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Clarification: Strategic Plan Committee will not be using N.H. Listens

In reference to an article published in The Daily Sun on Thursday, the Strategic Plan Committee for the Laconia School District will not be using N.H. Listens for facilitating the community meeting scheduled for October 18 but will be using a local person trained by them as a facilitator. The decision of whether or not to hire a coordinator for developing the plan will made after the community meeting.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 September 2014 11:55

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Homecoming parade promoting 'Colors for a Cause'

LACONIA — Laconia High School will be holding its annual Homecoming Parade on Friday at 4 p.m.

The goal of the current Student Council officers is to positively impact the school, as well as the community and charitable organizations, therefore this year they decided to promote "Colors for a Cause" as a homecoming theme idea. Although there were various float themes to choose from, the school voted on the theme Color for a Cause, indicating the general student bodies support in the Student Council's mission. Each grade has chosen a charitable organization, in which they will support and bring awareness to through their float display. The colors chosen are red, green, pink and purple, which represent the following organizations: The American Red Cross by the Freshmen Class, The United Nations Environmental Program by the Sophomore Class, The American Cancer Society by the Junior Class, and the N.H. Humane Society by the Senior Class.

The theme this year will do more than carry on the Sachems' tradition, as it will also allow each grade to give back to their chosen organization. All grades have been encouraged to make a donation at the end of homecoming to support charity they are bringing awareness too. Some classes will be providing their organization with a monetary donation, however, the Senior Class will be using its money to purchase various pet supplies that will directly help the animals at the Humane Society. 

The Senior Class will be walking their dogs behind the float for the parade and has invited volunteers from the N.H. Humane Society to walk with them in the procession. All community members are encouraged to bring their dogs to the parade, as the students will be handing out dog treats to pets during the parade procession. 

"Homecoming this year has brought our class closer together, while showing school spirit and all working towards the common goal of spreading awareness for a great cause," said Lily Chanthasak, senior at LHS.

The parade will leave from the high school and travel down Union Avenue to Veteran's square. For more information regarding the parade call the Laconia High School main office, at 524-8683.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 September 2014 01:41

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State's evidence against alleged Laconia home arsonist detailed in court

LACONIA — Deputy Fire Chief Charles Roffo testified yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division that there were two ignition points in a fire that heavily damaged a home at 44 Taylor St. on September 5.

Roffo was testifying at the probable cause hearing of John Woodbury, the husband of the owner of the home who has been charged with two counts of arson and is being held on $50,000 cash-only bail in the Belknap County Jail.

After about 45 minutes of testimony from Det. Jeffrey Wholley and Roffo, Judge Jim Carroll found probable cause to support the allegations and ordered his bail to be continued.

Roffo said he spent a total of seven hours with the N.H. State Fire Marshal at the Taylor Street house and between the two of them, they were able to eliminate all electrical causes, mechanical causes, and all natural event causes — like lightening.

He said that the two ignition points on on the back porch in the left rear of the the house plus one in a bedroom on the right side of the house were telling, in that in the kitchen and bathroom between the two ignition points there was much less damage.

Roffo said it was like the fire was burning toward those two rooms from two different directions.

He also noted there was no fire in the basement and the fire patterns in both the porch and the bedroom extended to the floor.

On cross examination, he admitted that a search for accelerants conducted by a fire marshal and a search dog was inconclusive.

Wholley testified that he learned through a multiple interviews with witnesses and friends that Woodbury and his wife Tina had argued that day around 4:30 p.m.

He testified that Woodbury had told his next door neighbor that they were going to have a fire that night. The neighbor told police this was unusual because the Woodburys have a fire pit in their back yard and often have fires, but have never told her about it before.

The next door neighbor told police that she saw Tina Woodbury when she returned to the house after learning about the fire. She said Tina walked up to Woodbury and said, "What the "(explicative)? You burned my house down."

Wholley said a second neighbor said he was taking a walk near his house on the street next door (Fairview St.) and saw Woodbury sitting in some grass about 150 feet away from the 44 Taylor Street home holding his dog by its collar.

The second neighbor said Woodbury approached him and, when asked, told him his wife was visiting friends. He told the man he was walking the dog.

Wholley testified that the man told police it was unusual because "in 20 years, he'd never seen John Woodbury walk his dog."

The neighbor said Woodbury walked back to where he was sitting and then he noticed flames about 10 to 15 feet high coming from the Woodbury home. He told police that when he called to Woodbury, his neighbor "nonchalantly strolled" back toward him.

Wholley said a third woman, the one who reported the fire, told police she didn't know Woodbury but when she asked him if it was his house, he didn't say anything.

She told police he didn't have any emotion and didn't offer to help when her and other people who were helping firefighters drag a four-inch hose down Taylor Street from Highland Street.

Wholley also read aloud the voice messages left by Woodbury on his wife's cell phone.

He said one came at 5:45 p.m. from a number that was John Woodbury's house number that said, "I am lighting the match right now..." Wholley said the call lasted 12 seconds.

A second call came to Tina's voice mail at 5:48 p.m. that said, "Tina, you should see the flames are starting to collect. Right. Right. Don't worry about fire wood."

Woodbury's attorney said the evidence present was largely circumstantial and didn't match the complaints that specifically allege Woodbury lit the house on fire to recklessly endanger the firefighters who fought it and the neighbor's house next door.

The case will be bound over to Superior Court for possible indictment.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 September 2014 01:31

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Bristol downtown merchants not head over heels in love with head-out parking

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — A year after the town reconfigured Central Square, drivers remain confused about the new "back-in" ("head-out") parking spaces and downtown merchants are complaining that confusion is causing them to lose business as well as posing safety issues for drivers and pedestrians.
The town is expecting a report from the Lakes Region Planning Commission and the N.H. Department of Transportation that will guide its response to the concerns. Michael Izard of LRPC said they are reviewing the information collected and design engineers from the DOT are analyzing the data to make an engineering judgment on whether the parking should be changed. He said he contacted the DOT on Sept. 15 and expects to be able to schedule a meeting with the Bristol selectmen as soon as he hears back from the state.
When planning the downtown improvements, officials outlined the reasons for head-out parking and Town Administrator Michael Capone said there was a lot of discussion at the time about the perceived benefits of implementing the change. State officials who supported head-out parking said it might cause some initial confusion but that people would get used to it.
"After nine months of construction, which hurt our business, now we're having people say they won't stop in because the parking is such a problem," said Shawn Economides, the branch manager of North Country Mortgage which is downtown on the corner of Pleasant and South Main streets. "People haven't gotten used to it. They're denting their cars and bending the signs they hit when trying to back into the parking spaces, and when people are backing in, the children on the sidewalk have to walk in the mulch" around a tree planted directly in front of his sign.
A few doors down, Aletha Lewis of Tin Shoppe Antiques said, "People sit in the road and look around and finally drive off. If they can park elsewhere, they will, but they won't park or are very nervous about trying to park in front of the store. Someone is always hitting the handicapped sign."
The downtown business owners say they have seen people pull forward into the slanted parking spaces, rather than backing in, and then, when they go to leave, they are facing the wrong way and some of them drive away in the wrong lane.
Because the new parking configurations are just around the corner from Pleasant Street, the merchants say they have seen drivers turn the corner and encounter someone trying to back into a parking space, and they sound their horns or shout obscenities at the driver who is parking. There have been several near-collisions, they say.
Economides said he tried twice to park the right way one day and, both times, he had another car right behind him, making it impossible. He had to circle the block three times and he finally pulled straight in — and subsequently had a visit from a Bristol police officer.
Capone would not address specific complaints, pending the study presentation, but he said the arguments for head-out parking included concerns that drivers backing into traffic would pose a hazard. With head-out parking, they would be able to see vehicles approaching from the rear. Additionally, the new parking configurations would make it safer to load purchases into the back of a hatchback or SUV because the loading would be from the sidewalk, rather than from the street. As for passengers, they would be exiting toward the sidewalk, rather than having to go around the open car door.
Studies have indicated that head-out parking is safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, based on the cities and towns that have used such parking configurations for 30 years in some cases.
Nevertheless, officials said they listened when they received complaints. "It's a good example of the DOT showing concern," said Izard. "It's an opportunity that doesn't come up very often, when job construction issues are raised by the DOT after a project is completed. They reached out to the planning commission to assess how well the new traffic pattern was working."
Izard said that, on the heels of a meeting between the town, the LRPC, and the DOT last fall, the planning commission began data collection last November, placing auto traffic counters downtown. They followed up with another traffic count in the spring, and also looked at the summer traffic volume, speed, whether pedestrians were safe, how much the traffic was queuing, etc. Included in the study was a traffic signal warrant study — Bristol residents have argued for years that there should be a traffic signal in the square, but the state has always said a signal there was unnecessary. (State routes 104 and 3-A pass through the center of town, so the state controls the intersection.)
Capone noted that North Main Street and the southern end of the square, which also have head-out parking, are town streets, so decisions there fall to the town. Another factor in making a change, he said, is that federal money contributed to the downtown project, and that changes might affect that funding.
Izard said he was reluctant to discuss the findings of the study in detail until the report is finalized but he did say that, from their observations, traffic is flowing through the downtown area effectively.
The study included the review of a 24-hour video provided by the town from a camera set up overlooking the reconfigured square. Izard said they decided mid-week would be the best time to record the traffic, based on the auto traffic counters and peak traffic studies.
Highway Engineer William Rose, who is with the DOT's Community Assistance Bureau, told selectmen that, until someone can demonstrate that the parking is less safe, he would not want to change it.
"I'm afraid someone from out of town who isn't familiar with the parking will be coming around that corner and will hit someone," said Lewis. "Is that what it's going to take?"

Last Updated on Friday, 19 September 2014 01:27

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