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After years of planning & fundraising, first shovel is turned on Weirs Community Park

LACONIA — "It's been a long, long struggle," Don Richards said yesterday as work began on the Weirs Community Park, a project he has pursued for almost two decades.
As a backhoe sifted boulders from loam in the background, Richards and his wife Connie joined Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, and his deputy Amy Lovisek along with City Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1), Luke Powell, assistant director of Public Works, Casey Crane of Broadview Construction Corporation, and Mick Sceggell of Dubois & King, Inc. to mark the occasion.
The park is being developed on a 25-acre wooded tract adjacent to the Community Center/fire station and bordered on the west by Lucerne Avenue, which the city acquired with a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund administered by the National Park Service in 1979. Archaeological studies undertaken in 1990 and 2009 found evidence of an Abenaki village.
Richards said in the late 19th century a local entrepreneur returned from Switzerland intending to build an alpine village on the site, hence Lucerne Avenue. The trails through the property follow the streets intended to serve the subdivision. Between 1890 and 1945 the land served as a stomping ground for the girls of Camp Arcadia, who passed through a stone arch, which still stands, to church services, sing-alongs and other activities.
Most of the land will remain in its natural wooded state. Likewise, the stone walls and stone arch will be preserved. A pavilion with adjoining picnic area and play area will be built east of the existing parking area and an outdoor amphitheater, with seating for audiences of 120, with an attached restroom, which will serve as a dressing room, to the north. The architecture of the pavilion and equipment of the playground will mimic the rustic setting of the park. The existing trails will be rehabilitated with picnic areas, benches and gazebos where they cross one another. A boardwalk, with an overlook at its center, would span the wetland on the site.
The history of the property will be incorporated into the park with signage. Richards said that he is working with the Abenaki Tribal Council to prepare information about the relationship the Native Americans enjoyed with The Weirs and the site in particular. He said that a resident of the Taylor Community attended Camp Arcadia and has the daily logs from 1933 and 1934, which picture how the girls enjoyed their summers on the site.
Richards and Dunleavy credited former director of Parks and Recreation Director Phil Rowley with the success of the project. "He was with us from the very beginning," said Richards, "in the pipe dream stage." Rowley, he said, regularly urged the city to invest in the development of the park as well as negotiated to develop the park with state officials responsible protecting for its archaeological resources and natural environment.
"We crept forward over the years," Richards recalled, "raised a lot of money." He said that after the parking lot was completed most of the money was raised by parking motorcycles during Bike Week. This year the city complemented the funds raised by the Weirs Community Center and Weirs Action Committee with a $550,000 appropriation to complete the project.
Dunleavy said that the contractor estimates the work can be done in 120 days and "weather permitting we're aiming for Memorial Day."


CAPTION: Celebrating the start of work on the Weirs Community Park yesterday were, left to right, Nick Sceggell of Dubois & King, Inc., Amy Lovisek, deputy director of Parks and Recreation, Casey Crane, president of Broadview Construction Corporation, City Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1), Don Richards of the Weirs Community Center, Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, and Luke Powell, assistant director of Public Works. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 02:55

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Covered pedestrian bridge delivered to new home in Belmont

BELMONT — A 50-foot-long section of a wooden pedestrian bridge that will eventually span the Tioga River arrived in town yesterday and was lifted by crane to its temporary resting place near the town's Public Works Garage, where it joined three roof sections of the bridge which have already arrived.
Two more sections of the bridge will be moved from Dover this week and they will also be used for a separate span over the Tioga River.
Conservation Commission Chairman Ken Knowlton said that what once was a 154-foot long covered pedestrian bridge, which originally spanned the Cocheco River, was bought by the commission for $1 from the city of Dover after efforts by Dover residents to keep in that community and use it as a centerpiece for a park fell short.
Built in 1996 at a cost of $162,845, the eight-foot wide bridge was removed with a crane in 2010 and the city of Dover was looking to sell it in order to make way for a waterfront development.
Knowlton said that contractor Mark Roberts has been in charge of bringing the bridge, which had to be disassembled, to town and developed a scope of work to move everything to Belmont with a price of $12,600 for moving and about $10,000 for using two cranes to place two sections of the bridge over the river.
Knowlton said that one 50 foot span will cross the river just north of the Belmont Mill parallel to the Rte. 140 bridge over the Tioga River and that the other two spans, which will total 100 feet, will be put over the river about a half mile to the west.
He said that the first bridge will be located at what was once the terminus of the Belmont Spur Line, which brought trains to the Belmont Village area, and that the longer bridge which cross the river at a point where there was once was a bridge for the spur line.
The commission is currently looking for ways to raise funds for the cost of putting the bridges in place, as well as for a trail system which will be built along the right of way of the former Belmont Spur rail corridor, which is widely used by snowmobilers.
The commission earlier this month voted to spend $5,500 to have Hoyle, Tanner and Associates evaluate the bridge for use at those two river crossings.
Knowlton said the commission is looking for grants and donations in order to complete the project and is hoping to be able to start work on the first part of the project next summer.

CAPTIONS for Lift Bridge:
Ken Knowlton, Mark Roberts and Woody Fogg maneuver a section of a covered bridge which will eventually span the Tioga River onto supports. The bridge, which was bought by the Belmont Conservation Commission from Dover for $1, is being brought to Belmont in sections. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 02:23

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Mediciad patients will still not have access to LRGHealthcare primary care doctors

LACONIA — Although LRGHealthcare is participating in all three medical plans now being offered to New Hampshire residents who use Medicaid to pay for health care, adults in the area will still have to use a non-LRGHealthcare physician for their primary care. Medicaid users must enroll in one of the plans before November 1 as part of a switch to a managed care program.

According to Andrew Patterson, executive director of the hospital company-owned Laconia Clinic, "wrap-around health care networks" like Health First Family Care Center in Laconia and Franklin are better designed to assist adult Medicaid patients with services that are an addition to just primary care.

Some of those "wrap-around" services, said Patterson, are nutritionists, social workers, and other non-physician services not typically provided by a primary care physician. In addition, patients can access clinical psychologists, visiting nurses for the home-bound, and nurse midwives at Health First and other similar networks.

At least one local man, who asked not to be identified, said he was confused when he saw the name of his former LRGHealthcare primary care physician listed under the new Well Sense, New Hampshire Healthy Families, and Meridian managed care plans.

One of the 3,500 area residents who were removed from patient rolls in late 2011 when LRGHealthcare stopped accepting primary care Medicaid users because of what were seen as inadequate government reimbursement rates, this man saw the name of his former primary care doctor at the Laconia Clinic listed when he went to the new exchanges and wanted to reestablish his relationship there.

"I was told they were accepting Medicaid patients," he said, accusing LRGHeathcare of misrepresenting themselves as participating in the exchanges.

Patterson said there was no misrepresentation but allowed there could be some confusion because New Hampshire chose to roll out its managed care networks for Medicaid at the same time as joining the Anthem network for general health insurance access under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

He said all LRGHealthcare physicians who are specialists continue to see Medicaid patients who are referred to them by the rural health centers like Health First and that is why all of their physicians are listed on the three new exchanges created by state's managed care system.

In November of 2011, due to an operating loss of $4-million, LRGHealthcare stopped seeing adult primary care physicians at its 12 primary care offices. The 12 were Andover Family Practice; Belknap Family Practice in Belmont and Meredith; Caring for Women in Laconia, Franklin, and Moultonborough; Franklin Internal Medicine; Hillside Family Medicine in Gilford; Laconia Clinic in Laconia, Tilton and Franklin; Lakes Region Family Practice in Laconia; Moultonborough Family Practice; and New Hampton Family Practice.

Patterson said the 12 above offices still provide pediatric care to children on Medicaid and the emergency rooms at Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital accept Medicaid payments.

In addition to not accepting adult primary care patients who are on Medicaid, to cope with decline revenues LRGHealthcare trimmed staff and cut some overhead costs that saved $14-million in 2011.

Triggering the declining revenues were reductions in Medicaid reimbursements from the state government that began when the state Legislature stopped returning the Medical Enhancement Tax to hospitals and kept the federal match in the state's operating budget.

Patterson said the "wrap around" agencies like Health First get higher federal Medicaid reimbursements than LRGHealthcare does for primary care services and until that changes, he said it's not likely his company will serve adult Medicaid recipients for their primary care services.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 02:31

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Cormier authors bill to eliminate regional planning commissions

CONCORD — Representative Jane Cormier (R-Alton) has introduced legislation that would do away with the state's nine regional planning commissions by 2015. The intent of the bill, she said, is not only to repeal but also to replace the commissions by authorizing cities and towns to enter cooperative and collaborative arrangements at their discretion.

The regional planning commissions have been a frequent target of Cormier's weekly column in "The Weirs Times" since the advent of the Granite State Future initiative, a three-year project aimed at developing regional master plans that would be melded into a statewide plan. The project is funded by a $3.37-million grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Cormier is among those who believe that the regional planning commissions are the stalking horses of a federal effort, pursued under the aegis of Granite State Future, to promote "Smart Growth" and "sustainable living" at the expense of local control of land use decisions and private property rights. "I'm all for good stewardship," she declared, "but this is about private property rights guaranteed by our Constitution."

Cormier points to the budget of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, which includes $123,521 in revenue from the 30 member communities in a $572,500 budget. Noting that salaries represent $369,548, excluding an estimated $100,000 for benefits, she asks "what money is actually left to 'improve' our communities?" More importantly, since the employees of the planning commissions are paid with federal funds, she asks "where does their loyalty lie, with the federal government or the taxpayers of our communities" and concludes "the answer is, of course, "with the federal government. The facts are the facts."

"NH Regional Planning Commissions," Cormier recently wrote, "are a scam, fueled by the feds, to reach the goals of sustainable 'smart growth' in our Live Free or Die state."

Cormier said that her bill would provide that once the regional planning commissions are shuttered, any remaining fund balances would distributed among the member municipalities according to an equitable formula.

Cormier said that she has been traveling around the state to warn against the threat to local control and property rights posed by federal government agencies and regional planning commissions. "I'll drive and I'll talk until I can't drive or talk anymore," she said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 02:13

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