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Stand Up Laconia head calls for parents to get more involved in effort to curb alcohol & drug use

LACONIA — "I cannot emphasize enough what trouble our state is in," began Tym Rourke, addressing the annual meeting of Better Together this week. "We are terrible," he continued. "Our young adults have among the highest rates of (drug & alcohol) addiction in the country."

This year Better Together celebrated Stand Up Laconia, the coalition of adults and youth who live, learn or work in the city who come together to curb alcohol and drug use among young people and encourage positive, healthy relationships within families and peer groups. "We're empowering our youth to make good, healthy choices," said Clare Perrson, who chairs the coalition.

Rourke, the director of the substance abuse program of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, noted that although New Hampshire is often ranked among the healthiest states in the union, the percentage of those aged between 18 and 25 levels misusing alcohol and drugs, both prescription medications and illicit drugs, exceed regional and national averages. "Substance abuse is a young person's disease," he said, adding that last year more New Hampshire residents died of drug overdoses than in traffic accidents, on of the very few states where that is the case.

While New Hampshire ranks high in the incidence of substance abuse, only Texas offers treatment to a smaller share of those requiring it. "We're next to last," Rourke said, explaining that less than 6 percent of those in need of treatment receive it. "Residential treatment, outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment," he said, "we lack all of them."

The cost to the community, Rourke said, is extraordinary. He cite one study that measured the cost of alcohol abuse among adult men that concluded it costs the state $1.15 billion annually. The cost is much greater when other forms of substance abuse are included in the mix. As an example, Rourke pointed to David Kwiatkowski, the technician at Exeter Hospital whose drug addiction led to infecting 45 people in at least eight states with hepatitis C.

Substance abuse, Rourke described as "ultimately a community issue. It's no one's fault," he remarked, "but it's everyone's responsibility."

Perrson said that Stand Up Laconia was the very kind of community initiative Rourke envisioned. She stressed that since the coalition came together virtually all sections of the community — the schools, businesses, civic organizations, service clubs, and municipal departments — have become engaged in the initiative.

However, turning to parents, she admitted "that's the part that really seems to be missing. "We're not going to sit back and let the kids figure it out by themselves," she continued. "They show up for all the plays, concerts and sporting events, but we need to start showing up for our kids and hearing what they have to say."

"We really need lots of hands," Perrson said, urging parents to visit the coalition's website — standuplaconia.com — and participate.

"Addiction," Rourke called "a disease of belonging" that must be addressed by "collective action with collective impacts" by community coalitions like Stand Up Laconia pursuing a strategy to affect change.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 01:51

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Legal system overwhelms part-time Barnstead copy trying to act as own lawyer

BARNSTEAD — Part-time Police Officer Dave Scott has lost his lawsuit against the town, the state, and the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council because of jurisdiction and timing issues.

Judge James O'Neill of Belknap County Superior Court ruled last week that Scott claim against the three for violating his civil rights by denying him a full-time job after he failed a portion of his physical fitness test would be dismissed because he "failed to pursue the proper avenue of review."

Scott, who is acting as his own attorney and whose initial claim stemmed from his argument that men have to perform to higher physical standards than women to do the same job, has never actually gotten a decision based on the merits of his case.

On April 5, 2012 his verbal claim to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) was denied on the same day. On April 30, 2012 he filed a written complaint with HRC as well as the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.

The written complaint to the HRC was dismissed on May 8 because he was in the wrong jurisdiction and on September 22, 2012 his EEOC case was dismissed because it adopted the findings of the HRC, according to a brief rehash of his legal travails as written by Judge O'Neill in last week's ruling.

On November 14, 2012 Scott argued gender discrimination under Title VII against the state, the police standards and training council in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire but it was dismissed on March 8, 2013 because the federal court determined he sued the wrong party saying he should have filed against the town, which is his employer.

On April 11, 2013, the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire declined to reconsider its decision so Scott filed suit in Belknap County Superior Court where the three respondents, the town of Barnstead, the state, and the police standards and training council all countered he was in the wrong court and needed to file a petition for a writ of certiorari (an appeal) and not a lawsuit.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 01:44

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Man charged with threatening to kill 2-year-old

LACONIA — A city man was ordered held on $20,000 cash-only bail in circuit court yesterday after he allegedly threatened to kill his girlfriend's two-year-old son when she said she was going to call the police during an early Wednesday morning argument.

Joseph A. Levin, 28, of 322 Union Avenue is charged with one count of felony-level criminal threatening with the use of a deadly weapon and one felony count of criminal threatening for intimidation purposes.

"If you call the cops your (explicative) son will be gone," Levin allegedly said while he was brandishing a utility blade.

In the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday, city Prosecutor James Sawyer said the woman was able to get to a neighbor's apartment and it was the neighbor who called the police. The alleged crimes took place at 4 a.m.

Affidavits said the victim told police about the incident and allowed them to search her home for the weapon. Police found a green-handled utility knife atop the refrigerator, which she identified as the one Levin allegedly used to threaten her.

The victim also told police that Levin was a "self-admitted" member of the "Crips" street gang, according to affidavits. She told police that he had threatened to kill her or have her killed in the past.

In arguing for $20,000 cash bail, Sawyer recounted Levin's criminal history that he described as lengthy and violent.

According to records from Belknap County Superior Court, Levin's record included a conviction for arson in 2007 in which Levin pleaded guilty to causing an explosion that burned a woman's car and a 2009 conviction for felony-level criminal threatening that also involved a woman, a knife, and at least one child.

Levin was sentenced to 2-to-5 years in N.H. State Prison for the arson and 1 1/2 to 3 years for the 2009 criminal threatening.

He also has multiple convictions that include simple assault, stalking, criminal mischief, theft of services, and hindering apprehension.

Kate Geraci represented Levin and argued he was indigent and unable to post any kind of cash bail. She said he would agree to any bail conditions imposed on him by the judge. Geraci said Levin disputes the charges.
Geraci said Levin has long-standing mental health problems. She said he has epilepsy from which he suffers regular grand mal seizures. She said he was close to getting some health insurance and once obtained, would be able to get an evaluation at Genesis Behavioral Health.

She said he needs medication for the epilepsy and would be unable to get it in jail.

Despite being told not to talk, Levin kept interrupting Judge Jim Carroll while he ordering cash bail and its conditions.

"Your Honor... there's no way I can post this bail. It took me two years to get Social Security (disability) and I've got all these plans to get my meds," Levin said.

Carroll said he found it impossible not to set cash bail considering the circumstances alleged by the victim and the state.

At that point, Levin asked if he could be housed in Merrimack County Jail. Carroll replied that he could speak with Geraci after the arraignment and reappear before him later if he wanted.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 01:40

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Automatic Step Increases Stop After 10 Years in New Contract (630)

TILTON — Automatic step increases for teachers with more than 10 years of experience will be a thing of the past in the Winnisquam Regional School District if a new collective bargaining agreement is approved at the annual school district meeting next March.
''There was a perception that teachers are getting double raises because they received both the step increases as well as cost of living increases and we wanted to deal with that,'' said Winnisquam Regional School Board Chair Michael Gagne.
Step increases are built into the salary schedules of most school districts and provide for automatic annual increases based on additional experiences. The Winnisquam School District currently has 41 steps but that will be reduced to from to 11 in the first year of the agreement and 10 the following year.
Gagne said that the agreement which was recently reached between the Winnisquam Regional School District and the Winnisquam Regional Teachers' Association also increases the starting salary for teachers by $5,000 over a three-year period.
He said that in the first year of the three-year agreement, the base pay for new teachers will increase to $34,000 and that it will increase in subsequent years to $35,205 and $36,191. Currently starting pay for a new teacher is $31,152.
'We wanted to attract more teaching candidates and retain staff by making the district's salaries competitive with those of nearby school districts,'' said Gagne.
In the first year of the new contract teachers will be advanced two steps because they are working without a contract this year. The step increases in the first year will be 3 percent of base salary for each step through step 15 and 1.94 percent of the base salary for steps 15-41.
The total "new" cost of the package agreed to will be $559,674 for the 2014-2015 school year.
a 7.25 percent increase in the district's teacher salary account.
In the second year of the contract steps 1-11 will see a three percent increase and those still on the steps will also move up one step. Those no longer on the step schedule will receive a three percent cost of living increase. Total salary increase will be $347,569 for 2015-2016, a 4.2 percent increase in the salary account.
In the final year of the contract steps 1-10 will receive a three percent increase and those who are no longer on the step schedule will receive 2.5 percent cost of living increases. Total increase will be $270,592, a 3.13 percent increase in the salary account.
A teacher on step 5 currently making $36,420 will see a salary increase to $40,129 next year, $42,598 in 2015-16 and $44,877 in 2016-17.
By contrast a teacher on step 15 currently making $47,322 will see an increase to $49,599 next year, $51,357 in 2015-16 and $52,641 the following year.
The teacher currently on step 5 will see an increase of $8,467 over the life contract while the teacher on step 15 will only see an increase of $5,319, more than $3,000 less than the teacher with 10 years less experience.
A major focus of the new contract according to Gagne and Brenda Lawrence, president of the Winnisquam Regional Teachers Association, was the "promotion of professional growth among our existing staff". The contract increases the number of teaching days from 188 to 189 in the first year and then adds another day in the second year. There is also an increase in monies made available for professional development, from $90,000 to $110,000 per year.

A new health care benefit was also added to the contract for retiring teachers. If the agreement is approved, they will be eligible to receive a $6,000 health care allowance annually for a period of five years, or until they become eligible for Medicare, whichever comes first.

"This new benefit encourages our existing staff members to remain in the district long term," said Gagne and Lawrence. "The benefit also makes retirement a reality for some of our existing staff members, with potential savings to the district, long term."

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 10:34

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