Laconia’s Drug Recovery Court eyes $300,000 in state funding


LACONIA — The Belknap County Recovery Court is in the process of applying for $300,000 in state funding as it transitions from a volunteer program at the Circuit Court level to a full-fledged Drug Court at the Superior Court level.

Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center, a member of the volunteer group which oversees the Recovery Court, said she is working on the grant application with members of the Recovery Court team and expects it will be filed by the end of the month.

The Recovery Court meets weekly to monitor the progress of those accepted into the program, which offers alternatives to jail sentences for those willing to undergo counseling, undergo random and regular drug testing and commit to at least 250 hours of community service.
Other members are Circuit Court Judge James Carroll, Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, Jesse Friedman of the Public Defender's Office, the Laconia Division of Parole and Probation, Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, the Belknap County Restorative Justice Program, the Belknap County House of Corrections, Genesis Behavior Health and Laconia Drug Prevention, Education and Treatment Officer Eric Adams.

Currently the program has 11 participants and is looking to triple the number of participants when it transitions to the Superior Court level. Abikoff said that Judge Carroll will continue to be a part of the team after he retires as a Circuit Court judge at the end of May.

Abikoff said that state funding comes from HB 464, which was signed into law last year by Gov. Maggie Hassan and provides more than $2 million in matching state grants for counties to establish new drug courts and expand existing ones. Along with this money comes another $5 million over two years in federal aid to expand access to treatment for heroin and opioid disorders.

She said that the team working on the application is making sure that the treatment programs which are offered are in compliance with guidelines established by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

The Recovery Court had earlier this year sought approval from the Belknap County Commission to apply for a $400,000, three-year federal grant which would have been used to hire a full-time coordinator for the program and scale it up to the point where it will be able to more than double the number of people it served as it expands to cover Belknap County Superior Court.

Abikoff said that approach was abandoned after it was determined that a the court would only be eligible for those funds after it had been functioning as a state approved Drug Court for three years.

Woman injured in crash on Route 140, engine thrown across road


BELMONT — Police say that the woman driver of a car which snapped a utility pole and then sideswiped three spruce trees before becoming airborne and smashing into another utility pole Friday afternoon on Route 140 suffered severe injuries in the accident.
"The car was being driven at an extremely high rate of speed and there was no sign of any pre-crash braking," said Police Chief Mark Lewandoski, who said the woman was thrown from the vehicle before it hit the second utility pole with such force that its engine was thrown nearly 70 feet across the highway and was still burning when police arrived.
No condition report was available for the woman, who was described as being in her early 40s, and was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia following the single-car crash which took place around 1:45 p.m. Lewandoski said he assumed that she was being taken by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon but had heard that the DART flight had been placed on hold.
He said that Belmont Police had been dispatched to Route 140 shortly before the accident after receiving two calls regarding a reckless driver headed east towards Belmont on that highway.
The accident took place about 200 yards east of Hillcrest Pizza and BBQ on Route 140 and people who live near the scene said that they heard it, but did not witness it.
"It sounded like three continuous sonic booms," said Kimberly McManus, who called 9-1-1 as Carrie Putnam, whom she was visiting, went outside to see what was happening.
Putnam said that when she came out of her home she saw the engine engulfed in flames on her neighbor's lawn and a the woman driver across the highway lying beside the road and behind the smashed car.
"It looked like she was dead. When I got close to her I could see that she was breathing but unconscious. I tried talking to her but she didn't respond. I stayed with her until the ambulance arrived. I didn't want her to be alone if she died," said Putnam.
Lewandoski said that the ambulance crews found the woman lying next to and partially under a portion of the utility pole her vehicle had hit first.
He said that the force of the collision was so great and the car moving at such a high rate of speed that if it would have hit a mobile home in the Pine Garden Mobile Home Park if it hadn't collided with the spruce trees.
Route 140 was closed to traffic for several hours following the accident.

04-18 Belmont crash engine

The engine of car which crashed on Rte. 140 in Belmont Friday afternoon was thrown across the highway some 70 feet from where the car came to rest. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

04-28 Belmont crash 1

A car which was reportedly being driven at a high rate of speed hit two utility poles on Rte. 140 in Belmont Friday afternoon and the woman driver was thrown from the vehicle by the force of the collisions. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Belmont teachers disciplined

Sources say teachers were drinking at BHS after play


BELMONT — On Monday, May 1, four teachers will return to Belmont High School after being placed on administrative leave, Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Michael Tursi reported this week, but school officials have declined to shed light on the incident that led to their discipline.
The circumstances of the teachers' discipline has been a closely guarded secret by administrative officials in the school district, but multiple sources indicated that the teachers were caught drinking alcohol at the high school during a private celebration after the Belmont High School drama department's production of "Footloose — The Musical."
Two independent sources confirmed the incident and named the teachers, but The Laconia Daily Sun was not able to confirm the teachers' identities and so decided not to publish the names.
The incident allegedly occurred in late March, as the musical reached its final performance.
On April 5, when asked about the discipline, Superintendent Michael Tursi said it was a personnel issue and would not be discussed. Earlier this month, high school principal David Williams also declined to comment on the incident. Brian McNabb, who has served as negotiations chairperson for the teachers' union, the Shaker Regional Education Association, did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Multiple attempts to contact the teachers who were placed on administrative leave were unsuccessful.
But on Monday, April 24, Tursi published a bulletin labeled "Teachers" on the Belmont High School online bulletin board, at
"Dear Shaker Regional Families and Staff," the bulletin reads, "As many of you are well aware and some of you maybe not as much, four high school teachers have been out on administrative leave for the past several weeks. There have been many rumors surrounding this. I do know that many of you have expressed your frustration in the lack of information from me and/or others regarding this matter. This frustration is felt by all involved. Please know that we have specific laws and policies that we must follow when it comes to sharing information regarding personnel matters. It is my obligation to follow these laws and policies in protecting the confidentiality of our employees. The School Board also has specific laws, policies and procedures that they must follow when determining the outcome of such personnel matters when these matters are brought to their level."
The bulletin continued, "At this point, with the School Board's involvement, the four teachers will be returning to BHS on Monday, May 1st. I know that this decision will prompt a wide range of emotions. Please be assured that I will do my best to lead us through this range of emotions as we move forward from this matter. It is always my goal to make sure we do not lose sight of the great things that are happening in our schools and community, even when we are experiencing trying times. I am confident that we, together, will be able to focus on the bright side and bounce back when we encounter obstacles such as this. My hope is that we never lose sight of the fact that Shaker is a great place to live, learn, work and play."
On Friday, Tursi did not return a call seeking comment about the bulletin announcement.
BHS Drama was scheduled to present "Footloose — The Musical" in the Belmont High School cafeteria Thursday through Saturday, March 23, 24 and 25. The March 24 performance was canceled due to bad weather, and a matinee was scheduled to replace that Friday's performance.
According to two anonymous sources, on the evening after the last theater production, four faculty members stayed in the music department and consumed alcohol.

"When the night custodian was sweeping that hallway, she heard the noise, saw what was happening and recorded them on her phone," one of the sources reported.

When contacted, Belmont Police reported that the incident is a school matter and deferred questions to school district administrators.