LFD urges caution when recharging golf carts; hydrogen discharge can be a problem


LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson is warning residents to make sure there is plenty of ventilation when they recharge the batteries on golf carts.

That's because hydrogen gas can be generated during the recharging process, which can be an irritant to people and a potential fire hazard. This gas can also displace oxygen and set off carbon monoxide detectors.

He said that during the past two weeks Laconia firefighters have responded to several emergency calls relating to carbon monoxide alarms that appear to be associated with the recharging of golf cart batteries. No injuries were reported as a result of the local incidents.

“We recommend that you follow the manufactures instructions on how to charge the battery,” he said.

“We also offer this advice: disconnect the charger as soon as the battery is charged. Do not charge the battery overnight. It is best to provide ventilation while charging the battery – open the garage door, or place the golf cart outside. Never charge the battery if no one is home.”

“As always, if you suspect a problem, call 911. We will gladly respond and check your home. Better safe than sorry.”

Erickson said there are a plethora of golf carts locally, with many not used for golf.

“It's surprising how many people have them,” he said. “They are used in subdivisions, campgrounds and at the Taylor home.”

Meet the chief engineer for a NASCAR racing team; Katelyn Supan was raised in Gilford & went to New Hampton Prep


LOUDON — Katelyn Supan, chief engineer for the Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR Xfinity series DC Solar team, said that she never really thought that she would have a career in auto racing.

But now that she does, she says it's like living in a different world. “It's not really like the real world. You get to go to cool places and be around cool people. It's pretty cool. I like it a lot.” she said.

Supan, who grew up in Gilford and said that from an early age she was driving go-karts, along with her brother, in small regional races around New Hampshire. “It was lots of fun. I loved it.”

Her dad, Rick Bernasconi, had a passion for racing and wanted to share that with his children.

He used to race late models at the White Mountain Speedway in North Woodstock and at other tracks all over the state. And it was his suggestion that I might want to look at engineering which got me thinking that might be the career I wanted. Now that I'm there, I realize that I wouldn't want to change anything,” she said.

Supan graduated from New Hampton Prep School in 2009 and enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she earned a degree in engineering. And her credentials and high level of interest quickly landed her a job with Roush Fenway Racing, where she became chief engineer. Her first ever race on the Xfinity series saw Roush Fenway driver Ryan Reed win.

This year she joined the Chip Ganassi Racing Team and is the chef engineer for driver Brennan Poole, who currently is fourth in points in the Xfinity Series.

She said before Saturday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon that she was looking forward to being back in New Hampshire and getting to spend a little time with her family. “It's really special when we can get together,” she said.

Poole placed 10th in Saturday's race and Supan earned some recognition as she was named to the All-Star pit crew by NASCARonNBC.

Poole placed in the Coca Cola Firecracker 250 Daytona Speedway after winning the pole position for the race. The Chip Ganassi team honored Supan's brother SPC Jaran T. Bernasconi, who is currently serving in the 1st Brigade Combat Team/10th Mountain Division, U.S. Army, based in Fort Drum, New York, by having the brigade's numbers on their car at that race.

Supan has many responsibilities in her role as chief engineer, including the design of the racecar and a lot of simulator work to see what impact any changes will have.

On race weeks she's very involved. “We work with the crew chief on things like setups. We work on things like spring packages and try to fix problems when they come up. We're always looking at anything that will make the car go faster” she said.

On race days, she's in the pit box with the crew chef and car chief and helping out wherever she is needed.

It's really kind of a dream to be here and be doing the things you love. It takes a lot of hard work and being able to work as a member of a team. To do that you have to be willing to reach out and connect with people,” she said.

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Katelyn Supan, chief engineer for the Chip Ganassi Racing Team's NASCAR Xfinity series DC Solar team. (Courtesy photo)


No easy answers for 'abomination' that is downtown parking garage


LACONIA — City Councilor David Bownes calls the 1970s-era downtown parking garage “an abomination.”

He likely won't get much argument on that point, but finding a way to fix or replace the the decrepit structure has proven elusive.

A visit to the three-story parking garage Monday revealed corroded steel beams reinforced with wood, graffiti-scrawled walls and a top deck that is closed because of structural issues and looking like something out of “The Walking Dead.”

There weren't many cars in the garage Monday, but demand for parking downtown is expected to increase.

The Whiskey Barrel Music Hall already attracts so many people on some nights that it becomes hard to find a parking spot in the area. More motorists will be looking for parking once the historic Colonial Theatre on Main Street is refurbished and offering entertainment. Also, Genesis Health Care is building the Lakes Region Mental Health Center next to the garage, while a large athletic club on the ground floor of the garage has yet to open.

It would be costly for the city to demolish the garage and build a new one. Part of that cost would involve buying out the private party who owns the retail space on the ground floor. It would also be expensive to fix the existing structure, and Bownes said to do so would be like throwing good money after bad.

“It's a miserable place,” Bownes said. “What came over those folks in 1974 to think that was a good solution is beyond me.

“It was a bad idea from the start, dark and dreary. It's ugly from the outside, a detraction to the downtown.”

He lamented that the garage is the first welcome some visitors get to downtown.

It would cost an estimated $3 million to fix the structure. It's not clear exactly how much it would take to buy out the private owner of the retail area, as would be necessary to demolish the garage.

Bownes' idea of building a new garage on a City Hall surface parking lot along the Winnipesaukee River at a cost of $6 million failed to gain traction last year. He suggested linking that project to the Colonial Theatre refurbishment. In that way, favorable tax credits could flow to the garage project.

He also suggested placing parking meters downtown and charging for parking at the garage, where it is now free. That idea also did not go anywhere.

His hope is that once the theater project is completed, the need for a new parking structure downtown can be re-examined.

Meanwhile, City Manager Scott Myers said that at the moment, downtown parking is not a critical need.

“There seems to be adequate parking space when you look at downtown in a comprehensive manner,” he said.

Mayor Ed Engler intends to address the issue of the parking garage during a City Hall meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday of the Downtown Tax Increment Financing Advisory Committee.