To The Daily Sun,
I would like to thank all of the members of Temple B'nai Israel who brought Gathering Time to Laconia last Saturday night.
What a wonderful night of music, laughter and friendship. What stuck me the most was that friendship was at the heart of this community event. The concert was sponsored by Temple B'nai Israel as a benefit for Lakes Region Community Services (LRCS). By working together to make Gathering Time's visit a success, new relationships and mutual respect and admiration developed, and new friendships were formed.
As I often say and truly believe, success is not made by one person. It happens by people coming together with a common goal and focus. This was affirmed again by a very successful night at the Belknap Mill, made possible by the members of Temple B'nai Israel.
To quote Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Lakes Region Community Services
Last Updated on Monday, 16 June 2014 08:40
To The Daily Sun,
Coal isn't the largest contributor to global warming in New Hampshire. It is the CO2 in the hot air exhaled from Nick Vazanna. Nick's stands left of Obama and we all know how poorly the middle class has fared under his presidency. Main Street America has watched incomes drop for last six straight years. Nothing has a more direct link to the deteriorating prosperity of the working class than focusing on redistribution over growth. An ounce of economic growth is worth a pound of welfare cure.
Like Leo Sandy and George Maloof before him, Nick refuses to address the gigantic holes in his logic. And like Leo and George, Nick refuses to apply critical thinking and common sense to problem solving. Idealism overwhelms logic. Nick, Leo and George have the liberal solution before they even understand the problem. The solution is always the same: higher taxes, more debt and bigger government. That kills growth and opportunity.
If the views of Nick, Leo or George had one ounce of credibility they would be able to explain why almost without exception conservative leaning red states have far less income inequality than do big government hugging blue states. That's right, the income gap between the rich and the poor is greater in the Democratic blue states than the Republican red states. The policies like those suggested repeatedly by Nick produce more inequality between the rich and the poor.
The states following the most liberal policies have the greatest income inequality while those following the most conservative policies focusing on growth have the least income inequality. California, the most liberal state in the nation, has greater income inequality than very conservative Texas, while Texas produces the greatest number of new jobs of any state in the country.
Do the states that pay the highest minimum wages like New York and Vermont have lower income inequality? Sorry Nick, they don't. Do states with high state income taxes have less income inequality than those with no income taxes at all? The answer is no again. The policies Nick screams for actually increase income inequality in the final analysis. Further, census reports and IRS data show the current migration of America is strongly from liberal, high-tax states like California to others in the South where right to work, job creation and opportunity is greatest.
When big-government people like Nick fixate on closing income gaps rather than producing a growth climate conducive to prosperity then the middle class and the lower class suffer most. The past six years of Barack Obama are case in point.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 09:06
To The Daily Sun,
If your want the best option on immigration, just ask a Native American. They might say they should have never let those Western Europeans in.
My mother was from France, married my dad after World War 2. She didn't want to come to America. My father had to re-enlist for two years to talk her into it. She was never considered an immigrant, just Suzie . . . or Charlie's wife.
There are seven billion people on this Earth. We will go from seven to eight billion faster than we went from six to seven billion. So, move over people, it's not going to stop.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 08:58
To The Daily Sun,
On June 16, 2014 at 5 p.m. the Belknap County Commissioners and their Jail Study Committee will ask the County Convention to approve a $2.96 million bond issue relating to our county jail which includes $360,000 for schematic design work for a new jail.
From the outset, the only design concept seriously considered by the commissioners and the committee is that described in the strategic planning report prepared by Ricci Greene Associates dated January 31, 2013. This report is described as the product of a four month collaborative effort between the Ricci Greene team, county administration, Department of Corrections officials and staff and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.
According to the executive summary introducing the lengthy report, the recommendation is for a new jail facility with a "jail component with 120 secure beds ...", a "Community Corrections Center component with 60 residential beds for Intensive Program Treatment and Work Release participants" and 5 "medical beds". The proposed facility is to consist of 94,450-square-feet, with projected budget estimate of $42.6 million.
At the March 17 meeting of the jail planning group, committee member Gary Goudreau, an architect, laid out a plan to reduce the square footage of the proposed facility by 10,000-square-feet. Commissioner Ed Philpot has expressed the "hope" that Mr. Goudreau's modification of the original Ricci Greene proposal would reduce the construction cost to below $30 million.
The decision facing the County Convention is whether the modified Ricci Greene proposal is a sensible starting point for schematic design work for a new county jail. In deciding this key question, four major points need to be addressed. (1) Will the slight modification suggested by the Jail Planning Committee bring the anticipated cost of over $40 million down to below $30 million? (2) Is the cost per square foot at $30 million still too high to pay? (3) Is the recommended size of 84,500-square-feet excessive for the needs of Belknap County? (4) Can the county afford a $30 million county jail? If $360,000 is expended for schematic design work on the Ricci Greene jail concept, that cost together with the $160,000 already paid to Ricci Greene for development of the initial conceptual plan will mean that over $500,000 will have been spent in the pre-construction costs on this jail design, with nothing more than a "hope" that the project can be brought in for under $30 million.
The first question to be addressed is whether the "hope" of a price tag under $30 million is sufficient to justify this monetary commitment. Looking at the source of Commissioner Philpot's "hope" for this reduced cost makes one wonder. The total square footage for the project was reduced from 94,450-square-feet to 84,450-square-feet, a reduction of 11 percent. The cost was hoped to be reduced from $42.6 million to below $30 million, a reduction of 30 percent. Why would a 11 percent size reduction result in a 30 percent cost reduction? Assuming that the Ricci Greene team had a rational basis for its original cost analysis, the "hoped-for" cost reduction of 30 percent becomes quite puzzling. This is particularly the case when one looks at the specific jail areas to be reduced in size: the four day room areas adjacent to the inmate sleeping areas. Unless for some unlikely reason day rooms are disproportionately costly over other jail components, this seems quite illogical. Delegation members should question whether there is sufficient basis in the facts for the "hope" of a cost reduction to under $30 million.
A second problem is the square footage cost of the planned facility, whether or not the hoped-for reduction occurs. The original cost under the Ricci Greene proposal was $450-per-square-foot. Reducing the size to 84,450-square-feet and the price to $29 million yields a cost of $343.40 per square foot. This cost far exceeds the national average for county jail construction in the United States. According to R.S. Means, the average cost of constructing a county jail in the U.S. is $223.53 per square foot using union labor, or $207.14 using non-union, or open shop labor. Viewed in this context, the hoped-for cost reduction (for the modified jail plan) reduces the square foot cost from double the national average ($450 versus $223) down to an amount one and a half times the national average ($343 versus $223). Members of the delegation should consider whether the planned jail is so different from other county jail facilities being built in the US as to justify such an increased cost.
A third question is whether Belknap County needs a facility as large as even the slightly scaled-down Ricci Greene concept. To determine the needed square footage one needs first to determine the anticipated inmate population. The report upon which which the jail plan is based starts off stating that the recommended facility is one to house 185 inmates. One would reasonably conclude from this that the project recommended by the commissioners the Planning Committee is one in fact designed to house 185 inmates. A careful examination of the report, however, shows that a different number of beds is found. The "Facility Functional Narrative" contained in Appendix C to the report identifies the contemplated beds and their locations within the facility. Adding up all of the beds included in the planned facility results in a total bed count of 144, not 185. To date, no explanation has been provided for this apparent discrepancy within the Ricci Greene Report. Most people considering the jail proposal would very reasonably be under the impression that the 84,450-square-foot facility contains 185 beds. Discovery of the discrepancy in the bed total requires reading the fine print, going to the appendix and doing a bed by bed count to reach the actual total.
Whether the planned square footage is for 185 beds or for 144, it seems excessive. The Ricci Greene Report references 51,228-square-feet to be dedicated to residential space. The subsequent 10,000-square-foot reduction would come from the residential component, namely, from the day room areas next to the inmate sleeping areas. The residential square footage would then be reduced to 41,228. If the facility houses 185 inmates, then there are 223-square-feet per inmate. If the facility only houses 144 inmates, then the result is 286-square-feet per inmate. Either way, the residential square footage is excessive.
The excessiveness of even the modified Ricci Greene proposal advanced by the Commissioners is illustrated when compared with the new jail facility near completion in Wilkes County, North Carolina. That jail is a 52,000-square-foot facility designed to house up to 256 inmates, and it is being constructed at a guaranteed cost of $10.6 million. In other words, $203.85-per-square-foot. It should also be noted that the North Carolina facility is compliant with federal jail standards. The residential component there has 41,760-square-feet, or 163.13-square-feet per inmate. This is 27-percent less than the plan advanced by our Commissioners using the 185 inmate figure, or 44 percent less if the 144 inmate figured is used. If the Wilkes County facility is used as a model, the residential component for Belknap County would be 30,179 for 185 inmates, or 23,491 for 144 inmates.
The non-residential portion of the Wilkes County facility provides less guidance for Belknap County as it does not house the administrative offices for the jail, which are instead located in the nearby courthouse. In addition, the Wilkes County jail includes no areas dedicated to programs designed to reduce recidivism.
Examination of the proposed 43,222-square-feet of non-residential space in the Ricci Greene proposal shows potential for significant reduction. For example, 1,950-square-feet are set aside for food service, including a 1,200-square-foot receptor kitchen to receive food prepared next door at the county nursing home kitchen. Most of this space could be eliminated. Another 1,539-square-feet of space are dedicated to a laundry, even though the nursing home currently houses the laundry that services the jail using inmate labor. Duplication of either kitchen or laundry facilities would seem unnecessary.
The Ricci Greene proposal also contemplates 5,500-square-feet for indoor recreation. Federal standards (which are not mandatory but which should be complied with to avoid possible future legal issues), would mandate 1,000-square-feet of indoor recreation area with each inmate afforded an hour per day for its use. In other words, the Ricci Greene proposal contemplates over five times the federal requirement. In addition, the proposed facility would have almost 3,000-square-feet dedicated to health services, including a doctor's office, a waiting room, two examination rooms, a dentistry room, a laboratory, a conference room and a kitchenette, plus five medical beds. The wisdom of this space allocation is most definitely up to question.
My sense is that the 43,222-square-feet of non-residential space in the Ricci Greene proposal could be cut in half. This would still leave two large classrooms for programs, a library, two smaller rooms for interviews and more individualized therapy, and the other support and administrative areas needed for the safe and efficient operation of a county jail.
The fourth major problem with the proposed facility is that Belknap County cannot afford it. Unfortunately, it appears that the Ricci Greene team was brought in and asked to design a Rolls Royce, which they did. The commissioners were enamored with the product and have since refused to consider anything else. This persistence continued even in the face of very convincing data gathered by Michael Kitch and published in the April 19, 2014 Laconia Daily Sun. Kitch's article showed that the tax base in Belknap County cannot support the annual cost of a $30,000,000 debt for a new jail. Of course, the unaffordable price tag is compounded by the fact that Belknap County does not need such a luxurious facility.
John Hemphill, the designer of the Wilkes County facility, is currently designing his 33rd jail. In a recent telephone conversation with me, he indicated that he has never designed a jail with the type of square foot cost of the Ricci Greene proposal. According to him, "that kind of cost is unnecessary and my clients would not pay that kind of money when it is not necessary."
Belknap County needs a new jail, or at minimum a very substantial addition to the front part of the existing facility. The extremely poor condition of the jail makes this need urgent. On the other hand, it is my hope that we will forget the Rolls Royce and take a good look at an affordable car. A trip to Wilkes County, North Carolina and a meeting with John Hemphill might prove to be a wiser investment than throwing additional money at the Ricci Greene project and design schematics based on it.
Professor Emeritus at the Rutgers University School of Law
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 08:50
To The Daily Sun,
The Laconia Conference of St. Vincent de Paul held its annual volunteer appreciation dinner on Monday, June 9. The affair was hosted by the Peasant Ridge Country Club and catered by Contigiani Catering Services. The food and service were excellent, as is always the case with Jimmy and the wonderful Contigiani's staff.
Approximately 115 volunteers who staff and manage the Conference's four programs — thrift store, food pantry, financial assistance program, and the Children's Foundation — attended the annual recognition of the volunteer service. As an all-volunteer non-profit organization, such dedication is essential to the effectiveness and efficiency of St. Vincent de Paul in providing needed assistance to some many in the region. In its 24 years of existence, St. Vincent de Paul has never paid any wages or salaries, so more of our donations of clothing, furniture, and cash go directly for community support.
Four individuals received service awards: Bill Johnson and Gert Deblois for 20 years of volunteer service and Ila Matilla and Mary Beth Moran for 10 years of service. Many Lakes Region vendors provided door prizes for a raffle. We wish to thank Fratello's, Local Eatery, Prescott Florist, the Lyon's Den, Darlene's at Nu-Do's Salon, Moulton Farms, the Common Man organization, Home Comfort in Center Harbor, O'dus Salon, Meredith Bay Coffee House, Patrick's Pub & Eatery, Canoe Restaurant, Oriental Gardens, T-Bones & Cactus Jack's, Kara's Coffee, and Brickfront Restaurant for their wonderful generosity.
On behalf of these many volunteers and the people we serve, I offer our sincere appreciation to all in the Lakes Region who have supported us. Many thanks.
Erika Johnson, President
Laconia Conference of
St. Vincent de Paul
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 08:44