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In Meredith, conservatives give N.H. Senate president a hard time about new insurance plan

MEREDITH — With the New Hampshire Senate poised to vote on its plan to provide health insurance to 50,000 residents of meager and modest means this week, Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem found himself defending his conservative credentials when he touted the proposal to two dozen voters gathered at Church Landing last evening.

The information session was hosted by Senator Jeane Forrester (R-Meredith).

Morse began by describing the plan, which would use federal funds to insure those earning up to 138 percent of poverty with carriers, insisting that it would not lead to "an increase in the Medicaid rolls or add a dollar to the state budget." The three-year pilot program, he explained, is contingent on the federal government granting the state waivers from regulations by March 2015 and funding 100-percent of the cost of the program and would terminate if either condition is not met.

Morse suggested there were only two alternatives, both unacceptable. On the one hand, there is the annual cost of uncompensated care, which he called "a hidden tax" that adds $400 million a year the insurance premiums paid by individuals and businesses throughout the state while on the other, there is the expansion of Medicaid that he warned "will sink the ship in New Hampshire."

"Why?," asked Josh Youssef of Laconia, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2012, prompting Morse to reply, "I don't know how you'd pay for it. It's going to drive us to something. I don't know what it is."

"This program is not Medicaid," Morse insisted.

He explained that New Hampshire taxpayers would bear half the cost of extending Medicaid to the approximately 58,000 people who would become eligible. Describing Medicaid as "a broken system," he said that "what tried to do here was protect us from Medicaid."

Questioned by William Baer of Gilford about seeking federal funding, Morse replied "if you won't accept federal money, you won't accept this program" then reminded his listeners "there's a helluva lot of federal money in our budget, We don't run the state on our own money."

Youssef suggested the plan was "a capitulation to Obamacare" and asked about its "impact on the conservative voter base."

"I think about that 24 hours day, seven days a week," answered Morse. "The Democrats aren't happy with this plan either," he continued, noting that he expected two among the 13 Republicans in the Senate would "vote for something else." Remarking that "I grew up close to John Sununu, about a mile away," he declared "I'm not worried about whether I'm conservative enough."

"There is a perception that the GOP has not stood up to the Democrats" said Baer, who added the party could be "severely damaged by a weak stance on this issue."

"Trust me," Morse responded. "I'm in the midst of all that. He said he had met with representatives of organizations opposed to the plan while stressing that "there's no way to get around that without talking to people." He said that while he was in Meredith, Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), the Senate Majority Leader, was speaking to the Merrimack County Republican Committee, which was voting whether or not to endorse the proposal.

When Baer repeated that "selling out" could impair Republican fortunes in an election year, Morse countered that "the reality is we can't even find a governor's candidate right now."

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 02:27

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Gilford School Board member Demko resigns

GILFORD — School Board member Allan Demko resigned from the board last night, writing he was unable to continue due to failing health.

Demko's term ends in March of 2016. He was elected last year.

The Board accepted the resignation with regret and, since elections are on March 11 and it is too late for anyone to appear on the ballot, the district will advertise for a replacement board member.

Chair Sue Allen said once the new board is convened after next week's election the district will accept applications from any Gilford residents who wish to serve until March of 2015.

In 2015, the district will add a one-year term to the ballot as well as the two three-years terms that will be up for regular election.

The board also recognized outgoing member Paul Blandford who, after serving 12 years, decided to not seek re-election.

Rae Mello-Andrews, who lost to Demko in 2013, is the only person running for election at Tuesday's election.

 

CUTLINE (Blandford) Outgoing School Board Member Paul Blandford was given a painting of Gilford by the members of the School Board as a way of thinking him for 12 years of service to the school district. Blandford is not seeking reelection. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 02:21

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After 6 years on school board & 6 years on selectboard, it's time for some travel

GILFORD — After serving as an elected official for 12 years, on March 12 Selectman Kevin Hayes will chair his final board meeting.

Hayes, who served for six years on the Gilford School Board and six years as a selectman, chose not to seek re-election for an additional three-year term.

"I have absolutely loved being a selectman," Hayes said last week as he read through one of his final packets of information before one of his final meetings.

In the past 12 years Hayes has seen Gilford through some trying times, like three police chief changes, as well as some prominent successes, like the clean up of lower Liberty Hill.

"When I first ran in 2008, were were doing a site study at Liberty Hill," he said.

"It's taken six years to get here," he said. By here he means that nearly 10 years after a natural gas company notified the N.H. Department of Environmental Services about a forgotten toxic coal tar dump site and six years of working with the state and the various entities deemed legally responsible for the toxic waste, site remediation is slated to begin in the spring of this year.

"We've also been able to control the growth of town government and keep the tax rate level over the past six years," he said, recalling having to make some very painful decisions about eliminating positions, not giving raises, redefining some of the duties of existing employees, and not filling empty positions as a way of keeping the costs of government down.

Hayes said he believes that under his watch, Gilford has hired a great town administrator and a great finance director and under the board's guidance, the town has prospered without overspending. He also said it was challenging to go through two police chiefs but said, without tipping his hand, that he is confident the board has had three excellent choices to take over the department and hopes to name a new chief within a week.

He remembered that the day after he was first elected selectman, the former board fired former Town Administrator Evans Juris.

"What the hell did I get myself into," he said was his first thought, adding that since then the town went through two interim town administrators before hiring Scott Dunn.

Another challenge, he recalled, were the issues the town faced over the former Kings Grant Inn night club.

One of his biggest ongoing concerns is the recent increase in drug abuse and the crime that comes with it. Hayes serves on the Gilford Alcohol and Drug Task Force and hopes the new Board of Selectmen will allow him to continue on as the selectman's representative to the task force.

Reflecting on his time on the school board, Hayes said he was a member of the board during the time when the Middle School built. He was one of the members who opposed building in the Gilford Meadows but was outvoted by his fellow board members.

"I think we have a very good model in the schools right now," he said, saying he like the idea of having all three school close together and virtually sharing one campus but yet able to keep the younger children (the fifth graders) at the middle school separate from the older children.

He said he worked very closely with some people during the building process who really didn't want to spend the money on the school but said the board and the some of the naysayers on the Budget Committee came up with a school building plan that would get everybody's support.

Looking forward, he said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the proposed police station expansion and renovation is passed at the March 11 town vote.

"I would have liked to see it done five years ago," he said.

When asked what he would miss about being selectmen, he said he would miss the town employees the most, followed closely giving the speech at the Memorial Day celebrations and marching in the Old Home Day parade.

"I won't miss the time commitment," he said.

As for his future, Hayes, who is a civil engineer, says he plans on working for another four years but, because he runs his own business, hopes to incorporate a little more travel time with his wife Pam into their near future.

"We love to travel," he said, saying he and Pam spent a few weeks traveling in France last year and had a wonderful time. "We really want to do more of that."

He said he wants to spend as much time as he can being outside and enjoying long-time family pursuits of walking, skiing, hiking and biking. He also likes going to his alma mater, UNH, and watching their hockey games.

When asked what he was most proud of in his years of service, he said it was the great inter-municipality working arrangements Gilford enjoys.

"We have no border wars," he said.

"I'll really miss it," he said, adding that he hopes that if the new board has any questions about anything they wouldn't hesitate to call.

CUTLINE:(Hayes) Outgoing Gilford Selectman Kevin Hayes sits at his desk in the selectmen's room on the second floor of Town Hall. After serving six years on the school board and six years as selectman, Hayes decided not to seek re-election. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 02:02

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At the moment, all roads that lead to wood pellets appear headed for Meredith

MEREDITH — The winter that won't go away has placed a significant stress on the wood pellet supply across the Lakes Region, as it has throughout all of New England, and last weekend saw many retailers in the area without a single bag of pellets available for people looking to stock up in anticipation of another blast of arctic air moving through the area.
Typical of those out searching for pellets were Patti and Andy Johnson of Northfield, who went to a half dozen places in Tilton, Belmont and Laconia area before finally locating some at EnergySavers atop Ladd Hill on Rte. 3 here.
''We go through about two bags a day and were really getting low. We were able to get 10 bags and feel that we were really lucky to find them,'' said Johnson.
The Johnsons weren't the only people who sought out wood pellets at EnergySavers that day according to Joe McClure, who works there. ''We had people from all over, Maine, Vermont, even as far away as Rhode Island show up Saturday to buy pellets,'' said McClure.
He said that the company got a 10-ton shipment of 30-pound bags last week and is limiting customers to 10 bags at a time in order to have some on hand for those who may need them until a 30-ton shipment they have on order arrives next week.
On Monday, Kim Bannon of Campton arrived at EnergySavers in mid afternoon and picked up 10 bags of wood pellets to make sure that she had enough to get through the winter. ''We get a couple of tons a year and we're getting low and want to make sure we get through the year. We have oil heat but we'd rather not use if we don't have to,'' said Bannon.
''It's been a really cold winter. People who normally go through three tons a year are deep into their fourth ton or starting their fifth ton. We usually have a good supply year round as a service to our customers who don't have storage space, so we're in pretty good shape,'' says McClure.
He said that many of the larger retail outlets have run out because they are in the process of shifting to their spring inventory and don't want to have any pellets left over once the heating season ends.
Demand is still high all over the state according to McClure, who said that he had talked with people at a North Conway store who received a shipment of 17 tons of pellets last Friday and were sold out by noon on Saturday.
Charles Nieibling of Innovative Natural Resource Solutions of Amherst, a consultant with New England Wood Pellet in Jaffrey, where he was general manager for seven years, says that the company produces 250,000 tons of pellets a year and runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
''We build up a huge inventory built up during the summer and it was completely gone by the middle of November. We're shipping everything as we make it. There's no extra inventory,'' said Niebling, who says the company allocates its production to try and ensure that all of its regular customers get a supply.
He said that in recent years consumers have shifted from buying a large supply of pellets in the spring to smaller and more frequent buys during the heating season.
''They could drive into places like Lowe's and Home Depot on Saturday when they started to run low. But with this winter's big demand, places like that have run out,'' said Niebling, who points out that heating oil and propane prices have risen and that there have been concerns about possible shortages for those energy sources.

CAPTION:

Kim Bannon of Campton holds a 30-pound bag of wood pellets, one of 10 that she was able to purchase Monday at EnergySavers in Meredith. Joe McClure of EnergySavers said that people from all over New England showed up at the store Saturday to buy wood pellets, which are in scarce supply over the entire area. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 01:52

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