Chris Jensen

North Country Reporter

Christopher Jensen worked as a reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for 25 years, covering topics including desegregation, the 1st Gulf War, international charities’ fraud and the auto industry. He also wrote stories about competing in off-road races including the 1988 TransAmazon, the Baja 1000, the Paris-Moscow-Beijing Raid and Paris-Dakar.

Since 2007 he has lived in Bethlehem, covering the North Country for NHPR in addition to freelancing on automotive topics for The New York Times. He enlisted in the Army in 1968 and spent 15 months as a combat photographer in Vietnam. He graduated from George Washington University with a degree in journalism.

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A Massachusetts man was arrested Friday morning and charged with negligent homicide after his passenger was killed in a crash Thursday night near Errol, according to state police.

Police said forty-nine year-old Michael Sheehan of Foxborough lost control of his pickup on Route 16 about 8:30 and struck several trees, killing forty-eight year-old Stephen Bagley of Roslindale, Massachusetts. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Voters in Groveton – which has been struggling since the paper mill there closed in 2007 and devastated its economy - took a fiscal leap of faith Saturday.

They voted to borrow up to $400,000 to put sewage and water on privately owned land in the hope that businesses will locate there – and bring tax money and jobs.

The $400,000 allows Groveton to seek another $600,000 in federal funds.

If that federal grant comes through the total of $1 million would be used to install water and sewage on the redeveloped site of the old paper mill.

Flickr/Wistech Colleges

A $340,000 program opens Friday in the North Country to introduce high school students and adults to a job they probably never knew existed: computer-controlled machining.

“There’s a dire need of CNC operators above the notch,” says Mike Currier, the manager of the Rotobec plant in Littleton. Its products include machinery for the forestry industry.

A mix of 12 Republicans and Democrats from the North Country agreed on the need to pass a bill that would continue Medicaid for the next two years.

That reflected the tone at the House on Wednesday, where HB 1696  passed 216 - 145, NHPR’s Paige Sutherland reported.

Flicker CC /

Tuesday Lancaster voters on a 113-to-8 vote gave the select board permission to borrow up to $320,000 for solar arrays that would generate 121 kilowatts.

However, rebates could lower the cost to about $243,000, town officials have said.

Town officials predict going solar will save the town about $25,000 a year. That’s about 25 percent of the town’s total energy cost.

It was estimated it could take about 15 years to pay for the equipment, but one town official said if the rebates come through and drop the price to about $243,000 it would be much quicker.

Fish and Game

Three days after a Groveton man was found dead at the scene of a snowmobile crash, investigators are still trying to learn more about what happened.

About 7 p.m. on Saturday a snowmobile rider stopped at a house on Nash Stream Road, reported there was a crash “up the road” and left without providing any additional information, said Conservation Officer Glen Lucas.

About an hour later, searchers found the body of 51-year-old Paul Fortin alone on Corridor 5.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Town meetings are being held throughout the state and this year the most important – and unusual - in the North Country is in Groveton.

Saturday, Groveton taxpayers will decide whether to spend money to help provide sewage and water for a privately owned industrial development in the hope of bringing jobs to the hard-luck town.

“This is probably the best chance the town’s got to get something going,” says Selectman Jim Tierney, Jr.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Northern Pass has invested $2 million in the Balsams, developer Les Otten said Monday night at a public hearing in Colebrook, according to a transcript released by a spokesman.

Otten said the money came through Northern Pass’ Forward NH Plan, there were no strings attached and there is the potential for “a more substantial investment.”

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The Ride the Wilds ATV network covers about 1,000 miles in the North Country and now a new ATV group in Jefferson is looking at getting in on the economic action.

At a meeting last week, members of the Jefferson ATV club said a link to Ride the Wilds might draw tourists to local businesses.

But club president Roy Parkhurst said the first step was seeing how residents feel about the prospect.

“It is a proposal. There is nothing written in stone here. You people are going to decide whether we have trails in the town,” he said.

Fish and Game

One person was killed and three others were injured Saturday in separate snowmobile crashes, according to Fish and Game.

It is the second death in two weeks.

The fatality occurred in Stark, where Paul Fortin, 51, of Groveton was pronounced dead at the scene, said Conservation Officer Glen Lucas. 

Lucas said a snowmobile rider knocked on the door of a house in Stark about 6:30, said a man had been injured, and help should be sent “just up the road.”

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Officials in the North Country are fighting a bill that would take a tax break designed to encourage business to locate in economically troubled Coos County and offer it statewide.

In 2008, as Coos staggered from the closing of paper plants, the state approved a bill proposed by Rep. Fred King of Colebrook that would provide a tax break for business-related construction – assuming the local jurisdiction approved.

Courtesy NH Fish and Game

Update: Fish and Game officials have identified the hiker as 54-year-old Timothy Hallock of Orient New York.

A dead hiker was found Sunday on the Castle Ravine Trail between Mt. Adams and Mt. Jefferson, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Two hikers found the body of a middle-aged man between Mt. Adams and Mt. Jefferson, said Lt. Wayne Saunders who notified officials.

Saunders said officers found nothing suspicious at the scene and the medical examiner will be determining the cause of death.

Plymouth State University

Plymouth State University is reorganizing its Center for Rural Partnerships to provide more resources to help communities and businesses. And it gets a name change: now it will be the Center for Business and Community Partnerships.

But the big difference is that resources from throughout the university will be available, says Donald Birx, who took over last year as president.

That help ranges from arts and technology to health and human enrichment, tourism, environment and sustainable development, Birx says.

“Now, we’ve broadened the scope immensely.”

A Rhode Island man was killed in a snowmobile accident Saturday and two other men were injured in separate crashes, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

The fatality occurred in Lincoln on the Power Line Trail near Bog Pond, said Lt. James Kneeland.

Kneeland said 29-year-old Jordan F. Desousa of Warwick died of injuries before he could be transported to a hospital.

Kneeland said it appears Desousa hit a water bar across the trail, lost control of his snowmobile and hit a tree.

A 31-year-old man suffering from hypothermia and a leg injury was rescued late Friday afternoon from Mount Cardigan in Orange, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Mark Ireland of Somerville fell as he was leaving the summit and couldn’t walk, said Lt. James Kneeland, of Fish and Game.

Kneeland said Ireland was hiking alone, lacked much of the winter gear needed for safe travel and was lucky that several other hikers found him.

He was later carried off the mountain by rescuers and taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

A 65-year-old Nashua man who died hiking the Franconia Ridge on February 13 suffered a heart attack, the state’s medical examiner says.

Maxim Raykin was with four companions when he collapsed near the summit of Little Haystack Mountain.

His companions failed to revive him and helped carry the body down the Falling Waters Trail where they were met by rescuers.

Fish and Game said Raykin was an experienced hiker who was well equipped and had hiked the Franconia Ridge many times.

h080 / Flickr/cc

Lancaster could become the first town in the North Country to extensively use solar energy to help cover its electric costs. But that’s contingent on getting an okay from voters next month.

The proposal, going before voters at the March town meeting, would pay for a series of solar panels providing about 121 kilowatts, says town planner Ben Gaetjens-Oleson.

“We’re looking at placing three solar arrays at two locations, one at the transfer station, one at the waste-water lagoon to run the aerators and one also at the lagoons for the chlorinator building," he said.

Chris Jensen for NHPR


A 45-year-old Massachusetts woman suffered serious injuries Monday afternoon when her snowmobile crashed in Pittsburg, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Laura King of Danvers lost control of her snowmobile – apparently when she inadvertently accelerated - and hit some trees adjacent to the trail she was riding on.

She suffered injuries described as severe but not life threatening.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The North Country is pinning its much of its hope for an economic boost on the effort to reopen the Balsams Resort, but a tourism official says the region should have a Plan B.

“I would really encourage the development of two strategies," says Gloria Bruce, the executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association.

“One, in the event that the Balsams were to open, which I think would be fantastic, what does that look like, what are the outcomes, what do we need to plan for.”

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The warm winter is having a terrible impact on businesses tied to snowmobiles and logging, says Wayne Frizzell the president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce and a Colebrook native.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The redevelopment of the Balsams will take another step forward soon, says Ed Brisson, an official with Dixville Capital LLC.

“In the next couple of weeks we will be coming in with ski area site plan approval as well as, we anticipate coming in with plans for renovating Dix and Hampshire House,” he said.

Those plans would go before the Coos Planning Board, which must approve them before work can begin.

"We are actually looking to put a shovel in the ground sometime this summer," he said.

He said there would be a series of applications in the coming months.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Federal regulators say that the circus tent that collapsed during a storm last year in Lancaster killing a father and daughter and injuring dozens of others hadn’t been put up properly.

Walker International Events, which ran the circus, is being cited for 14 “serious” violations of safety standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says.

Those violations include not properly anchoring the tent stakes.

Courtesy of New Hampshire Fish and Game

Two teenagers from Amesbury, Massachusetts were  rescued Wednesday after their snowmobiles broke through the ice and were partially submerged, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Jacob Bent and Victoria Holbrook, both 17, were crossing the First Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg at about 1 p.m. when their machines broke through the first layer of ice, sank about three feet and then came to rest on another layer of more solid ice, said Conservation Officer Eric Fluette.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A three-day sled dog race scheduled to start Thursday has been cancelled due to a lack of snow in the North Country.

“Honestly I’ve never seen a winter this bad since I moved up here and started running sled dogs," said Jaye Foucher, one of the organizers of The Great North Woods Sled Dog Challenge who has lived in the North Country for 13 years.

"I had hoped that the winter would turn around," she said.

The event was scheduled to start in Bretton Woods and then move to Colebrook, Pittsburg and Milan.

A lack of snow in the North Country has forced the cancellation of the 24th Annual SnoDeo at Coleman State Park, according to organizers.

Although many trails are open in the area, an official from the Swift Diamond Riders Snowmobile Club said it doesn’t look like enough snow will fall before March 3 and 4th to make the event  feasible.

A main feature of the event has been snowmobile test rides from four manufacturers.

It is the first cancellation since the event - which provides an economic boost to the area - began in 1993.

A 30-year-old Seabrook man was killed Monday afternoon in a snowmobile crash near Pittsburg, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Eric Tatarinowicz lost control of his snowmobile in a turn and struck a tree about five miles north of Back Lake Road, said Conservation Officer Glen Lucas.

Efforts by his companions to revive him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

An autopsy was planned Sunday for a Nashua man who died Saturday while hiking on the Franconia Ridge Trail, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

However, it could take several weeks for the results, said Lt. James Kneeland.

Maxim Raykin, 65, collapsed about 11 a.m. near the summit of Little Haystack Mountain while hiking with four companions, Kneeland said.

“Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.  He was carried from the exposed ridge by his companions, down the Falling Waters Trail to escape the treacherous weather,” Kneeland said.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

If the voting in Bethlehem is typical it could be a very busy day at the polls in the North Country.

“The turnout has been phenomenal. People are coming out in droves," says Ellen Roy, a supervisor of the checklist. “We had so many new voters, people that have never voted before, across the board in age.”

And that was all before 1 p.m.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

At Dixville Notch the traditional midnight primary voting took less than a minute for the ballots to be cast by the four Republicans, four independents and one Democrat.

Moderator Tom Tillotson announced the results.

“On the Republican side we have for Donald J. Trump two. For John R. Kasich we have three. On the Democratic side we have four votes cast for Bernie Sanders. None for Hillary.”

The vote took place at the shuttered Balsams Resort. Most of the voters in previous years moved away after the resort closed late in 2011.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

It’s roughly 10 degrees on Saturday morning at the Mahoosuc Inn in Milan and about 200 sled dogs are yowling and barking, making it clear it is time to race.

There are 17 teams entered in the Mahoosuc 100 and each has 12 incredibly impatient, excited dogs.

The mushers move among them. There are hugs and licks.

And, preparation.

The dogs throw themselves against their harnesses and are so eager to go that an ATV is hooked to the back of each sled to hold the dogs back as they approach the starting line.