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City’s rich, poor populations grow while middle shrinks

LACONIA — As the number of residents of the city living in poverty has risen in the past four years, the number of households and families with incomes of more than $100,000 has also increased, while the number with between $35,000 and $100,000 have decreased.

According to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the portion of the population with incomes below the federal poverty level climbed from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 15.9 percent in 2014, or from 1,886 to 2,545 individuals.

At the same time, the bureau estimated in 2014 there were 1,145 families with annual incomes of less than $35,000, or 7.7 percent more than the 1,063 reported in 2010. The estimated 1,904 families earning between $35,000 and $100,000 in 2014 was 14.3 percent less than the 2,223 reported in 2010. Finally, the bureau estimated that the incomes of 1,131 families exceeded $100,000 in 2014, compared to 898 families of similar means in 2010, representing an increase of 25.9 percent.

The data for households presents a different but similar profile. The number of households with incomes below $35,000 shrank from 2,530 to 2,454 between 2010 and 2014, a decrease of 3 percent. But, the number of households with incomes between $35,000 and $100,000 also decreased, from 3,425 to 3,008, or by 12.2 percent while the number with incomes of more than $100,000 increased by 12.4 percent, from 1,223 to 1,375.

This data tracks a report by the Census Bureau that between 2007 and 2013 income inequality in New Hampshire increased at almost twice the national rate and faster than in any other state, with Carroll, Grafton and Belknap counties setting the pace.

The most comprehensive measure of income inequality is the so-called Gini Index, an international measure created by the Italian statistician Carrado Gini in 1912 and widely applied ever since. The index assigns zero to perfect equality while a value of one indicates that a single individual or family earns all the income and the rest earn nothing.

Using three-year averages, in New Hampshire the Gini Index rose from 0.414 in 2007 to 0.435 in 2013, a 5 percent increase. Carroll County posted the highest index of 0.468, followed by Grafton County at 0.46 and Belknap County at 0.44. However, during the same period the index rose 10 percent in Belknap County, twice the rate of the state as a whole and the greatest increase among the 10 counties.

The income distribution is reflected in changes in the local housing stock between 2000 and 2010. During the decade, the number of seasonal homes rose 55 percent, from 1,477 in 2000 to 2,293 in 2010, with the 816 additional seasonal units representing 62 percent of the growth in the total housing stock. With the increase, seasonal homes grew from 17 percent to 23 percent of all dwelling units in the city.

Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Laconia fell 2.8 percent, from 16,411 to 15,951, but the number of housing units climbed 15 percent, from 8,554 to 9,879, as 1,325 new units were built. At the same time, the number of occupied units rose by only 114, from 6,724 to 6,838, an increase of 1.6 percent, while the number of "vacant" units jumped by 1,211, from 1,830 to 3,041, an increase of 66 percent.

Child finds used syringe, family faces threat of disease


LACONIA — With a child's discovery of a discarded hypodermic needle, a local family recently found themselves threatened by the scourge of addiction, which through no doing of their own has cast a shadow over their lives.

A father, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he his 7-year-old daughter was playing in the family's fenced backyard where she found a discarded hypodermic needle in the vegetable garden. The needle had been tossed over the 7-foot-high fence. The girl, who enjoys collecting things, took the needle to her clubhouse and played with it for three days before her parents discovered it.

"We were very concerned," said the father, who was aware that blood from a used needle may carry disease, especially the AIDS virus, HIV, and viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C, or HCV. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about eight of 10 addicts infected with HIV are also infected with HCV.

The father said that he took his daughter to the emergency department at Lakes Region General Hospital at once and called the Laconia Police Department to collect the needle.

"She was very scared," he recalled, "and I probably scared her even more."

He said that the staff at the emergency room drew blood from his daughter as well as also tested residue in the syringe and the needle.The tests, he said, indicated "the odds were in her favor and her chances of being infected were remote." He said that the "the staff at the hospital went out of their way to make us feel comfortable. They were terrific." The family also contacted their primary care physician, who after consulting with a number of other doctors, reached the same conclusion.

The father said that his daughter will undergo regular blood tests over the course of a year, but for the moment — and hopefully forever — will be spared intensive treatment on the recommendation of the physicians. Nevertheless, he said that the incident "has affected our lives greatly and will continue to do so." There remains, he said, "the possibility she may have contracted HIV or hepatitis C, and the chance she will need an intensive, 30-day treatment that will wreak havoc on her body."

The short-term side effects of the medications used to treat HIV include anemia, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, pain and rashes. There are also long-term side effects of these medications. They may cause body fat to be redistributed from the face and limbs to the abdomen, and abnormal levels of blood sugar that can lead to diabetes. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels may rise. Likewise, lactate, a waste product in the body, may increase, causing problems ranging from muscle aches to liver failure.

The father said that the ordeal "also slams it in our faces that this problem doesn't just affect those held in the grip of drug abuse. It also affects a completely innocent 7-year-old and her innocent family."

He urged those injecting drugs not to leave their needles where a child can find it. "I can't think of anything more selfish, abhorrent or wrong."

At the same time, he asked parents to warn their children against touching and handling discarded needles.

"Parents need to teach their children," he said. "Bad things can happen."

Police Chief Chris Adams said that anyone who finds a needle should immediately report it to the police, either by dialing 911 or calling the station at 524-5257.

"Do not touch it," he stressed.

He explained that officers are equipped and prepared to handle discarded needles safely and have secure containers where they can be kept before being disposed of at the hospital. He said that the department is working with the school to alert children and adolescents of the risks of handling discarded needles.

"Don't touch them," he repeated. "Call us and let us deal with them."

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This bundle of needles was found on a beach in Laconia recently. One child in Laconia found a used needle when it was apparently tossed into the family’s back yard over a tall fence.  (Courtesy photo/Laconia Police Department)



Gilford High School drama students ready for New England Showcase


GILFORD — Somewhere in the Arizona desert are 19 student actors plus a host of technical help performing a play within a play. At least that's what they want you to believe.

And the Gilford High School's performance was so believable it earned them a first place finish during the state theater championship at Kingswood High School over the April 1 weekend.

"It's a story about two brothers on the set of a Bible epic movie that's set in the Arizona desert in the 1930s," said cast member Jack Harding, who offered a Readers Digest version of "Epic Proportions." And the other cast members have to deal with their shenanigans.

This is the third straight year the Gilford High School theater group has gone one to the New England Showcase. In 2014 they performed "Almost, Maine" and last year they performed Eurydice.

"Gilford is going through a renaissance in theater," said senior Sophia Prevost.

Harding played "Jack," who is the assistant director of the movie in the play. He said he found his character wasn't all that far away from some of his real personality traits, like getting easily frustrated at the beginning of a project.

The real assistant director of the play was Christian Ayer, who said "Jack" moves the plot forward, until he dies in the burning bush scene.

Kayla Zaralla plays the female lead, who is the "assistant director of the no extras" until she takes over after Jack's demise. She also falls in love with each of the two brothers, creating a love triangle that continues throughout the play.

She said that her character is "ditzy and strong" at the same time and her struggle was to balance the two personalities.

Other cast members, like Kiai Langathianos, who plays a French maid, and Prevost, who is the queen's attendant, said they played minor characters but because of the way the play is written, it is the minor characters who provide the glue for the show and who get most of the laughs.

"You've got to take the role you have and go ballistic with it," said Prevost.

Staging a play is also about sound and lighting, and that's where self-described "technical sound guy" Tristan Veroff enters. He said he and the other technical people spent the early rehearsal times listening to sound tracks of epic films and of films set in the 1930s. From those, they compiled their own sound track for the play.

Veroff is the technical trouble shooter.

"I problem-solve," he said, which is one of his biggest takeaways from theater for his personal life.

Each student said theater teaches life skills that can be used in any profession. For Ayer, it is the value of making a commitment. A senior, he said he plans on continuing his education in theater and play writing.

Zarella, a junior, wants to be an attorney and said being in theater program since fifth grade has helped her with her public speaking skills, while Langathianos, who is a sophomore, said says it's teamwork. Sshe thinks she may go on to study social work or health.

Each said that knowing the upcoming showcase in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, is the final performance of Epic Proportions, is what will lead to the energy they will put into it. Like the competition earlier this month at Kingswood Regional, everyone will "put something into it that we've never done before."

All of them said the other schools throughout the competitions presented wonderful shows and it's one of the best part of the showcases is that not only do they get to perform, they get to watch other, equally gifted actors perform their shows.

The theater will be with all of them as they go through summer as well. All said the play they most want to see is the hit show "Hamilton," which is is playing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York's theater district. Most, however, will not be going but nearly all of them said they have plans to see "Wicked" in Boston.

"Epic Proportions" is a play written in 1986 by Larry Coen and David Crane.

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Hamming it up with some members of the cast and crew of the Gilford Drama Club who, for the third year in a row, will be representing New Hampshire in the New England Drama Festival. Left to right are Sophia Prevost, Kaia Langathianos, Christian Ayer, Jack Harding, Tristan Veroff and Kayla Zarella. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober)