Cleveland Place roadway rebuilt, finally!

LACONIA — "I thought hell had frozen over," recalled Janet Flynn of Cleveland Place, when a crew from Busby Construction Company began reconstructing the South End street, an elbow macaroni-shaped loop of less than a quarter of a mile that connects Academy Street and Fair Street. "They did a good job," she continued. "This is lovely."

Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, said that he did not know just when the street was last improved, but said "I've been with the city for 35 years and it hasn't been touched in my time." He said that much of roadway had deteriorated, leaving little more than a rutted track, while the flat terrain and inadequate drainage left the roadway and shoulders prone to flooding.

Eileen Pelchat said during heavy rains the children on the street changed into their swim suits and swam in the puddles, "pretending they were fish. We called it Cleveland Lake," she remarked with a smile. "We're were wondering if we'd have to pay property taxes for waterfront property."

Describing Cleveland Place as "a good neighborhood where everybody looks after everybody else," she said the new street only made it better.

Moynihan explained that the street was fully reconstructed with a two-inch base and one-inch top coat. Drainage was added and connected to the main on Fair Street and the sanitary sewer line was improved. He anticipated the final cost of the project would be about $90,000, of which $48,000 will have been spent on the street, $28,000 on the sewer and $14,500 on the drainage. He said that the paving will be completed with the asphalt wearing course  and shoulders will be leveled and turf restored in the next few weeks. 

"I love the new road," declared Tammy Haddock, who has lived on Cleveland Place for 17 years, "except for the bumps at both ends. I have a new car and I don't like the bumps." She also expressed concern for the safety of children who regularly ride bicycles and play games in the road, Haddock said that although the street carries little through traffic, apart from delivery trucks, the fresh pavement may lead drivers to increase their speeds.

Moynihan said that Cleveland Place was one many — perhaps 20 percent of all city streets — that have not been improved or rebuilt in the past 35 years. He explained that about $1 million was spent on roads and streets in 1987, 1991, 1994 and 1996, but since 1999 at least that much has been spent every year. The 2015-2016 budget, scheduled to be adopted this month, appropriates $1,750,000 for street repairs and City Manager Scott Myers has indicated he expects to budget about the same amount the following year..

In 2012-2013, an inventory and assessment of city streets found that the average "pavement condition index" (PCI)was 63 on a scale where 56 to 70 represents "fair." At the same time, the survey found that 26.2 miles, or 32 percent, of streets are in "failed" to "poor" condition with PCI s between 0 and 55 while 55.8 miles, or 55.8 percent, of streets are in "fair" to "good" condition with PCIs between 56 and 100. Roads in "fair" condition deteriorate rapidly and the cost of maintaining a road in "fair" condition is a third or a quarter that of repairing a road in "poor" or "failed" condition.
Lending priority to the maintenance of roads in "fair" condition makes optimal use of the available funds while some streets in "poor" or worse condition can be improved each year.Altogether five or six miles of roadway would be either repaved or reconstructed each year with an eye to raising the average PCI of city streets to at least 70 in the next eight to 10 years.
Meanwhile, a gentleman returning home to Cleveland Place from work voiced his approval of the reconstructed road, then remarked "we'll see how long it lasts."

City man indicted for automobile insurance fraud

BELMONT — A local man has been charged with a multiple counts of insurance fraud after allegedly applying to two separate insurance companies for coverage and filing duplicate claims — after he had an accident.

The N.H. Insurance Fraud Department sought and received indictments for Jose Montezuma, 46, in Merrimack County Superior Court in May and in Belknap County Superior Court in June.

The indictments allege that Montezuma struck a deer while driving his 1998 Ford Focus on Route 106 in Belmont on Dec. 27. He did not have insurance.

Two days later he allegedly bought a policy from Progressive and filed a claim. Progressive investigators learned the accident didn't happen when he said it did and denied his claim.

In January, Montezuma allegedly bought a policy from GEICO and filed a claim stating that his car had been hit in a parking lot while he wasn't in it.

GEICO estimated the damage to be $2,223 but an investigator realized Montezuma had posted pictures on his Facebook page three days after the accident. He withdrew his claim.

In March, Montezuma admitted to the allegations during an interview with a state Insurance Department investigator.

The maximum penalty for each felony offense is 7 to 15 years in prison and a $4,000 fine.


Laconia man guilty of Social Security fraud

CONCORD — A Laconia man pleaded guilty yesterday in the U.S. District Court to three counts of Social Secutity Fraud for misrepresenting to the state that he had custody of two minor children.

A Department of Justice media release said Walter Morton, 49, had begin receiving SSI benefits and a child's insurance benefits of behalf of his minor daughter and his minor stepson. He was responsible for using this money for the benefit of the children for clothing, head, food, housing and other life necessities.

On three occassions between August 2010 and December 2012, Morton is said to have represented to the SSA that the children resided with him. An investigation revealed that the children had not lived with him since 2003 and that he had defrauded the federal SSA of $58,459.

Morton is scheduled to be sentenced on October 2. He is facing a maximum of 5 years on each account.

Independent evaluation of Belmont Mill concludes building is 'worth saving'

BELMONT – After a listening session facilitated by Castagna Consulting Group brought nearly 50 people to the high school to discuss the future of the Belmont Mill on May 9, Castagna released its final report to the selectmen a few weeks ago.

In it, Castagna identified some of the structural issues including a heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system that needs replacing, the floor softness in parts of the fourth floor and some mold issues within the entire building.

Castagna added the exterior brick work need repairs and there is a plan for that created by the companies hired to evaluate the mill and enable the town to put an amount on the bond issue.

They noted the doctor's office, Belknap Family Health Care, occupies the entire second floor and is looking to expand. The Lakes Region Community College is gone and the childcare center on the first floor is moving to larger quarters in another Belmont location.

Castagna also drew the conclusion that the Belmont town hall operates from some small cramped quarters and that the nearby former bank remains standing but empty "yet in control of the town". Castagna also recognized that the Parks and Recreation Department and the Police Department also work in limited spaces.

While a few people who attended the session recommended selling the mill, the report said that has its drawbacks because only the building can be sold — not the land under it — meaning a long-term lease would be needed.

Anyone purchasing or long-term leasing it must anticipate a $3- to 4-million repair and the federal grant used to refurbish it originally in the 1990s would need to be paid. The outstanding balance is $200,000.

The plus side, said Castagna, would be the town wouldn't have to worry about operating expenses and would no longer be a landlord. The down side is a new owner could tear it down unless the town negotiated a deed restriction.

Castagna recommendations are based in part on what it heard from town and from what it learned from the teams who examined the mill to determine how much money should be put on the March bond warrant.

"First and foremost, in my opinion," wrote the author of the Castagna report, " The mill building is worth saving."

"For an industry perspective, the cost for the repairs is economically viable," reads the Castagna report. But it will, said the report, take 7 to 10 years to become viable.

The reports highlights three options with Belknap Family Health Care, the worst of which is its complete departure from Belmont Village and something no one who came to the May session wants to see.

The best option for Belmont is to sell the building to LRGHealthcare of Laconia and let it become the owner/manager/landlord.

In the middle, the town could rent additional space to the Family Heath Care group, pay for necessary building repairs, pay off the grant, and renegotiate the lease so in the short term the repairs can be offset by rent.

The report drafters noted that if the doctor's office stays it is likely the senior center will stay as well.

Castagna also recommended establishing a facility maintenance fund. Selectman Ron Cormier said there is a capital facilities fund that has been used in the past for maintenance. He said if the mill bond passed, much of it would have gone to that project.

Castagna recommends a town facility committee that would hire professionals as needed for facilitation and vetting operations.

"Make the process transparent to avoid the inference of backroom deal making," said Costagna.

Following a resolution for the mill, the company told the town to then focus on its other building needs like town offices, the bank building, and the Gale School.