Lily Pond ice fishers

GILFORD — Two ice fishermen who ventured out on Lily Pond in Gilford Tuesday said that the ice is already 4 to 5 inches thick.
Robert Dabbraccio of Northfield and Alex Delucca of Belmont were the first ice fishermen to try their luck on Lily Pond this year and had landed one pickerel between them by mid-afternoon.
“It’s mostly pickerel and perch in this pond,’’ said Dabbraccio.
The small pond next to Laconia Airport is the site of an annual kids fishing derby held by the Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association. This year the event will be held on March 6.
Dabbraccio said that they checked the ice carefully before venturing out on the pond to make sure that it was safe and, after drilling holes and setting their lines with tip-ups using smelt for bait, walked around the pond to check out the ice in other locations.
They said that Lily Pond is one of the first small ponds in the area to build up enough ice for safe fishing and that they’ll move on to other bodies of water when they are safe.
Dabbraccio, who works at Vista Foods in Laconia, said he likes to fish Webster Lake and checked it out over the weekend but that it wasn’t safe yet.
Delucca, who is seasonally employed at Four Daughters Landscaping in Northfield, said he usually fishes on Paugus Bay in Laconia.
Both of the men said that when they aren’t ice fishing this winter they plan to do lots of snowmobiling.
They said that they have fished in the Great Rotary Fishing Derby for the last six or seven years. Sponsored by the Meredith Rotary Club, the derby awards $50,000 in prizes each year and will be held Feb. 13 and 14.

Gilford School Board of ‘obfuscation, lying’ about default budget numbers

GILFORD — Gilford Budget Committee member Norman Silber last night accused the Gilford School Board of "obfuscation and lying" about the accuracy of the school default budget.
He made the comments at a public hearing on a proposed $2.24 million bond issue for repairs and maintenance at the Gilford Elementary School.
Silber said that he and his wife will vote against the proposed bond issue, citing "obfuscations," which means obscuring the intended meaning of a communication by making the message confusing or willfully ambiguous, at school board meetings.
He added that he intends to review videos of the last two school board meetings to see if public employees are lobbying to support the proposed bond issue and said that if he finds evidence he will take the matter to the New Hampshire Attorney General's office and ask for an investigation.
Silber said that there was "obfuscation and lying" to the elected officials of the budget committee in the school board's recent presentation of its default budget.
School board members did not reply to his allegations during the hearing. Other members of the budget committee present for the hearing did not express an opinion on Silver's allegations.
The budget committee voted 10-0 last week to support the proposed bond issue, which the school board voted 4-1 in favor of last Monday night.
Chris McDonough, the school board member who voted against the proposal, said he is opposed to doing the work at the present time and suggested that the school district wait until a major bond issue which the district will pay $1.1 million on this year is retired.
Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Leandro said the committee and the school district have been talking about the elementary school repairs and maintenance for several years, and in retrospect it might have been more prudent to have prepared for it.
"We have all seen this coming. We should have started a capital reserve fund five years ago," said Leandro.
Christine Lewis spoke in support of the bond issue, maintaining that putting it off would cost the district more in the long run.
"If we don't do it now, when will we do it?" she asked.
She also said that she thinks the school should be equipped with a sprinkler system, which is not part of the proposed package of repairs.
She said that the number of students in the school district is on the rise, a statement which was questioned by budget committee member David Horvath, who asked Superintendent of Schools Kent Hemingway for a history of enrollment numbers.
Hemingway said that 15 years ago the district had 1,555 students and that has dropped to 1,207 in the current school year.

Report: Laconia's amenities are difficult for people to use or benefit from

LACONIA — Measured in square miles, Laconia is among the smallest cities in the state, but Plan NH, a volunteer team of architects, engineers and consultants , has highlighted the shortcomings of the transportation network between and within the three major components of the city — downtown, Lakeport and The Weirs — in a report submitted to the Planning Department last week.

Plan NH was engaged to contribute to the project called "Re-Imagine Laconia," undertaken with the support of the Orton Family Foundation and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in anticipation of updating the city's Master Plan in 2017. In August, the team met with city officials, major stakeholders and community leaders, toured downtown, Lakeport and The Weirs, and held a design charette to sound the public.

The team identified four challenges, of which the dispersion of attractions and amenities among what a similar team from United States Environmental Protection Agency identified in 2007 as "the three villages" applied to the entire city. At The Weirs, the team found that the "economic push-pull of Bike Week creates a complex development environment." Downtown, they said, bears the legacy of urban renewal as well as serving as the regional hub, "absorbing the problems of surrounding towns." And Lakeport, riven by Union Avenue, they said lacks "a strong identity."

"What struck the team on its orientation tour," the report noted, " was how difficult it could be to get from place to place, and thus how unlikely it would be for a resident to go from one place where he or she lived or worked to another. Put another way, it continued, "because of the weak transportation network in and around Laconia, many residents do not benefit directly from the wonderful amenities in their own city." Specifically, the report recommends a transportation strategy that complements reliance on motor vehicles with sidewalks, bicycle lanes and public transportation.

The team recommends not only completing the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail, but also incorporating it into a wider system of pathways and lanes. As a tourist destination, The Weirs would be better served by an infrastructure more conducive to foot traffic. Calming and realigning traffic, accompanied by enhanced lighting and landscaping, on Beacon Street West, especially at Veterans Square, and Beacon Street East would provide a more welcoming environment for pedestrians downtown. At Lakeport, the team suggested a "pedestrian centered intersection" at the junction of Union Avenue and Elm Street while encouraging commercial development that would create a focal point for the neighborhood.

"Few communities in our state have an identity so complex," the team remarked, suggesting that each of the three "villages" has a distinct character. While they noted that each offers "extraordinary amenities," they explained their focus on transportation by stressing "these amenities must be accessible to all or they will not serve to attract or retain residents and visitors."

Planning Director Shanna Saunders was pleased with the emphasis on "connectivity" and said "it is always valuable to have a new set of eyes take a look." She said that report will inform the section of the Master Plan addressing land use.

The full report is available online at and will be the subject of forums and meetings to be scheduled at different venues in the city.