Republicans hold 3-1 edge for Gilford-Meredith House seats but lots of new names on ballot this year

MEREDITH/GILFORD — There will be some new faces representing Belknap County House District 2 (Meredith-Gilford) with the retirement of two of the four representatives. Representatives Colette Worsman and Bob Greemore, both Meredith Republicans, chose not to seek re-election to a third term, leaving Herb Vadney, as the lone Republican in the district seeking re-election.
He will be joined on the ballot by three Republicans from Gilford; Russ Dumais, George Hurt and Glen Aldrich.
Democrat Lisa DiMartino of Gilford, who was elected on her first try for public office in 2012, will be joined on the Democratic side of the ballot by Dorothy Piquado and Nancy Frost, both from Gilford and making their first run for office, and Sandy Mucci of Meredith, who ran in 2012 but was not elected.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, DiMartino moved to the Lakes Region with her family 15 years ago and for many years was the children's librarian at the Gilford Public Library. She holds B.A. in Social Science from Rhode Island College and for many years has been a disability rights advocate, a journey which she says stared 19 years ago when her son was born with a rare syndrome and autism.
She served as a member and clerk of the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee in the House during her first term and is also a member of the state's Suicide Prevention Council and the Long Term Care Committee.
DiMartino supported the state's Medicaid expansion program and says that the coverage provided for 20,000 previously uninsured people is a big boost to the state's economy and will bring cost savings to hospitals, which will now be reimbursed for care they have been providing, as well as lower health insurance premiums for most policy holders. She says that she hopes to see the current law extended when federal funding drops from 100 percent to 90 percent in a few years and is looking for ways to use the cost savings brought about by the program to fund its extension.
She says that education is important to the state's quality of life and future economic development by providing an educated workforce which will attract new businesses to the state and says the state should find ways to lower tuition rates.
DiMartino says she supported a bipartisan bill which was backed by the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association to increase the gasoline tax by four cents because maintaining the state's roads and bridges is another top priority. ''It makes sense and I'm proud of my vote.''
At the county level she says she has been disappointed by the dysfunctional relationship between the county convention and the county commissioners and supports developing an affordable plan for a new county jail as well as fully funding the health care benefits which are contained in negotiated contracts with county workers.
Vadney was raised in Francestown, studied engineering at the University of New Hampshire and tended missiles in the United States Air Force for 27 years. During his first term in the House he compiled a voting record that earned him high marks from the House Republican Alliance and Americans for Prosperity, both conservative organizations.
"I wouldn't vote for anything that would jeopardize the state finances," Vadney said, explaining his opposition to the plan to extend health insurance to those without it. He also voted against raising the gas tax, explaining that the proceeds would be applied to purposes other than road construction and improvement. Although a former chairman of the Meredith Planning Board and commissioner of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, he voted for a bill to abolish regional planning commissions.
Vadney served on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee and is committed to developing alternative sources of energy from local materials like biomass. He said that limiting the role of government by reducing spending and easing regulation offered the best means of strengthening the economy, while conceding a shrinking workforce remains "a major problem."
With regard to the future of the county jail, Vadney said that "there is no question that something has to be done in the next two years." Skeptical of the plans pursued by the Belknap County Commission, he said that more analysis is required before deciding whether to renovate or build anew.
Hurt, founder of former Hurt & Forbes Insurance Agency of Laconia and a consultant since its sale in 2000, represented Gilford for two terms in the House from 1994 to 1998 and ran unsuccessfully for the New Hampshire Senate in 2010, losing the primary to Jim Forsythe of Stratford. He also served on the state Board of Education, Post Secondary Education Commission and Judicial Conduct Commission.
Hurt emphasized that he is opposed to a personal income or general sales tax as well as any infringement of the right to bear arms. A strong advocate for a return to biennial sessions of the Legislature, he suggests that annual sessions of six months would save about $15 million, which could be added to the "rainy day fund" to improve the state's bond rating. He also intends to join Senators Chuck Morse (R-Salem) and Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) in seeking to ensure revenues from the gas tax are applied solely to roads and bridges. At the same time, he opposed the recent increase in the gas tax. He favors lowering business taxes and offering businesses incentives to promote economic growth.
"Doing nothing is not an option," Hurt said with respect to the Belknap County Jail. He suggested improving and maintaining the existing facility and adding a building to house additional inmates and women prisoners. "We can do this," he declared, stressing that any plan must be affordable to the county taxpayers.
Dumais, who owns and operates the Airport Country Store & Deli in Gilford, has long been engaged in local government, serving three terms as a selectman in Gilford and sitting on the Laconia Airport Authority for 23 years. He also served for eight years on the Water Supply and Pollution Control Commission, the forerunner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
Making his first bid for a state elective office, Dumais stressed his experience rather than his positions. "I'm a very sensible person," he said. "I only come to conclusions after doing my homework. That's what you have to do when you hold a public office," he continued, "look at every fact and try to come up with a sound conclusion. It's not brain surgery. It's common sense."
Dumais admitted "I don't know enough about the county jail to take a position, but I intend to delve into it." He described the $42-million figure that was originally floated "a big ticket," cautioning that "the jail shouldn't be a place where people want to be." Alluding to the tensions that have divided the Belknap County Convention and Belknap County Commission, Dumais said that "the dust has to settle" before progressing toward a solution.
Sandy Mucci is no stranger to the Lakes Region, having served for many years as executive director of the Lakes Region Association. Currently a realtor with Maxfield Real Estate, she is an eighth generation New Hampshire native who says she was raised as a Republican but switched to the Democratic Party because Republicans became a party of obstruction rather than of governing.
''Partisanship should have nothing to do with governing. We should look for solutions and not be governed by ideology. What we've seen at the county level has been incredibly irresponsible. We've got people who don't understand the value and role that government has to play. What's been going on just doesn't make sense'' she says.
Mucci says the gas tax increase was a good thing and was badly needed. ''When I drive over a bridge I don't want to worry abut it falling out from under me. You have to pay for what you want and bridges and roads are an appropriate investment.''
She finds it deplorable that New Hampshire ranks last in per capita investment in higher education and says education is a form of investment more crucial than ever given that New Hampshire's population is aging.
Glen Aldrich, the third Republican candidate from Gilford, says it was the gas tax increase that caused him to make his first try for public office.
A small building contractor who moved to New Hampshire from New Jersey four-and-a-half years ago, who describes himself as "very conservative," Aldrich said that he had no intention of entering the race, but "the final straw was the gas tax. It's not just the four cents at the pump," he continued, "it's at the grocery store, the hardware store, the drugstore and everywhere else." He is also troubled that "a third of the revenue is siphoned off and should be put back."

Aldrich too believes that lower taxes and relaxed regulation will encourage local businesses to expand as well as attract companies to move or open operations in the state. Excessive regulation, he said, discourages entrepreneurs and stifles competition, which are essential to to a strong economy.
He is a member of the Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club which helps out at events like the World Championship Sled Dog Derby and is active with a group which regularly conducts a roadside cleanup on Rte. 3 from the Mosquito Bridge in Belmont to the Laconia town line.
He has been endorsed by Tim Carter of Meredith, a member of the same radio club and a spokesperson for the Lakes Region Tea Party, as well as Rep. Mike Sylvia, (R-Belmont), who has been identified with the Free State Project, but says that he would really like to be identified as a ''Granite Stater.''
The other two Democrats running from Gilford have a few things in common. Both Dorothy Piquado and Nancy Frost are volunteers at the Belknap County Jail, where Piquado teaches writing and Frost teaches a Tai-Chi class. And Piquado, who was until several years ago a Canadian citizen, was introduced to New Hampshire politics by Frost's mother, Mary, a long-time Democratic Party activist.
Piquado, who taught overseas for 37 years before she and her husband, John, retired to Gilford in 2004, became an American citizen in 2006 and decided to get involved in politics two years later when she met Mary Frost at a campaign event. ''We talked for 45 minutes and she became my best friend,'' says Piquado, who says she cast her first ballot in a presidential race in 2008.
She says that having been a part of the Canadian health system all her life she is a strong supporter of health care for all and as a former teacher is also a strong supporter of education,even though some trends bother her.
''I'm a little tired of people putting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as a top priority. I think that critical thinking skills and understanding history so that you can separate fact from fiction are even more important and help produce well-rounded citizens.'' she says.
Piquado says she supports medicaid expansion and greater state funding for higher education as well as the gas tax increase which was approved with bipartisan support last year.
''I'm an idealist but I realize you have to have compromise to get things done. The responsibility of legislators is to listen and try to understand.''
She also supports improvements to the county jail and the programs it offers. ''We don't need to throw people away because they've done something wrong. The people I see work at the county jail are my heroes. I have so much respect for them and those at the county home,'' says Piquado.
She opposes the tight financial restrictions on county commissioners put in place by the county convention, saying ''that's not the way efficient government works.''
Frost, a UNH graduate who has worked at public schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as a teacher of English as second language has also worked as a radio news director and as a health care marketing specialist.
She says that her volunteer efforts at the jail have shown her how inadequate the current facility is and that she supports improvements to the jail, noting that there is only one room available for programs at the facility, which limits the amount of programs which can be offered to help inmates when they are released back into society.
''There are a lot of programs like parenting skills and promoting non-violence that are needed,'' says Frost.
She says that she supports the expansion of Medicaid and wants to see it continue and would like to see programs which make it easier for college graduates to refinance student loans.
And she says the gas tax increase is a common sense thing to do in order to maintain the state's roads and bridges which are important parts of the state's economy.

Sachems knocked from playoff picture by Kearsarge

LACONIA — The Sachems' 2014 football campaign ended on a sour note at Bank of New Hampshire Stadium as visiting Kearsarge (N. Sutton) eliminated Laconia from the NHIAA Division II playoff picture with a come-from-behind 33-30 victory. The Cougars claimed the second and final playoff spot in the North Conference and will play undefeated Kennett (N. Conway) next weekend.

Laconia finished the season at 4-4. Kearsarge improved to 5-5. Kennett is 8-0.

The Sachems earned a 14-7 halftime lead but for the third game in a row could not make it stand up.

Quarterback Matt Swormstedt tossed three touchdown passes to lead Laconia's offensive effort. Onee of those scoring passes was caught by Keith Schultz, who also rushed for a touchdown.

Three North Conference teams entered last last's play in a three way tie for the final playoff spot. The Sachems controlled their own destiny with a win. Lebanon was the other school involved. The Sachems and Cougars have an advantage over Lebanon because of strength of schedule.

Laconia's season has been a roller coaster ride week in and week out, with the exception of the 58-19 victory against Manchester West. The Sachems fell in week one to Lebanon on a failed two-point attempt after scoring the potential game tying touchdown. The Sachems then rolled off four straight wins that included an overtime victory against Plymouth and handing St Thomas Aquinas its only blemish of the season. The Sachems beat Plymouth in overtime for a 28-27 win a week after a fourth quarter goal line stand held off the Saints 35-28. The four game streak ended at Merrimack Valley when the Pride downed the Sachems 20-17 before a 3-20 loss to Kennett a week ago.

Water main break shuts down upper Weirs Boulevard

LACONIA — A water main break on tWeir Boulevard forced police to reroute traffic over White Oaks Road last night. The break was reported around 5:30 p.m.

Public Works Director Paul Moynihan said crews from Laconia Water Department, including Superintendent Seth Nuttleman, were working on the break.

He said the person who was from his department told him that there appears to be a significant depression in the south-bound lane near Pier 3 condominiums.

AT 7 p.m., Moynihan said he expected it could take crews as much as three of four hours to repair the break.




Newfound board wants all-day kindergarten, will look for savings to pay for it elsewhere in budget

By Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — Facing an initial 2015-2016 budget that is $837,218 beyond the amount allowed under the property tax cap, the Newfound Area School Board nevertheless directed the superintendent to come up with a cost range for adding full-day kindergarten throughout the school district. Asked for a rough estimate of how much it would add to the budget, Superintendent Stacy Buckley put the figure at $250,000 to $300,000.
Buckley came to the Oct. 29 school board meeting with a list of $1,076,809 in possible cuts the board could make to bring the budget she had presented a month earlier in line with the tax cap, designed to limit the increase in the school district's assessment to the member towns to no more than two percent annually. Reviewing the items that might be cut, the board discussed trimming about $400,000 of the new expenditures — less than half of what is needed to meet the tax cap.
Many board members, however, wanted to make room in the budget for full-time kindergarten, regardless of how much more challenging it would make the task of staying within the tax cap. "This will go a long way toward improving student outcomes," said Vice-Chair Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater. "If we have to add the $200,000 to $300,000 it will take to do that, then we will have to go through however many meetings are necessary to get it right, including the problem with the tax cap."
The proposed budget for 2015-2016 stands at $20,734,377 which Buckley said she presented so the board would know what was "appropriate" to address school district needs in addition to basic costs. "I don't think the tax cap budget is appropriate," she said, conceding that she nevertheless had to adhere to it.
The recently agreed to teachers' contract would add another $305,620 to that figure, bringing the budget to $21,039,997. Business Administrator Michael Limanni said all that is allowed under the tax cap is $20,202,779 which is less than the current-year budget of $20,310,865.
Limanni explained his tax cap calculation which uses the current-year assessment to the towns as a basis for next year's figure. The local tax assessment for 2014-2015, after accounting for anticipated revenue, is $11,964,445 which means next year's assessment cannot exceed $12,203,734. Total estimated revenue for next year is $7,999,045, bringing the total allowed by the tax cap to $20,202,779.
Buckley said the school district attorney clarified the tax cap override provision: Neither the school board nor the budget committee can vote to override the cap; only the legislative body — the voters — can do so by amending the budget at the school district's deliberative session. Even then, under the municipal budget law, the voters can increase the budget committee's figure by no more than 10 percent.
Interestingly, she said, if the voters defeat the proposed budget and the default budget kicks in, the tax cap would not apply. Even if the default budget calculation works out to be higher than the tax cap budget, it still would take effect.
The other variable is that the school board could ask the budget committee to approve using some of the retained fund balance. Those additional revenues would increase the amount of spending allowed because it would not affect the local tax assessment.
The school board spent nearly an hour and a half going through the budget as proposed to understand the changes, many of them relating to properly allocating expenditures which, in the past, had appeared in the wrong categories, or were not broken out into enough detail. Limanni has been working to better account for spending and provide more safeguards to prevent misappropriation of funds.
A recurring subject during the meeting was the implementation of full-day kindergarten, with Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury saying, "My goal is to pass the teacher contract and add full-day kindergarten."
Sue Cheney of Alexandria was the lone dissenter, saying that, while she supports full-day kindergarten, she does not believe it can be properly implemented on such a short schedule. Buckley had said that it normally takes two years of planning to put in place a kindergarten program.
Part of the problem, Buckley said, is predicting how many students will participate in the program. Parents have said they send their preschoolers elsewhere because the district does not offer a full-day program. How many parents would choose to send their children to Newfound with a full-day program in place is unknown and Buckley said they should do a family poll to get some factual information to base their planning on. Higher enrollments could mean hiring additional teachers and, perhaps, create space problems.
Migliore, in his formal motion to add full-day kindergarten while also keeping half-day kindergarten as an option for parents, asked Buckley to provide a best-case, worst-case cost scenario for the board to consider at its next meeting. He said that, in order to fund the additional kindergarten hours, the board might have to look at closing one of the district's schools.
The school board had considered closing Newfound Memorial Middle School but, faced with opposition from voters at two public hearings on the matter, the board settled for addressing only the elementary schools, asking the superintendent to develop a plan for moving the sixth graders back into the elementary schools, which leaves only the seventh and eighth grades at the middle school.
Benjamin LaRoche of Bristol requested that time be set aside at the Nov. 10 school board meeting to discuss the possible need for a committee to look into how the seventh and eighth grades might be incorporated into Newfound Regional High School. "It's important to look into that prior to our discussion of K-6," he said.
In other business, the board had a brief discussion of the Bridgewater-Hebron Village District withdrawal study which had concluded that, while feasible, it was not desirable to withdraw from the Newfound Area School District at this point. Migliore pointed out that the board's decision to return the sixth grade students to the elementary schools was a major reason for the committee's decision not to withdraw.
Hill noted that the Bridgewater-Hebron discussion had resulted in the town selectmen deciding to get together to discuss common issues. The selectmen of the Newfound Area towns will be meeting in Bristol on Nov. 19.
During the public comment period, Heather Gosson of Bristol said she agreed with Cheney that next year would be too soon to implement full-day kindergarten, and she said, "I'm also dismayed that, after hearing from the voters, you keep trying to shut down the middle school."
John Sellers of Bristol complained at the beginning of the meeting that he had received no acknowledgement from the school board of his e-mail concerning school buses. He wanted the board to comment on why several of the buses had been taken off the road after not passing an unannounced state inspection. Because his email went out after the agenda had been set, the school board could not take the matter up, but the superintendent was preparing a response, according to Hill.