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Laconia forum focuses on sustance misuse issues

LACONIA — The city of Laconia has experienced seven deaths from drug overdoses this year according to Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams, who says that is the most experienced in the city since 2009 when eight lives were lost.
''It's shameful to have that many young people lose their lives,'' Adams told a crowd of about 150 people who turned out for a Substance Abuse Prevention Forum held at the Middle School last night
He said that dealing with the problem requires thinking outside of the traditional law enforcement box and doing outreach to those most in need.
Adams said that his department has 10 officers working on core issues dealing with drug abuse and that his department recently arrested seven on drug charges and expects more arrests of drug dealers shortly.
''We want to send a message to dealers coming up from Massachusetts that we're serious about protecting our community,'' Adams said.
He acknowledged that the problem extends far beyond law enforcement and that finding ways to help users rather than jailing them is of major importance.
Eric Adams, (no relation to the chief), the city's new Prevention, Enforcement and Treatment officer, said that he served for many years as an undercover narcotics officer for the state and that one of the best feelings he had about his job was ''getting those dealers off the street.'' But he says he didn't realize at that time the deep impact that drugs were having on the families of users and the communities in which they lived.
''We have to do something to break the cycle. I'm here to play a support role in this community to reach out to those dealing with substance abuse and to get them help,'' said Adams.
Clare Persson, chair of Stand Up Laconia, which organized the forum, which was preceded by an Empty Bowls dinner hosted by students, said that the growing drug epidemic in the city, largely heroin, which has claimed four lives in the past two weeks, needs action on many fronts by concerned citizens, whom she urged to get involved with organizations like Stand Up and Better Together.
''This is our town and we're not putting up with it anymore,'' she said.
Laconia High School Principal Jim McCollum and Superintendent of Schools Terry Fostern described programs being offered in city schools to help at risk students and their families cope with the challenges of drug abuse as well as the positive behavior programs available and educational efforts underway.
McCollum noted that half of the students at the high school are taking part in sports programs, which he said provide them with the kind of relationships they need to develop healthy behaviors.
Lisa Morris of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health said that research shows that youths are 50 percent less likely to substance abuse if their parents express their disapproval and engage in regular dialogue about making healthy choices.
She also pointed out that there is cause for concern in New Hampshire where numbers show that the state is in the top 10 in the rate of marijuana use for those aged 12-20 and second in the nation in alcohol use by those aged 12-20.
Kathy Sorell of Meredith, a Salvation Army volunteer who works with homeless people in the city, said that many people showed up at an event she organized on a recent Saturday morning at Rotary Park in downtown Laconia .
''The tragic deaths a few weeks ago brought many of their friends and family members out. I really believe we're at a tipping point and people know we've got to do something. '' she said.


Eric Adams, Prevention, Enforcement and Treatment officer for the Laconia Police Department, speaks at a Substance Abuse Prevention Forum held at Laconia Middle School Thursday night. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 02:25

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Bownes off the hook for alleged assault of police officer

CONCORD — The charge against City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), who was scheduled to stand trial for simple assault today in 6th Circuit Court, Concord Division, has been dropped under the terms of an agreement negotiated last month.

The charge arose from an incident last May when Loudon police alleged Bownes, an attorney, caused "unprivileged contact" with Corporal Jason Fiske at an automotive repair shop on Mudgett Hill Road.

Concord prosecutor Tracy Connolly agreed to drop the charge of simple assault, a misdemeanor, and replace it with a charge of criminal trespass, a violation, alleging that Bownes entered the secured impound lot of J &D Repairs, LLC knowing he was not entitled to do so. Judge John Coughlin approved the agreement on October 24, dropping the complaint of simple assault, and and a week later filed the complaint of criminal trespass without a finding, which on condition of good behavior will be dismissed after 90 days.

Bownesrepresents clients who are being sued for their part in a road accident that claimed the life of motorcyclist. His client's vehicle was impounded at J&D Repairs and Bownes was at the lot when the attorney representing the estate of the deceased and independent experts inspected the vehicle.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 02:01

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Alleged con-man said to be now using different bank account & driving new car

LACONIA — A number of businesses have contacted police following the alert issued Wednesday warning of the fraudulent activity of Shawn Cochrane, 44, who has allegedly been using invalid bank accounts to make purchases throughout the state.

Police initially reported that Cochrane was writing check on a closed account with TD Bank, but now believe he is drawing on an invalid account with Northeast Credit Union. He recently purchased an expensive chainsaw and generator. On November 5 he registered a 1994 silver Nissan bearing New Hampshire plate 3650435 and is accompanied by a man and woman, neither of whom have been identified.

Police warn retailers, especially jewelry stores , hardware stores and pawn brokers and second-hand shops not to do business with Cochrane, who uses the bad checks to purchase expensive items, many of which he subsequently sells to pawn brokers or second-hand dealers at discounted prices.

Cochrane is wanted on an active felony arrest warrant from Laconia among other municipalities as well as a warrant for violation of parole. Cochrane has an extensive criminal history, which includes numerous thefts and frauds. Police warn local businesses not to sell or buy from Cochrane and to notify the police of any transactions that appear to be fraudulent. In particular, police ask the owners and operator of pawn shops and second-hand stores to report any attempt by Cochrane to sell or pawn items. Anyone who may know of Cochrane's whereabouts should not approach him, but instead should notify their local police department.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 01:50

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Tension at LHS over plan to convert drama space to weight room

LACONIA — When the School Board meets next week it will likely find itself in the midst of a controversy brewing over converting classrooms adjacent to the auditorium at Laconia High School, which have been used by the school drama club and local performing arts organizations, to a strength training and aerobic exercise facility.

The issue came to light earlier this week when Jessica Alward of the Laconia Streetcar Company wrote to Barbara Luther of the School Board expressing concern about the condition of the auditorium, where the lights failed on the opening night of the company's production of "A Few Good Men" on Saturday. On Tuesday, Alward posted her letter on Facebook. After deploring the state of auditorium, Alward wrote, as if in passing, "now I'm hearing that the performing arts classrooms and storage areas are being taken over by the athletic department. It somehow doesn't seem right," she continued, to take away what little space the drama/music kids have for yet another sports facility."

Alward posted her letter on Facebook at 11:38 a.m. on Veteran's Day. Just before 3:00 p.m. she posted that "The principal (Jim McCollum) says that this is not going to happen. That there are no plans to make such changes," then added "but then I have an e-mail from a faculty member that says he has been informed that this is happening. Also the fact that the rooms are now completely empty is a cue."

Alward stressed yesterday that her son was a member of the football team and she did not seek to discount the importance of athletic programs, but instead to advocate that "equal consideration should be given to all activities."

In the meantime, on Wednesday The Daily Sun received an flyer from Patrick O'Reilly on behalf of Laconia Youth Football announcing fundraising events sponsored by each organization to benefit "new health and wellness facilities at LHS." The flyer explains that "this project entails moving the existing weight room and relocating it into a revamped strength training room and aerboic/cardio room." The facility will be open to members of the community as well as to students and teachers.

Yesterday McCollum acknowledged that he was aware of the growing controversy, but said that because Alward had written to the School Board he could not speak about to it to the press and referred questions to School Superintendent Terri Forsten.

Forsten volunteered that she shared Alward's misgivings about the state of the auditorium, but said that she could not speak directly to the issue of displacing the performing arts to make space for an athletic training room. Likewise, she said she was not in a position to comment on the fundraising efforts begun by Laconia Youth Football.

Questions about how to allocate space within the school buildings, Forsten explained, fell to the principals. "This sort of thing happens all the time," she said. "It's pretty common." She noted that priority must granted to "classrooms, space for students" and ventured "there is enough space to accommodate it all." However, she allowed that anyone with questions could approach the superintendent or the School Board.

Forsten said that she expects to present the issues raised by Alward to the School Board when it meets on Tuesday, November 18 — in the course of her superintendent's report.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 01:37

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