Free the Nipple' protestors say they will target Weirs Beach next

LACONIA — The co-organizer for the Free the Nipple N.H. campaign said yesterday that they are bringing their campaign to Laconia, likely Weirs Beach, before summer's end.

Heidi Lilley of Gilford said yesterday that she wasn't sure when the protest event would be held but said it would be this year.

Laconia is being targeted because it is the only city in New Hampshire where exposing the nipple portion of the female breast is not allowed. The city ordinance was passed in 1998 primarily to quell some of the rowdiness directed at females during Motorcycle Week.

"We want to firm things up a bit and have our lawyer write letters to notify both the City Council and the Laconia Police about our selected date, she said, adding that some "friendly" motorcycle clubs will be joining them.

Free the Nipple N.H. is a Facebook-centered campaign that is trying to equalize the rights between men and women. In previous interviews, Lilley said that the rights women seek are only to be able to go topless — like men — at beaches and pools. The movement began as an offshoot of a group supporting public breast-feeding and evolved into an equality movie of the same name that was released in 2014.

She said the people in the campaign have no desire to go into restaurants and shops — where shirtless men are also prohibited — but only to have the same rights as they do, primarily at the beach and pools.

Lilley also talked about last weekend's rally at Hampton Beach where the rain kept the numbers of participants lower that hoped. She said she was pleased with the turnout but it ended up being a spectacle because all of the participants were huddled under a shelter because of the rain.

"Because we were gathered in one place, we were a spectacle," Lilley said, adding that the group just wanted a nice day at the beach where they could lay topless in the sun while sunbathing.

Since 2010, Laconia police have about a handful of violations of the no naked female breasts ordinance each year and those cited also include people who encourage women to expose their breasts. The ordinance stipulates a violation-level offense and calls for $250 fine for the first offense up to a $1,000 fine for a third offense.

Three city councilors who spoke on the record two weeks ago said their impression was the ordinance was passed primarily for safety reasons and not for public morality purposes.

Lilley said yesterday that the groups' intentions in coming to Laconia is not to create a spectacle but to sunbath topless.

"We're not anticipating any problems and we're not planning on causing any," Lilley said.

Ayotte stops at LRGH for discussion of opiate abuse

LACONIA — U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte joined some two dozen medical practitioners, social service providers, law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians at Lakes Region General Hospital yesterday to address the ongoing scourge of opiate abuse.

"I'm here to listen and I'm here to learn," said Ayotte, adding that she has sponsored and supported a number of bills dealing with different aspects of the substance abuse crisis as well as taken steps to strengthen initiatives to prevent and treat addiction and curb trafficking in narcotics.

Marge Kerns, vice-president of clinical services at LRGHealthcare, reported that so far this year the emergency rooms at Lakes Regional General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital have treated 71 patients for overdoes of heroin, fentanyl and other narcotics. "We will probably break 100 this year," she said, which would be double the number in 2014 and four times the number in 2013.

"We can't arrest our way out of this problem," Ayotte said. "It is a public health epidemic throughout the state."

One after another stressed that narcotic addiction is a disease that requires a regimen of treatment and program of recovery. And none challenged Dr. Fred Jones of the Emergency Department at Lakes Region Genera Hospital, who recalled responding to six overdoses on a single shift in May, when he remarked there is nowhere to send people for acute withdrawal for long-term treatment."

Dr. Paul Racicot, an emergency physician at LRGH who is experienced in treating substance abuse, said the capacity to offer medically assisted treatment, using drugs like suboxone, is especially limited. Few physicians provide it and they are restricted to the number of patients they can treat. He noted that medically assisted treatment is proving more and more successful and capacity to provide should be expanded.

Margaret Franckauser of the Central New Hampshire Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, said that insurance carriers raise obstacles to treatment, primarily by requiring prior authorization for treatment when, in case of substance abuse, a long-term commitment by the patient is required.

Apart from treatment, several speakers emphasized the importance of prevention and early intervention. Franckhauser, together with Chris Santaniello of Lakes Region Community Services, noted that their personnel are in homes throughout the region and well placed to warn of the dangers of substance abuse as well as to detect indications of it. "We should take advantage of every possible touch point," Franckhauser said.

Henry Lipman, a senior vice-president at LRGHealthcare and Laconia city councilor, said that while law enforcement, emergency services and non-profit organizations, along with individual volunteers, are addressing the problem "it is time to leverage these efforts with more public funding."

City Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) lamented that "a cloud has come over Laconia" and called for more opportunities for treatment. "A lot of this comes down to money," he said.

Belmont expects recreation trail construction to proceed with additional contributions from town & state fund

BELMONT — Town Land Technician Rick Ball said yesterday that the Selectboard has agreed to pay a 20-percent share ($17,007) of the $85,036 shortfall in funding for construction of the phase 1 of theWinnisquam Scenic Trail.

The recreation trail, which will run primarily along side the railroad tracks from the Agway store on Rte 3 to the Roberts' Town Beach was projected by engineers to cost $726,278. The lowest construction bid, however, was $825,290 and came from general contractor Nelson Communications Service, Inc. of Center Conway.

Ball said yesterday that he has requested that 80 percent of the shortfall ($68,029) come from the N.H. Department of Transportation, which manages the Transportation Enhancement Program grant fund.

Ball said the DOT representative who manages the Transportation Enhancement Grant program told him there were a few more hoops to jump through before the state provides the balance of the money needed to properly complete the project.

"It seemed to me that it was procedural but I can't say for sure," said Ball yesterday.

The cost of the project includes about $100,000 for on-site engineering and about $725,000 for actual construction costs.

The trail has been 12 years in the making and is part of the scenic corridor railway trail system. A separate not-for-profit group called the Belmont Regional Alternative Trail System raised money for years, initially starting with two phases. As construction costs rose, the town shifted its focus to Phase I and was given approval to go out to bid in August.

Ball said there is a three-month construction time allotment and Nelson Communications is ready to go. He said there is a possibility that the trail may not be paved this year because of the delay but hopes the bulk of the construction can be finished by the first snow fall.