By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — After spending nearly four decades maintaining and rebuilding the city streets, storm drains and sewer mains, as well as managing the disposal of solid waste, Paul Moynihan will retire as Director of Public Works later this summer.
Born in Laconia and raised in Belmont, Moynihan earned his degree in civil engineering at the University of New Hampshire in 1973 and went to work for Public Service Company of New Hampshire. Five years later, he said that his family circumstances changed and he applied for a position with the city. He recalled that the Department of Public Works, then led by Frank DeNormandie, was in the throes of transition marked by the departure of the assistant director. The job fell to Moynihan, who held for the next 20 years before succeeding Frank Tilton as director in 2003.
Altogether, Moynihan has worked with three different directors, served under four city managers, 11 mayors and countless city councilors.
"It's really a team effort to maintain the public works in the city," Moynihan said. He named a bevy of retired and serving supervisors, engineering technicians, mechanics and office managers along with his assistant director Luke Powell as essential to the success of the department.
"I worked with a lot of good people and I met a lot of good people," he said. "It has been fun, fulfilling but relentless."
Describing the sanitary sewer and storm drainage systems as "the forgotten utility," Moynihan noted that there was significant investment in the first early and in the second late in his career. When he joined the department, the Winnipesaukee River Basin Project, the sanitary sewer system serving to municipalities in the Lakes Region, was just getting underway. He said that DeNormandie played a key role in the undertaking, working closely with state and federal officials. During the next decade, the Meredith, Jewett Brook Gilford and West Paugus Bay interceptors were constructed, with federal funds distributed through the Clean Water Act, representing three-quarters of the cost.
The city's sanitary sewer system includes some 60 miles of gravity line and 10 miles of force mains as well as 17 pump stations. He said that the system has been expanded at The Weirs along Roller Coaster Road, Scenic Road and Watson Road, but the long-range expansion plan to extend service to Wentworth Cove Road, Eastman Shore Road, Leighton Avenue and Hilliard Road has lain fallow.
With much of the city at the level of the lakes overlooked by steep slopes, Moynihan said that emphasis has increased on improving storm drainage to protect both property and water quality. In particular, he remarked that high water in 2006 left Busy Corner awash for the first time in his career and heavy rain washed a stretch of the boardwalk at The Weirs two years later. Drainage projects were completed on Highland Street, Mechanic Street, Chapin Terrace, Anthony Drive and Bisson Avenue between 2010 and 2014.
Moynihan said that the approach to street repairs has changed over the years as what he called the "worst first" philosophy has been overtaken by greater emphasis on "keeping the good roads good" by prolonging their life with regular maintenance. He explained that since 2001 the city has invested at least $1 million in street repairs and this year plans to invest $1.5 million. While money will be applied to the streets in worst condition, most will be spent forestalling the deterioration of roads in good condition. At the same time, Moynihan said that the cost per mile of road reconstruction has risen as projects now include improvements to drainage, curbs and sidewalks.
Moynihan said he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, three children and four grandchildren. At the same time, Moynihan, who is blessed with a wonderful singing voice, intends to devote more of his energy and talent to the Christian ministry with which he and his wife have been engaged for many years.
Outside City Hall on fine day while public works projects were underway across the city, Director of Public Works Director Paul Moynihan spared time to recall his 38 years with the department and on the eve of his retirement next month. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)