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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AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

Gorham Paper and Tissue, the last paper plant in the North Country, will soon be operating again – but with far fewer workers...

The plant was closed for about a month while officials considered a new business strategy, but now they have it worked out, said CEO Mike Cummings.

Two of the three paper machines that were running earlier this year will start within the next week or two. They’ll produce tissue paper and the type of paper towels typically found at gas stations, Cummings said.

A Canadian firm plans to open a manufacturing facility in Colebrook and will have at least ten employees by early next year, according to a news release from the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development.

The company, Vaporium Inc.  of Sherbrooke, Quebec, makes electronic cigarettes. The company plans to lease about 7,500 square feet in the Colebrook Industrial Park.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Tighter budgets over the last few years have meant volunteer fire departments in the North Country have been cutting back on making the trip to Concord for training at a state facility. But that will change Friday with the opening of the first fire training facility north of the notches...

It’s something that North Country fire departments have dreamt of for decades, said Jack Anderson, the Bethlehem fire chief.

The man who drowned Friday in the North Country has been identified as William P. Glad, 37, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, according to a news release from the New Hampshire State Police.

Glad was swimming at the Upper Falls of the Ammonoosuc River in what police described as “swift, turbulent water directly adjacent to the falls” when he began yelling for help.

He surfaced again downstream in quieter water but efforts to revive him failed.

Four health centers in the state will be sharing about $921,000 in federal funds to help people with mental illness or substance abuse...

The funds are coming through the Affordable Care Act and they’ll be used at community health centers, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said Thursday.

Those centers are:

* Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth: $250,000.

* Harbor Homes in Nashua: $250,000.

* Manchester Community Health Center: $250,000.

* City of Manchester: $171,360.

The Northern Pass project was one of the topics covered during a debate Wednesday on WGIR among three candidates seeking the Republican nomination in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District to oppose incumbent Democrat Ann McLane Kuster this fall.

State Representative Marilinda Garcia of Salem said she visited the North Country recently and recognizes the opposition and concerns about the project involving private property rights and the benefits going to other states. 

Chris Jensen for NHPR

At 7:30 in the morning on the 4th of July Magdalena Randall is in her kitchen in Lancaster with mixing bowls, dough, a large baking oven and a dream...

Many people in the North Country couldn’t tell you her real name. To them she’s The Polish Princess, purveyor of European-style bread.

Randall started baking about six years ago. It was a way to supplement the family income and she missed the kind of bread she grew up eating in Poland.

She had zero experience but did some research and gave it a shot.

Faced with increasingly worrisome economic challenges, four North Country hospitals said Monday they have signed an agreement to work together to try and find ways to “improve quality, increase efficiencies and lower cost of health care delivery in the region.”

The hospitals said their problems range from growing healthcare costs to Medicaid payments that don’t always cover services provided to the poor.

And, the situation has been getting worse, said Russell Keene, the CEO at Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin.

Rescuers found a missing teenager in the woods near Jefferson just before midnight Monday, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Matthew Darr, who is 19 and has autism, had been staying at the Easter Seals Intensive Residential Treatment Facility in Lancaster.  But about 6:30 pm he ran away from his caregivers when their van stopped near a rest stop on Route 115.

Members of Fish and Game, State Police and local police began searching almost immediately and at one point a search dog from Fish and Game picked up the scent but then lost it in a swampy area.

Safety officials are expecting a large number of ATV enthusiasts will be following trails in the North Country over the holiday weekend and they’re saying safety patrols will be watching for reckless behavior...

The riders are being attracted by the new 1,000-mile network called Ride the Wilds, part of an economic development effort for the North Country.

“I’m asking them to drive safe. To be out there, to think about what they are doing,” said Fish and Game Lieutenant Wayne Saunders.  “Sober is huge.”

Governor Hassan signed a bill Wednesday that keeps about two dozen residents of tiny Millsfield in the North Country from having to pay huge increase in property tax bills...  

Millsfield was facing the increase in the state tax bill because of a deal Coos County commissioners – Paul Grenier, Tom Brady and Bing Judd - made in 2008.

That’s when they decided the value of a newly proposed wind farm –mostly in Millsfield - was $113 million.

  Despite a Supreme Court ruling in their case about a dozen households in tiny Millsfield in the North Country still don’t know whether they’ll be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. But they do know that the state’s highest court concluded Coos County Commissioners were wrong to use a single remark to settle on the value of the Granite Reliable wind farm, which was the subject of the court case...

North Country Events

Jun 19, 2014

The newsletter typically announces events in the next week. The calendar shows you events in the coming months.

Thursday Whitefield 6 PM Country trio Tim Berry, Kerry Smith, Russ Beck

Friday Franconia 4-7 PM
Sunday Littleton 10 AM - 1 PM

  An attempt to boost the economy of the North Country by drawing tourists to a 1,000-mile network of ATV trails is getting a boost itself as the federal government is providing about $152,000.

 “This is a tremendous shot in the arm for the 'Ride the Wilds' marketing program,” said Harry Brown, the president of New Hampshire Off Highway Vehicle Association.

Tourism is a huge part of the economy in the North Country and many of those tourists head to the upper reaches of the Connecticut near Pittsburg.

But those going up to fish for trout have noticed the river is lower than usual, Cindy Howe, one of the owners of the Tall Timber Lodge in Pittsburg said earlier this week.

“Well, right now the water coming out of the three dams which affect the fishing in the area is quite low. TransCanada has reduced the flows substantially and it is making it a little bit tougher on the fishing,” she said.

A family from Michigan is behind a newly opened brewery in the North Country.  Schilling Beer Company is located in an old grist mill next to the Ammonoosuc River in Littleton.

That fulfills the Cozzens' family dream of one day having such a business, said CEO Jeff Cozzens.  He and brothers Matt and Stuart, parents, Bruce and Kathy and a best friend, John Lenzini, opened The Schilling Beer Company last September.

It’s named for a grandfather, Richard Schilling.



The key to the new “Ride The Wilds” ATV trails network in the North Country is allowing riders to use some roads to get into towns and reach food, fuel and lodging, thus boosting the region’s economy.  But that’s part of a nationwide trend that has some safety researchers worried.


“At this point in the United States more ATV deaths are happening on roads than are happening off-road,” says Rachel Weintraub, a researcher with the Consumer Federation of America. 

Bike road racing is an expensive sport typically associated with prep schools. But, on a May afternoon, a North Country school is challenging that tradition as bike racers from around the state wheel away from Profile School in Bethlehem.

Soon they are huffing and puffing with youthful grit up Route 117 into Sugar Hill.

It is a long climb.

And it is only going to get worse.

At Blake Road they take a sharp right. Then, as the corner unfolds they see another hill so steep it looks like somebody painted a road on a wall.

About 51 percent of the wood purchased for the new Burgess BioPower biomass plant in Berlin during its first two months of operation came from New Hampshire, according to a new “sustainability” report filed with the state’s Site Evaluation Committee.

Thirty-five percent came from Maine.

Five percent from Vermont.

Eight percent from Massachusetts.

And "one truck load" came from Canada.

It would be easy to miss Millsfield. The unincorporated place in the North Country is home to 10 households, many of which are tucked away in the woods, and just two businesses, a bed and breakfast called A Peace of Heaven and the Log Haven restaurant.

“Electricity didn’t show up until the 60s,” said Luc Cote, who’s lived in Millsfield for roughly forty years. “Phone line didn’t come up until mid-60s as well.”

If Maine entrepreneur Les Otten can expand the ski area of the closed Balsams resort he says it would create about 1,000 full or part-time jobs.

That’s something the region desperately needs. But it isn’t clear whether Otten has the money or can work through a regulatory tangle including safety issues.

The issue is being raised after Otten said he would like to work with Dan Hebert and Dan Dagesse, the owners of the closed resort.

One issue is a safety concern. Can the huge blades on the 410-foot tall turbines throw chunks of ice far enough to endanger skiers?

Following the rescue of a 75-year-old man from Bond Cliff in The White Mountains safety officials are warning that while it is beginning to look like spring around the state it can still be winter in the mountains.

The man, David Humphrey of Falmouth, had had planned to cover 21 miles from the Crawford Notch to the Lincoln Woods trail on Sunday.

That would require following the Bondcliff Trail which crosses several 4,000 footers but he was only equipped for a day hike.

North Country representatives were almost evenly split along party lines on whether to increase the gas tax for the first time in more than two decades.

As NHPR’s Josh Rogers reports on Wednesday Senate Bill 367 passed on a vote of 193-141. That means the state’s tax on gas and diesel will increase 4.2 cents, the first increase to the current 18-cents per gallon since 1991.

The New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority has awarded grants to three North Country towns – Stewartstown, Errol and Pittsburg – as well as Coos County and the city of Berlin.

And, the total of $2 and one-quarter million dollars is the most the North Country has received since the program began roughly thirty years ago, says Kevin Flynn, an official with the agency.

The money will go for work including repairs to water systems and low-income housing.

The grant money comes from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Codet Incorporated, a Canadian firm, is expanding its Colebrook plant including hiring 25 new employees.

“They plan to almost double the size of their operation,” said Michael Bergeron, an official with the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development.

Currently the firm has 28 employees.

Codet also plans to roughly double the size of its building, which is almost 12,000 square feet.

The amount of the investment wasn’t available.

The expansion is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Later this year North Country veterans will no longer have to travel to White River Junction for V.A. medical care: Clinics are now planned for Berlin and Colebrook.

The decision comes after several years of lobbying by the state’s Congressional delegation.

“Our North Country veterans are frequently confronted with travel of more than 130 miles and trips of two to three hours in duration,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Jeanne Shaheen and Representatives Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster wrote the department last year.

Hearings before the state’s Site Evaluation Committee to decide whether to widen portions of a road leading to wind turbines in the North Country should be held in Coos County and not Concord, says Peter Roth, a senior assistant attorney general who represents the public interest before the S.E.C.

It is unfair to require interested citizens to travel to Concord, Roth wrote in a motion filed Monday. The trip can take three hours in good weather and it is expensive if an overnight stay is needed.

The White Mountain School



  The Vermont man accused of killing a California woman during a chance encounter in Littleton is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. And, he has agreed to be placed in the psychiatric ward of the state prison.

Rodney Hill was charged with second degree murder in the death of 70-year-old Catherine Houghton, a trustee of the White Mountain School, who was visiting for a board meeting in January 2013.

Houghton and Hill had a chance encounter in the lobby of The Hampton Inn and Hill fatally stabbed Houghton.


The company that owns the wind farm near the Balsams is open to reducing the buffer zone between its wind turbines and the slopes, a key to a developer’s plan to  greatly expand  the size of the ski resort.

"As long as it is safe, we have no problems," Brookfield Renewable Power lawyer Harold Pachios said late Monday.

Maine entrepreneur Les Otten would like to quadruple the size of the Balsams ski area and reopen the hotel.

But Otten’s plan to make the ski runs longer requires skiers to get closer to the tops of mountains where the wind farm has turbines.

Two snowmobilers were rescued early Sunday morning in the North Country after their machines bogged down in deep snow, leaving them stranded, according to a news release from New Hampshire Fish and Game.

A 911 cellular call asking for help came about 10:30 Saturday night, said Conservation Office Chris Egan.

The callers couldn’t be reached in a return call, but it appeared the call came from an area near Pittsburg. Groomers from local clubs were notified and Egan headed to the area on his snowmobile.