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Speak out against proposed cuts to UNH Cooperative Extension

To The Daily Sun,

On January 28, the Belknap Delegation Subcommittee on Outside Agencies voted to recommend funding to Belknap County Cooperative Extension be cut by 23 percent — or $35,514. This recommendation comes after multiple years of reductions or level funding. It is important to note that the budget request from Cooperative Extension for 2016 was already a reduction over last year's budget and lower than the county appropriation has been since 2009. A budget cut of this magnitude would result in a reduction in staffing, reducing county programs such as 4-H, food and agriculture, forestry, and nutrition.

As volunteer members of the Belknap County Extension Advisory Council, we feel residents deserve to know how UNH Cooperative Extension benefits our communities and what would be lost if the full delegation votes to approve these cuts. This decision is not yet final so there is time for us to speak out.

Did you know that in the past year Cooperative Extension:

— Provided technical assistance to 97 farms in Belknap County. These programs help local farms improve their businesses, supporting continued access to locally-grown food and boosting the local economy.

— Supported 229 volunteers who donated over 7,500 hours working in Belknap County, monitoring our lakes and lands for pollution and invasive species, providing education and resources on sustainable agriculture and land management, and working with young people in the community to teach the skills necessary for them to become healthy, successful adults.

— Worked with communities and land owners to improve management of more than 7,250 acres of land.

— Trained 42 local educators in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and youth development and worked with 1,600 kids and parents.

The staff in the Belknap Extension office is trusted sources of information and important members of the community.

The benefits to the citizens are clear and county taxpayers are getting a great bargain as well. In 2015, every dollar of county funding for extension work was matched by $2.69 through UNH. Cuts to the county portion will lead to an equivalent loss of outside funds and resources supporting Belknap County. If these cuts are approved, we will all lose a great deal.

We encourage citizens to contact their legislators directly and consider attending upcoming delegation meetings. The next Delegation work session is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Belknap County Complex. While this will not be a public input session, the public is always welcome at meetings and your emails and phone calls before then are important. The Delegation has indicated that they want to hear from community members before the final vote so this is your chance to be heard.

To find out who your representatives are, visit the Belknap County web page at http://www.belknapcounty.org/pages/BelknapCounty_Delegation/index

Sandra McGonagle, Gilford
Jan Best, Gilmanton
Christine Corrigan, Meredith
Emily Chase, Belmont
Ralph Rathjen, Sanbornton
Sally Minkow, Laconia
Shelley and Savannah Garrity, Alton

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In telephone poll, 91 percent supported senior housing

To The Daily Sun,

I am writing in response to comments made by Mr. Bill Whalen in a news article written by a Sun reporter. This article reported on the outcome of a public hearing dealing with an ordinance dealing with senior housing in Sanbornton. I was a bit surprised to see Mr. Whalen's comments at the end of that article since we was not present at that meeting.

In regards to the two senior housing projects that were shot down, I believe the major reason was because of location. There were other reasons for that failure. Since I was heavily involved in the Dr. True Road project, it pains me to admit with hindsight that the site was not the best. I am now personally glad that it failed. Senior housing per se was never the main issue.

Mr. Whalen commented in the article that there was no evidence that people in town wanted senior housing. A number of years ago the Grange in town conducted a phone survey asking 102 seniors over the age of 65 about their opinions concerning the need for senior housing here in Sanbornton. The result was that 91 percent agreed to the need. The majority felt that seniors not having to leave the town of Sanbornton was the most valuable reason. Sixteen people said they knew of someone who was ready to move in. This result was made public at the time.

I suspect that Mr. Whalen has not had the opportunity to mix it up with many seniors int he communiy. Please forgive me if I am wrong. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity because of the type of work that I do. Many seniors could at one time do their own work in and around their property, but because of their age no longer can. Some folks can afford to hire someone, while others cannot. Some will be able to move in with relatives, while others cannot.

In regards to Mr. Whalen's comments about the existing ordinance being repealed a number of years ago, he is correct. The vote in favor of repeal was 396, and against 339., according to the 2005 Town Report. However, I hardly consider that an overwhelming majority as he stated in his comments. Many, no doubt, voted for repeal simply because the Planning Board recommended it. I have done that myself before, and I know others who have. I also know that some folks did not like some of the provisions in the ordinance. Some residual anger probably existed from the project on Dr. True Road.

Finally, in regards to Mr. Whalen's remarks about Article 13 in the 2014 Town Meeting, unlike what was said in his comments, there is no mention of using the five-member group to develop an ordinance. That, I understand, is normally the duty of the Planning Board and the Town Planner. I abstained when the vote came up, feeling that a better approach was needed.

I hold no personal animosity toward Bill Whalen. My suggestion is that he try to be a bit more accurate with the facts that he presents to the newspaper. It might also be wise to try to attend public hearings that deal with topics that he is interested in. Finally, in all sincerity, peace be with you.

Dick Leclerc


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