Parking plans - City council tasks Main Street Initiative with parking

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Following another lengthy discussion Monday that included some colorful comments about downtown parking, the City Council unanimously accepted Councilor Bob Hamel's (Ward 5) recommendation that the Main Street Initiative take the lead in a parking review.

Engler's proposal includes a short-term investigation of downtown parking needs, by which he means present to two years; a medium term, by which he means three to six years; and long term, by which he means seven years and beyond.

He said that if the Main Street Initiative were to form a committee, the same stakeholders who were on a 2012 committee would suffice. Those members included representatives from the Laconia Clinic, a representative from Lakes Region Community Services, a few business owners from the downtown area and city staff including the city manager and city planner. One suggestion was to add a representatives from the Police Department and the Public Works Department.

Mayor Ed Engler said the three topics he hears about most from his contacts in the city are paid versus free parking, the length of time allocated to each space, and traffic patterns.

"No changes to the traffic patterns," said Ward 5 Councilor Bob Hamel. "We've rehashed that part for two years."

Engler replied that the topic of two-way traffic on Main Street has come up in some of his local discussions.

"We just put in this big thing," said Ward 6 Councilor Armand Bolduc, referring to the Gateway Park built during last year's bridge reconstruction. "What do we do? Tear it all down?"

Hamel replied that removing the new Main Street Bridge configuration would cost millions.

As to the city providing parking for the merchants, business people and those who envision an upscale residential quarter in and near the Colonial Theatre, Engler said that those people, to some degree, should be responsible for providing their own parking.

He said he owns a company (The Laconia Daily Sun) and is responsible for providing his employees with parking. He added that Beacon Street West developer Eric Chinberg was able to provide his condominium owners and apartment tenants with parking.

Ward 2 Councilor David Bownes asked what would happen if someone were to buy the Pemaco building on Main Street, which has no private parking. Engler said that in Keene, a developer built expensive condominiums about 100 yards from Main Street and by putting up a multi-unit garage building on an adjacent site for some some homeowners (chosen by lottery), and by renting covered spaces in a nearby city-owned garage for the rest, they were able to produce a solution.

The vote  to ask the Main Street initiative to take the lead was unanimous.

City appropriates $118K for noncapital city projects

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The City Council voted unanimously Monday to spend $15,000 for the Memorial Park bleachers as part of their 2016-2017 non-capital budget expenditures passed during the reular budget process.
The total amount of noncapital expenditures is $118,000 of which $78,000 will completely reclaim and rebuild the two tennis courts at Leavitt Park and $15,000 will be used to upgrade and replace some of the items at the playground.
Additionally, the council also voted to spend $10,000 to offset the cost of replacement windows at the Laconia High School. Councilor Bob Hamel added a condition that the project stay within its estimated amount, which is unknown at press time.
It was Hamel who asked that the money be appropriated to the high school from the annual city budget.
The council also voted to transfer $12,000 from the Impact Fee-Roads account to the Department of Public Works street repairs account.
According to Town Manager Scott Myers, most of the projects should be completed this summer.

Oh, that’s just Ralph!

Life-size dummy often stops observers with his antics at Sargent Lake

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — For the past three years, the people around the east portion of Sargent Lake have been wondering what Ralph is doing on any particular day.

Once day recently, he was dressed as Rooster Cogburn and was wearing a sign telling people to slow down on the narrow dirt roads of Sargent Lake. Once he was working on the roof, plus he fixes cars and participates in July 4 celebrations.

Other times, Ralph just sits on the porch and reads books, magazines and newspapers.

Ralph's only problem is that he can't talk, walk or think. Not because he's stupid but because Ralph is a dummy – literally.

He is the brainchild of Norman Pratt, who build Ralph from some pieces of wood, hinges for joints, and a discarded manikin given to him by a friend from Maine.

Norman Pratt is a retired builder who loves tinkering around his home. About three years ago, he and a buddy came up with the idea of a life-sized dummy. So they built Ralph, a name they came up with at virtually the same time.

Dressing Ralph has become a family affair. The chaps for the Rooster Cogburn outfit were homemade by Ralph's daughter Cheryl, while his wife, Gail, spends time scouring used-clothing stores for some of Ralph's other outfits.

The Pratts often dress Ralph according to the seasons and some of their friends and neighbors will often stop by to see what Ralph is doing and how he is dressed.

"One time we had him on the roof doing carpentry," said Gail Pratt. "Because he wasn't moving, one of the neighbors came by to see if he was OK because he seemed to be working so slowly."

07-22 dummy Ralph with Sun

Ralph sits on the porch of Gail and Norman Pratt's home reading The Laconia Daily Sun. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

07-26 Ralph as Rooster Cogburn

Gail and Norman Pratt with Ralph dressed a Rooster Cogburn near Sargent Lake. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)