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Burchell upsets Thomas in bitter GOP primary contest

GILMANTON — Rep. Dick Burchell on Tuesday night scored a stunning upset of incumbent District 2 Belknap County Commissioner John Thomas. Burchell carried three of the four townships in the district (Barnstead, Gilmanton and Tilton) and narrowly lost in Belmont, Thomas's hometown.

Unofficial results compiled by The Daily Sun had Burchell with 800 votes (54 percent) and Thomas with 677.

Burchell and Thomas not only seemed to represent opposite ends of their Republican Party, with Burchell being the more conservative, but were symbols of the ongoing uncivil war between the current Board of Commissioners and the conservative majority of the Belknap County Convention that must approve its budget request. The war has several fronts, not the least of which is what to do to improve conditions — and perhaps enhance programs — at the Belknap County Jail. Thomas has favored a comprehensive approach that would probably end up costing between $30 and $35 million and Burchell is not willing to accept a price tag that is anywhere near that high.

Burchell is almost assured election now, as no Democrat filed to run for commission in District 2.

Burchell carried his hometown of Gilmanton (232 to 134), Barnstead (177 to 170) and Tilton (146 to 106). Thomas carried Belmont (267 to 245).

Burchell is not seeking re-election to his seat in the N.H. House.

Thomas is a longtime former member of the House himself.


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 12:53

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Woman survives heroin overdose at Laconia apartment

LACONIA — Police are investigating a near fatal heroin overdose that occurred at 180 Union Avenue Monday evening.

Police and emergency responders were called to the third floor of the building for a report of an unconscious woman lying in the hallway.

According to police, NARCAN was administered and the woman became alert. She was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital for observation.

The building owner said the woman doesn't live there but had been visiting a friend who lives on the third floor who became concerned about her and called 911.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 01:46

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Boat sinks on Lake Waukewan; no one injured

 MEREDITH — A tender carrying four people sank in about 20 feet of water on the east side of Lake Waukewan shortly before 11 a.m. on Saturday. No one was injured in the mishap.

Deputy Fire Chief Andre Kloetz said that the tender may have been overloaded when it began taking on water. When the engine died, the water could not be pumped from the boat, and it sank. However, Kloetz emphasized that all the passengers were fitted with life vests and the fuel tanks were secured to spare the lake form pollution.

Kloetz said one of those on the tender quipped, "This was always on my bucket list to be aboard a sinking ship."

The Meredith Police and Fire Departments assisted at the scene. New Hampshire Marine Patrol is investigating the cause of accident.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 01:44

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Middle school supporters dominate Newfound 'where are we going?' session

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School Board heard plenty of opinions on Sept. 8 but gained very little help in coming to grips with the complexity of providing a sound education for students, fair pay and job security for the teaching staff, and an educational structure that is stable enough to keep the seven member towns in the cooperative school district.
Faced with declining student enrollment that reduces staffing needs and cuts state adequacy aid to the Newfound Area School District, as well as declining property values that push taxes higher, the school board has hired administrators willing to restructure the delivery of education and tighten up the business end of operations as the first step in stabilizing the district and bringing costs in line with other districts. Newfound's cost per pupil is among the highest in the state.
Meanwhile, voters in Bridgewater and Hebron have called for a study of the feasibility and desirability of withdrawing from the school district, while voters in Hill are considering withdrawing from Franklin and realigning with Newfound for the education of their middle and high school students.
A year ago, Danbury was considering withdrawing from Newfound but that town concluded that it made more sense to remain with the district, even though it is paying more money into the district than it receives from it.
One argument has been that Newfound maintains more school buildings than any other school district. As one possible solution, Groton member Jeff Levesque had called for the school board to consider closing Newfound Memorial Middle School in 2015-16 and taking the time to study the feasibility of making the closing permanent. To that end, the board held a public hearing on the issue Monday night, giving members of the public a chance to weigh in.
The overwhelming majority of the speakers supported the middle school, questioning why the board would even consider closing the school. While air quality and water in the basement were mentioned, many felt those were simply maintenance issues. One speaker commented that, a couple of years ago, "The building was fine when you wanted to send our fifth graders to the middle school."
At the heart of the issue is an ongoing debate over whether a middle school is better than a K-6, 7-8, and 9-12 configuration. Most speakers agreed that segregating 11-, 12-, and 13-year-olds from older students is better, with many parents commenting that they would not want to have their seventh grader riding on the same bus as high schoolers, or dining in the same cafeteria.
A vocal group that supports separate K-6 classes with a junior high concept for seventh and eighth graders has pressed the school board to make the change but only 12 of them showed up for the meeting that drew close to 100 on Monday. Carol Huber of Bristol pointed out that many residents had attended such classes without harm, and Levesque agreed that "Both models work. We just need to pick one and do it."
Archie Auger of Bristol, who came to the district as a science teacher in 1963 and went on serve as assistant principal at the junior-senior high school until the district adopted a 4-4-4 educational structure with a middle school, said it took another couple of years to come up with the best configuration for the school system and he stands by the current middle school model.
School Board Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury said she believes it would cost $10 million to build the classrooms needed for a separate junior high wing at the high school. She said she thinks the problems at the middle school can be fixed, adding, "I would rather pay $10 million to fix the schools we have rather than to pay $10 million to build new."
Vice-Chair Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater argued that closing the middle school would free up funds so the district could address educational needs, along with the staff unrest. He cited a letter from the Newfound Area Teachers Association in which the union had voted "almost unanimously" to stage a "rule to work" protest, doing only the minimum required by their positions, because of the voters' refusal to fund a new contract and the school administration's elimination of positions as part of the restructuring needed to stay within the district's tax cap. The teachers subsequently decided to launch a public relations campaign instead, but their objections remained.
Several teachers stood to say their complaints had nothing to due with money; rather it was the job uncertainty that bothered them, they said.
Migliore attempted to explain the complexity of the issues the school board is facing and Levesque also pointed out the budget problems due to the declining enrollments, but those in the audience largely dismissed those concerns.
Kevin Glidden of Bristol charged that the school board is afraid of the taxpayers and he said the board has done a poor job of educating the voters of the importance of passing the school budget. As for the middle school, he said, "Fixing a school is less than 10 percent of the budget. If we close the middle school, it will become the next mica building and it'll cost $15 million to tear it down." The comment was a reference to a condemned factory in downtown Bristol that was in litigation for years before the town was able to raze the building.
Terry Murphy of Bridgewater argued that the problem is not in the building. "We're not doing well with what we're doing now. Don't blame it on the building. The educational quality at the middle school is bad, and nothing has happened in 20 years to improve it."
Huber added, "The taxpayers already can't afford their taxes. And if some people think there aren't drugs in that building, there are."
The school board did not reach a conclusion on the issue, but voted to continue discussion at its Sept. 22 planning and dialogue meeting. Migliore suggested that voters do some research on the population and spending trends produced by the data task force which are available on the district's website, and he also suggested they watch the documentary "Communities and Consequences" that addresses the reasons for declining student enrollment and the divide between taxpayers and their schools and municipal offices.
When speakers in the audience objected to being asked to spend time doing research, the school board agreed to a suggestion that it put together a presentation with bullet points noting the key points they felt the public should know in weighing in on the questions raised. That fact sheet will be available prior to the Sept. 22 meeting.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 01:42

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