BRATT members tour finished portions of Winnisquam Scenic Trail

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — Members and guests of the Belmont Recreational Alternative Trail Team took a tour last evening of the portions of the trail that have been completed so far.

When finished, the Winnisquam Scenic Trail will connect with Laconia's WOW trail at the Belmont/Laconia line.

Belmont Land Use Technician Rick Ball, who serves as an adviser to BRATT, said the trail should be completed by midsummer and will be 1.8 miles in length, running from the Agway store to the Laconia line.

Ball said that the difficult-to-construct portions of the trail are nearly completed and the balance should progress quickly from this point on.

At a gathering in the parking lot of the Leslie Roberts Town Beach, a man who lives at Sun Lake Village said he and a few of his neighbors object to the trail cutting through their development.

The unidentified man said he feels it would be a violation of their privacy, however the developers of Sun Lake Village have already given an easement to the town for the trail.

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Donna Hepp and an unidentified man walk near the beginning of the Winnisquam Scenic Trail which is under construction. The town expects the project to be completed by mid summer. (Gail Ober photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

Hosmer says education, not business tax cuts, should be state’s top priority

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — State Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) told residents of the Taylor Home who turned out for a town hall meeting with him last evening that he thinks that a well-educated work force is the key to a healthy economy for New Hampshire.
Hosmer, who is completing his second term as District 7 senator, said that trying to bring new businesses into the state by cutting business taxes is not the best way to grow the state's economy.
"My priorities are investing in education,'' he said, noting that with unemployment in the state below three percent that the main thing businesses need is an educated work force.
"They can't find qualified workers. We've got to make the investments in people that will create jobs here and keep our graduates here," he said.
There were about a dozen people at the meeting and Hosmer asked them to sit in a semi-circle close to him as he avoided the podium and took a seat in front of the gathering.
He said that major accomplishments in the current legislative session from his standpoint were passage of the New Hampshire Health Protection Act, which has enabled 50,000 people who previously lacked health insurance to obtain coverage, and investing more money in mental health.
"We used to be a world leader in mental health. Now we find ourselves in situations in which adolescents find themselves in the emergency room rather than being treated at a community mental health center. And we're losing mental health professionals because we can't pay them enough," said Hosmer.
Much of the conversation centered the around the epidemic of heroin-related drug death in the state, which topped 500 last year. "Everyone knows someone whose life has been touched by the drug crisis," he said, pointing out that a new approach of treating drug problems as an illness rather than as a crime can make a difference.
Police Officer Eric Adams of the Laconia Police Department described how the the department tries to make as many services as possible available to those who show up at the hospital with overdoses to try and get them the help they need to deal with addiction problems.
Both Adams and Hosmer said that they are confident that recovery center will be coming to Laconia in the near future and said that the Community Corrections facility which is being built by Belknap County will offer the kind of programs and community support system that inmates need to deal with their addictions.
Hosmer also said that he thinks the Northern Pass project will eventually get done through compromises by EverSource and that it will provide a much needed economic benefit for the city of Franklin, which in one of the communities he represents in District 7.

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Peter Millham, left, and Alida Millham, right, chatted with State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) prior to the start of a Town Hall session with residents of the Taylor Community Thursday night. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Band protest - Laconia HS music head asks board to reverse decision to have programs as after-school classes

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The band played on when the School Board met Tuesday as Debbi Gibson, head of the Music Department and Curriculum Coordinator of Fine Arts, accompanied by students and parents, challenged the board's decisions to remove band from the school day and the elementary and high schools as well as to reduce the high school chorus from a year-long program to a semester.

Gibson, whose 27-year tenure with the district is drawing to a close, presented the board with a 12-page critique of its recommendations together with alternative proposals for the music program, which she stressed could be adopted without any additional costs.

Holding back tears, Gibson read from her presentation, stressing the adverse effects of offering band after the school day. She noted that when it was removed from the schedule in the elementary schools at the request of the principals, attendance dwindled by 85 percent. Band lessons, she said, have been shown to enhance reading and mathematical skills as well as improve student behavior. Removing the band program from the school day in the elementary schools, Gibson warned, would adversely affect the music programs in the middle and high schools.

Likewise, Gibson said that moving band to an after-school program at the high school would jeopardize or eliminate marching band shows, drum lines for parades, pit orchestras for dramatic performances, and pep band for basketball games. Members of the band, she feared, would be unable to participate in clubs and have limited opportunities to seek help from teachers after school. Finally, Gibson said, members of the band would no longer be engaged with the rest of the student body when the school day ends, but instead would be segregated from the others.

"Band is not the problem with scheduling at our high school," Gibson told the board, "our schedule is the problem. It is time that we look into the real problem," she continued, "our schedule as it stands now."

Trimming the high school choral program to one semester, Gibson said, will deprive students of opportunities to advance to higher levels of performance and receive the additional instruction to prepare them for the Lakes Region Music Festival and All-State auditions and festivals. Nor will students have opportunities to perform for civic organizations and at civic ceremonies like Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Gibson said she has offered her suggestions to the elementary and high school as well met with interim School Superintendent Phil McCormack and urged the board to reconsider its recommendation in light of her proposed alternatives.

Josh Chandler, a sophomore, read an eloquent statement echoing the misgivings expressed by Gibson. Then his father, Howard Chandler, called the decisions "a rush to judgment" by which the board chose to "solve the problem quickly rather than solve it well" while his mother, Carrie, said "Private school has never crossed my mind until now."

Ryan D'Arezzo, another sophomore, described the band as "a family," adding that the friendships among its members were especially important to him after losing his father. Music, he said, is a significant part of education and he intends to go to college to become a music teacher.

"Let us show you what we can do," student Mariah told the board, reminding the members of an upcoming concert. "And don't wear socks with sandals, 'cause your socks will be blown away!"

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