Meredith library committee to consider options next week

MEREDITH — The Library Trustee-Select Board Joint Feasibility Study Advisory Committee will meet Thursday, May 18, to discuss steps forward in addressing accessibility and code issues at the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library.
Voters at Town Meeting appropriated $50,000 to investigate what can be done to improve the public library at its current location. The money would cover the cost of having a civil engineer look into the possible reconfiguration of the current library to accommodate an addition, according to Selectman Raymond Moritz.
"The library trustees estimated that would cost $30,000," Moritz said, "but the select board felt we should include enough money to make sure it covered the work, and to have a little left over to move forward after that."
He said there will have to be more engineering studies to come up with a final design.
Moritz said the goal is not to look at "the optimum library configuration or utopian space needs. The consultants the trustees hired have already done that. What we need to address is what can be done at the current location, what you can accommodate, and what it will cost. That way, we should have a pretty good comparison of the cost of staying versus the cost of leaving."
Library trustees have been wrestling with building needs for six years, after learning that the third-floor children and young adult balcony area did not meet current life-safety codes. The area is accessible by a steep, narrow staircase, and several other sections of the library also do not meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There also are a number of space concerns, according to Library Director Erin Apostolos.
Through the years, the trustees have compiled several reports and evaluations, including looking at ways the library might expand. They originally looked at purchasing the church next door, but the congregation has decided to remain there for the time being. Trustees also looked at other properties, including the nearby Humiston Building.
The most promising of the other sites was the Robertson property at the intersection of Route 3 and Parade Road. Consultant Ron Lamarre estimated it would cost $3.15 million to build a 14,000-square-foot library. The current library has 7,800 square feet.
In all of the studies involving a land purchase, the trustees were mindful of whether the plan would prove to be feasible, Apostolos said, and each site has had its limitations.
Other areas of concern at the current site are the limited parking behind the library and the difficulty of using the front entrance. People walking to the library often find they have to continue all the way around the building to enter by the more accessible door from the rear parking lot.
In recent years, the town has spent more than $400,000 on repairs to the library without addressing the rear staircase or installation of a sprinkler system. Yet taxpayers may balk at an expensive building plan, even if it proves to be less costly in the end.
Apostolos said there is a great deal of sentimental attachment to the existing building, which was dedicated in 1901 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. At that time, it was described as "not only Meredith's finest public building, but also one of the Lakes Region's most attractive libraries."
That is the dilemma facing the newly appointed advisory committee, which comprises two trustees, two selectmen, five at-large members, and one alternate.
Meeting on May 1, the two library trustees, Jim McFarland and Pam Coburn, along with Moritz and Selectman Jonathan James, named the applicants who wanted to serve on the committee. The at-large members are Andy Lane, Jack Carty, Rusty McLear, Jeanie Forrester, and Ed Touhey, with Paula Wanzer serving as the alternate. Moritz said the names are familiar because they are "people who care about the town and have contributed over the years, tremendously."
The first order of business on May 18, he said, is to choose committee officers.

"We on the select board advocate one of the at-large members to serve as the chair, and also will elect a secretary," he said.
"We've made all the prior studies available on the web, and gave them links," he said, "so I hope everyone will do their homework and be prepared at the meeting. I've tried my best to make sure this is a bounded, not a wide-open committee that thinks its charge is to investigate everything."
Because of the library's historic designation, there are limits on what repairs are allowed. The front facade must be preserved, but the library in 1988 had a 4,000-square-foot addition in 1988 and, Moritz said, by focusing on what can be done to improve the library at its current location, the town will be able to compare that cost with the cost of building a new facility.
"It's too early for people to be approving or rejecting the cost of either," he said. "There's already a feeling of why do we have to move. There's a lot of emotion to say we should stay where we're at.
"The trustees have voted to move," Moritz continued, "but I think what they did is they looked at their definition of a library and the square footage required, and therefore said we must move. A lot of townspeople are saying, 'What if we can give you a 90 percent library to stay here?' We need a fair and intelligent choice to offer to taxpayers.
"I'm guessing the engineer would tell us the smartest thing would be to build a two-story building that attaches and is accessed by current building, and purchase property for parking."
The joint committee's meeting, which is open to the public, will take place May 18 at 6 p.m. in the library's nonfiction room.

05-13 Meredith Library steep stairs
A steep rear staircase leading to the children and young adult area is one of the areas of concern at the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library in Meredith. (Thomas P. Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

05-13 Meredith Library front
Those with disabilities may find the front walkway and entrance of the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library too daunting, but a more accessible entrance to the public library lies all the way around the building, at the back parking lot. (Thomas P. Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

City trying to find a way to keep Robbie Mills Field green

Robbie Mills Field Sign

Robbie Mills Field (Courtesy Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0)


LACONIA — The green grass of Robbie Mills Field will turn brown this summer, drinking fountains will run dry and portable potties will replace indoor plumbing unless the city finds a way to restore water service to the area.

The baseball venue is home to the Laconia Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

City Manager Scott Myers said the field depended on a water tower that is part of the Laconia State School. A water main servicing that tower is in a deteriorated condition and failed.

Rather than make complicated and expensive repairs, the state opted to tie in to a water main on Route 106, which is close to its property but a good distance from the ball field.

The state is under no contractual obligation to keep the water system operating for the field.

That leaves the city with a couple choices, each of which will costs tens of thousands of dollars, Myers said.

It could run several thousand feet of a trenched, temporary water line to Route 106. It could dig new wells. Significant water pressure will be needed for the oscillating sprinklers at the field.

The city will likely tap a contingency fund to pay for the project. More study is needed before a work plan is drawn up.

"In the summertime, the field gets good activity," Myers said. "Players from all over the country play in that summer league and stay with host families."

One thing is for sure. It won't be much of a field if it doesn't get some water this summer.

"Realistically, we need to do something as the days get warmer," the city manager said. "The idea of a ball field baking in the sun is not good. The field would turn brown and the infield would turn hard."

Tilton man charged with child sex assault


TILTON — Tilton police arrested a man Thursday evening in Franklin on two charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault.
Charles Beckley, 53, of 22 Grange Road, Tilton, is charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl according to Tilton Police, who said the assaults took place over the past six to 12 months and were first reported to them on May 3.
Following an investigation and interviews, police on Thursday obtained arrest warrants for two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault on a child under the age of 14, along with search warrants for Beckley’s home.
Tilton Police detectives, working with Franklin Police, located the suspect in downtown Franklin at 7 p.m. Thursday and took him custody. He was booked in Tilton and taken to the Belknap County Jail, where he is being held on $20,000 cash bail.
Police Chief Robert Cormier said that Beckley knew the victim and that there may be additional victims.
“We hope that, by getting the word out, other victims will come forward,” said Cormier.
The investigation is ongoing and police are asking anyone with information on the case to contact the Tilton Police Department at 286-4442.

05-13 Charles Beckley