Potter Hill Road residents want to slow speeders with unpaved road


GILFORD — In an unusual twist to local road woes, the residents of Potter Hill Road have asked the town to maintain their road as a "country road."

In effect, this means letting the pavement degrade to gravel, which would save the the town $250,000 next year, and reduce the speeding along the perceived shortcut to Gilford Village.

"We have a speeding problem," said Gary Kiedaisch, who spoke for the people who live along the road, many of them who were at Wednesday's meeting.

Statistics provided by Kiedaisch and obtained from the police who used a JAMAR radar unit from Aug. 4 to 22 indicate that 35 percent of the total of 1,757 cars that passed the unit were traveling 11 mph or more over the posted limit of 25 mph.

Thirty-nine percent of them were traveling at these rates while headed toward Gilford Village and 32 percent of them were traveling away from Gilford Village.

Recordings in July 2014 were slightly higher and showed that 37 percent headed into the village were speeding while 41 percent going away from the village were speeding.

Notably, said Kiedaisch, 13 percent of the traffic in July 2014 and 11 percent of the traffic in August 2016 were traveling at 41 mph or greater, or about 60 percent higher than the speed limit.

Residents believe that reconstructing the road will only make people more inclined to use it and will add to the speeding problem that already exists.

The five-year local road maintenance plan calls for the reconstruction of Potter Hill Road and includes a "T" intersection at the eastern side. All agree that eliminating what looks like a ramp access to Potter Hill from Cherry Valley Road will reduce some of the problem.

Kiedaisch also said that the speeders on Potter Hill are local people.

"We can tell you who they are," he said, indicating that traffic increases in around school time in the mornings and afternoons in the winter and when the Community Center opens and closes in the summer time.

Kiedaisch said permanent police patrols with officers who give tickets instead of warnings would send a strong message to people and would ultimately deter speeding along Potter Hill Road.

Police Chief Tony Bean Burpee said at the meeting he had no statistics at hand but would provided them to selectmen.

"We can and have stepped up directed patrols," he said, adding that his department makes at least 4,000 traffic stops a year.

He said his one fear is that ticketing will take speeders off Potter Hill Road and push them to Cherry Valley Road.

"Directed patrols work while we're there," he said.

Public Works Director Peter Nourse said letting the road degrade to gravel is not a good idea, but supports a "T" intersection with Cherry Valley Road.

He said gravel roads create dust control issues and won't correct some of the drainage issues that exist on Potter Hill Road.

"I don't want to fix the drainage and leave a wreckage of a road," he said.

Selectmen said they would meet at 6 p.m. on Sept. 14, which is an hour before their scheduled meeting, to look at the road and decide what to do.

Local man charged with trespass, beating man


LACONIA — A local man is being held on a total of $21,000 cash-only bail and faces a host of charges for two separate crimes committed within three weeks of each other.

On July 26 or 27, Justin R. Travis, 21, of or formerly of 222 Hilliard Road allegedly forced his way into one of the rear buildings at the Stafford Oil Company, where he was found by an employee whose job it is to check the property each morning.

He told the police that one of the windows was broken and the door appeared to have been forced open.

The employee told police that he confronted Travis inside and the two struggled after the employee told Travis not the move as he was calling the police.

He said Travis dropped to the floor but returned to his feet brandishing a "black knife with a green sheath" which police described as a tactical knife.

Travis allegedly told the employee, "I have a knife and I ain't (expletive) around." The employee stepped back and gave Travis leeway to escape from the building.

Travis fled and was arrested within minutes by police after an officer found someone matching his description walking on nearby Winnisquam Street.

After his arrest and after being read his rights, Travis allegedly told police he entered the building and brandished the knife so he could get away.

He was charged with a felony count of criminal threatening with a knife, criminal trespass and criminal mischief. He was ordered held on $1,000 cash.

On Friday, police charged Travis, who was still incarcerated, with two counts of robbery, and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery for allegedly beating up his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend and stealing his headphones.

In affidavits filed Friday with Belknap County Superior Court, police said that on July 5 Travis allegedly accosted a man while he was walking near the Laconia Library around 1:50 a.m.

Police said they were called to 179 B Pleasant St. for a report of man who had been the victim of an assault and found him lying unresponsive in the doorway.

The victim's girlfriend told them he had allegedly been assaulted by Travis, who the officer had just seen as he was on his was to the call. He also noticed Travis was with a tall white man with dark hair and shorts. The two were seen walking on Church Street near the Laconia Spa.

Once the victim was at the hospital and had regained consciousness, he told police that he was walking by the library when Travis saw him and asked if he was the new boyfriend.

He said when he replied in the affirmative, Travis tried to entice him into a fight behind the library but the victim said he ignored him and kept walking.

The victim said Travis said something to him and when he turned around, Travis allegedly punched him in the face. He said Travis punched him two more times in the face and then the man Travis was with also punched him.

As he tried to defend himself, the victim said he started wrestling with the unknown second man, and that Travis tried to kick him in the groin. He said he fell to the ground to protect himself and Travis allegedly stomped on his head a four or five times.

He said he heard Travis tell his friend to grab his headphones. Once the two left him, the victim said he realized his cell phone had been taken.

He told police he was in too much pain to walk to the police department, so he walked to his girlfriend's house on Pleasant Street to report the crime.

Police photographed pictures of injuries to the victim's face, torso and legs.

Once daylight came, police searched the area where the victim said he was assaulted and found an arm for some headphones and part of the victim's sunglasses that the victim identified as his.
Travis entered a not guilty plea in Belknap County Superior Court and was ordered held on $20,000 cash bail.

Fishermen's dilemma – Rock bass crowding in on Winnipesaukee's sport fishery

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Fishermen on Squam Lake.  Karen Bobotas for the Laconia Daily Sun


LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE — When is a bass fisherman unhappy about all the fish he's catching? When he spends all day catching rock bass instead of the smallmouth bass he's looking for. It's a scenario happening more frequently on Lake Winnipesaukee, where the smaller, invasive fish have taken over much of the territory previously inhabited by smallmouth bass.

Scott Decker, program supervisor for inland fisheries at the state's Department of Fish and Game, said that rock bass are a Midwestern fish, though they are native to lakes as far east as Vermont's Lake Champlain. The fish has been present in New Hampshire for many decades, first appearing in Lake Sunapee, where it caused great disruption of that prized fishery, and in the Connecticut River.

"I can't pinpoint when rock bass first made it into Winnipesaukee," said Decker. Nor does the department have an exact understanding of how many rock bass are in the lake, or what parts of the lake it dominates. What is clear from anecdotal reports, though, is that the fish has made its way into the big lake, as well as many other water bodies in the state.

Rock bass, which grow to about 8 inches in length, rarely will weight more than a pound, and are larger than sunfish and bluegills, but don't grow as large as smallmouth bass. However, they grow quickly and eat heavily, competing with smallmouth bass for the same small fish and insects. Rock bass, as their name implies, prefer a rocky bottom habitat. They're identified by a color that ranges from brass to olive, and rows of dark spots running along its sides. Its large eyes are sometimes red.

Decker said that the fish was likely introduced to local water bodies by accident, such as by a fisherman dumping his bait bucket full of minnows into the water when he's done for the day, a practice Fish and Game discourages for this very reason. Occasionally, that bucket of minnows contains an errant species of fish, indistinguishable from the rest in minnow form.

"The thing about rock bass is they get a bad rap," said Decker. There is an irony in the situation, which is that smallmouth bass, as well as most of the sport fish in New Hampshire, are also non-native species, having been introduced from other parts of North America.

There's no limit or catch regulations on rock bass, Decker noted. They can be kept at any length or weight, and anglers can keep as many of them as they can catch.

"We treat them, basically, as an invasive species," he said.

Decker expects that rock bass are currently experiencing a population boom in Winnipesaukee, and that the numbers will soon fall. He hopes that rock bass numbers will fall and settle into a balance with other fish in the lake. In the meantime, rock bass offer great opportunities for children learning to fish, because they're so prolific and easy to catch. He also expects that they're a boon to loons and other predators, as they're likely easier to catch than trout or salmon.

At A.J.'s Bait & Tackle in Meredith, owner Alan Nute said, "Winnipesaukee is starting to get flooded with (rock bass)," and his customers are finding the newcomer to be a nuisance.

"People are spending money on bait and they're catching rock bass instead of what they're targeting," Nute said.

Nute, concerned about the effect that rock bass will have on the future biodiversity of the Lakes Region, said he would like to see a rock bass-specific fishing tournament, where the winner would be the person who catches the most fish, In doing so, he hoped to give smallmouth bass a fighting chance to take back some territory.

He is also telling his customers not to return the fish to the lake. Rather, take them home for dinner.

"They are a very good eating fish. I'm telling everyone to take them home and eat them," he said.

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Rock bass typically grow to about eight inches in length (Photo courtesy of NH Fish and Game)