Weirs Pier ultimately to be replaced with steel construction

04-07 Weirs Pier Ryan Cardella


Ryan Cardella, operations manager for East Coast Flightcraft Inc., describes the work to be done at the Weirs Pier. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — The century-old Weirs Pier, which is undergoing a facelift for the summer season, likely will be torn down eventually so that it can be replaced with modern steel construction.

Ryan Cardella, operations manager for the boat company that owns the structure, said Thursday that demolition is being considered as a more economical option than piece-by-piece replacement of aging wood supports.

"It's also about safety too, because there's so much wood in here, and you have to go through and find out what makes sense and what doesn't, and what's going to hold, because we want the integrity of the building to last," said Cardella, of East Coast Flightcraft Inc.

Efforts will be made to retain a historic feel.

"It makes sense to actually replace the wood with steel structuring, but we want to keep the pier looking like a pier," he said. "We don't want it to look like a steel warehouse or anything like that. We want a setup like you are going to visit a friend's lake house. There will still be a lot of wood features and wood faces but steel underneath. The bones, the spine, will be steel."

Brandee Loughlin, Laconia's assistant planning director, said it's not surprising for a builder to do a major upgrade on building supports for an old wooden structure.

Since the pier is over water, the project would fall under state regulatory control, she said. Ultimately, a demolition permit could be sought.

It could take five years before all work is completed on the project, but in the short term, workers are rushing to have a small general store, a casual restaurant, an arcade and other public spaces on the pier ready for business next month.

The boardwalk leading up to the pier will also be ready for the summer season, including a Sal's Pizza, a Traveling Texas Smoke Shop restaurant, a souvenir shop and a candy store.

The long-term project calls for the addition of about 30 public boat slips, which would be owned by the city of Laconia. There are 47 slips now.

There is a need for more boat slips in the area, Cardella said. Some of the existing slips are undersized. Six slips will be used by his company to show and sell boats.

There will be inside areas for boaters to relax and meet others who are using the dock for the season.

"We want you to know your neighbor," he said. "We want it to be like it was in the '40s and '50s, when you knew everybody."

The pier was in its heyday during the Big Band Era. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Harry James and Paul Whiteman were among the big names who played in its ballroom. 

On Thursday, workers were sanding portions of the wooden floor where people once danced to this music.

The pier area lost some of its cachet and its entertainment when Elvis Presley ushered in the rock 'n' roll era and the bands that once played there went out of existence.

04-07 Weir Pier

The miniature golf course has already been removed from the property. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

04-07 Weirs Pier slips

The wood pilings for the pier are aging and plans call for replacement with steel.  (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

LRGH in recovery

Health system reports greatly reduced loss for last fiscal year


LACONIA — LRGHealthcare, which runs Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital, recorded a $1.8 million operating loss in 2016, an improvement over the prior year loss of $11.3 million, company officials said at their general meeting.

We have made major strides in improving our financial performance,” President and CEO Kevin Donovan said in the meeting Wednesday at Beane Conference Center. “We were losing approximately $1 million a month on an annual basis.”

Cost-saving measures included a work force reduction of 120 full-time employees. Declining reimbursement from government health insurance programs contributed to the financial struggles for LRGHealthcare, a not-for-profit charitable trust.

Chief Financial Officer Wayne Bennett said the 2016 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, was a time of transition.

I'm pleased to report that a lot of the results that partially improved in FY16 have further improved in FY17,” he said. “Through the first five months of Fiscal Year '17, we are now operating at 1 percent operating gain.”

What we need is a few years of sustained gains from operations to replenish our balance sheet and give us the liquidity we need to invest in the future of the organization.”

He described challenges facing health care systems.

More and more people are covered by government health insurance programs as Medicare ranks swell with Baby Boomers and states enlarge Medicaid programs. Funding for these programs is tight, affecting reimbursement rates to health care providers.

We used to be able to shift the cost of some of that care to employer-sponsored health plans, but those businesses are having a harder time paying for the cost of health care for their employees and they are shifting more and more of the burden of health care to their employees,” Bennett said.

People are having trouble coming up with out-of-pocket health care expenses, and they are delaying care, he said.

At the meeting, Franklin City Councilor Scott Clarenbach, a retired fire chief on the LRGHealthcare Board, won the Rhoda C. Ladd Award and the Sally Proctor Award, given in acknowledgment for dedication to improving the community's healthcare system.

Lakes Region General Hospital has 132 beds. Franklin Regional Hospital is a 25-bed hospital. The system also has 22 affiliated medical practices and service programs.


New residential subdivision in The Weirs gets Planning Board OK


LACONIA — A developer is proposing an 86-unit residential development called "The Gardens at Winnipesaukee" on Endicott Street East in The Weirs that would be built with significant green space and smaller-than-normal lot sizes.

The Planning Board gave a conditional use permit for the so-called "cluster development" at its meeting Tuesday and could consider the site plan and the subdivision proposal in a public hearing as early as May 2.

Assistant Planning Director Brandee Loughlin said the 21-acre subdivision will be made up of detached, single-family housing, with a couple of duplexes.

"It won't be the typical subdivision that is chopped up into lots that meet minimum lot size requirements," she said. "Frontages can be less. Standard setbacks don't necessarily apply.

"In exchange, a significant amount of property has to be set aside as green space.

"The idea is to concentrate the development rather than sprawling it out. It would in theory allow a developer to save money."

Standard lot size is 10,000 square feet. This development would have 8,000-square-foot lots.

Patrick Wood, an attorney for the developer, Phoenix Capital, said The Gardens will have a playground, a pergola, a gazebo and a meeting room.

"The developer, Phoenix Capital, believes The Gardens at Winnipesaukee will be a pleasant, safe and healthy living environment for its residents," he said.

"The Gardens at Winnipesaukee will be a planned residential development that will be compatible with its neighborhood."

A homeowners' association will be formed to take care of common areas. Property to the west is in the Resort Commercial District and includes a city park, a go-cart park and a batting cage.

"The streets, sidewalks, lighting, common areas, amenities and drainage systems have been designed to provide a residential neighborhood that will be a positive addition to the City of Laconia," Wood said.

Prior owners of the land had planned a subdivision that never got off the ground.

Loughlin said concerns from neighbors have generally been limited to discussion about construction traffic and requirements for adequate berms to deal with light from headlights on cars using subdivision roads.