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Can Belknap County escape its apparent demographic destiny?

LACONIA — There are two New Hampshires, one based in the southeastern part of the state which is linked to the Boston area economy, and another in the more rural western and northern counties which have a different economy and where people are older and less well educated than those who live to the south, says Ross Gittell, chancellor of the New Hampshire Community College System.

Gittell, speaking to the Belknap Development Council last night at Lakes Region Community College, said that the demographic trend is not favorable to the Belknap County and the northern counties. But there are factors such as quality of life, outdoor recreation and being a good place to raise a family that can make them an attractive place to live.

He said that rural New Hampshire, if measured as a separate state, would have the second-highest percentage of residents over age 65 (only behind Florida), while metro New Hampshire would be in the bottom third of U.S. states with the percentage of residents over age 65.

If rural New Hampshire were a separate state, it would have the lowest percentage of residents age 25-44 among U.S. states. In contrast, metro New Hampshire would rank among the median U.S. states on this same measure. This age 25-44 population is the entry-level workforce critical for many businesses, the workforce that businesses rely on for jobs requiring middle and high skills and the latest technical training.

''You can't grow an economy without young people who have a set of skills,'' Gittell, who said that the community college system is one one of the keys to keeping young people in the state. He said the system should be affordable and flexible and geared to start recruiting young people at the middle school level so that they can realize that it is possible for them to have a good paying job right in their own backyard.

''We can keep them here if we have strong enough programs so that we're able to recruit them and get them through two years of college and even attract people from other states. The Baby Boom cohort doesn't exist in the Northeast anymore and we're going to experience a 20 percent decline in our young population by 2030. So we've got to find a way to get to keep our young people in the state and we do that with well-paying jobs,'' says Gittell.

He said that it is important to pay attention to the middle group of students because they don't get the guidance and attention they need and early enough in their school years.

''We should be testing them in the seventh grade and putting them on a career track and talking with their parents and giving them the help they need, like remedial math, so they can develop the skills they will need,'' said Gittell.

Many companies, like New Hampshire Ball Bearings, already have positions they would be glad to fill right now if they had qualified workers apply, said Gittell.

Across New Hampshire, education and pathways to careers are critical, he said.

"With a younger population that is more highly educated, particularly in the skilled trades and digital and information technology, the state will be much better positioned to retain and attract high-tech innovating firms and fast growing firms.''

He said that in metro New Hampshire this will require building on the strong base and variety of educational institutions, with a focus on strengthening economic connections with industry.

Efforts in rural New Hampshire should focus on investing in existing educational institutions, including community colleges, as affordable pathways to economic advancement.

''Part of this focus should be improved educational alignment and partnerships with industries that have strong rural prospects, such as outdoor recreation, leisure and hospitality, energy and environmental products and services, and certain advanced manufacturing sectors,'' said Gittell.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 01:19

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County Reps Divided on "Fetal Death" Bill

CONCORD — The overwhelming majority of the Belknap County Delegation voted in favor of a bill to enhance the penalties for those convicted of crimes causing the death of an expectant mother and her unborn child that carried the New Hampshire House of Representatives by 243 to 42 this week.

But only after the delegation split nearly evenly over the question of whether someone causing the death of unborn child, regardless of the fate of the mother, should be prosecuted.

Originally House Bill 1503, sponsored by Rep. Leon Rideout (R-Lancaster) was introduced as a so-called "fetal homicide" law, which provided for prosecuting someone for the death of an unborn child older than 8 weeks. In other words, if if the mother survives the assault or accident but her unborn child does not, the perpetrator would be prosecuted for homicide, manslaughter or negligent homicide. Similar laws have been enacted in 38 states.

However, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 10-7 to amend the bill to eliminate this provision, and instead prescribe enhanced penalties for those convicted of homicide, manslaughter and negligent homicide resulting in either miscarriage or stillbirth.

The House adopted the amendment proposed by the committee by a vote of 176-116. Ten members of the county delegation, all Republicans, voted against the amendment — Reps. Richard Burchell of Gilmanton, Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Jane Cormier and Stephen Holmes of Alton, Don Flanders, Bob Luther and Frank Tilton of Laconia, Michael Sylvia of Belmont, and Herb Vadney and Colette Worsman of Meredith. All five Democrats — Reps. Beth Arsenault and David Huot of Laconia, Lisa DiMartino of Gilford, Ruth Gulick of New Hampton, Ian Raymond of Sanbornton — and Republican Dennis Fields of Sanbornton voted for the committee amendment. Reps, Charles Fink (R-Belmont) and Bob Greemore (R-Meredith) were absent and did not vote.

Next Rep. Rideout offered an amendment to restore his original bill, which the House rejected by a 170-114 vote. The county delegation divided 8-7 in favor of the amendment. Again all four Democrats present (Arsenault was absent) voted against the amendment and were joined by Republican Fields, Flanders and Luther while the other eight Republicans supported it.

When the House finally voted on the bill as amended, only three members of the county voted in the minority against it — Sylvia, Vadney and Worsman.


Last Updated on Saturday, 22 March 2014 12:46

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Local man snared by Obamacare

LACONIA — While champions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) challenged the veracity of television ads that featured individuals claiming to have suffered from the law, a local man dared anyone, including Harry Reid, the leader of the Democratic majority in the United States Senate, to question how the act jeopardized his health and finances.

Tom Garrity has suffered from an aggressive type of lymphoma for the past eight years. He has been treated by physicians at at the Dana Farber Cancer Instutute and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where he has undergone two bone marrow transplants and more than 50 rounds chemotherapy. He stressed that the care and treatment he has received is not offered by a provider in New Hampshire.

Garrity's wife, as the sole proprietor of a property business, was able to purchase health insurance in the small group market and carry her husband on a one-life group plan offered by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. However, the Affordable Care Act did away with one-life group plans, overriding state laws that permitted them. Garrity said that in February he received a notice from Anthem informing him that his policy was being discontinued and advising him to seek coverage on the New Hampshire Health Insurance Marketplace, or "exchange," established by the ACA.

Anthem is the sole carrier offering plans on the exchange. Garrity said that he reviewed all the plans offered on the exchange only to find that none included the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in their provider networks. He said that he appealed to representatives of Anthem, citing the principle of "continuity of care," which because of his longstanding relationship with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute would afford him coverage for a provider outside the network. But, he was told since his policy had been discontinued, the principle did not apply.

Garrity said that he turned to an insurance broker who found a plan with Aetna Helath Insurance that covered his treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He said that the costs were comparable to his original policy with Anthem, with lower deductibles and marginally higher premiums and co-pays. But, he stressed that the experience consumed a great deal of time and caused a great deal of anxiety.

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 March 2014 12:37

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Conn. man arrested for stealing Rolexes in Laconia

LACONIA — City police, working with police from Fairfield and Newtown, Conn., have arrested the man who allegedly used a fraudulent check to steal three Rolex watches from Sawyers Jewelry.

Sgt. Thomas Swett said Shane Fusco, 38, of 5 Nelson Lane, Newtown, Conn., is being held on a fugitive from justice warrant after being stopped during a traffic stop in Newtown yesterday.

He faces charges in Laconia for theft by deception and forgery, both felonies.

Police said that Fusco allegedly went into Sawyers on Feb. 27 and used a phony bank check to buy three Rolex watches worth a total of $35,500. Police said the watches have been recovered.

Police said Sawyers followed all their internal policies. However, they learned that the check was a very good forgery. Sawyers notified police of the situation on March 4.

Fusco is scheduled to appear in court in Danbury, Conn., on March 24, 2014.

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 March 2014 12:11

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