Bristol officer felt threatened, kills bear

State Fish and Game warns against leaving food out that tempts wildlife

By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BRISTOL — A police officer shot and killed a bear with his sidearm in an incident that is prompting authorities to urge people not to leave food out or accidentally lure the animals to their property.
Police Chief Michael Lewis said Thursday that, on May 13 at 12:25 a.m., officer Thomas Seager responded to a 911 call from a resident on Riverdale Road about a bear breaking into a garage.
When the bear advanced toward Seager, he fired a “scare” shot, causing the bear to leave the area, Lewis said.
Seager reported the incident to the state’s Fish and Game Department but, nine minutes later, the property owner called to say the bear was back and up in a tree.
The second time the officer responded, the bear came down out of the tree and advanced on Seager again, according to Lewis.
“One round was fired, terminating the bear,” Lewis said.
The animal was killed with the officer’s .40-caliber Glock handgun.
Lewis said that, had the call arrived during business hours, the department would have called Fish and Game to handle it.
“We’d respond, but we’d advise them of it,” he said.
In some situations, Fish and Game would simply advise the police about best practices, and other incidents would require Fish and Game to respond to the scene, Lewis said.
“Where we live, we do have wildlife in the area,” he said. “Recently, there was a moose on the high school grounds for a couple of days.”
The shooting of the bear and this week’s relocation of problem bears in Hanover prompted Fish and Game bear biologist Andrew Timmins to ask people to take precautions.
He said bears and humans can easily co-exist as long as the bears do not become accustomed to finding meals at people’s homes.
Timmins said there has been bear activity around trash containers in Ashland, although the Lakes Region normally does not see problems with bears until the tourist season is in full swing.
“It starts to heat up when there are a lot of people recreating, the restaurants are doing a lot of business, and Fourth of July arrives,” he said.
The problem in Hanover has been ongoing, he said, due in part to the number of student residences where there are absentee landlords and the trash containers have plastic lids, rather than bear-safe closures. A number of local residents also leave their bird feeders up, believing the birds still need seeds.
The town of Hanover has worked with Fish and Game to inform the public about the dangers of leaving food where it is accessible to bears, but the effort has not been successful, Timmins said.
“A sow that has been living in Hanover for several years came front and center last year with three newborn cubs getting into food around houses. We tried to get people to understand those apartments needed to be cleaned up, and some residents followed the suggestions, and others didn’t,” Timmins said.
“This year she got involved again, and two yearlings got into some homes, so we were obligated to relocate them,” he said.
Three young bears were captured and relocated on Tuesday, and Fish and Game is urging homeowners and campers throughout the state to be vigilant if they do not want to experience similar problems.
“The third biggest attraction for bears is raising chickens without an electric fence around them,” Timmins said. “A lot of bears get shot at chicken pens because state law allows people to protect their property.”
Fish and Game offers to set up fences for those raising chickens, “but we can’t fence every chicken coop in the state; there are only so many hours and so many fences we can set up. We have to rely on people to be more proactive,” Timmins said.
According to Timmins, there are hundreds of bear complaints annually throughout the state, with 38 percent of them attributable to unsecured garbage. Bird feeders and the presence of unprotected poultry account for most of the rest of the bear-human conflicts.
In 2011, a bear injured a Center Harbor resident on her deck, resulting in Fish and Game having to shoot the aggressive animal.
While the loss of bear habitat to development was considered to be a contributing factor in the increase of conflicts with bears a couple of decades ago, Timmins said research has shown that the bruins are highly adaptable.
“Many years ago, we wouldn’t have expected that,” Timmins said. “They can adapt, even with development taking away good bear habitat. It puts them in closer proximity to humans, and many people have a low tolerance for them, but they’re easy to co-exist with. It just takes us to be more responsible.”
Fish and Game and U.S. Wildlife Services now offer bear abatement equipment loans and they hire summer bear technicians to work with residents in preventing and resolving bear-human conflicts.
“I’d just make a plea for bears,” Timmins said. “They have a tough go of it.”

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A young bear enjoyed a meal from a trash container. This is not the one shot in Bristol. (NH Fish & Game/Lynn Buth)

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Bears share a meal after raiding some trash. A different bear was shot in Bristol. (Courtesy photo/NH Fish & Game)

 

 

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Shaheen touts federal aid now at risk of Trump cuts

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U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, center, speaks with Ryan Cardella, operations manager of East Coast Flightcraft, Inc., during a tour of the Winnipesaukee Pier yesterday. Laconia City Manager Scott Myers is walking behind Shaheen. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was in the Lakes Region yesterday to emphasize the importance of federally funded programs threatened by the Trump administration. During stops in Laconia and Franklin, she emphasized the successes of Brand USA in promoting tourism, Medicaid and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in dealing with the opioid epidemic, and local redevelopment projects that rely upon federal funding.

Speaking of some people’s reluctance to accept help from the federal government, Shaheen advised simply, “Take the federal dollars.”

Joined at the Weirs Beach boardwalk by Susan Presby, who serves on the board of Brand USA, Shaheen pointed out that tourism is New Hampshire’s second-largest industry, supporting more than 60,000 jobs.

Brand USA is a public-private marketing partnership established through the Travel Promotion Act that seeks to increase international visitation. Marketing is important, adding $9 billion to the economy, Shaheen said.

“It’s important to attract people and keep them here,” she said. “We want them to stay longer and spend more money.”

Funding for Brand USA is recommended for elimination in President Trump’s budget proposal.

Although Shaheen’s visit was political in nature, it gave the senator a chance to view the improvements taking place at Weirs Beach and the renovations that are underway at the Winnipesaukee Pier.

City Manager Scott Myers pointed out the improvements that have taken place on Lakeside Avenue, and what is to come in the $4.3 million revitalization project, which included sewer and drainage improvements, road reconstruction, placing electrical lines underground, and installing new streetlights. While the project was driven by the need for water system upgrades, Myers said the city took the opportunity to give Weirs Beach a facelift that makes it more pedestrian-friendly, as well as replacing parking meters with payment kiosks and upgrading the boardwalk. By the end of the week, he said, new brickwork will enhance the appearance of the new sidewalks opposite the boardwalk. Final paving will take place in the fall.

“We’re hoping this spurs additional development,” he said, noting that most of the cost of the renovations is being covered through tax increment financing. Some general funds were used, but will be repaid through the TIF mechanism, in which the increased taxes that result from infrastructure improvements are dedicated to cover the up-front expenditures.

Shaheen’s tour continued with a walk-through of the Winnipesaukee Pier, recently acquired by East Coast Flightcraft, Inc., a recreational boat dealer that has been rehabilitating the structure and working to attract new businesses.

Operations Manager Ryan Cardella explained that his goal has been to make the wharf more child-friendly, with lower benches and higher railings, while expanding the offerings to include higher-quality businesses. There is an inviting new Winnipesaukee Pier sign created in Colorado, and he replaced the dockside fuel pumps with a new system that he said goes well beyond the required standards and allows boats to fill up there rather than travel to a marina with gas pumps.

Cardella pointed out some of the forward-thinking features East Coast Flightcraft has included, such as installing lighting under the pier to allow them to shut off lights that would interfere with the viewing of fireworks, and providing additional seats with views of the lake.

From Weirs Beach, Shaheen continued her tour at Navigating Recovery, a peer-to-peer support center for those with substance misuse problems, and Franklin’s Mill City Park project, aimed at rehabilitating the city’s downtown area.

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U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen speaks with Laconia City Manager Scott Myers, as businessman Allan Beetle looks on, during her tour of Weirs Beach. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

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LRGH wants to stem $200K ambulance service loss

Future of city's ambulance service focus of negotiations

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA -- User fees could be increased or ambulance services could be reduced under a new contract being negotiated between the city and LRGHealthcare.

LRGHealthcare, which operates Lakes Region General Hospital, has been losing about $200,000 a year under an agreement calling for it to cover capital costs and some labor expenses for the fire department's ambulance service.

LRGH President and CEO Kevin Donovan said it can't afford to continue losing money on ambulance services.

The program has been running at a loss for the hospital for some time,” Donovan said. “Our goal would be to break even.”

To make up that $200,000 loss, user fees could be increased, services could be reduced, or the city could contribute more toward the ambulance service, said City Manager Scott Myers.

Under the present contract, LRGH provides the ambulances and covers about half of the labor costs associated with the ambulance service, Meyers said. LRGHealthcare is painted on the side of the ambulances.

LRGH’s overall cost for the service is about $1 million, and it is able to recover about $800,000 of that amount through bills charged to those who use the service or to their health insurance providers.

It is somewhat unusual for a hospital to cover some of the costs of a city ambulance service, Donovan said.

This is a non-traditional model for most municipalities,” he said. “The typical relationship is the municipality runs the service and it produces a positive margin or somehow gets factored into a city budget.”

Negotiations over the ambulance contract involving Donovan, Myers, Fire Chief Ken Erickson and others have been ongoing since December.

Donovan said models on the table vary from altering the way the city and the hospital share funding for the service to the city taking over the entire program, but nothing has been decided yet.

He said the agreement between the hospital and the city dates from 1997 and gets renegotiated periodically.

The current agreement ends on June 30.

We agreed until we come to a new solution, to keep the agreement in place,” Donovan said.

Adjusting the contract to cover the $200,000 loss incurred by the hospital company is complicated, Myers said.

A typical ambulance trip could cost $400, $500 or more. That cost could be covered through a government health care system or insurance companies that have agreed to pay a fixed amount. If the person who was served by the ambulance doesn't have coverage, he could have to pay for it out of his own pocket. Not everybody pays their ambulance bills.

Erickson said the city's budget is already stretched thin under the property tax cap and it would be difficult to make up LRGH's costs.

Within the current landscape, the city can't come up with that money,” he said.

One possibility that has been discussed is improving collection procedures for those who use the service and don't pay, Erickson said.

LRGH, which also runs Franklin Regional Hospital, has been turning around large operating losses. The company recorded a $1.8 million operating loss in 2016, an improvement over the prior year loss of $11.3 million, company officials said at their general meeting.

Cost-saving measures included a workforce reduction of 120 full-time employees. Declining reimbursement from government health insurance programs contributed to the financial struggles for LRGHealthcare, a not-for-profit charitable trust.

 

  • Written by Rick Green
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