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Former sheriff endorses Hurt for N.H. House

GILFORD —George Hurt's candidacy for state representative in the N.H. House District (Belknap 2) that includes Gilford and Meredith has received an endorsement from former Belknap County Sheriff Steve Hodges.

Five Republicans are running for the party's four spots on District 2 general election ballots and primary election day is Tuesday, Sept. 9.

"I have known George for 16 years and I am enthused that George is stepping forward and choosing to run," said Hodges. "George is known as a well-respected businessman and that respect has earned him a reputation as a hardworking and trusted individual. His prior legislative experience representing Gilford will mean he will be able to hit the ground running.

"I am endorsing George because of his sincere commitment in finding a workable solution to the Belknap County Correction complex that all taxpayers of the county can support," added Hurt. "I urge voters in Gilford and Merediht to vote on September 9 for George."

Hurt, a Gilford resident, said he was honored to have received a public endorsement from "one of the Lakes Region's well recognized and respected former law enforcement officials".






Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 01:19

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Shari Lebreche trying to secure a GOP spot on November ballot via write-in campaign for Belmont House seat

BELMONT — Although only one Republican filed as a candidate for this town's two seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Shari Lebreche, who owns and operates Tilton's Haircuts for Men has mounted a write-in campaign to ensure the GOP fields a full slate in the general election.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Charles Fink chose not to seek re-election to a second term, leaving Rep. Michael Sylvia, who is running for a second term, the lone declared GOP candidate. Two Democrats, Ron Cormier and George Condodemetraky, have filed their candidacy.

Lebreche said that when Sylvia found that a Democrat would capture one of the two seats by default he approached her about filling the ticket. "I thought it over and decided I'm going to try to do it," she said yesterday.

Raised in Northfield, Lebreche, has lived in the region all her life and operated her business in Tilton for the last nine years. She described herself as "conservative" and said that although she has been an active advocate for the rights of gun owners, she has no direct political experience.

Lebreche is opposed to a personal income or general sales tax and believes that balanced budgets and reduced spending would encourage the growth of small business. Right-to-work legislation, she said, would also improve the business climate. Strongly committed to parental and local control of the public schools, she opposes the introduction of Common Core. Lebreche expressed concern about illegal immigration, fearing that the dispersal of aliens throughout the state adversely affect the markets for jobs and housing as well as public safety and national security. Finally, she said that she wants to ensure that the needs of veterans in New Hampshire, particularly their healthcare, are met.

"In my job I talk to a lot of people from all over the Lakes Region and the state and from all walks of life," Lebreche said, discounting her lack of experience. "I have a good idea of what people are thinking and believe I can represent them."

State law provides that a person must receive at least 35 write-in votes in the primary election to qualify for place on the ballot for the general election. A person receiving the required number of write-in votes in the primary election who chooses to accept the nomination must file a declaration of candidacy with the New Hampshire Secretary of State no later than the first Monday after the primary.

The primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 9.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 01:17

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Pollak tells Rotarians 'model' jail building process needs to run its course

LACONIA — Describing meetings of the Belknap County Convention as "ugly events where nothing's getting done," David Pollak, the Democrat seeking to represent Laconia, New Hampton and Sanbornton on the Belknap County Commission, told the Laconia Rotary Club yesterday, "I want to bring civility, common sense and a sharp pencil to what appears to be a broken partisan process."

Pollak, who has lived in Laconia with his wife and four children for 10 years, is professor of psychology at Lakes Region Community College and a member of the adjunct faculty at Plymouth State University where he teaches constitutional law. He graduated from George Washington University, earned a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters degree at Antioch University of New England. Before turning to teaching he practiced law in Pennsylvania and managed construction projects in New York.

Speaking to the Rotarians, Pollak confined his remarks to the future of the county jail, beginning by noting that although he has represented and taught inmates "I didn't understand corrections systems." But, he said he did understand that the city is beset by heroin epidemic, which contributes to much of its crime, and as a father "I want to do something about that."

"When you lock them up and throw away the key," Pollak remarked, "you get better criminals." On the other hand, he continued evidence demonstrates that inmates enrolled in rehabilitative and educational programming are less likely to run afoul of the law down the road. Noting that he has visited jails in Sullivan and Grafton counties, he said that in Sullivan County programming has had a "significant impact on the rate of recidivism. If we intervene constructively, we can break the cycle for some of these people."

Likewise, Pollak suggested steps can be taken to manage the growth in the number of inmates. In particular, he suggested exploring ways to reduce the time inmates are held before their cases go to trial — in partnership with attorneys and judges. However, he cautioned against simply increasing the number of inmates monitored by electronic bracelets as David DeVoy, his Republican opponent, proposes. Additional personnel would be required to expand the program, he said. Not all inmates qualify and those that do must be employed, he added, rejecting the notion that a certain number of inmates could be expected to on bracelets at any one time. Furthermore, he noted that the population of the jail is not reduced by the number inmates on bracelets, who still require a bed.

In defense of the current Belknap County Commissioners, Pollak described the process they have followed in planning for the jail "a model of democratic process."
He said that the commission consulted with experts in correctional policy and educated themselves at a workshop then convened a committee, inviting public officials and local residents to participate. "You can sit on the sidelines and lob grenades," he said, "or you can roll up your sleeves and get involved."

Pollak stressed that the report of Ricci Greene Associates, with its conceptual plan for a new facility with a $42-million price tag, is "only the first step in a process. The same firm, he explained, prepared a conceptual plan for a new jail in Grafton County with a cost of $60million, but the facility was ultimately built at a cost of $30 million. He said that the Jail Planning Committee has shrunk the dimensions of the plan presented by Ricci Greene Associates by 20 percent and when schematic drawings are complete the cost can be reduced further.

Asked if he had a specific jail budget number in mind, Pollak flatly answered "no" after earlier conceding, "I don't know if $30 million is a reasonable number." He said that "we have to have conversations with stakeholders and it has to be something we can all afford." Like the current commissioners, he intends to sound officials across the county, particularly in Laconia where the budget is bound by a property tax cap.

"I'm out there talking to anybody I can shake out from under a rock," Pollak said when he was asked if he had spoken to Richard Grenier, a former Superintendent of the Department of Corrections who is now a selectman in Gilford.

Pollak and Devoy will square off in the general election on November 4.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 01:13

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State insisted Laconia accept early education grant

LACONIA — The School District has tapped veteran early-childhood education administrator Julie Sackett to coordinate the 4-year SAMHSA grant recently conferred on the district by the N.H. Department of Education.

Sackett's first day with the district was Tuesday.

The N.H. Department of Education was awarded an $8.6-million grant from the federally administered Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) program and three schools in New Hampshire, including Laconia, were specifically chosen.

About $550,000 annually over the next four years will come into the Laconia School District. Some of the money will be spent for contracted services with local social service agencies.

SAMHSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"They came to us several times," said Superintendent Terri Forsten last week, saying the DOE looked at a number of school districts and decided Laconia, Concord and Rochester could best benefit from the grant.

"They were insistent we get this," Forsten said.

A N.H. DOE PowerPoint presentation about the program that's posted online says the grant would go to states that had three school districts that qualified.

Those qualifications are based on demographics — Concord and Laconia have the 2nd and 3rd largest political refugee populations in the state according to DOE SAMHSA Administrator Mary Steady. Manchester, she said, has the largest refuge population.

Refugees were not the only criteria that the DOE used to decide which communities received the grant, said Forsten.

In addition, Laconia has a relatively high portion of its students who qualify for the federal "free and reduced-price" lunch program — a standard by which the federal government measures the relative wealth of a community.

According to statistics from the DOE, 57.21-percent of Laconia's students qualify for the lunch program, which is the highest among New Hampshire's cities with the exception of Franklin, that is 60.84-percent.

Other contributing factors to Laconia being solicited for grant participation by the state were its relatively low median household income, the number of people below the federal poverty line, gaps in early childhood education; gaps in promoting mental, emotional and behavioral health, gaps in connecting family, schools and communities, youth risk assessments; school suspension date and bullying and harassment data.

As for hiring an early childhood education coordinator, Forsten said that was not a specific condition of being award the grant, however she said she included it in her proposal because she wanted someone on staff who was already familiar with area social service and mental health agencies and how they interact with the School District.

She also said that the School District's ongoing relationship and access to social services and mental health services was one of the reasons the state felt Laconia was going to use the grant to achieve the stated goals of improving the emotional and social skills for students ages infant to 5 to prepare them for kindergarten.

Another goal of the SAMHSA grant is to substantially improve the mental, emotional, and behavioral health of young children and reduce the amount of violence and bullying within the School District.

According to its own documentation, SAMHSA's goal is to build a safe and supportive school and community by building partnerships among educational, behavioral health, and criminal justice systems.

The program aims to accomplish this by involving parents of children who are pre-school aged and who may be exposed at an early age to violence and or drug and alcohol abuse.

Areas of Sackett's focus will be promoting early social and emotional learning and development, promoting early social and emotional learning, connecting families with schools and curriculum, preventing behavioral health issues including drug and alcohol abuse, and creating safe and violence-free schools.

Sackett's specific goals are to ensure cross-agency and cross disciplines partnerships with local agencies like Genesis, the N.H. partnership for Public Health, the Boys and Girls Club, New Beginnings, and Horizons Behavioral Health.

In addition, Forsten said Sackett would be coordinating her efforts with the state Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), Juvenile Justice Systems, the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, the Office of Minority and Refugee Affairs, N.H. Parent and Family Organizations.

Forsten said the School District hasn't done a student Risk Behavioral Analysis in a few years and one of the goals for this four-year grant is for all students to take the test.

About 40 percent of the $550,000 available to Laconia each year will be spent on the grant administrator and the early childhood education position.

The balance, said Forsten will include subcontracting with Genesis Behavior Health for mental health services for some students, some parent training subcontract services with Lakes Region Community Services,  and some training classes for PBIS or a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program that teachers will take to help students behave in school.

Forsten said the school will hire a student assistant coordinator who will work with students primarily at the high school level with students with substance issues. She said the School District used to have this position but at some point they lost it.

She said this person works to connect individual students with support and substance abuse counseling.

There is also be a bullying component. Forsten said the federal government gives the district a "menu" of choices of programs and with Sackett's being on board now, she will evaluate which programs will do the most good for Laconia's students.





Last Updated on Thursday, 04 September 2014 12:36

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