LACONIA — Neighbors along narrow Paugus Park Road are unhappy with a city drainage ditch they say creates a public hazard, but, so far, no solution has been found for their concerns.
They met with Public Works Director Wes Anderson, City Manager Scott Myers and Councilor Andrew Hosmer last month to complain about the open ditch, which in some areas is about 4-feet wide and 4-feet deep and runs right along the edge of the road.
Anderson said this week he was glad to see that the ditch did its job of carrying rainwater in recent storms. Flooding has occurred along the road in the past.
Neighbors say it is an eyesore and that vehicles, or even small children, could fall in.
Paugus Park Road is 19 feet wide and runs between railroad tracks and 1940s-era homes along Paugus Bay.
Parking is at a premium. Many of the homes were built without garages. For decades, neighbors used the dirt fringe of the railroad corridor to park their cars. They even built a shed and planter boxes in the state-owned railroad right-of-way.
Once last summer, a vehicle was parked so near the tracks that it blocked a tourist train.
The state Transportation Department notified residents they could no longer park in the railroad right of way. The city then began building the drainage ditch, both to deal with stormwater and to ensure people didn’t park in the railroad corridor.
Neighbors hired an engineer, who produced renderings showing the potential for a widened road with parallel parking. A small picket fence would separate the road from the shoulder. Pipes in a covered ditch would carry the water away from a swale.
The plans look nice, but Anderson said it will be up to neighbors to persuade the state Transportation Department to allow these changes.
Tim James, who acts as neighborhood spokesman, said residents haven’t formally reached out to the state and were hopeful city officials would work with the Transportation Department to resolve the matter.
Meanwhile, Bill Boynton, a spokesman for the department, said Thursday the state “will not support any drainage alterations that would encourage parking on, or encroachment within, the state-owned rail corridor."
Councilor Hosmer said neighbors have been treated poorly and the state needs to be more receptive to their concerns.
“If I lived there, I’d be a little angry at the state,” he said.
He also said that building a dual-purpose ditch, for stormwater and to keep cars off the right-of-way, is poor public policy.
“From my perspective, the city could have done a better job in informing residents of what they were going to do and why,” Hosmer said. “They should have done a better job with the ditch and the landscaping around it.
“The neighborhood has lost parking. Vehicles back up out of driveways and now some have fallen into the ditch and have difficulty in getting out.”
Some neighbors have thrown planks across the ditch so they can walk their dogs in the area.
“The ditch is unsightly,” Hosmer said. “It impacts the value of the property and the way of life they’ve come to expect on that street.”