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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There's been plenty of news in New Hampshire's North Country this year, from the Gorham mill to the Berlin prison, from the towers proposed for Northern Pass to the tragedy of Celina Cass.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen talks with All Things Considered host Brady Carlson about the big North Country stories of 2011.

State officials have rejected a complaint by the Northern Pass hydro-electric project that it should have been allowed to buy land near the Balsams resort. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

 

Earlier this month the Tillotson Corp. agreed to sell a conservation easement on about 5,800 acres and a right-of-way to the Society for The Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

The selling price was $850,000.

That prompted Northern Pass to complain to the attorney general’s charitable trust section. 

The Northern Pass hydro-electric project says it would like to buy a conservation easement at the Balsams if the Forest Society doesn’t. NHPR’s Chris Jensen

 

Earlier this month the controversial Northern Pass project lost in its bid to use land near the Balsams resort for its power lines.

The Tillotson Corporation rejected Northern Pass’ $2.2 million offer.

Instead it agreed to sell a conservation easement for $850,000 to The Forest Society.

That easement covers about 5,800 acres. It seems to have effectively blocked Northern Pass in that area.

Gallus Endorses Romney

Dec 22, 2011

Sen. John Gallus (R-Berlin) has endorsed Mitt Romney, according to a news release from the Romney campaign.

The release quoted Gallus as saying:

“In 2012 Republicans need to nominate a candidate who can defeat President Obama and reverse the damage caused by his disastrous fiscal policies. Over the past several months, Governor Romney has clearly demonstrated that he is the most qualified candidate and the strongest Republican to take on the President.”

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A Berlin steel company that is in bankruptcy is negotiating with several buyers and a sale is possible early next year.

 

Earlier this year Isaacson Structural Steel filed for Chapter 11 voluntary bankruptcy protection.

In a court filing it said it owed about $3 million to its top 20 creditors.

William Gannon is a Manchester bankruptcy lawyer working with Isaacson.

“Isaacson is currently negotiating with several interested parties," he said. "The negotiations have reached the point where draft asset purchase agreements have been exchanged."

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The Northern Pass project isn’t ready to give up on running its power lines near the Balsams Resort in the Dixville Notch.

Earlier this month the Tillotson Corp. announced it was selling a conservation easement for about 5,800 acres of land around the Balsams to the Forest Society.

That would block the attempts by Northern Pass to run its electric towers through the area.

Northern Pass also wanted to buy part of the land.

The Public Utilities Commission has approved a deal that should keep five, small biomass plants around the state operating. But PSNH customers are paying for it. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

 

Despite the objections of the state’s consumer advocate the Public Utilities Commission okayed a deal that has Public Service of New Hampshire buying electricity from five small biomass plants for about two years.

The deal is expected to at least temporarily keep the small, struggling plants in business.

Half of 16 North Country representatives say they will vote against repealing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire.

A bill to do that is expected to come before the legislature next month.

In October the House Judiciary Committee voted to undo the state’s gay marriage law and replace it with civil union (http://news.nhpr.org/post/house-panel-backs-gay-marriage-repeal).

The driver of a tractor trailer that crashed in Whitefield early Tuesday morning was killed when the load of steel being transported shifted and crushed the cab, according to a news release from the state police.

Here’s what police said happened:

“At approximately 5:50 a.m. a 2006 Peterbilt tractor truck was traveling north on Route 116 in Whitefield.  The tractor was pulling a flatbed trailer with a load of steel when the driver lost control on a downhill grade as it approached the junction of Route 3.

Black ice is causing a series of accidents and tricky travel in the North Country Tuesday morning.

The accidents include a tractor-trailer crash in Whitefield at the intersection of Route 3 and 116 where the vehicle was reported in the river.

The first rescue units to arrive reported the driver was “unresponsive.”

There were also two accidents in Bethlehem on Route 116.

 

 

Chris Jensen for NHPR News

Earlier this year the Gorham paper mill re-opened under new ownership.

With about six months of work under its belt, managers and workers are optimistic that paper production will once again be profitable in the North Country. 

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

 

Not so long ago it looked like the North Country would lose its last paper mill.

Eddie DeBlois is a union official.

“I think if we look back to where we were last year at this time we were kind of thinking the best chance of something happening with our mill was demolition.”

Two hikers from Maine were rescued from Mount Chocorua in the White Mountains Monday night, according to a news release from New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Joshua Hayes, 26, and Emily Smith, 27, both from Shapleigh, Maine, underestimated the time it would take to climb the mountain and get back down before dark and then missed a turn, the release said.

The pair had neither lights nor a map but did get a cell signal so they could call for help. Fish and Game got their latitude and longitude from their cell phone and then called and told them to build a fire and wait.

Photo: Chris Jensen / NHPR

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While there are thousands auto body mechanics in the U-S, only a handful have been able to turn their work into a specialized art form.

One of those artists lives in the North Country re-creating some of the world’s most elegant automobiles.

Banging sound

In a shop in Bethlehem Joe Stafford is beating – ever so carefully - an aluminum panel.

A large tract of some of the North Country’s most beautiful terrain has been protected from development. 

A new conservation easement is going to protect land around Pittsburg and the Connecticut River.

“We just today finalized a conservation easement on 2,300 acres up in Pittsburg up around First and Second Connecticut Lakes.”

That’s Jack Savage. He’s a spokesman for The Society for The Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Part of the deal to sell the Balsams resort in Dixville Notch will apparently prevent the Northern Pass from using the land for its electric power lines. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

 

When the Balsams resort was up for sale the Northern Pass utility project was interested.

Northern Pass apparently wanted a right-of-way for the huge towers bringing hydro-electric power from Canada.

But if the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests can raise $850,000 that won’t be happening.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch has been sold. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

 

After two earlier deals fell through the Balsams Resort has been sold.

Tom Deans is the president of the Tillotson Corp. which owned the resort.

“The Tillotson Corp. is proud to announce that it has sold the Balsams Grand Resort to two North Country business leaders, Dan Hebert and Danny Dagesse.

Hebert owns a construction business. Dagasse owned a chain of auto dealerships.

The majority of representatives from Northern Grafton and Coos County – including four Republicans - voted to support Gov. Lynch’s veto of  a Right-to-Work law last week.

As reporter Dan Gorenstein said supporters of the bill that would ban unions from collecting negotiating fees from non-union employees needed a 2/3rds majority to overturn Lynch’s veto (http://news.nhpr.org/post/right-work-defeated).

They didn’t get it.

The hiring for new jobs at the federal prison in Berlin should begin in the middle of December, says Mark Belanger, the manager of New Hampshire Employment Security.

That’s when the job openings will be posted on a government website (www.usajobs.gov), Belanger said during a meeting in Littleton Wednesday night about the kinds of jobs available at the prison and how to apply for them.

The prison is expected to have about 320 employees including about 200 new hires.

(Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolkenkratzer/3451977163/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Wolkenkratzer</a> via Flickr Creative Commons)

NHPR's Chris Jensen reports on the Molar Express, a non-profit program engineered to delivery basic dental care to North Country kids. 

Almost one fourth of Coos teens - girls and boys - say they have “at least one alcohol or drug-use related problem,” according to a new report.

The research was conducted by The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire and was based on 564 youths.

The information was gathered during 2008 when they were in either the seventh and eleventh grades and then researchers followed up the following year.

New Hampshire Fish and Game is accepting nominations for its annual awards honoring organizations or individuals for achievements in “wildlife, fisheries, open land and wild places.”

Here are the seven categories:

     1. Ellis R. Hatch Jr. Commission Award of Excellence -- Recognizes an

individual, group, organization, club, foundation or agency that has excelled in

efforts to promote, enhance or benefit fish, wildlife or marine resources or the

Department’s mission. 

 

Photos courtesy of the familes. Composite by NHPR

 

Under federal law the Occupational Health and Safety Administration is responsible for making sure workers are protected on the job.

But the federal agency rarely scrutinizes the North Country.

As NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports, it’s raising questions about how well workers are protected on the job.

 On the morning of May 14th in 2010 Jesse Kennett headed off to his new job at the Black Mag plant in Colebrook.

 That’s where he would be making a gunpowder substitute for use in replicas of muzzle-loading rifles.

 

With 200 new jobs available at the federal prison in Berlin a group of organizations from the North Country is offering a series of free meetings through the North Country to provide details and help applicants.

 The two-hour meeting will include presentations from officials with the New Hampshire Employment Security, The Gorham Family Resource Center and the White Mountains Community College.

While the jobs are seen as having good pay and benefits the application process can be tricky since much of it must be done on the Internet.

The Union Leader reports a Littleton businessman fighting with the town over a right-to-know request is likely to take his case to the state’s Supreme Court.

 Here’s part of the Union Leader’s story:

 “Littleton pizza shop owner Demetrios “Jim” Sourgiadakis alleges he was one of 13 merchants police officers and their union targeted for boycott last spring in a dispute over the proposed annual town budget.

On Monday, Nov. 28thCongressman Charlie Bass will hold a “senior health-care forum” in Littleton with experts to answer questions about Medicare and Social Security benefits.

There will also be free flu shots and blood-pressure screenings.

The meeting is from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the Littleton Opera House, which is located at 2 Union Street. 

NH Cold Case Unit

On the 10th anniversary of a Quebec woman’s murder in the North Country state officials are hoping somebody will remember something than can finally help solve it.

Louise Chaput, a psychologist from Sherbrooke, was visiting the White Mountains to hike and planned to stay at the Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham’s Grant the evening of Nov. 15th, according to the police investigation.

That afternoon she asked an Appalachian Mountain Club employee to suggest a short hike. He recommended the Lost Pond Trail. Chaput, 52, left but then never checked into her room.

The Washington Post is reporting that civil rights groups are opposing an amendment by Sen. Kelly Ayotte that they say would legalize torture.

“In a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, more than 30 groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that Ayotte’s amendment to a defense bill would legalize torture and other cruelties by rolling back restrictions that Congress overwhelmingly approved in 2005,” the newspaper reported in a story by the Associated Press.

A two-hour meeting for people who want to know more about jobs at the new federal prison in Berlin will be held Monday, November 28th.

The meeting will include presentations from officials the New Hampshire Employment Security, The Gorham Family Resource Center and the White Mountains Community College.

Those North-Country groups have also put together classes to help those who are interested with the somewhat complex application process.

About 30 crafters and artisans from the North Country will be showing their work at the 11thAnnual Craft Fair this Saturday at the Great Glen Trails Lodge in Pinkham Notch.

The displays will include wood workers, jewelry, a spinning demonstration, fused glass, photography and holiday decorations, said Mary Power, the event director at Great Glen.

In addition there will be a bake sale and raffle to benefit the Great Glen Bill Koch Youth Ski League.

The fair (which is free) is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The lodge is located on Route 16. 

Before the end of the year the Ammonoosuc Region of Habitat for Humanity will have its third house finished and a family living in it, says Chuck McLure of Lancaster.

The North Country group’s first home was finished in 2009 in Littleton. A house in Whitefield followed last year.

The family that will live in – and pay for – the Bethlehem home is from Bethlehem, McLure said.

He said next year the group hopes to build in Coos.

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