but said he agreed with Selectman Ron Cormier that if the state was willing to use federal safety money to improve it, then the town should get it done.

Pike's biggest gripe is that since the state decided to improve the intersection, the road hasn't been paved and the state only put a shim coat near Route 140 when it was last paved.

All agreed that the road should continue to be marked "No Through Trucking" to stop heavy trucks from using South Road as a cut-through from Route 140 to Route 106. All agreed that the police need to patrol the area more often.

Cormier also said that in his experience, when a community turns down state transportation aid, it never gets another opportunity to get more. He also noted that since the town initially asked DOT to look at the intersection, if the town were to reject the project it would make them appear "silly."

He also said that he agrees $1.6-million seems a bit high, but noted that if utility poles have to be relocated, and private property must be purchased, then he can understand where the expenses lie.

Town Planner Candace Daigle also spoke in favor of the project, saying the intersection was part of the Route 140 corridor the site of most of Belmont's commercial and industrial development.

She said for the first time in years, site plan applications for that area are up and all of the many studies of the area indicate that future commercial and industrial growth will be in those areas.


Manufacturing growth seen as cure for ‘concerning’ demographic trends


MEREDITH — After four decades of robust growth, the population of the Lakes Region is expected to increase slowly, while the median age will rise rapidly during the next 30 years. Meanwhile, the prospects for the economy hinge on the recovery of manufacturing sector together with the area's continued appeal as a tourist destination, seasonal residence and retirement option, according to a study just released by the Lakes Region Planning Commission.

Jeff Hayes, executive director of the LRPC, said that the demographic and economic forecast has shifted the focus of the planning profession from managing growth to fostering resiliency.

"We're facing new pressures, uncertainties and challenges," he remarked, describing the demographic trends as "overwhelming and very concerning." However, he added, "They're just projections and there are ways to mitigate them as well as new opportunities."

Last week the LRPC, an association of 30 municipalities in Belknap, Carroll, Grafton and Merimack counties, released "The Lakes Region Plan" with its vision of "economic opportunity, environmental quality." A printed executive summary with the major findings and conclusions is available and the entire plan, along with supporting documentation, is posted on the commission's website at

The turning of the demographic tide promises to wash over the future. Between 1970 and 2010 the population of of the 30 municipalities increased by 52,274 to 112,735, or at an average rate of 2.1-percent a year. During the next 30 years the population is projected to rise by just 11,200, or at an average rate of 0.33-percent. Instead of adding 1,300 people a year, the region is expected to add only 370. While the growth of the population will slow, the age of the population will rise. With a median age of 41.5 years, New Hampshire is the third oldest state in the county, trailing only Maine at 43.2 years and Vermont at 42 years. In Belknap County, where deaths outnumbered births and out-migration surpassed in-migration last year, the median age is approaching 45 years.

The plan anticipates that these demographic trends will affect virtually every aspect of economic, social and political life in the region in the years ahead, from the size of the workforce and enrollment in the schools to the demand for housing, social services and health care.

In 2005 the construction and manufacturing sectors accounted for a quarter of all private sector employment in the region. Moreover, weekly wages in these sectors exceeded those in all others employing more than 150 people save for professional, technical and managerial positions. By 2010, employment in construction had fallen by a quarter and in manufacturing by a third and the two sectors represented less than a fifth of private sector employment, which has shrunk by almost 10 percent.

The decline in construction employment reflects the slackened pace of home building, which contributed significantly to economic growth in the region. From 1990 until 1997 between 500 and 600 residential building permits were issued each year. Then the number began to climb, reaching 1,000 by 2001 and hovering around 1,200 from 2002 to 2006 before tumbling to 200 by 2009 and remaining at that level through 2013.

The LRPC projects that an additional 2,100 housing units, or 210 units a year, will be needed by 2020 to accommodate anticipated population growth in the Lakes Region. That is a little more than a third of the pace of home construction of the 1990s.

Although employment in manufacturing has shrunk, the LRPC considers the region's manufacturers, particularly its advanced manufacturers and metal fabricators, the base of the regional economy. Between 2005 and 2010, the sector shed some 2,000 jobs, some which have since been restored. But at the same time weekly wages in manufacturing, already among the highest in the region, rose 20 percent.

Recovery of the manufacturing sector will require development of a skilled workforce, sufficient not only to replace the increasing number of retiring employees but also to sustain the growth in the manufacturing sector. The plan notes that programs under way at the Huot Technical Center at Laconia High School and the Lakes Region Community College have begun to ease the pressures in the labor market, but the report singles out workforce development as the highest priority of its economic strategy.

Hayes called the resiliency of the regional manufacturers a "silver lining" in what he acknowledged is a "fairly bleak" outlook.

Cancer returns but LaBrie is still pitching

LACONIA — Her cancer is back, but that didn't keep Sheila LaBrie from taking part in Sunday's Pitching for a Cure horseshoe tournament, one which she has organized for the last couple of years as the leader of the ''14 Years and Counting Team'' which takes part every October in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign walk-a-thon at Opechee Park.

''I've been on heavy-duty chemotherapy ever since last September,'' says LaBrie, who last Friday underwent another treatment session and says she is still optimistic that ultimately she will prevail in her battle against cancer.

''I had a really good time Sunday. We had a dozen teams taking part and raised $543,'' said LaBrie, who said that some of the contributions came from people who stopped by Wilkins-Smith Post 1 American Legion after seeing a sign on the front lawn about the event.

''We had two tournaments last year and raised $442 at our first one this year,'' said LaBrie. A third tournament is slated for Sunday, Oct. 12, this year, a week before the annual making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk-a-thon.

''I thought I was all set and I wasn't,'' said LaBrie over the recurrence of her cancer. She said she has changed the name of her fund-raising team, which was formed several years ago, to reflect each additional year that she was cancer-free.

LaBrie, who was a department manager at Walmart in Gilford, said that she decided to concentrate on her own well-being since the cancer returned.

''There's enough stress with being in this situation without having to worry about organizing the work of other people,'' she said, adding that a friend, Shirley Roy, better known as ''Chippy,' helped her organize Sunday's event.

LaBrie says she has always loved horseshoes and has played ever since she was young, although she has recently had to pitch from the 30 foot distance, rather than the standard 40 feet, due to effects of the chemotherapy.

She ran the junior bowling program at the Funspot Bowling Center for several years, taking over the program after Ron Gilkey, who had been the bowling pro at Funspot for many years, died from cancer in 2001.

She also coached the Laconia High School bowling team for three years after it became a recognized school sport four years ago.

DES sues couple for wetlands violations in Gilmanton


LACONIA — The N.H. Department of Environmental Services has filed for a preliminary injunction against a Massachusetts couple to force them to restore some wetlands they filled in 2012 after specifically being ordered not to do so.

The DES is also seeking a $7,000 fine and the imposition of civil penalties if the 55 feet of wetland is not restored.

According to pleading obtained from the Belknap County Superior Court, in September 2010, the DES was notified that Paul Arshen and Gail Arshen were doing some work at the property on 94 Crystal Lake Road.

DES personnel realized that 55 feet of angles stone and 750 square feet of fill had been placed in the bed and bank.

On April 15, 2011, the DES sent a letter of deficiency to the Arshen requesting they install and maintain erosion and sediment control, retain a certified wetland scientist and submit a restoration plan.

The filing said the Arshens were not responsive.

On Aug. 12, 2012, the DES issued an administrative order to the Arshens telling them to cease and desist the project, get a scientist and submit a revision plan.

The Arshens neither appealed the order nor did they comply with it. They were again, non responsive, documents state.

On Jan. 17, 2014, the DES issued a decision of administrative fine. However, the Arshens didn't respond nor have they made any effort to pay the fine.

According to the DES, the Arshens are responsible for paying the $7,000 fine plus civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

The case has not be scheduled for a hearing as of this writing.

The Arshens did not return the Laconia Daily Sun's phone calls.