Are you hands free? - Drivers sometimes lax on no-texting law


LACONIA — Police Chief Chris said Wednesday that during the year since the Legislature forbid motorists from holding a mobile device while driving except to call emergency services, the Police Department has issued 237 warnings and 45 citations.

This week, The Nashua Telegraph reported that the New Hampshire State Police stopped 6,091 drivers for violating the law between Jan. 1 and June 19 this year and issued 3,215 citations and 2,876 warnings.

Adams said that in the first several months after the law took effect in July 2015, Laconia Police were more likely to issue a warning rather write a citation, with the intention of educating rather than punishing motorists, who may not have known about the prohibition. Since then, he said, "The decision is left to the discretion of the officer. Our goal," the chief continued, "is to change whatever behavior causes the officer to stop a vehicle."

However, Adams said he believes that after initially complying with the new law more and more drivers are reverting to what he called "their bad habits," either by sending text messages or making phone calls while driving. "You see them at traffic light looking into their laps and not moving when the signal changes," he said, "or holding a phone to their ear while driving."

Adams said that the department has received a grant from the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency, which administers and distributes federal funds, which is earmarked for enhanced enforcement of the "hands free" law.

The Nashua Telegraph reported that according to the New Hampshire Department of Safety distracted driving was the second or third leading cause of fatal collisions for 19 years before falling to sixth place in 2015. The data for 2015 includes the six months before the law became effective when an intensive effort was made to inform the public about the pending law. In the first six months of this year distracted driving has caused only one of 55 traffic deaths., compared to six of the 103 fatal collisions in 2016.

According to data collected by the Department of Safety distracted or inattentive driving caused 13 of 120 fatalities in 2010, 14 of 84 in 2011, 10 of 101 in 2012, 14 of 124 in 2013 and 13 of 89 in 2014. Impaired driving is the leading cause of fatalities, representing between 30 percent and 40 percent of deaths during the last 20 years.

Adams said that motorists distracted by using their mobile devices, whether to text messages, send emails or dial phones, present other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists at risk and stressed that officers will enforce the law.

Pay bump - Nursing home rate increased to $300 per day

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners voted 3-0 to increase the Belknap County Nursing Home private pay rate to $300 a day when they met Wednesday morning.
The $10 a day increase is the first private pay rate increase since Jan. 15, 2015, when it was increased from $250 to $290.
Only 12 of the nursing home's 94 residents are in the private pay category according to Nursing Home Administrator Shelley Richardson. County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that the increase will mean $43,800 a year in additional income for the nursing home.
It increases the monthly rate to $9,000, which is about $110,000 a year, and puts the county facility at the same rate of $300 per day as the Laconia Rehabilitation Center on Blueberry Lane in Laconia.
Figures provided by Richardson show that the Saint Francis Rehab and Nursing Center in Laconia has a rate of $315 per day, Golden View Health Care Center in Meredith has a $335 per day rate and in Franklin, the Mountain Ridge Center has a rate of $276 for a private room and $290 for a private suite.
DeVoy said that his calculations show that the average cost per patient is over $300 per day and Richardson said it is around $306 per day. DeVoy asked her if the $300 a day which was being recommended was enough and asked her to report at the next meeting of the commission on what the actual per day costs are.
The commission approved changes in the contract of registry nurses and nursing assistants at the county home who will be required to work at least 40 hours per month, including one weekend per month and one major holiday during the year. Nurses and nursing assistants who are on the registry are part-time workers who are paid between $16 and $30 per hour and are eligible for overtime but not for any benefits such as insurance, sick time or vacation time.
Commissioners heard a report from Dona Hepp, chairman of the board of supervisors of the Belknap County Conservation District, and Lisa Morin, the district's sole employee, on the district's community outreach and assistance program, which included rehabilitation of a wetlands walk at Gunstock Mountain Resort and stream bank restoration projects in Gilford and Laconia.

David Bartlett named interim principal at Laconia HS


LACONIA — After serving as assistant principal at Laconia High School since 2013, David Bartlett has been appointed interim principal for the 2016-2017 school year.

Bartlett will fill the vacancy opened by the abrupt departure of Jim McCollum, who resigned in June become interim principal of Rundlett Middle School in Concord.

A native of Warner, Bartlett earned his bachelor's degree in communication from the University of New Hampshire and his master's degree in education from Plymouth State University. After working in information technology he has spent the last 13 years in the public school system, starting in 2002 at Laconia High School, where he was an alternative education teacher while managing the study hall program. Three years later, Bartlett went to work in the Gilford School District, teaching special education students for three years and eighth-grade mathematics for four years.

Bartlett said that altogether he has had six years of experience teaching alternative and special education students.

"This is a very rewarding group of students to work with," he said.

When Bartlett returned to Laconia High School as assistant principal he played a major role in introducing the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, program. PBIS rests on the notion that appropriate behavior can be taught just like core subjects of the academic curriculum by setting positive expectations for students rather than telling them what not to do. The program aims to maximize the time students spend learning by reducing the number referrals to the office for inappropriate behavior, which take both the student and the teacher out of the classroom.

Bartlett stressed that the behavioral and academic elements complement and reinforce one another, explaining that appropriate behavior and regular attendance enable students to access and master the academic curriculum. He also designed and managed the master schedule, worked with the Strategic Planning Committee of the School Board and led the Child Study Team.

As interim principal, Bartlett said that he intends to continue the initiatives already underway, particularly the PBIS program and curriculum development.

"This is a wonderful school and a great opportunity," he said. "We're not going to be changing the things that are most important to this school."

Bartlett will be leading a new administrative team at the high school. Angel Burke of Bow High School has been appointed as academic coordinator, replacing Steve Tucker, who left to become director of curriculum at the Gilford School District. Brian Berkowitz a veteran of Laconia High School, has replaced Amy Hinds, who has been named assistant superintendent of the Laconia School District, as coordinator of student services. In addition, Bartlett said that the process of hiring an assistant principal to succeed him is nearing its conclusion.

Bartlett discounted the challenge of changes in leadership, welcoming what he called "a great opportunity."

David Bartlett

David Bartlett