No money, no child care - Huot Technical Center Child Development Center loses grant money, may have to close at end of year

03-10 Huot day care

Following their story time, Keegan Connelly leads the charge for some outdoor actiivty in the playground at the Huot Technical Center day care on Wednesday afternoon.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)



LACONIA — There is a strong possibility that the 30-year-old Huot Technical Center Child Development Program will be shuttering its doors at the end of this school year.
According to Program Director Colleen Bownes, she said she was told by administrators last Friday that the program would likely be eliminated at the end of the school year.
"We are on the chopping block," she said, adding "Ten years of that tax cap has influenced the education in Laconia."
It is unsure at this point in time that the tax cap is directly responsible for the development center's possible closure. In a number of school district Budget and Personnel Committee meetings, members have had a discussions about the limited amount of new money available to the district for next year under the restraints of the tax cap. The committee has targeted 12 jobs for elimination but, because of personnel reasons, it is not known if the two-full time and one part-time positions in the CDC program are included in them.
School Board member Michael Persson, who sits on the Budget and Finance Committee, said yesterday there was some discussion at a full district budget meeting on Saturday that the Perkins Grant that subsidizes the program will be unavailable for the next school year.
"This leaves an $82,000 deficit in the program," he said.
Bownes said the program serves 16 children between the ages of 3 and 5. She said many of them are the children of teachers and the teachers benefit because they are able to buy a "school year" slot instead of paying for a 12-month slot in a different day care.
She also said the Child Development Center Program is a class where students in the early childhood education program get their experience to go on to become teachers.
Built new three years ago during the Huot Technical Center renovation project, the Child Development Center has its own entrance and place for dropping off and picking up children. Bownes said the center is newly outfitted with child-sized desks and furniture, toilets, sinks and other things.
"I'm just heartbroken," she said.
Bownes said for the students it is a year-long program that can be taken in their junior and senior years. About half of the students who attend come from Laconia and about half come from the surrounding school district.
Kathleen Butler is a teacher at the Gilford School District who has had her two children attend the Child Development Center over the past four years. She also has some of her own students who have gone through the educational program offered by Bownes and the other teachers.
Both said they would be willing to look at ways the program could generate more money by raising the fees for attendance and/or raising the number of children admitted to it. Bownes said there is a three-year waiting list.
Both also said they will attend the March 15 School Board meeting where the final decision will be made. The School Board meets at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Street School.

For further information, see

Biosolids ban fails, SB2 stays, GYRL public funding shot down in Gilmanton


GILMANTON — An effort to ban the use of biosolids or sludge as a replacement or to augment fertilizer has failed by a margin of 531 voting to continue to all the application to 501 who wanted it to be banned.

Biosolids have recently become controversial in town because a farmer on Meeting House Road began using them this fall on a field that was closer to his neighbors than were his other ones.

Many complained that the biosolids smelled horrible and a few said they were sickened by the smell and the dust. One of them, Selectman Don Guarino, began a petition that would ban their use in Gilmanton.

Their contention is that biosolids are not safe, contain many contaminants including pathogens and heavy metals that can leach into soil and water tables.

A number of townspeople, including many farmers, did not support the ban, saying that there is legitimate and cost-savings use for them, especially when it comes to Class A biosolids, which do not require a state permit to spread.

Many said they trust the processing and treatments done on biosolids by local wastewater treatment plants and trust what they say is proven science that says the pathogens are killed during the treatment and that the metals will not damage their soil.

The issue became a sore point between Guarino, out-going Selectman Rachel Hatch and Selectman Michael Jean who accused Guarino of exceed his authority and reaching out to town counsel to question the propriety of the wording in the voters guide. Guarino said he challenged it because Hatch and Jean refused to. As it turned out, Guarino was correct and the Planning Board changed the wording in the online version of the voters guide at the recommendation of the town attorney.

The electorate voted against providing $47,000 per year for two years for the operation of the Gilmanton Year-Round Library, which was a petitioned warrant article. Needing a three-fifths approval, the petition didn't garner a majority.

In addition, voters narrowly rejected a second petitioned request for $50,000 for this year that was put in place in the event the two-year funding plan failed.

While most people support having the GYRL in Gilmanton, some resent having to pay the operations cost when library proponents assured them it would be self-sustaining. Those supporting the warrant say that the library is part of the town and provides much needed access to all community members for books and especially computers. They say this year's warrant article will give them some certainty for funding in the future so they can make long-range plans and apply for some grant funding.

Voters also overwhelmingly supported keeping ballot voting, often referred to as SB-2, as their form of Town Meeting and School District Meeting. School district voters shot down the change 606-383. The town vote was similar, with a vote of 622-505 against repealing SB-2.

The town operating budget, set at $3,576,702, was passed 658-366. The school district operating budget, set at $10,507,458, also passed by a vote of 583-417.


Majority of county delegation opposes Medicaid expansion


CONCORD — When the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program yesterday, most representatives from Belknap County, all of whom are Republicans, voted against the legislation.

Introduced in August 2014, the program provides health insurance, including a substance abuse benefit, to nearly 50,000 adults with incomes below 138 percent of poverty. House Bill 1696, which reauthorizes the program until Dec. 31, 2018, carried the House by a vote of 216 to 145.

The legislation (House Bill 1696) includes requirements that those enrolled who are without children and able bodied to work at least 30 hours per week, participate in a job training program or perform community service. Debate turned on whether to add a provision that would ensure the program continued even if the federal government should reject the work requirements. When an amendment was offered to include such a provision in the bill the House deadlocked 181 to 181 and the Speaker of the House, Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) cast the deciding vote to adopt the amendment.

Of the 16 members of the Belknap County delegation who voted on the amendment, only Rep. Don Flanders of Laconia, a trustee of LRGHealthcare, which strongly supports reauthorizing the program, voted in favor while the remaining 15 voted against.

Eleven of the 15 representatives from Belknap County present and voting opposed the bill. They were: representatives Glen Aldrich, Russell Dumais and George Hurt of Gilford; Robert Fisher and Peter Spanos of Laconia; Valerie Fraser of New Hampton; Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton; Ray Howard and Peter Varney of Alton; Michael Sylvia of Belmont; and Herb Vadney of Meredith.

Those voting to reauthorize the program were: representatives Dennis Fields of Sanbornton; Don Flanders and Frank Tilton of Laconia; and Shari LeBreche of Belmont.

Representatives Guy Comtois of Barnstead and Dave Russell of Gilmanton, who did vote on the amendment, did not vote on the bill. One of the 18 seats on the delegation fell vacant with the passing of Rep. Bob Luther of Laconia last month.

The bill will now pass to the Senate.