Lawsuit challenges school funding formula

KEENE, N.H. (AP) — Two decades after a series of court decisions that said New Hampshire has a duty to provide and pay for an adequate education, a school district has sued the state, saying that hasn’t been accomplished.
New Hampshire Public Radio reports the ConVal School District names the state, the Department of Education, Gov. Chris Sununu and Commissioner Frank Edelblut as defendants in the suit filed Wednesday.
The lawsuit says the current price tag for a base “adequate education,” $3,636.06, doesn’t reflect accurate costs for facilities, transportation, and teacher salaries and benefits.
The complaint references a series of New Hampshire Supreme Court decisions from the 1990s called the Claremont cases.
The Attorney General’s office, which represents the state, declined to comment, saying it hadn’t seen the suit yet.

2 arrested in November shooting that wounded man

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Police in New Hampshire’s capital city say they’ve arrested two 18-year-olds and they’re looking for a third suspect in connection with a shooting in November that seriously wounded a man.
Police on Wednesday charged Devon Gilligan with attempt to commit murder and robbery. They also charged Chea Chebo with conspiracy to commit armed robbery and accomplice to robbery.
Gilligan was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday and Chebo on March 28. It wasn’t immediately known if they had lawyers and phone numbers couldn’t be found for them.
Concord police found a man in a car suffering from a gunshot wound on Nov. 24. He was treated for serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.
An arrest warrant has been issued for a third person on conspiracy and accomplice to armed robbery charges.

Senate approves independent harassment investigator

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Senate has voted to have an independent human resources employee who would investigate sexual harassment complaints against lawmakers.
Currently, complaints against House members are handled by the House or Senate chiefs of staff. Under a bill that passed the Senate on Thursday, an independent employee would handle the complaints instead.
Senate President Donna Soucy, a co-sponser of the bill, says the change would reassure the public and employees that they can come forward without fear of retribution, and that it is beyond time to take sexual harassment in the State House seriously.
The bill, which now goes to the House, would also require the Legislature to create a new sexual harassment policy that would be regularly reviewed and revised if needed.

3 towns defeat measures to close town roads to ATV use

STEWARTSTOWN, N.H. (AP) — Voters on Town Meeting Day in three northern New Hampshire towns have rejected measures to close town roads to ATV use because of noise and traffic concerns.
The Caledonian-Record reports voters in Pittsburg and Colebrook defeated petitioned articles to close the roads. In Stewartstown, voters tabled an ATV road closure article.
Colebrook also defeated an article asking residents to raise money for a temporary recreation trails supervisor, to discuss ridership issues with landowners.
Had the articles passed, they would have been non-binding. Decisions on the roads would have been up to the selectmen in each town.

Dump truck hits I-93 overpass, backs up traffic

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire state police say a dump truck traveling on southbound Interstate 93 hit an overpass and the body of the truck landed on the highway, causing an accident with two other vehicles and backing up traffic during the morning rush hour.
WMUR-TV reports police said the dump truck body was in a raised position and the driver was unaware of that Thursday at the Concord-Canterbury line. A car and pickup truck swerved to avoid and ended up in a collision. All three drivers suffered minor injuries and were taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Police said one of the beams that supports the bridge was bent.
Both lanes were shut down during the morning. Traffic was diverted off of Exit 17 and rerouted back onto the highway.

Senate votes on school safety, mental health bills

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Senate gave preliminary approval Thursday to a batch of bills addressing safety and mental health in schools.
Senators voted in favor of developing a statewide, real-time notification system to link schools directly to law enforcement in the event of a shooting or other threat. They also approved funding for a pilot program in Rockingham County to bring mental health providers into schools for a crisis response and prevention program. Those two bills now head to the Senate Finance Committee. A third bill, which now goes to the House, would require schools to develop policies on suicide prevention, response and risk assessment and to provide suicide prevention training for faculty, staff and volunteers.
Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said only about 100 of the state’s roughly 600 schools have threat notification systems in place. He and other supporters of that bill argued that getting first responders to schools even a few minutes faster could make the difference between life and death.
“Regardless of where we stand on some of other issues that divide us — we’ve heard divisions about mental health, the Second Amendment, school funding disparities — this one should be easy,” he said. “This one should be something all 24 of us can stand up and say, yes, we’re actually doing something in a tragic emergency situation to get the response of law enforcement to the scene as quickly as possible.”
Sen. Jon Morgan, D-Brentwood, described waiting at the bus stop every morning with his 6-year-old son and wondering if he’ll remain safe at school.
“Every single morning, I can’t shake that feeling of, ‘Could this be my last goodbye with my kid?’” he said.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu championed the idea of suicide prevention training in his inaugural address in January, and the House has already passed similar legislation.
The House bill would direct the state board of education to adopt rules requiring teachers and administrators to receive at least two hours of training in suicide awareness and prevention annually. The Senate version doesn’t set a minimum number of hours and would require each district to develop a policy for preventing, assessing the risk of, and responding to student suicide.
Several lawmakers spoke of children as young as 12 dying by suicide in their districts. Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, said it’s a myth that suicide is not a treatable disease.
“It’s gotta stop,” he said. “The only way we’re gonna stop it is to give people the tools to recognize it and intervene.”

Rescuers help stranded skier in icy slope on Mt. Washington

PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. (AP) — Authorities have come to the aid of a skier trapped on an icy slope alongside Mount Washington.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department says 20-year-old Sean Bagdon, of Colchester, Vermont, had been skiing down Burt Ravine on the western side of the mountain Wednesday when he encountered icy conditions. Fearing a fall further into the ravine, he asked his skiing companion to call 911.
Rescuers used a snowmobile to ride up along the Cog Railway, then hiked up approximately a quarter mile before encountering Bagdon’s skiing companion, who had waited alongside the tracks to direct them to him.
A rescuer secured Bagdon with a safety harness and rope and guided him up and out of the ravine.

Squirrels are damaging some maple syrup operations

DANVILLE, Vt. (AP) — Maple syrup producers have more than the weather to worry about. Frenetic squirrels are chomping on equipment, crimping the flow of sap at some operations.
Damage from wildlife — deer, bear woodpeckers, and squirrels — is not unusual for maple producers, but this year an abundant population of squirrels is disrupting plastic sap tubing and spouts at some sugaring operations in New England.
That means producers must go out into sometimes deep snow to find and replace the damaged lines that transport the sap from the maple trees or other chewed or missing equipment, which producers say can be time-consuming and expensive.
“Occasionally they declare war. And it seems like they have this year,” said Ruth Goodrich of Goodrich’s Maple Farm in Danville, Vermont, the largest maple producing state.
The business, which also sells maple equipment, thins out other trees so the maples don’t have competition and to remove the food source for squirrels. But on a parcel of state land it rents in Groton where other trees are mixed in, the squirrels did a number on the equipment.
The boom in the squirrel population is mostly tied to an increase in food source, such as acorns and other mast from trees, said Mark Isselhardt, maple specialist with the University of Vermont Extension. But the squirrels aren’t causing problems for all producers, he said.
The varmints haven’t been any worse than normal this year for Bascom Maple Farms in Alstead, New Hampshire.
“We haven’t had a lot of snow cover,” said Bruce Bascom. “We’ve only got about a foot of snow here. I think the squirrels are not having that hard a winter.”
But Lyle Merrifield of Gorham, Maine, said he’s had to fix about 60 spots in his operation damaged by the chomping critters.
The trouble is the squirrels could take one bite of tubing and move another 100 feet (30.5 meters) where they could take another bite, making the damage hard to find, said Merrifield, who is president of the Maine Maple Producers Association.
“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about squirrel damage so it’s probably the worst we’ve seen, combined with the deep snow, just that combination,” he said.
There’s no way to completely control the squirrels, Isselhardt said. It’s best to wear gloves when handling the tubing so salt and oil from bare hands isn’t left behind to attract wildlife. He advises against using any chemical deterrence on the tubing or anywhere near it. Trapping and shooting are also options.
But he said that won’t necessarily prevent the problem, because it doesn’t take many squirrels to affect the system.
“They’re able to cover ground and do some damage, and you can fix a line and they’ll be right back to it the next day,” Isselhardt said.

Liquor commission celebrating ‘85 Years of Cheers’

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Liquor Commission is celebrating its 85th anniversary with a yearlong campaign, “85 Years of Cheers.”
The commission will be randomly awarding 85 customers with 85 percent off of their purchases of either $250 or $1,000 at liquor and wine outlet stores. To enter, customers must visit www.85thAnniversary.com .
Customer discount winners will be randomly selected from March through August.
The commission will also be awarding dozens of prizes to customers during a series of special in-store events.

Police officer sentenced for falsifying documentation

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former New Hampshire police officer has been sentenced on charges related to falsifying documentation of evidence.
Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced March 28, 2018, that he was investigating the conduct of former Claremont Police Sgt. Ian Kibbe and Officer Mark Burch. WMUR-TV reports Burch pleaded guilty Thursday at court in Concord on a charge of unsworn falsification.
He was sentenced to serve 100 hours of community service and has been ordered to not seek further employment in New Hampshire law enforcement.
Kibbe pleaded guilty in December to misdemeanor charges of unsworn falsification and obstructing government administration. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Claremont police officials say 20 cases involving Kibbe and Burch have been dropped.