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.
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