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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North Country representatives were evenly split on a bill  Gov. Lynch said would allow lenders to charge an annual percentage rate of 400 percent interest. 

Senator John Gallus (Republican) of Berlin voted against the bill.

Four reps were excused from voting.

On Friday Gov. Lynch vetoed that bill, Senate Bill 160.

Fire officials say one person died yesterday in a house fire on Swiftwater Road in Woodsville.

The fire was reported about 3 p.m. and while fighting the fire a body was found on the second floor of the home, according to a news release from the state fire marshal’s office.

The positive identification of the victim and autopsy results are pending.

Fire officials said they didn’t find any working smoke alarm on either the first or second floor of the home.

As reported by NHPR the Senate recently delayed action on three gun bills.

The bills had already passed the House.

Here’s how sixteen representatives from the North Country voted before the bills went to the Senate.

House Bill 536which would allow carrying a concealed gun without getting a special permit.

It passed 193 – 122.

In six years a North Country group has helped low and moderate income families get more than two million dollars in tax refunds. Now the free service is underway again. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Once again the Family Resource Center of Gorham is offering free tax preparation for families and individuals earning no more than $58,000.

Last year a record 422 returns were prepared by trained volunteers.

That gave some for North Country residents a fiscal boost.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The Boston Herald is reporting that a grand jury met in Lancaster last Friday and questioned witnesses about the death of Celina Cass of Stewartstown.

The story quoted two witnesses as saying the questions focused on Wendell Noyes, the stepfather of Celina Cass.

The witnesses were Noyes’ mother, Eunice Richards, and other family members.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A Whitefield firm wants to buy part of Isaacson Steel in Berlin and hopes to save those jobs. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Last year Isaacson Steel in Berlin filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company has about 150 employees in two operations.

One does steel fabrication for buildings.

The other, much smaller operation, sells steel. It has 19 employees.

The smaller operation is what Presby Steel of Whitefield wants to buy.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded its investigation into the crash of a tour bus in Littleton last year saying no action is required.

The crash occurred on March 21stand involved a tour bus carrying 23 Korean tourists, a guide and a driver. It was coming from Canada and was headed for Boston.

An ambitious plan to revitalize Berlin’s downtown and make it the social and economic focus of the city is finished and now officials are looking around for millions of dollars to carry it out.

"The downtown is the heart of the community. If people come through our downtown and don’t feel it is alive the people will pass on and go to another community,” said Sylvia Poulin, the chairperson of the Main Street Program.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A new study says far fewer jobs will be created by the Northern Pass than the utility has forecast, according to StateImpact, a project between NHPR and NPR.

Here’s part of Amanda Loder’s report:

“Today, the New England Power Generators Association released a report it commissioned from PolEcon Research.  The Association is one of the major opponents of the Northern Pass project. 

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Lynne Placey, a North Country woman who’s struggling to make ends meet but has refused to take money from Northern Pass, has been given $2,650 by a group that admires her gumption.

Placey, of Stewartstown, says she turned down an offer of around $500,000 from Northern Pass for a right-of-way on her land although her only income is Social-Security and giving piano lessons.

“She’s a modern-day hero,” said Rikki Ramsden, one of the owners of Atta Girl Records of Thornton, which was behind the fund-raising effort.

Chris jensen for NHPR

The federal government has provided $5 million to help protect some of the most beautiful land in the North Country. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

The U.S. Forest Service is providing $5 million to purchase a conservation easement near Errol.

The money will prevent development but still allow sustainable logging and recreation.

J.T. Horn is an official with the Trust for Public Land. It has been working on the huge, conservation project.

Half of the North Country’s sixteen representatives voted in favor of House Bill 228  which bars any organization that performs elective abortions from receiving any state or federal funds.

Wisconsin lured Kestrel Aircraft away from Maine – and consequently Berlin – with a far stronger, multi-million dollar package, the Portland Press Herald is reporting.

Here’s what the newspaper says each state offered Kestrel.


$30 million in tax credit allocations immediately through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority

$30 million in tax credit allocations by the end of 2012 through the Wisconsin development authority

The Concord Monitor is reporting that a statewide poll shows almost 70 percent of those responding are against the Northern Pass hydro-electric project being able to use eminent domain to get land they need.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A deal to bring the closed Groveton paper mill in the North Country back to life has fallen through raising the possibility it will be demolished. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.


For the North Country there’s been a dream that the old Groveton paper mill would reopen housing some green industry that would provide local jobs.

Last year a businessman from Bath signed a contract to buy it for $2 million, saying he wanted to do just that.

But the deal fell through.

Now the plant is being eyed for another use.

Kestrel Aircraft

The hope for hundreds of new jobs in Berlin making aircraft parts has apparently evaporated. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Last year a new start-up company called Kestrel Aircraft said it was considering building parts in Berlin.

CEO Alan Klapmeier said the plant might be located next to the new biomass plant.

It would use heat from that facility to produce high-tech, composite bodies for the new plane.

That would mean at least 150 to 200 jobs, Klapmeier said.

The six-to-eight passenger plane would be assembled nearby in Maine.

The Forest Society says it has raised the $850,000 needed for a conservation easement at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch. It blocks a right-of-way for the proposed Northern Pass hydro-electric project. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

The Forest Society’s deadline for raising $850,000 for a 5,800-acre conservation easement at the Balsams resort was January 15th.

It raised the money with a record 1,500 contributions.

And, The Forest Society says Northern Pass’ hope to use the land for its electric towers deserves some of the credit.

John Macomber

John D. Judge, who will take over as head of the Appalachian Mountain Club next month, says its priorities will include continued opposition to the Northern Pass project and trying to get more children away from computer games and into the outdoors.

The proposed hydro-electric project would clearly have a detrimental impact on recreation and conservation, said Judge.

Chris jensen for NHPR

Concerns about a government that can’t work together to solve problems and possible cuts to valuable federal programs were top concerns of about a dozen North Country businessmen who met Thursday with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R).

“Our whole society and our economy needs greater confidence,” said Peter Powell, a realtor from Lancaster who attended the meeting held by the North Country Council in Bethlehem.

A newspaper in Duluth, Minn. is reporting that Wisconsin officials have offered Kestrel Aircraft land for an assembly plant, a move that could greatly reduce the chances Kestrel would make parts in Berlin.

But in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon Kate Doughtery, a spokeswoman for Kestrel, told NHPR that no decision has been made on the plant's location.

Last year it looked like Kestrel, a new start-up company, would build the aircraft in Maine.

The Center for Public Integrity has a new report on pollution problems in New England including the Old Town Fuel & Fiber, which is owned by the same company as Gorham Paper and Tissue.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

State officials say they are ending an investigation into a piece of a human skull found in the Eli Wallace Horse Cemetery in Littleton last summer because it doesn’t appear there has been any crime.

In a news release today state officials said Bonnie Stinchfield of Littleton admitted she buried the bone last summer.

“She said that her husband had been in possession of the piece of bone since at least 1988.  He had received the bone from another man who was moving and didn’t want it anymore,” the release said.

The owner of a Colebrook plant that exploded in 2010 faces criminal charges. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Coos County Attorney Robert Mekeel says a grand jury has indicted  Craig Sanborn the owner of the Black Mag plant in Colebrook.

He faces manslaughter and negligent homicide charges for an explosion that killed Jesse Kennett and Donald Kendall.

A third man was badly injured.

The indictments came down late Friday.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials have said they were not aware of the plant before the explosion.

A donor who asked to remain anonymous has contributed $150,000 to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest to help it buy a conservation easement at the Balsams resort in Dixville Notch.

The forest society has a deal with the Tillotson Corp. to buy the easement for $850,000. With a deadline of January 15th it has raised $609,000, according to a news release.

The easement covers about 5,800 acres as well as a right-of-way that the Northern Pass project sought to use for its transmission lines.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Newt Gingrich took jabs at Republican opponent Mitt Romney today/Thursday while making a campaign stop in the North Country. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

About 100 people showed up for the town hall meeting with Gingrich at the Littleton Opera House.

He talked about the economy, the budget. And what he believes president Obama has done wrong, which Gingrich says is a lot.

And he took a big poke at Mitt Romney, typically seen as the Republican front runner.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Newt Gingrich was in Littleton Thursday and he put aside national and international issues for one focused on one of the biggest issues in the North Country: The Northern Pass. 

Like a good politician Newt Gingrich couldn’t have come up with a more popular position at a town meeting at the Littleton Opera House.

It had to do with Northern Pass, the proposed hydro-electric project despised by many in the North Country.

In particular it had to do with the federal government’s consideration of a Presidential Permit.

Three weekly newspapers from the North Country have endorsed Ron Paul for president.

The newspapers are the Littleton Courier, the Coos County Democrat and the Berlin Reporter

The endorsement was made in the January 4th edition.

“We believe the two strongest candidates are Mitt Romney and Ron Paul,” the editorial said.

But then it noted “We feel there is something about Romney that is missing.”

Its praise for Paul included:

Rep. Larry Rappaport (R - Colebrook) led a news conference Tuesday by a handful of legislators in Concord to explain their argument before the Ballot Law Commission that President Obama is not a U.S. Citizen and should not be on the ballot next November. 

Here’s part of it as detailed in a legislative wrap-up story by NHPR’s Dan Gorenstein:

New Hampshire remains the only state that doesn’t require adults to wear seat belts and many of the people killed in the state last year in crashes were thrown from their vehicles.  

By the end of 2011 eighty-eight people had been killed in traffic accidents in the state.

About a quarter of them were either thrown completely from their vehicles or partially ejected, according to state figures.

That means they were probably not wearing seat belts.

“When people are ejected from the vehicles they are two to four times more likely to die in a crash.”

A lot of people hear about "the North Country" but for those want to know more a splendid way to begin 2012 would be with a book called “Beyond the Notches – Stories of Place in New Hampshire’s North Country.”

Fifty essays in 400 pages explore the history, the challenges and the joys of life in the North Country.

One of the editors, Kay Morgan, said the North Country was a logical and compelling subject.