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House committee kills Cormier's bill to eliminate planning commissions

CONCORD — A bill to do away with the nine regional planning commissions, sponsored by state Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton), received short shrift last week at the hands of the House Municipal and County Government Committee, which unanimously reported it "inexpedient to legislate."

When the committee held a public hearing on the House Bill 1573, Tim Carter of Meredith, along with others from the Lakes Region Tea Party, pictured the regional planning commissions as the Judas goats of a federal effort, pursued under the aegis of the Granite State Future project, to promote "Smart Growth" and "sustainable living" at the expense of local control of land use decisions and private property rights.

However, others noted that the regional planning commissions provide useful information and valuable services to municipal land use boards. Warren Hutchins, chairman of the Laconia Planning Board and a member of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, said that the city along with the other 29 municipalities belonging to the commission urged the committee to reject the bill. Members of the committee pointed out that the bill was unnecessary since municipalities are not compelled to contribute to the work of the regional planning commissions. Likewise, a section of the bill requiring that members of local planning boards must be elected was also rendered redundant since state law already enables towns to either appoint or elect their planning boards.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 02:15

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Damage due to Busy Corner fire was considerably greater than originally thought

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that the origin of the fire that damaged the building at Normandin Square housing JD's Barber Shop on Thursday night appears suspicious and remains under investigation.

The first of several calls were received by dispatch at 8:05 p.m. and Lieutenant Lisa Baldini's crew arrived within three minutes to find smoke billowing from doors, windows and other openings. Some firefighters put water on the fire through a small cellar window on the Church Street side of the building while others, including a crew from Gilford, sought access to the cellar and searched the apartment at the rear of the building, which was empty. Within minutes one hose line was laid to the cellar and another through the front door, where fire had reached objects on the first floor. By about 8:20 p.m. the fire was extinguished.

Erickson said that although the frame of building escaped severe damage, the utilities — the electrical, heating and plumbing systems — were virtually destroyed. Originally he estimated the cost of the damage at $50,000, but later suggested it could reach six figures.

Just as firefighters reached the scene dispatch reported a cardiac arrest at the Normandin Square Apartments across the street from the fire. Stewarts Ambulance Service, Laconia police officers and an off-duty Laconia firefighter responded to the call, which Erickson said appeared to be the result of drug overdose.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 02:30

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Long distance runner Mike Cryans running to replace his friend & colleague Ray Burton on Executive Council

LACONIA — In the 16 years he has served as a Grafton County Commissioner, Mike Cryans said he took the greatest pride in surprising the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton, with whom he served on the commission throughout his tenure, by unveiling a plaque dedicating the site of the old county jail as a park in his name.

Cryans, a Democrat from Hanover, is vying against Joe Kenney, a Republican from Wakefield, to succeed Burton on the Executive Council. While he is quick to say "I'm not trying to fill Ray's shoes," he readily admits to seeking to follow in his footsteps. "Ray redefined the office of executive councilor," he said in an interview this week, explaining that Burton raised constituent service to the highest priority. "I want to continue to that," Cryans said, adding that he would seek to place men and women from the district on boards and commissions in state government..

Cryans, 62, was born and raised in Littleton, where he graduated from high school in 1969 before earning his bachelor's degree at Springfield College in 1973. He returned home and taught physical education at Littleton High School for five years before joining Littleton Savings Bank as a trainee. The bank became the Dartmouth Banking Company and Cryans was its senior vice-president when it was sold 15 years later. He spent a decade self-employed, providing financial counseling to small businesses and working families since 2003 has served as director of Headrest, a substance abuse and recovery facility in Lebanon.

A long distance runner, Cryans twice set the fastest time for a New Hampshire resident competing in the Boston Marathon and still runs 10 miles a day, often before dawn.

Although drawn to politics by the success of Hugh Gallen of Littleton who served as governor from 1979-1982, Cryans did not seek public office until 1996, when he ran against Burton for the Executive Council. He said that he told his closest friend and confidant of his intentions only to have his father tell him "you can't beat Ray Burton." A year later he was appointed to the Grafton County Commission and has been returned to office at every election since, mostly recently in 2012 with Burton's endorsement.

Cryans noted that he could find no record that a Democrat had ever been elected to the Executive Council in District 1. Nor could he recall Democrats ever holding four of the five seats on the council. "I'd like to be first and make it four-to-one," he remarked, only to discount partisanship. "It's more important that the people of the district have the best person," he stressed. He said that in listening to people throughout the district "it's not this issue or that issue. It's don't forget us." Remembering how many people would seek Burton's assistance, he reflected that "since Ray's death those requests haven't stopped, but there's no one to answer them."

"I'm not a 'no' person," Cryans said. "I believe compromise is not a bad word. I want to get things done," he continued. "I have marathoners mentality — put your head down and crank it out." Expecting to be branded a "tax and spender," he pointed to his contribution to the construction of the Grafton County Jail as an example of his commitment to fiscal responsibility. He said that the initial price tag for the project was $60 million, which the commission whittled to $38 million, then trimmed to $33 million and finally completed for $30 million while building a biomass plant that has significantly reduced the county's oil consumption and energy costs.

Reflecting on the plight of the North Country, where the population is aging, the young are leaving and the economy is faltering, Cryans confessed "I don't know what the magic answer is." He remembered when a group of young people in were asked how many intended to remain, only one raised his hand. Improved transportation infrastructure and Internet capability, he said are high priorities for the business communities.

"Government can do wonderful things," Cryans said, referring to public schools, senior centers , nursing homes and the programs and services that support individuals and anchor communities. "It's easy to spend the money where the people are," he said about the distribution of state investment. "But I will champion the people I think should be championed."

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 02:11

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Feb. 17 forum in Laconia will focus on various aspects of homelessness

LACONIA – A short film with a powerful message has sparked city residents to come together to provide hope for the homeless — especially an increase in the number of children who are homeless or near homeless.

"Inocente" is an award-winning film that is influencing many with it's message — that behind the desperation and despair of homelessness is hope and empowerment — as exhibited by the 15-year-old daughter of an undocumented woman who uses art to overcome her dilemma.

"What would Inocente find in Laconia?" asks Leonard Campbell, the Parish and Community Services Outreach Coordinator for the Laconia-area Catholic Charities.

On Monday, February 17, Campbell goal is to bring all the agencies into one place and answer the question of what services would be here for her and how Laconia would look through Inocente's eyes.

The evening will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Laconia Middle School with a dinner. At 6 p.m. attendees will watch the movie "Inocente" which lasts about 30 minutes.
Following the movie, those attending will break up into small focus groups to identify the gaps in services for the homeless and near homeless and what each agency or individual participant can do to plug those gaps.

In Laconia, emergency services for the homeless often begin by dialing 211 — which is a central hotline for emergency services.

The police, who are often the first contact, also use 2-1-1 as a clearing house to learn what services are available and whether or not the people they are dealing can get access. Police also use it to make sure the Police Relief Association Family Fund isn't being abused.

One local police sergeant, who serves on the Belknap County Continuum of Care and the Homeless Coalition said some of the chronically local homeless people in the area don't want the services offered or aren't eligible for them. He also said they refuse to move to some of the bigger cities, where more services are available.

For the most part, he said they are transient — meaning they often sleep on friend's couches until the landlords learn about it and they all get turned out.

When they do come to the police station, he said it's often after 5 p.m. when all of the city services have closed for the day.
He said the police automatically call the 2-1-1 number to see what rooms are available.
As an example, he said the police will ask them if they have gone to the city welfare office, typically the first step in getting emergency housing.

"Of course they haven't," he said, "by then the welfare department is closed and they know it."

He said he'll ask them if they went to the Carey House — a no-alcohol-permitted, permanent shelter in Laconia with strict rules including filing applications for assistance through the city welfare department and other state and social agencies — and they'll say no.

"I'll call over there and learn they have rooms but when I provide the name, I'll learn they have been there in the past but couldn't live by the rules and are no longer welcome," he said.

The sergeant said some of them have heard that the city police have some money squirreled away and are hoping for a hotel room for the night.

"We have this tiny pocket of money and we try to save it for real emergencies especially those involving children," he said. "It's really for the kids."

"So they'll show up with borrowed children," he said.

He said when police call 2-1-1, they'll often learn that some people used services a few weeks ago but never followed up with the government agencies like signing up for unemployment services.

"We have to be careful that we don't get taken," he said.

He said helping the homeless can be tricky business and many of the core group of people who need help are reluctant to go through the channels they need to to get it.

The police, along with the schools, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, Stand Up Laconia, Genesis Behavior Health, New Beginnings, St Vincent De Paul Society will be at the Hope for the Homeless event as well as those who participate in the Homeless Coaltion and the Belknap County Continuum of Care.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 02:02

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