Laconia vigil honors 45 homeless NH residents who died in 2016

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During a candlelight vigil in Veterans Square Thursday to remember homeless people who have died in New Hampshire, a small contingent read names and sang hymns. They included (from left) Elaine Morrison, Dick Smith, Tammy Emery, Mike Brian, Leonard Campbell and Bridget Daniell. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — A four-page list containing 45 names — people who died while struggling with homelessness in the state of New Hampshire in 2016 — shifted from one gloved hand to another as a small group braved the cold at Veterans Square Thursday and took turns offering brief commemorations.
"But for the grace of God, that could be any of us," said Tammy Emery, Belknap House family support coordinator.
In January, the Belknap House is scheduled to open as a cold-weather shelter for families with children.
The annual outdoor candlelight vigil Thursday night sought to draw attention to the plight of homeless people. Leonard Campbell, community outreach worker at New Hampshire Catholic Charities, said Belknap House is urgently needed as shelters reach capacity in the winter.
"Families are still struggling to find shelter space, and that's one reason that Belknap House will be opening in January 2017," he said in an interview.
The annual homeless vigil, held in conjunction with the National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day, attracted Bridget Daniell, who worked with River Crew Art and met many homeless people who struggled with addiction. She herself has waged her battle to stay off the streets.
"I was homeless for two years, and I got help through Genesis, and they helped me get into a (psychiatric) hospital, and they helped me get into the Carey House," the Salvation Army-run homeless shelter, Daniell said.
Now she lives at the Butterfly House, a sober house, she said. Daniell said she volunteers with the bell ringers for Salvation Army; and she lays wreaths at the veterans cemetery (she met Gov. Maggie Hassan on a recent stint).
"Don't give up. There are people out there that will help you. Give them a chance," Daniell said.
Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith, two other attendees at Thursday night's vigil, said they have shifted their focus from the River Crew Art program, an outreach to homeless living along the riverbanks.
Smith said, "We've moved inside, with Navigating Recovery, and just opened last week. We'll be working with recovering addicts."
Navigating Recovery, at 635 Main St., Laconia, posts updates at
The former River Crew Art program now is called Creative Recovery and is based at the Main Street location.
"We changed the name from River Crew Art to Creative Recovery, and we will focus on people who are trying to steer clear of substances, it's a positive program," Smith said.
Campbell said substance abuse is a common thread that winds through the problem of homelessness.
For a rare positive aspect of the state's opioid crisis, Campbell said, "One of the unintended consequences and nice things that have developed from that is more programs that are reaching in new directions to people that never had the help before."
That means more help to the homeless population. "Some of the people who wouldn't have been reached before are now starting to be reached. It's responding to people who have had long-term addiction," Campbell said.
According to a proclamation from Gov. Hassan, 4,301 people received emergency shelter services in fiscal year 2015; and nearly 291,000 nights of shelter were provided to homeless people in the state. In a single night in January, the state had 1,706 residents who were homeless, in shelters, unsheltered or temporarily residing with family or friends, according to the proclamation.
"There's always a need for shelter space especially when it's cold, the capacity is overextended," Campbell said.
"Who's willing to open up some temporary space that can be staffed and be a safe space?" he asked.
"If we had a flood, they'd open up an emergency shelter. In the wintertime, we do have a flood of homeless people," Campbell said.


Homeless Memorial Day Names, 2016
Dan Belcher, Keene, Marine Corps veteran who died of a heart attack; Deanna C.; Deb C.; Kelly C.; Steve Cherup, 50, "who died of injuries sustained when he was beaten"; Josh Colbath, Farmington, 35; Robert William Cook, "died of an apparent suicide"; Alan Cornish, 61; Anthony D., 49, who "died of an overdose"; Paul Laramee, who "kept saying, 'If I stay out, I won't last.' He died of an overdose"; Maura Laughlin, "a young mother whose son was her entire world"; Jocelyn M., "a young mother"; Michael M.; Patricia M.; Alanna Marrotte, "died at age 24 from a heroin overdose"; Ken Manning, "a Vietnam veteran"; Storm N.; Jorge O.; Christine P., who "died of an overdose at age 40; she was a mother of 3"; Gene Parker, who was "hit by a car while attempting to navigate snowy roads and sidewalks in his wheelchair"; Jeff Pendleton, who "died of an overdose at the age of 26, at Valley Street jail; he had won a lawsuit on panhandling in Nashua"; Lisa R.; Frederick H. Schofield, who "died at Lakes Region General Hospital on November 30 at 74 years old. ... he was an avid camper and loved to fish the wilds of the Baker and Pemigewasset rivers"; Joshua Damsell, 37; Elliot Defoe' Richard F.; Gerry G.' Jeremy Gendron, who "died of an overdose"; David Gile, who "died of a heart attack"; David Gross, 45; Aaron C. Heywood, 30; Dale Hodgkins Jr., 22; Geoffrey J.' Steve Jacques, who "had lived in the Carey House but later moved into housing"; Karen Kekoa; James Kikta, 57; Brenda L.; Gary L.; Linda L.: Tammy L.; Daniel Lacabonara, formerly of the Carey House; Ciro Scognamiglio, 61, who "had been homeless since his release from a year of incarceration"; Denis Thorsel Carpenter; John Watkins, who "died on the rail trail"; and Justin Zsisgray, 30, formerly of the Seacoast area. (These names were read aloud at the Dec. 21 homeless vigil in Laconia.)


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Bridget Daniell, who experienced bouts with homelessness in Laconia, said she is waiting for housing and hopes to go to school to become a substance abuse counselor. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Contract agreement

Gilford teachers to get raises under new pact, now goes to public vote


GILFORD — The Gilford teachers union and the School District have agreed to a new three-year contract that will provide raises to teachers, provided the budget increase is approved at the annual School District Meeting.

Superintendent Kirk Beitler said the 2017-18 increase is $296,819 for the first year, the 2018-2019 increase will add $268,198, and the 2019-2020 increase will be $245,396.

He said that in addition to the salary increases, the school district agreed to set aside additional money each year for course development and teacher training and certification.

"Teachers have to keep their certifications and training current," Beitler said.

He said the school district reached an agreement with the teachers about paying for health insurance. Right now and through next school year, teachers pay 5 percent of the cost of the premium. In school year 2018-2019, teachers will pay 7 percent and the school district will pay 93 percent. In 2019-2020, the teachers will pay 10 percent and the school district will pay 90 percent.

Beitler said the School Board has approved a final budget for 2017-2018 of $24,856,214 which is up by $247,383 or about 1 percent. While portions of the proposed budget have been approved by Budget Committee subcommittees, the entire proposed budget has not.

Budget Committee Chairman Norman Silber said the Budget Committee will likely not approve the budget as submitted, but said his real concern is the preparation of the default budget.

A default budget, by definition, is the previous year's approved budget minus one-time expenditures, plus contractual agreements, and is determined by the School Board.

The issue is defining the one-time only expenditures. In addition, the school district's proposed budget failed last year and the for this school year, the default budget has been in place.

Last year, the proposed budget included about $117,000 in raises for non-union employees and raises and longevity bonuses for contract administrators. Despite the fact that it failed, the school district found the money in the default budget to pay for the raises and the administrative bonuses.

The School Board believes those raises and longevity bonuses should be included in this year's default budget preparations while the Budget Committee does not. Members has taken exception to the longevity bonuses to top earning administrators and consider them one-time only expenditures.

Beitler said the provisions for longevity bonuses to the 11 contract administration employers has been removed from their contracts for this proposed budget year.

The discussions between the School Board and the Budget Committee about the default budget issue have been nothing less than acrimonious, hostile and personal.

The Budget Committee rejected the first presentation of the default budget because it included line item transfers in it, including the bonuses, and since this year is also a default budget, members want to know what the original line items were and the budget lines from where the transfer came and went.

The School Board has met once to reconsider its 2017-2018 default budget and was unable to come to a final decision. It is scheduled to meet again on Jan. 3 at 7:30 a.m. in the SAU offices, and the Budget Committee is scheduled to revisit the default budget again on Jan. 5 in the main conference room at Town Hall at 6 p.m.

School Board Chairman Karen Thurston said they removed some items from the proposed default budget at their first meeting but she has made no final decisions and said there is still more to discuss.

Silber said the default budget should have been prepared properly at the time the proposed budget was presented to them and that he is very disappointed to have it presented so late in the budget season.

He said the Budget Committee's goal is to be able to present an accurate default budget to the voters. He also said the committee is dedicated to helping those employees in the district who are on the lower end of the pay scale, and that includes the teachers.

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Franklin man admits to home invasion

Sentenced to 3 to 8 years


Editor's note: This story was originally published with the wrong first name of the man pleading guilty. It is corrected below.

LACONIA — A former Franklin man was sentenced to state prison for 3 to 8 years after admitting that he participated in an armed home invasion in Meredith last winter, in which three of four people wearing masks entered a mobile home and hit those inside with a metal pipe.

Keith Renaud, 41, appeared in Belknap County Superior Court on Wednesday to plead guilty to being an accomplice to armed robbery.

As Renaud has served three prior state prison sentences for driving after being declared a habitual offender following three DWI convictions, Judge James O'Neill said he was reluctant to accept the terms of the negotiated settlement. Only after the prosecutor assured him that both the victims and Meredith police supported the proposed plea deal did the judge agree to impose the state's recommended sentence, which he noted was substantially less than the 7 ½ to 15-year maximum for a Class A felony.

"If the victims were here today I wanted to apologize to them. I want to take full responsibility. When I went there I had no mask on. I thought we were going to find another person's property," Renaud said.

The judge told the defendant that the charge he was admitting to said that he acted purposely.

"I was there, so I'm owning up to it," Renaud replied.

Assistant Belknap County Attorney Adam Woods said that on March 6, about 4:30 in the morning, Meredith police were dispatched to a report of an in-progress armed robbery in Unit 8 at the Currier Mobile Home
Park at 125 Livingston Road. Cheyenne Dubois, a tenant at the property reported there were three people inside the trailer when four people, three of whom were masked, stormed in. She reported being yanked from her bed and struck in the head with the butt of a pistol by a dark-skinned man wearing a mask, who ordered her to the floor.

Woods said Dubois was able to see a tattoo on her assailants' left forearm and was able to draw a picture of it for police, who were able to link it to Tyler Best, 37, who was later charged with armed robbery.

Christopher Parsons, who was a guest at the home, told police he was awakened by several people entering the trailer. He reported being struck on the head with a metal pipe and a baseball helmet, wielded by a man later identified as Best.

Parsons told investigators he was able to identify two of the individuals as Meghan Tighe, 22, and Roberts Estes II, 26, by the clothing that they were wearing, as both had been in the residence the prior day wearing the same clothing.

Holden Smrekar, also a guest of Dubois, told police he was dragged from his bed by a man who threatened him with a metal pipe and gun and told him to get on the floor.

A masked woman, the victims told investigators, was wearing the same clothes as Tighe when she had been at the home earlier. She is alleged to have stolen items at the direction of Renaud, who sat unmasked on the couch. Dubois later identified Renaud from a photo.

On March 11, Meredith Police Officer Brian Murray fielded a telephone call from a woman who refused to identify herself. The caller reported she was at 35 Woodrow Ave. in Franklin, with Tighe, Estes, Best and Renaud, and overheard them bragging about a break-in they committed.

Their conversations centered on boasting about committing assaults and stealing laptop computers, cell phones, a PlayStation gaming system and a wallet containing debit and credit cards. The items they mentioned stealing matched the items reported taken from the victim. The caller also told Officer Murphy that Renaud talked about how he sat on the couch during the robbery, ordering everyone around.

Based on that anonymous tip, police obtained a search warrant for the Franklin address. When police arrived, Renaud was outside in the driveway and Best was inside. He told officers that Tighe and Estes had been living there, but that he had just kicked them out.

During a search, police found a debit card with Dubois' name on it in Best's bedroom. In a shed on the property, police discovered four other credit cards, also bearing Dubois' name in the pocket of a shirt. As a result of the evidence found during the search, police obtained arrest warrants for all four suspects.

Defense attorney Steve Mirkin told the judge that the state's case against his client was not open and shut. Had it gone to trial, issues that would have been litigated included whether Dubois' identification of Renaud via a Facebook photo was admissible, as well as whether evidence found during the search should be kept out of court as the warrant was based on information for an anonymous tip.

The proposed sentence represents a lengthy state prison term for Renaud followed by lengthy parole upon his release, Mirkin said.

Renaud was credited with serving 276 days of pretrial confinement and was ordered to have no contact with his victims

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