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No major flooding reported

ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY – While other parts of the county reported major flooding, the Androscoggin Valley appears to have been spared.
Rivers and streams throughout the region were reported high and running close to capacity Tuesday night into Wednesday.
North Road in Shelburne was closed for a period Tuesday night, forcing the Gorham, Randolph, Shelburne Cooperative School Board to cut short its monthly meeting at the Shelburne town hall. The meeting will reconvene on Tuesday, April 29. Meadow Road in Shelburne was also reported flooded Tuesday,
Gorham Emergency Management Director Chad Miller said there was some minor flooding on Normand Avenue. Mr. Pizza's parking lot was covered in water and the water briefly started to reach Route 2.
Miller said the Androscoggin River appeared to peak around noon Wednesday although the U.S. Weather Service out of Gray, Maine maintained a flood warning for that section late yesterday afternoon.
The heavy current in local rivers made for some dramatic scenes. One of the most wildest was the canyon behind city hall in Berlin, easily viewed from the Mason Street bridge.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 23:09

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VA to open health care clinics in Berlin and Colebrook

COOS COUNTY – North Country veterans will soon be able to get medical care locally with the announcement yesterday that the Department of Veterans Affairs will open health care clinics in Colebrook and Berlin.
In a joint release, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, said the decision came after the two have repeatedly urged the VA to establish accessible medical care facilities for veterans in the North Country. Both senators sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The VA has approved a plan to expand the White River Junction VA Medical Center to incorporate the two clinics. The part-time clinics will offer primary care, preventive health care, lab draws, and telehealth services. The clinics will share staff with existing health care clinics but a spokeswoman for Shaheen said that has not been finalized yet. The clinics are scheduled to be in service by the end of the fiscal year.
Ayotte said she will continue to urge the VA to establish a contract with Androscoggin Valley Hospital to allow in-patient care for North Country veterans at the Berlin hospital.
"This is terrific news for North Country veterans, who deserve access to the same quality health care as those living in more populated areas of the state," said Ayotte.
"All of our veterans who have answered the call of duty have the right to quality, local and accessible health care, and the opening of new VA clinics in Colebrook and Berlin will be delivering on that commitment for North Country veterans," Shaheen said.
Working with the rest of the state's congressional delegation, the senators said they have pointed out to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that veterans currently often have to travel more than 130 miles to access VA facilities in Littleton, Conway, Manchester, or White River Junction, Vt.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 23:08

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Chancellor emphasizes committement to WMCC and reports tuition decrease

BERLIN – Tuition at the state's seven community colleges, including White Mountains Community College, will drop by five percent starting in the fall of 2014.
N.H. Community College System Chancellor Ross Gittell leaked the news Tuesday night at the annual dinner the college hosts for local officials and legislative leaders. Gittell also assured local community leaders that the board of trustees is committed to the Berlin college and to reinstating the nursing program in the fall of 2015.
The formal announcement of the tuition cut was made yesterday afternoon. The in-state per credit cost will decrease to $200 from its present level of $210. A three-credit course will cost $600, down from $630. For an in-state student taking a minimum full-time course load of twelve credits per semester, annual tuition costs will drop from $5,040 to $4,800.
"We have to make college affordable for our students, " Gittell said Tuesday.
The chancellor opened his remarks by seeking to alleviate local concerns about the future of WHCC. He said the system's board of trustees understand the importance of the college to the region and the significant role it plays in providing access to economic opportunities for students and their families. Gittell said the board is committed to making sure the college is a strong financially sustainable institution. He said focusing on the state's rural community colleges is one of the board's five strategic initiatives for the next ten years.
Gittell said without a skilled workforce and the ability of young people to stay here, the region will have a hard time creating a strong economic future.
Achieving that goal, he said, means focusing on students and their success academically. He said the college system must create a smooth transition from secondary school to post secondary education and spoke about the college's Running Start Program, which lets high school students get college credits for advanced courses. Gittell noted that historically the North Country has lagged behind the state average in post-secondary matriculation rates.
"So we have to focus our attention on programs – both associate degree programs and certificate programs that are aligned with the economic future and economic opportunities of this area," he said.
He said the college must adapt to the changing needs of the health care industry and noted it is offering a new wellness coach certificate program. But he also promised the system is committed to reinstating the nursing program at Berlin. The program is taking a one-year hiatus after it was placed on conditional approval by the N.H. Board of Nursing. The Berlin city council held a meeting on the issue to air its concerns. Gittell said there are some challenges with the program but said they are bringing resources and sharing expertise with the other colleges. He said the new Vice President of Academic Affairs, Fran Rancourt, has been charged with making sure the program gets the appropriation certification.
Gittell said he has been coming to Berlin at least once a month to identify where the system should put its resources and energy to guarantee the future viability of the college.
"I am very excited about things that are happening here," he said. But he also emphasized that there is a lot of work to do at Berlin.
He said enrollment is down at the college and programs have to be strengthened. He said the college does a good job connecting with industries but has to do more. At the same time, he said industry must provide apprenticeships, applied learning paid internships, and guarantee jobs to graduates.
Gittell was asked about his appointment by Gov. Maggie Hassan to chair a task force to make recommendations about STEM education in schools. He said he believes providing a background in science, technology, engineering, and math for the state's students in grades K-12 is important for the future of the state's economy. Gittell said New Hampshire used to be satisfied with being one of the top ten states in the county for educational achievement. He said that is not enough with the global competition that now exists.
WMCC President Katharine Energies highlighted some of the programs and achievements at the college. She said so far 32 people have graduated with a bachelor's degree in early education through Plymouth State University taking classes all at Berlin.
She said the college has created seven new certificate programs – environmental science, surveying technology, applied career fundamentals for advance manufacturing, autism education, outdoor recreation management, wellness advocate, and wellness coach.
The college has a new $1.7 million advanced welding laboratory and this summer will be renovating the old welding lab to bring it up to date. In the fall, the college will offer a new associate degree in welding along with the three welding certificate programs.
The advanced welding program and faculty members John Holt, Mike Pike, Gerry Therriault, Gerry Fitzmorris, and Jon Mullins were recently awarded the President's Good Steward Award at the New Hampshire College Compact. The President's Leadership Award went to Shannon Lavertu and the President's Community Partnership Award went to Granite United Way Northern Region.
Eneguess said U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen has invited five of the college's culinary students and a faculty member to participate in the Experience New Hampshire Reception in Washington, D.C. this summer.
After remarks by Gittell and Eneguess, John Holt did a brief presentation showing some of the new advanced welding equipment. Those in attendance then enjoyed a buffet prepared by the culinary program.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 22:49

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Destination Imagination team going all the way to nationals

By: Kirstan Lukasak

For the second year in a row the Berlin High School Destination Imagination team is headed to Tennessee at the end of May to compete at the national level.

The Destination Imagination team placed second at the state competition on March 22. The team "Going to Extremes" secured their chance to compete at the national level with their larger than life set and original ideas.

The winning skit, "Going to Extremes," challenged the team to create an extreme environment where human beings cannot survive. The team created a scenario where gamma rays had hit the earth. Visuals included large-scale props, several set changes and a complex scientific instrument.

The skit will be similar to the one preformed at the state competition with a few minor changes. Senior Keenan Wood was able to improve the scientific instrument by turning it into an electronic Jacobs Ladder.

"It looks like something out of a Frankenstein movie. The inside column produces a spark and the device actually produces a small amount of ozone as portrayed in the skit. The judges were really impressed by this," said teacher David Griffin.

Team members include senior Keenen Wood, senior Kelly Stock, junior Reilly Wood, junior Frankie Manfredi, junior Tanner Cote, junior Amanda Shute and the newest member to the team junior Kenzie McDonald.

Collectively the students have 27 years of experience with Keenen Wood being part of Destination Imagination for six years. The team's leaders include sixth grade social studies teacher Dave Griffin and retired high school English teacher Guy Stevers.

The team is excited to be competing at nationals but sending the Destination team does not come without its costs. The students need to raise roughly $10,000 to cover the cost of travel, meals and lodging.

The team is now working on fundraising to cover expenses. To raise money, the team is selling raffle tickets for the Red Sox versus Yankee game at Fenway Park on August 2 at 7:10 p.m.

The four tickets are for the box seats in right field and are valued at over $500. The winning ticket will be pulled June 6. Tickets can be purchased from team members or at the Berlin Middle School office.

A second fundraiser will be a benefit performance at the St. Kieran's Center for the Arts on April 26 at 7 p.m. The theater group led by Dam and Denise Marois, Mainely Improv, will be doing a presentation to benefit the team.

Dan and Denise are originally from the area and enjoy giving back to the community where they grew up. The performance will be similar to the show "Who's Line is it Anyway?" Tickets are $10. For more information please contact Dave Griffin 752-5311.

 DI-Team-BerlinFront Left: Tanner Cote, Reilly Wood, Kelly Stock, Amanda Shute, Frankie Manfredi. Back Left: Kenzie Mcdonald, Keenan Wood, David Griffin. (COURTESY PHOTO)


Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 22:49

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