Out-of-town police cost more per hour: city's Motorcycle Week fund takes hit

LACONIA — This year the city closed the books on Motorcycle Week with red ink as expenses of $149,163 exceeded revenues of $146,851 by $2,312.78.

This was the first loss posted since 2007 when the revenues collected and expenses incurred by the city from regulating and policing Motorcycle Week were removed from the general fund budget and treated as a special revenue fund. Since 2007, revenues have amounted to $1,534,875 and expenses to $1,262,259, leaving the revenue fund a surplus of $272,615. During this period the City Council has drawn $161,462 from the special revenue fund to fund purchases of vehicles and equipment approved expenditures for the police, fire and public works departments, leaving the fund with an outstanding balance of $111,123.

City Manager Scott Myers told the City Council last night that the loss stemmed from the increased cost of out-of-town police, particularly officers from the Police Department at the University of New Hampshire. He explained that in the past years out-of-town officers were paid a negotiated rate, but this year out-of-town departments began billing the city the higher rates they charge for special details. The city has budgeted $70,000 for out-of-town police in earlier years, but actual expenses have ranged between $49,000 and $55,000. This year, Myers said, the city budgeted $70,000 and spent $70,721.

Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Bob Hamel (Ward 5) suggested that as the crowds at the rally appear to have diminished and become more orderly the police presence should be adjusted accordingly to spare the city the rising cost of out-of-town officers.

Alpine coaster ride at Gunstock OK'd

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention voted 11-2 Monday night to approve a $2.6 million bond issue which will add an alpine coaster attraction to the Gunstock Mountain Resort's Adventure Park offerings.

The vote came after a public hearing on the proposal and survived an attempt to postpone the vote until next month when more members of the 18-member convention could be present.

Rep. Peter Spanos (R-Laconia), who had originally questioned whether a vote should be taken with so many members absent, changed his mind later in the evening after seeking an assurance from Rep. Russ Dumais (R-Gilford), who chairs the convention's Gunstock Area Committee, that the proposal put forth by the Gunstock Area Commission, which projected the investment would pay for itself within five years, was a sound plan.

Dumais, who at one time had worked as a manager for Attitash Mountain, which installed an Alpine water slide at the former Alpine Ridge Ski Area in Gilford in the the 1980s, said that the proposal was a good plan and that he supported it.

Rep. George Hurt (R-Gilford) also questioned the wisdom of taking a vote last night and voted against taking a vote, along with Rep. Roy Howard (R-Alton) and Rep. Sherry Lebreque (R-Belmont). That proposal lost 10-3 and Hurt then joined the majority in the 11-2 vote for the project.

Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) argued for taking a vote, pointing out that there were many instances in recent years when major decisions were made without all convention members being present.

He and Convention Vice Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) both maintained that the convention should act in a timely manner in order to allow the project to proceed and allow the county to obtain the lowest interest rates possible.

Hurt had earlier asked what harm would there be in putting off a vote on the proposed project for a year or two.

Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock Mountain Resort, said that Gunstock was continually reinvesting in its infrastructure and that the projected surplus of over $500,000 a year from the alpine coaster ride could be used for more improvements to the area's year round attractions.

He said that the coaster, which carries riders in carts running on rails, will be built adjacent to the tubing hill and ski jumps.

Looking up the hill, the track taking riders to the starting point will follow to the right of the roadway that serves the jumps, reservoir and cell tower. The downhill track will wind through the wooded area to the right of the uphill track, making two complete circles and several sharp turns along the balance of its length. The downhill track will be 2,660 feet long with a vertical drop of 221 feet and a maximum grade of 18 percent. A round trip will take between four and five minutes, leaving the same amount of time to load and unload passengers. With 40 carts, the coaster can carry 250 riders an hour.
It is estimated that the ride will be completed in July 2016.

The project is estimated to cost $2.6 million, of which the purchase of the coaster represents $1.5 million. Goddard anticipated that the coaster will operate at 25 percent of capacity in the summer, and 30 percent of capacity and operate only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the winter, when there are more visitors at the resort. Altogether the coaster is expected to carry nearly 85,000 riders a year. At an average ride price of $12, the coaster is projected to return an annual operating profit of $530,000, which is one-and-half times the highest annual debt payment of the 10-year bond issue which is being sought to finance the project.

The convention also held a public hearing on the request of the Gunstock Area Commission for a $650,000 revenue anticipation note, which was approved by a 12-1 vote. The note will be repaid by April 1, 2016, from operating receipts.

Longest trucks may use River Street, temporarily

LACONIA — The City Council last night approved a temporary traffic order that will permit some — but not all — trucks to use River Street to enter the site where River's Edge, a 32-unit apartment building, is under construction.

River Street runs southward along the east bank of the Winnipesaukee River from Church Street to Arch Street. River Street is open to truck traffic between Church Street and Jewett Street, but signs at the intersections with Jewett and Arch streets signal that trucks are prohibited on the last leg of the street — about 90 yards — from Jewett Street to Arch Street.

The order represents a compromise negotiated after the council shelved the original order, which would have opened River Street to all trucks for a year, after Kerren Horn, the sole property owner on the street, warned that the heavy truck traffic would damage the roadway and threaten the riverbank.

Access to the River's Edge construction site is at the foot of Arch Street. Although most trucks can negotiate the right-angle turn required to enter the site, tractor trailers with long wheel bases cannot. They reach the site from Union Avenue by following Jewett Street, to River Street which leads directly into the site.

The revised order approved by the council will remove the signs prohibiting truck traffic on River Street between Jewett Street and Arch Street, where "trucking as needed" to be allowed between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. All trucks using the roadway must obey a speed limit of not more than 10 miles per hour.

At the same time, the site superintendent for Eckman Construction has undertaken "to make every effort to limit the trucks using this roadway to long-wheel based units that would have difficulty accessing the project site from other directions." At the initiative of Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) the order as drafted was amended to specify that except for tractor trailers all other trucks must enter the site via Arch Street.

In addition, Northpoint Engineering, LLC and Eckman Construction will be responsible for documenting the condition of the roadway and riverbank and notifying all vendors of the limitations placed on use of the road. Finally, the project engineer and contractor have also agreed to ensure that River Street and Arch Street are regularly swept with a power sweeper.

The temporary traffic order will remain in place until June 30, 2016, when the project, being developed by the Laconia Area Community Land Trust, is expected to be complete. At that time, the signs prohibiting all truck traffic on River Street will be re-erected.

Exhausted swimmer pulled from Lake Opechee

LACONIA — Firefighters rescued a swimmer, weary, cold and wearing underpants and socks, from the waters of Lake Opechee not long after 6 p.m. yesterday.

The man, who witnesses said had been in the water for some considerable time, tired several hundred yards off the eastern shore of the lake. A boat, with a woman at the helm and full of children, passed him a life jacket and a trio of jet skis at the Messer Street boat launch went to his assistance. The jet skis circled the swimmer and one took him on board, but as they began to return to the launch he fell overboard.

Authorities did not release the man's name.

By then firefighters directed by Lt. Jeff Desrosiers had launched the inflatable rescue craft and maneuvered close to the swimmer, who was quickly taken aboard. Once on shore he was taken to an ambulance. Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that the man was very exhausted and somewhat hypothermic, with a body temperature of 90 degrees.