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Detailed look at 3 roundabouts plan draws big crowd in Meredith

MEREDITH — The main Community Center meeting room filled to overflowing last evening when the Rte. 3/Rte. 25 Advisory Committee presented its recommendation for addressing traffic congestion along the north-south, eats-west corridor between Lake Street and Pleasant. Street at a workshop hosted by the Board of Selectmen..

Carla Horne, who chairs the Selectboard, reminded the crowd that purpose of the meeting was to provide information, not provoke debate, about the plan and asked residents to confine their questions to technical issues. She said that a public hearing will be held on the merits of the proposal on Monday, January 26, after which the selectmen will either reject or accept the recommendation of the committee.

Selectman Lou Kahn, who chaired the committee, noted that efforts to address the traffic through town have been underway, if sporadically, since 1975 and included two proposals by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT), one a six lane highway along the lakefront, which the town rejected. The predecessor to the committee, which included representatives of nearby towns, met 26 times from 2006 to 2009, but failed to agree on a recommendation.

Kahen explained that the committee, composed exclusively of "stakeholders" from Meredith, was convened when the DOT announced it had received $4 million in federal funding for the project. The panel, he said, met nine times to consider all the alternatives, among them options weighed and scuttled in the past.

The DOT, Kahn noted, preferred a 2-lane roundabout at the junction of Rte. 3 and Rte. 25, which traffic models indicated would have the most significant impact on congestion. However, the committee rejected this option because it would damage the properties on all four corners of intersections and hinder the movement of crosstown traffic between Main Street and Rte. 25. Furthermore, the expanse of pavement required would be "just plan ugly".

Instead, Kahn said the committee chose "a system of roundabouts" — at Lake Street, the primary junction and Pleasant Street — explaining each has an effect on the others." Together they would facilitate "a steady, slow, moving flow of traffic," which he claimed would be an improvement. At the same time, he said "it will make the town much more attractive," picturing landscaped and lit roundabouts connected by roadway divided by a tree lined median strip. "This is a gift from the federal government," Kahn declared, "which you all love I know."

Gene McCarthy of McFarland Johnson of Concord, project manager for the DOT, said the plan offered "a very efficient way of moving traffic." There would be some 2,000 feet of roadway without a traffic signal and, with the roundabouts and median strips, no left turns, which impede the flow of traffic. He stressed that the roundabouts are designed to accommodate large trucks and emergency vehicles and the 20-foot width of the travel lanes either side of the median strip will enable emergency vehicles to navigate through traffic.

McCarthy characterized the impact on abutting properties as minimal. Ten parking paces would be lost at Bay Point and six at Mill Falls to the central roundabout. Scenic Park would be spared by widening Rte. 25 between five and 10 feet on the north side of the road. There would be pedestrian crossings at each leg of all three roundabouts, so no one would have to cross more than one lane of traffic at a time.

"Are we doing this for the townspeople of for the people coming through here?" asked the first questioner. "And is it worth it?"

McCarthy replied that "community character is driving this as much as traffic."

Kahn said that the plan would significantly improve the movement of traffic in nine months of the year. "We're not only getting rid of a traffic light but also a helluva lot of ugly pavement," he said, adding that the improvements "will dress up the lakefront."

Nancy Winter of Pleasant Street, who said her grandson was struck where Pleasant Street joins Rte. 25, expressed concern at the speed of traffic coming down the hill. McCarthy said that because roundabouts have a calming effect on traffic, speeds would diminish along the entire corridor.

"Roundabouts don't work with bumper-to-bumper traffic," said Bob Ambrose, who expected heavy traffic in the summer months, especially on weekends, would clog the roundabouts and increase the congestion.In addition, he raised concerns about shrinking Rte. 25 between Pleasant Street and the intersection with Rte. 3 to a single lane.

Ambrose was echoed by Dave Connor, who travels east to west in the morning and west to east in the evening daily. "I'm a little disappointed," he said, anticipating that the plan was more likely to increase than decrease congestion.

"This is not a capacity project," said McCarthy, conceding "we haven't widened the corridor. Have we added capacity? No."

Horne urged those interested to visit the DOT website at http://www.nh.gov/dot/projects/meredith10430/index.htm, which includes the proceedings and documentation that led to the Advisory Committee's recommendation.

 

CAPTION: At the podium, Gene McCarthy of McFarland Johnson, project manager for the Rte. 3/Rte. 25 improvement project in Meredith, fields a question about the proposed system of three roundabouts recommended by the Advisory Committee from Bob Ambrose before a full house at the Community Center. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 02:00

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48% of Children's Auction proceeds come from Pub Mania

LACONIA — The NH1 Children's Auction concluded Saturday with an appearance by Governor Maggie Hassan, who announced that this year's even raised $486,575 to be distributed to local not-for-profit agencies, the second highest total ever recorded.
Last year the event raised $510,801 with a major contribution of $90,000 coming from the Lakes Region Home Builders and Remodelers Association through a home the organization built to raise funds for the auction.
Nearly half of the money raised this year, some $235,595, was raised by the annual Pub Mania event hosted by Patrick's Pub & Eatery in Gilford, which far surpassed the $177,545 raised last year at the event,.
Total funds raised by the Pub Mania event, which has been held for six years, now total over $797,000, according to Allan Beetle, Patrick's co-owner.
"The Children's Auction is a truly amazing event that brings people to action on behalf of others" said Beetle. "Pub Mania brings out that spirit. Our goal is to make an impact in our community and to have lots of people participate with us in that effort".
Inspired by Laconia Athletic & Swim Club's long-running "Cycle Mania" fundraiser, Patrick's reserves bar stools to teams that commit to filling the stool with a different team member each hour of the event. With 30 teams and 24 people per team, the event has 720 "Culinary Athletes" participating. Each participant raises funds for their respective teams, with teams enjoying a healthy competition for three coveted awards: Top Dollar Award, Feeding Families Award and Outstanding Team Award.
The top three teams raised over $60,000, total, including Supreme Marine's Dream Team with captain Matt Resca, Café Déjà Vu team, captained by Benda Ferland and Tony Felch, and newcomer Team BPS, captained by Randy Remick and Keith McBey, who raised the most money of any single team this year with a total of almost $25,000.

"Team BPS had a blast this year and we're looking forward to next year. Who knew you could have this much fun helping kids and families. Hats off to all of the Pub Mania teams" exclaimed team captain Randy Remick, president of Bonnette, Page & Stone.

The team from Laconia Country Club's 19th Hole, captained by Lucy Jacobsen, which raised almost $11,000, was also the winner of the Feeding Families Award, bringing 3,361 food items to the food pantry. In addition to the money raised, the Pub Mania teams also delivered over 5,551 food items over the past year for the food pantry at St. Vincent de Paul Society in Laconia.
For the first time in it's 33-year history of the auction, which was started on WLNH radio in 1982 by Warren Bailey, the 5-day-long event was televised beyond the Lakes Region by WBIN-TV in Concord, which is owned by Binnie Media which also now owns WLNH.
WBIN broadcast live for two hours a day for the first four days of the auction and featured interviews conducted by Charlie Sherman, NH 1's special correspondent, and Shari Small, news anchor and reporter.
NH1 News also contributed $5,000 to meet the production costs of Lakes Region Public Access TV, which has been covering the auction since the 1990s and broadcasts the event in its entirety.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 01:47

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Sheldon Morgan's 43-year career at Gilford Public Works coming to an end

GILFORD — For one of the last times in his career, retiring Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan leaned back in his wood-backed chair and look around his office.

His big wooden desk, the sides piled with neatly stacked folders, is his favorite thing.

"I love this desk. It came from a dumpster," he said noting that he found it about four or five years ago when the Lutheran Church place (in Laconia) that sells furniture was cleaning house.

"I like wood," he said, pointing to all the wooden bookcases and chests of drawers that adorn his office. "Most everything in here is free or hand-built. Wood is warm. It has character. Metal is cold and uninviting."

Morgan has made his 43-year career at the Gilford Department of Public Works everything but cold and uninviting.

Beginning as a surveyor/engineering aid in 1971, Morgan gradually rose through the ranks to become director in 1988, bringing to the top office his unassuming personality, his genuine love of his job, for his community and for his employees.

The Gilford Public Works Department didn't exist in 1971 when Morgan, an employee of the state and fresh from earning his Associate degree as an engineering aid first came to work for the town.

He said Gilford had just made the decision to go from a road agent to a director and Dick Howath picked him from the "kids" who applied for a job.

"I think I got (the job) because of my surveying and drafting skills," he said.

"It was Dick, me and Dick's secretary Lillian Maynard," he said describing the town's first Public Works Department.

Their office was on the second floor of a Gilford Community Church building on Belknap Mountain Road. He said the building is gone now.

He said the DPW employees (all five of them) would sit in the church and watch the farmers tend the asparagus field in the center of town. "And then they'd play horseshoes," he said with a grin.

"Almost all of our work was ditching and drainage," he said, noting that the oldest part of town (near Morrill Street) had drainage attached to the city of Laconia. "Everything else was cross-culvert."

Their first job was laying a new water line for Gilford Village. He said the population of the town was about 3,200 and most of them were farmers. There were some people concentrated in the village area and some people gathered over in the Morrill Street area just west of Laconia.

"The road were predominately public and made of gravel and asphalt or what we called "farmer's mix." He said most of the farmers took care of their own roads (often time with oxen) and the department itself had a few regular pickup trucks, one 4-wheel-drive big truck, and a roller that they pulled behind anything they could find to pull it.

Before the DPW, he said, the residents had "neighborhood road agents" and each was responsible for taking care of his or her little section of town.

Once Gunstock Acres won the battle for public roads, Morgan said the department and the population grew exponentially. The addition of a commercial district along Route 11 and regulations regarding septic systems added to the needs for more public works services.

As Gilford became more and more a residential community and less and less a farming community, Morgan said the public works department grew with it until today where it has 19 full-time employees, 2 part-time employees and performs road, drainage, plowing and maintenance as well sewer and water services.

Morgan has documented all of those changes — big and little.

"I have files for my files," he said, noting he uses a filing system taught to him by former Laconia Department of Public Works Director Frank Tilton that is a cross-fling system where everything is cross-referenced.

In 1977, the Department of Public Works built its current home which for a while they shared with the Planning Department.

"At that point we thought we had died and gone to heaven," he said.

Morgan was also one of the people who was charged with perambulating the town line. Back then, he explained, they never knew what they'd find. He noted once they came across a huge logging operation on the Gilford-Gilmanton line that nobody knew about.

He also said they use to do their own tests on the water at Gilford Beach. "We'd cook them and count the Ecoli on each culture," he said. "that was before the state stepped in."

One of his favorite memories was when the DPW got the town's first electric typewriter. He said one of the selectmen worked for IBM and was able to procure it for them.

"We were starting to get so many forms, it was just wonderful," he said laughing.

"It also didn't take that much to make us happy back then," he added.

For Morgan, his greatest feeling of accomplishment comes from his role in shepherding the town's infrastructure from practically nothing to modern-day standards while doing it in a cost-effective manner.

"We've done innovations to stretch the money," he said. "We done a good job of that."

"Gilford has done a good job of maintaining a high-level transportation system," he said. "I'm very proud of that."

When asked what his next chapter would be, he said he has a very long "honey do" list waiting for him at home.

He said he expects at some point to find something to do on a part-time basis.
"I'm not one to sit around and do nothing," he said, but said he's in no hurry and just wants some time to "decompose".

He said the thing he'll miss the most about the job is the people he serves and the town employees. "There's a satisfaction that comes with helping people," he said.

"I want to stay connected to technology and to people," he said.

"People need interaction with each other," he said. "I'm going to miss that when I'm gone."

Morgan's last day in December 27.

 

CUTLINES: Sheldon 005 - Retiring Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan shows a picture on his computer of an old Gilford Community Church building When he first came to work at the newly formed DPW in 1971, he said his department's offices were on the second floor of the building and the patch of land across Potter Hill Road was an asparagus field. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 01:40

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Fire claims Sanbornton garage & 2 cars in it

SANBORNTON — A one alarm fire that broke out at 4:44 p.m. destroyed a stand-alone garage at 118 Burleigh Hill Road Saturday.

Fire Chief Paul Dexter said the garage was fully involved when firefighters arrived so the concentrated on saving the family home that is about 20 feet away from the garage.

He said the house sustained some heat damage.

Two cars that were in the garage were destroyed, while a third car sustained heat damage.

Dexter said he determined the fire was started by a problem with a wood stove.

No one was injured and firefighters from Franklin, Tilton-Northfield, Belmont, and New Hampton assisted Sanbornton.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 01:15

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