Reporting of heroin overdoses in Laconia takes dive in last 30 days

LACONIA — Police Chief Chris Adams told the Police Commission yesterday that the number of overdoses from heroin has declined from a record of high of 35 in the two- and one-half months preceding March 20 to two in the months following it.

The 35 includes fatal and non-fatal deaths and the two since March 20 have both been non-fatal incidents.

"I hate to say this but this is a positive for us," said Adams.

He credits the decline to a number of things including the work of Prevention-Education-Treatment Officer Eric Adams, some recent arrests made by police and some recent heroin deaths in the city, saying that the deaths may have caused some people to rethink their heroin use.

"We got a little bit from all angles," he said.

Adams said that while the recent drop in overdoses is welcome news, he told commissioners there is still a heroin problem in the city and police are others are still working hard to address it.

He also said that with the snow nearly gone, discarded needles are showing up all over the place. Adams said if someone sees a needle they should not touch it and they should call the police or fire departments and it will be disposed of it properly.

Commissioner Armand Mahew asked Adams if he thought the City Council would continue to support the position of a PET Officer and Adams replied that he thought it would.

"Law enforcement isn't usually involved in the treatment portion (of heroin addiction) but now we're learning that it can be a good thing," he said.

In other police news, Adams said there are the usual summer grants coming to the department for traffic patrols, DWI patrols, and early morning patrols.

City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer told the commission that he was training firefighters for testifying in court and occasionally assisting the Planning Department with some of their land and property cases.

Laconia Heritage Commission looks to lengthen time city gets to react to proposed demolition of buildings

LACONIA — Troubled by the recent loss of several historic buildings in the city, the Heritage Commission will ask the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to amend the demolition ordinance to apply to a greater number of properties and allow more time to explore alternatives to demolition. The commission will present its proposal when the ZBA meets on Monday, April 20.

The proposed amendment opens by stressing that the demolition of historic buildings "should be avoided when possible and practical" and only undertaken as "an action of last resort".

Pam Clark, who chairs the Heritage Commission, said that the commission will ask the ZBA to recommend the amended ordinance to the City Council, which has the final say.

The ordinance applies to "significant buildings", which are defined by four criteria. A significant building must be one with features and qualities meeting the national or state criteria for designating "a historical, cultural or architectural landmark". Buildings constructed to an uncommon design with unusual materials that could only be reproduced at great expense would also qualify. Finally, the ordinance would extend to buildings of such architectural value or historic interest that their demolition would be adverse to the public interest as well as to buildings whose preservation would preserve a place of historic character and value. While the original ordinance applied to buildings 75 years old and older, the amendment would reduce the age of significant buildings to 50 years.

The remainder of the ordinance prescribes the process triggered when an application is made to demolish a building that the Heritage Commission determines is "significant". The process begins with a public hearing scheduled and hosted by the commission at which the owner presents plans for the property and members of the public can propose alternatives to demolition.

If no agreement about he future of the property is reached, further discussion between the Heritage Commission and property owner shall be held within 10 business days. If still no agreement is reached the commission may petition the City Council to delay the issuance of the demolition permit for another 180 days to allow time to pursue alternatives, including acquisition of the property. When all options have been exhausted and no petition to extend the 180 day time period has been submitted, the property owner may proceed with demolition.

With the consent of the property owner, the Heritage Commission shall document the structure and features of the building and encourage the owner to salvage significant architectural features.

Clark said that the commission expects to engage an intern during the summer months who will begin the process of taking an inventory of historic properties in the downtown, in Lakeport and at the Weirs.

Gilford parents voice strong support for emphasis on 'weighted' grading

GILFORD — A School Board Policy Committee meeting which nearly 35 parents attended Wednesday night morphed into a emotional yet philosophical discussion about children, how they learn, and what benefits, if any, there are to grade "weighting".

Nearly all of the parents who spoke wanted the district to reverse its decision to stop weighting honors-level classes and add additional weight only to Advanced Placement-level classes.

In lieu of weighting honors classes, the district currently offers a "diploma with distinction" that requires a 3.5 weighted average over four years and honors or A.P. classes in all of the core subjects plus at least four blocks of a foreign language.

Principal Peter Sawyer estimated that about 12 of the 140 students in the senior class would achieve that rank.

A weighted scale gives more credit to more rigorous classes. For example, an A-plus in A.P. Chemistry earns a student a 5.3 on a 4.0 scale. Right now, an A-plus in honors or college prep chemistry earns a 4.3 and an A earns a 4.0. Theoretically, a top student could have a 5.3 grade point average in all of his or her core four classes — English, Social Studies, Math, and Science — but see a drop in overall GPA by taking a band course that only has a possibility of a 4.3 — making the GPA or Grade Point Average drop.

Sawyer is an advocate of eliminating grade weighting for a number of reasons — that colleges and universities use their own system for acceptance, that class rank and weighting grades allows student to "game" the system, and, in some cases, weighting will stop a student from taking a liberal arts class because there is no weight added to it and, in extraordinary cases, an "A" could lower an overall GPA.

"Our job is to make sure kids are challenging themselves," Sawyer said, meaning the guidance department and teachers should be steering students to classes that challenge their intellect but don't challenge them to the point that they get in over their head and become frustrated and unhappy.

But most of the parents didn't see it that way.

As to the diploma with distinction, one woman had a son who went through a rough time in his freshman year, got a "D" in a core class, and she said he then couldn't earn the diploma with distinction no matter how hard he tried.

Another parent said she continually pressured her child to take the more rigorous classes and now she's in veterinary school, but she needed the carrot of weighted grades to help her impress upon her daughter how important taking more rigorous classes is.

Also attending last night's Policy Committee meeting were Gilmanton School Board members Frank Weeks and Adam Mini. Two of the seven seats in the combined high school board are from Gilmanton.

Weeks, like Sawyer, said he was less concerned about GPA and grade weighting as it applies to admissions and scholarships because a close relative of his is on the admissions team at an Ivy League school and has told him that the vast majority of colleges strip out weighted grades and use their own system.

Weeks said the Gilmanton School Board is divided on the issue.

Parents were also concerned with the importance of class rank. If a school uses GPA to rank students, and Gilford does, then not finishing in the top 10 or the top 10-percent of their class, can effect college admissions — especially to top tier colleges.

"Very few thing in the world aren't ranked in some way," said one parent who supports weighting for ranking reasons.

Middle School Principal Sydney Leggett agreed with Sawyer. She said all that weighting grades and ranking classes have done is make students focused on that aspect of learning and not learning for learning's sake.

"We need a culture change and if not now, when," she said.

But her son partially disagreed with her.

"I believe in rewarding kids," said Connor Leggett. "But what's bothers me is that kids won't take other classes (art, music, theater, band) because of the weighted GPA.

The two policy committee members, Jack Landow and Chris McDonough, sat silent for most of the two and one-half hour meeting. They did not meet after the public discussion was done and the meeting adjourned.

The next step is for Landow and McDonough to meet again in a posted committee meeting and have a discussion about this and other policies. The policy committee will make a recommendation to the full School Board.

Both Landow and McDonough said they had a lot of information to process and declined any further comment.

Common Core not popular in Belknap County Delegation

CONCORD — Eleven of the 18 members of the Belknap County Delegation, all of them Republicans, who were present and voting endorsed a bill to prohibit the New Hampshire Department of Education from requiring any school district to introduce and apply the so-called Common Core education standards. Senate Bill 101 carried the Senate by a voice vote and the House of Representatives by 202 to 138.

The voting for the bill were Representatives Glen Aldrich, Russ Dumais and George Hurt of Gilford, Dennis Fields of Sanbornton, Valerie Fraser of New Hampton, Ray Howard of Alton, Bob Luther, Peter Spanos and Frank Tilton of Laconia, Michael Sylvia of Belmont and Herb Vadney of Meredith. Representatives Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Robert Fisher and Don Flanders of Laconia, Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, Shari LeBreche of Belmont, and Peter Varney of Alton did not vote.