Joined by City of Laconia officials, designer McFarland Johnson, contractors Busby Construction and The Weirs community, Mayor Ed Engler had the honor of the official ribbon cutting for the Lakeside Avenue Improvement Project Thursday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
$4.3 million improvement project finished in time for Bike Week
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The completion of an eight-month, $4.3 million project to improve Lakeside Avenue in the Weirs Beach area was celebrated during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.
Electrical power lines have been placed underground, new streetlights have been installed, the roadway has been resurfaced and sidewalks have been upgraded. New parking kiosks will be installed next week.
The project includes brick accents and stamped concrete crosswalks with shorter walking distances than the old ones.
Mayor Ed Engler said the Weirs is a tourist mecca that badly needed a facelift.
"Lakeside Avenue is the very heart of the tourism industry in the state of New Hampshire," he said. "There's no better place for us to invest our dollars here locally in trying to put our best face forward."
Engler said The Weirs is now more welcoming to the thousands of participants in Motorcycle Week.
"It has exasperated me that we have the largest single tourism event in the state of New Hampshire happening right behind us here on this street every year in early June and yet the street looked like 'you know what' for a long time," he said. "It's like we invite hundreds of thousands of people to come to our city and we certainly weren't putting our best face forward in terms of this street."
Much of the project's cost was covered through tax increment financing. This is a mechanism that allows municipalities to fund infrastructure improvements in a given district by borrowing money and paying off the debt with increased property tax revenue fostered by those improvements.
Engler noted that private improvements taking place on the nearby pier and marina also make for a more tourist-friendly environment.
City Manager Scott Myers said placing utility lines underground adds visual appeal.
"Putting the utility wires underground – what an undertaking, but what a perfect time to do it because if it didn't happen now, it wasn't going to happen, in my lifetime anyway," he said.
The cost of burying those lines proved to be the most contentious part of the project.
Eversource originally estimated burying the lines would cost $311,316. It later put the cost at a maximum of $786,000. The reason for the cost overrun was never fully explained, although an overly low original bid and a potential miscommunication about the project completion date were suggested as contributing factors.
Ultimately, Eversource asked the city to be responsible for $150,000 of the overage, and the City Council agreed to do that.
Engler cut the ribbon on the project under gray skies and sprinkling rain, which was appropriate for a construction effort that took place largely during inclement weather.
Luke Powell, the city's project manager, said much of the work was done under tough conditions.
"We feel that wind blowing off the lake now. In December, January, February, boy, those guys really endured some brutal weather in persevering with work out here. Very challenging with sleet, rain, very blustery winds, blizzards, and they had to bail out after the blizzards to make room to work. Just a big effort."
The Lakeside Avenue Improvement Project nears completion for the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday weekend. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Laconia City Manager Scott Myers welcomes the crowd gathered for the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Lakeside Avenue Improvement Project on Thursday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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