Laconia Water Works proposes higher rate, about $40 extra per year

LACONIA — The Laconia Water Works seeks to raise its consumption rate by 40 cents, from $1.45 to $1.85, per hundred cubic feet (hcf) and will hold a public hearing on the proposed increase at the Water Treatment Plant at 117 Stark St., beginning at 6 p.m. on Jan. 13.

For a family of four using 25 hcf, or 18,700 gallons, per quarter, the proposed increase would add $40 to the annual water bill. which would rise from $225 to $265, which translates to 73 cents a day or $0.003 per gallon.

Seth Nuttelman, superintendent of the Laconia Water Works, said Tuesday that the increase, the first since the consumption rate was raised 30 cents in January 2012, is necessary because reflects operating and maintenance costs have risen steadily while the volume of water sold has fallen. He said that during the past 15 years the volume of water billed has diminished by an average of 1.5 percent a year with the installation of more efficient appliances. Measures to conserve water by reducing usage, Nuttelman said, have more than offset the addition of new customers.

Meanwhile, Nuttelman said that the department expects to undertake significant improvements to its infrastructure in the near future, including investments of $500,000 at Lakeside Avenue at The Weirs, $200,000 at Holman Street and $250,000 at Old North Main Street.

Nuttelman said the the Board of Water Commissioners propose to raise only the consumption rate, leaving the base rate of $20 per quarter unchanged. He noted that in 2015 the Laconia Water Works charged the fifth lowest rate among the 104 water systems in the state according to the Water Rate Survey by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and with the projected increase would bill the 13th lowest rate.

County won’t see savings from electronic records immediately

LACONIA — Belknap County commissioners, who were hoping for an immediate turnaround, were disappointed to hear from interim nursing home Administrator Bob Hemenway that it will be 18 months to two years before the benefits of electronic record-keeping can be realized.
Last Wednesday, commissioners approved encumbering $20,000 in funds from the 2015 budget in order to purchase 12 wall-mounted kiosks in 2016, which will allow the Belknap County Nursing Home to begin to implement an electronic medical record-keeping program as soon as possible.
The change is designed to stem an estimated $185,420 yearly loss in Medicaid income due to lack of adequate documentation of services provided for residents.
Hemenway said the Medicaid reimbursement rate for the county, which will drop from $161.33 a day to $154.46 on July 1 next year, is based on 2013 data, which means that it will be some time before the rates are updated to reflect the changes.
But he noted that most of the seven county nursing homes in the state which have been using an electronic medical records program have turned their situations around and are receiving increased reimbursements.
The county currently uses PointClickCare software for the nursing home, but licensed nursing assistants do not have access to it, so their information is recorded on pieces of paper and entered into the system by other people.
“What’s critical is the LNAs. The work they do is not being captured for reimbursement.” He said that the county is losing $6.87 per patient each day for each of the 74 Medicaid-covered residents, which amounts to over $185,000 a year.
He said that another advantage of the electronic system is that it lists required daily tasks for each patient, ensuring that all procedures are completed and recorded.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) supported the transfer. “We should go ahead now because of the amount of money we’re losing,” he said.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) said he thought the request was premature.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said it will cost $13,754 for the software for the system, which also has a monthly charge of $1,627.
The commissioners elected to take the $20,000 needed for purchase of the kiosks from the 2015 capital improvements budget line.
Commissioners did reject a proposal from Belknap County Nursing Home to add $21,753.45 for two 16-hour per week dishwashing positions for the home’s Dietary Department budget.
Dietary Manage Carolee Sliker sent a memo to the commissioners which said that House of Corrections inmate labor has proved unreliable, resulting in a situation in which the cook on duty is not getting out of the kitchen until 8 p.m. resulting in overtime costs of $2,800 per year.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said he is opposed to the proposal at the present time and would like to see how things work out with the county’s plan to pay prisoners $3 a day for their work in county facilities.
Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray recently told commissioners that he currently has 12 inmates available to work, and estimated that it would cost $15,427 a year to pay inmates for their labor.
The inmates would work in the Belknap County Home kitchen, washing dishes, as well as at the county home and corrections department laundries, or as part of the grounds crew and farm crew at the county home. There would also be some off-site work at locations like the Belknap County Fairgrounds or in communities which ask for prison labor for specific projects.
Gray said that those eligible to work will be minimum risk, nonviolent offenders and that waivers might be sought in order to allow those awaiting trial to participate.
DeVoy said he thinks that work is the best rehabilitation for prisoners and getting more inmates working is a good idea.
Commissioners decided to use $15,000 from a $93,000 budget line for programs in order to pay prisoners for their work after being told by Shackett that a $200,000 contingency line in the 2016 draft budget would be virtually exhausted if agreements are reached with three county unions on a new contract.
She said that cost of living raises and step increases for workers in the State Employee Association affiliated unions in the nursing home, sheriff’s department and corrections department would cost $198,966.
Commissioners also approved a $6,919 contract with Hiller New England Fire Protection of Belmont for installation of a fire suppression and detection system for the Sheriff Department’s communication building.

It’s peak flu season — get your shot now

flu imageHannah Leger receives a flu vaccine from Lisa Tremblay from HealthFirst Family Care Center. 972 local students were vaccinated this fall. (Courtesy photo)

LACONIA — Warm weather gave Lakes Region residents a delay of winter woes. That reprieve ends this week, with temperatures snapping back to seasonal levels. January also marks the beginning of flu season, and local health officials say it still makes sense for those who put off getting vaccinated to get a shot.
Flu shots are available at primary care offices, community health centers and at many local pharmacies. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women and people with chronic diseases.
Susan Laverack, of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, said the flu season peaks in January and February each year.
“It’s still not too late to get your flu shot,” she urged, noting that it takes about two weeks for the vaccination to provide protection against infection.
According to the CDC, immunizations this flu season are about on pace with the prior two seasons, with roughly 40 percent of the overall population vaccinated by November. In the prior two flu seasons, the number rose to near 50 percent by the end of the season.
Children are more likely than adults to be immunized, the data shows, with nearly 60 percent vaccinated by the end of the season. There has been a concerted effort to provide vaccinations for local children.
The Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health worked with the NH Immunization Program to again offer flue shot clinics in 12 local schools. LRGHealthcare, HealthFirst and local visiting nurse associations also assisted.
Every year that the clinics have been run, Laverack said, participation has increased, and this year was 20 percent and higher, up to 30 percent at one school.
“It always helps when little kiddos are immune,” she said, noting that schoolchildren are a prime means for the virus to migrate from one family to another. “The little guys with their running noses, putting things in their mouth, all of that.”
“Every year, it goes up,” she said, adding that she would like to see as many as 40 percent of local schoolchildren vaccinated each year. “The more, the better – that’s herd immunity.” She wasn’t able to say how many of the children who didn’t get the flu shot at school had already been immunized elsewhere. According to national data for the 2015-16 flu season, reported by the CDC, 63.7 percent of children who got the flu shot received it at their doctor’s office, while only 6.2 percent got the shot at school. Only third of adults who were vaccinated did so at their doctor’s office, while a quarter of them were administered the shot at a pharmacy.
Getting the seasonal flu vaccine is something that benefits the individual as well as the rest of society. Not only does immunization mean that a single person is less likely to get sick; that person is also not likely to pass the virus on to someone else. In some cases, a case of the flu could lead to lost work and lost wages, perhaps even a lost job.
“Not everybody, after consultation with their medical provider, can get it ... It’s not just for you, it’s for the community around you,” said Laverack.
The seasonal flu virus is spread by droplets that an infected person emits when coughing, sneezing or talking. Simple precautions, such as covering a sneeze or cough, and frequent hand washing, can be very effective in prohibiting transmission of the virus, she said.