LACONIA — Armand Bolduc has served on the City Council, in Ward 3, Ward 6 and at-large, including when the councilor with the most votes served as mayor, for so long that even he pauses when measuring his tenure and seeks to extend his streak to 17 terms by holding his seat in Ward 6 against the challenge of Tony Felch. City election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
This is third consecutive election in which Felch has tried to wrest the seat away from Bolduc.
Both candidates hail from Lakeport, where signs touting their candidacies sometimes appear alongside one another on the same front lawn.
With his brother Ernie, Bolduc has been a mainstay of the annual Christmas Village at the Community Center, represented the council on the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association and contributed significantly to the success of the Lakeport Community Association.
Like Bolduc, Felch, who lives in the home he was raised in, has become a familiar face in the city as president of the Leavitt Park Association, co-captain of the Deja Vu Pubmania team and member of the distribution committee of the annual Children's Auction.
Bolduc said that with the expansion and renovation of the Central Fire Station, following close behind construction of Laconia Middle School and Huot Technical Center, improvements at Laconia High School and replacement of the Main Street Bridge, most major projects are complete.
Looking ahead, both candidates pointed to the WOW Trail as an outstanding issue. Felch believes lauded the fundraising efforts of the WOW Trail but doubted the project can be undertaken with only private funds. Instead he said that the city must invest in the project to ensure its completion. "Once its built it becomes a city park," he said, asking "why isn't the city more involved? Not just financially, but pushing to get it done."
For Bolduc, charting a route between Lakeport and the Weirs is a challenge, not least because of the resistance of residents of South Down Shores and Long Bay to the trail following the railroad along the shore of Paugus Bay. "From what I understand, they're ready for battle," he said. At the same time, he questions whether the trail can be routed through the Weirs to Meredith and suggested instead that it skirt South Down Shores by following Ellm Street to Parade Road and running from there to Meredith. "It's going to be a tough one," he remarked.
Neither Bolduc nor Felch favored the proposal to rezone Weirs Boulevard so as to restrict commercial uses. Bolduc said that he was opposed to nightclubs operating in the area, where there are many residential properties, but saw no reason to prohibit small businesses like restaurants or even automobile dealerships.
Felch said that zoning at the Weirs should encourage diverse uses, while preserving frontage along major thoroughfares for commercial ventures, at least on the ground floor. He said that a greater effort should be made to redevelop the property at the corner of Route 11-B and White Oaks Road where the Surfcoaster operated, suggesting a hotel and resort with an indoor water park open throughout the year.
Both Bolduc and Felch believe the city should purchase the property on North Main Street than housed the Laconia State School. "The city needs to buy it at a reasonable price — $2-million or less," Felch said. He said the city should secure federal funding to overcome the environmental issues at the site, then sell it to private interests. "The city should not own it forever," he said.
Bolduc said that in acquiring the property, the city should also secure ownership of the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, which it leases from the state, while seeking to attract businesses to locate on the remainder of the property.
Likewise, both support the city partnership with the Belknap Economic Development Council to acquire and renovate the Colonial Theatre, which they believe will lead to increased business activity downtown. i
"I get calls from every ward in the city," Bolduc said,"and I take care of them. I'm happy to do it and enjoy doing it." As for how long he intends to serve, he remarked "the good Lord is going to tell us that."
But, Felch said that the "it's time for some new blood, for a councilor who is technologically savvy," adding that he while he appreciate and respects Bolduc's many years of service, "it's time for a change."
The municipal election will be held on Tuesday, November 3 when the polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.