Fate of House budget uncertain as deadline for passage looms, how Belknap County voted

CONCORD (AP) — Uncertainty remains over whether New Hampshire House Republicans can agree on a budget plan as the chamber runs up against a Thursday deadline for sending a spending plan to the Senate.
The House Finance Committee’s $11.9 billion plan, which was backed by GOP House leaders, was rebuked Wednesday by Democrats and a large cohort of Republicans, forcing the House to adjourn early as lawmakers scrambled for a deal.
Numerous amendments will come forward Thursday, with Democrats proposing plans to win over moderate Republicans and the most fiscally conservative members looking for ways to slash spending.
House Speaker Shawn Jasper and his leadership team offered no compromise amendment of their own, but expressed optimism a budget would pass. Top House budget writers, including some Democrats, as well as Republican Rep. JR Hoell, a budget detractor, were seen coming in and out of leadership offices Wednesday afternoon.
The chaos Wednesday began when 66 out of 196 Republicans teamed up with Democrats to reject the House Finance Committee’s $11.9 billion two-year spending plan. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s $12.1 billion plan was the blueprint, but House budget writers made significant changes, including nixing $18 million for full-day kindergarten and giving $50 million to communities for property tax relief.
Republicans said the plan spends too much money. It’s about 5 percent bigger than the existing budget. Democrats then tried to sell moderate Republicans on their own version of the budget, which boosts spending even more for substance abuse programs, full-day kindergarten and a host of other priorities.

How Belknap County voted:


CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives took three swinging strikes without so much as foul ball on Wednesday before tabling the budget and recessing the session until this morning when lawmakers will step to the plate again.

In the first of three roll call votes, the budget proposed by the House Finance Committee failed by a vote of 220 to 134. Only seven members of the Belknap County delegation, all Republicans, voted in favor: Reps. Dennis Fields and Tim Lang of Sanbornton, Don Flanders and Peter Spanos of Laconia, Herb Vadney of Meredith, John Plumer of Belmont and Peter Varney of Alton. Rep. Dave Huot, the lone Democrat in the delegation, was joined by seven Republicans in opposition: Reps Marc Abear of Meredith, Glen Aldrich and Norm Silber of Gilford, Robert Fisher of Laconia, Ray Howard of Alton, Michael Maloney of Gilmanton and Michael Sylvia of Belmont. Reps. Valerie Fraser of New Hampton and Barbara Comtois of Barnstead were excused and did not vote.

Following the failure of the committee's budget, a conservative faction in the House proposed an alternative that would have reduced expenditures by $200 million, which was convincingly scuttled by a margin of 282 to 75. Eight members of the Belknap County delegation, all Republicans, voted with the minority: Reps. Abear, Aldrich, Fisher, Howard, Maloney, Plumer, Sylvia and Silber. The remaining six Republicans — Fields, Flanders, Lang, Spanos, Vadney and Varney — along with Huot voted with the majority.

Finally, despite garnering the most votes of three alternatives, a budget offered by a cadre of Democratic representatives also failed by a vote of 196 to 162. Among the representatives from Belknap County, only Huot voted in favor while the 14 Republicans present and voting were opposed.

Running for Max

Kelli Powers running in Boston Marathon as local boy’s patient partner


GILFORD — Kelli Powers will be running in the 121st Boston Marathon on April 17 as a member of the Dana-Farber Medical Center Team and has set a goal of raising $12,725 toward the team goal of $5 million for cancer treatment.
Powers, who two years ago lost her mother to cancer, will be running as part of the team's Patient Partner Program, which matches runners with a pediatric patient who is currently receiving treatment at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. She is partnered with Maxwell Gagnon, 4, of Laconia, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia - Type B last June. Gagnon spent 43 days in Boston Children's Hospital receiving treatment before being declared in remission.
Gagnon will receive out-patient care through the Jimmy Fund Clinic until August of 2018, receiving regular treatment involving steroids and intrathecal chemotherapy, which involves injections into the spinal column.
"It's a real honor to run for Max," says Powers, who graduated from Gilford High School in 1994 with Mike Gagnon, Max's dad, a few years ahead of Max's mother, Amber, and is pleased that the Gagnon family will have a real sense of involvement with this year's race.
Powers, who is flight attendant for American Airlines, says she started running marathons five years ago and has set a goal of running in 50 marathons, one in each state, by the age of 50 and has already completed 13 marathons in 13 different states.
She recalls that one of her last long conversations with her mother, Marie Skulski, in late 2014, was about the Boston Marathon and her desire to run in it.
"I have lost a grandmother, a grandfather, an uncle, an aunt, a cousin and most recently my mom to various forms of the disease. My mom was one of my biggest cheerleaders in everything that I did. It is in her memory and theirs that I run," she wrote in a letter to her friends and supporters asking for their support in raising funds for the Dana Farber team.
"I'm not the fastest runner around, but my knees haven't been subject to a lot of a stress from long distance running earlier in my life, which makes me confident that I can reach my goal," said Powers, who expects to see Max and his family cheering her on when she passes by Fenway Park in the final 1.2-mile leg of the 26.2-mile marathon.
Powers has taken a leave of absence from her job with American Airlines later this month as she will be playing the lead role of Mary Poppins in the Streetcar Company's production of the play on April 28, 29 and 30. She's been active in community theater since she was in high school.
Powers has been fundraising since the beginning of October for the marathon and in November held a fundraiser on her 40th birthday which raised over $4,000 and put her over the top of the $5,000 minimum.
Her final big fundraiser will be at the Gilford Youth Center on Friday, April 7, from 5 to 9 p.m. It will be a Home Party Expo for small local businesses, vendors and independent consultants. The event is open to the public and there is no admission charge.
A silent auction will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. and money from this will go directly toward the cause. Powers said 100 percent of the money raised will benefit the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Anyone who would like to make a donation, or to find more information, can log onto www.rundfmc.org/2017/kellipowers.

04-05 Kelli Powers and Max Gagnon
Kelli Powers will be running in the 121st Boston Marathon on April 17 as a patient partner with Maxwell Gagnon, left, of Laconia, who is receiving treatment at the Dana-Farber Medical Center in Boston. Powers, second left, is shown with Gagnon's mother, Amber, and his sister, Olivia. (Courtesy photo)

04-05 Kelli Powers by lake

Kelli Powers gets in some training next to Lake Winnipesaukee last month in preparation for the Boston Marathon on April 17. (Courtesy photo)

04-05 Kelli Powers at Surf City

Kelli Powers took part in the Surf City Marathon at Huntington Beach, California, on Feb. 5. It was her 13th marathon since she started running five years ago. (Courtesy photo)

Emergency calls on the rise in Laconia


LACONIA — The Laconia Fire Department responded to 379 emergency calls last month, a 13 percent increase over the same period last year and a 71 percent increase since 2010.

Fire Chief Kenneth Erickson said Tuesday his is one of the busiest fire departments in the state, with increases in call volume associated in part with an aging population that places more and more medical and service calls.

“We do tend to see more service calls, driven by an aging population and people not knowing where else to call if a water line breaks in a cellar or a lift chair doesn't work,” he said.

The population of Laconia has hovered around 16,000 for many years, according to the U.S. Census, but Erickson thinks this is an underreported figure as the city's housing stock has been increasing. Many units are used for only part of the year, and many people may not register with the census, he said.

The call volume may also have something to do with the nature of that housing stock.

“There are lots of absentee landlords and apartment dwellings,” he said. “There is a disregard for some of those buildings.”

The prevalence of cell phones and fire alarms systems also leads to increases in call volume.

For the first quarter of the year, the department responded to 1,136 emergencies, up 9 percent from last year and up 46 percent since 2010.

Medical emergencies accounted for 74 percent of all calls, the fire department said in a news release.

The department, which has 40 employees, handled a dozen building fires in the first quarter and assisted at five fires in nearby towns.