City’s fault?

Eversource blames Laconia for jump in Weirs utilities


LACONIA — A spokesperson for Eversource has claimed that the cost of burying power lines Lakeside Avenue at The Weirs increased because the city asked the utility to complete the project March 15, not May as originally planned.

On Monday The New Hampshire Union Leader reported Kaitlyn Woods, speaking for Eversource, to say that "on January 23 we were told that the city wanted to expedite the project and complete our work by March 15. We had to get additional estimates from outside sources in order to meet the expedited timeline." She explained that Eversource originally planned to do the work itself, but after the city asked to expedite the project put the work out to bid to subcontractors.

Initially, Eversource estimated the cost of designing and constructing the project at $311,316. However, Eversource informed the city last month that the cost would not exceed $786,000, a difference of $474,684. When the City Council met last week, Wes Anderson, director of Public Works, said that after reviewing the numbers he tentatively calculated the overage was closer to $431,000, which still placed the cost of the project at more than twice the initial estimate.

City Manager Myers declined to respond directly to the statement from Eversource. He said that he and other city officials met with representatives of the utility last week "to dig into the numbers and consider other issues." He added that several outstanding questions remained and he expected more information would be forthcoming. "I was surprised to see the remarks in the newspaper when we hadn't tied up the loose ends," Myers said.

Likewise, Mayor Ed Engler said that newspaper report was "the first we've heard of this." He was especially troubled that Eversource informed the city of the cost overrun only after the project was nearly three-quarters complete. "Even more confusing," he added, is that what I took away from our last meeting was that the detailed cost estimate presented by Eversource last October was based on them contracting the work out. If that is true," he continued, "then they knew last fall they were not going to do the job themselves, that they knew from the beginning they would contract the work." He said "We weren't told that Eversource would not do the work" and wondered when the utility solicited bids for the project.

Myers said that city officials will address the issue at special meeting of the City Council, which representatives of Eversource are expected to attend, on Thursday beginning at 2 p.m.

Schools face cuts

Alternative high school, Adult Ed. director would be lost under new proposal


LACONIA — An off-site alternative education program would be folded into Laconia High School and the adult education director would lose his job in cost-saving moves that are part of newly released school district budget plans.

Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said the idea is to limit teacher cuts as much as possible and have existing employees help fill roles of those who are laid off. 

One of those on the chopping block is Christopher Ennis, who leads Laconia adult education, which serves more than 1,000 people through apprentice, diploma, enrichment and other classes and programs. Ennis has a compensation package worth $117,700, including benefits.

"I was really disappointed," he said Monday. "I think the program does a lot of things for a lot of people in Laconia and the Lakes Region."

He said his responsibilities are detailed and time-consuming.

"Honestly, I don't know how they'll get it done in a different way," he said.

Another program to be affected by the cuts is Laconia Alternative Education, which is now operated at 17B Church St., and serves about 30 students struggling with high school academics and deficient in credits needed to graduate. The program would be moved to the high school.

"We're currently writing a grant and part of that is to move the alternative school on site," said Minnihan, the superintendent. "With it being on site, there would be changes in the overseeing of it and support positions there."

The district would save $110,000 by operating that program out of the high school.

Other cutbacks anticipated by the Laconia School District include eliminating the high school dean of students position and reducing custodial services. Several teaching positions are also to be cut.

The district must reduce spending by $800,000 to comply with revenue constraints expected under the city's tax cap.

The high school would lose a social studies teaching position as well as two special education teachers. The middle school would lose a seventh-grade teacher.

Along with the cutbacks are some potential increases, including a new high school guidance counselor and a wood shop instructor.

"Over the last several years, there has been a reduction in the number of electives available to some of our students," Minnihan said. "One of the areas where that has occurred are things like wood shop, cabinet making, and family and consumer science. When we looked at our capacity and the needs of all our kids, ultimately we felt this was an important use of funds."

The new budget will not be finalized until this summer and would be subject to approval by the school board and the City Council.

There will also be plenty of public comment.

Breanna Henderson, who owns the Polished and Proper Barber Shop and Shave Parlor in downtown Laconia, said she hears from many clients who complain about what is and is not in the school budget.

"The reaction is that something has been cut that will infuriate parents, as opposed to taking a hard look at spending and being realistic," she said.


Tiny house, big win

Huot Center students win home-building contest and Skills USA


LACONIA — Matt Towle of the building construction program and Mike Schofield of the plumbing and heating program at the Huot Technical Center were excited and proud after their students earned top honors at the New Hampshire State Home Show last weekend.

The tiny house, built by Towle's second year class of 12 seniors, was chosen the best of the five entries submitted by four career technical centers from around the state. The dozen are Alexis Albert, Kris Belanger, Robert Brough, Austin Carbone, Joshua Catalano, Mary Davis, Corey Getman, Samuel Guyer, Ian Hearn, Nathan Kierstead, Bryson LaChapelle and Cole Manion.

At the same time, students of the two programs claimed individual honors in the state SkillsUSA competition, which measures the trade, technical and leadership abilities of students enrolled in career and technic a programs. LaChapelle, of Winnisquam High School, won gold in the building trades while Steve Tower of Laconia High School and Andrew Fielders of Belmont High School took gold and bronze medals respectively in the plumbing competition. All three students will travel to Louisville, Kentucky for the National Leadership and Conference to join 5,500 students from across the country vying for national honors.

"It was a whirlwind weekend," said Towle, who was quick express his appreciation to the Lakes Region Home Builders Association and a number of local suppliers who contributed time, talent and resources to the construction of the tiny house. "Drake Electric, F.W. Webb, Dead River Company, Middleton Building Supply, Pella Windows," he said, "I could go on forever. If I said I needed it, I had it." Builders and tradesmen from the Lakes Region followed the project closely, sharing their experience and skills with the students.

Schofield said that his plumbing students were somewhat envious of the crew that built the tiny house, but he assured them that by installing the the bathroom and kitchen they earned a share of the honors. I told them they were a big part of the part of the project," he said. "After all, the bathroom and kitchen are what people look at."

David Warrender, director of career and technical education, said that the tiny house drew crowds throughout the home show.

"There were constant lines of up to 50 people waiting to to get inside and look around," he said. "It was big hit."

The medal winners in the SkillsUSA competition, he said, included the gold won by students of the Huot Technical Center.

"The kids were so proud, happy and excited about the work they did," Towle remarked, adding that receiving the trophy from Gov. Chris Sununu was the highlight of their weekend. Schofield added that all the students at the center were proud and excited for the achievements of their classmates.

The tiny house will be kept at Middleton Building Supply in Meredith.

The New Hampshire Lottery, which sponsored the tiny house competition, has been selling "Tiny House, Big Money" $2 scratch tickets, which allows losing tickets to be submitted to the Lottery Commission for a second chance drawing to win the tiny house, valued at $53,333.34 or its cash equivalent.

Tiny House Tickets

Derrick DuBois, employee at the Airport Country Store and Deli in Gilford, tears three "Tiny House, Big Money" lottery tickets off the roll. The tickets offer a chance to win cash prizes, while all losing tickets can be entered for a drawing to win the tiny house built by students in the Huot Technical Center's Building Construction program. DuBois said the lottery tickets have been a popular item. "It's one of the tickets people want," he said.

lottery scan


03-21 tiny house winners

The proud winners of the Tiny House competition this weekend were presented with their prizes. From left are instructor Matt Towle; student Nate Kierstead; Gov. Chris Sununu,; and students Bryson Lachapelle, Sam Guyer, Tanner Woods, Bradley Weeks. (Courtesy photo)

03-21 tiny house crowd 03-21 tiny house crowd 2

Those attending the New Hampshire Home Show in Manchester over the weekend were eager to take a look at the Laconia Huot Center's project. (Courtesy photo)

03-21 Skills USA winners

The gold medal winners of the Skills USA competition. (Courtesy photo)