In the mid 1880’s, utility poles were erected right down the middle of Lakeside Avenue, providing street lighting, electrical and telephone service to Weirs Beach residents and visitors for the first time.
In the early 1890’s, a second set of poles and wires was erected on the West (Land) side of Lakeside Avenue to satisfy increased demand. Eventually the central set of poles and wires came down, but the set on the West side of Lakeside Avenue remained.
Many municipalities, large and small, have recognized the esthetic and commercial value of burying unsightly utlility wires in their core areas underground, including the downtown business district of Laconia, which buried their wires long ago. The postcard below, which shows a view similar to the postcard above of the New Hotel Weirs, graphically illustrates how pleasant and serene a streetscape can look when utility poles and wires are removed from view.
In the spring of 2001, the city of Laconia appropriated an inital amount of $160,000 to relocate the utility wires on Lakeside Avenue, beginning at Route 3, and continuing on to Tower St. Some wires were to be relocated to existing utility poles on Veterans Ave, while other wires were to be relocated by traveling up existing utility poles on Route 3 and down existing utility poles on Tower St.
As it became clear that the true cost of the project was roughly double that of the initial appropriation, an additional amount of $160,000 was sought. At a May 8, 2002 meeting of the Laconia city council, a vote to appropriate the additional funds was defeated.
The reason for the defeat was that the Weirs Beach community was itself divided on the issue. While actual burial of the wires was estimated to cost upward of $1.5 million, far more than the cost of their relocation, certain members of the Weirs Beach community did not want the wires to be relocated, as the wires were to be relocated in front of their properties.
Burial of the utility wires remained a top priority of the Weirs Beach community. Commercial resort areas where wires have been buried have attracted considerable new business investment. For example, Maine’s Old Orchard Beach, which began a series of improvements in the late 1980’s to give the resort a more Victorian look, that eventually included the burial of its wires, can now proudly point to a resurgence of its waterfront which includes not only upscale shops, but a brand new, 5-story retail and condominium complex opened in 2007 called the Grand Victorian, “modeled after the Grand Hotels of the 1920’s and 1930’s”.
In 2017, after decades of discussion and efforts, the utility wires were finally buried.
TIMELINE OF THE LAKESIDE AVENUE PROJECT
Written and compiled by Robert Ames
Ribbon cutting for the Lakeside Avenue Project on May 25, 2017 (Karen Bobotas photo). 1. Wes Anderson, Director of Public Works, 2016 – Present 2. Scott Myers, City Manager 3. Paul Moynihan, Director of Public Works, 2003-2016 4. ?, Busby Construction 5. ?, Busby Construction 6. Bob Hamel, City Councilor 7. Russ Poirier, member of the Weirs TIF District Advisory Board 8. Ed Engler, Mayor 9. Armand Bolduc, City Councilor 10. Paul Busby, President, Busby Construction 11. David Bownes, City Councilor 12. Luke Powell, Assistant Director of Public Works 13. Joe Driscoll III, Water Commission Chairperson 14. Unknown 15. Ava Doyle, City Councilor 16. Unknown 17. Robert Ames, Half Moon Enterprises 18. Unknown 19. Jeff Santacruce, Engineer at McFarland Johnson
February 11, 2013 – At a meeting of the Laconia City Council, the Weirs TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District is approved. One month later, on March 11, the resolution is confirmed by Council. Tax valuations start from that date. Fifty percent of the incremental property tax revenues will fund development in the District. The District comprises about 3% of the total land area in the City, as well as about 3% of the assessed value. Burial of the utility wires heads a list of the proposed development activities in the District.
2014 or earlier – Joe Driscoll III, a founding member of the Weirs Action Committee, is appointed a Commissioner of the Laconia Water Commission. He becomes Chairperson of the Commission.
2015 – The Water Commission decides to replace 1800’ of water, sewer and drainage lines underneath Lakeside Avenue from Route 3 to Tower Street. This section of Lakeside Avenue will be repaved.
January 2016 – Preliminary plans are prepared for the line replacement project. The project is scheduled to start after Labor Day.
City Manager Scott Myers adds the Lakeside Avenue project to his monthly “Laconia Project Updates” newsletter. The City requests an estimate from Eversource for burial of the utility wires – power, phone, cable, and fire alarm. The City meets with a traffic engineering consultant to review pedestrian safety and streetscape improvements, including upgraded crosswalks and sidewalks.
February 2016 – Plans are refined for the line replacement project. It will take two weeks to set up temporary water lines; then another six weeks to complete the pipe work. Busby Construction will be the contractor. Costs will be around $500,000, not including paving. Paving will be done in the spring of 2017, and will cost another $500,000.
April 2016 – The City adds another possible component to the project: parking kiosks in place of the old parking meters on Lakeside Avenue.
May 5, 2016 – The inaugural meeting of the Weirs TIF District Advisory Board takes place. There are three initial members of the board: Half Moon owner Robert Ames, Cozy Inn owner Joe Driscoll III, and local real estate agent Russ Poirier. There are two board vacancies. City Manager Myers and Director of Recreation and Facilities Kevin Dunleavy are also in attendance. Ames is elected Chairperson. The Board discusses the Lakeside Avenue project. The Weirs TIF fund balance is only $11,000, not enough to cover even the debt service on a bond for the project. Myers suggests that the deficiency could be covered by a loan from the City which would be paid back by the TIF when it is generating enough revenue. Ames suggests that only 80% of the TIF funds be used for the project so that not all funds are tied up and other development projects can be pursued.
May 12, 2016 – Weirs Beach businesses and residents are invited to a public meeting at the Weirs Community Center. Paul Moynihan, Director of the Laconia DPW, Luke Powell, the Assistant Director of the DPW, and Jeff Santacruce, of engineering firm McFarland Johnson, make the presentation. The scope and schedule of the line replacement project are reviewed. A map shows the location of the proposed crosswalk bumpouts. Cost of the base project is estimated at $1,000,000. This would include the line replacement, repaving the street and sidewalks, and adding asphalt bumpouts, but not include the utility burial or any other enhancements.
Utility burial is estimated to cost $700,000. Burial would require placing transformer sector cabinets at several private property locations and obtaining permission from the property owners. There would be no cost to the owners. Burial would remove 14 poles, and increase sidewalk width. The 12 existing street lights on one side of the street would be replaced by 50 LED light poles on both sides of the street. Estimated cost for the light replacement is $250,000. Another proposed enhancement is replacing the 121 meters with 14 parking kiosks. The kiosks would be solar powered, take coins or credit cards, and cost $150,000. Concrete sidewalks instead of asphalt would cost $70,000. Stamped colored concrete crosswalks instead of paint markings would cost $60,000. Streetscape/sidewalk furniture another $20,000. Adding design costs of $200,000 and a contingency of $250,000 to the base project, the entire package of enhancements is estimated at $1,700,000. The enhancements would be paid for by borrowing from future proceeds of the Weirs TIF District.
While at this point the base project had been approved, none of the enhancements had been. The City Council would have to approve the utility burial in June in order to meet the base project timetable. The other enhancements could be decided upon later.
May 23, 2016 – At the City Council meeting, Mayor Ed Engler raises the issue of why the project is stopping at Tower Street, and not continuing one additional block, to the end of the business district at Foster Avenue. City Manager Myers responds that the stop location was based on where the water work would be stopping, and moving further would have an increased expense.
June 2, 2016 – The Weirs TIF District Advisory Board has its second meeting. The board makes a formal recommendation to the City Council that 80% of TIF funds be used for utility burial and streetlights for the Lakeside Avenue project, with the cost not to exceed $1,150,000. This number is reached by adding a 10% design cost of $95,000 and a 10% contingency of $105,000 to the May 12 estimates. The Board advises Council that other improvements associated with the project are still under consideration by the Board. Regarding extending the project past Tower Street to Foster Avenue, Myers states that it would add about 25% to the overall project cost. Regarding the parking kiosks, Myers states that they would not be funded through the TIF district, but by the City directly.
June 13, 2016 – The City Council meets to discuss the proposed utility burial. Joe Driscoll IV, President of the Weirs Action Committee (WAC), reads a letter from WAC in support. Driscoll comments that he serves on the Master Plan steering committee, and this is an enhancement for a northern gateway to the City, and it will have an effect on the perception of the City as a whole.
After much discussion, the City Council votes unanimously to approve burial of the utility wires and new street lights. Weirs TIF funding will be utilized at 85% for the first three years and 80% thereafter, with the total not to exceed $1,150,000.
Late June, 2016 – The City begins the process of obtaining property owner permission for the utility burial project. A “Memorandum of Understanding” document is sent out. Property owners must agree that they will grant easements to utility companies for placing transformer pads, sector cabinets, junction boxes, etc. on their property. Agreement is needed before the design of the utility burial can proceed. The utilities have not yet identified specific locations for the required hardware. While the property owner can review and comment on the location, the final decision is at the sole discretion of the City. All property owners on Lakeside Avenue must agree, or the project will be scuttled.
July 14, 2016 – The Weirs TIF District Advisory Board discusses using brick pavers instead of concrete for the sidewalk in front of the Half Moon block and for the eight bumpouts. The Board also discusses adding an irrigation system to the garden at the Weirs Beach sign, and along the sidewalk from Route 3 to Tower Street for hanging planters. Estimates will be sought.
July 15, 2016 – A detailed project walk-thru meeting with utility personnel takes place, reviewing placement options for the underground utility terminal hardware. The underground utility design by Eversource (electricity), Fairpoint (phone), and Metrocast (cable) begins, with McFarland Johnson engineering coordinating the designs.
Early August, 2016 –The water main in front of the Paradise Beach Club on Lakeside Avenue fails. This was part of the 500’ of water main between Tower Street and Foster Avenue. While doing the emergency repair, it is noted that the pipe in this area is pitted.
August 8, 2016 – In an email to Myers, Ames suggests adding a 2’ zone of brick pavers to the curb side of the Westerly sidewalk, running all the way from Tower St to Route 3.
August 11, 2016 – At the Water Commission meeting, a motion is made to extend the Lakeside Avenue project 500’ to cover the water main that runs between Tower Street and Foster Avenue. The motion is approved unanimously.
August 22, 2016 – Just prior to the Council meeting the same evening, the Weirs TIF Board makes a total of $200,000 in recommended enhancement requests: $70,000 for concrete sidewalks; $60,000 for stamped concrete crosswalks; $33,000 for brick accents in the bumpouts and the Westerly sidewalk; $20,000 for Irrigation; and $17,000 for contingency. The Council tables the requests, asking Dunleavy to come back with more concise estimates of the expense.
August 25, 2016 – At the Water Commission meeting, a motion is made and approved unanimously to extend the Lakeside Avenue project another 70’ to cross Route 3 to the Weirs Beach Drive-in. This area will have to be dug out to put the power underground.
September 1, 2016 – The second public meeting about the Lakeside Avenue project takes place at the Weirs Community Center. The engineering team presents an overview of the underground utility plan, drainage improvements, crosswalk improvements and other details. Progress plans are available for viewing and comment. The schedule is described in detail. The project is scheduled to wrap up by Memorial Day weekend, so as not to interfere with the tourist season. Paving will be done in two phases – a base course in early May, and a final wearing course in late October.
September 12, 2016 – The City Council discusses the Weirs TIF enhancement recommendations at length. Dunleavey provides updated numbers. Council requests an estimate for extending the project to Foster Avenue. Councilor Henry Lipman would like a number for the entire package before taking a vote. Council then tables the matter.
September 20, 2016 – After installation of temporary lines, digging begins on Lakeside Avenue. The digging starts at Foster Ave and proceeds in a Southerly direction down Lakeside Ave until it finishes on the other side of Route 3.
September 26, 2016 – At the City Council meeting, Public Works Director Wes Anderson passes out a handout of updated costs for the project. Anderson provides council with an estimate of $235,000 to extend the utility burial project to Foster Avenue, not including paving. Project cost is now estimated at $1,285,000 to Tower Street, and $1,675,000 to run the full length to Foster Avenue. Once again, Councilor Lipman asks for the numbers to be firmed up before a vote is taken. The deadline for making a decision is discussed, and it is determined that a vote needs to be made at the Council’s first meeting in October. The second Council meeting in October would be too late.
October 2016 – The City Manager notes in his Project Update report that “Archaeologists have completed the required test pits for Native American artifacts and did not find any.” Myers noted that the soil had already been disturbed many times in the past by previous construction. The NH Division of Historic Resources had required an archaeological investigation of the utility corridor. The Division later issues a finding of “no adverse effect”.
October 6, 2016 – The Weirs TIF Advisory Board meets. The Board recommends that the City extend the burial of utility wires and the replacement of streetlights one extra block, from Tower Street to Foster Avenue, for an estimated cost of $250,000.
The Water Commission also meets on October 6. The Commission notes that the new water main for the Foster Avenue – Tower Street block has been completed. This is the first leg of the revamped system.
October 11, 2016 – The Council takes comments from the public regarding the project. All three Weirs TIF members speak in favor. Ames noted that there are suggestions by the Council that there be improvements done to the properties in the Weirs if the City was going to put in an investment. Ames reviewed several business renovations and improvements that have been completed by property owners in the recent years. Driscoll noted that the project is not an instance of excessive City spending but a development to move the Weirs into the technological ages. Poirier encouraged the Council to support the expanded Lakeside Avenue project to send the message that the City Council cares about the image and vitality of the Weirs.
The Council then discusses the project. Councilor David Bownes states that he feels this is a good investment and it will help make the Weirs a year round destination. Councilor Bob Hamel states that he feels this project will make a big difference in the Weirs but reiterated that unless everyone is all in, nothing is going to change. Councilor Ava Doyle comments that this project will benefit the entire community in the end for what she feels is small amounts of money in the long run. This is what the Weirs businesses and community wants and the Council should follow through.
Only Councilor Brenda Baer states that she is not in favor of the expanded project. Baer had written in a letter to the Laconia Daily Sun that “…there is only so much money available for roadwork and it seems the Weirs thinks it all should go to them for the short summer season. The rest of the city is here all year and their needs are year round…”. She also questions, “How many improvements have the business owners made to their property on Lakeside Avenue?”
Mayor Engler comments that he has never understood why the project would stop at Tower Street and with all due respect to conflicting opinions this needs to be done right.
A motion to approve the project with a bond not to exceed $1.6 million is made. Four of the six councilors must vote in favor for the project to be approved. The Mayor is not allowed to break a tie in bonding situations. Councilors Bownes, Hamel, Doyle, and Armand Bolduc vote in favor. Councilor Baer votes opposed. Councilor Lipman is absent. The motion passes.
Discussion continues with comparison of parking kiosks to meters. Earlier, during the public comments, Ames had said he supported the kiosks for many reasons, mostly the visual appeal for the area and for the additional walking space that would be available, while Paradise Beach Club owner Brett Loring had said he favored meters. City Manager Myers reviews the pluses and minuses of each, and concludes that the staff recommendation is to move forward with kiosks.
November, 2016 – The water main replacement is completed and temporary water lines are removed; 75% of the drainage work is finished, and the installation of duct work for the underground utilities begins. The old fire hydrants are removed; the new hydrants will be placed in the bumpouts.
December, 2016 – The drainage work is completed; the main utility conduits are run; retaining walls for transformer pads and sector cabinets are begun; light pole bases and utility hand-holes are set; and string or tape is blown through the main runs so utilities can start pulling cable.
December 12, 2016 – Although the City had authorized the Weirs TIF District Streetscape Enhancements project on October 11 with a $1.6 million bond, a public hearing and second reading was required as by City statute. A failure at this point could have stopped the project cold. A few members of the public got up and spoke, all in favor of the project. The Council then voted unanimously to approve the bond.
January, 2017 – The NH DOT Bureau of Rail & Transit requires a Temporary Use Agreement in order to build a retaining wall in the railroad right-of-way. The wall is needed in order to build a pad for a small sector cabinet required for the utility burial plan. Documentation is submitted to the DOT. In February, the DOT grants access.
Ultimately, besides the above cabinet, another five sector cabinets are placed along Lakeside Avenue. The largest cabinets are placed on New Hampshire Avenue adjacent to the NHVA headquarters, and on Tower Street behind the Tower Hill Tavern. Additional cabinets are placed next to the Boardwalk Bar and Grill; between Romeo’s Balcony and Cavalry Headquarters , and behind the Weathervane restaurant.
Also in January, Eversource requests a meeting to discuss a cost increase in their part of the project.
February, 2017 – Eversource completes 75% of its cable. Metrocast and Fairpoint start their cable work in late February. The goal is to start removing the old utility poles the middle of March. Eversource informs the DPW that they have greatly underestimated the cost of their portion of the project. Their initial estimate was $311,316, which they have revised to $786,000, a difference of $474,684.
March 13, 2017 – The City Council meets to discuss the Eversource cost overrun. The initial estimate of $311,000 had already been paid. The additional expense is identified as being from labor. Eversource went out to bid for a subcontractor, and two came back with similar bids of approximately $540,000, which was much higher than expected. The subcontractor is responsible for pick up and transportation of all the cable and supplies as well as the installation to the Eversource power supply as well as the transformers to the meters.
Councilor Hamel comments that the initial vote to approve the project was based on the $311,000 estimate, and at the higher price, it would not have been approved. Hamel states that Eversource has been performing this type of work for some time, and should have had a better estimate initially. The City approved Eversource’s estimate in good faith, so Eversource should absorb a portion of the additional cost. He warns that items may need to be cut from the project.
City Manager Myers will ask Eversource to attend a special Council meeting in two weeks to present more information and options.
March 23, 2017 – At a special meeting of the City Council, City Manager Myers comments that Eversource has been a positive partner for the City in various projects, including the current LED lighting project, and he hopes this will continue. Mayor Engler welcomes the representatives from Eversource and introduces Paul Ramsey, Vice President of Operations. Ramsey reviews the process of estimating work, and compares this to completed work at the conclusion of the project. He adds that underground construction is unpredictable, and more susceptible to problems arising. While there was a contingency already built into the estimate, it was an average contingency, and would not cover an overage of this size. He concludes by noting that the working relationship with the City has been very positive, in contrast to other communities that they have worked with, and he feels that the overage can be worked out. [Eversource’s deep roots in Laconia had begun in 1926, when the Laconia electric utility, and others in Manchester, Nashua, and Keene, had formed PSNH (Public Service Co of NH). PSNH was rebranded to Eversource in 2015.]
Mayor Engler suggests that the Council authorize the City Manager to enter into immediate conversations with Eversource to determine what the final financial obligation of the City will be. The Council so moves. The City Manager is to report back to the Council at the next regular meeting, as the Council needs to make an expedited decision on the project in order to meet the project schedule. Councilor Hamel notes that Council is in a difficult position because they have voted on a project with specific items which will need to be cut if a financial agreement is not reached.
March 27, 2017 – At the regular Council meeting, City Manager Myers makes his report. His meeting with Eversource has gone very well. Eversource values the relationship with the City and wants to encourage a continued positive relationship. Eversource will cap the City’s overage expense at $150,000. The overage is to be paid in three (3) equal payments, beginning with the first $50,00 on July 1, 2017, an additional $50,000 on July 1, 2018 and the final $50,000 on July 1, 2019. Council unanimously approves the deal.
Discussion ensues on how to pay for the overage. Councilor Lipman asks if there are items in the project that could be eliminated that could save funds but still maintain a quality project. Myers reviews some areas that have not been completed including concrete sidewalks, stamped concrete crosswalks, and brick accents. Councilor Doyle comments that she feels that doing anything other than the original scope would cheapen the project and would not save money in the long run. Councilor Bolduc agrees with this sentiment. Councilor Bownes comments that he feels it is necessary to complete the project as designed and encourages looking further into TIF funding.
Myers recommends using additional Weirs TIF funds; this would result in no additional borrowing by the City. A motion is made to use the Weirs TIF funds at 100% until the amount due to the General Fund is reimbursed. The motion passes unanimously. The Council will review the payback schedule in two years, and if the payback is occurring at a greater pace than expected, the Council could discuss modifying the funding percentage.
March, 2017 – Eversource, having completed all line pulling and power transfers, removes its lines from the utility poles. Metrocast also completes its work. Fairpoint runs into minor delays.
April 24, 2017 – At the City Council meeting, an ordinance is proposed that would allow for the transition of coin meters on Lakeside Avenue to parking meter kiosks. The parking fees would be doubled from 50¢ an hour to $1 an hour. The kiosks would operate continuously in the off-season, rather than just on weekends only. The hours of operation would be change to 9pm-8pm; previously the hours were 10am-10pm.
Captain Jim Morash of the Mt. Washington Cruises states that he and his partners have no issue with the ordinance as proposed, but did ask that it be adopted with the philosophy that the Weirs is going to be a tourist friendly area, because having a good experience is important for all of the visitors.
Robert Ames states that the Half Moon Enterprises has reviewed the ordinance and has no issues, with the exception of the change to the ending hour of enforcement. He feels the enforcement should be continued until 10:00 p.m., as in the current ordinance. The extra hours are at a peak business time, and he feels that having unlimited parking after 8:00 p.m. would have a negative impact on Weirs businesses. Ames further comments that the 8pm time was not being put forward by recommendation of the businesses in the Weirs, because they met through the Weirs Action Committee, at which time the only recommended change was to the fees being increased.
Council amends the ordinance to reflect enforcement from 9am to 10pm. The ordinance passes unanimously.
Council discusses the need to clarify the time limits at each parking space with proper signage and/or line markings. The issue of time limits and signage will be placed on the agenda for Council’s next meeting.
April, 2017 – Fairpoint completes its work. Granite curbing installation begins. In late April, the utility poles on Lakeside Avenue are all removed, except for the last two poles right before Foster Avenue. These two poles are replaced with larger, taller poles needed to connect the underground utilities with its overhead continuation. Besides the utility poles on Lakeside Avenue, two poles at the bottom of Tower Street are also removed.
May 3, 2017 – At a meeting on the Mount Washington cruise ship, four Weirs businesses meet with City Manager Myers and Public Works Director Wes Anderson to discuss the time limits for the public parking spaces. Meeting are Robert Ames of Half Moon Enterprises, Jim Morash of the Mount Washington Cruises, Ryan Cardella of the Winnipesaukee Pier, and Anthony Santagate of the Tower Hill Tavern.
After discussion, agreement is reached. On both sides of Lakeside Avenue, parking from New Hampshire Avenue to Route 3 will continue to be at five hour limits. On the Westerly side of Lakeside Avenue, parking from New Hampshire Avenue to Foster Avenue will continue to be at two hour limits. The only change is to the Easterly side of Lakeside Avenue. Between the Mount and the Pier, the parking limit will be raised from two hours to three hours.
May 8, 2017 – The City Council accepts the parking agreement reached by the four businesses. The agreement will be handled administratively.
May, 2017 – The City Manager’s Project Updates report indicates the project is nearly completed. The base course of pavement has been laid. Parking spaces have been striped and numbered. The double yellow centerline has been painted as has the green line marking the outside edge of Motorcycle Week travel lanes. Railings for the sector cabinet retaining walls and for the back edge of the Easterly sidewalk between Route 3 and the first bumpout have been set.
By Memorial Day weekend, concrete sidewalks and bumpouts are completed on the East side of Lakeside Avenue, and on the West side from New Hampshire Avenue to Foster Avenue. This takes care of most all of the Weirs businesses, but the sidewalk is still under construction on the West side, from New Hampshire Avenue to Route 3. The uncompleted portion is in front of the NH Veterans Association, a few private homes, and the Boardwalk Bar and Grill.
Besides the uncompleted portion of sidewalk, the remaining items are the lamp posts, parking kiosks, brick accents, irrigation, and stamped concrete crosswalks.
Memorial Day weekend 2017 is a dark one, as there is no lighting at night with the old utility poles removed and the new LED light posts still not set. Everyone parks for free that weekend, as the parking kiosks, delivered to the City just before the weekend, have not yet been installed. The brick accent work is proceeding very slowly, and there remain big piles of bricks along the uncompleted sections of sidewalk. The stamped concrete crosswalks will not be installed until after the final paving course is laid down in the fall. During the summer of 2017 the crosswalks are simply painted onto the road.
May 25, 2017 – A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for 2:00 pm on Thursday, May 25th. The ribbon cutting takes place on the boardwalk at the New Hampshire Avenue intersection. Joe Driscoll III speaks at length on the specific contributions that many individuals made to bring the project to fruition, and presents an award to City Manager Myers. Mayor Engler comments that the Weirs is a tourist mecca that badly needed a facelift. Referring to Laconia Motorcycle Week, Engler states, “It has exasperated me that we have the largest single tourism event in the state of New Hampshire happening right behind us here on this street every year in early June, and yet the street looked like ‘you know what’ for a long time’…Lakeside Avenue is the very heart of the tourism industry in the state of New Hampshire. There’s no better place for us to invest our dollars here locally in trying to put our best face forward”. City Manager Myers says placing utility lines underground adds visual appeal. “Putting the utility wires underground – what an undertaking, but what a perfect time to do it, because if it didn’t happen now, it wasn’t going to happen, in my lifetime anyway.” Assistant Public Works Director Luke Powell says that, in order to meet the tight schedule of completion by Memorial Day weekend, much of the work was done under tough winter conditions. “…those guys really endured some brutal weather in persevering with work out here. Very challenging with sleet, rain, very blustery winds, blizzards…Just a big effort.” The article in the May 26 Laconia Daily Sun newspaper about the ribbon cutting has a headline “City puts best face forward at Weirs” and a sub-headline “$4.3M project finished in time for Bike Week”. The $4.3 million figure is not broken out.
June 9, 2017 – The work on the remaining sidewalks and brick accents is completed at the very last minute – the day before Laconia Motorcycle Week, with its hundreds of thousands of visitors, begins. The lamp posts had been turned on just a few days before. The parking kiosks, installed after Memorial Day weekend, will remain covered and not begin operation until after Motorcycle Week.
The brick accents start at the bumpout on the West side of Lakeside Avenue at Tower Street, and continue along the West side nearly to Route 3. There are no brick accents in the Tower Street to Foster Avenue sidewalk, or anywhere on the East side of Lakeside Avenue. The brick accents that were planned for the Easterly bumpouts are missing.
Late June, 2017 – The parking kiosks become operational. The grass embankment along the West sidewalk from New Hampshire Avenue to Route 3, seeded just a few weeks before, is severely impacted by vending during Motorcycle Week, and needs to be reseeded in the fall. The embankment had been dug up in several locations for underground utility connections to the houses lining Lakeside Avenue.
October 27, 2017 – After sewer manhole frames and covers are raised, the final top coat of paving is applied to Lakeside Avenue. Painting of the parking spaces will be done in the spring. Earlier in October, a water line is brought to the Weirs Beach sign to provide water service for future installation of an irrigation system.
Late November, 2017 – The stamped concrete crosswalks are installed.
January 25, 2018 – At a Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony at Church Landing in Meredith, the City of Laconia receives the “Environmental Award” for the Lakeside Avenue project.
Late April, 2018 – The markings for the parking spaces are repainted.
May, 2018 – The irrigation system for the two-island Weirs Beach sign is installed. Studley’s Landscaping is able to bore under the crosswalk area to access the northerly island so the system does not need to spray across the crosswalk.
During the Lakeside Avenue project, water service connections for possible future irrigation water faucets were placed in service boxes in the bumpouts in front of the NHVA and in front of the Half Moon Family Fun Center. Cost was about $3000. The original, $20,000 plan to run irrigation all the way from Route 3 to Tower Street proved infeasible, as the irrigation line would have interfered with the utility conduit.
The Lakeside Avenue project was finally complete.
Spring, 2020 – Over the following two seasons, issues arose with regards to the banner arms extending from the new light poles. The arms held colorful banners promoting Weirs Beach. The arms extended into the street, and were frequently broken off by larger vehicles, especially during Laconia Motorcycle Week, when vendors were setting up their booths. The solution was to rotate every banner light pole 180°, so the banners arms extended over the sidewalks, instead of onto the street. This was accomplished in the spring of 2020.
Robert Ames’s email archives
Weirs TIF Advisory Board minutes
Weirs Action Committee minutes
Laconia City Council minutes
Laconia Water Commission minutes
Laconia City Manager Project Updates monthly reports
Laconia Daily Sun newspaper archive