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Financial Stability Partnership aims to reduce poverty in Belknap County by 20%

LACONIA — A diverse group of Lakes Region citizens is banding together in an effort to reduce poverty — a reality which directly affects one out of every 12 people in Belknap County.
Alan Robichaud, who is one of the people spearheading this effort, calls poverty "a wicked problem." But he and others involved in the Financial Stability Partnership which aims to reduce poverty in the county by 20 percent by the year 2020, believe the problem, though daunting, is not insoluble. They believe that by bringing as wide an assortment of individuals and groups together to work collectively to address poverty real progress can be achieved.
"We're a partnership, not a program," stresses local attorney Mike Persson, who chairs the effort. The endeavor is working to bring together representatives from the non-profit sector, the business community, local governments, faith communities, and anyone else who wants to become involved in finding ways to address specific issues that impact the poor and make it difficult for them to break out of poverty. "The whole community needs to come together (around the issue)," Persson adds.
Overall, 8.5 percent of people living in Belknap County meet the official definition of being in poverty. That figure is fractionally higher than the state poverty rate which is 8 percent. Here in Belknap County poverty affects more children — 9.9 percent — than the population as a whole.
Interestingly, while Belknap County has a higher rate of poverty than the state, its rate of unemployment is less than the state average — 5.7 percent for the county versus 6.3 percent for the state.
Robichaud and Persson point out that a family of four (two adults with two children) needs to have an income of nearly $40,000 to be financially stable, and that's providing they don't have any childcare expenses. If that family has to pay for childcare, the living wage is almost $15,000 higher. That kind of income requires good-paying, full-time jobs — ones that pay at least $19 to $20 an hour, nearly three times the minimum wage of $7.25.
"We want to put a more solid foundation under these people," Persson says.
Those helping to direct this effort say it is important to have as much of a cross section of the community involved in the endeavor because poverty is not just a problem for the poor. It's an insidious problem.
"Poverty is impacting all of our lives," says Kate Bishop Hamel, consultant for Granite United Way, who plays a key role in the partnership. "It's not just for the non-profits and the government to solve."
Robichaud concurs. "(Poverty) affects our property taxes and our crime rates," he notes.
Hamel hopes this undertaking will first help to educate people about poverty and then get them to think of one thing they can do in their personal or business lives that would help to reduce poverty.
Robichaud, who is community development director for Granite United Way, says the United Way is particularly suited to bring groups and individuals together to address the issue of poverty. But he stresses that people should not think that the partnership is somehow limited to those groups or agencies which have traditionally been associated with the United Way.
"It doesn't matter whether you get United Way funding or not, but we need you at the table," he says.
Persson acknowledges than when the topic of poverty comes us it's easy to become overwhelmed by the numbers. But he sees the partnership as a meaningful endeavor.
"If we don't try different approaches, how do we know that this a problem that can be solved, but that we have given up (trying to solve)," he says.
Robichaud adds, "It doesn't change (just) because we want it to, it takes a lot of hard work."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 12:53

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State wants plan for old Laconia burn dump by June 1

LACONIA — The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) has asked city officials to submit a plan for addressing lingering contamination from an abandoned burning dump that once operated off Frank Bean Road and Morin Road, near the Laconia Ice Arena, by June 1.

In December, Sovereign Consulting, Inc. of Concord, after undertaking a third assessment of the site, concluded that "a plan for mitigation of future risk at these properties is warranted." Last week, Molly Stark of DES responded to the report in a letter to City Manager Scott Myers.

Myers, who included $1.2 million for the project in his recommended 2014-1015 city budget, said yesterday that city officials are weighing different approaches and options to the site in consultation with Sovereign and DES. He said that the city was exploring measures to minimize the removal and disposal of hazardous material and contaminated soil, which represent the greatest potential cost of the cleanup. Meanwhile, Myers said that the city has already undertaken to pour concrete floors in the basements of two residential properties on the site.

The old burn dump is part of a site that sprawls over some 75 acres on either side of Frank Bean Road, most in the city and some in Gilford. which also includes an abandoned landfill, the Morin Road Landfill. The burn dump itself extends over four lots — two residential and two commercial — totaling about 3.5 acres. Three of the lots abut one another on the west side of Frank Bean Road and the fourth is bordered by Frank Bean Road to the west and Morin Road to the east.

Sovereign sunk monitoring wells and soil borings to determine the extent and nature of materials at the burn dump. The report estimates the dump stretches along Frank Bean Road for about 1,000 feet and is 250 feet wide at its widest point. Likewise, the dump is between 15 feet and 20 deep, though some refuse was found at a depth of 32 feet. Assuming dimensions of 1,000 feet by 200 feet by 15 feet, the report estimates the contains approximately 110,000 cubic yards of "burn dump material."
Like earlier investigations, Sovereign also found metals and polycyclic aromatics hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)in excessive concentrations. In addition, chlorinated VOCs were detected on three of the four lots, trichloroethylene on one lot and petroleum residues on another. But, the report noted "significant adverse impact to native soils has not been documented." Nor did samples of private wells serving the four lots indicate adverse impacts to the quality of drinking water.
Sovereign suggested that a mitigation plan could include some combination of removing and covering the burn dump materials, differentiating between the commercial and residential properties and changing or restricting uses of the site. However, Stark advised Myers that DES was unlikely to support restricting the use of residential property to spare the cost of reducing contamination of soils to safe levels.
Sovereign also recommended additional rounds of drinking water and groundwater samplings, along with additional borings to define the southern extent of burn dump materials. Stark confirmed that DES expected that these further tests would be conducted and the results attached to the plan — known as a "remedial action plan" or RAP — for mitigating the risks to public health, especially groundwater and air quality.
Stark acknowledged that the city would defer investigation and remediation of conditions at the Morin Road Landfill until the issues at the burn dump are resolved.
The site first drew the attention of DES in May, 2003 when David Farley, doing business as Dolphin Point, LLC, a marine contractor, complained of encountering buried refuse and foul odors while excavating for a foundation on his lot on Frank Bean Road.
In 2008, Weston Solutions, Inc. found levels of six metals as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatics hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are byproducts of burnt fuels, in samples collected across the 75 acres, including the burn dump. Levels were sufficiently elevated to warrant further investigation.
Three years later Terracon Consultants, Inc. reported that a thin layer of clean fill covered the site and concluded that surface soils were unlikely to pose a significant risk to human health. However, DES replied that a risk assessment of surface soils would not diminish the requirement for mitigation, suggesting resources would be better applied to remedial measures, and requested the further investigation performed by Sovereign.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 12:48

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Belmont man whose home was focus of police inquiry has died

BELMONT — The man who was found unconscious Friday morning in a mobile home at 7 Northbrook Road has died, said police in a media release yesterday.

Police identified him as 23-year-old Camren Ess and said the cause of his death remains under investigation.

The home was secured for most of Friday while detectives conducted a search.

According to reports on some of his friends' Facebook Page, there will be a candlelight vigil for Ess at the skateboard park in Belmont (Sargent Park) on Friday night beginning at 5 p.m.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 01:51

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Belmont farmer says insurnace won't begin to cover loss of historic barn & contents

BELMONT — Everett Weeks Jr. calls himself the "Last of the Mohicans", meaning he is one of the last family farmers left in town.

When a two-alarm fire destroyed his hay and pig barn Sunday afternoon, he also realized he was under-insured.

"I just talked to my insurance agent. They're not going to give me enough to rebuild the barn," Weeks said yesterday morning.

Fire Chief Dave Parenti agreed the barn was a total loss. He said the fire was reported by a passerby who noticed flames coming from the Route 140/Depot Road farm about 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

He said when the lieutenant arrived and saw that a small house occupied by one of Week's employees was about 20 feet from the burning barn, he went immediately to a second alarm and used his first hoses to build a wall of water between the barn and the small house.

Parenti said there are two fire hydrants on either side of the barn and crews were able to tap into both of them, allowing them to get water on the fire immediately.

The problem, said Parenti, is once 2,000 bales of hay get burning it's nearly impossible to put them out. He also said the barn had two roofs — one made of metal atop one made of wood. That meant it initially took a little while for the ladder truck to begin getting water on top of the fire.

He said there was a backhoe just down the road and one the fire was under control, a backhoe operator kept breaking apart the bales and the fire department would put water on them.

Route 140 was closed for about six hours and firefighters remained there until just after 6 p.m. Around midnight, Parenti said firefighters returned to the barn to douse some bales that had rekindled.

The second time, Parenti said firefighters were there for about 90 minutes. He said yesterday that were rain not in for forecast today, he would probably have sent crews over yesterday to re-wet everything.

He said he knows the fire started in the rear-most corner of the barn that is away from the small house, but doesn't know what caused it. He said the barn has electrical service but Weeks hasn't turned it on for the season yet.

Weeks said he was very grateful that firefighters were able to save the small house.
He said his grandfather bought the farm for his father in 1902 and he thinks the barn dated from the late 1800s.

"I was born here 77-years-ago," Weeks said.

While weeks estimated the barn and it's contents — about 2,000 bails of hay and some equipment — to be worth a about $2,000,000, he said his insurer disagrees.

"I just hope they let me tear it down," he said, fearing that because its a historic building, the town won't let him.

Weeks said he stored hay and summer vegetables in that barn — he has two more — and also raised pigs. He said he hadn't bought his piglets yet and likely wouldn't buy any this year.

"I didn't really make any money on them anyway," he said.

Weeks said he will continue haying, growing vegetable, and raising laying chickens and selling the eggs.

"I'm the last one," said Weeks. "I'm the oldest on this street."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 01:20

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