To The Daily Sun,
Many of us in Senate District 2 have read with interest Jeanie Forrester's recent newsletters and applaud her interest in and concern for our men and woman in the military. Writing letters to them is a great service indeed.
But we would really like to hear more about Jeanie's work on behalf of the State of N.H., and particularly Senate District 2.
We know Jeanie has been meeting with groups and individuals throughout the district to discuss the subject of expanded Medicaid eligibility. What has she learned and how is what she has heard shaping her position on this issue?
Senate President Bragdon came under scrutiny recently when he took the position of executive director with the Local Government Center. He has recently expressed his intent to step down as Senate president, but we would like to hear Jeanie's views on this process, especially as she is Senator Bragdon's pick for a seat on the committee that is reviewing changes to the laws governing the LGC's procedures going forward.
And we are wondering about Jeanie's response to PSNH's recent announcement of a $7.5 million job creation fund in Coos County contingent on approval of the Northern Pass project. Her constituents along that route want to hear her response to PSNH's most recent proposition.
While ice cream socials are a delightful way to spend summer afternoons, we are actually more interested in learning what policies Jeanie is working on and what legislative issues are occupying her time. A perfect opportunity to hear from Jeanie on these subjects would be at her "thank you" picnic in Meredith on August 25. We will be listening!
Kate Miller, Chair
Belknap County Democrats
Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 11:18
To The Daily Sun,
Mr. Charles North of Franklin penned a thought-provoking letter about fences, trails, and economic impact that could happen due to a trail that he badly wants to see done. I thank him for sharing his thoughts. I would like to submit that there is a huge difference between Rails-With-Trails, and Rails-To-Trails. I am a paying member of Rails–To-Trails, a National organization. WOW is a Rails-With-Trails project. Yes, there is a state requirement (law) to have a fence between the trail and an active rail. To discontinue that requirement would put any liability directly on the RR company, and it's employees. The RR company in our area is not willing to accept the liability, and that thinking is backed up at state level by maintaining the requirement (Again...law).
Mr. North, I use Phase I of the WOW trail at least 2X per week and love it. It is the nicest Laconia City Park we have, in my opinion. However, there has been no economic development along Phase I. I cannot see how there could be any along Phase II either. I have biked the River Trail you speak of, and there is no economic development there, nor do I see how that could even happen in the area it transverses. Ms. Gandini's opinion on economic impact may or may not be valid. Most recreational areas I have used throughout the USA and Europe are best used for . . . recreation. Go Figure!
Your passion is constructive, and is obviously, by this letter, generating some feedback and continuing dialogue. I would hope for continued dialogue, I would hope to see a trail system that connects Meredith to Durham, and would love to see it while I am still young enough to take advantage of it. Let's argue facts though, and not just passions, dreams, and/or promises. ANY trail must respect personal property rights, and not be forced upon anyone who may be negatively impacted. Options and alternatives are available. Where disagreement may exist, both sides just need to be willing to cooperate and work together to find them. Let's not allow this issue to become "Congressional". Nothing would get done in that case, agreed?
Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 11:14
To The Daily Sun,
Thursday evening we attended this season's final concert of the New Hampshire Music Festival. The music was glorious and the full house called the Festival's new conductor back for several curtain calls. On our drive back from Plymouth we commented on the vast number of "grey heads" (ours included) in the audience and wondered how long this 61 year old orchestra will be able to continue to attract an audience.
The picture on the front page of last Friday's Sun suggests a way to answer that worry. Why were youngsters from the Lakes Region Boys and Girls Club summer camp playing violins? Upon inquiring, I learned that Kay Wheeler, who recently moved to the Lakes Region, is an accomplished violinist and former faculty member of the Charleston, SC Academy of Music. She offered, with one of her students, to share their talent with the children of the club. She arrived at the club with extra violins and after playing a piece by Bach, gave the boys and girls a chance to actually try to play the instruments. They were enthralled!
One might assume that classical music is not "cool" with today's youngsters. But, what might happen when children get a chance to be exposed to other than current music? Cheryl Avery, the director of the Boys and Girls Club, seized and impromptu opportunity is what happens at the club. The Lakes Region is fortunate to have the Boys and Girls Club in our area.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 11:22
To The Daily Sun,
There is much discussion about the condition of the Belknap County Department of Corrections (Jail) and the idea of building a new 42 million dollar facility at $380,000 per inmate. Upon invitation, on August 12, 2013, we joined with several New Hampshire Representatives for a tour of the jail to learn about the building condition and utilization of space.
The facility is located just north of the downtown Laconia area with the jail, sheriff and nursing home sharing the same location. The outdoor grounds look fine, parking seemed plentiful and the brick exterior of the building looks good. The building structure is made of concrete and brick materials that should last for hundreds of years if properly maintained.
The current number of inmates being housed is about 111. The length of stay of inmates held between January 1, 2013 and August 12, 2013 included 439 for 1 to 15 days, about 119 held for 16 to 60 days and 78 held over 60 days. Almost 70 percent of the total number of inmates were held for less than 15 days. Jails are usually for non-convicted people being held waiting a trial, bail, etc.
As we entered the building through a door near the newly renovated County Commissioners offices and conference/meeting room, the concrete walls were nicely painted, the flooring and ceilings looked great and restrooms were clean.
The jail Superintendent Daniel Ward, Sr. did a superb job of briefly explaining the basic operations, the use of rooms and answered questions sincerely. He said tours of the jail are done almost on a daily basis and anyone interested is welcome to call for a tour appointment.
Through connecting doorways, we entered the main area of the jail where the security control room, classrooms, visiting booths and five maximum security cells are located. The overall condition looked great. The concrete walls have a fresh coat of paint and the resilient floors were shiny with polish. It was stated that the inmates painted the walls in this area.
As we proceeded through a hallway to the large gym area where 16 minimum security woman inmates were jointly housed, it was obvious that building maintenance was little to none. The concrete walls and floors need painting and the ceilings have large stain marks. Upon inquiring about the stains, the explanation was that the roof leaks and buckets are used to catch rainwater. It was unknown as to why the leaks have not been repaired. Roof leaks can cause much damage to ceilings, walls, electrical circuits, etc. and should be patched right away to stop the leak until a permanent repair is completed.
The beds were basic metal framed with mattress. However, it sure seems that the use of bunk beds by jail inmates is appropriate since military personnel are required to sleep in them as Mr. David DeVoy, an experienced longtime military person pointed out in a recent letter.
About 43 minimum security men were located in two large rooms with a shared bathroom. The upstairs room, referred to as the attic, was housing about 13 "work release" inmates who work at the nursing home. A portable air conditioner used in the medical room was relocated to the attic area during the recent heat spell. Purchasing more of the relatively low cost portable air conditioning units could be a reasonable solution when summer temperatures are extreme.
There are about 10 smaller rooms housing between 3 and 7 inmates each that have several individual rooms with bunks off a common area used for TV watching, card games, etc. Some of the individual room door locks broke and have not worked for a long time. The locks were never repaired due to high cost and apparent lack of real need.
The neglect of ongoing maintenance makes these inmate areas look run down and dirty since the walls and floor need painting, the bathrooms are in need of patching, tiling, painting, etc. However, painting is inexpensive, especially if the inmates do the work as they did in the main area of the jail. The showers could be repaired by removing old wall material, replacing plumbing fixtures as needed and installing new wall backing with ceramic tiles. One shower stall was lined with plastic sheathing in attempt to stop water from penetrating the walls. A skilled plumber and tile contractor could repair a shower stall in only a couple of day's time. This should be done right away since water leaks from the shower could cause more damage in other areas.
An estimate for a new jail building was obtained since some believe that the jail looks so bad it is not repairable. Most admit that the 42 million dollars seems exorbitant. Before spending many millions of dollars for a new building and demolishing the existing space, it would be prudent to obtain several estimates to fix the roof on a permanent basis, remodel the bathrooms, install reasonable air and heating systems, tile some of the floors while allowing the inmates to paint all the walls and remaining floors.
Upon completion of remodeling, this area will look like the main area mentioned earlier.
In terms of space, a tour handout indicates the design capacity of the jail is 87 inmates, which is 24 less than the current 111. An estimate from several contractors to build a basic concrete wall addition with brick veneer exterior about 10,000 SF in size (much less than 15 percent of the combined existing facility) seems like a reasonable way of increasing the capacity. At 100 to 200 dollars per square foot, the cost would be between 1 and 2 million dollars. The additional space along with the use of bunk beds will provide more than the needed inmate capacity. It will also free up the gym to be used again for winter exercise and other activities.
Hopefully, the 42 million dollar new jail building amount is not being used as a means of convincing people that a 21 million dollar building will be a bargain! Also, if neglecting jail repairs is being used as an attempt to justify an entirely new jail building, the strategy should be stopped. With enough public input, optimistically, the majority of the current delegation will vote for prudent spending. In the meantime, using a practical approach to make repairs should be approved before there is more unnecessary damage to the building.
Rep. Jane Cormier (Belknap District 8)
Rep. Stephen Holmes (Belknap District 5)
Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 08:16
To The Daily Sun,
After reading, watching and listening to the news and debates concerning events in the Middle East over the past few years I've begun to question this nation's belief that people in that part of the world actually seek or even approve of democracy. Most recently the "Arab Spring" has turned pretty stormy which is really not much different from before the democracy movements. Perhaps I'm wrong but given the history, culture, and dominate religion, Islam, all of which are authoritarian based, I consider that it is perhaps a fools errand to attempt to promote democracy there. That culture seems to have done best when under the control of one sort of strong man or another. Now I'm not saying that is any sort of just or even a peaceful society but compared to the chaos of the recent half century it could not be much worse.
Presently Egypt is suffering from the threat of potential civil war; Syria is in full blown revolt with 100,000 dead, some estimate; Iraq is showing signs of joining the bloody circus as has Libya and Afghanistan. Right now here in the U.S. our leaders are debating whether or not we should provide weapons to the Syrian rebels and what to do about Egypt? I say stay clear of the whole thing, we have no dog in those fights. Getting involved is a no-win position for us. Who ever prevails in Syria will be no friend of ours and in Egypt the army kept the Muslim brotherhood under control for decades so even if another Mubarak gains power that is better for us then the brotherhood. Still let them decide.
Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 07:59