Cyclists stream in - 93rd Motorcycle Week draws midweek crowd


LACONIA — "This a very big crowd for Wednesday," said Fire Chief Ken Erickson as he squeezed his command vehicle between the dense rows of motorcycles lining Lakeside Avenue yesterday afternoon.

"It's the good weather that's brought out a lot day trippers," Erickson said. This marks the 15th year he has worked the Motorcycle Week rally. While he has seen the seen the numbers swell, shrink and spread around the state, his overriding concern is the safety of those who pack the streets, cottages, campgrounds, hotels, motels, bars, restaurants, beer tents and entertainment venues at The Weirs, the epicenter of oldest motorcycle rally in the country.

Erickson said that this year's rally began slowly with cool, then wet, weather last weekend, which discouraged visitors on Monday and Tuesday before the bright sunshine and warm temperatures boosted the numbers yesterday. "I look at the parking lots to get an idea of the numbers, Erickson said, noting that while there were spaces to be had, even on Lakeside Avenue, most lots at the center of The Weirs were nearly full. "The traffic on Route 3 has been backed up in both directions," he said. He expected the appearance of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith on the stage at LaconiaFest last night would add to crowd, which he ventured could approach 12,000.

Apart from emergencies, Erickson said that the major concerns of the department are over crowding and trash disposal. The premises licensed to sell alcohol at The Weirs, both restaurants and beer tents, have an aggregate capacity of approximately 17,000. He said that while officials of both the Fire Department and the New Hampshire Liquor Commission monitor the numbers, the proprietors police themselves, knowing that the suspension of their liquor license would be very costly. The accumulation of trash poses a risk of fire, he said, recalling one case where discarded cardboard boxes were stacked beneath a deck where patrons were smoking.

During the week, Erickson said, the department has six firefighters on duty at the Weirs Beach Station and another six at Central Station, while on the two weekends of the rally the numbers are increased to 16 on the first and 22 on the second. He said that his greatest concern is the risk of a structure fire at The Weirs, where most buildings are of wood frame construction and access is hindered by congestion.

Erickson noted that as the years have passed rallygoers have aged, guessing the average age is now around 50. "These people are responsible," he said, recalling watching an expensive recreational vehicle tow an expensive pickup truck carrying an expensive motorcycle followed by another expensive pickup carrying an expensive motorcycle, all of which he estimated was worth close to $1 million.

06-15 BW LacFest 15Jun16260049

Sue and Len Greene from Troy, New York, watch the bikes stream past on Lakeside Avenue for their  28th visit to the Motorcycle Week rally in Laconia. Below, a stormtrooper was spotted along Lakeside Avenue Wednesday evening.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

06-15 BW LacFest 15Jun16260037

Gilford, Gilmanton consider school agreement


GILMANTON — As the school districts of Gilford and Gilmanton near the end of their 20-year contract for Gilmanton students to attend Gilford High School, Superintendent John Fauci officially told the Gilford School Board Tuesday night that a committee had been formed to evaluate any future agreement.

Fauci said the committee would consist of 13 people comprised from various segments of the community including selectmen, budget committee members, the various land boards, the school board, educators and parents. He said they would be meeting regularly over the summer.

The existing 20-year AREA agreement ends in 2023 and about 30 to 33 percent of the students in Gilford High School are from Gilmanton, a percentage, said Superintendent Kent Hemingway, that has remained steady.

Gilmanton board member Adam Mini and Gilford Business Administrator Scott Isabelle also had conversation about how Gilmanton's portion of Gilford High School's expenses are calculated.

According to the AREA agreement signed in 2003, Gilmanton is responsible for a per pupil tuition charge, which is about $18,000 this year, and a rental charge, which is unknown.

Tuition is calculated by Gilford based on budgeted expenses and anticipated revenues for the year as of Oct. 1 and notice of tuition costs must be sent to Gilmanton by Nov. 1 for a semi-annual payment to be made no later than Jan. 30 and June 30. Once the accounts are officially closed at the end of the fiscal year, adjustments are made in the next fiscal year's budget.

The formula specified for tuition is to add the total operating costs of the high school programs plus the costs allocated by instructional level and district expenses after which the expenditures not related to the sending district such as transportation to and from school, additional charges for special education and or tuition costs for placements outside of the school are subtracted.

Revenues that apply specifically to high school programs such as driver education tuition and state reimbursements and prorated district-wide revenues such as insurance refunds are also deducted. The final number is divided by the number of students is the cost per pupil.

Rental charges are based on capital costs in each fiscal year. For example, Mini questioned an expenditure of around $7,000 for whiteboards and Isabelle explained it was an emergency expenditure because some of the ones at the high school failed.
These costs are principal plus interest in each fiscal year as it related to indebtedness plus any other capital outlay used by students from Gilmanton.
Those costs are divided by the number of students in attendance to arrive at a cost per student.

Mini said he was concerned that Gilmanton wasn't being kept abreast of the specific categories of expenses in what he thinks is a timely manner. Isabelle said that, to date, the Gilmanton board hasn't requested the information but said he does work closely with the Gilmanton business administrator.

Mini explained that people "hammer" the Gilmanton School Board when they see any surpluses.

"I'd like to start the process earlier," Mini said, to which Isabelle agreed.

City Council OKs plan to bury utility lines at The Weirs


LACONIA — The City Council this week unanimously endorsed the recommendation of the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District Advisory Committee to bury utility lines and install new street lighting on Lakeside Avenue between Endicott Street North (US Route 3) and Tower Street.

The project is a proposed enhancement to the planned replacement of the water main, improvements to the storm drainage and sanitary systems and reconstruction of Lakeside Avenue to be undertaken this year and next. The so-called "base project" is expected to cost $1 million, which City Manager Scott Myers has included his his recommended 2016-2017 municipal budget.

Burying the utility lines would add $1,150,000 to the cost of the base project, $700,000 to bury the lines, $250,000 to replace street lighting and a percentage for design and contingencies. Removing the 14 utility poles would require replacing the 12 street lights mounted on them. Since the existing lights are 30 feet above the street, they 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.

Myers said that extending the project another block to Foster Avenue would add between $250,000 and $280,000 to its cost and noted that improvements to the roadway, water main and sewer system are not planned to extend past Tower Street.

Speaking to property owners at The Weirs, Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) said "Things need to be improved and updated up there. I want to see something done. It's time for the owners to come to the plate and do something."

Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) echoed these remarks.

"The business model at The Weirs is older than me," he said. "Look at your business model and see what you can contribute to the year-round vision of The Weirs."

Originally the advisory committee proposed applying 80 percent of the revenue accruing to the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District to servicing the debt incurred to finance the project. Tax increment financing allows municipalities to delineate TIF districts, then apply a portion of the future tax revenues that accrue from the increase in assessed value generated by new construction, expansion or renovation of property in the district to finance public improvements within it. Myers anticipates that within five or six years the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District will have accrued sufficient funds to begin servicing the debt. In the meantime the city would defray the debt on the understanding it would be reimbursed.

Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1) offered a motion to approve the proposal. However, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) offered what he called a "friendly amendment" to require the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District to apply 100 percent of its funds to servicing the debt.

Joe Driscoll of the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District Advisory Committee said that if all its funds were applied to this one project, the committee would have no purpose. He said that the committee has been asked to consider options for the sidewalks, crosswalks and bump-outs, all part of the reconstruction of Lakeside Avenue and all adding to its cost. Without funding, he said, there would be no point pursuing these options.

Doyle called Lipman's amendment "not all that friendly." When he suggested 90 percent, Doyle remarked, "It's getting better" and the council ultimately agreed to settle for 85 percent for three years then 80 percent afterwards.

Myers explained that the city's share of the debt service would be booked as a debt, not as budgeted expense that would preclude expenditures of an equal amount.