Burchell: Privatize Belknap County Nursing Home

LACONIA — The county should look at selling the Belknap County Nursing Home, according to Belknap County Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), addressing members of the Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee last evening.
His comments came during a discussion of the current county budget and the $6.1 million in the health and human services line which represents payments made to the state of New Hampshire for county residents who are in private nursing homes and who are covered by Medicaid.
State Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) asked for a study to see whether it is more cost effective for the county to pay for someone in a private nursing home or someone in the Belknap County Nursing Home, which he noted is "a five-star facility," and also whether the quality of care is equitable.
Burchell observed that there is no real possibility of expanding the number of beds in the county facility and that the county has a burgeoning population of those eligible for elderly services, which will drive up nursing home costs, public and private, for the county.
"The real game plan is to keep people in their homes longer." he said.
State Rep. George Hurt (R-Gilford) asked if it would be feasible to have a private nursing home "come in and take it over," referring to the county nursing home, and said the change might result in having a management team which is more progressive,
"It should be explored. We should look at selling it,'' said Burchell.
Asked after the meeting whether the sale would mean that the facility would no longer be staffed by county employees, Burchell said that would be the case.

They risked their lives for others - Laconia firefighters honored for heroism with medals

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson, whose passion for his job is matched only by his pride in his firefighters, honored members of what he called “the fire department every fire department wants to be” at an awards ceremony last evening.
Lt. Jeff Desrosiers and his crew were commended for courageously entering a blazing apartment building at Davis Place in search of occupants trapped by the inferno that claimed one life. Lt. Jay Ellingson and a team of six firefighters, each drawn from different shifts, were commended for their response to a severe traffic accident on Parade Road that took one life and, but for their efficient teamwork, might have taken two more.
Enhancing the significance of commendations, Erickson remarked that he could recall awarding only one medal since 2001 then proceeded to award the Mark E. Miller Medal of Valor to seven firefighters. The medal is named for the revered firefighter who drowned in a training exercise with the dive team he founded and is awarded for saving a life imperiled by water.
On a frigid night in January, Kevin Pierce, Chris Beaudoin, Jason Griffin and Nate Mills were among the firefighters dispatched to Lake Winnisquam where a snowmobiler was reported in the water. In pitch darkness, the four, wearing dry suits and tethered only to one another, crossed 1,400 feet of ice, swam 200 feet of open water, found the snowmobiler using his helmet as a flotation device, and returned him to safety.
In December 2014, a paddler was parted from his kayak when it overturned in the Winnipesaukee River and was clinging to a log as the current swept him downstream. Rick Hewlett, Chris Morgan and Brennan Lorden responded. All three firefighters, at risk to their own lives, managed to rescue the kayaker from the cold water and strong current as Lorden ferried him to shore.
The commendations and medals, Erickson said, exemplify the department’s credo of “selfless service.”

Rep. Gallagher: Gunstock should pay county $400k-$500k a year

LACONIA — State Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) told members of the Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee last night that he thinks Gunstock Mountain Resort should be paying substantially more to the county in years to come.
Citing numbers which showed that Gunstock, which is owned by Belknap County, paid $318,000 in 2008 and $322,000 in 2009 as part of its previous memorandum of understanding with the county compared to $175,000 in its current agreement, Gallagher said he thinks the county-owned recreation area should be paying as much as $400,000 to $500,000 a year.
''I think we should look at the 2008 and 2009 numbers as a baseline and factor in the increase in value of Gunstock.'' said Gallagher, who said the county should be paying at least double what it currently pays. The resort does not pay property tax.
The current memorandum of understanding expires on Dec. 31, 2016, and Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said that the original agreement provided for supplemental payments to the county when Gunstock enjoys a good year.
He said that one of the reasons for reducing the amount paid to the county was to enable Gunstock to make capital investments which would allow it to remain competitive with other ski areas and add new year-round attractions envisioned in its master plan.
"We were trying to help with their four-year development plan,'' sad Tilton.
Rep. Guy Comtois (R-Barnstead) said that the real issue that should be discussed by county legislators was "Why are we not talking about why we do not sell it?''
He maintained that the county should sell the ski area to private owner and get out of the ski and recreation business altogether. "We should sell it. It's just wrong. We should get out of competing with private business.''