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Caboose does not make for good neighbors

LACONIA — With construction of the second phase of the Winnipesaukee-Opechee-Winnisquam (WOW) Trail about to begin, a caboose that has sat on a spur line behind 100A New Salem Street for the past 16 years may finally find a new home.

"This may be the last opportunity to get that thing out of here," said Dave Gammon, who with his sister owns the property at 100A New Salem Street, which houses a consignment store.

The caboose is the property of his neighbor, Richard Mitchell, who owns and operates Pitman's Freight Room, next door.

"I realize I have to do something with the caboose ," Mitchell conceded yesterday.

The second phase of the recreation trail, from the Laconia Public Library to the Belmont Town Line, will follow the railway through a narrow corridor from Veterans Square, along New Salem Street and past Pitman's.

Long at odds over the presence of the caboose, Gammon and Mitchell are as close as neighbors can be. Their buildings are attached with a shared brick wall. The railroad line runs southwest, along Mitchell's lot, then, where the two lots meet, a spur line runs westward at the rear of Gammon's lot, ending abruptly at the corner of his building.

In 1999, Mitchell, who uses the railroad right-of-way adjacent to his building for parking, placed the caboose on the spur line along side Gammon's building. It has remained there ever since. Gammon said the caboose sits just five feet from his building and within two feet of its roofline. Stormwater run-off from the caboose, he said, has damaged the brickwork on the corner of his building. Gammon calls the caboose a "grudge fence".

Earlier this month, plans for the WOW Trail presented to the Planning Board indicated that what remains of the spur line would be removed, which would require moving the caboose, which would otherwise be stranded on isolated track.

Fearing the WOW Trail will have an adverse impact on his business, Mitchell said that "if I can stop it going through there, I will." However, at the same time, he said that he has spoken to officials of the N.H. Bureau of Rail and Transit about keeping the spur open. Brian Lombard, an engineer with the bureau, said yesterday that the design of this stretch of the WOW Trail, which will require the city to secure a lease from the bureau, has not been completed and the future of the spur has not been determined.

Meanwhile, Jay Poulin of HEB Engineers, Inc., who is designing the trail, told Lombard that Mitchell "has expressed an interest in keeping the siding track in place so that he can move the caboose out from the back of his building if and when he needs to." Likewise, Gretchen Gandini, executive director of the WOW Trail recalled discussion of leaving the spur line in place and accommodating the trail to it.

According to Gammon, Mitchell's lease with the Bureau of Rail and Transit to use the track to house the caboose expired in 2004 and the Governor and Executive Council declined to renew it. On two occasions, in 2004 and again in 2006, Gammon said that Carol Murray, then commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, found that Mitchell had no legal agreement to use the track and referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office, apparently without result. Gammon also claims the Bureau of Rail and Transit informed him that there is no record of Mitchell paying the annual fee of $986 to lease the track since his lease expired.

"He's trespassing (on state land)," Gammon said.

Mitchell declined to comment about his relationship with the Bureau of Rail and Transit, but repeated that he must make arrangements for the caboose, while adding that he has "no immediate plans to move it".

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:53

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Blasting along Rte. 3 in Belmont necessary to make way for construction of new Goodwill store

BELMONT — Police are warning residents who will be traveling along Rte. 3 near the Belknap Mall that there will be blasting during the week, beginning Thursday morning and ending on May 29.

Hiltz Construction Co., which is the general excavating contractor for a project that will ultimately see a new 13,000-square-foot Goodwill Store and a second 8,400-square-foot-retail store that is yet to have a tenant on the site of the former Belknap Subaru dealership, is leveling the property.

During the blasting times, police said there will be temporary stoppages for about 5 to 7 seven minutes around 10 a.m. in the morning and again around 3 p.m. in the afternoon.

The roads that will be affected are Rte. 3, Ladd Hill Road, Durette Road and Old State Road. The shut down, said police, is to ensure no errant debris affects passing motorists.

Uniformed officers along with flaggers will bring traffic to a stop a few minutes before the blast and reopen the road way immediately after getting the all clear signal.

Advisory signs have been posted and motorists are encouraged to seek other routes.

According to Belmont Planning Director Candace Daigle, the blasting is to remove enough ledge to allow the company a level footprint for the new building.

She said Hiltz also plans on boring its way under Route 3 to the Belmont Mall to connect to electrical services.

"The boring is going to be pretty cool," she said. "They believe with the newest technology they have they can do it in one day."


CUTLINE: Excavators and dump trucks from Hiltz Construction remove rock and soil from the site of a new 16,000-square-foot Goodwill building yesterday afternoon. Beginning tomorrow, there will be blasting and motorists can expect delays around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:40

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2 men arrested for inent to distribute heroin

LACONIA — Concluding an investigation it says took several months, the Police Department on Wednesday afternoon executed simultaneous search warrants that resulted in the arrest of two local men on drug charges, including possession off and intent to distribute heroin.

David C. Hobbs, 29, of 742 Union Avenue, and Jeramiah M. Proulx, Sr., 38, of 740 Union Avenue were stopped and arrested on Rte. 106 on Prescott Hill at about 4 p.m. At the time, Proulx was a passenger in a car being driven by Hobbs. The court-authorized search warrant's also covered the suspects' homes.

In all, police say they seized in excess of $6,400, along with a "significant" quantity of heroin, pills and marijuana, as well as electronic surveillance and recording equipment.

Proulx is charged with possession of a narcotic drug and conspiracy to distribute a narcotic drug. Hobbs was charged with conspiracy to distribute a narcotic drug.

Police say both men refused the services of a bail commissioner and are scheduled to be arraigned in Fourth Circuit Court-Laconia on Thursday.

Commenting on the arrests, Detective Sergeant Thomas Swett said, "The Police Department aggressively investigates drug crimes and anyone having further information about this case, or other incidents to illegal drug activity, is encouraged to contact police at 524-5252 or call the Crime Line at 524-1717.


Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:06

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Gilmanton Historic District protester withdraws name from consideration for spot on governing commission

GILMANTON — The Meeting House Road man who had asked voters to have his property removed from the historic district around the Smith Meeting House on Tuesday night withdrew his request to serve on the district's board.

Craig Gardner of 533 Meetinghouse Road had petitioned to have his property removed during the March election after learning a fence he constructed was not suitable to the Historic District Commission.

"I've been on a lot of committees in my life," Gardner told the Selectboard. "The most dishonest thing a person can do is come on a committee with a cause."

Gardner said he wondered if he could ignore his cause (to remove his property from the district) and decided he could be more honest as a member of the community.

"I appreciate your honesty," said Selectboard Chair Don Guarino, who agreed that Gardner could be very active as a member of the community.

Gardner and Roland Huber, a second property owner in the district, both petitioned the town to have their properties removed from because of what they considered unreasonable restrictions. A slim majority of voters ultimately agreed with them but their petitions were challenged by abutters, including former Historic District Chairman George Roberts, who attended Tuesday's meeting, who filed "protest petitions" that meant, under state law, Gardner and Huber needed a two-third majority vote to prevail.

Although the town received the protest petitions in a timely fashion, when officials contacted the town attorney about what to do with them, administrators were told to ignore it, said Town Administrator Arthur Capello.

While one condition of the protest petition was satisfied according to RSA 675:5, a second condition requiring the town to post the protest petition and announce it at the beginning of town meeting, in this case, the deliberative session, was never met.

Town attorneys have brushed off the posting and announcing portion of the law as a "minor procedural error" but Gardner disagrees.

He said that had he known about two-thirds vote needed for him to succeed, he would have approached the matter differently and could have possible prevailed.

The posting matter is still being discussed within the town between administrators, town counsel and Gardner.

With Gardner's last-minute withdrawal for consideration for the Historic District Commission seat, selectmen nominated Betty-Ann Abbott to serve for a three year term.

In her application, Abbott said she had an interest in the area and would be mindful of residents rights while being holding true to the mission of the Historic District.

Under state law, the Planning Board can also have one of its members serve on a historic district. Selectman Steve McCormack, who is the board's representative to the Planning Board, said Roy Buttrick had volunteered.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 01:24

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