7 miles of Laconia roads may lose maintenance
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Just because your street has always been plowed and maintained, it is no guarantee that will continue.
Wes Anderson, director of Public Works, will present a report to the City Council Monday night indicating that the department maintains more than 7 miles of streets, or more than 8 percent of the 83 miles of roadway in the city, which may or may not qualify for being plowed, repaired and rebuilt at public expense.
Anderson stressed that the department is seeking guidance from the council and that no recommendations will be offered or decisions made with respect to specific streets until their history and circumstances have been thoroughly researched. "This is just the beginning of the process," he said, adding that there will not be any immediate changes to the department's maintenance program.
The Department of Public Works has identified more than three dozen streets which Anderson describes as "problematic," meaning that there is no record they have been formally accepted as city streets, as well as a handful of private roads that the city plows. In addition there are another eight so-called "paper streets" that appear on development plans but were never built or were built on either private or city property with no right-of-way.
In a memorandum to the council, Anderson notes that state law (RSA 231:59) stipulates that municipal highway funds can only be spent to maintain Class 4 and 5 public highways and not private roads. The department, he explained, has determined that the streets it has identified as "problematic" he explains, may not qualify as Class 4 or 5 public highways.
Anderson outlines several approaches to resolving the issues with the problematic streets. State law allows municipalities to designate some private streets as "winter roads" and plow them between Nov. 15 and April 1 while charging the residents for the cost. However, the city attorney has cautioned that the city could be liable if winter maintenance creates conditions leading to personal injury or property damage. At the same time, residents on other private streets may seek the same designation, leading to an increased demand for city services. Likewise, state law authorizes municipalities to designate a private road as an "emergency lane." But, the benefit of the keeping the road opened cannot be confined to the residents of the street but must serve the city by providing emergency vehicles timely access to other public streets. Finally, the betterment process provides a means of bringing a private road to the standard required to be accepted as city street by assessing the abutting property for the cost of the improvements.
The first step in addressing the issue, Anderson said, is to identify which streets the city should cease plowing and maintaining, which should be designated as "emergency lanes," and which they should consider accepting through the betterment process and proceed to accept in their present condition. He emphasized that it is essential not to set a precedent that could lead the city to improve or maintain any streets that were always intended to remain private roads, like those at South Down Shores and Long Bay.
The department has arranged the "problematic" streets into four categories. The first category consists of 18 paved streets — altogether 1.5 miles — in the downtown area, Lakeport and The Weirs that date to 19th and early 20th centuries and have been maintained and improved, but not formally accepted, ever since. They are: Arlington Street, Paradise Drive, Brittany Lane, Bayside Court, Hamilton Avenue, Dell Avenue, Cleveland Place, Jameson Street, Lane Court, Madison Street, Park Street, Tremont Street, Veterans Square, Wallace Court, Wentworth Avenue, Wilson Court, Riverside Court and Varney Court as well as Methodist Circle and the neighboring streets, dubbed "cat alleys."
Another 11 paved streets, representing 3.5 miles, in the rural reaches of the city have no record of being accepted as city streets. These are: Regis Road, Channel Lane, Cotton Hill Road, Fillmore Avenue, Lane Road, Lucerne Avenue, McKinley Road, Pickerel Pond Road, Prescott Avenue-Prescott Park and Hillcrest Drive-Phase1.
There are almost two miles of gravel streets, for which there are plans, but no records of having been accepted. These are: Colonial Road, Plantation Road in the Plantation Beach development, Hutchingson Street, Margin Avenue and Fisk Avenue at the Methodist Campground, Paugus Avenue and Truland Street.
There are half dozen private roads currently plowed by the city: Pendleton Beach Road, New Hope Drive, Hadey Road Wentworth Cove Road and Hillcrest Drive-Phase 2. Woodwinds Hill Drive, is also a private road plowed by the city, which the department suspects has been accepted. Anderson said that if the city decides to stop plowing particular streets, residents could form a homeowners association and either pay a private contractor to plow and maintain them or pay to improve them to city standards and have them accepted as city streets. Alternatively, residents could request that the road be improved and accepted through the betterment process.
Messer Court, Clarendon Street Bell Street Extension and the south extension of Eastman Shore Road are all paper streets as are Jewett Avenue, Gordon Avenue, Albany Street and Dover Street, which lie beneath Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Anderson estimates that the cost of bringing all these streets to city standards could exceed $10 million.
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