Wayfarer Coffee Roasters to bring single origin coffee to Laconia

LACONIA — Karen Bassett and Ben Bullerwell, together with Reuben Bassett, Karen's husband, and Aaron Bassett, his cousin and partner at Burrito Me, will offer another unique treat to downtown with the opening of Wayfarer Coffee Roasters in June.

Reuben Bassett said that while he and Aaron Bassett are behind the enterprise, his wife and Bullerwell, both experienced coffee roasters, will operate it. "Downtown needs a place to go and relax," Karen Bassett remarked, "where you can enjoy people and appreciate coffee," explaining that the goal is to provide "an experience that brings people downtown."

Reuben Bassett said that the coffee shop will operate in the space last occupied by the Vintage Cafe, which will be joined with the vacant space next door. He expected the Bassetts and Bullerwell would undertake most of the renovation of the property themselves.

Bullerwell, a licensed electrician who has been a stay-at-home dad of late, worked in Seattle, where Karen Bassett grew up, a city renown for its appetite for coffee. He also developed a appreciation for the ambience of fine coffee shops during a spell in Europe. Confessing that electricity was never his passion, he said that roasting coffee is "far more up my alley." He will be the lead roaster.

Bullerwell said that the shop will feature "single origin coffees," using beans grown at specific locations by individual farmers with whom he is familiar, which will be roasted to draw out their "origin profiles." All the roasting will be done on the premises, enhancing the flavor of the coffee and the character of the setting. Bullerwell said the offerings will also include "cold-brewed iced coffee drawn from a tap."

Meanwhile, Karen Bassett will complement the selection of coffees with a limited menu of baked goods, highlighted by Liege waffles, a specialty on the streets of Belgium, fashioned of overnight yeasted dough laced with pearl sugar that carmelizes during baking. She said there will a few other items, but stressed "we'll keep it really simple at the beginning."

Bullerwell said that that by roasting the coffee and preparing the waffles "we will ensure the quality of our products by controlling the entire process from start to finish."

Reuben Bassett, who plays a prominent role in the Main Street Initiative and serves on the Master Plan Advisory Committee, said, "the best thing I can do for Laconia is open a new business." He insisted that "Laconia has a stronger economy than most people think," noting that sales at Burrito Me, which opened at the railroad station five years ago, are two or three times greater than its counterpart in Plymouth. Firms like New Hampshire Ball Bearing, Aavid Thermalloy and Titeflex, he said, represent a strong market, he said, and the prospect of residential students at Lakes Region Community College will add to the customer base.

Likewise, Bassett believes the opening of the Holy Grail Restaurant and Pub in Veterans Square this spring will benefit the other downtown eateries. "Unless it's another burrito shop," he laughed, "it's good for me."

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County home chief worried about losing as much as $2.2M in revenue due to Medicaid Managed Care changes

LACONIA — Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue says that he is concerned that the home could lose as much as $2,194,000 in revenues, about 24 percent of it's yearly income, under the state's proposed implementation of the second phase of a Medicaid Managed Care system.
Logue called for an indefinite delay of the second phase of the program, which is scheduled to take place on July 1, 2016, in a letter addressed to District I Executive Councilor Joe Kenney that he composed this week. He also called on Kenney to reject any proposed amendments to the $2.2 billion contract the state signed two years ago with companies which will run the managed care system.
He discussed the letter with Belknap County commissioners when they met Friday morning and said that his concerns mirror those of state's nursing home community in general, including private nursing homes.
He said that Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas and staffers have said that the so-called bed tax, or MQIP  (Medicaid Quality Incentive Program), a federal matching program, will no longer be reimbursed separately from the nursing home rates and that there has been no indication from the managed care companies that these will be included in the new rates.
He said the situation is still in limbo and that the county stands to lose $936,000 in yearly revenue if the bed tax is not included in new rates rates. The change would also affect private nursing homes.
Another federal match program, Pro Share., which is paid to only county facilities, is also at risk and would not be reimbursed separately from the daily rates. The revenue shortfall to the county would be $1,258,000 million a year, according to Logue.
He said that the daily rates issued as of January 1 of this year by the state excluded $4.9 million in 2014 unspent budgeted nursing home funds which should have been carried over into the 2015 nursing home budget, as they have been since 2007, resulting in all but five or six of the state's 72 nursing homes receiving a rate decrease for 2015. In Belknap County's case that amounts to $145,000 in lost revenue.
Commissioner Dave DeVoy asked ''what can Joe Kenney do for us?'' and Logue said that the letter was designed to make him aware of the problem.
But Commission Chairman Richard Burchell, noting that the state budget also has a shortfall for mental health, said that he viewed the situation as ''not a question of knowledge, but one of priorities.''
Commissioners are composing their own letter on the subject of nursing home costs in cooperation with Rep. Donald Flanders of Laconia, a member of the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs committee.

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M'borough facing up to 'new reality' of much lower student enrollment

MOULTONBOROUGH — Both the School Board and the Advisory Budget Committee have expressed growing concern about the declining enrollment in the local school district, where the number of students has dwindled since 2005 from 710 to 521, a drop of 27-percent, and is projected to shrink by another 100 during the next five years.

When the School Board met earlier this month the declining numbers were the touchstone of the strategic planning process to begin in March. School Superintendent Susan Noyes said yesterday that numbers have been falling for "quite a while" and explained that so far the administration and school board have chosen to address the implications year-by-year. For example, some elective courses at the Academy (high school) are now offered every other year in order to ensure optimal class sizes. A course incorporating "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has been dropped from the curriculum. And the 2015-2016 budget includes a decrease of $277,855 in salary and associated costs representing a reduction in staff in response to falling enrollment.

This year, Noyes said, the board decided to prepare a strategic plan to address what she has called the '''new normal". She stressed that the school is a significant element of the community and the purpose of the planning process is to develop creative options for ensuring a sound educational program in light of the anticipated smaller enrollment.

The process will proceed in two stages, Noyes explained. First, data and projections will be compiled and most important the administration and the board will reach out to all sections of the community — parents, residents, businesses and other interests — for their perspectives and suggestions. After ordering the priorities, she said, "we'll see how to make things happen."

Meanwhile, the Advisory Budget Committee, in its report on the School District budget, expressed its concern that "the declining enrollment has now reached a 'tipping' point." The committee voiced its support for the strategic planning process. "it is critical that the community as a whole come together to support the process of addressing strategies that will allow Moultonborough to continue to provide excellent educational opportunities for all children in a cost effective and challenging environment," the committee wrote.

While the committee endorsed the steps taken by the school board, it voiced disappointment that the "STEM" component was stripped from the curriculum. Likewise, the committee noted that the Region 9 Lakes Region Technology Center in Wolfeboro does not draw more students from Moultonborough and lamented a reduction in the appropriation for vocational education while applauding the effort at Moultonborough Academy to encourage more students to enroll in vocational programs.

In conclusion, the committee repeated that "the continued enrollment decline and changing demographics will in the near term have a serious impact on Moultonborough's ability to continue (under its present mode of operation) to provide excellent educational opportunities for all children in a cost effective and challenging environment." Like the School Board, the Advisory Budget Committee considers "this a town-wide issue" and called "long term contingency plans" to address it.

Writing on Moultonborough Speaks, Selectman Paul Punturieri stressed that the strategic plan must account for the cost of schooling. "The 'truth' as you have read here, continues to be that we are paying $14M plus to educate 500 or so students," he noted. "We all pay for this educational experience and the large majority of that money is paid with tax dollars of those that can't vote on how it is spent nor utilize the school system.," he continued. "Much of the rest is paid by folks that are average middle class or fixed income retirees who really are the majority of the full time residents of our town."
Punturieri applauded the school for undertaking a strategic planning process, but remarked "while we can certainly afford to pay more than most, that should not be part of the equation."


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Laconia Police force to be armed with new guns paid for with forfeiture money

LACONIA — Police Captain Bill Clary reviewed the rules surrounding using the federal government' program for money and items recovered during drug arrests for the Board of Commissioners Thursday afternoon.

Clary explained that it took a little bit longer to use the federal program as opposed to the state forfeiture program but said in the long run the 65 percent kickback to Laconia drug-fighting program is worth the wait.

"People have to understand that this isn't typically a lot of money," Clary said. He said there is some cash, an automobile that the federal government will sell and give them 65 percent, and some jewelry. Federal regulations surrounding this program require it be spent on drug enforcement.

Clary said this year he has combined money from two years of forfeitures, some money from the equipment line, and trade-in values to update all of the handguns being used by the department.

He said the new guns will be Generation 4 Glocks. Most of the department's guns are Generation 2 or 3 Glocks. He said all of the holsters will be replaced by a two-step holster as opposed to the current one-step holster.

The difference means it takes an extra step to remove a handgun from the holster.

Clary said all of the holsters have been ordered and he expects the guns to arrive some time in March.

Every officer will undergo extensive training, he said, especially for using the new holsters. He said all of the training will be done this spring.

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