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Meredith & Belmont commit funds to LRPA-TV

LACONIA — Lakes Region Public Access television received a badly needed infusion of funding last night as selectmen in both Meredith and Belmont approved funds which will enable the station to continue to provide programs through the end of the year.

The station broadcasts on several channels on the MetroCast Cablevision platform.
Meredith approved the entire amount requested by LRPA-TV, $17,991.75, while Belmont approved half of the $15,000 request, $7,500. The Belmont board made the remaining funding contingent on the LRPA-TV board of directors approving an updated business model at its next meeting.
The action follows the approval last week by the Laconia City Council of $20,000 in funds for the station, which late last month had said it was out of money and would have to cease operations as of the first of November.
The station still has a request for $18,000 pending in Gilford, where it was tabled last week by selectmen.
In Meredith, selectmen approved the full request after hearing support expressed by Phil Polhemus, who has worked on producing over 600 shows in the last 12 years for Public Access TV, and Steve Merrill, who said it was important that shows as the WLNH Children's Auction, which will take place next month, continue to be provided.
Town Manager Phil Warren endorsed the request based on actions taken at a meeting Saturday of the LRPA board attended by Trish Laurent, the town's Human Resources director and representative on the board, at which he said the board decided to ''aggressively address'' problems with its business model.
At that Saturday meeting board members both Jean Beaudin, Belmont town administrator, and Bob Hamel, Laconia's Ward 4 city councilman, pressed for changes in the board's business model as well as its operations.
The board had adopted a new business model earlier this while negotiations were still underway between a consortium which represented communities which are served by MetroCast and the cable service provider on a new contract, which ended the $30,000 yearly funding that MetroCast had been providing to LRPA-TV. That model called for much lower contributions from communities served by Metrocast while seeking to raise the balance of the $129,000 budget through sponsorships and fees for service.
When no communities signed up for the new contracts sent out by LRPA-TV, the board held an emergency meeting in mid-October at which it voted to send out bills to member communities based on last year's contribution levels.
Saturday, on Hamel's recommendation, the board decided to drop the proposed business plan, which was never fully implemented, and proceed with a hybrid plan which would seek to obtain at least 75 percent public funding for the station in the immediate future.
''I don't see the formula which has been discussed as working. It's too great an amount to raise,'' said Hamel.
Beaudin said that it was important that other communities served by LRPA-TV which have stopped paying to start picking up their share. ''We've got to get them back in the fold. They're getting all the public access programs for nothing and only six towns are paying for it.''
The LRPA board decided to send letters to those seven communities which have stopped funding and she said that she and Meredith town manger Phil Warren would be agreeable to visiting with selectmen and city council members in those communities to point out the importance of public access to their communities and why they should be involved in funding is operations.
Beaudin said that much of the discussion leading up to the new contract had centered on government meetings while the public access programs had been neglected and that it was important moving forward that public access be emphasized.
Hamel said that it was also important going forward that LRPA get recognition for the services it provides, like televising the Children's Auction at a cost of as much as $1,000 a day. ''We see MetroCast on the screen all the time but they don't lift a finger. They are required to put it out there. LRPA needs more recognition that week. They should have banner there which lets the public know that.''
He also says that LRPA was shorted by MetroCast in the new contract, which dropped all references ti LRPA-TV. ''The consortium left us out and made us go on our own for governmental programming.''
Linda Frawley of Belmont, who described herself as a strong supporter of public access, volunteered to work with LRPA to develop a media plan and also craft press releases. She said that she was too busy as a grant writer to work on grant applications for the station but did provide a list of foundations where grants might be obtained.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 02:12

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People at Saturday gathering want community to focus on answers to heroin problem

LACONIA — About two dozen people gathered Saturday morning at Rotary Park to express their concern over recent heroin related deaths in the Lakes Region.
Organized by Kathy Sorell of Meredith, a Salvation Army volunteer who works with homeless people in the city, the event brought together people who have lost close friends or family members to heroin overdoses as well as others concerned about the the rash of overdose deaths, including Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams.
She said she was so saddened when she learned of the two recent apparent heroin overdoses that she put the idea of an informal gathering on her Facebook page and at least 10 of her friends and others who feel the same way committed to attending Saturday's event.
Sorell said that she hopes that the gathering will be the start of community-wide effort to deal with the city's heroin and meth problems and will bring people together on a regular basis to focus on the issues surrounding drug use.
''There are folks here who have lost friends and family members and we want to get out the word not just about the individual tragedies but on the social impact of drug use,'' she said.
She said that she almost lost a close friend to heroin about a year ago and said that one of the differences in his life was that he had people who cared about him and were able to work with him. ''We have resources in our lives ,but many of these people on drugs don't. It's unacceptable to us that we can have a drug house in our city where a baby is living,'' said Sorell, who praised the Laconia Police Department for its work in dealing with the problem and it's educational efforts.
Sorell said that most of the drug-related deaths are people between the ages of 17 and 40 and that some way must be found to deal with those in that age bracket and provide the resources they need. ''Saying that it's all their fault isn't an answer. Many of these people have severe mental health problems and can't get any help. If you don't have health insurance there's no treatment available to you. That's wrong.''
Ed Darling of radio station WEMJ said that the station is inviting people who have experienced the loss of friends or relatives to drugs to take part in programs the station will be holding on Wednesday and Thursday to call or come into the station to be parts of those programs.


Kathy Sorell, a Salvation Army volunteer who works with homeless people in Laconia (left), speaks at a gathering Saturday morning in Rotary Park which was held in reaction to a rash of heroin related deaths recently in the Lakes Region. (Roger Amsden photo/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 02:06

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Frank Guinta hoping to return the favor

LACONIA — Swept to victory on the tailwind of the Tea Party in 2010, Republican Frank Guinta is tacking to a different breeze this year as he seeks to regain the congressional seat in the 1st District that he lost to Democrat Carol Shea-Porter in 2012.

Four years ago Guinta addressed rallies and flew the flag of the Tea Party as well as indicated that he would join the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives only to ultimately decide against it. Nevertheless, he was widely perceived as aligned with the Tea Party during his term, a relationship that has been a leitmotif of Shea-Porter's campaign against him.

During a recent interview with The Daily Sun, Guinta not only downplayed his past ties to the Tea Party, but highlighted his history of bipartisanship. "In 2010 Tea Partiers were working in every campaign," he said, "and Democrats branded all Republicans as Tea Partiers." As for the rallies, he said "I accept every invitation and I continue to talk to anyone and everyone."

As a congressmen, Guinta stressed that he worked closely with the delegations of other New England states, most of whom were Democrats. "New Hampshire is a small state with only two representatives," he said, noting that in addressing issues common to the region like the distribution of federal highway funds and regulation of offshore fisheries cooperation lent strength in numbers.

Although Guinta has tempered the tone of his campaign, he has not changed his approach to the major issues. He favors an austere fiscal policy aimed at shrinking budget deficits and retiring national debt, which he believes will spur economic growth. He remains opposed to the Affordable Care Act, which he calls Obamacare, calling for a "free market solution," in place of a "government mandated solution."

He acknowledges the need to invest in deteriorating infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, but opposes raising the federal gas tax, preferring to "stretch dollars" by trimming wasteful spending and eliminating duplicative programs as well as apply revenue from offshore oil leases. Like many in both parties, Guinta supports reform of the tax code that would lower rates and simplify filings for both individuals and corporations while closing loopholes. In particular, he emphasized that tax reform should eliminate incentives for corporations to locate, invest and expand abroad and provide incentives to promote economic growth.

The most recent polls indicate the race has tightened to a toss-up with a poll taken by New England College reporting 45.2 percent for both candidates.

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 November 2014 12:54

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GOP trying for sweep of Laconia House delegation; Dems hoping to gain 1 or 2

LACONIA — The election for the city's five seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives is marked by the presence of five incumbents — three Republicans and two Democrats — seeking re-election.

In Belknap District 3, where city voters elect four representatives,the Republican ticket includes Don Flanders seeking his eighth term, Frank Tilton seeking his fifth term and Bob Luther seeking his third term, along with Democrat David Huot seeking his second term. In District 9, where Laconia and Belmont, together, elect one representative, incumbent Democrat Beth Arsenault is seeking her fifth.

Peter J. Spanos,who owned the Shalimar Resort for 31 years before its sale this year, is the fourth Republican candidate in District 3. Robert Fisher of Same Day Computer who ran on the Democratic ticket in District 3 in 2012, has since turned Republican in opposition to the Affordable Care Act to challenge Arsenault in District 9.

Joining Huot on the Democratic slate in District 3 are Kate Miller, who represented Meredith in the House from 2008 to 2010, Mo Baxley, former executive director of the Freedom to Marry Coalition who was elected to the House in 2008, and Tom Dawson.

Both Tilton, who heads the GOP ticket, and Miller, who chairs the Belknap County Democratic Party, said that the controversy arisen over the governance of Belknap County has played into the election campaign. Currently Republican representatives hold 13 of the 18 seats on the Belknap County Convention.

"Questions are often asked about the county," said Tilton. He remarked that usually he calculates that his membership of the county convention represents $10 or $15 of his annual $100 salary as a lawmaker, but this year figured it is closer to $25. "I have to remind candidates they will have responsibilities in Concord," he said.

Miller, also chair of the Belknap County Democratic Committee, said that the county is "definitely an issue for those who have been paying attention. She conceded that Democrats would be unlikely to capture control of the county convention, but said that she expected to hold and add to the five seats they have. At the same time, she said that the party was investing resources and energy into the contest for county commissioner between Democrat Dave Pollak of Laconia and Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton.

Among the Republicans, Tilton, a West Point graduate who retired with the rank of colonel and headed the city's Department of Public Works, is the most prominent. He chairs the executive committee of the convention and played a major role in preparing the county budget. At the Statehouse, he serves on the House Public Works and Highways Committee and, if the GOP regains a majority, could find himself chairing the panel.

A former city councilor, Flanders, who owns and operates the Byse Insurance Agency, has long been a member of the House Commerce Committee. Luther, who was a Laconia police officer as well as security official at LRGHealthcare and also served on the City Council, serves on the Judiciary Committee.

Spanos, the newcomer to the Republican ticket, is a fiscal conservative who favors close control of spending over levying new or higher taxes. He said that he is also "very, very much opposed to expanding gambling," explaining that "those who can least afford to gamble gamble the most." The New Hampshire Retirement System, he described as "a festering sore" without the means of meeting its obligations beyond 2025 or 2030. "It's not an exciting issue," he acknowledged, "but one that must be fixed." Likewise, Spanos said that timely steps must be taken to address the situation at the Belknap County Jail as well as the high cost of health care benefits for county employees.

Huot and Dawson are the most active of the four Democratic candidates. Miller and Baxley, both longtime party activists, are taking time from their campaigns to assist other candidates while Arsenault said that family responsibilities have restricted her opportunities to campaign. Huot, a retired district court judge, is a member of the House Finance Committee who sat on its equivalent, the Appropriations Committee, while serving two terms in the House in the 1970s.

Dawson said that he joined the Democratic ticket at the request of Terri Norelli, the retiring Speaker of the House. He was State Fire Marshall in the 1980s, when he wrote the state's first fire code, while served three terms on the Laconia School Board and taught fire technology at Lakes Region Community College for nearly three decades. Inequality of income and wealth, he said, is his major concern. He intends to press for raising the minimum wage as well as ensure sufficient funding for "safety net programs" and public education. Troubled by the ideological polarization of both national and state politics, he said "we must work together to make thing work."

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 November 2014 12:46

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