Laconia Independence Day parade called a success


LACONIA — The streets were filled with parade participants and supporters, as hundreds of people came out to support the Laconia Independence Day parade.
A couple of months ago, a parade to celebrate the Fourth of July was facing cancellation due to the overwhelming number of events the city had already scheduled for the holiday. However, because of the collaboration between community members, Heidi Follansbee and Sarah Jenna, and city officials such as Amy Lovisek, the parade continued according to plan.
The parade this year featured over 40 groups of people. Those who participated in the parade included: Lakes Region Flag Football, American Legion Auxiliary, Laconia Police Department Color Guard, Lakes Region pageant girls, Axis band, the Belknap Mill Historical Society, Gilford Historical Society, 4-H, Rusty’s Towing, Bertocchi’s, First Student, WEMJ radio, the Laconia Middle School band, Frates Dance, Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Winnipesaukee Warriors, Girl Scout Troop 10249, Crack the Code Escape Room, the Taylor Home, Dawson Farm, and the local fire and police departments.
“There was a great vibe and a lot of people came out to take part in the event,” said Jenna. Follansbee echoed Jenna’s statement, saying she was happy so many people were there to celebrate the holiday.
Other participants in the parade included individuals that opened antique cars, appearances by city officials such as Mayor Ed Engler, and families who walked in the parade. Those who were walking in the parade were said to have thrown nearly 100 pounds of candy to kids watching. A large portion of the candy thrown during the parade was provided by community member Bonnie Mooney.
The Laconia Middle School band was one of two live performing groups in the parade. The marching band was led by music teacher John Cardin, and was composed of mostly middle school students who had just completed the optional band camp offered during the last week in June. Cardin said he was excited to be part of this parade again and was glad to see so many people in attendance. The other live band was the group Axis, which performed songs like “Summer of ’69” while riding on a Fourth-of-July-themed float.
“The entire parade would not have been possible without the help of so many people,” said Follansbee. “I was really happy with how it all turned out, and am thankful for everyone who helped make the parade a success.”


Spent fireworks in trash start fire at city home

LACONIA — Used fireworks caused a fire at a city home after they were disposed of inside the house.

Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson said firefighters from Laconia, Gilford and Belmont were sent to 29 Fenton Ave. on Tuesday, July 4, at 10:14 p.m. They found fire outside the building and heavy smoke in the basement. Lt. Hobby arrived from Central Station within 3 minutes and reported that the 2-½ story two-family duplex had fire on the side of the house. Sgt. Cameron from Laconia Police advised the firefighters that his officers had checked the building and all occupants were out. A hose line was stretched and the exterior fire was quickly extinguished.

A crew was sent to the basement and reported fire in the ceiling joists. A hose was stretched to the basement. The Gilford crew was sent to check the upper floors for occupants and any fire extension. This was an older home and there was concern for fire spreading up through the wall channels. As crews opened up the outside wall, fire was discovered inside and spreading up the wall and between the floors. Crew continued to open up and extinguish fire. The fire damaged some the electric components in the basement so the power to the building had to be cut, said Erickson.

One of the occupants said he had shot off fireworks about an hour prior, and had thrown the spent fireworks in the rubbish barrel.

Fire officials warn residents that you should thoroughly flood used fireworks after use because they hold embers and tremendous residual heat. The crews cleared the scene just after midnight. During the course of the Fourth of July, Laconia crews handled 98 emergency incidents in four days.

City fights eyesores

Aging housing stock, absentee owners make code enforcement a tough job in Laconia


LACONIA — A home on Endicott Street East has appliances, bicycles and junk outside. A woman who lives on Adams Street complains neighbors don't mow their grass or dispose of their trash. The out-of-state owner of a Beaman Street home never secured the structure after a fire 18 months ago.

Enforcement of city property maintenance codes in Laconia, which has an aging housing stock and many absentee owners, is no easy job.

The city has one code enforcement officer. He is a 25-hour-a-week employee. Half of those 25 hours are spent on duties other than monitoring compliance with property maintenance codes.

Planning Director Dean Trefethen said this staffing level is appropriate.

“It's sufficient,” he said. “We're not falling behind.”

Multi-family dwellings

The fire department inspects multi-family dwellings.

During a recent budget presentation to the City Council, Fire Chief Ken Erickson said these inspections don’t address cosmetic considerations but are aimed at making sure there aren’t safety violations.

“We can’t do much to beautify the city,” he said.

Buildings that aren’t repaired after a fire become an eyesore.

“This is the thing that really bothers me the most,” he said. “I drive around and see where we have had homes that have burned, and we can’t get them to be repaired. The owners are not fixing them. There are 41 destroyed, abandoned or vacant homes in the city right now.

“That decreases value to the neighborhood. It increases the threat for crime.”

Building squatters

An unoccupied building on Gilford Avenue was a major concern until improvement work started recently. The landlord had a difficult time in securing the structure.

“We’ve been in there for drug overdoses,” Erickson said. “Unless the landlord is there constantly, people break in and start living there. And that’s happening in a couple other buildings throughout the city.”

Property owners sometimes elect not to rebuild after a building burns and is torn down.

“We’ve had 12 that were torn down, and then they just leave a vacant lot,” he said. “I don’t understand why they don’t at least come back and put a building there.”

Enforcement criticism

Hamilton McLean, a former member of the Planning Board, complained to the City Council last year that code enforcement efforts need to be stepped up.

He said that when he helped his daughter and her husband search for a rental unit he was appalled at the quality of housing. He said he found many substandard homes and described conditions in many apartments as deplorable.

If homes are in violation of maintenance rules, the city's code enforcement officer may spot the infractions as he scans neighborhoods. He also responds to people who see what they think are violations and complain to the city.

Such complaints often center on people who think their neighbors may be breaking rules that require residents to mow their lawns, keep property free of debris and maintain steps in good repair.

Neighborhood complaints

Trefethen said some complaints turn out to be unfounded. Some who complain don't leave their name, so it's impossible to report back on what the city has done.

“People say 'I think that's a drug house over there,' but that's a concern that's greatly overblown,” he said.

Trefethen said subjectivity enters the process. One person may regard a bush as overgrown, while another feels the landscaping is proper.

When the city sends a letter to property owners telling them they are in violation of residential codes, about half respond in a timely fashion. The other half are the problem.

“Sometimes we send certified letters and they don't even get picked up, they get refused,” Trefethen said. “If it gets to a point where we get no traction, we have the option of going to court.”

That's no easy situation, either.

“The courts are reluctant many times to do any significant enforcement,” he said. “Sometimes just the fact of going to court is enough to get people to go into action mode; other times it is not.”

Concerns over city’s response

Sherry Legendre, who lives on Adams Street, said her complaints have fallen on deaf ears at City Hall.

“I've called many times, but what are you going to do?” she asked. “Go fight city hall?”

On Thursday, she pointed to a residence across the street where it looks as if the grass hasn't been cut in many weeks. Another home nearby seems to have high bushes of blackberries encroaching on Legendres' property. An old barn nearby was torn down, leaving a foundation with trash on it. Steps and decks in the area seem in disrepair.

The enforcement officer is now sending letters to nearby property owners, notifying them of violations.

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Sherry Legendre complains nearby residences are out of compliance with city property maintenance codes. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)

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A residence on Endicott Street East is the focus of city code enforcement action. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Overgrown vegetation is one of the complaints investigated by the city's code enforcement officer. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)