White Mountains Community College looking at building dorm

BERLIN — Working with U.S. Congresswoman Annie Kuster, White Mountains Community College is again looking at establishing a dormitory at the college.
College President Matt Wood said the plan being studied calls for three small dormitory buildings, providing housing for a total of 96 students and four staff members. Students would live in small units or apartments, each with kitchen facilities. The complex would be located on college land across Route 16 from the main college building.
A dormitory has been a long-time wish for White Mountains Community College. In 2001, legislation was introduced to design a student residential hall and wellness center. The issue was raised again in 2005 and a private proposal to convert the old Bartlett School into a dormitory was also explored. Financing the dormitory has been a prime roadblock given the need to keep dormitory rental rates competitive with the local rental market.
This time the college is looking at funding made available as a result of an amendment Kuster proposed to the 2014 Farm Bill. The USDA-Rural Development’s Rural Community Coordinated Strategy directs the USDA-RD to leverage its existing program to support and work with rural community colleges. For the first time, Rural Development loans and grants are available to the state’s community colleges with the amount determined by the project. Kuster orchestrated the $1.6 million low-interest loan to allow the Community College System of New Hampshire to purchase the former campus of Lebanon College to expand River Valley Community College.
Wood said he expects to continue studying the project into the winter. He said officials want to make sure the financials are set because the project will probably require a long-term loan agreement. He said there will be no capital money from the state so rental fees will have to cover costs. Wood said he expects an independent analysis to be performed to make sure the project is viable. If the numbers work, he would like to see construction underway within two years.
“I’m thrilled that the community college collaboration that I proposed in the Farm Bill could potentially result in another exciting project for New Hampshire,” Kuster said. “This could help make higher education more accessible for students in the North Country and beyond. This project could also create a big boost for the North Country economy by connecting employers and employees through important workforce development partnerships,” she said

Contested races for mayor, council, and school board

BERLIN — A flurry of last day filings for the upcoming municipal election ensures there will be contested races for mayor, city council and most school board positions.
The mayor’s seat and four positions on the city council are up for grabs.
Mayor Paul Grenier and all four city councilors up for re-election, Peter Higbee, Roland Theberge, Denise Morgan Allain, and Michael Gentili, filed for another term.
But the incumbents will be challenged by a team running together under a platform of ‘New Ideas for Berlin’. Running for mayor is Richard Mattos while Eric Catman, Jeff LaGrange and Tim Maynard are running for council.
The mayor’s seat is a two-year term while all four council positions are four-year terms.
Incumbent Lynn Moore is running unopposed for the four-year term on the school board.
But six people are running for the three two-year positions on the school board. Incumbents Louise Valliere and Denise Valerino have filed for re-election. Also running for the school board are Debra Ackerman, Heather Houston, Scott Losier, and Gregg Marrer.
There are no other contested races. Paul Tardiff is seeking another four-year term as library trustee and Linda LaFleur is running for the two-year library trustee position.
There are not enough candidates to fill the vacancies for moderator, ward clerk, and supervisor of the checklist positions. A candidates night with the council, sponsored by North Country Listens and the Berlin Daily Sun is scheduled for Oct. 28 at city hall at 6 p.m.
The election is scheduled for Nov. 3.

Mayor, two years (vote for one): Richard Mattos Jr and Paul R. Grenier.
Council, four years (vote for four): Michael F Gentili, Peter Higbee, Jeffrey LaGrange, Timothy M. Maynard, Denise M. Morgan Allain, Roland L. Theberge, Eric S Catman Sr.
Moderator, two years (vote for four): Robert H. Morrissette, Aline Boucher, and Robert Dumoulin.
Ward clerk, two years (vote for four):  Lucille Lavoie, and John S. DeChamplain.
Supervisor of the checklist, two years (vote for 12): Paul E. Croteau, Roland Croteau, Shirley C. Croteau, Michael A. Legere, Jean Lemieux, Robert Pelchat, and Donald M. Bisson.
School board four years (vote for one): Lynn Moore.
School board, two years (vote for three): Louise Valliere, Debra Jane Ackerman, Heather M. Houston, Scott H. Losier, Gregg Marrer and Denise Valerino.
Library trustee, four years (vote for one): Paul Tardiff.
Library trustee, two years (vote for one): Linda Lafleur.

Online petition for Bruno’s Law reaches nearly 35,000 supporters

By Kirstan Lukasak

BERLIN — An online petition calling for legislation making it illegal to euthanize your pet had more than 34,000 signatures Monday afternoon.
Supporters for the "Justice for Bruno" group have come together to promote the petition created by a Katie Treamer, a former Berlin woman who now lives in Conway. The group will be holding a candle light walk on Oct. 12 to raise awareness for the campaign.
The effort takes its name from a dog named Bruno, who was found shot to death off Success Road in Berlin. The shooting caused an outrage and many people began to question the right for owners to euthanize their own animals.
The Facebook page "Justice for Bruno — Animal Abuse Awareness in NH" was created to give a voice to animals and to let pet owners know that they have options when it comes to ending an animal’s life. The page has reached just over 1,600 members.
With the help of social media and coverage from local news channels, support for Bruno spread across the country and lead to the petition that will be sent to the governor’s desk to strengthen animal cruelty laws.
The petition was created by Treamer, who first saw Bruno’s story on Facebook after a friend of hers had shared to her timeline. Inspired by Bruno’s story, Treamer turned to Change.org, determined not to let this happen to another animal.
The petition titled "Bruno’s Law — To amend current animal cruelty laws to make shooting a domestic animal to euthanize it a felony in New Hampshire," was created on Change.org and was likely reach its goal of 35,000 signatures before the end of the day Monday.
In a letter sent to Gov. Maggie Hassan, the petition cites the need to clarify and outline what is considered animal abuse.
“The goal of Bruno's Law is to ask you and the New Hampshire Legislature to clarify, and amend the State of New Hampshire's current animal cruelty laws, as they do not specify committing such a heinous act as a crime. Domestic animals are considered property in New Hampshire, and although there is legislation that outlines certain types of animal abuse, as well as the penalties for committing those abuses, there is nothing specific that would stop a person from shooting one's own pet,” stated in the letter listed on Change.org.
The "Justice for Bruno" group is holding a Candlelight Walk at Veteran's Park in Berlin on Monday, Oct. 12, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The walk will start at the park, go to the Berlin Police Department and end back at the park.
For more information about the petition visit www.change.org and search "Bruno’s Law." The petition proposes to amend current animal cruelty laws to make shooting a domestic animal to euthanize it a felony in New Hampshire.

Wood appointed president of WMCC, trustees vote to freeze tuition

BERLIN – After serving longer than a year as interim president, Matt Wood was formally appointed president of White Mountains Community College Thursday. Meeting at the college, the Community College System of N.H. board of trustees also followed through on a promise to freeze tuition rates.
Wood led the college through a tough period that included lay-offs and the elimination of some positions. Ross Gittell, chancellor of the community college system, said Wood had done a good job reversing a three-year decline in enrollment and confronting challenges at the college.
“After a very successful year in the position as interim president, and following an evaluation that included input from a broad spectrum of the college community and stakeholders, I am very pleased to recommend the formal appointment of Matt Wood to the position of WMCC president,” Gittell said.
The board unanimously confirmed Wood’s appointment.
Wood said over the past three years enrollment declined a total of 21 percent at the college. The result was a ten percent cut in revenues because of the loss of tuition.
This semester, he said there is a 15 percent increase in credits sold. Wood said that does not mean there is a 15 percent increase in the head count at the college. He said there are about 800 students at the Berlin and Littleton campuses. He said there has been a big increase in on-line learning with the number of on-line credits sold increasing from 450 to 1,100.
Wood attributed the increase in credits sold to changes made last year. He said there was a focus on curriculum to better align it with what students want. Seven new online programs were created including health and wellness, accounting, criminal justice, and business administration and new offerings in library technology and autism education.
Wood said the college created a new STEM department to focus on those areas because companies report a need for people with technical skills. He said the college looked at areas that already existed and packaged them together to create the new department without spending additional money. The department includes environmental studies, welding, and life science, and the IT programs.
Staffing was realigned to reflect program demand and course scheduling was chance to help students maximize their time on campus and bring greater efficiency to teaching schedules.
Wood has also worked to build partnerships with regional employers and initiate programs at local high schools that help students enter postsecondary education with college credits already completed.
Under Wood’s leadership, the board changed its mind about moving the mobile equipment technology program to the Laconia campus. A new three-year contract was approved at the meeting to continue to lease space from Chapman Scrap Metal and Demolition on the city’s East Side for the program.
The college last spring eliminated four full-time faculty positions, two full-time staff positions, and did not replace two retiring faculty positions. The college now has 19 full-time on its teaching faculty.
While difficult, the reductions were described as necessary because the college was operating in the red. Asked if the college is now sustainable, Wood replied, “I think we’ve made steps.”
He stressed the results are for only one semester.
“We feel encouraged with our changes because we’re headed in the right direction. But we’ve very cautious,” he said.
Wood is a long-time educator who taught math and physics before becoming an associate vice president of academic affairs at N.H. Technical College in Concord. He seized the opportunity to accept the interim position at WMCC in July 2014 due to his love of the North Country and the opportunity to help strengthen the college amid demographic and economic challenges.
“I am honored to be confirmed in the position of president of WMCC,” said Wood. “WMCC is an essential resource for this region and I am absolutely committed to its success,” he said.
The board also formally voted to freeze tuition for the current academic year. The board had promised to freeze tuition if the legislation approved its budget request. Tuition was frozen for this semester provisionally while the board waited for the state budget to be enacted. The board had requested level funding for fiscal year 2016 and a three percent increase in its 2017 state appropriation.
“We recognize the challenge of college affordability for N.H. families and are pleased that we were able to work with the governor and N.H. legislature to freeze tuition,” said Gittell.
“Clearly this is great news for our students. The tuition freeze enables them to study where they live, and save thousands of dollars while they work toward their degree, or prepare to transfer to a four-year institution,” said Wood.
The college system reduced tuition last year and also froze tuition in 2013.
Trustee Stephen Guyer noted there had been some criticism of the decision to reduce tuition last year in light of staff and faculty cuts at some of the colleges. Some had argued the reduction, which came to $10 a credit or $30 a course, was insignificant and the money could have been used to retain full-time faculty to reduce the increasing reliance on part-time adjuncts. He asked student trustee Nathan Wells of WMCC if the reduction was important to students.
Wells replied that the dollar amount was not important but the concern it showed for the students was.
“That makes more of a difference to me than the extra $5,” he said.