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Justin Slattery is new executive director of Belknap Economic Development Council

LACONIA — Justin Slattery has been named executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Corporation. He succeeds Carmen Lorentz, who served in the position for three years before leaving recently to take the position as head of the New Hampshire Department of Economic Development.

The announcement was made by Sean Sullivan, chair of the BEDC board of directors.

Slattery has been on the job since February 24.

A native of the state, Slattery graduated from the University of New Hampshire and has worked in both public and private sector positions for more than 12 years working to build economic development opportunities in New Hampshire. He most recently was employed at the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development where he worked statewide on economic development projects and workforce development initiatives. He has served on several state boards and committees including the Governor's Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council and the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Advisory Committee.

Slattery's career started as an aide to Governor John Lynch. He has worked extensively in talent management and acquisition positions for several leading New Hampshire firms and was employed by the Workforce Investment Act program working on workforce development projects statewide.

As Belknap EDC executive director, Slattery will be responsible for the development and delivery of programs and services designed to promote economic vitality in Belknap County and the greater Lakes Region. He will direct the organization's budgets, grant administration, revolving loan fund, and strategic planning.

Belknap EDC was founded in 1992, and is one of ten non-profit regional development corporations in the State of New Hampshire. The organization operates a $3 million revolving loan fund that provides gap financing for local businesses and partners with the NH Small Business Development Center and SCORE to provide technical assistance to local businesses. Recently, the organization has focused resources on workforce development programs, developing strategies to retain and attract young talent to the region, and supporting creative entrepreneurs.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 01:24

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Scheduled fight at county jail lands pair in hot water

LACONIA — Two men who are in official custody of the Belknap County House of Corrections are in additional trouble for allegedly fighting in one of the bathrooms.

According to affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Michael Hann, 28, and Deric Nevin, 27, allegedly agreed to meet in a bathroom to settle a dispute on January 25 at 8:30 p.m.

The Belknap County Sheriff's Department investigates all alleged criminal activity at the jail, but when the sheriff began the investigation on January 27, both Hann and Nevin invoked their 5th Amendment right to avoid self incrimination and refused to speak to the investigator.

The investigator noticed Hann had multiple stitches on his upper right forehead and Neven's left eye was swollen and dark purple. Nevin also had scratches on his forehead and a split lower lip.

The investigator met with a different inmate who said he allegedly saw Nevin in the bathroom with Hann, who was standing in the shower. He said he heard Nevin say to Hann "Do you want to do this now?"

Hann allegedly replied "Whatever."

The witness said he saw Nevin swing at Hann, striking him in the head. When they started wrestling, the witness said Hann ended up on top of Nevin and was hitting him with his fists.

When the fight ended, he said the two combatants turned on the shower to wash off the blood while two other inmates cleaned up the bathroom.

The investigator said she reviewed the tape and she saw two men who she couldn't identify fighting. After the fight she saw one man push a cleaning cart into the shower followed by a second inmate who mopped the floor, corroborating the information she gathered from the witness.

Both are charged with one count each of assault by prisoner by mutual consent.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 01:19

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Recovery Court program celebrates first graduate

bLACONIA — On December 5, 2013, Heather Albert was facing a trial and a possible prison sentence for felony drug possession. Because of the fledgling Recovery Court, she got a second chance.

Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen agreed to drop the felony drug charge if Alpert pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of drug possession. Instead of a 12-month sentence in the Belknap County House of Corrections, she agreed to participate in Recovery Court — a primarily volunteer drug court that took three years to get started. Albert was its first client.

By the next day, said Horizons Counseling Center manager, Albert was ready to quit.

"Just take me to jail," Abikoff recalled Alpert telling her.

But Alpert didn't give up, Abikoff didn't take her to jail, and yesterday, in a ceremony attended by all the program volunteers, N.H. Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, police personnel, probation personnel, corrections personnel, public defenders, her own attorney, and N.H. State Drug Court Coordinator Alex Casale, Alpert became the first graduate of the fledgling court. A mid-day ceremony was held in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Judge Jim Carroll, whose dream for years has been a drug or recovery court in Belknap County, presided over yesterday's ceremony that he held held in the court room where Alpert spent and hour nearly every Tuesday for the past year discussing her progress and her setbacks.

Albert went to counseling for 3 1/2 hours a day, she did 500 hours of community service work — most of it at the Salvation Army. She went to AA meetings; she earned the equivalent of a high school diploma; and she participated in 35 straight days of intensive therapy.

In the process, she stayed sober and crime free.

After the ceremony, she said she can now "live and become part of the community. That's the stuff I could never see myself doing," she said.

She said she has solidified her relationship with her family, is working on getting scholarships and money to attend to Lakes Region Community College and is looking for a job. She is preparing to move into her own apartment — the first time in her life she has been independent.

For Abikoff, Recovery Court is a "labor of love."

"This will change minds in the community," she said yesterday. "It has already changed minds on this team."

When Recovery Court began not everyone was willing to give a break to self-admitted drug addicts. One of the people brought "kicking and screaming" into the fold was Guldbrandsen, whose job is to put drug offenders behind bars, not rehabilitate them.

During the beginning of the program, Guldbrandsen said she "had a difficult time giving an offender what I consider to be a huge break."

She said she would have to find a "significant enough change (in behavior) and history that I am willing to recommend it.

When asked about it late last week, she said she "now has a greater understanding of drug addiction."

Had the program not been in place, Guldbrandsen said Albert — and 10 others who are now progressing through the program — would have cost the state and county a considerable amount of money for incarceration.

She said she is still willing to cede her lunch hour every Tuesday to participate in the program. She said she'll still see drug use as a crime but she likes the program and enjoys getting to know the participants better.

Abikoff and Guldbrandsen said Recovery Court is not just a way to avoid going to jail. To date, Guldbrandsen said two people have been terminated from it and have gone to jail as a consequence.

Sitting in court is no picnic for the participants either.

Last Tuesday, four people met Carroll's stern stare as they tried to explain why they weren't participating to the degree Abikoff felt was appropriate.

One by one, each had to get up and apologize to the court, to the recovery court team, and to each other for not putting 100 percent of their efforts into the program.

One young man missed a meeting, was not participating in group sessions and had made no effort to begin his 500 hours of community service. He was also behind in his sliding scale payments to the program for its costs.

He explained to Carroll that he missed an appointment with his counselor to buy a car.

"Do you have money for a car?" asked Carroll. The man replied that he had borrowed the money from a family member.

"Well then borrow money for the program," Carroll said, telling him he had until the next Tuesday to complete 10 hours of community service and bring in some money or he would be terminated.

A second woman who had acted out during a counseling session apologized for her behavior and, on an upbeat note, told the court she had arraigned to do her community service at an animal shelter.

The real focus of Recovery Court is addiction said Casale — the state drug court coordinator who told Alpert yesterday that one of the toughest parts of her journey is immediately in front of her.

He told her that being the first person to make it through the program is "a big deal" but taking on the world without supervision and constant treatment can be a huge challenge. He said that by being the first, she would be seen as a example by the community and the pressure on her would be immense.

"Don't let your guard down," he said to her as she nodded her head. "Addiction is for the rest of your life. Do what you need to do to stay sober."

Nadeau had similar words for Albert.

"Now you have the ability to make healthy choices," she said, congratulating Alpert for making it through the program.

Nadeau said one of her goals as chief justice is to have a drug or recovery court in every county in the state.

"I'm excited to be here," Nadeau said. "This is the right way to address addiction and stop re-offending."


CAPTION: Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center, left, watches as 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll presents heather Alpbert with a sobriety token and a certificate for her successful completion of the Recovery Court program. Albert is the first graduate of the Belknap County Recovery Court. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 04:06

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Judge orders man to stay out of Laconia after alleged assault

LACONIA — A Jewett Street man was released on $5,000 personal recognizance after appearing in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division in response to two counts of assault that allegedly occurred Sunday night at 7:30 p.m..

Richard Sweeney, 31., is accused of pushing his girlfriend backwards causing her to injure her ankle and then grabbing her son in a "bear hug" to try to take his phone away and prevent him from calling the police.

The incident is alleged to have occurred in the residence all three shared.

Police affidavits said the son told them Sweeney and his girlfriend had been arguing or most of the evening and when the argument started to escalate, he picked up a shared telephone to call the police.

He said Sweeney allegedly "bear hugged" him and scratched him. When the boys mother went to break them up, Sweeney allegedly pushed her. Responding officers noticed the boy's hand was cut and his mother's ankle was swollen.

Judge Jim Carroll agreed to release Sweeney as long as he lives in Peterborough with his uncle, not come into Laconia unless it is for court or medical issues, and to say completely off Jewett Street when he is in Laconia.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 02:32

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