Children write letter to 'government' to complain of litter & trash along & in the Winnipesaukee River

LACONIA — Litter was uppermost on the minds of a group of five- to seven-year-olds after walking from the Laconia Early Learning Center to Opechee Park last week.

"There was all kinds of litter on the ground," said Corban, who is six, "There was a shopping cart, a rug and trash in the river."

Shari Lancaster, director of the Laconia Early Learning Center, said that the children walk from the center on Strafford Street to swimming lessons at the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club as well as to the beach at Opechee Park. They follow a dirt path from the sewer pump station at the end Strafford Street along the bank of the Winnipesaukee River and cross the bridge at Messer Street to Opechee Street.

Lancaster said that Corban was especially upset by the litter and asked Miss Jenn, the teacher, "can you tell the government?" She suggested the children write a letter to Mayor Ed Engler and sent it together with a photograph of the trash.

The letter, addressed "Dear Government," reads "Today our teacher took us on a walk. When we were on our walk we saw a lot of litter and trash in the water. It makes us sad because Miss Jenn said we can't sit by the water with all the litter. We think you should call the cops and put the people who litter in jail after they clean up the litter. Please help us keep our world clean. We love our planet."

When asked what he thought the mayor should do with those who litter, Corban fetched a book and opened it to a page showing Curious George, the ubiquitous monkey, sulking in a jail cell.

Engler said yesterday that he intends to visit with the children later this week.


CAPTION: Corban, 6, along with Shari Lancaster, director of the Laconia Early Learning Center, and his classmate Jillian, displays the letter the children sent calling on "The Government" to punish litterbugs. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).

Acid spill closes city transfer station

LACONIA — The city's transfer station on Meredith Center Road was closed throughout the morning yesterday as the Central New Hampshire Hazardous Materials Team cleared a spill of hydrochloric acid.

Deputy Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said firefighters were called to the transfer station at 7:45 a.m. when a cloud of vapor arose from a load of demolition when it was emptied on to the floor of the shed. On arriving Lieutenant Chad Vaillancourt found a haze in the building, which subsided, enabling firefighters to enter the building in an effort to identify the source of the vapors. However, in what is known as off-gassing, the material released a fresh round of chemicals that filling the large building with vapors, prompting the crew to retreat.

The Central New Hampshire Hazardous Materials Team was summoned and confirmed that the material was hydrochloric acid. Beattie said that a one-gallon container of hydrochloric acid was apparently crushed when the demolition debris was unloaded, causing the acid to escape. The hazardous material team neutralized the acid and the building was reopened at 12:38 p.m.

Five firefighters, together with an employee at the transfer station, all of whom were exposed to the vapors, were transported to Lakes Region General Hospital where they were evaluated, treated and released.

Ann Saltmarsh of the Department of Public Works said that the load of demolition debris was delivered by Waste Management, Inc., which operates the transfer station, and apparently originated in Wilton, New Hampshire.

Gilford Fire-Rescue responded to the scene while firefighters from Meredith covered the Weirs Beach Station and Belmont Fire Department and Meredith Emergency Medical Services covered Central Station.

Job opportunities lacking: political refugees no longer being resettled in Laconia & Lakes Region

LACONIA — Although some 470 Bhutanese, Congolese and Iraqi political refugees are expected to be resettle in Manchester, Nashua and Concord next year, none will find homes in Laconia, where refugees were resettled every year from 1998 to 2011.

Barbara Seebart, refugee coordinator at the Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said last week that Ascentria and the International Institute of New Hampshire, with which the state contracts to place refugees, stopped sending people to Laconia during the recession for lack of employment opportunities.

She hastened to say that "Laconia is a wonderful resettlement site," citing the cooperative approach of the school district and the work of the Mayor's Human Relations Committee.

Seebart said that Ascentria and the International Institute do not have sufficient resources to manage resettlement in more than three municipalities, but emphasized that Laconia has not been permanently stricken from the list of resettlement sites.

According to the Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs 885 refugees were resettled in Laconia between 1998 and 2011. Susan Laverack, associate director of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, Inc. said the refugees consisted of Bosnians, Meskhetian Turks from Russia, Bhutanese from Nepal, Sudanese, Laotians, Ethiopians, Iraqis and displaced persons from Sierra Leone.

The Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affiars estimates that in the last 15 years approximately 6,000 refugees have been resettled in New Hampshire, representing about a fifth of the 30,000 foreign born people who came to the state during these years. However, how many remain and how many have left is not known.

Kate Bruchacova of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health said that many of the most recent refugees resettled in Laconia have been members of families resettled elsewhere and they have left the city to be reunited with their relatives. Likewise, refugees are drawn to those communities where their numbers are greatest. For instance, many of the Meskhetian Turks migrated to the Midwest — chiefly Kentucky and Ohio — while the Bhutanese have congregated in Concord and Manchester. She said that in the Lakes Region, transportation is an issue for refugees seeking employment because of the distances between home and work. At the same time, housing can be a challenge for large families.

While the influx of refugees has stalled, the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, together with more than a dozen partners — including the city and School District — is pursuing the Greater Laconia Immigration Integration Initiative, a series of initiatives "to ensure that all community members feel welcome and have what they need to participate, contribute and succeed."