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Laconia beaches and City Hall to reopen, but many restrictions remain

  • Weirs Beach gets ready for Bike Week in 2013. AP file

  • Sebastian Johnston, 2, plays near the water at Weirs Beach as his father watches his other son last summer. Monitor file

Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 5/21/2020 5:36:56 PM
Modified: 5/21/2020 5:36:45 PM

City officials on Wednesday said they would be reopening beaches and easing COVID-19 restrictions on some city buildings and facilities, but anyone expecting to gather for traditional July 4 festivities or shoot hoops at their local playground will likely be disappointed.

City Manager Scott Myers announced Wednesday at a live-streamed news conference that Laconia City Hall will reopen to the public starting next Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. He and other local officials emphasized the need for residents to continue to observe federal and state guidelines meant to lessen the spread of the coronavirus.

The moves follow the gradual reopening of retail stores and restaurants along with some health-care services.

Myers was joined by Fire Chief Kirk Beattie, Police Chief Matt Canfield and School Superintendent Steve Tucker.

The city manager said when City Hall reopens, there will be one door to enter the building and a separate door for exiting in order to maintain social distancing. In addition, an employee will be stationed in the lobby area to direct people to the proper offices and to monitor traffic flow to prevent crowding.

Myers encouraged people to continue using online services wherever possible to conduct business, such as renewing motor vehicle and boat registrations, and the payment of sewer or water bills. In addition, he said those who need to conduct business with the assessing, planning, or welfare offices should call ahead and set up an appointment to minimize waiting.

The Public Works Building on Bisson Avenue is now open to the public, he said, but the Water Department remains closed.

Continued restrictions will mean disappointment for many children and those who look forward to large summertime celebrations.

The city’s parks and beaches are open, Myers said, but he emphasized that city personnel will be monitoring the venues to make sure social distancing and the limitation of gatherings to 10 people or fewer are being observed. If there are problems, steps will be taken to enforce compliance, he said.

The Parks and Recreation Department has canceled the Opechee Day Camp summer program, he said. Officials had concluded that it was not feasible to run the program given the current restrictions. He said if the federal or state guidelines change in the coming weeks, officials would re-evaluate whether the program could be held.

He said the department staff and the Parks and Recreation Commission made the decision now so families that might have been considering enrolling their children in the program would have time to explore other options.

He said the tennis courts at Memorial Park in the South End will be reopening soon, but that basketball courts and playground equipment would continue to be off limits.

Although the beaches will be open, there will be no lifeguards this summer. Myers explained that, of those the Parks and Rec Department was prepared to hire for lifeguard duty, only one was already certified. The others still needed to be certified, and all certification training had been halted because of the pandemic, and so it would be impossible to get them certified before the beaches got busy.

The Community Center remains closed, Myers said.

Fourth of July events which typically draw large crowds –  such as the traditional parade and entertainment and vendor booths in Opechee Park – have also been canceled. He said the city is trying to find a way to put on an aerial fireworks display that people could watch from multiple locations around the city.

The library is continuing to loan out books and other material through curb-side pickup, but Myers noted that the Library Board of Trustees, which controls library operations, is scheduled to meet next week.

Tucker said summer education programs would be offered remotely, rather than at school buildings.

He said drive-by celebrations are being planned for fifth graders who will be moving onto the middle school, and eighth graders moving to the high school. Plans for the Laconia High School graduations, tentatively scheduled for June 12, are still being worked out. High school awards ceremonies will take place online.

Beattie said Fire Department personnel are continuing to follow all the special COVID precautions. He said the department expects to resume building inspections in the coming weeks.

The chief also asked that customers at retail and dining establishments adhere to the restrictions, such as social distancing and the wearing of face masks.

“The social guidelines are strict,” Beattie said, “and they are enforcing them.”

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