Emily Corwin

Southern New Hampshire Reporter

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. 

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Emily Corwin / NHPR

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.

Garage Enthusiasts

Brookings Institution

The Brookings Institution has ranked NHTI – Concord’s Community College -- as the nation’s most value-added two-year college.

The report compares how well two and four-year colleges boost student’s economic outcomes. That’s in contrast to many college rankings, which assess schools’ ability to attract top students.

Brookings Fellow Jonathan Rothwell says the study focused on alumni’s midcareer salaries, their occupations, and their ability to repay student loans.  

https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Strafford_County,_New_Hampshire_Genealogy

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.

gavel
SalFalko, Mentus Media / Flickr Creative Commons

 

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.

 

How It Works Now

Emily Corwin / NHPR

  Congressman Frank Guinta worked the counter -- and met with lobbyists from the National Association of Convenience Stores during a stop at Cumberland Farms in Portsmouth.

He said he would work to make sure compliance with federal regulations like the new food labelling law isn’t unwieldy for convenience stores:

I will now,  when I’m back in Washington,  take a look at the current rule. And there’s legislation to fix that – proposed legislation -- so I’m going to take a look at all of that.

dla3lat at MarineTraffic.com

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a report including details about a 2013 collision between a 473 foot cargo tanker docked in Portsmouth and the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge.

The authors report the vessel needed maintenance and was not adequately attached at the wharf.

New Hampshire Director of Ports and Harbors, Geno Marconi, says he knew the port was not responsible, because saw the collision from the dock:

Wikimedia Commons

Allegiant Air's flights will arrive and depart as scheduled at Portsmouth's airport at Pease.

 The Teamsters International Airline division had planned to strike Thursday beginning at 3 a.m.

The strike was stalled when Allegiant Air was granted a temporary restraining order against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1224, which represents the Allegiant pilots.

Wikimedia Commons

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.”

Emily Corwin / NHPR

  Governor Hassan paid a visit to the fourth graders in Hampton Falls who proposed a bill naming the Red Tailed Hawk the state’s official raptor.

The raptor bill failed a couple weeks ago after a debate in the House in which one representative invoked abortion and others called the bill frivolous.  

Now, Sen. Jeff Woodburn says he'll attach the raptor language to a bill naming the bobcat the state's official wildcat to "right a serious wrong."

On Tuesday in the Lincoln Akerman school library, Governor Hassan addressed the fourth graders.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

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."

Sara Plourde

  On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill repealing a law that would create a 25 foot buffer zone around facilities where abortions are performed.

The bill follows a Supreme Court decision striking down similar law in Massachusetts.

The New Hampshire law never went into effect after it was challenged in Federal court.

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Kathleen Souza, is an anti-abortion demonstrator. She says she would have introduced the bill even absent a Supreme Court decision.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

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.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

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.

It's Lonely In Here

Hasbro

  The boardgame company Hasbro has announced Portsmouth will be a property the new “Here and Now, US Edition” Monopoly gameboard.

The new board is being released in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the original Monopoly boardgame. Cities on the new gameboard received over 4 million votes on the website Buzzfeed.

Portsmouth Mayor Bob Lister facetiously says he’s sure Portsmouth’s place on the gameboard will bring a lot of awareness to the public about Monopoly. 

Emily Corwin / NHPR

A new state prison for women, originally slated to open in the fall of 2016, is running $12 million over budget and will be delayed by one year.

The building was supposed to cost $38 million and take two years to build. Contractors broke ground in August.

Now, Jeff Lyons with the Department of Corrections says, “the project is costing more than it was originally anticipated to cost, so we now have to look at our options.” 

Town of Rye

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.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

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.

Tom Vagliery via Flickr CC

On Wednesday members of the House will vote on a bill that prohibits minors from using tanning facilities. 

The bill requires indoor tanning operators to obtain proof that customers are over the age of 18. They would also have to sign a consent form acknowledging the risks of indoor tanning.

The American Pediatric Association and the World Health Organization’s Cancer research agency have recommended the measure. It’s already law in nine other states and the District of Columbia.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 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.

Ibew Fairpoint via Flickr CC

New Hampshire FairPoint workers who have been on strike since October will vote on a new labor agreement Saturday. Ratification meetings will take place in both Manchester and Portsmouth.

Vermont workers cast their on Friday; Maine workers will follow suit on Sunday.

The new agreement comes after more than a month of negotiations led by a federal mediator.

 

Union representatives say ratification of the contract will be announced Sunday night. If successful, more than 1,700 striking workers could be back to work as early as next week.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

  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?”

University of New Hamshire

  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."

NHPR Staff

  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.

Karima Nabulsi owns Karima's Kitchen, a specialty food and catering company that operates out of Eastman's Corner Farmstand in Kensington, N.H.

Nabulsi moved to the United States from Lebanon when she was 14. Today, she uses produce from Seacoast-area farms to make traditional Lebanese food.

Listen to the audio postcard below to hear her recipe for spinach fatayer: a Lebanese finger-food.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

As the third major snowstorm in two weeks moves out of New England, exhaustion is setting in for plow drivers.

Some private and public plow drivers say they are putting in as many as 40 hours without a night’s rest here in Southern New Hampshire.

The Director of Public Works in Portsmouth says back to back storms like this happen so rarely, the city doesn’t have written policy limiting shifts for plow drivers.

By John Phelan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Drug courts are supposed to save taxpayers money: one year of intense treatment and supervision costs about a third as much as a year behind bars.

But it still requires money, up front.

Now, after squeezing four years out of a federal startup grant, Rockingham County is wrestling over how to fund the program.

Durham town administrators and University police are preparing for 5,000 UNH students to flood Durham’s downtown after the Patriots play the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Town Administrator Todd Selig says in years past, inebriated college students have wreaked havoc downtown – especially when local sports teams play in high profile games. 

Most students are responsible, says Selig.

Nevertheless, Durham police have sent letters to local businesses, “encouraging them to bring inside tables, chairs, trash receptacles,” says Selig.

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.

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