County proposes 3 new employees in 2016 budget

LACONIA — Three new county employees are part of the proposed Belknap County 2016 budget.

Commission Chairman David DeVoy informed members of the Belknap County Convention  of the plan at Monday night's public hearing.
The new positions would include full-time attorney in the Belknap County Attorney's office and two new Department of Corrections officers.
Devoy said an additional attorney is needed because of changes in the state's court system in which felony level offenses will be routed directly to Superior Court, bypassing District Court, and require more early involvement in the cases by the County Attorney's office.
He said the new Corrections Department officers will be hired on April 1 and on May 1, and will enable the department to better manage work release programs. DeVoy pointed out that the county has fewer Corrections Department workers than many other counties with smaller inmate populations.
The budget also includes $350,000 in anticipated grants, $250,000 for the Corrections Department and $100,000 for the Sheriff's departments.
DeVoy said a consultant who worked with the county on developing plans for an $8 million community corrections facility has suggested that the county is eligible for between $150,000 and $250,000 in federal grants, which will help develop programs at the corrections facility.
Although the total spending proposal for 2016 is up more than 31 percent, he said the amount to be raised by taxes is the same as this year, $13,387,714.
The proposed 2016 budget of $35,235,571 includes $8 million for the new community corrections facility, to be financed by borrowing.

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Candidate Innis takes hard line on immigration, ISIS

BELMONT — Amid the clamor of the Republican presidential primary campaign, the Belknap County Republican Committee heard from the first candidate to enter the race for the 1st Congressional District when Dan Innis of Portsmouth addressed the monthly meeting at the Top of the Town this week.

Innis, an academic and businessman, is one of a trio of likely candidates circling the incumbent, Republican Frank Guinta of Manchester, weakened by his sleight of hand with campaign funds in 2010 that prompted a number of leading Republicans to call for his resignation. But Guinta has shown no sign of shrinking from the defense of his seat. In October, Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland, who served as Deputy Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives under the leadership of Bill O'Brien, formed an exploratory committee for a congressional bid. And Rich Ashook, once a lobbyist for BAE Systems of Nashua and now interim director of the Warren B. Rudman Center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, who ran third when Guinta won the seat in 2010, is expected to join the field.

Innis is making his second bid for the seat. In 2014, as one of three openly gay Republican congressional candidates, he ran Guinta a close second, losing the primary by less than 5,000 votes.

"I'm not a career politician," Innis said, stressing that his background and perspective as a business teacher and business owner marked his candidacy.
A native of Ohio, Innis earned business degrees at Ohio University, Miami University in Ohio and Ohio State University, then joined the faculty at Ohio University. He became dean of the College of Business, Public Policy and Health at the University of Maine and in 2007 came to the University of New Hampshire, serving as Dean of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics until 2013. With his husband Douglas Palardy, opened the The Ale House Inn in 2008 and the Hotel Portsmouth in 2014, both of which were later sold to Lark Hotels.

Asked what role he expected to play as newcomer to politics and a freshman in Congress, Innis pointed to the career of John Kasich of Ohio, who as a representative from Ohio entered the House of Representatives as something of a maverick, but served six of his nine terms as chairman of the Budget Committee.

Innis began with the issue of ISIS, declaring flatly "I would wipe them off the face of the earth," but then added that the United States must work with its allies in Europe and the Middle East to develop a successful strategy to eliminate the threat.

Turning to fiscal and economic policy, Innis advocated a balanced budget amendment, which he said was required to bring the $19 trillion national debt under control. Excessive debt, he warned, poses the greatest threat to the economy. Describing Obamacare as "a complete and utter failure," he called for repealing and replacing it. He favors lowering the corporate tax rate, which he said is not competitive, in order encourage firms to operate and invest at home rather than abroad as well as simplifying the tax code and moving toward a flat tax. His lone reference to climate change was to the "terrible" business climate, fouled by taxes and regulation.

On immigration, perhaps the most controversial issue of the campaign season, Innis toed a hard line. He opposes resettling any refugees without a "100 percent guarantee" that they pose no threat to public safety, which he said "can't be done now." He underlined the urgency of securing the southern border, not only to keep out potential terrorists but also to curb drug trafficking. He rejected so-called "serial amnesty" or any "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants resident in the country, and suggested birthright citizenship" of so-called "anchor babies, or children born in the United States to mothers who are not citizens, should be rescinded.

Innis has begun his campaign with an outstanding debt of more than $100,000 for his earlier bid and will likely find himself the most centrist, or least conservative, of the four apparent candidates. He said that he had learned from first bid, when he remarked "I had a consultant in the back of my head," that "I can be myself and I can win this."

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Making the jump - Plymouth keeps high school ski jumping alive in Lakes Region

PLYMOUTH — In February, Plymouth Regional High School will host the state championship ski jump meet. That event will be more than a competition of the state's elite high school ski jumpers, it will also be a celebration of the robust community effort sparked just a few months ago, when it seemed that the tradition of ski jumping in Plymouth was in peril.

The Plymouth Regional High School's original ski jump was built in 1979, and allowed Plymouth to remain one of seven public high schools with a ski jump team in New Hampshire, which is the last state in the country with a sanctioned ski jumping program for high school athletes. This summer, though, an inspection of the 24-meter jump found serious structural problems and the school board, lacking funds to repair or rebuild the jump, voted to tear it down.

That news was worrying to Skip Johnstone, a parent of two members of the ski jumping team. Without a home jump, the team would have had to travel to Proctor Academy, more than an hour away, to train. That inconvenience, he feared, would lead to fewer jumpers and, within a few years, would spell the end of the Plymouth jumping team. He wasn't alone in his alarm.

"The school motto is 'Pride and Tradition,'" said Johnstone. "That about sums it up. People were proud that we had a ski jump on the school campus."

Norm LeBlanc was a construction trades teacher at the high school when he and students built the '79 jump. Although he retired from teaching and coaching in 2006, he was quick to involve himself in the movement to save the jump, and soon found himself heading the group's construction committee.

"It's been an absolutely fantastic ride through this thing," he said.

LeBlanc said having that jump on the school campus, in plain sight of students, inspired many skiers to try the sport. "I thought not having a jump on school property would definitely hurt the program ... We couldn't lose that."

"The most fascinating thing to me was just how generous the community was. I couldn't be more proud of where I've lived, coached and taught for so many years," said LeBlanc.

"In September, the school decided they were going to tear it down with no plans to rebuild it. Norm and I started rallying our community," recalled Johnstone, who acted as the public relations manager, while LeBlanc organized the construction effort. Without an idea of how much the project would cost, the group set goals of raising $50,000 and completing the construction of a new jump by Thanksgiving. The fundraising efforts exceeded its goal within the first month – they've raised a total of about $78,000 to date – and the jump was finished on the day before Thanksgiving, thanks in large part to a great deal of volunteered labor, both from individual members of the community as well as local construction firms.

About 80 "significant contributors" stepped forward to assist, according to LeBlanc. "They all rushed to help. You didn't have to ask anybody twice."

"The community really came together," said Johnstone. "The outpouring really shows what a tremendous community we have." Once the vigor of the community support was apparent, the school board also joined the effort, supplying new lighting for the jumps as well as security fencing around the structure.

In a sense, the school's initial decision to demolish the jump has turned into a positive development for the team. For one thing, the new jump features two levels, an 18-meter and a 28-meter, replacing the single 24-meter jump. The surge of interest in the team showed by the community was also apparent among the student body, as there are now 25 members of the jump team, about double the number of jumpers in previous years.

Sam Untersee, a junior, is one of the new team jump team members. "I've got a lot of friends on the team and it's something I always wanted to try and never got around to it," he said.

Dan LeBlanc, Norm's son and one of the school's skiing coaches, attributed much of the increased interest to a fund raising appearance by Sarah Hendrickson, the first-ever women's World Cup ski jumping champion and a member of the U.S. Ski Team that competed at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Her parents grew up in Plymouth and Hendrickson had trained at the Plymouth High School jump. He sees a connection between Hendrickson's visit and the growing team roster, especially among female athletes.

"There's a lot of adventurous kids out there, there's not many outlets for them that are positive," said Dan LeBlanc.

"I think it's cool. It's something that interests me, it stands out among the winter sports," said freshman Holly Mason.

Aubrey King, also a freshman, said, "It's something new and exciting I've never done before."

For Arne Pietsch, an exchange student from Braunschweig, Germany, ski jumping will be an indelible part of his American experience. "It's not common to ski jump, but it's cool. I want to try it." But, on Thursday, looking at the jump, he admitted, "It's terrifying."

Since there's no snow yet, the new team members have yet to experience their first fight. Team captain Will Johnstone, a senior, said he thinks they will be hooked on the sport by the time they make their first landing.

"It's definitely a rush," he said.

The skier sits at the top of the structure, contemplating the long, steep slope, followed by the jump. The skis sit in tracks; there's no brakes and no turning back, there is only forward, accelerating past cheering teammates, and launching into the air.

"After I went once, I wanted more," said Johnstone.

Other high schools with ski jumping teams are Proctor Academy, Merrimack Valley, Lebanon, Kennett, Hanover and Sunapee. Gilford High School athletic director Dave Pinkham said that school hasn't had a ski jumping team for about three decades. Laconia also once had a ski jumping team. Karen Abraham, LHS librarian, said there are images of ski jumping in school yearbooks up to 1985. Penny Pitou, who in 1960 became the first American to win an Olympic medal in downhill skiing, was a member of the Laconia High School ski jumping team until she graduated in 1956.

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