Lakeport Landing Marina seeks to buy Lakeport Fire Station

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Erica Blizzard, who owns and operates Lakeport Landing Marina, has offered to purchase the Lakeport Fire Station on Elm Street, along with one abutting and another nearby lot, where the company would construct its showroom and offices.

Since 1985, Lakeport Landing has operated on an adjacent lot fronting on Union Avenue owned by the city and leased to the company under an agreement that expired on Nov. 1, 2015, when ownership reverted to the city. Blizzard sought to purchase the property, but when the City Council invited bids for the lot, Irwin Marine, which owns the abutting property, submitted the highest offer. In agreeing to sell the property to Irwin Marine, the city stipulated that that it would not be transferred for two years to allow Blizzard time to relocate her business and granted her a two-year lease, which will expire on Nov. 1, 2017.

Meanwhile, Blizzard brought suit against the city, claiming that a prior city council granted her father, the late Paul Blizzard, a right of first refusal to purchase the property when the lease expired, and that City Manager Scott Myers exceeded his authority by offering the property to competitive bidders.

The court granted Irwin Marine's petition to intervene in the litigation then ordered all three parties to seek to settle their dispute through mediation. Last month, the mediator informed the court that a "tentative settlement" had been reached and the city asked the court to stay the trial scheduled for December.

Although the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, the city said that it would require review by "the City Council, city boards and state agencies," which could take "many months, if not a year."

Mayor Ed Engler declined to comment, saying that the matter is in litigation.

This week, the City Council was presented with Blizzard's offer. She offered $127,700 for three lots, which together amount to less than an acre. The lot housing the Lakeport Fire Station is 0.32 acres, and the lot abutting it to the rear of the building is 0.195 acres. Blizzard, in her offer to the City Council, said that the company would like to preserve the fire station, but indicated that it would not be feasible to convert it to commercial uses. Instead, she proposed to demolish the fire station and construct a 10,000-square-foot building on the cleared lot. What remains of the 0.81 lot formerly leased by Lakeport Landing, a narrow strip between Union Avenue and the railroad track, would be used for parking.

The Lakeport Association has long resisted the demolition of the fire station. Blizzard agreed that if the fire station were demolished, the company would place a permanent memorial, displaying a photograph of the building with an explanation of its significance to the city, at an appropriate location on the site.

The two lots include about 132 feet of municipal right-of-way — Railroad Avenue. Blizzard would grant an easement to the city confirming its right to Railroad Avenue and, to the extent possible, make parking spaces on the north side of the street available to the general public for parking.

The council scheduled a public hearing on Blizzard's offer at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The first step in the process is for the council to declare the property surplus and eligible for sale.

09-28 Lakeport Landing aerial 2

The outlined area is encompasses the Lakeport Fire Station and abutting property being considered for sale to Erica Blizzard for the relocation of her Lakeport Landing Marina boat business. It is located at the corner of Elm and Union streets. (Courtesy Google Maps)

09-28 Lakeport Fire Station

The Lakeport Fire Station, as shown on the city of Laconia's website. (Courtesy photo)

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Lakeside Avenue project price goes up

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The City Council this week began considering expanding the scope of the improvements to Lakeside Avenue at The Weirs to include burying the overhead utilities, erecting new streetlights and installing concrete sidewalks another block beyond Tower Street to Foster Avenue, all of which would add some $400,000 to the cost of the project.

In June, after agreeing to appropriate $1 million to reconstruct Lakeside Avenue, the council unanimously endorsed the recommendation of the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District Advisory Board to bury the utilities and install new streetlights. Last month, the council shelved the board's request to invest in a handful of other projects, including concrete sidewalks, stamped crosswalks and brick paving, pending refined cost estimates. In the meantime, the prospect of extending the project the extra block arose.

Wes Anderson, director of Public Works, told the council this week that if the project were confined to the stretch of Lakeside Avenue between US Route 3 and Tower Street, the projected cost of burying the utilities would be $773,493, of installing concrete wise walks would be $75,000, of adding brick accents to the sidewalks would be $89,600, of laying stamped concrete crosswalks would be $18,750 and of erecting new streetlights would be $329,065. Altogether, he estimated the total cost at $1,285,908. Anderson said that there would also be additional costs for electrical work that could approach $100,000.

Extending the same set of improvements from Tower Street to Foster Avenue would add $246,834, plus a share of the cost of electrical work, to bring the total cost of the project to more than $1,675,242, well above the initial estimate of $1,350,000. The project would be funded by borrowing against the revenue generated by the Weirs Tax Increment Financing District, 85 percent of which would be applied to service the debt for three years then 80 percent afterward until the debt is retired.

The project also includes installing parking kiosks, at a cost of $196,350 between US Route 3 and Tower Street and an additional $46,200 beyond Tower Street to Foster Avenue. Finally, the city appropriated $1 million to reconstruct and resurface Lakeside Avenue and carrying the roadwork to Foster Avenue would add another $290,000 to the cost.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, proposed and the council agreed to defer any decisions, until there is an opportunity to reconsider the costs of expanding the project in the context of the city's other financial commitments.

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Dog alerts owner to morning fire in Northfield

NORTHFIELD — A man was able to escape a two-alarm fire in his home early Sunday morning thanks to being awakened by his dog.

Tilton-Northfield Fire Department was notified of a fire at 50 Mount Tugg Road, in Northfield, at 2:10 a.m. on Sept. 25. Responding fire crews found a two-story, single-family home with smoke and fire coming from the second floor. Firefighters were able to knock back the fire and contain the damage to a single room on the second floor. The cause of the fire is thought to be from electrical wiring.

Chief Michael Sitar Jr. said there was one resident of the home, a man who was sleeping on a couch at the time that the fire started. Although smoke detectors were sounding, it was his dog that was able to rouse him.

"The dog licked him in the face and woke him up – if the dog didn't do that, he probably wouldn't have got out," said Sitar. "He saw that the situation was pretty bad, so he went to the neighbor's house and called 911."

The dog also escaped the fire.

Sitar said the room where the fire started was heavily damaged, but he thought the building would be salvageable as the rest of the structure was intact. He did not know whether the resident had found a place to stay.

The address of the home is listed as the location of J.S. Logging, owned by Jonathan Stankatis. Attempts to reach Stankatis were unsuccessful.

– Adam Drapcho

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