Center Harbor prepared to welcome crowds for 2nd annual Skatefest

By ADAM DRAPCHO

CENTER HARBOR — Sandy Frost, director of the Parks and Recreation, said she and other organizers weren't sure what to expect when they held their first Skatefest last year, and were thrilled when nearly 300 people showed up for an afternoon of skating and family fun. The town's municipal departments and businesses came together to create the event, and it was a good thing there were so many people on hand to help.

"It worked out great – with the help of many hands, it works out great," Frost said.

The second annual Skatefest will be held on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 1 to 7 p.m. There's no fee to join, just bring your skates. Skating will be possible on both the town's rink, in the parking lot overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, and on the surface of the lake itself, which is in excellent skating condition as a result of the un-winter-like weather of the beginning of the week.

"The ice on the lake looks great – after the rain we just had, it looks beautiful," she said.

The event was conceived by the Center Harbor Community Development Association, a group of local businesses. Members of the association are helping to provide everything that's needed to put on the event. There will be food samplings, including soups, chili, hot cocoa and cookies, in the lakeside pavilion from 1 to 4 p.m., and from 4 to 7 p.m. hot dogs and hamburgers will be served under a tent on the town beach.

Three different skating clubs have been invited to perform demonstrations of their skills, which will begin at 2 p.m. A bonfire will be lit to add some warmth.

Frost hopes the second annual Skatefest will draw another big crowd, including Center Harbor residents, people who live in neighboring towns and visitors here for a just a short time.

"It's all about people getting together and having fun family time together," she said.

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Forrester sponsors bill to overhaul mental health care for children and youth

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — The Senate Health and Human Services Committee has unanimously endorsed legislation sponsored by Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) that would require the state to develop a comprehensive system for addressing the mental and behavioral health of children and youth.

Forrester said yesterday that the interests of children and youth were not served when the state settled a class action suit arising from the shortcomings of mental health services for adults in 2014. At the same time, she said that the 10-year plan of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services failed to adequately address the mental and behavioral health of the young.

Forrester said that she drew on the work of the New Hampshire Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative, a coalition of more than 60 organizations and individuals, which in 2013 issued a plan — "Transforming Children's Behavioral Health Care. She described the current system as "fractured," with a variety of providers, including primary care physicians, community mental health centers, public school districts, state agencies and the juvenile justice system, often providing the same services or working at cross purposes.

"We should providing children with the right care, at the right time, in the right place," Forrester said. "Too often they are winding up in a place they don't belong."

A significant share of the costs of serving children and youth are borne by the public sector. Noting that she meets regularly with school superintendents throughout her district, Forrester said they regularly express concern at the cost of serving students with special needs."

Senate Bill 534 directs the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education to collaborate in developing a "system of care," meaning "an integrated and comprehensive delivery structure for the provision of publicly funded behavioral health services to children and youth."

The bill stipulates that the system of care have a "flexible benefits package" that includes clinically necessary and appropriate home and community-based treatment and support services in the least restrictive setting. The system should direct services according to the needs and preferences of children and their families with emphasis on early prevention and treatment. Borrowing a phrase from the report of the New Hampshire Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative, bill specifies "services that are family driven, youth-guided, community-based and culturally and linguistically competent."

Both departments would be required to identify and project cost savings achieved by providing care more efficiently and reducing redundant and duplicate services.

According to the New Hampshire Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative 10,000 children are being served by the 10 community health centers in the state. A fifth of preschool-age children and teenagers have an "emotional disorder" that affects their life at home, at school and in the community. More than 40 percent of children receiving mental health services are diagnosed with a co-occurring substance abuse disorder while two-thirds of young men and four-fifths of young women undergoing treatment for alcohol or drug abuse have a co-occurring mental health disorder. And every day 250 children are living in a residential setting or treatment facility outside their community.

Forrester said that commissioners Jeff Myers of Health and Human Services and Virginia Barry of Education, together with officials from other state agencies, expressed strong support for the bill, adding that it is also supported by senators on both sides of the aisle.

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Town of Gilford settles with strip club owner for $118,000

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — The town's insurance company has agreed to pay $118,000 to the owner of a Kimball Road strip club for economic and non-economic losses to settle a lawsuit regarding a drug raid in October of 2011 and the subsequent actions of the town in hindering the owner's ability to reopen it.
The settlement for Willard Drew, the owner of the former Mardi Gras North, brings to a close a nearly two-year-long legal battle between him, the state Drug Task Force and the town, including Selectman Gus Benavides, Town Administrator Scott Dunn and two former selectmen, Kevin Hayes and John O'Brien.
"The parties represent that the purpose of this agreement is to 'buy peace' from further dispute and controversy between and among the parties..." reads the settlement agreement, which is public by law.
The court ruling is final and prevents Drew from taking any further action against the town or the individuals named in the suit.
According to the pleadings filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire, beginning in June of 2011 the New Hampshire Drug Task Force began an investigation into drug sales activity at the Mardi Gras. The investigation culminated in a raid on Oct. 11, 2011, by members of the task force, the Gilford Police and two SWAT teams, which resulted in the arrest of five dancers and two patrons. Three of the dancers were working in the club that evening and other police agencies had warrants to arrest the two dancers and two patrons who were not at the club that night.
The problems for the town began when the three selectmen, the town's code enforcement officer and the town's health officer, went with the Gilford Police to the property and entered the building at some point either during or immediately after the police action.
Drew's suit claimed, among other things, that his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when town the officials conducted an inspection of the premises without any probable cause and contrary to established law. He also said his reputation and good standing in the community were irreparably harmed by the town because of actions that occurred in the year after the raid when he was trying to re-establish his business.
At the time of the investigation and raid, Drew was leasing the business to a company called the Mardi Gras North. He had no active role in its day-to-day operations. Although it continued to be open for a while, ultimately the Mardi Gras North closed and, unable to continue on alone and in the face a Liquor Commission inquiry that Drew said was triggered by the town, he voluntarily surrendered his liquor license in December of 2011.
Drew said his later attempts to reopen the business with a business partner were thwarted by the selectboard, which "placed unreasonable obstacles" against him by denying him an exotic dancing license.
He also claimed defamation because the board asked him to answer a number of questions about how his new business was to be operated and those questions included references to elements of a methamphetamine lab being found at the club. He said the questions also implied that the club was known as a place people could buy drugs and had "a recurring history of repeated violation of liquor laws related to serving visibly intoxicated persons and the consumption of alcoholic beverages by employees."
Drew claimed that these were not true, that the town should have known the implications were false and that it acted maliciously when asking about the claims and making them public. After an investigation and a hearing by the state Liquor Commission, Drew was cited for three minor violations and fined a total of $450.
Claims made against the state Drug Task Force and its agents were dismissed late last year because of sovereign immunity.
The suit says that of the $118,000, $92,000 will be paid to Drew and $26,000 will be paid to attorney David Bownes. Both portions of the settlement are taxable.

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