Income inequality in Lakes Region found to outpace state number, which is twice the national average

LACONIA — The New Hampshire Business Review recently reported that income inequality in New Hampshire is increasing at almost twice the national pace and faster than in any other state; and nowhere is the trend more pronounced than in the Lakes Region and Belknap County.

Citing data from the United States Census, the report notes that between 2007 and 2013 the gap between rich and poor in the United States has widened by 2.6 percent but in New Hampshire by more than 5 percent.

The most comprehensive measure of income inequality is the so-called Gini Index, an international measure created by the Italian statistician Carrado Gini in 1912 and widely applied ever since. The index assigns zero to perfect equality while a value of one indicates that a single individual or family earns all the income and the rest earn nothing.

Based on three-year averages from census data, In New Hampshire, the Gini Index rose from 0.414 in 2007 to 0.435 in 2013. Carroll County posted the highest index of 0.468, followed by Grafton County at 0.46 and Belknap County at 0.44. But, during the same period, the index rose 10 percent in Belknap County, twice the increase in the state as a whole and the greatest increase among the ten counties.

In the Lakes Region and Belknap County widening inequality has been accelerated by the other predominant trend of the time — the rapid aging of the population. Between 2000 and 2010, while the population of the county rose by 6.5-percent the age group younger than 18 fell nearly as fast, 6.3-percent, to diminish from almost a quarter to barely a fifth of the population. Meanwhile, the median age increased from 40.1 to 44.7.
The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies projects that those over 65 will represent 37-percent of the Belknap County population by 2030, the second largest share of senior citizens among the 10 counties. As more and more affluent retirees have settled around the lakes, the disparities of income and wealth have widened.

3 Laconia apartments destroyed by fire

LACONIA — A three-alarm fire at the Wingate Village apartments on Blueberry Lane late Wednesday morning heavily damaged three apartments and caused about $150,000 in damage, according to Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson.
He said that the fire, which was reported at 11:09 a.m., left three units uninhabitable and displaced five adults and six children, who were later assisted by the American Red Cross in obtaining shelter, food and clothing. No one was injured in the fire.
He said that the fire started on the exterior of the building, a six-unit multi-family two-story wood frame structure, near apartment 35 and spread up an exterior wall to the attic space of apartments 34, 35 and 36.
''Crews hit the heavy fire from the outside and knocked down the fire in the attic of of 34, then advanced the hose lines into 34, 35 and 36 to extinguish the fire,'' said Erickson, who added that at one point the fire exploded through a hole cut by firefighters in the roof of unit 36.
He said that despite the rapidly spreading fire and high outside temperatures, which were close to 90 degrees, no one was injured.
''Firefighters did a good job in tough conditions,'' said Erickson, who estimated the value of property saved at $200,000.
No cause of the fire was available as of press time.
Crews from several area fire departments responded to the scene, including Gilford, Belmont, Meredith, Tilton, Sanbornton, Gilmanton and Concord.
Among the first to spot the fire was Kristen Jackman, 26, of Rumney, who was swimming in a pool across the street and saw the smoke. She immediately ran across the street and knocked on the doors of apartments 37 and 38 and helped the occupants get out of the building before firefighters arrived.
''She's our hero,'' said Jane Hanson, a resident of apartment 37, a sentiment echoed by James Rathbun of apartment 38. Both watched in their wheelchairs in the shade of a tree near as firefighters battled the fire.
Hanson said that she and her husband, Frank, were at home and their grandchildren were outside playing when the fire broke out.
''The kids yelled to us about the fire and this lady helped us out,'' said Hanson, who was grateful that her Jack Russell Terrier, "Sadie", was also able to escape from the fire.
''The vinyl siding went up in a flash,'' said Frank Hanson, who yelled ''Wow! Look at that'' as flames broke through the roof of unit 36.
Jackman said that she was grateful for the praise being showered on her but that her response didn't make her a hero. ''I just did what anyone else would have done in the same situation. I'm just happy that no one was hurt.''


Kristen Jackman, rear, of Rumney is shown with James Rathbun, watching the fire at Wingate Village and Jane and Frank Hanson, whom she alerted to the fire and helped flee the burning building Wednesday morning. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Smoldering cigarette said to have caused Laconia fire

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that a cigarette end, smoldering in a plastic cup placed close to an exterior wall, caused the fire that damaged all six of the two-story apartments in a multi-family building at Wingate Village on Blueberry Lane yesterday.

Erickson noted that the extreme heat and dryness enabled the fire, which began at the foot of the wall of unit 35, to climb up the exterior wall as the heated vinyl siding emitted flammable vapors and reach into the attics of units 34, 35 and 36, where there was no insulation or sheet rock to slow its spread. He said when the fire reached the oxygen in the attics it reignited, shooting flames through the opening firefighters cut in the roof of unit 36. Firefighters fought the from inside the building, Erickson said, first knocking it down in unit 34 then running hose to extinguish the blaze in units 35 and 36.

Three units — 34,35 and 36, Erickson said suffered the most severe damage while the remaining units in the building — 33, 37 and 38 — were not spared but less affected. He said that 18 people were displaced the night after the fire and anticipated half of them would be able to return to their homes relatively soon, while five adults and four children would likely remain displaced for a longer time. He initially estimated the cost f the damage, including both the structure and possessions, at approximately $150,000, but suggested that figure would likely increase.

On one was home in units 34, 35, and 36 at the time of the fire.

Erickson credited the management of Wingate Village with quickly taking step to address the needs of the displaced tenants and repair the damaged the units. However, the management of Wingate Village declined to comment to The Daily Sun about either the fire or its aftermath.

The fire, Erickson remarked, was the third in recent weeks to have begun with a smoldering cigarette. Earlier less extensive fires were extinguished on High Street and Olive Place.

Expletives deleted: air can be blue when county meets behind closed doors

LACONA — Recently-released minutes of non-public meetings of the Belknap County Commission show a high degree of rancor between commissioners with heated words and vulgarities being exchanged.
Minutes show that at the most recent closed door meeting on Monday, June 27, Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) responded to a statement by Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) that he was a liar by saying that Taylor was ''lucky because in an earlier day he would be challenged to a duel and a slap.''
According to the minutes of the meeting, which were written by Taylor, his response was an unprintable two-work vulgarity noted as "**** ***"
When Burchell asked Taylor if he was going to include that vulgar phrase in the minutes, Taylor asked if he also should include the fact that Burchell had called him an "*******" at the end of the last meeting on July 15.
In a letter published in Tuesday's Daily Sun, Burchell set forth his view of what transpired at the July 27 meeting which included a reference to Taylor's remark to him and concluded by saying that he didn't believe that either Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) nor Commissioner Taylor were gentlemen.
''As I stated in February when told by Mr. DeVoy that he was a gentleman, I do not find that to be the case and equally find Mr. Taylor to quite removed from that status.''
The Monday meeting dealt with a response the commissioners were preparing to a grievance complaint filed by Belknap County Nursing Home Director Mathew Logue, who was fired last fall and then reinstated by the Belknap County's Personnel Committee, of which Burchell was a member, last October.
The fallout between Burchell, who was elected chairman in January when only he and DeVoy were serving on the commission, took less than two months to develop and resulted in his ouster as chairman on March 2, about six weeks after Taylor was named to fill a vacancy on the commission.
Burchell has said that the rift between him and the other commissioners is the result of their failing to side with him on ousting Deb Shackett as Belknap County Administrator, whom he accused of lying to him in a recent e-mail in which she said she knew nothing about Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue being under attack. He also maintained that Shackett had lied in her testimony against Logue in his termination hearing before a panel of local lawmakers last October.
''You know the problem started in February when you would not agree to fire Shackett!'' Burchell said at Monday's meeting.
But Taylor responded that Burchell had been trying to oust Shackett before he even took office. ''You said back in December before you ever took office that on your first day in office you wanted to fire her, seize her computer and have a sheriff's deputy escort her out of the building.''
He also said that Burchell was wrong regarding Logue being under attack: ''It is not Mr. Logue personally, it is his work performance that is under attack.''
Both Taylor and DeVoy have said that it was Burchell's attitude towards Shackett that bothered them and his passing on to Logue of closed-door conversations that took place on Feb. 23 when an earlier grievance he had filed which was dismissed by commissioners that led to his being ousted as chairman and his censure by them at a June 4 meeting.