Emily Corwin covers news in Southern New Hampshire, and reports on the state's criminal justice system. She's also one of eight dedicated reporters with the New England News Collaborative, a consortium of public media newsrooms across New England.
For over ten years, the city of Portsmouth has been trying to decide whether and where to build a second downtown parking garage. On Monday night, city councilors voted unanimously to bond a $23 million new garage.
Of the 150 or so people who packed City Hall, more than 50 testified in favor of the garage; four testified against it. Pressure was on for the three city councilors who had indicated uncertainty over the project.
The mayors of Dover, Somersworth and Rochester have created a commission to pool municipal resources.
As cities go, these cities are on the small side, with populations from 12,000 to 30,000. Rochester Mayor T.J. Jean says he hopes together, the tri-city commission can find economies of scale through collective purchasing and other measures.
"Each community is going to send two representatives to bring ideas and discuss ideas on how we might be able to work together so we aren’t all spending the same amount of money on the same things," he says.
For more than a decade leaders in New Hampshire’s courts have been trying to modernize the state’s judicial system. In 2001 they began a major effort to digitized files. More recently, they’ve consolidated the lower courts.
On Thursday, the House begins hearings on an effort to speed up felony prosecutions.
Although the bill would create a trial phase in just two counties, debate over the proposed change is rippling through the state’s criminal justice community.
A labor dispute between the Las Vegas airline Allegiant Air and its pilots could affect passengers flying out of Portsmouth Airport.
Allegiant Air is the only commercial airline serving Portsmouth International. Airport manager Bill Hopper says airline let him know that its pilots’ union, Teamsters International, is planning to strike at 3am Thursday morning.
For now, Hopper says, the airport is planning business as usual “and we’ll see how things are in the morning.”
Soon Granite Staters may be able to buy refillable beer growlers not only at breweries, but at restaurants and retailers.
A bill that succeeded in the House heads to the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday.
The growler license would cost $240 and is limited to liquor licenses that sell at least 200 beer labels. Prime sponsor, Representative Kermit Williams says "we’re hoping is if a restaurant wants to do this they would become more of a craft beer specialist."
Last year, 29 year old Robert Wilson was accused of a felony-level crime and faced the possibility of three and a half to seven years in prison. On Monday, after representing himself “pro se," the jury found him not guilty.
Generally speaking, this doesn’t happen. Litigants represent themselves frequently in civil court, but rarely do criminal defendants argue by themselves before a jury. Wilson had even refused stand-by council.
While addiction and related crimes are on the rise in Grafton County, the county’s Drug Court is struggling to fill enough seats. That’s even though clients who get a drug court offer can avoid incarceration, get access to affordable high-level addiction-treatment programs, and often have their conviction vacated after completion.
Some Seacoast towns voted down major capital projects, although residents in New Castle, it turns out, will have a second chance at one of their warrant articles.
In Rye, residents voted not to spend $4 million dollars to renovate their town hall. In North Hampton, a simple majority favored a $7 million new library, and safety complex: but a super majority was needed to pass the measure.
To function, town governments in New Hampshire rely on an informed citizenry. But getting informed can be overwhelming. Deliberative sessions take all day, warrant articles can be technical and hard to understand, and candidates can be numerous.
Now, civic-minded residents are finding ways to help.
On Wednesday the New Hampshire House will vote on whether schools should be able to compel students to disclose their social media activity.
The bill bans schools from demanding access to a student’s user name and password or requiring students to “friend” school officials on Facebook.
It would apply to private and public schools, K through colleges and universities. Prime Sponsor, Merrimack Rep Katherine Rogers says schools that demand access to a student’s social media accounts without a search warrant are denying that student the civil right to privacy.
The city of Portsmouth has been hauling snow from town and dumping it on Peirce Island, just across from the Naval Shipyard. But now, Public Works Director Peter Rice says the island is filling up.
Everything but the road is covered in mountains of snow on Peirce Island. At the very end of the road, a snow pile towers two or three stories high. If you peer over the hill to the park below – you see the pile doubles in size.
“This is unprecedented. We’ve never seen this before, like this. This has been amazing,” Lister revels.
The NH House is backing a bill that seeks to remove a potential financial incentive for county prosecutors who pursue liquor law violations.
The bill is fallout from mismanagement in the office of former Rockingham County Attorney, Jim Reams. Among other things, the state accused Reams of misusing fees his office collected while prosecuting liquor violations. Reams said current law allowed him to collect and spend the liquor fines.
The N.H. House is again hearing arguments to make marijuana possession punishable by civil penalties, not criminal.
Tuesday at a Criminal Safety Committee hearing crowded with supporters, cosponsor Representative Joe LaChance argued New Hampshire is the only state with criminal penalties for simple possession.
“What’s the repercussion for that person who may not be able to afford college? Now he has a marijuana conviction, and according to federal law, you may not be eligible for student loans, public housing. What have we done to that person for the rest of their life?”
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire say it’s not just bad diets and little exercise causing rising rates of obesity and diabetes. In fact, synthetic chemicals used in household items like couches and carpet padding may play a part in both of those conditions.
When Nutritional Scientist Gale Carey at UNH exposed healthy rats to high doses of flame retardant chemicals, and then inspected their fat tissue, she found that "metabolically, chemically, it behaves like it's from an animal that is obese. But the animal is not obese."
After working triple and quadruple shifts plowing the roads in Portsmouth, public workers in Portsmouth climb into garbage trucks for regular trash removal.
Public Works Director Peter Rice says storms and snow make even trash pickup a trying endeavor. "People are trying to pass them on these narrow roads while they’re trying to pick up trash,” Rice says. “You know these guysare exhausted, they are stretched thin.”
The Portsmouth Herald’s newspaper delivery crew is also struggling.
As of January 1, cities and towns in N.H. have new teeth to keep landlords from letting their property get messy or run down. On Tuesday, the city of Somersworth put this new authority to use.
Although Somersworth has spent the last year giving itself a makeover by redeveloping much of its downtown, authorities have had a hard time getting some landlords to maintain their properties. It's a problem a lot of communities face.