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Hosmer & Forreter confident health insurance for near-poor will get done

CONCORD — Although the effort to expand Medicaid ran aground in the New Hampshire Senate on Thursday, the two senators from the Lakes Region — Democrat Andrew Hosmer of Laconia and Republican Jeanie Forrester of Meredith — believe that a compromise will be reached and the program will go forward.

"It was the timing we got stuck on," Hosmer said yesterday. "We've got minor issues holding up major health care reform. My disappointment is that we had an opportunity to do something," he continued. "But many of us, on both sides of the aisle, remain optimistic."

"We were almost there," remarked Forrester. "It didn't work, but I believe we can make it work."

Republicans and Democrats agreed on a plan that would use federal funds to enable some 50,000 residents to enrolled in Medicaid managed care plans to purchase health insurance from private carriers through the exchange established by the Affordable Care Act. Both acknowledged that the plan would require waivers from federal regulations. However, the Republicans insisted that the transition from Medicaid managed care to private health insurance begin in 2015 while Governor Maggie Hassan and the Democrats favored delaying the transition until the federal waivers and funding are in place and the exchange, which counts but one insurance company, becomes more competitive.

Republicans are concerned that the longer the transition from Medicaid managed care to the health insurance exchange is delayed, the greater the risk the state will be exposed to the cost of a growing Medicaid program.

Noting that others states, notably Arkansas and Iowa, have been granted waivers similar to those sought by New Hampshire, Forrester doubted warnings from the Insurance Department and Health and Human Services Department that the process could take one or two years. "We have to get these waivers and the departments must get it done," she said. She said that with some adjustments to their programming the Medicaid managed care providers could qualify to offer health insurance plans on the exchange.

Acknowledging the fiscal risk to the state, Hosmer agreed on the need for benchmarks and timelines as well as "performances matrices and cost efficiencies to ensure that funds are well spent." At the same time, he stressed that the importance of "allowing ample time for more insurers to enter the market." Likewise, he said that Arkansas and Iowa spent nearly two years designing their programs and drafting waiver requests while New Hampshire has just begun the process. Nevertheless, he described the differences between the parties as "minor issues" that he is confident can be overcome.

While some have charged that the Senate Republican leadership has sought to scuttle the expansion of Medicaid from the outset, Hosmer said "there are cores on both sides of the aisle who want this to happen and are willing to keep working. It's too big an issue that affects too many people. Failure cannot be an option."

Forrester said that "right after the session adjourned we began talking about how we could this done," indicating that the conversation included senators from both parties. "I think people want to get this done," she continued, "for the people who the health care." She pointed out that shortly after the Senate reached stalemate, the Josiah Bartlett Center, a conservative think tank, honored Chuck Morse, the Republican senate president from Salem, who told his conservative audience that he believed agreement was within reach and he intended to pursue it.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 November 2013 01:39

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2 selectmen voted to allow strippers to return to Kings Grant Inn only because they felt they legally had no choice

GILFORD — While the owner and co-manager of the Lakes Region Cafe & Tavern have secured their town license to operated an "exotic entertainment" dance club and restaurant, the vote was not without controversy.

At least two of the selectmen, after making the motion to grant Willard Drew and his business partner Tom Lyons their full live entertainment license, expressed their personal, negative opinions about the operation.

"Someone will disagree with some types of businesses," began Selectman John O'Brien who made the motion to grant Drew his full license on Wednesday night, adding that he didn't agree with exotic dancing and the activity, in his opinion, it allegedly attracts.

"However, due to existing laws in these times, ... I can't legally oppose (it), O'Brien said.

Selectman Chair Kevin Hayes said "he would hold his nose" and vote to support Drew having his license. He said in his 5 1/2 years of being a selectman, no single topic has been brought to his attention by a wider variety of residents than the operations at the King's Grant Inn property during its history as a "strip club."

Hayes also said he hoped that if Drew and Lyons were successful, they would reinvest money back into the property.

Drew's lawyer, David Bownes, thanked selectmen for the license, noting that the meeting was not the time nor the place to respond to their statements. He noted selectmen have the same First Amendment right to express their individual opinions as Drew does to operate an exotic dancing club.

Nevertheless, Drew went to the podium.

He told selectmen that for 22 years he has "jumped through hoops" to keep his business afloat and has sunk nearly $300,000 into the building and property.

Drew said he has been fighting to stay open since 1994, telling the selectmen that if the town had been a little more accommodating, he may have made enough money to reinvest in his property.

He noted that a former police chief also waged a clandestine investigation against him and his business that involved 14 investigations and three undercover operations that yielded nothing.

Ten years ago, said Drew, a former fire chief determined he had to reduce his occupancy from 163 to 99 because he didn't have a sprinkler system, forcing him to close his dining room.

Without naming names, he said there are other entertainment establishments in Gilford who have greater capacity than him who don't have sprinkler systems because their buildings and businesses were "grandfathered," as he believes his should be.

Drew also told selectmen that the portion of Route 11-B from Kimball Road to Route 11 should be zoned commercial-industrial and not residential commercial. He noted that most of Kimball Road is commercial and industrial.

He also said that exotic dancing was "the only thing that pays the bills."

In the not-so-distant-past Drew and Bownes also prevailed in a lawsuit against the town for denying the former Kokomos club an adult entertainment license in a case that went to the U.S. Federal Court.

The Lakes Region Cafe & Tavern will be operating at the former King's Grant Inn. In its most recent incarnation, the historic inn and tavern had been being operated as the Mardi Gras North and though Drew owns the property, he was not an active manager of that business.

In October of 2011, and in the wake of what appears to be a lengthy undercover state police drug investigation, the Mardi Gras North was raided on a Tuesday night by two SWAT Teams and most of the members of the Gilford Police Department. Selectmen as well as some other civilian town employees were present on the property during the raid.

In the wake of the raid, five female dancers and two male patrons were charged and sentenced for a variety of drug charges — most of which were reasonably minor. Three people — all female dancers — in the club were arrested during the raid

Drew has said that during the raid, law enforcement did as much damage as it could to his building, including breaking down doors that were unlocked, ripping out the video security system, and breaking open freezers and refrigerators when they were offered keys to the locks by on-site employees.

The business closed and Drew — as holder of the liquor license — faced a number of civil penalties through the N.H. Liquor Bureau — including one of allowing his property to be used for unlawful activities for which he was exonerated.

After a three-day hearing in front of the N.H. Liquor Commission, he was found responsible for once serving an intoxicated patron, for once serving an employee while she was working, and for once giving away a free drink. He was fined $350 and ordered not to operate for three days.

Although he has opened sporadically since the October raid, in his opinion, selectmen have thrown up numerous roadblocks as he has tried to get his business back on its feet again.

Drew said yesterday that now that he and Lyons have their full licenses, they will be developing menus and a business plan. They had previously told selectmen they were looking at a "soft-opening" so they can work out the kinks and be fully operational by spring and summer.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 November 2013 01:17

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Cost of maintaining high-mileage cruisers questioned

LACONIA — Police Commission Chair Warren Clements said yesterday that he would like to know how much money in maintenance and repairs it costs the department to keep older police vehicles on the road.

Clements said he was specifically referring to vehicles with 70,000 or more miles on them.

Captain Bill Clary said it's a difficult number to provide because all of the city's vehicle maintenance in managed by employees at City Hall. He said the Police Department doesn't control those particular line items.

"We don't control spending," Clary continued. "The internal budgeting is done at City Hall."

He said the department gets "a bill" (for its records) from the Department of Public Works that includes labor for repairs and maintenance but all the movement of money is handled at the city level. He noted that even in his own annual budget preparation, he leaves those lines blank and they are filled in by city hall finance employees.

He said the department has been doing a better job in recent years of "getting rid of " old cruisers from front-line work sooner than in the past, which has saved the city money in maintenance and repair line item. He said nearly all maintenance and repairs are performed by the Public Works Department.

Clary said the ones in the best shape often get a "second life" for use by detectives as unmarked cars or for special details.

He said the department has seven front-line cruisers that rotate out of primary service when they reach 70,000 miles. He said the average cruiser clocks 30,000 miles annually.

He said two new cruisers will be included in the 2014-2015 budget that he is currently preparing.

In 2013, the department received two new SUVs and one cruiser. The department had ordered two cruisers and one SUV however there was a mix-up with the Ford dealer and the department accepted the two SUVs that were close in price. One of the new SUVs is used regularly by the shift supervisor.
Overall, Clary and other police officials have had good things to say about the new Ford Interceptors, noting they do seem to be saving the department money in its fuel line.

He said Ford has assured the nation's police departments that the company will make these models for 10 years — meaning all the equipment needed for them will be usable for at least 10 years without any retrofitting.

NOTES: Chief Chris Adams said while robberies (armed and unarmed) this year are up to about 15 or 16 he said the overall rates of retail theft are down by about 31 percent. He also said detectives and patrol officers continue to investigate a recent string of arson. . . . . . Sgt. Thomas Swett updated the commissioners on the Police Oriented Project involving retail theft and said the stores that have control over their own placement of goods have been very responsive to working with police. He said local chain retailers have little to no control over where they place their goods, cash registers, and displays. He also noted that police working cooperatively with Vista Foods over the past year has helped them reduce the incidents of shoplifting dramatically. He also said the number of domestic assaults and disturbances are up because management is more proactive about reporting suspicious behavior to police. He also said police officers are engaging in more community policing, which can be as simple as stopping by randomly for a visit or a coffee.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 November 2013 02:32

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Yellow balloon no cause for celebration for some Gilford residents

GILFORD — A balloon was flying over the homes on David Lewis Road yesterday, but several property owners in the quiet, wooded neighborhood were not celebrating. Flown to mimic the height of a proposed cellular telephone antenna tower, the balloon did nothing to ease the concerns of property owners whose lots are 100 feet from the base of the tower.

New Cingular Wireless PCS, doing business as AT&T, and American Tower Corporation, LLC, the construction manager, have applied to erect the 100-foot monopole tower with 12 antennas on the southeast corner of a 48-acre tract owned by the Traditional Cathloics of New Hampshire, much of which consists of the Bolduc Farm managed by Armand and Ernice Bolduc.

"I'm going to fight this tooth and nail," said Kevin Lacasse, whose home at 38 David Lewis Road sits due east of the proposed site of the tower. Eying the balloon drifting above the tree line, he discounted the test since the breeze kept the balloon from reaching the true height of the tower. "It's right in my backyard," he remarked, "where I can look right at it from my hot tub."

The tower would also overshadow a vacant 5.27-acre parcel where Roger Baron plans to build a retirement home. Since the property is intersected by a brook and dotted with wetlands the buildable area is confined to less than two acres in the northwest corner of the lot nearest the proposed site of the tower. "We're not going to let this go," Baron said, asking "is the town going to protect the little guy?"
Although the tower would not be as close to the home of Charles and Winifred Hughes at 48 David Lewis Road, the slope of the land would make it very visible from much of their property. Moreover, to reach the tower a 12-foot wide road would be built within a 50-foot right-of-way from David Lewis Road adjacent to their property line. The Hugheses could not be reached, but Lacasse said they share his misgivings about the tower.
Armand Bolduc said that the tower would be shielded from neighboring by trees, noting that if the trees were in leaf the balloon would be less visible. Furthermore, he said that tower will be disguised to mimic a tree.
Peter and Jane Ellis, who recently closed their vineyard and wine shop on David Lewis Road, said that they canvassed the nine homeowners on David Lewis Road and found three, including Lacasse and the Hugheses, who are opposed to the tower and six who are either in favor or disinterested.
Both Baron and Lacasse said because the tract owned by the Traditional Catholics stretches over 148 acres, there is no need to place the tower so close to neighboring properties. "They want to put it where it least affects their land and affects everybody else," said Baron, who said they should put in the parking lot of the church on Morrill Street. "No one would complain if they put in in the middle of their property," he said.
Baron said that he has spoken with an appraiser who told him that the proximity of the tower would reduce the value of his property. But, but because he could find no cases of towers being sited so close to residences, there was not sufficient data to quantify the impact. Like Baron, Lacasse believes the tower will diminish the value of the nearby properties, including his own, but has yet to receive a formal appraisal.
The Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a public hearing on the project, which requires a special exception, on December 16. To qualify for a special exception a project must comply with six requirements, among them that it is "not detrimental, injurious or offensive to the neighborhood."

 

CAPTION: The yellow balloon, tethered by 100 feet of string, floated over 48 David Lewis Road yesterday to simulate the height of a cellular telephone antenna tower that AT&T proposes to erect on a corner of the Bolduc Farm near two homes and a building lot, whose owners seek to forestall the project, which they believe will adversely impact their properties.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 November 2013 02:20

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