Council may freeze Master Plan funding

LACONIA — The City Council will vote on a resolution withholding further funding to prepare the Master Plan out of concern that the Planning Board will fail to draft a plan to reverse the demographic and economic trends, which the council has identified as the major challenges facing the city.

The resolution begins by noting that the sections of the plan that have been drafted appear "to pay scant attention to the significant demographic and economic issues" facing the city today and in the future. In particular, the resolution continues, "there does not appear to be any significant effort on the part of the Planning Board to focus the Master Plan on how changes to existing land use policies, throughout the City, might be used to foster the repopulating of middle class families here and grow the commercial tax base."

Sponsored by Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), the resolution follows in the wake of the Planning Board's decision earlier this month to summarily reject a proposal by the council to make changes to the boundaries, dimensional requirements and permitted uses within the Commercial resort District, which encompasses The Weirs. Lipman said that "I'm not satisfied with where we're at," he said, adding that the City Council and the Planning Board "are not in sync." While he acknowledged "there are dedicated people on the Planning Board," he said he was troubled by the unwillingness of the board to engage in a conversation about the proposal to rezone The Weirs. Referring to the impasse over the proposal, the resolution describes the posture taken by the board as "negative to the point of suggesting the topic is none of the City Council's business." Furthermore, the resolution notes that only the council can affect public policy through its exclusive authority to expend public funds and consequently its "confidence in and support of the Master Plan is critical to its successful implementation."

Mayor Ed Engler said that the Planning Board is within its rights to prepare the Master Plan, but it should "prepare a Master Plan the council will buy into and support." He said that the council "never bought into the last Master Plan," little of which has been implemented. The council, he said, should be "brought into the Master Plan process though we acknowledge that the law does not require that." In particular, he stressed that if the Master Plan recommends changes to zoning or expenditures of funds, neither can be undertaken without the approval of the council.

The City Council has appropriated at least $18,850 to prepare the Master Plan, some of which has been spent. The chapters on land use, housing, transportation and community facilities and services remain to be written. The city planned to contract with the Lakes Region Planning Commission to complete the plan for a fee of $21,000, but has not entered the contract. City Manager Scott Myers said Thursday that if the council adopts the resolution and withholds further funding, the process of preparing the Master Plan would be "on hold" and "work would continue in-house."

"I'm trying to get this conversation going," Lipman said, describing the tone of the resolution and the withholding of funds as "a catalyst to bring us together. We're asking them to listen to us to work with us."

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 671

Chemical reaction destroyed Holman St. garage

LACONIA — The investigation of the fire that destroyed a garage at 30 Holman St. this week concluded that it was started by a slow chemical reaction. Fire Chief Ken Erickson said earlier in the day residents were cleaning out the garage. Investigators believe that motor oil mixed with fertilizer stored on a plastic shelf at ground level, leading to a chemical reaction that generated heat and sparked fire. The fertilizer burned intensely and flames reached plastic shelving. Erickson said that the typical materials stored in a residential garage contributed to a fast-spreading fire.

Erickson encouraged residents to read the labels on the products they store. He explained that oils, particularly organic oils like linseed oil, are generally applied with rags, which should be handled with care since the residue of oil can generate heat as it decomposes. Pool chlorine and chemical fertilizers, he said, may lead to similar chemical reactions that can cause fire.

– Michael Kitch

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 747

Laconia native Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc's new mission: Lead the charge against PTSD

10-21 Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc

Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, commander of American Special Operations Forces in Africa, tells soldiers that it is all right to get help for brain injuries and mental health problems. Credit Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Laconia native Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc's new mission: Lead the charge against PTSD


(Reprinted from an Oct. 8 New York Times story with permission)

STUTTGART, Germany — It might have been the 2,000-pound bomb that dropped near him in Afghanistan, killing several comrades. Or maybe it was the helicopter crash he managed to survive. It could have been the battlefield explosions that detonated all around him over eight combat tours.

Whatever the cause, the symptoms were clear. Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc suffered frequent headaches. He was moody. He could not sleep. He was out of sorts; even his balance was off. He realized it every time he walked down the street holding hands with his wife, Sharon, leaning into her just a little too close.

Despite all the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, it took 12 years from his first battlefield trauma for him to seek care. After all, he thought, he was a Green Beret in the Army's Special Forces. He needed to be tough.

General Bolduc learned that not only did he suffer from PTSD, but he also had a bullet-size spot on his brain, an injury probably dating to his helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2005.

Now, after three years of treatment, General Bolduc is doing better. And, in his role as commander of American Special Operations Forces in Africa, he has become an evangelist for letting soldiers know that it is all right to get help for brain injuries and mental health problems.

"I've really seen a difference in myself," General Bolduc, 54, said. "There are still the nonbelievers. We've got to get to them."

That means changing attitudes that equate mental illness with weakness. Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate,said in a speech this week that some veterans returning from war "can't handle" the stress. Mr. Trump was arguing for mental health services, but the remark drew scorn from veterans' groups that work to reduce the stigma. Mr. Trump's campaign has said his remarks were taken out of context. A spokesman for General Bolduc declined to comment.

On a recent afternoon, General Bolduc, his starched uniform weighed down by a giant patch of colorful ribbons and medals across his chest, stood ramrod straight at the Stuttgart headquarters from which he commands Special Operations fighters battling the Islamic State, Boko Haram, the Shabab and other terrorist groups in Africa, and he declared, "I'm in counseling."

General Bolduc wants soldiers under his command — who are stationed in some of the continent's most difficult parts — to know that seeking help will not hurt their careers. In his opinion, PTSD is the same as a broken arm.

"The powerful thing is that I can use myself as an example," General Bolduc said. "And thank goodness not everybody can do that. But I'm able to do it, so that has some sort of different type of credibility to it."

Other high-ranking officers have come forward to talk about their struggles with post-combat stress and brain injuries. And in recent years, Special Operations commanders have become more open about urging their soldiers to get treatment.

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, then the head of the United States Special Operations Command, spoke to CNN last spring about ending the stigma tied to seeking treatment. "It is absolutely normal and expected that you will ask for help," he said.

The stigma can be particularly acute in specialized military units, like the Green Berets and the Navy SEALs, that are trained for the toughest assignments and consider intervention a sign of weakness.

Yet the Department of Defense estimates that almost a quarter of all injuries suffered in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were brain injuries. As many as 20 percent of veterans of those two conflicts experience PTSD.

Traumatic brain injuries and PTSD share symptoms like headaches, depression and, sometimes, suicidal behavior. The consequences of not getting help can be severe: In the past four years, more than 2,000active and reserve military personnel have killed themselves, according to the department.

Across the military base in Stuttgart, suicide prevention and PTSD brochures are positioned on desktops and hallway tables. The base has a Preservation of the Force and Family center, a program created specifically for Special Operations Forces, where anyone can seek help for behavioral issues, including alcohol or drug abuse, and counseling for family and financial problems.

When commanders rented a movie theater last year for a screening of the latest "Star Wars" movie, General Bolduc made sure that the free tickets had to be picked up at the center, to get soldiers comfortable with stepping inside the door.

On base, officers talk openly about mood swings, making their wives cry and other indicators that led them to seek help.

General Bolduc, who took command in April 2015, encourages these kinds of honest conversations. In speeches to his leadership team and in visits to his troops in Africa, and every time a new soldier comes into his fold, he tells his personal story and urges anyone experiencing the same kinds of symptoms to get help.

A native of Laconia, New Hampshire, General Bolduc said he had wanted to join the Special Forces ever since as a young boy he watched the movie "The Green Berets" with his grandfather.

"For all Bolduc males, service to country is a requirement," said General Bolduc, whose two brothers also joined the Special Forces. "My grandfather didn't care what service, but he did feel that it was an obligation."

He earned his ROTC commission in 1989, graduating from Salem State College in Massachusetts, and later earned a master's degree in security technologies from the United States Army War College.

Last month, General Bolduc awarded a Purple Heart to an airman 11 years after he had received a brain injury during a mortar attack in Iraq. The airman, Tech. Sgt. David Nafe, had experienced memory loss and migraines for years.

General Bolduc made a fuss, summoning his staff to a ceremony for the award. The military publication Stars and Stripes published an articleabout Sergeant Nafe on its front page. In front of the audience gathered for the ceremony, the general told the soldier he could relate to him.

"When people look at you, you look completely normal," General Bolduc said. "And then they see how you act and they say, 'God bless, what's wrong with that guy?' "

The Defense Department and the Veterans Health Administration have worked to improve mental health services. Yet many service members do not regularly seek care, according to a 2014 report from the RAND Corporation, a think thank that conducts government studies.

That procrastination is exacerbated by the hypermacho culture of Special Operations, General Bolduc said, where high-stress tours leave members especially vulnerable. Members wait an average of 13 years and 3 months to seek treatment for injuries that are not catastrophic, according to Sarah McNary, a nurse in charge of traumatic brain injury cases at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, who first persuaded General Bolduc to submit to a brain examination.

When a bomb dropped on his position in Afghanistan in 2001 — a friendly fire accident — General Bolduc's hip was badly damaged. He declined medical treatment and pushed ahead with the mission, an offensive on Kandahar, and later needed hip-replacement surgery.

An average-size man at 5-foot-7 and 145 pounds, General Bolduc is so fit and focused that even if he were wearing overalls he would probably be identifiable as a Green Beret. Yet he has a soft side, offering a handshake or a hug to everyone he meets on a stroll around the base.

"He's Captain America," said Lt. Col. Nathan Broshear, a spokesman for Special Operations Command Africa.

Now, the general goes to counseling sessions with his wife, who for years urged him to seek treatment.

"The doctors love it because I'm still guarded," he said. "First of all, you feel funny even talking about it. You're not likely to give them your real symptoms. But your wife is going to say, 'That's a load of crap.' "

About a month ago, while visiting a team under his command, General Bolduc asked how many of the men had been close to blasts, bombs and mortar shells. Everyone raised a hand.

"Then I said, 'How many of you have sought treatment?' " he said. "No one's hand went up."

General Bolduc told them his own story, and afterward, all of the men decided to get exams. Doctors found a tumor in one soldier's brain.

He was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, near Washington, where he is being evaluated.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 529