Winter slow to kick in - While outdoor workers and skiers enjoy the weather, lack of ice may delay or move pond hockey, sled dog races and Rotary Fishing Derby

Winter in laconiaFrigid weather arrived Tuesday along with high winds combined with the warmer than normal temperatures have kept the lake from freezing as seen from Watermark Construction on Paugus Bay. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

• Winter has returned to normal for skiers and snowboarders who flocked to the Gunstock Mountain Resort over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. But it remains far from ideal for snowmobilers, ice fishermen and sled dog drivers, all of whom are looking for more snow and extended cold weather to create better conditions for outdoor recreation.
"Winter has completely turned around for us after a warm December," says Gregg Goddard, Gunstock general manager, who said that all of Gunstock's 37 trails are open and snowmaking is going full tilt.
"Monday was our best day of the season. It was nearly a sellout and our Nordic Center has been really busy," said Goddard.
That's proved to be good news for the Marriott Town Place Suites in Gilford, which has experienced a 95 percent occupancy rate so far this year, according to Tricia Smith, one of the managers at the hotel which is located just off the Laconia Bypass.
At lower elevations, which rely on natural snow and ice, it's a different story. There are no snowmobile trails open in Belknap County and sled dog drivers are unable to get in workout sessions for their teams due to a lack of snow cover.
And in Meredith Bay, which is slated to host the New England Pond Hockey Classic Feb. 5-7 and the Great Rotary Fishing Derby on Feb. 13-14, there is so little ice that event organizers are concerned that, unless things turn around soon, the lack of strong ice will have an impact on the events.
'"We're not seeing many customers these days," says Harold Delucca at A.J.'s Bait and Tackle in Meredith, who says that ice fishermen are setting up on smaller lakes like Waukewan and Winona and the northern part of Lake Winnisquam but there's nothing yet in the Meredith Bay area.
"The wind is not helping. Even with cold nights, the ice is breaking up. I don't think The Broads (the deepest part of the lake east of Rattlesnake Island) will freeze this year. As long as there's wind, the ice won't catch and it won't freeze," said Delucca.
It would mark the second time in recent history that Lake Winnipesaukee hasn't completely frozen over. In 2010, Dave Emerson of Emerson Aviation, the official ice-out observer for Lake Winnipesaukee, reported that The Broads were briefly covered with skim ice one morning but that it broke up by the end of that day.
Organizers of the seventh annual Pond Hockey Classic, which has 260 teams signed up to play this year and draws several thousand spectators, are still hoping there will be a quick turnaround for ice conditions in Meredith Bay. They need about 12 inches of ice to hold the tournament. If the ice doesn't materialize by next week, organizer Scott Crowder said he is looking to move the event to Lake Waukewan, like he did in 2012 when faced with less-than-ideal ice conditions.
Lisa Meeken, manager of HK Powersports on Union Avenue in Laconia, said it hasn't been a strong winter yet for snowmobile sales.
"We're plugging along and doing alright, but we really need the lakes to freeze for people to be able to get out with their snowmobiles" she said.
Jon Bossey of the Belknap Snowmobilers said it's not only a lack of snow which keeps trails from being open, but also a lack of frozen ground.
"December was so warm that there wasn't any frost in the ground," he said. "Unless you have at least a little frost, the trails can get muddy real quick,"
He said the Belknap Snowmobilers are responsible for 60 miles of trail and have two grooming machines to do the work. "Last year we started grooming on Jan. 17, so we're already behind last season. What we need is a good storm with 10 to, 12 inches of snow."
He's pinning his hopes on a possible nor'easter this weekend, which the Weather Channel has already identified as tropical storm Jonas and has the potential for bringing at least 10 inches of snow in cities extending from Philadelphia to Boston.
Jen Lyman of the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club, which is slated to hold the Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby Feb. 12-14, said club members are holding out hopes that the storm system will bring at least a foot of snow to the area so that the derby can be held on schedule.

Woman overcome by smoke at Blueberry Lane dryer fire

LACONIA — A woman was overcome by smoke inhalation and her granddaughter was missing for tense moments when fire swept through their apartment at 103 Blueberry Lane shortly before 9:30 p.m. Friday night.

Capt. Bob Landry said he arrived to find smoke pouring from the rear door of Unit 7, one of a half-dozen two-story apartments in the building, and a woman in respiratory arrest on the front stoop of the apartment. Immediately firefighters began treating the woman, who regained consciousness by the time she placed in the ambulance. At the same time, firefighters stretched a 2-inch hose line into the apartment to quell the fire and began stripping the wallboard to put out fire in the ceilings.

When the woman asked after her 7-year old-granddaughter, some firefighters made a second search of the apartment while others began looking for her among the crowd. Several anxious minutes passed until the girl was found safe and sound in her grandmother's care. The woman, her husband and granddaughter were all transported to Lakes General Hospital.

Landry said the fire was reported as starting with a clothes dryer and that the first floor of the apartment was damaged by heat, smoke and water, while heat from below damaged synthetic furnishings on the second floor of the units as well. Deputy Fire Chief Kirk Beattie, who took command at the scene, estimated the cost of the damage at $50,000. The adjoining apartments escaped damage from the fire and their occupants returned home for the night.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that three people have been injured in fires this month. He noted that recent studies by Underwriters Laboratories indicate that a fire inside a building will burn out of control within four or five minutes and the smoke and gases generated quickly become very toxic because of the amount of plastic and synthetic materials in the home. He stressed that in the event of a fire always call 911 before taking any other action and, if a fire cannot be extinguished in one or two minutes, "get out and stay out."

Richard Homsi loses appeal, Gilford garage must go

CONCORD — After nearly four years, the New Hampshire Supreme Court may brought Richard Homsi's legal feud with the Governor's Island Club Inc. nearer an end by upholding a court order requiring him to remove the foundation of a detached garage, which he built contrary to covenants imposed by the club.

Homsi's property at 84 Summit Ave. lies on the mainland side of the bridge leading to Governor's Island in Laconia. However, in 1992 a prior owner became a member of the Governor's Island Club and subjected the property to its covenants and restrictions of the club, which are attached to the deed. In April 2012, Homsi ran afoul of the covenant prohibiting detached living units when he proposed building a detached garage topped by a cottage to create additional living space.

When the club objected, Homsi began construction without its approval and the litigation began. In December 2013, the Belknap County Superior Court ruled that Homsi, despite conforming to the Laconia zoning ordinance, was in violation of the covenants and awarded the club nearly $46,000 in court costs and legal fees. But, the court stayed enforcement of its order, requiring Homsi to remove the foundation of the garage to allow him an opportunity to present a plan to the club that complied with its covenants.

When none of the plans conformed to the covenants, the Governor's Island Club returned to Belknap County Superior Court, where, in June 2015, Justice James D. O'Neill III ordered Homsi to remove the foundation from his property and awarded the club $31,158 in additional costs. Homsi appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Governor's Island Club acted in bad faith when it rejected his plans for his property. Last week, the Supreme Court upheld O'Neill's ruling that the club acted in good faith in rejecting Homsi's plans since they did not comply with the covenants.

Meanwhile, Homsi is continuing to appeal the decision to award $45,713 in court costs and legal fees to the Governor's Island Club along with an attachment against his property for failure to pay his dues to the club since 2011. Like Groucho Marx, who quipped he would not belong to a club that would have him as a member, Homsi has unsuccessfully sought to quit his membership, which one member told him was "a life sentence."

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