Smoldering cigarette said to have caused Laconia fire

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that a cigarette end, smoldering in a plastic cup placed close to an exterior wall, caused the fire that damaged all six of the two-story apartments in a multi-family building at Wingate Village on Blueberry Lane yesterday.

Erickson noted that the extreme heat and dryness enabled the fire, which began at the foot of the wall of unit 35, to climb up the exterior wall as the heated vinyl siding emitted flammable vapors and reach into the attics of units 34, 35 and 36, where there was no insulation or sheet rock to slow its spread. He said when the fire reached the oxygen in the attics it reignited, shooting flames through the opening firefighters cut in the roof of unit 36. Firefighters fought the from inside the building, Erickson said, first knocking it down in unit 34 then running hose to extinguish the blaze in units 35 and 36.

Three units — 34,35 and 36, Erickson said suffered the most severe damage while the remaining units in the building — 33, 37 and 38 — were not spared but less affected. He said that 18 people were displaced the night after the fire and anticipated half of them would be able to return to their homes relatively soon, while five adults and four children would likely remain displaced for a longer time. He initially estimated the cost f the damage, including both the structure and possessions, at approximately $150,000, but suggested that figure would likely increase.

On one was home in units 34, 35, and 36 at the time of the fire.

Erickson credited the management of Wingate Village with quickly taking step to address the needs of the displaced tenants and repair the damaged the units. However, the management of Wingate Village declined to comment to The Daily Sun about either the fire or its aftermath.

The fire, Erickson remarked, was the third in recent weeks to have begun with a smoldering cigarette. Earlier less extensive fires were extinguished on High Street and Olive Place.

Expletives deleted: air can be blue when county meets behind closed doors

LACONA — Recently-released minutes of non-public meetings of the Belknap County Commission show a high degree of rancor between commissioners with heated words and vulgarities being exchanged.
Minutes show that at the most recent closed door meeting on Monday, June 27, Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) responded to a statement by Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) that he was a liar by saying that Taylor was ''lucky because in an earlier day he would be challenged to a duel and a slap.''
According to the minutes of the meeting, which were written by Taylor, his response was an unprintable two-work vulgarity noted as "**** ***"
When Burchell asked Taylor if he was going to include that vulgar phrase in the minutes, Taylor asked if he also should include the fact that Burchell had called him an "*******" at the end of the last meeting on July 15.
In a letter published in Tuesday's Daily Sun, Burchell set forth his view of what transpired at the July 27 meeting which included a reference to Taylor's remark to him and concluded by saying that he didn't believe that either Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) nor Commissioner Taylor were gentlemen.
''As I stated in February when told by Mr. DeVoy that he was a gentleman, I do not find that to be the case and equally find Mr. Taylor to quite removed from that status.''
The Monday meeting dealt with a response the commissioners were preparing to a grievance complaint filed by Belknap County Nursing Home Director Mathew Logue, who was fired last fall and then reinstated by the Belknap County's Personnel Committee, of which Burchell was a member, last October.
The fallout between Burchell, who was elected chairman in January when only he and DeVoy were serving on the commission, took less than two months to develop and resulted in his ouster as chairman on March 2, about six weeks after Taylor was named to fill a vacancy on the commission.
Burchell has said that the rift between him and the other commissioners is the result of their failing to side with him on ousting Deb Shackett as Belknap County Administrator, whom he accused of lying to him in a recent e-mail in which she said she knew nothing about Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue being under attack. He also maintained that Shackett had lied in her testimony against Logue in his termination hearing before a panel of local lawmakers last October.
''You know the problem started in February when you would not agree to fire Shackett!'' Burchell said at Monday's meeting.
But Taylor responded that Burchell had been trying to oust Shackett before he even took office. ''You said back in December before you ever took office that on your first day in office you wanted to fire her, seize her computer and have a sheriff's deputy escort her out of the building.''
He also said that Burchell was wrong regarding Logue being under attack: ''It is not Mr. Logue personally, it is his work performance that is under attack.''
Both Taylor and DeVoy have said that it was Burchell's attitude towards Shackett that bothered them and his passing on to Logue of closed-door conversations that took place on Feb. 23 when an earlier grievance he had filed which was dismissed by commissioners that led to his being ousted as chairman and his censure by them at a June 4 meeting.

Traffic counts suggest Motorcycle Week activity still declining

LACONIA — Traffic during the 91st running of Motorcycle Week in June recorded at 10 locations by the Lakes Region Planning Commission was less than in 2014 and, on the last weekend of the rally — when rain fell or threatened — volume was the lightest of any year in the last 10 years at nine of the 10 locations.

The commission counted traffic (in both directions) between Saturday, June 13 and Sunday, June 21 at Funspot and the Weirs Channel Bridge on Rte. 3, White Oaks Road on Rte.-11B, the Chamber of Commerce and Margate Resort on Weirs Boulevard, Union Avenue, Parade Road, Rollercoaster Road, Watson Road and Lakeside Avenue.

The total average daily traffic volume at the 10 locations during the nine days of the rally was 117,208 vehicles in 2015, compared to 156,894 in 2014, a decrease of 25 percent. Traffic volume declined by between 8 percent and 46 percent at all 10 locations. The steepest decline in traffic volume was recorded at the Weirs Bridge, where the average daily volume of 16,042 vehicles was 46 percent below the 29,553 counted in 2014. From last year to this year, average daily traffic volumes also tumbled 34 percent at the Margate Resort, 33 percent on Rte. 11-B and 30 percent at Lakeside Avenue.

The traffic volume on the last weekend of this year's rally — Friday the 19th, Saturday the 20th and Sunday the 21st — was the lowest recorded at nine of 10 locations since 2006, with the tally at the Weirs Bridge topping the count in 2009 representing the lone exception. For the past several years the Weirs Bridge, which was closed to four-wheel traffic during the last four days of Motorcycle Week, has remained open to all vehicles as traffic volumes have diminished.

Traffic volume on the last three days of the rally this year was significantly below the historic average for the same three days between 2006 and 2014 on each of the three days and at all 10 locations. Compared to the historic average traffic volume was 25 percent lower at Funspot, 23 percent lower at the Weirs Bridge, 43 percent lower at Rte. 11-B, 27 percent lower at the Chamber of Commerce, 48 percent lower at the Margate Resort, 16 percent lower on Union Avenue, 18 percent lower on Parade Road, 28 percent lower on Rollercoaster Road, 25 percent lower on Watson Road and 34 percent lower on Lakeside Avenue.

The greatest volume at each location was posted during the 24 hours on Saturday the 13th, Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th. The least traffic was counted on Monday the 15th and Tuesday the 16th, both of which were rainy days.

Newfound freshmen making news friends & overcoming old fears

LACONIA — Some 26 incoming freshman at Newfound Regional High School in Bristol took part in an aerial adventure at Monkey Trunks, next to Funspot, yesterday.
The students, who spent the morning taking on the challenge of the high ropes adventure course, are taking part in the Newfound Bridge Academy, a voluntary program for eighth graders transitioning to the high school.
Amy Yeakel, who is charge of the extended learning opportunities program at the high school, said that one of the benefits of the program, which serves abut 50 students during two four-day sessions in July, is that it provides an opportunity for students, many of whom have attended school up to this point in different communities, to get to know one another.
New this year to the school district are students from Hill, who had previously attended the Jenny Blake Elementary School and the Franklin Middle School. The district serves students from six other communities, Bristol, New Hampton, Alexandria, Bridgewater, Hebron and Danbury.
''On Wednesday we were at Wellington Sate Park on Newfound Lake in Bristol and the students did some GPS work, which helps them learn survival, skills,'' said Yeakel.
She says that the goal of the program is to reach the children at a crucial time in their lives and help them get ready to be able to make good decisions, which lead to becoming responsible adults.
Topics which are covered include note taking strategies, homework tips, test taking suggestions, anti-bullying, stress reduction, and general orientation to the high school building and associated logistics. Yeakel says that the Monkey Trunks experience helps the students develop confidence in their abilities to handle stressful situations and to provide positive support for one another.

''One of the girls had a real fear of heights. But we persuaded her to put on a helmet and harness and watch other members of the group. After a little while she overcame her fear and wanted to get out on the ropes and zip lines with the other kids,'' said Yeaklel.
Casey Kasey, a 13-year-old from Bristol, said that the Monkey Trunks course was ''fun, but challenging,'' while Mason King, 14, from New Hampton, said that from his standpoint the aerial adventures was ''a really good fun time.''