Choices narrow for Meredith Public Library’s relocation

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — On Monday, shortly after the trustees of the Meredith Public Library informed the Board of Selectmen that they would study the feasibility of building a new library on land near the roundabout where Daniel Webster Highway joins Parade Road, they learned, to their surprise, that the only alternative site would no longer be available to them.

At the center of this turn of events is the town's relationship with the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, which in 2014 awarded the library a matching grant of $70,000 to make repairs to the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library, which opened in 1901. In May this year, the trustees announced their intention to relocate the library. Not long afterward, Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Program wrote to Beverly Heyduk, who chairs the board of trustees, to say that her "board members were taken aback to learn of the possible plan to relocate the library." In her letter Taylor cited the library's grant application, which carried "the clear message ... that the building will continue as the public library in its current location for many years to come." She closed by strongly urging the library trustees to reconsider their decision.

Meanwhile, in July the Conservation Commission announced plans to add to the Page Pond Town Forest on Meredith Neck by purchasing some 200 acres in a transaction expected to close at a cost of $1,125,000. Mark Billings, chairman of of the commission, told the Board of Selectmen that the project would include setting aside a 4.5-acre parcel at the intersection of Pleasant Street and Barnard Ridge Road as a site for a new library should the trustees choose to avail themselves of it. Furthermore, he said that the Conservation Commission would apply to the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program for a share of the funding for the project.

However, this week after Heyduk announced the trustees' plans for the feasibility study, Billings told selectmen that the Conservation Commission had decided to remove the parcel designated for the library from its proposal. He explained that the decisions as made "in the hope that is some way, in some form it will help to appease the consternation that exists on the LCHIP board and make ours purely a conservation effort and not get in the middle of the library issue."

Erin Apostolos, the library director, said that she contacted Taylor out of concern for the Page Pond project and was told that the two issues had nothing to do with each other. "She didn't see that there would be any issue," she said.

But Town Manager Phil Warren disagreed.

"Looking from a distance," he said, "we could put the Page Pond expansion in jeopardy if we were to continue with the library parcel." He said it was his understanding that the library trustees were not considering the site.

Heyduk said she had anticipated meeting with Warren and Billings to discuss the matter, but no meeting has taken place.

"It was not our choice," she remarked, "but, it doesn't look like we have a choice." She said on Tuesday that she was "blindsided" by the request to remove the parcel for the library from the Page Pond project. "I'm a little disappointed we were taken out of the mix," she said.

Heyduk stressed that the trustees have reached no decisions. She said that trustees will weigh the feasibility of constructing a library on a portion of the so-called "Robertson property," a 13.4-acre lot on the south side of the roundabout, owned by Wilfred and Linda Robertson. "We've investigated may properties," she said, "but if someone comes to us with a suggestion, we will consider it."

Yesterday Heyduk wrote to Taylor to clarify the circumstances surrounding the trustees' application to the Land and Community Heritage Program for the grant and subsequent decision to relocate the library. She said as early as 2010, and certainly in 2013 when the grant application was made, the trustees believed that the First Baptist Church next door intended to move to a new site and would sell its property to the library, which would allow them to expand at its current location. In October 2013, the trustees received a letter of intent to that effect from the church. But, in March 2016, at the first of eight public meetings to discuss the future of the library, the pastor of the church announced that the church would not move for another five or 10 years, if at all. Consequently, after public meetings and professional advice, the trustees voted to move the library in May, when Apostolos informed the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program of the decision.

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This location on the Meredith roundabout is one possible spot for a new location for the public library, but concerns about the funding provided to the library from LCHIP may scuttle the move altogether. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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That’s not a vineyard

 

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The fields at Stone Mountain Farm in Belmont appear to the casual observer to be planted with grapevines. What people are seeing are actually dwarf apples trees which are supported by trellises. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Those are dwarf apple trees in Belmont field

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — From a distance, the plantings at Stone Mountain Farm on Route 106 resemble a vineyard because they are supported by trellises. Many people driving by the field actually think there looking at grapevines surrounding a farm wagon full of pumpkins.
But what people are seeing is actually an apple orchard filled with 6,000 dwarf trees, a sight which owner Joe Rolfe says will become more common in the future as the more traditional orchards give way to the fast-growing dwarf trees which start producing a year after being planted and actually yield more bushels per acre than standard-size apple trees.
"It's the future of apple growing. They've been doing this in upstate New York for years. And you see a lot of orchards in this state that are replacing their older trees with dwarf trees," said Rolfe.
He said the dwarf trees provide a quicker return on investment for apple farmers, who realize the benefits of growing apples more quickly on dwarves compared to standard apple trees, which take six to eight years to begin producing.
He has seven varieties of Macintosh apples, several varieties of Cortlands, along with Honey Crisp, McCouns, Empire, Ginger Gold, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Fuji and Granny Smith. "We have early-season apples, mid-season and late-season varieties, and expect to be harvesting them right through the end of October."
Rolfe said the 72-acre farm has been in transition ever since he purchased it from his parents, Nelson and Theresa Rolfe in 2009.
"My parents bought the farm in 1963, the year I was born, and I grew up here. It used to be a dairy farm with a small herd of 20 or so milking cows before they bought it. They kept the fields in production and have been selling hay for years," he said. His parents were the grand marshals for this year's Old Home Day parade in Belmont.
Rolfe is a mason and runs his own business, Stone Mountain Masonry, which he says still occupies most of his time, and said he and his wife, Cindy, who is a nurse, weren't quite sure what to do with the fields when they bought the property.
He thought it was obvious that a hay crop wouldn't produce enough income to maintain the property, so he worked with the Belknap County Conservation District and the Belknap County Cooperative Extension Service to develop a plan for the property. The idea for growing apples came from Bill Lord of the Extension Service, who at first suggested that the most remote field become the location of the orchard.

"I told him that was my best hay field and he said, all right, use the field closer to the highway," said Rolfe. "I didn't know anything about apples but one of the first things I did was start to plant cover crops like pumpkins and clover to create diverse organic matter that would make a good medium to grow things in. And the soil had to be limed heavily to get the right pH balance."
He said he got a lot of advice from Hardy family of Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis about starting an orchard and also spoke with local apple growers like Steve Surowiec of Surowiec Farm in Sanbornton who told him "Don't give up your day job."
The first apple trees were planted in 2013 and Rolfe has been adding several thousand trees each year since then. He said an irrigation pond which he dug last year has proved very beneficial in the dry summer this year. A drip-irrigation system allows him to irrigate different sections of the orchard with the water pumped from the pond.
He says that in the first year the apple trees are located next to metal poles which help provide support, but after they produce fruit in the second year, a stronger trellis support system is needed, which involves 109-foot-high wooden posts and a wire support system which is anchored into the ground.
Rolfe and his wife are are looking forward to starting a pick-your-own operation next year once they have been able to label all of the rows with the varieties which are available and whether they are ready to be picked.
Currently they sell apples and pumpkins from the front yard of their parents' home and use an honor system which enables people to pick out their own apples and pumpkins when it is most convenient for them.

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Stone Mountain Farm on Route 106 in Belmont is producing a wide variety of apples from its dwarf trees and sells them by the honor system from a wagon at the farm. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Stone Mountain Farm irrigates its apple orchard with water from a man-made pond and a drip irrigation system in its fields. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Stone Mountain Farm owner Joe Rolfe says that the trellis system at the farm is needed to support the heavy yields from the dwarf trees, which begin producing the year after being planted. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Weirs Action Committee wins Motorcycle Week parking concession

Laconia Motorcycle Week Association protests Parks and Rec’s decision

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Faced with two competing requests to operate the parking concession at Endicott Rock Park during Motorcycle Week next year, the city Parks and Recreation Department this week unanimously chose the Weirs Action Committee over the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association in a decision that will require the approval of the City Council.

The Weirs Action Committee has operated the concession for the past 21 years, parking some 1,200 motorcycles each day and raising between $25,000 and $30,000 annually to fund its projects, both permanent and seasonal, to beautify The Weirs. This year, the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, beset with financial challenges, also bid for the concession.
The requests were first presented in July, when the commission tabled the matter after urging both parties to seek a mutually agreeable arrangement. When the commission returned to the issue this week, Mitch Hamel, who chairs the commission, was told there had been no conversations about sharing the concession. Instead, nearly 20 members of the Weirs Action Committee were on hand to press their claim.
Speaking for the committee, Joe Driscoll III reminded the commissioners that the parking concession has been its principal source of funds and every dollar has been invested in The Weirs or contributed to city departments.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said many of the projects on the agenda of the Weirs Action Committee were being undertaken by the city with funds from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District recently established at The Weirs. He said the revenue the Weirs Action Committee receives from the parking concession, along with the income enjoyed by property and business owners at The Weirs, reflects the association's investment in marketing the rally. Without a secure source of funding, he said the revenue from the parking concession would contribute to the association's $200,000 marketing budget.
Driscoll said that the Weirs Action Committee has "a long list of future projects" that would not be funded by tax increment financing. At the same time, Judy Krahulec, a past president of the Weirs Action Committee, said that without the revenue from the parking concession, the cost of annual projects, like floral displays, would fall to the city.
Reading from a prepared statement, City Councilor Brenda Baer reminded the commission that after the rally foundered in the 1960s, the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association revived it, and since then attendance has grown from 38,000 to 350,000.

"The business owners at The Weirs have done nothing but benefit from this event," she said. "They have withdrawn their support from the association and called it the worst-run event and should go under."
Baer reminded the commission that a year ago, when the council granted the parking concession to the Weirs Action Committee, Mayor Ed Engler "noted that the parking lot is city property and the city is not gaining any revenue and feels some of that money should be going back to Motorcycle Week."
One elderly lady recalled being told years ago that The Weirs had to take care of itself, because it could not expect anything from the city. Another called The Weirs "the city's cash cow," adding that the neighborhood receives scant support from the city. And another warned "If we don't get that parking lot, we're done" and urged the commission to "keep the Weirs Action Committee going."
Krahulec chided the association for failing to persuade the New Hampshire Legislature to introduce a commemorative license plate that she estimated would raise $670,000 to fund the association.

"They should have pounded the legislature," she said, adding "They should get off their keisters."
After the vote, Commissioner Tony Pedrzani again urged the two organizations to reach a compromise. "A bite of the apple is better than no apple at all."

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