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Improvement work continues in Weirs Beach. (DAN SEUFERT/Union Leader Correspondent)

Eversource hikes cost of Laconia project after alleged deadline change


LACONIA — The state’s largest utility has raised the price of burying power lines in the Lakeside Avenue project because the city said it needed the work finished by this month, not by May as was originally planned.

“On January 23 we were told that the city wanted to expedite the project and complete our work by March 15,” said Eversource spokesman Kaitlyn Woods. “We had to get additional estimates from outside sources in order to meet the expedited timeline.”

That was news to Mayor Ed Engler.

“That’s the first I’ve heard that,” said Engler when reached in his office at the Laconia Daily Sun.

The City Council will hear the explanation for the cost overrun directly from Eversource officials at a special meeting on Thursday night.

The $2.6 million Lakeside Avenue project, which is aimed at enhancing the Weirs Beach roads and sidewalks, includes an “aesthetics” program of enhancements aimed at improving the views for visitors. Part of that program buries power lines through the area, which would eliminate unsightly utility poles.

The project began last year and is nearing completion. The city plans to have it completed by May or early June, city officials said, in time for summer visitors and Motorcycle Week.

Engler said Eversource initially estimated the cost of designing and constructing its part of the project at $311,316. The new underground sections have been built and about three-quarters of the work of pulling the cables by Eversource and two other utilities has been done, he said.

But Woods said Eversource was told the city wanted the burying of lines to be done sooner. The company had planned to do the work with its own workers, but after getting “the expedited timeline” from Laconia it put the work out to bid to subcontractors.

The new timeline would mean the work was more expensive, she said. The utility informed the city that the cost would not exceed $786,000.

“That’s more than double the cost of their (original) estimate,” Engler said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Asked a second time if the city had told its partners in the project that the timeline had been expedited, Engler said it had not.

“That’s the first we’ve heard of this,” he said.

Engler was also asked what the city would do if the utility stands by its cost increase.

“All we were told (by Eversource) was that they had badly underestimated in the original estimate,” he said. “What we’ll do going forward will depend on what happens next. It just doesn’t make sense that the council would be told about this when the project is about 70 percent complete.”