LACONIA — The population growth that has driven growth and prosperity throughout much of the Lakes Region since 1970 slowed markedly during the last decade and shows scant sign of accelerating soon.
Demographic data compiled and presented by the Lakes Region Planning Commission in the course of updating its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for the region offers a pattern of slackening in-migration and rapid aging that threaten to slow population growth in the years ahead. Unless mitigated, these trends will weigh on the development of the work force needed for a dynamic economy.
As defined by the commission, the Lakes Region includes the 11 municipalities of Belknap County, eight towns in Carroll County (Effingham, Freedom, Moultonborough, Ossipee, Sandwich, Tamworth, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro), six towns in Grafton County (Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater, Bristol, Hebron and Holderness) and five municipalities in Merrimack County (Andover, Danbury, Franklin, Hill and Northfield).
In the 70 years between 1900 and 1970 the population of the 30 municipalities in the Lakes Region grew by just 16,092 — slightly more than the current population of Laconia — from 44,369 to 60,461. By contrast, in the 40 years since 1970 the population has risen by 52,272, an increase of 87-percent, from 60,461 to 112, 735. However, 88-percent of this population growth — 45,967 people — occurred between 1970 and 2000, when in successive decades the population increased by 29 percent, 18 percent and 16 percent.
From 2000 to 2010, the population added only 6,307 people to grow at a pace of 6 percent. Nearly half this increase occurred in just four towns — Alton, Barnstead, Belmont and Gilmanton — which together added 2,812 residents, 45 percent of the increase in the entire region. These towns are within reach of centers of employment: Alton and Barnstead fall within the orbit of Rochester. Dover and Somerswoth and Belmont and Gilmanton of Concord.
In a third of the 30 municipalities the pace of growth was less than 6 percent, lagging the average for the entire region. The two cities in the region — Laconia and Franklin — represented 26-percent of the regional population in 1990, but from 2000 to 2010 the first shrank and the second stagnated and their share of the regional population fell to 22-percent.
In an aging state, the Lakes Region is aging relatively rapidly. In New Hampshire the median age rose from 37.1 years in 2000 to 41.1 years in 2010, an increase of 11-percent. Only three of the 30 municipalities in the Lakes Region — Barnstead, Franklin and Northfield — posted median ages below the state average while the percentage increase in the median age reached double digits in 19 of the 30 municipalities in the region. The median age in all four counties in the Lakes Region topped the state median age, led by Carroll County at 48.3 years and followed by Belknap County at 44.7 years, Grafton County at 41.2 years and Merrimack County at 41.4 years.
The aging of the population is highlighted by the increase in those over 65. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of senior citizens rose by 20 percent, from 147,970 to 178,268, and from 12 percent to 13 percent of the total population. In the Lakes Region the numbers climbed 17 percent, from 16,838 to 19,740, to 17 percent of the regional population. With the exception of Laconia, Franklin, Moultonborough and Sandwich the percentage increase in the number of senior citizens reached double digits in all the municipalities in the Lakes Region.
With the last members of the "Baby Boom" generation, which consists of those born between 1946 and 1964, turning 65 in 2029, the aging process will be magnified and prolonged without an increase in either the rate of birth or pace of in-migration.
Meanwhile, after peaking at more than 61,000 in 2008 the labor force in the Lakes Region fell to about 59,000 in 2011, below where it stood in 2002. Likewise, the number of those employed peaked at 59,000 in 2008 before dropping to less than 56,000 in 2011, more than 1,000 fewer than were working in 2002.
The employment figures reflect the impact of the recession. Between 2005 and 2010, private employment fell by 3,196 jobs, 2,005 of them in the manufacturing sector where employment shrank by 32-percent., from 6,199 to 4,194 jobs. Altogether total employment in the region decreased by 7 percent between 2005 and 2010.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 02:58
LACONIA — Police are investigating two burglaries from early yesterday morning that occurred in different parts of the city.
Police said a burglar alarm sounded at 1:28 a.m. at the Sunoco gas station at 1355 Union Avenue. When police arrived they found someone had thrown an unidentified object through the window of the entry door.
Police said cigarettes were among the items identified as stolen.
At 5:05 a.m., police responded to MC Cycle on Canal Street where they found that someone had used an unidentified object to force entry into the building. Witnesses told police that they saw an unidentified man pedal away on a stolen bicycle and that he headed toward City Hall on Beacon Street.
The bicycle was recovered a short time later in that general area.
Police said yesterday they have identified at least "one person of interest" and asked if anyone has any information about either burglary to call the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 02:53
LACONIA — Detective Chris Noyes, who leads the Police Department's effort against drug trafficking, told the City Council last night that as the volume of prescription drugs on the street has dwindled, heroin has taken their place as the drug of choice among those addicted to opiates, who he estimated number between 300 and 500, or as many as three-percent of the population.
Police Chief Chris Adams reminded that councilors that two years ago, following after a rash of fatal overdoses, as many as a dozen uniformed officers and support staff were assigned to a project to address the dealing and abuse of drugs in the city. He said that although there were no fatal overdoses in 2012, three have died this year and drug cases have risen 16-percent, an increase that reflected stiffer enforcement. At the same time, crimes against persons and property, most of which are associated with drugs, dropped 22-percent and 6-percent respectively.
Noyes said that "there has been quite a dip" in trafficking in prescriptions opiates, particularly oxycodone, with tighter controls on their distribution. Likewise, the supply of methamphetamines has dwindled after several small labs were discovered and the cooks jailed. But, he stressed that users have substituted heroin as supplies rose and prices fell, adding that police have recovered pressed heroin pills, which are very rare in New Hampshire.
"These are poly drug users," Noyes said. "They don't care. It's anything they can get."
He explained that if they can't get one drug they will substitute another. Once they are addicted, if they can't get their drug of choice they may take what he called "a gap drug," like buprenorphine, a semi-synthetic opiate, just to avoid to being sick. "They're just buying time," he said. "They're not getting high. They're just noting getting sick." Noyes said that most addicts ranged in age from "19 to 20 to middle to late 30s," with the youngest, those just leaving high school, representing "the biggest spike in using and dealing."
In response to a question from City Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), Noyes said that although most addicts "don't like where they're at," they find it difficult to enter a rehab facility and even more difficult to kick their habit. He agreed that more therapeutic programs in correctional institutions, like those contemplated as part of a new Belknap County Jail, would be beneficial. "Jail is where most get rehab services," Noyes said, while Adams interrupted to recall a current student at Lakes Region Community College told him "being arrested was the best thing that ever happened to him."
Traci Fowler of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, Inc, who coordinates regional efforts to prevent drug and alcohol abuse, told the councilors that Laconia is among a handful of municipalities where a coalition of of residents — "Stand Up Laconia" — to address alcohol and drug use among young people. She emphasized that the longer adolescents go without drinking or using, the greater the likelihood they will escape addiction.
Fowler said that a successful prevention program requires a broad-based community effort, engaging law enforcement, educators, health care providers and parents, pursuing "best practices," which have been proven effective.
NOTE: The City Council was without a quorum last night and could not transact business. Mayor Mike Seymour, along with Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Brenda Baer (Ward 4) were absent last night. Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), the mayor pro-tem, presided. The only item on the agenda requiring action was the acceptance of a grant on behalf of the Laconia Airport Authority to fund erection of wildlife perimeter fence, which will be taken up at the first meeting next month.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 02:50
LACONIA — As construction goes on in the front parking lot of the large commercial building that marks the corner of Fair and Court Streets, city fire officials are combing through the charred remains of the structure to find the cause of a three-alarm fire that gutted most of it early Sunday morning.
The fire burned out all but one of the seven businesses that operated from the building, constructed in the early 1970s, that many still refer to as Aubuchon's, even though the hardware store company left the city some years ago.
"At this time we have no reason to think it's suspicious," said Fire Chief Ken Erickson yesterday afternoon. He said his team along with a representative of the N.H. Fire Marshals Office will return to the building today for additional inspection.
Laconia firefighters were alerted to the blaze at 2:30 a.m. Sunday when an alarm sounded from the space at 161 Court Street that had been occupied by Skate Escape until August 1. He said the first responders saw smoke pouring from the eaves and immediately called for a second alarm. A third alarm was called about an hour later.
At the height of the blaze, Erickson said they had four ladder trucks — one each from Laconia, Meredith, Concord, and Franklin — pouring water from above onto the fire and 50 firefighters spraying water into the fire from the Court Street side of the building.
All totaled, he said firefighters from nine departments plus Stewart's Ambulance spent 13 hours fighting the fire. He said at one point Sunday morning all but one or two of his trucks had left the area but needed to return to extinguish some fire that continued burning in the eaves.
"Most of the building has no windows," said Erickson, explaining one of the things that hampered firefighters' efforts.
The building is about 27,000-square-feet and Erickson said it is broken into various condominium units. He said some of them have spaces between them, however the entire structure was capped with a rubber-membrane roof.
He said the rubber roof prevented any of the water from getting into the building and the water being sprayed from hoses into the front of the building, where there were windows, wasn't reaching the fire. He said knowing it was unoccupied, it was not safe to allow any firefighters into the building.
He said there were six to eight separate layers to the roof in some places including a layer of asphalt, some insulation, wood layers, and more insulation — all covered by the rubber membrane.
He said gasses from the heat and the flames kept spreading internally and were fed by the asphalt but until the rubber part of the roof began to collapse, it was difficult to get water to the interior part of the building where the fire burned at its hottest.
He said his crews knocked down the exterior wall closest to the Meredith Bridge Cemetery on Sunday because it was unstable and he feared it would fall.
Crews were able to save the LRGHealthcare laundry facility that processes all of the laundry for the hospitals in Laconia and Franklin. Erickson said there was "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of industrial laundry equipment that was spared except for some water damage.
The laundry is located on the Fair Street side of the building.
Erickson said the city building inspector said yesterday the the laundry portion of the building has to be inspected for electrical and physical soundness and must be professionally cleaned before operations can restart.
According to LRGHealthcare Public Relations Director Sandy Marshall, the hospital will keep all of its employees working until the laundry is running again.
"We'll blend them into the rest of our staff," she said. She said the company that maintains the equipment will be on site this morning and until then, her company won't know the true post-fire condition of the machinery.
Marshall said yesterday that the hospital has two to three days supply of clean linen in the hospitals. She also said that LRGHealthcare has had a contingency plan in place for the past few years that includes subcontracting some of the laundry work to Kleen Linen of Lebanon and sending some of it to the Belknap County Nursing Home.
"The Fire Department has been wonderful," Marshall said, noting that they allowed them to remove the LRGHealthcare trucks that were in the building and that firefighters were able to salvage a great deal of their laundry that was wrapped and ready to go back to the hospital.
Gregg Selesky, the manager of Northeast Utilities Solutions and said yesterday he had two work vans and his work boat that he uses to work on island properties burned in the blaze. Fortunately, said Selesky, he had one of his work vans home with him so he can still operate on a limited basis.
He said all of his equipment and his computers were lost, although he said his customer and inventory files were housed in a carbon-fiber holder and he may be able to recover the information.
Selesky said yesterday that he is a member of the Grace Capital Church and one of his fellow church members has offered him some office space so he can continue working while his insurance company processes his claim.
"We're just fortunate that no one was hurt," Selesky said yesterday as he and a few of his employees looked in the building at their charred work trucks.
Erickson said the Sunday morning's rain was the thing that allowed them to spare the hospital's laundry operation.
He said when firefighters first arrived, it wasn't raining and it was very windy. The rain began about an hour into the blaze.
He said as portions of the roof would collapse, embers would fly into the wind that would take them toward the cemetery. He said the rain extinguished them before they could land and that embers were found as far away as Pleasant Street.
"Had it not started raining or had the wind been blowing in a different direction, we would have had to concentrate on saving the buildings on Fair and Court Streets and we wouldn't have been able to concentrate on the laundry," he said.
As it was, Erickson said the city water director told him they used 75,000 gallons of water from the city and he estimates they pumped about 200,000 gallons from the nearby Winnipesaukee River.
Erickson said that part of the city has a number of older wooden buildings and had it been dry and had the wind been blowing in a different direction, it could have been catastrophic.
According to Planning Director Shanna Saunders, the "old Aubuchon" building was currently home to seven separate businesses.
Saunders said six business were destroyed — Little Caesars Pizza; Skate Escape— which has been closed but all of the equipment was still in the building, Inside Outlook, which used the building for its custom curtain and home improvement operation, ABC Fabricating, and a small one-person engraving shop.
Inside Outlook owner Bruce Hamel said he has three employees that he will keep working as he looks for another space and gets the company back up and running. He said the company lost all of its fabrics as well as 12 "very sophisticated" machines used for making curtains, quilts, duvets, and other home furnishings.
Erickson said Gov. Maggie Hassan has called him and offered the services of state.
Saunders said the Department of Resource and Economic Development has offered to help the city assist companies that may have to layoff some of their employees.
Laurie Crete and her family own the home on Fair Street that is right next to the building that burned.
She said yesterday that she didn't hear anything until the firefighters came banging on her door.
"They told us to get out," she said.
"I got dressed, grabbed a bottle of water, my camera and my cat," she said. Crete said her car was parked in the courtyard (or between the two portions of her duplex house) and her husband's motorcycle was parked in a barn on the property. She said firefighters let him retrieve it.
Crete said when she went outside, she could see the smoke and embers flying about and "lots of fire trucks."
She said they stayed with relatives for the night.
"I guess we're really lucky," she said, adding she was able to return to her home around 7:30 a.m. Sunday.
Erickson said that the construction of the Advanced Auto Parts Store that is being built up on the Court Street side of the property will continue.
He said the owner's plan was to tear down the front portion of the building — about 50-ft. X 50-ft. to better accommodate the auto parts store.
"I think they just wanted a flat facade," he said.
The owner of the building, M.T, McCarthy Realty Holdings, Inc. could not be reached for comment. According to Laconia on-line assessing records the building was owned in two parts — the LRGHealthcare laundry space that is valued at $178,000 and the rest of the land and building valued at $725,200.
Erickson said that when the value of the building is added to the value of the contents, the losses will exceed $1 million.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 02:44
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