City puts best face forward at Weirs

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Joined by City of Laconia officials, designer McFarland Johnson, contractors Busby Construction and The Weirs community, Mayor Ed Engler had the honor of the official ribbon cutting for the Lakeside Avenue Improvement Project Thursday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

$4.3 million improvement project finished in time for Bike Week
LACONIA — The completion of an eight-month, $4.3 million project to improve Lakeside Avenue in the Weirs Beach area was celebrated during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.
Electrical power lines have been placed underground, new streetlights have been installed, the roadway has been resurfaced and sidewalks have been upgraded. New parking kiosks will be installed next week.
The project includes brick accents and stamped concrete crosswalks with shorter walking distances than the old ones.
Mayor Ed Engler said the Weirs is a tourist mecca that badly needed a facelift.
"Lakeside Avenue is the very heart of the tourism industry in the state of New Hampshire," he said. "There's no better place for us to invest our dollars here locally in trying to put our best face forward."
Engler said The Weirs is now more welcoming to the thousands of participants in Motorcycle Week.
"It has exasperated me that we have the largest single tourism event in the state of New Hampshire happening right behind us here on this street every year in early June and yet the street looked like 'you know what' for a long time," he said. "It's like we invite hundreds of thousands of people to come to our city and we certainly weren't putting our best face forward in terms of this street."
Much of the project's cost was covered through tax increment financing. This is a mechanism that allows municipalities to fund infrastructure improvements in a given district by borrowing money and paying off the debt with increased property tax revenue fostered by those improvements.
Engler noted that private improvements taking place on the nearby pier and marina also make for a more tourist-friendly environment.
City Manager Scott Myers said placing utility lines underground adds visual appeal.
"Putting the utility wires underground – what an undertaking, but what a perfect time to do it because if it didn't happen now, it wasn't going to happen, in my lifetime anyway," he said.
The cost of burying those lines proved to be the most contentious part of the project.
Eversource originally estimated burying the lines would cost $311,316. It later put the cost at a maximum of $786,000. The reason for the cost overrun was never fully explained, although an overly low original bid and a potential miscommunication about the project completion date were suggested as contributing factors.
Ultimately, Eversource asked the city to be responsible for $150,000 of the overage, and the City Council agreed to do that.
Engler cut the ribbon on the project under gray skies and sprinkling rain, which was appropriate for a construction effort that took place largely during inclement weather.
Luke Powell, the city's project manager, said much of the work was done under tough conditions.
"We feel that wind blowing off the lake now. In December, January, February, boy, those guys really endured some brutal weather in persevering with work out here. Very challenging with sleet, rain, very blustery winds, blizzards, and they had to bail out after the blizzards to make room to work. Just a big effort."

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The Lakeside Avenue Improvement Project nears completion for the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday weekend. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


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Laconia City Manager Scott Myers welcomes the crowd gathered for the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Lakeside Avenue Improvement Project on Thursday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


New wells will keep Robbie Mills Field green

Laconia City Council approves $47K plan to return water service to sports complex


LACONIA — Two wells will be drilled to return water service to Robbie Mills Sports Complex fields and keep the home turf green for the Laconia Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, the City Council has decided.
The fields at 15 Eastman Road depend on a water tower that is part of the former Laconia State School campus. A water main servicing that tower failed about a month ago.
Rather than make expensive repairs, the state, which is under no obligation to provide water to the city’s fields, opted to tie into a water main on Route 106. That roadway is close to the state’s property but a good distance from the ball fields.
The city was forced to investigate ways to bring water back to the fields, which would turn brown over the summer without irrigation. Also, bathroom facilities would not be operational and would have to be replaced with portable potties.
On Monday night, the City Council approved a plan to dig two wells at a total cost of $47,000 to remedy the problem, with the water to be stored in the state’s tank.
This was more economical than running a one-half-mile trenched, temporary water line to Route 106, which would cost $97,000.
The city has a contingency fund that can be used to pay for unexpected repair projects.
The Robbie Mills Sports Complex land is owned by the state of New Hampshire and was leased to the city for 99 years at nominal cost.


 Robbie Mills Field water towers

These are the water towers that had provided water to Robbie Mills fields in Laconia until the water main failed. New wells will be drilled to bring water back to the popular sports complex. (Courtesy photo)

Rescuers honored for life-saving work


LACONIA — A man was in frigid Lake Winnipesaukee with a broken leg, his snowmobile on an embankment 20 feet over his head and in danger of falling on him. Firefighter Heidi Beaulac was lowered by rope to the injured man, who was in 3 feet of icy water, where two of his friends were holding onto him.

That was the scene on Dec. 31 near a railroad right of way north of Weirs Beach. The actions of the firefighters on that call earned them a unit citation, presented Wednesday night at the annual LRGHealthcare EMS Awards Banquet in Beane Conference Center.

The man ended up in the lake after being thrown from his machine when he swerved to avoid snowmobiles that had stopped in front of him.

While Beaulac treated him, Lt. John-Paul Hobby and firefighter Deborah Black tied his snowmobile to trees to ensure it would not fall on those below.

Firefighters Jason Griffin and Raymond Bushey then arrived in an ambulance. The man was secured to a harness, lifted out of the water and up the embankment so he could be transported to the hospital. His friends also were transported for treatment of hypothermia.

Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson praised the crew.

"This is an example of ingenuity and teamwork to effect a difficult rescue and treat a seriously injured person," Erickson said. "In Lt. Hobby's words, 'The crew came together under very adverse conditions, provided excellent care and performed a very difficult rescue, in deep snow, far removed from their equipment, with minimal rope rescue gear."

Laconia Fire Department, which has experienced growth in call volume, particularly of the medical variety, was named "Service of the Year."

In other awards, firefighter and paramedic Gina Harris of Belmont Fire Department was named "EMS Provider of the Year."

She started her career in Andover in 1992, as a firefighter and an emergency medical technician. She later passed the Franklin Hospital paramedic program, and has worked in the emergency room at that hospital. Along the way, she has raised two children.

"Her thirst for knowledge never ends, and most of the time she is her own worst critic," Belmont Fire Capt. Mike Newhall said.

"She checks on her patients after the fact to find out what their outcome is," he said. "She has even visited patients at their home and followed up with them, and in many cases befriended them. This shows the compassion and integrity she has. She takes her job to heart, and everyone she comes in contact with is better because of it."

In other awards:

­­­Firefighters with the Gilmanton and Belmont departments were given a unit citation in recognition of a call on Feb. 1 in which a 75-year-old man complaining of chest pain had a cardiac event while being prepared for transport to a hospital. Emergency responders used an automated external defibrillator to restore proper heart rhythm. He was later treated in a hospital and in a catheterization lab before being released.

Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Communications Center Dispatchers won the Paul Racicot Award. Jonathan M. Goldman, chief coordinator of the center, explained their work.

"Though all their work is out of the public's eye, the first point of contact in any call for help is a dispatcher," he said. "Behind the scenes, they are diligently working to quickly gather information from callers; where is the problem, what's going on, who's involved, what are the injuries, gathering phone numbers, GPS coordinates, are there weapons involved, and on and on, all the while trying to keep the caller calm."

Laconia Fire Department also received a unit citation for a particularly challenging motor vehicle accident on Endicott Street East on June 27.

Fire Lt. David French described the difficulties in freeing a person from the vehicle.

"The victim was impaled by the driver's door and suffered extreme trauma," he said.

The person in the car had serious injuries, including a leg that had been nearly cut off.

"Necessary tools and equipment was set up and put into operation without delay," French said. "The extrication required eyes on and experience to evaluate progress. Initial plans needed to be changed and modified as operations progressed. This was done smoothly and fluidly and demonstrated an exceptional team effort.

"The actions of the crew exemplify great teamwork and no doubt saved the victim's life."

Alton Fire/Rescue Department and Alton Police Department were also given a unit citation for a cardiac call on Dec. 11. They responded to a call in which a 55-year-old woman was not breathing. Intervention by the emergency responders was successful in restoring respiration and circulation.

"The patient was awake and answering questions prior to being loaded into the ambulance for transport," according to the description of the call," said Alton Fire Lt. Justin Kantar. "Patient was ultimately discharged from the hospital a week or so later after a long battle with infections speculated to be the cause of her arrest. The patient to this day is living healthy."

05-26 Rescuers honored

Kendra Pealsee of Lakes Region General Hospital and Lt. JP Hobby, Ray Bushey, Jason Griffin, Deb Black, and Heidi Beaulac, all of the Laconia Fire Department were honored at an EMS awards banquet Wednesday. The firefighters received a unit citation for a difficult rescue after a snowmobile accident. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)