Longest trucks may use River Street, temporarily

LACONIA — The City Council last night approved a temporary traffic order that will permit some — but not all — trucks to use River Street to enter the site where River's Edge, a 32-unit apartment building, is under construction.

River Street runs southward along the east bank of the Winnipesaukee River from Church Street to Arch Street. River Street is open to truck traffic between Church Street and Jewett Street, but signs at the intersections with Jewett and Arch streets signal that trucks are prohibited on the last leg of the street — about 90 yards — from Jewett Street to Arch Street.

The order represents a compromise negotiated after the council shelved the original order, which would have opened River Street to all trucks for a year, after Kerren Horn, the sole property owner on the street, warned that the heavy truck traffic would damage the roadway and threaten the riverbank.

Access to the River's Edge construction site is at the foot of Arch Street. Although most trucks can negotiate the right-angle turn required to enter the site, tractor trailers with long wheel bases cannot. They reach the site from Union Avenue by following Jewett Street, to River Street which leads directly into the site.

The revised order approved by the council will remove the signs prohibiting truck traffic on River Street between Jewett Street and Arch Street, where "trucking as needed" to be allowed between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. All trucks using the roadway must obey a speed limit of not more than 10 miles per hour.

At the same time, the site superintendent for Eckman Construction has undertaken "to make every effort to limit the trucks using this roadway to long-wheel based units that would have difficulty accessing the project site from other directions." At the initiative of Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) the order as drafted was amended to specify that except for tractor trailers all other trucks must enter the site via Arch Street.

In addition, Northpoint Engineering, LLC and Eckman Construction will be responsible for documenting the condition of the roadway and riverbank and notifying all vendors of the limitations placed on use of the road. Finally, the project engineer and contractor have also agreed to ensure that River Street and Arch Street are regularly swept with a power sweeper.

The temporary traffic order will remain in place until June 30, 2016, when the project, being developed by the Laconia Area Community Land Trust, is expected to be complete. At that time, the signs prohibiting all truck traffic on River Street will be re-erected.

Exhausted swimmer pulled from Lake Opechee

LACONIA — Firefighters rescued a swimmer, weary, cold and wearing underpants and socks, from the waters of Lake Opechee not long after 6 p.m. yesterday.

The man, who witnesses said had been in the water for some considerable time, tired several hundred yards off the eastern shore of the lake. A boat, with a woman at the helm and full of children, passed him a life jacket and a trio of jet skis at the Messer Street boat launch went to his assistance. The jet skis circled the swimmer and one took him on board, but as they began to return to the launch he fell overboard.

Authorities did not release the man's name.

By then firefighters directed by Lt. Jeff Desrosiers had launched the inflatable rescue craft and maneuvered close to the swimmer, who was quickly taken aboard. Once on shore he was taken to an ambulance. Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that the man was very exhausted and somewhat hypothermic, with a body temperature of 90 degrees.


Pumpkin Festival activities taking shape: Storyland sponsoring parade

LACONIA — As pumpkin plants blossom throughout New England the program Let It Shine Inc. and Sterling Design & Communications have announced plans for the 2015 Pumpkin Festival in downtown Laconia, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Even before the opening of the festival runners and walkers will be invited to strut their paces over either a 10 kilometer or 5 kilometer scenic course beginning at the Laconia Athletic & Swim Club at 9 a.m. and following the WOW Trail.

There will be four welcome centers to the festival where visitors can log in their carved jack-o-lanterns or collect a pumpkin to sculpt at a carving station. Under the creative direction of artist Larry Frates, Canal Street will become "Pumpkin Alley," an orange promenade from one end to the other lined with activities for young and old. Both the Belknap Mill and the Laconia Congregational Church will be haunted by the spirits of Halloween.

Throughout the day the city streets will be alive with music and lined with pumpkins, overlooked by the 35-foot high tower stacked with pumpkins at Veterans Square tower, which will be the crown jewel of the festival. A Ferris wheel turning on Beacon Street West during the day will offer visitors a bird's-eye view of the festival. Food and craft courts on Beacon Street East, Beacon Street West and Main Street will be offering both pumpkin-flavored treats and more standard fare as well as the work of three dozen artisans.

Children decked out in Halloween costumes will parade through downtown behind the pumpkin coach carrying Cinderella from Storyland, the popular theme park in Glen, which is sponsoring the parade. From 2 to 6 p.m. visitors can try their hand at knocking over bowling pins with sugar pumpkins at the alley on Pleasant Street.

At 8:30 p.m., when it is time to collect the pumpkins, competing teams, each assigned a territory, will compete for the grand prize of $1,000 to be donated to a chosen charity while all teams that clean up their turf will earn $100 for their favorite charity. The Pump(kin) Dump Derby is sponsored by Shipyard Brewery.

Ruth Sterling of Sterling Design & Communication said organizers are exploring the prospect of the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad providing a "Pumpkin Express" between The Weirs and downtown Laconia as well as looking into was to have transportation assistance for visitors unable to walk.

During the next 60 days organizers will decide whether to challenge the Guinness World Record for the most lit pumpkins in one place of 30,581 set in Keene in 2013. Although the pumpkins will be counted, the decision to have the tally sanctioned by Guinness has yet to be made.