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Downtown: Exit 16 rotary completion can’t come soon enough for nearby businesses

  • A map of all the places in Concord classified as “pouring establishments,” according to the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. A public hearing on whether keno should be allowed in Concord will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Construction at the Exit 16 roundabout continues outside Concord Mobil gas station in Concord on Oct. 13, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Monday, October 16, 2017

After six months of backed-up traffic, detours and Interstate 93 Exit 16 aversion, the roundabout project is pulling into the station.

City Engineer Ed Roberge said the project is just a few weeks off its projected completion date. Over the next few weeks, the last coats of asphalt will be applied, the sidewalks shored up and the landscaping put in place. The week of Oct. 23, Exit 16’s eastbound off-ramp will be temporarily closed while final paving occurs. Weather permitting, Roberge said, the construction equipment should be gone by the end of October.

For local businesses surrounding the roundabout, the end can’t come soon enough.

“The beginning was bad,” said Fadr Sarkis, owner of Concord Mobil near the rotary. “Any construction in front of a small business is going to cripple business.”

Liz Duncan, manager of Quality Cash Market, echoes Sarkis’s sentiment. She said the traffic backups caused by the construction – she heard, at times, from customers that they would have to wait up to 20 minutes to get through the construction site – were causing her to lose so much business, it was cheaper for the store to close from Aug. 11 to mid-October than to stay open.

That time frame sounded familiar to Sarkis.

“I have very loyal customers, but I don’t care how loyal they are, if they have to wait 15-20 minutes to get through, only to have to wait another 15-20 minutes, they’re going to go somewhere else.”

Duncan said the decision to temporarily close Quality Cash was tough.

“If we keep the lights on, the lights stay on; the electricity doesn’t change even if we get 200 or 500 customers,” Duncan said. “I’ve heard from a lot of customers who understand what we’re doing, and some that don’t, and that’s fine.”

Those who don’t understand, however, haven’t been shy in letting Duncan know.

“There’s been a lot of rude little notes; that really saddened me,” she said. “They’ve been taped to the door, or I’ve heard about (how people are feeling) through the grapevine.”

Quality Cash was nearly foreclosed on earlier this year in the face of steep overdue taxes. However, Duncan said in May that some “really awesome family members” banded together to keep the business afloat.

Duncan declined to elaborate on the nature of those notes, saying: “I don’t want to dwell on it any further. Some of them really hit home.”

But Duncan was quick to thank her customers who did understand why she had to shut down temporarily. She said customers could look for a reopening date on Facebook.

Roberge said he understands the frustration of those who live around Exit 16 or use it to get to work, especially as the project nears completion.

“The nature of the work is tight and compact,” he said. “And when you’re doing legs of one-way travel, when people can only go through the roundabout one direction at a time, that drives delay times.”

The project has hit a few snags along the way: Some weather delays caused construction delays, and other unforeseen issues, like utility conflicts, have had to be dealt with.

That’s pushed the project’s budget a bit as well: Originally slated to cost about $1.25 million, the total amount appropriated for the roundabout is now $1.4 million, including an additional $50,000 previously appropriated for the Route 3 corridor project, the Concord city council decided last Tuesday.

The additional money was needed, Roberge said, because the project had an unusually small contingency fund of about 2.5 percent of total cost. Usually, projects the size of the roundabout have a contingency fund of 7 percent to 10 percent.

But even with the expanded budget and timeline, Mobil station owner Sarkis was quick to say he doesn’t blame the city for the delays.

“They’ve done a really good job,” he said, looking out the window at an excavator digging right next to his gas pumps.

But still, he said: “I can’t wait until its over.”

Keno in the capital

Monday night, Concord residents will get the chance to sound off on the possibility of keno coming to the capital city.

A public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. will address allowing the gambling game in the city’s “pouring establishments,” an issue set to appear on ballots in November.

State House lawmakers legalized keno earlier this year, when it was pitched as a way to fund statewide full-day kindergarten; officials project that keno could bring in $9 million in revenue.

The law, however, leaves it up to each municipality’s residents or elected officials to decide whether to allow the game. Cities and towns must actively approve keno in order for the game to be played at pouring establishments within their borders, but no school’s kindergarten funding is contingent on the municipality’s participation.

Other Granite State cities like Manchester and Claremont will also put the issue before voters in November; Franklin voted to approve it earlier this month for the eight establishments that would be eligible to apply to add the game.

In Concord, the number of locations eligible for keno is much higher: 67 places are defined as “pouring establishments” under state law, according to the state’s Liquor Commission licensing department. A full list of those pouring establishments, as well as a map of their locations, can be found online.

The owners of establishments applying for keno will be subject to a background check and will have to pay an annual $500 licensing fee, according to the state lottery commission.

These locations will keep 8 percent of every dollar spent on the KENO 603 game, according to the lottery commission. They can also earn bonuses – capped at $75,000 – for selling a KENO 603 prize of $10,000 or more.

The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers.

Future monkey business

Care about the future of White Park’s Monkey Around Playground? The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will hold a meeting Monday night to discuss the playground’s future.

The wooden structures were first built in 1994, but “After 23 years of heavy use, the time has come to replace, remove or retrofit the playground equipment,” the city manager’s newsletter said.

Member of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee and Friends of White Park will be in attendance and will present some options for new structures.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the University of New Hampshire’s School of Law, Room 205.

‘Pouring establishments’ in Concord

As listed by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission:

FRATERNAL ORDER OF EAGLES

LOYAL ORDER OF MOOSE

COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT OF CONCORD

CENTENNIAL INN

HOLIDAY INN-CONCORD

TEA GARDEN RESTAURANT

CHEERS INC

BEEFSIDE RESTAURANT

SZECHUAN GARDENS

TIO JUAN’S

ANGELINA’S DOWNHOME ITALIAN

WINDMILL RESTAURANT INC.

GASLIGHTER

COMMON MAN, CONCORD INC.

HERMANOS

DALLAS PIZZA

MAKRIS LOBSTER & STEAK HOUSE

MILANO’S

OLIVE GARDEN ITALIAN REST 1

UNO PIZZERIA & GRILL-CONCORD

SIAM ORCHID

LOUDON ROAD REST & PIT ROAD

CONSTANTLY PIZZA INC

PENUCHE’S ALE HOUSE

THE BARLEY HOUSE

LONGHORN STEAKHOUSE 5131

RED BLAZER RESTAURANT & PUB

MORITOMO

HOUSE OF INDIA

RUBY TUESDAY

99 RESTAURANT

C.C. TOMATOES

DRAFT (THE)

BEIJING & TOKYO CHINESE & J

RED RIVER THEATRES

NEWICK’S LOBSTER HOUSE

DOS AMIGOS BURRITOS

RED APPLE BUFFET

CRAZY GOAT TAVERN-BAR-GRILL

TANDY’S TOP SHELF

O STEAKS & SEAFOOD-SOUTH

APPLEBEE’S NEIGHBORHOOD GRILL

TRUE BREW BARISTA LLC

BUFFALO WILD WINGS GRILL AN

VEANO’S ITALIAN KITCHEN II

EL RODEO MEXICAN RESTAURAN

ICHIBAN JAPANESE STEAK HOUS

GYROS HOUSE

MAN YEE RESTAURANT

BAROUS FAMILY RESTAURANT

CORK AND CANVAS CONCORD

AREA 23

VIBES GOURMET BURGERS

TGI FRIDAYS #2745

LITTLE CREPERIE (THE)

CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL I

REVIVAL KITCHEN & BAR (THE)

SMOKESHOW BARBEQUE

VINNIE’S PIZZARIA

WELLINGTON’S MARKEPLACE

CONCORD COUNTRY CLUB INC

19TH HOLE AT BEAVER MEADOW

LAMBROU ENTERTAINMENT INC

CHI CHA

CAPITOL CENTER FOR THE ARTS

CONCORD CRAFT BREWING COMPA

AMERICAN LEGION POST 21

VFW POST 1631

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)