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Covered pedestrian bridge delivered to new home in Belmont

BELMONT — A 50-foot-long section of a wooden pedestrian bridge that will eventually span the Tioga River arrived in town yesterday and was lifted by crane to its temporary resting place near the town's Public Works Garage, where it joined three roof sections of the bridge which have already arrived.
Two more sections of the bridge will be moved from Dover this week and they will also be used for a separate span over the Tioga River.
Conservation Commission Chairman Ken Knowlton said that what once was a 154-foot long covered pedestrian bridge, which originally spanned the Cocheco River, was bought by the commission for $1 from the city of Dover after efforts by Dover residents to keep in that community and use it as a centerpiece for a park fell short.
Built in 1996 at a cost of $162,845, the eight-foot wide bridge was removed with a crane in 2010 and the city of Dover was looking to sell it in order to make way for a waterfront development.
Knowlton said that contractor Mark Roberts has been in charge of bringing the bridge, which had to be disassembled, to town and developed a scope of work to move everything to Belmont with a price of $12,600 for moving and about $10,000 for using two cranes to place two sections of the bridge over the river.
Knowlton said that one 50 foot span will cross the river just north of the Belmont Mill parallel to the Rte. 140 bridge over the Tioga River and that the other two spans, which will total 100 feet, will be put over the river about a half mile to the west.
He said that the first bridge will be located at what was once the terminus of the Belmont Spur Line, which brought trains to the Belmont Village area, and that the longer bridge which cross the river at a point where there was once was a bridge for the spur line.
The commission is currently looking for ways to raise funds for the cost of putting the bridges in place, as well as for a trail system which will be built along the right of way of the former Belmont Spur rail corridor, which is widely used by snowmobilers.
The commission earlier this month voted to spend $5,500 to have Hoyle, Tanner and Associates evaluate the bridge for use at those two river crossings.
Knowlton said the commission is looking for grants and donations in order to complete the project and is hoping to be able to start work on the first part of the project next summer.

CAPTIONS for Lift Bridge:
Ken Knowlton, Mark Roberts and Woody Fogg maneuver a section of a covered bridge which will eventually span the Tioga River onto supports. The bridge, which was bought by the Belmont Conservation Commission from Dover for $1, is being brought to Belmont in sections. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 02:23

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Mediciad patients will still not have access to LRGHealthcare primary care doctors

LACONIA — Although LRGHealthcare is participating in all three medical plans now being offered to New Hampshire residents who use Medicaid to pay for health care, adults in the area will still have to use a non-LRGHealthcare physician for their primary care. Medicaid users must enroll in one of the plans before November 1 as part of a switch to a managed care program.

According to Andrew Patterson, executive director of the hospital company-owned Laconia Clinic, "wrap-around health care networks" like Health First Family Care Center in Laconia and Franklin are better designed to assist adult Medicaid patients with services that are an addition to just primary care.

Some of those "wrap-around" services, said Patterson, are nutritionists, social workers, and other non-physician services not typically provided by a primary care physician. In addition, patients can access clinical psychologists, visiting nurses for the home-bound, and nurse midwives at Health First and other similar networks.

At least one local man, who asked not to be identified, said he was confused when he saw the name of his former LRGHealthcare primary care physician listed under the new Well Sense, New Hampshire Healthy Families, and Meridian managed care plans.

One of the 3,500 area residents who were removed from patient rolls in late 2011 when LRGHealthcare stopped accepting primary care Medicaid users because of what were seen as inadequate government reimbursement rates, this man saw the name of his former primary care doctor at the Laconia Clinic listed when he went to the new exchanges and wanted to reestablish his relationship there.

"I was told they were accepting Medicaid patients," he said, accusing LRGHeathcare of misrepresenting themselves as participating in the exchanges.

Patterson said there was no misrepresentation but allowed there could be some confusion because New Hampshire chose to roll out its managed care networks for Medicaid at the same time as joining the Anthem network for general health insurance access under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

He said all LRGHealthcare physicians who are specialists continue to see Medicaid patients who are referred to them by the rural health centers like Health First and that is why all of their physicians are listed on the three new exchanges created by state's managed care system.

In November of 2011, due to an operating loss of $4-million, LRGHealthcare stopped seeing adult primary care physicians at its 12 primary care offices. The 12 were Andover Family Practice; Belknap Family Practice in Belmont and Meredith; Caring for Women in Laconia, Franklin, and Moultonborough; Franklin Internal Medicine; Hillside Family Medicine in Gilford; Laconia Clinic in Laconia, Tilton and Franklin; Lakes Region Family Practice in Laconia; Moultonborough Family Practice; and New Hampton Family Practice.

Patterson said the 12 above offices still provide pediatric care to children on Medicaid and the emergency rooms at Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital accept Medicaid payments.

In addition to not accepting adult primary care patients who are on Medicaid, to cope with decline revenues LRGHealthcare trimmed staff and cut some overhead costs that saved $14-million in 2011.

Triggering the declining revenues were reductions in Medicaid reimbursements from the state government that began when the state Legislature stopped returning the Medical Enhancement Tax to hospitals and kept the federal match in the state's operating budget.

Patterson said the "wrap around" agencies like Health First get higher federal Medicaid reimbursements than LRGHealthcare does for primary care services and until that changes, he said it's not likely his company will serve adult Medicaid recipients for their primary care services.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 02:31

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Cormier authors bill to eliminate regional planning commissions

CONCORD — Representative Jane Cormier (R-Alton) has introduced legislation that would do away with the state's nine regional planning commissions by 2015. The intent of the bill, she said, is not only to repeal but also to replace the commissions by authorizing cities and towns to enter cooperative and collaborative arrangements at their discretion.

The regional planning commissions have been a frequent target of Cormier's weekly column in "The Weirs Times" since the advent of the Granite State Future initiative, a three-year project aimed at developing regional master plans that would be melded into a statewide plan. The project is funded by a $3.37-million grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Cormier is among those who believe that the regional planning commissions are the stalking horses of a federal effort, pursued under the aegis of Granite State Future, to promote "Smart Growth" and "sustainable living" at the expense of local control of land use decisions and private property rights. "I'm all for good stewardship," she declared, "but this is about private property rights guaranteed by our Constitution."

Cormier points to the budget of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, which includes $123,521 in revenue from the 30 member communities in a $572,500 budget. Noting that salaries represent $369,548, excluding an estimated $100,000 for benefits, she asks "what money is actually left to 'improve' our communities?" More importantly, since the employees of the planning commissions are paid with federal funds, she asks "where does their loyalty lie, with the federal government or the taxpayers of our communities" and concludes "the answer is, of course, "with the federal government. The facts are the facts."

"NH Regional Planning Commissions," Cormier recently wrote, "are a scam, fueled by the feds, to reach the goals of sustainable 'smart growth' in our Live Free or Die state."

Cormier said that her bill would provide that once the regional planning commissions are shuttered, any remaining fund balances would distributed among the member municipalities according to an equitable formula.

Cormier said that she has been traveling around the state to warn against the threat to local control and property rights posed by federal government agencies and regional planning commissions. "I'll drive and I'll talk until I can't drive or talk anymore," she said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 02:13

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Inter-Lakes board hears range of opinions on all-day kindergarten

CENTER HARBOR — At an Inter-Lakes School District forum Tuesday, some parents called for implementing full-day kindergarten in the district's schools, citing education and childcare benefits, while others questioned if such a move was the best way to improve early childhood education and development.
About 25 people showed up to offer opinions and ask questions at an open forum on the idea of all-day kindergarten. The session took place away from the board's regular Meredith meeting place in what board Chairman Richard Hanson said is an ongoing effort to encourage input from residents of the district's three towns.
Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond said all-day kindergarten was a way to enhance education for children at an age when they are naturally curious and therefore benefit from the opportunity to explore subjects in greater depth. But she added that any changes to the kindergarten program had to be flexible enough to meet the needs of individual families. She said that taking a one-size-fits-all approach would be wrong.
Resident Dick Hughes of Center Harbor agreed, saying: "All-day kindergarten is great, but you need to have flexibility."
Currently Inter-Lakes offers half-day kindergarten sessions lasting 2 3/4 hours at Inter-Lakes Elementary School in Meredith, while Sandwich Central School has an extended four-hour program.
Wendy Mills of Meredith said she supports a longer kindergarten program. She noted that her son who is now in first grade has had difficulty adjusting to the longer school day at the same time he is facing more rigorous demands academically.
But Dan Kusch of Sandwich said he worries that all-day kindergarten was an indication of increasing pressure on academics at a younger age. Kusch, who is chairman of the Sandwich Child Center's Board of Directors, said the question of kindergarten education touches on three issues: childhood development, early intervention and child care.
"If we need to look at early intervention and child care then let's look at those issues and not just throw in all-day kindergarten in the hopes that that will correct early intervention and child care problems," he said.
Nancy Fredrickson of Sandwich said she felt the issue of all-day kindergarten was being rushed.
"I think it is premature to try to implement full-day kindergarten for the coming school year," she said.
Ormond said that the School Board has not made any decision one way or the other on kindergarten expansion, but she indicated that school administrators are developing the necessary information for the board to consider when the time comes to make a decision.
School Board member Lisa Merrill said more public input was required.
"I want to hear from parents before we move forward with anything," she said.
Ormond said that a survey would be posted on the School District website and printed in local newspapers. Hanson also urged that surveys be targeted to various groups in the district.
"If we do anything right away," Hanson added, "it will be to give people choices."
Inter-Lakes Curriculum Coordinator Kathleen Hill said that if parents are offered a choice between full- and half-day kindergarten it will be done in a way that parents who choose the half-day option will not be made to feel that they are short-changing their child's education.
The curriculum content for both programs would be the same. The difference would be the all-day program would offer more time for activities, such as art, physical education, and music.
Kusch told the board, "I want to hear ... a clear rationale for whatever options are being offered. 'Kindergarten is good, so more of it is better' is not a rationale," he added.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 03:27

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