MEREDITH — A design team from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) outlined measures that could be taken next year to enhance safety along the stretch of Rte. 104 between Chase Road and Meredith Center Road for some 15 residents of the area at the Community Center last evening.
Michael Dugas of DOT recalled that the project originated in 2007 when the Lakes Region Planning Commission identified the risks to eastbound traffic on Rte. 104 turning left on to Chase Road and northbound traffic on Meredith Center Road turniong on to Rte. 104. Three year later, officials of DOT, along with municipal and public safety officials conducted a road safety audit, which led the DOT to launch the project.
Dugas said that Rte. 104 carries an average of more than 13,000 vehicles per day throughout the year with the volume of traffic rising to between 16,000 and 18,000 vehicles per day during the summer months. Between 2002 and 2011, there were 16 accidents, seven of them with injuries, near the Chase Road intersection and 23 accidents, 14 of them with injuries, near the Meredith Center Road intersection. The incidence of accidents, Dugas said, qualifies the stretch of roadway for funding distributed through the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program, which will defray 90-percent of the cost of the project.
Jon Hebert of DOT identified major concerns near each intersection. First the narrow shoulders on Rte. 104 west of Chase Road increases the risk of vehicles turning left on to Chase Road being struck from behind by eastbound vehicles. Hebert said that a dedicated left-turn lane was considered, but rejected in favor of adding a tapered by-pass lane, with a guard rail, that would enable through traffic to pass turning vehicles.
Traffic entering Rte. 104 from Meredith Center Road, Hebert explained, have an inadequate line of sight to the west. DOT proposes designating and segregating a lane for eastbound traffic on Rte. 104 turning right on to Meredith Center Road and placing a traffic island in Meredith Center Road before its junction with Rte. 104.
Several residents told Dugas and Hebert that excessive speed was a significant hazard and suggested reducing the speed limit, installing a blinking yellow light and adding extra signage to slow traffic. Dugas acknowledged that speed is an issue, but said that motorists tend to ignore blinking yellow lights and stressed that whatever the speed limit, only close enforcement will foster compliance.
Paula Trombi, whose home is off Rte. 104 just west of Meredith Center Road said that closely following vehicles increase the hazard of turning right into her driveway and suggested that the shoulder of the highway be widened to offer safer access.
Dugas agreed to consider measures to improve access to driveway off Rte. 104 in the course of preparing a final design, which he expected would be complete early next year. He said the project is estimated to cost $500,000 and, if the funding is available, indicated that construction would begin next spring. However, he noted that there is an impending shortfall in the federal highway trust fund that could jeopardize the project.
CAPTION: Jon Hebert of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation describes measures the agency proposes to improve safety along Rte. 104 between its junctions with Chase Road and Meredith Center at a public meeting at the Meredith Community Center. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 01:05
by Thomas P. Caldwell
NEW HAMPTON — A review of school board assessments and a discussion about goal-setting provided the forum for Superintendent Stacy Buckley and teacher liaison Mimi Freeman to re-open old wounds at the July 14 meeting of the Newfound Area School Board.
Both Buckley and Freeman were critical of the school board's decision to modify the school calendar, with Buckley saying it was an example of an area where the board could ask itself how to become a body that listens. She and the teaching staff had advocated for a calendar that had the school year starting in late August and Freeman suggested that the board visit the schools to witness the devastating effect of moving the starting date to September.
Board Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury, who initiated the schedule change, said the school board had been listening to the faculty for years and ignoring the complaints of the parents who objected to such an early start of the school year. This year would have been the earliest start date yet, and she felt it was time to listen to the parents.
Freeman, saying she was "going out on a limb" as a messenger for the teachers, said, "They don't trust you; they don't feel you have the best interests of the district at heart." She added, "I would not have had one positive thing to say (about the board's decisions) in two years."
The teachers were not the only ones giving the school board negative ratings in the surveys which also went to administrators, members of the community, and the school board itself. Board member Jeff Levesque of Groton said he was surprised to see that the administration felt the school board was doing a better job than the board itself felt it was doing.
Two board members answering the survey rated the body as acting before thinking things out, and two felt the board was providing inadequate oversight.
Buckley said she felt she was spending too much time on things she would rather not be doing, such as the facilities study, the evaluation of Bridgewater and Hebron's proposal to withdraw from the school district, and Project Promise, a grant-funded program that has failed to follow grant requirements.
Hill said she felt the school board should be carefully reviewing large, district-wide grants such as Project Promise, to avoid the sorts of problems the district encountered with the program.
Freeman said the teachers have been especially upset by the school board's decision to follow Buckley's recommendations for reducing the paraprofessional staff. "The paras have been a huge part of the 'Newfound family' and the fact that has been decimated has had an effect," she said.
Discussing the material amassed by the board's Data Task Force, Vice-Chair Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater said that following the trends allows the board to "get a handle on things" and he responded to the complaint about the school board not having the district's best interests at heart by saying, "If you look at our spending, we would be spending $20,000 per student if we didn't do anything, so we determined some action needed to be taken. Now we're much more in line with our cohorts."
He continued, "We're supporting a large infrastructure and a large geography. That's why I say, 'Less is more.' If we could reallocate our resources, we could probably do more with what we have left."
That view is part of what prompted Bridgewater and Hebron to consider withdrawing from the district. Without those two towns, the Newfound Area School District might be able to eliminate another building and operate the remaining schools in a more economical manner, advocates say.
Business Administrator Mike Limanni takes the opposite view, saying, "We need to think of ourselves as a cooperative district, rather than seven separate towns. We have a tremendous advantage as a cooperative school district, and there are economies of scale we can achieve." He said that, by eliminating waste, the district could eliminate the reason some of the towns are "constantly looking to secede" from the district.
Hill said that, in addition to a declining student population, the member towns have been seeing declining property values, which push taxes up. "Inter-Lakes, which has a much higher per-pupil cost, has more than double our valuation," she said.
When the board finally got around to setting its goals for the coming year, members attempted to address some of the issues discussed earlier, but, although in general agreement, they had trouble finding language that satisfied everyone.
As finally adopted, the three goals were:
— Successfully negotiate and support a new collective bargaining agreement with the Newfound Area Teachers Association.
— Evaluate the use and purpose of district assets in order to develop a long-range plan that meets the needs of the population.
— Improve two-way communication between the school board and its stakeholders (staff and community).
Limanni advocated the establishment of a six-year capital improvement plan to address needs while smoothing the impact on district taxpayers.
Freeman suggested having a board representative attend one of the faculty meetings, and Migliore said it also would be useful for board members to "physically visit the schools during the school day".
Christine Davol of New Hampton, a teacher by profession, said joining the school board was an eye-opener for her. "My perception has totally changed," she said. "As a teacher, I didn't think the board cared. Now I'm on the other side, and I realize how much is involved. Reviewing the data is very important for understanding what the district faces."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 12:05
LACONIA — When Planning Director Shanna Saunders outlined "Reimagine Laconia," the process of soliciting public opinion preparatory to fashioning the Master Plan, to the City Council last night, she was met with skepticism.
Saunders explained that the process is based on the "Heart and Soul" approach of the Orton Family Foundation, which has awarded the city a grant to support the preparation of the Master Plan. This approach stresses the importance of plumbing "community values" to provide the context for generating the more specific ideas and steps in the plan intended to protect, enhance, restore or further those values.
Saunders described a number of steps the Master Plan Advisory Committee proposes to sound the values held by local residents. These include conducting formal interviews, encouraging customers of coffee shops and watering holes to write comments on coasters, inviting comments on a Facebook page and enticing pedestrians to visit at stations on the sidewalk. She anticipated that this first stage of the process would be concluded next spring.
After listening, Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) said "we have to be grounded in the reality of today's economy and the demographic we have to work with."
Saunders replied that the process she described is intended to inform the mission and value statements of the plan, not the specific action steps in the areas of economic development, housing, transportation and so on. She emphasized the importance of engaging as large an audience in the process as possible. "This just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "It's to get started."
"I see the value in what you're doing," Lipman said, "but the hard stuff you need is coming too late. The concrete things we have to move much quicker. We've got to get moving on the hard stuff."
Saunders conceded that the last Master Plan, which was due to be complete in 2000, only began in 2003 and was not finished until 2007.
"The world is moving too fast," Lipman remarked. He feared that the process Saunders described would not ensure "that what we come up will be relevant. It's too slow to be relevant."
Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) expected that the next six months will be spent gathering the views of the public only to find that the same people expressed the same opinions as when the last master plan was drafted. For example, people will note the importance of the city's lakes and protecting water quality.
Saunders agreed "we expect to hear much the same thing as we've heard in the past," but said that the process would "confirm those values."
Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) wondered if the approach preferred by the Orton Family Foundation is the most appropriate for Laconia.
Saunders explained that in the past the lack of public participation in the master plan process has been a source of frustration. What she called the "paradigm" offered by the Orton Family Foundation represented a promising means of increasing engagement on the part of the public.
Lipman asked that the city council revisit the proposed schedule for the master plan. "I want another discussion about this," he said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 01:34
FRANKLIN – A Meredith man who had been charged with one count of raping a girl under the age of 13 has been charged by Tilton Police on a single charge of multiple rapes against the same victim.
Mark Thurber, 42, was arrested by Meredith police Thursday afternoon on the warrant issued by the Tilton Police Department. He was ordered held on $75,000 cash-only bail after appearing by video before Judge Edward "Ned" Gordon late Friday afternoon.
Belknap County Deputy Assistant Attorney Carley Ahern said yesterday that Thurber was being held on $5,000 cash bail on a single count of rape charge by the Meredith Police.
She said pattern rape is when a person allegedly rapes someone under the age of 16 two or more times over a period of more than two months but less than five years.
Thurber had been held on $5,000 cash-only bail ordered by Belknap County Judge Jim Carroll on the Meredith charge. Bail documents show his bail had been posted.
As part of his bail conditions, Thurber had been ordered to report in person to the Meredith Police twice daily, which he had been doing.
Ahern said yesterday that she has information that Thurber was a volunteer with Children's Ministries. As part of Judge Carroll's initial bail order, Thurber can worship privately with his minister but is not allowed to attend any church services or functions. He can have no contact with anyone under the age of 16.
Thurber was also ordered by Judge Carroll not to go to Tilton or Campton and, should he post bail this time, those provisions will remain in place.
In both cases, the affidavits supporting the arrest warrant were sealed by the courts.
Thurber is scheduled for a probable cause hearing on the single Meredith rape charge on July 21. Ahern said he has a second probable cause hearing scheduled for the Tilton charge in early August.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 12:08
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