Sanders sets high bar in campaign

LACONIA — "It's not about electing s president," Bernie Sanders, who continues to run neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, told a crowd of more than 150 voters at the Weirs Community Center Monday. "It's about making a political revolution."

Sanders opened by riffing on the two fundamental themes of his campaign — the "rigged economy" and "political oligarchy." The middle class, he said, "has been disappearing for the past 40 years as despite rising productivity, Americans are working longer hours and earning less money.

"Your grandchildren will have a lower standard of living than your children," he continued, "when one-tenth of the wealthiest one percent own as much the bottom 90 percent."

Offering what he called "a very radical idea" with feigned overstatement, he suggested "creating an economy that works for all of us."

"Why," he asked, "are the Republican candidates talking about everything but what's happening to the middle class?" then answered his question by pointing to "the corrupt campaign finance system." Repeating that a small, affluent elite "already owned the economy," he charged that the United States Supreme Court "gave it the opportunity to buy the government as well." When wealthy individuals like casino owner Sheldon Adelson play host to candidates to pick their favorite, Sanders claimed "that's not democracy. That's oligarchy." He said that relatively few wealthy donors, he described as "right-wing extremists," are spending $900 million to "overturn everything government has done since the 1930s to help the middle class." To loud applause, he called for public financing of elections.

The greatness of a country, Sanders said, is measured by how well it cares for its most vulnerable people. He said that America has the highest rate of childhood poverty and youth unemployment among comparable industrial democracies. Likewise, he said that "we should be be doing a lot better for our senior citizens." by expanding Social Security benefits. By raising the cap on taxable income on the most affluent 1.5 percent, Sanders said that the solvency of the system could be ensured for 50 years and monthly benefits increase by $65. He favors raising the minimum wage, dismissing the freedom of employers as "about me paying you three bucks an hour."

On foreign policy, Sanders chided the Republicans for talking "tough" about intervening in the Middle East, but reminded his listeners "it won't be their kids, it will be your kids who will go to war." Insisting ISIS must be destroyed, he said the United States "cannot and should not do it alone" and called for a coalition of major powers and Muslim states.

Asked how to overcome the deep division in the country, Sanders replied that in site of the passions aroused by issues like abortions rights, gay marriage and gun control, "on major issue after major issue, we are much closer together than people think." He referred specifically to economic inequality, campaign finance infrastructure investment, excessive incarceration and climate change as issues on which polls indicate a majority of Americans agree. "There's a lot of common ground," he said.

Seldom has a candidate grounded a presidential campaign on such a stark critique of the economic and political order. By way of introducing Sanders, Lew Henry of Gilmanton Iron Works remarked, "We may never again get a chance like this to change the rotten political system in this great country of ours."

And by seeking not only to win the presidency but also to spark a revolution, Sanders has set a very high bar.

Laconia Water Works proposes higher rate, about $40 extra per year

LACONIA — The Laconia Water Works seeks to raise its consumption rate by 40 cents, from $1.45 to $1.85, per hundred cubic feet (hcf) and will hold a public hearing on the proposed increase at the Water Treatment Plant at 117 Stark St., beginning at 6 p.m. on Jan. 13.

For a family of four using 25 hcf, or 18,700 gallons, per quarter, the proposed increase would add $40 to the annual water bill. which would rise from $225 to $265, which translates to 73 cents a day or $0.003 per gallon.

Seth Nuttelman, superintendent of the Laconia Water Works, said Tuesday that the increase, the first since the consumption rate was raised 30 cents in January 2012, is necessary because reflects operating and maintenance costs have risen steadily while the volume of water sold has fallen. He said that during the past 15 years the volume of water billed has diminished by an average of 1.5 percent a year with the installation of more efficient appliances. Measures to conserve water by reducing usage, Nuttelman said, have more than offset the addition of new customers.

Meanwhile, Nuttelman said that the department expects to undertake significant improvements to its infrastructure in the near future, including investments of $500,000 at Lakeside Avenue at The Weirs, $200,000 at Holman Street and $250,000 at Old North Main Street.

Nuttelman said the the Board of Water Commissioners propose to raise only the consumption rate, leaving the base rate of $20 per quarter unchanged. He noted that in 2015 the Laconia Water Works charged the fifth lowest rate among the 104 water systems in the state according to the Water Rate Survey by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and with the projected increase would bill the 13th lowest rate.

County won’t see savings from electronic records immediately

LACONIA — Belknap County commissioners, who were hoping for an immediate turnaround, were disappointed to hear from interim nursing home Administrator Bob Hemenway that it will be 18 months to two years before the benefits of electronic record-keeping can be realized.
Last Wednesday, commissioners approved encumbering $20,000 in funds from the 2015 budget in order to purchase 12 wall-mounted kiosks in 2016, which will allow the Belknap County Nursing Home to begin to implement an electronic medical record-keeping program as soon as possible.
The change is designed to stem an estimated $185,420 yearly loss in Medicaid income due to lack of adequate documentation of services provided for residents.
Hemenway said the Medicaid reimbursement rate for the county, which will drop from $161.33 a day to $154.46 on July 1 next year, is based on 2013 data, which means that it will be some time before the rates are updated to reflect the changes.
But he noted that most of the seven county nursing homes in the state which have been using an electronic medical records program have turned their situations around and are receiving increased reimbursements.
The county currently uses PointClickCare software for the nursing home, but licensed nursing assistants do not have access to it, so their information is recorded on pieces of paper and entered into the system by other people.
“What’s critical is the LNAs. The work they do is not being captured for reimbursement.” He said that the county is losing $6.87 per patient each day for each of the 74 Medicaid-covered residents, which amounts to over $185,000 a year.
He said that another advantage of the electronic system is that it lists required daily tasks for each patient, ensuring that all procedures are completed and recorded.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) supported the transfer. “We should go ahead now because of the amount of money we’re losing,” he said.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) said he thought the request was premature.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said it will cost $13,754 for the software for the system, which also has a monthly charge of $1,627.
The commissioners elected to take the $20,000 needed for purchase of the kiosks from the 2015 capital improvements budget line.
Commissioners did reject a proposal from Belknap County Nursing Home to add $21,753.45 for two 16-hour per week dishwashing positions for the home’s Dietary Department budget.
Dietary Manage Carolee Sliker sent a memo to the commissioners which said that House of Corrections inmate labor has proved unreliable, resulting in a situation in which the cook on duty is not getting out of the kitchen until 8 p.m. resulting in overtime costs of $2,800 per year.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said he is opposed to the proposal at the present time and would like to see how things work out with the county’s plan to pay prisoners $3 a day for their work in county facilities.
Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray recently told commissioners that he currently has 12 inmates available to work, and estimated that it would cost $15,427 a year to pay inmates for their labor.
The inmates would work in the Belknap County Home kitchen, washing dishes, as well as at the county home and corrections department laundries, or as part of the grounds crew and farm crew at the county home. There would also be some off-site work at locations like the Belknap County Fairgrounds or in communities which ask for prison labor for specific projects.
Gray said that those eligible to work will be minimum risk, nonviolent offenders and that waivers might be sought in order to allow those awaiting trial to participate.
DeVoy said he thinks that work is the best rehabilitation for prisoners and getting more inmates working is a good idea.
Commissioners decided to use $15,000 from a $93,000 budget line for programs in order to pay prisoners for their work after being told by Shackett that a $200,000 contingency line in the 2016 draft budget would be virtually exhausted if agreements are reached with three county unions on a new contract.
She said that cost of living raises and step increases for workers in the State Employee Association affiliated unions in the nursing home, sheriff’s department and corrections department would cost $198,966.
Commissioners also approved a $6,919 contract with Hiller New England Fire Protection of Belmont for installation of a fire suppression and detection system for the Sheriff Department’s communication building.