Inter-Lakes Elementary bids Principal Kelley adieu

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — The students called him "awesome," "nice and friendly," "creative," "amazing," "smart," "handsome," "silly," "caring" and "a one of a kind kind of guy," while Jack Carty, whose tenure on the Inter-Lakes School Board paralleled his career at Inter-Lakes Elementary School, said flatly "Steve Kelley is the best pure educator I have ever met."

Thursday evening, the gym was filled with seating and few seats were empty as pupils, parents, colleagues and well wishers bid farewell and said thank you to the retiring Kelley, who placed his stamp on Inter-Lakes Elementary School for 26 of his 32 years in education, the last 17 of them as its principal.

Dressed in black with a garish tie, Kelley, on guitar and vocals, fronted "The Educators," a group drawn from the school staff he called "rock star wannabes," to open the celebration with with a medley of Beatles' classics. Then he watched as the Blue Wave Broadcasters presented a video featuring interviews with teachers and pupils who were asked to offer their impressions about "Dr. Kelley."

Set in a closet jammed with neckties, a second video played to his fondness for flamboyant ties. Ushered to the stage and seated in a chair by Thing One and Thing Two, Kelley listened as the Cat in the Hat rhymed "Doc, You Moved Mountains." A quartet of newsboys shouting "Extra, extra! Read all about it!" delivered a special edition of the "Inter-Lakes Tribune" announcing Kelley's retirement and celebrating his career.

The Parent Teachers Organization presented Kelley with a memorial of his time at the school to match another that will be placed on the campus.

With that, the gym emptied and the celebration resumed outdoors at the "Living Classroom," the greenhouse which counts among Kelley's most significant contributions to the school. Lisa Merrill of the School Board unveiled a plaque above the entrance naming the Living Classroom in honor of Dr. Steve Kelley.

Speaking at what he called "a bittersweet moment in my life," Kelley said there are hundreds of names for the greenhouse. "It's not my greenhouse," he said. "It's our greenhouse and to the students, it's your greenhouse."

Describing Kelley as "extraordinary," Carty said "He was always focused on education as the bottom line and he made it work." Kelley, he explained, won the affection and respect of the staff and the pupils.

"If Steve Kelley said 'Let's go on a hike' and walked off the edge of a cliff," he remarked, "they'd all follow him."

Kelley came to Inter-Lakes Elementary School in 1983, straight after graduating from Plymouth State University, and taught second and fifth grades. Five years later he was named assistant principal, with responsibilities for Sandwich Central School and Lang Street School as well. He left the Inter-Lakes School District in 1992 to become principal of Conway Elementary School, a position he held until 1998 when Jean Schlager, the principal who first brought him Inter-Lakes Elementary School, tapped him to succeed her.

Kelley, who earned master's and doctoral degrees from the University of New Hampshire, has been named New Hampshire Principal of the Year as well as a national distinguished principal, an honor that earned him a visit to the White House. in 2009 Inter-Lakes Elementary School was honored as the top elementary school in the state.

"I'm very overwhelmed by the love and support of the community," Kelley said. "It's a special connection. It's been a great ride." He said he was especially pleased and moved to see those he remembered as students returning as parents of children at the school. "It's amazing how time flies."

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Dr. Steve Kelley was mobbed and high-fived by adoring pupils at the close of ceremonies to mark his retirement after serving for 17 years as the principal of Inter-Lakes Elementary School. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Kelley joins the "newsboys" who brought attention to a special edition of the "Inter-Lakes Tribune" reporting on his retirement. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

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Inter-Lakes Principal Steve Kelley addresses the crowd at his retirement gathering Thursday. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

Weirs may go underground - Panel backs buried utilities

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — After meeting Wednesday, the Weirs Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Committee unanimously agreed to recommend to the City Council that the overhead utility lines between Endicott Street and Tower Street at The Weirs be buried underground as part of the project to reconstruct and improve Lakeside Avenue.

The City Council will consider the recommendation when it meets on June 13. City Manager Scott Myers said that a decision to bury the utilities must be made in June to enable Eversource to start work in the fall as the timetable for the project prescribes.

Burying the utility lines would expand the scope of the project at an additional cost of $700,000. Moreover, removing the 14 utility poles would require replacing the 12 street lights hung from them. Since the existing lights are mounted 30 feet high and illuminate the width of Lakeside Avenue, replacing them will require lining both sides of the street with 50 LED lights mounted 16 feet high and spaced 75 feet apart at a projected cost of $250,000. Myers said that adding for design and contingencies would bring the total cost to $1,130,000.

Joe Driscoll questioned why the utilities were not proposed to be buried past the commercial properties along the block beyond Tower Street to Foster Avenue. "It's like burying the wires downtown and stopping at the Colonial Theatre," he remarked.

Myers said since there is less of a view of the lake beyond Tower Street, the wires are less obtrusive. But, above all, extending underground utilities another block would add 25 percent, or between $175,000 and $200,000 to the cost of the project.

The advisory committee agreed that 80 percent of the revenue accruing to the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District would be applied to servicing the debt incurred to bury the utilities and replace the street lighting. Myers anticipates that within five years the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District will be in a financial position to begin serving the debt, which in the meantime will be defrayed by the city with expectation of being reimbursed.

The "base project" consists of replacing the water main and improving the storm drainage and sanitary sewer then reconstructing the roadway with new new curbing and sidewalks between US Route 3 (Endicott Street North) and Tower Street, a distance of 2,200 feet. The cost of this work is estimated at $1 million, which is included in the proposed 2016-2017 municipal budget.

Planning board OKs construction of WOW Trail and dog park

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The Planning Board this week approved construction of two amenities this week — the second phase of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail and the Happy Tails Dog Park.

Following the decision of the City Council to eliminate the dedicated right turn lane from New Salem Street to Main Street as well as the 12 parking spaces on New Salem Street below the intersection with Plesant Street, the board approved the amended plan for the second phase of the WOW Trail. The second phase stretches some 5,000 feet from the Laconia Public Library to the Belmont Town Line, following the railroad right-of-way for virtually all of its length.

Only Bill Contardo expressed misgivings.

"It's not what you want to do, but how you want to get it done," he said, voicing concern at the treatment of abutting property owners. Allan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail committee, reminded Contardo that some abutters had treated land within the railroad right-of-way, which is owned by the state, as if it belonged to them and said that many hours were spent with them seeking to mitigate the impact of the trail on their property.

Beetle said that he expects construction to begin next month and be substantially complete by November.

The dog park would be sited on approximately two acres of a 25-acre rectangular tract between the end of Spruce Street and Growtth Road, which is owned by the city. The city acquired the land in 1976 with a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established by Congress in 1965, which the restricts the property to recreational uses.

Jon Rokeh of Rokeh Consulting of Chichester, who designed the park, said that originally he planned a flat graded rectangle divided into two abutting enclosures, one for large dogs and another for small dogs, and a third separate enclosure, for puppies. Instead, the existing terrain, with some thinning of the trees, will be enclosed by a six-foot fence within an oval, split into two sections, each approximately 250 feet by 100 feet, for small and large dogs, leaving the area for puppies at its original 20 feet by 60 feet unchanged. The dimensions of the park are relatively large compared to other municipal parks.

Rokeh told the board that doggy bags will be available from dispensers outside and inside the enclosures and the rules governing the park will be posted at the entrance. Kevin Dunleavy, director of parks and recreation, assured the Planning Board that city ordinances governing the management of dogs in city parks will apply to the dog park as well.

The park, which is between 200 and 300 feet from the nearest abutter, will be reached from the end of Growtth Road near the southern entrance to the Lakes Business Park, where a 20-foot gravel driveway would lead to a graveled parking lot with spaces for 20 vehicles. The park will not not be served by either water or electricity. The projected annual maintenance costs of between $1,500 and $2,000 will be borne by members of the Happy Trails Dog Park, who will also manage and police the facility.

A generous donation of $100,000 from the Lezama family of Laconia will finance construction of the park, which will bear the Lezama name, as well as endow a fund for its maintenance.

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The plan for a dog park off Growtth Road in Laconia will have separate areas for small dogs, large dogs and puppies. (Courtesy graphic)