Sign Language Club - GHS students tour school for deaf and blind

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — Imagine not being able to hear and having to ask for directions. Luckily, that was not a problem for Gilford High School student Clara Jude on a trip to the Perkins School for the Blind and Deaf.

Members of the American Sign Language Club at Gilford High School last week visited the school in Watertown, Massachusetts, a trip which club president Jude said was both inspiring and informative.
"When we arrived and were looking for the visitors office, I used sign language to ask directions and one of the students signed me right back and gave us directions. He actually thought I was deaf, too," said Jude.
She said that eight members of the club, which she helped form last year, and three adults who accompanied them, took a two-and-a-half hour tour of the school, which is famous worldwide as the institution where Helen Keller learned to communicate despite being blind as well as deaf.
"There were some interactive activities, like being blindfolded and having to relay on a partner for directions on where to walk and what objects and obstacles were ahead that were really interesting," Jude said.
She said that her interest in learning sign language started when she was a sixth-grader at Holy Trinity School in Laconia when she and her younger sister Lucy were looking for new challenges.
"We both were taking dance lessons and wanted something to do with movement. So we decided to learn sign language and got books for Christmas to help us learn," says Jude, who points out that sign language is the fourth most-used language in America.
When she started attending Gilford High School, she was disappointed that there was no American Sign Language club and took it on herself to organize one in her sophomore year. She said the plan was supported by school administrators and that the club, which usually meets twice a month, has now grown to about 15 students.
"We teach each other new words and phrases, and when there was an open mic night at the school's coffee house we even did a song and signed it to other students as we sang," she said.
Jude, who skipped her junior year and is now a senior at Gilford High, said she is confident that the club will continue at the school under the leadership of Kelli Vieten, a sophomore who became vice president of the club this year, as well as her sister, Lucy, who is now an eighth-grader at Gilford Middle School.
After she graduates in June, Jude will be taking a year to do community service before going to college and will be spending 24 weeks in Guatemala and another 24 weeks in Colombia over the next year.
And she knows what she wants to do for a future career. She's planning on becoming a sign language interpreter, which opens up worlds of possibilities for her.

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Members of the American Sign Language Club at Gilford High School last week toured the Perkins School for the Blind and Deaf in Watertown, Mass. (Courtesy photo)

Deaf students tour

Gilford High School’s American Sign Language Club visited the Perkins School for the Blind and Deaf in Watertown, Mass., last week. Shown on the tour are students Kelli Vieten, Erin Gately, Erica Mosher, Emily Curtis, Sienna Remick, tour guides Linda Oleson and Mike Cataruzolo and students Clara Jude, Josey Curley and Olivia Salesky.  (Courtesy photo)

Hard choice - Union workers at nursing home may have to choose between health plan, raises

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Unionized employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home will be asked to make a choice between switching their health insurance provider to a lower-cost plan and qualify for pay raises, or sticking with the current HMO plan and passing up pay raises. Belknap County Commissioners voted two to one Wednesday morning to approach the union representing employees with that choice.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that the recent rejection of a proposed contract by a 33-14 vote of the union members seemed to be centered on the $3,000 deductible for family plans in the new health insurance plan in the contract. He said employees would have gotten an increase in compensation due to the raises in pay and wellness benefits and reduced health insurance costs over the two years of the contract and that those increases are far more beneficial to employees than sticking with the current HMO plan.
A letter to the editor in yesterday's Laconia Daily Sun maintained that average earnings for employees of the bargaining unit would increase, as well as their retirement benefits, and that "the certain pluses outweigh the dollar risks" and that "if the status quo continues, everyone loses."
The letter, which was signed by Taylor and fellow members of the county's negotiating team – Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton); Roger Grey, a member of the public from Sanbornton; and County Administrator Debra Shackett – noted that 23 employees who would be covered by the contract are not entitled to vote because they do not pay union dues.
The commission's offer mirrored the collective bargaining agreements negotiated with Teamsters Local 633 representing managerial and administrative employees and the State Employees Association representing corrections officers, which have been ratified by the members of both unions and approved by the Belknap County Delegation.
The two-year agreement includes a 1.4 percent cost-of-living adjustment for year one and 2 percent in the second year, as well as step increases of 3 percent a year. In addition, the county would have paid the full cost of the site-of-service health plan and employees would receive a a $1,000 bonus for changing their health insurance plan. Currently, employees pay 5 percent of the HMO health insurance plan, which amounts to $1,315 a year for a family plan.

Top price for new county corrections: $7.3M

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The Belknap County Jail Planning Committee Wednesday received assurances from Andre Kloetz of Bauen Construction of Meredith, construction manager for the 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed community corrections facility that the county will soon break ground on, will have a guaranteed not-to-exceed maximum price of $7.3 million.
Kloetz said that he is "absolutely confident" about the $7.3 million figure and is looking to have everything in place so that ground can be broken on May 30 for site work for the project. But he said the document guaranteeing that price won't be prepared until mid-June as construction documents needed to meet requirements set by attorneys for the county and the construction firm are still in the process of being finalized.
Belknap County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) told the committee that commissioners on Wednesday morning approved a $4 million bond anticipation note with Century Bank at a 0.83 percent interest rate that will provide the funds needed for this year's work on the project.
Plans call for the project, which includes renovations to the existing county jail, to be completed in September 2017.
Project manager Anthony Mento of Sheer, McCrystal, Palson Architecture Inc. of Concord observed that the guaranteed number is for construction only and does not include furniture and fixtures.
The Belknap County Delegation last November unanimously approved an $8 million bond for building the community corrections center and renovation of parts of the current county jail, which will have 60 beds.
DeVoy said they hope to be able to repurpose some of the bond funds above the $7.3 million guaranteed number in order to repair the roof the Belknap County Nursing Home and adjacent Belknap County complex, which has been estimated to cost $550,000 for a metal roof and $750,000 for a shingled roof.
Using the bond funds will require that the Belknap County Delegation repurpose the bond issue to include the roof project. DeVoy said the commission won't know for certain how much of that money will be available until later this year, and tried to convince the delegation to use $605,000 from the county's fund balance for the roof project rather than using it to reduce taxes.
The delegation declined to go along with that proposal when it finalized the county budget in March, opting instead to use some of the fund balance to reduce taxes.

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