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Balsams bill sent to study committee

BERLIN – Supporters of a bill that would allow the state to back a $28 million bond for the renovation of the Balsams Resort and Wilderness Ski Area say they are still optimistic despite a state Senate committee vote yesterday to send it to a study committee.
"I'm very hopeful," said North Country Senator Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton) the sponsor of Senate Bill 30.
"This is an important step in the process. I look forward to continuing the process with the Senate," said DRED Commissioner Jeffrey Rose.
"We welcome the opportunity to answer any additional questions and provide additional information," said Dixville Capital LLC spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne. Tranchemontagne said the developers are happy the bill is still alive and will be meeting with senators over the next couple of weeks to explain the project. One of the principals of Dixville Capital is Les Otten, former owner of American Ski Company and best known locally as the developer of Sunday River Ski Resort.
The House Public and Municipal Affairs Committee voted 5-0 to send the vote to study. While Woodburn said the best result would have been for the committee to vote to support the bill, he said he understands the financing is complicated and many legislators had questions about the potential risk for the state.
That concern was expressed by Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) in a statement released after the vote. "While we would all like to see the Balsams restored to its former glory and the anticipated economic benefit for Coos County and the state, I have some serious reservations about state taxpayers taking on the responsibility for a private business's loan and the precedent this would create," Morse said.
"It's a big sticker item," Woodburn acknowledged.
While the $28 million bond guarantee would be the largest in the history of the N.H. Business Finance Authority, Woodburn said the authority has guaranteed thousands of private bonds and loans over its 30 year history. He said the N authority "has never lost a nickel" on any of its bonds.
"There is a measure of risk but also enormous economic benefit as well," Woodburn said.
A financial impact study released this week by Dixville Capital said the $143 million project would replace almost all of the jobs lost in Coos County over the past ten years and add almost $1 billion to the regional economy over a ten-year span.
Woodburn said the revised bill will come before the full Senate, probably next week. Ultimately, he said it will end up before the Senate Finance committee because it has a fiscal note attached. He said the bill actually properly belongs before Finance.
Woodburn said he has been working to build support for the bill and said he feels there is considerable support in the Senate. Still, he said he will not sleep comfortably until the bill is passed.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 23:14

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Berlin native highlighted in story on ship decommissioning

Editor's note - This story ran in the Feb. 28 edition of the Key West Citizen newspaper. It is reprinted here by permission. Steven Hanson grew up in Berlin and was a 1985 graduate of BHS.


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In the nine months Chief Warrant Officer Steven Hanson has taken command of the Coast Guard Cutter Knight Island, the crew has logged more than 1,600 hours of underway time and made the trip to Cuba to return hundreds of migrants 11 times.

The 47-year-old Berlin, N.H., native took command in May 2014 of one of the last of the rugged 110-foot cutters to call Coast Guard Sector Key West home. He called the 24-year-old vessel's decommissioning Friday a "bittersweet" moment for his crew.

"It's a say day, there's no other way to put it," Hanson said Thursday. "It's a very special event, but it's also the end of an era for a cutter I still feel has many left. We do have other ships coming online and we have to make room."

All 49 of the Coast Guard's Island Class patrol cutters are being phased out of service to make way for the 154-foot Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutters. Key West is now homeport to six FRCs. The remaining Island Class vessel, the Key Biscayne, is scheduled to be decommissioned next week.

All the Island Class cutters are named after a United States island, with the Knight Island named after an island in the Prince William Sound of Alaska.

Many of the 110-footers are scheduled to be sold to allied nations, according to and other media reports.

The 110-footers are based on a British design and are best known for their sea-handling capabilities.

The Knight Island has seen 25-foot seas when caught in a tropical storm in 2000 when the storm fooled forecasters and moved in a different direction, Hanson said, though not while he was in command.

"If you have a good following sea, this ship can handle rough seas very reliably," Hanson said.

The cutter began its career in Texas, and then moved to St. Petersburg before coming to Key West in 2008 where it had remained, Hanson said.

The Knight Island crew will now be assigned to other cutters or other assignments.

"They are all stellar performers," Hanson said. "They take ownership of their cutter and at all times worked with the utmost professionalism. I consider it my privilege to work with them. I'm a very fortunate person."

Hanson will now head to Kings Bay, Ga., to report as commanding officer of the 87-foot Coastal Patrol Cutter Sea Dog.

Still, Hanson would have served more time on the rugged 110-footer.

"If they'd given me another year (on the Knight Island), I would have been happy," Hanson said. "I would have taken it."

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 22:59

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Destination Imagination regional’s to be held March 14

BERLIN – Students have been working hard all year preparing for the Destination Imagination regional competition coming up on March 14. For the first time in 20 years, Berlin High will be hosting the competition. Five teams will be competing from Berlin with nearly 50 teams coming from around the state.

The regional competition takes in almost half of the state geographically and teams ranging from grades K-12 will be participating in the event. The competition is the first step towards moving on to the state competition, and then the global competition.

"We are very excited to have it here, it is a big honor. The growing popularity of the program at the school helped bring the competition back to Berlin," explained David Griffin, DI coach and sixth grade teacher at Berlin Middle School.

Many people remember the team building, challenge activity as Odyssey of the Mind, which goes back about thirty years. Destination Imagination has been in Berlin for about seven years, and focuses on incorporating STEM and the arts to solve problems.

The Destination Imagination regional competition will be an all day event held at high school in the gymnasium and various classrooms.

Seven new challenges are presented each year and focus on areas like technical, scientific, fine arts, improvisational, structural and service learning. There is also a non-competitive Early Learning Challenge that allows participants to build social and problem solving skills.

The public is welcomed to attend the competition, and there is no admission fee. The schedule of events is available a on the N.H Destination website

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 22:59

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Berlin teacher Sandy Pouliot shares her success with Front Row at the National Teacher’s Conference

BERLIN – Fifth grade math teacher Sandy Pouliot recently presented at the National Teacher's Conference, where she shared her experiences integrating Front Row, a free adaptive math program in her classroom.

In her presentation Pouliot explained that Front Row can be used in classrooms that are aligned to Common Core. The program allows students to work at their own level, and progress as they master concepts.

Front Row is transparent and can be accessed by the teachers to see how the students are progressing. This means that teachers can tailor classroom assignments based on the student's level. The program also offers auto-generated report cards, printable lesson for off-line practice, and short tutorial videos.

Pouliot explained that she initially came across the program while reading a teaching magazine. Being one of the district's first one-to-one classrooms, she was eager to try the program and implement it into her daily practice.

Pouliot found that the program was user friendly, and that her students took to it quickly. Although there are challenges like balancing hands on, face-to-face and real world application, Pouliot says that her students enjoy using the program and find it helpful.

"My students love the program. Being adjusted to their level makes the challenge engaging yet manageable. Students see a daily leaderboard, which due to it being ability-based, all students have the ability to lead the daily point count for answering questions and working hard," said Pouliot.

Front Row also encourages peer-to-peer interaction by suggesting proficient learners for other students to work with. Pouliot finds that students can work above and below grade level to meet their individual learning needs while still experiencing grade-level common threads.

"It is a busy model which is producing positive results and continually challenging and modifying how I teach based on student needs — which, if teaching isn't about students, then we are missing something," Pouliot said.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 22:36

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