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Candidates for state reps for Laconia address Taylor Home

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Details were generally light as seven of the eight candidates — both Republicans and Democrats — for the four seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives elected by the voters of the city addressed nearly three dozen residents of the Taylor Community on Tuesday.

Three of the four incumbent Republicans — Frank Tilton, Don Flanders and Peter Spanos — seeking re-election were joined by newcomer Jim McCoole. The Democrats included two veterans, Liz Merry, who served one term in the House representing Sanbornton, and David Huot, who served two terms in the House from 1970 to 1974 then returned for a third term in 2012, and Tom Dawson, seeking his first term. The fourth Democratic candidate, Charlie St. Clair, could not attend.

Frank_Tilton.jpg Frank Tilton - R

Seeking his sixth term, Tilton, a graduate of West Point and former director of Public Works who serves on the House Public Works and Highways Committee, noted that, as one of 400 members of the House, single representatives have limited influence, but can make their presence felt as members of the legislative committees and the county convention, comprised of the 18 representatives elected in Belknap County. He recalled the recent history of state budgets, noting that "We have a good budget now." He said excessive regulation is slowing economic growth and called for reducing some regulations and repealing others. He noted that the Public Works and Highways Committee prepares the capital budget, which funds investment in infrastructure necessary for economic growth.

Don_Flanders.jpgDon Flanders - R

Flanders, of the Byse Insurance agency, has sat in the House since 1999 and served all nine of his terms on the House Commerce Committee, which oversees the banking, insurance and securities industries as well as the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. Like Tilton, he said that too many regulations weigh on businesses and pointed to one freshman lawmaker who alone introduced 35 bills, all of which failed to become law. Flanders spent much of his time explaining that, unlike most states, New Hampshire does not require automobile insurance, an oddity he claims works to the state's advantage, but will likely be challenged again next year.

Peter_Spanos.jpgPeter Spanos - R

Spanos, a small businessman serving his first term in the House, chose to answer questions rather than formally speak. He said he voted against expanding eligibility for Medicaid, which has provided 50,000 people with health insurance, because the program failed to require able-bodied recipients to work. "We have more folks riding the wagon than pulling the wagon," he said. He expressed his support for charter schools and opposition to Common Core and raising the minimum wage. But, asked why the state reduced funding to the Laconia School District by some $500,000, mistakenly referred to the lack of federal grants, when in fact the state funding was reduced to reflect declining enrollment.

Jim_McCoole.jpgJim McCoole - R

McCoole, the last of the Republican candidates, described himself as a retired self-employed businessman. "I don't know what some of the issues are," he confessed. "I've never been to the New Hampshire legislature." He asked "What has happened to the term servant, as in public servant?" stressing that elected officials are employees of the people. He said that he did not know what happened, but if elected pledged "to keep my eyes and ears open." He claimed that the budget is flawed and advocated "zero-based budgeting" while suggesting the legislature inhibits the success of small business and echoed Spanos in opposition to a higher minimum wage.

Liz_Merry.jpgLiz Merry - D

Merry, who said "business is my background" but underlined her work as a volunteer, said that one of her priorities would be to reverse the downshifting of costs, like contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System, and withholding funds, like revenue sharing and proceeds from the Rooms and Meals Tax, to municipalities. She expressed support for investment in public education and infrastructure, together with raising the minimum wage, as means of strengthening the economy. And, as a trustee of LRGHealthcare, Merry noted that the expansion of the Medicaid program provided health care to 1,200 families in the region and emphasized the importance of reauthorizing the program and making it permanent. "I will put Laconia first," she vowed.

David_Huot.jpgDavid Huot - D

During all of his three terms in the House, Huot served on the Finance Committee. As a legislator, he said, "What you do is solve problems." The state, he continued, has what he called "a structural deficit," explaining that the revenues the state collects are not sufficient to meet its expenses. "That is why the Legislature is always raiding this or that fund to balance its budget." Restoring an appropriate amount of state funding to local school district he counted among his highest priorities, along with providing long-term residential treatment centers for substance abuse and perpetuating the expansion of the Medicaid program.

Tom_Dawson.jpgTom Dawson - D

Dawson spent all but a minute of his time recalling his career in the fire service, first as the financial director of the department in Houston, Texas, then as the first state Fire Marshall in New Hampshire and ultimately as professor of fire science at Lakes Region Community College, where he founded the program. As his time expired, Dawson said "schools and infrastructure" to indicate his priorities as a legislator.

GM official praises LRCC's auto technician education program

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A career as an automobile technician means working in "a very honorable trade" and offers those who make that choice an opportunity to contribute the community and the health of the local economy.
That's the assessment of  Mark Miller, Global Director of Service and Warranty Operations for General Motors, who toured Lakes Region Community College's new 21,000-square-foot, $4 million state-of-the-art automotive lab Tuesday morning prior to speaking to a meeting of General Motors dealerships service manager's from all over the state.
Miller said he was impressed with the new facility and the opportunities it provides for training auto technicians with the latest in technology. The new center, which was completed earlier this year, features 17 vehicle bays and all the latest diagnostic equipment.
He said auto technicians can earn six-figure salaries are in great demand all across the country and LRCC is helping to meet that need.
The college has been a part of the General Motors Automotive Service Education Program since 1991, the first year that Mike Parker, who now heads the college's automotive service education program, taught at the college. Parker and Jamie Decato, an assistant professor and GM-ASEP coordinator at the college, led the GM officials on the tour. Decato is a 1996 graduate of the GM-ASEP program who was at the top of his class.
Miller, who has spent 26 years with General Motors, including four years in China, says that he still misses the actual day to day experience of working on automobiles and says that the lack of vocational high school programs nationwide has led to an overall general decline in the mechanical aptitude which the GM-ASEP program is designed to counteract. There are close to 60 of the ASEP programs supported nationwide by GM.
He said that major changes in the auto business since he first started include higher customer expectations as well as new technology. "A lot of people live in their cars and have high expectations for them." said Miller.
The college offers a two-year associate degree in Auto Technology and GM credits toward certification in all areas through their ASEP. LRCC also offers a general auto tech program.
10-04_GM.jpg
Lakes Region Community College hosted a General Motors Service Manager's meeting Tuesday morning. Prior to the meeting a tour of the college's new 21,000-square-foot, $4 million state-of-the-art automotive lab was taken by Ryan Bunn, GM District Manager After Sales for New Hampshire; Peter Delvecchio, GM Regional Manager After Sales for New England and Mark Miller, Global Director of Service and Warranty Operations for General Motors. They are shown with Mike Parker, head of the college's automotive program; and Jamie Decato, coordinator for the college's Automotive Service Education Program. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Power up with solar benches in Laconia

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Laconia has joined Cambridge, Massachusetts; Austin, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and some 50 other cities in more than 20 states and Canadian provinces as a home to Soofa benches, which not only offer a place to sit but also charge mobile devices by capturing and storing rays of sunlight.

The benches, one at the millstone fountain at the corner of Pleasant Street and Main Street and the other on the boardwalk at The Weirs, are fashioned of metal and wood to a modern design and seat three while charging mobile devices with solar power. They were developed, designed and manufactured by by Soofa of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an enterprise begun and managed by three women from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, one of whom vacations in the Lakes Region.
Melissa McCarthy, who owns and operates The Studio, first brought the benches to the attention of the Main Street Initiative in 2014 and this year Bree Henderson of Polished and Proper began soliciting investment on GoFundMe.com to finance the purchase and installation of the benches. Henderson said Tuesday that the $5,000 raised from local individuals and businesses during the past six months marked the first transaction financed through GoFundMe, which led Soofa "to give us a deal, two for one."
"The benches," McCarthy said, "are a way to enhance the image of Laconia as a forward moving, energetic place to be." She added that she is not aware Soofa benches elsewhere in New Hampshire. "The closet benches I know of are in Boston," she said. "If you need some juice, it's here."
Henderson explained that the battery cell holds eight hours of charging power. At the same time, the bench can be programmed to collect other data, such as environmental data that will enable the city to monitor its air quality. The entire device is powered exclusively by sunlight and has no operating costs.

10-05_solar_bench.jpg

Melissa McCarthy, Bree Henderson and Stacey Lucas, from left, relaxed on the Soofa bench near the millstone fountain downtown while charging their cell phones with the power of sunlight captured by the solar panel between them.

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