Ryan Lessard

Contributor

Before becoming a reporter for NHPR, Ryan devoted many months interning with The Exchange team, helping to produce their daily talk show.  He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in Manchester with a major in Politics and Society and a minor in Communication Arts. While in school, he also interned for a DC-based think tank. His interests include science fiction and international relations. Ryan is a life-long Manchester resident.

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Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  A bill that would outlaw synthetic drugs like spice and bath salts received strong support as it was introduced to the Senate Commerce Committee.

The bill is cosponsored by more than half the state senate. Lead author, Democratic Senator Molly Kelly, told colleagues she wants to make it harder to buy the drugs without criminalizing the substances overnight.

“We know, and people do know, in our state, that heroin is dangerous. They know that many other drugs are dangerous. But the confusion is: people do not know that synthetic drugs are dangerous.”

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  New Hampshire Fish and Game held a public hearing today on rules to keep hunters from using new, potentially unfair technologies.

The rules would prohibit the use of surveillance drones, so-called smart rifles and live-action game cameras—which send images to hunters’ smart phones—to aid in hunting.

Most who turned out opposed drones and smart rifles.

But several people like Jack Baltz of Freedom thought banning the use of live-action game cameras might be going too far.

David Trawin via Flickr CC

The state Department of Health and Human Services stopped accepting applications for medical marijuana dispensary licenses this afternoon.

As of Wednesday morning, the state had received 14 applications. Though DHHS officials are tightlipped about who applied and for what locations, contract director Eric Borrin says that all four areas of the state are represented.

“A majority of the folks that submitted letters of intent did respond with full applications.”

Three parole officers who planned to seek a license to run one of four medical marijuana dispensaries in the state have pulled out of the application process.

Rex Bunnell and his partners had hoped to run what New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law calls an ‘Alternative Treatment Center’ in Concord. But a financial backer decided not to invest $1.7 million into the venture.

“So they pulled their money out and when they did that, that only gave us a little less than a week to try to come up with a substantial amount of money.”

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Overall, crime is down in the Queen City. By about 6% compared to 2013 if you look at Part 1 crime statistics, which includes violent and property crimes. Coming off of a crime wave in 2013, one might have expected a drop to occur naturally but experts say the drug problem is getting worse.

Targeted efforts by the Manchester Police Department to increase patrols in hot spots and to arrest more street level drug dealers may have played a significant role in the drop in crime.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Following the inauguration ceremonies earlier in the day, the State House was opened to the public last night for children’s activities, music and more. Governor Hassan was on hand to meet with residents and take pictures.

In the State House cafeteria, local businesses showcased their products like apples with edible prints on the skin, toffee and wine stoppers.

While, checking out the trade show, Hassan stops to speak with Mason Parker, a coffee roaster and wholesaler based in Greenfield.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

The A&E Custom Coffee Roastery in Amherst is hosting a latte art throwdown. We decided to learn more about how latte art is made and judged.

Sam Delay really knows his coffee.

“This espresso that we’re using is our bonbon espresso blend.”

Delay is a trainer and wholesale account manager at A&E. And, as a barista, he puts a lot of pride in his art, describing the exact weight of the coffee grounds, the time it takes to pour, the volume of a double-shot and so on.

“Mugs that are very good for pouring art have a very curved bottom.”

Manchester police made more drug arrests in 2014 than in the previous year.

Manchester police recorded 155 drug-related arrests for the year. That’s up from 83 the previous year, an increase of about 85%. Major dragnets like those in March and November netted close to 60 alleged low level dealers.

Brian Leveille, the head of Manchester’s Special Investigations Unit, says the amount of heroin and oxycodone seized more than doubled from 2013.

West Coast Cannabis / Flickr/CC

  The Department of Health and Human Services will soon begin asking for license applications from people who want to operate one of four medical marijuana dispensaries. A few proposals have already surfaced and some are partnering with outside companies.

Rex Bunnell hopes to find himself behind the counter of an Alternative Treatment Center, or ATC. That’s what the state calls its medical marijuana dispensaries.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

The Manchester Police Department has announced the formation of a multi-agency collaboration to tackle gun and gang-related crime in the city.

  The group was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from a federal Department of Justice program. The money will be used to increase patrols in high crime areas and parole check-ins with probationers and at-risk youth. Manchester Chief David Mara says a big part of this program is showing potential offenders that they mean business.

New Hampshire Institute of Art

After about a year of searching, the New Hampshire Institute of Art has named a new President.

A music professor from Seattle will take over as president of the Institute. Kent Devereaux currently teaches at and chairs the Music Department at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.

Devereaux praises the Institute’s undergraduate programs and a new Master of Fine Arts program and says they’ll attract more students.

  A legislative committee has signed off on rules to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. But the vote hinged on new legislation to fix a possible tax issue.

Bryan Marble via Flickr CC

One of the big three credit rating agencies has downgraded Manchester’s overall bond rating.

Fitch Ratings has lowered Manchester’s rating from AA+ to AA. The agency cites the city’s tax cap, rising pension costs and its deficit that caused the city to raise taxes beyond its cap.

Manchester owes $122 million in general bonds and about $59 million in school facilities revenue bonds. The school bond rating also dipped from AA to AA-. But Fitch kept its rating outlook at ‘stable.’

Last year, ratings agency Moody’s similarly downgraded Manchester’s credit rating.

Carol Robidoux

  The Manchester Police Department along with various local and federal law enforcement agencies have arrested 23 low-level drug dealers in the city.

One city resident police arrested was found with about 140 grams of heroin in his home which holds a street value of $14,000.

Chief David Mara says the arrests serve as a deterrent to people engaged in illicit drug activity and improves the city’s quality of life.

Dennis D. Hurd via Flickr CC

  Republican Representative Laurie Sanborn has dropped from the race to lead the House. She cites recent health concerns of her husband, state senator Andy Sanborn. He had emergency surgery on Election Day.

That leaves the bid for speakership between two former speakers: Gene Chandler who served from 2001 to 2004, and Bill O’Brien who served from 2010 to 2012.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Crews on Manchester’s west side are working Friday to repair the damage after a 16 inch water main let go Thursday night. The burst pipe led to the evacuation of nearly two-dozen residents.

Repairs to the water main wrapped up around seven Friday morning.

But City Water Works Director David Paris says they’re pressure testing the pipe before bringing it back to full force. Crews are now spending Friday removing chunks of asphalt and refilling the hole left behind by about one million gallons of water that flowed down city streets.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

A large water main broke Thursday night beneath a west side Manchester street, causing a bus-sized sinkhole and several flooded basements.

City Water Works Director David Paris says the broken pipe is one of five major conduits servicing the city and connecting the east and west sides of the Merrimack river.

"A large part of the road will need to be rebuilt," says Paris. He says it's too soon to estimate the cost of the damages but in the first hour the city lost about 1 million gallons of water.

Allegra Boverman

  2nd Congressional District Democrat Ann McLane Kuster worked to distance herself from President Obama during an appearance Thursday night at the UNH Law School.

Earlier this year, Kuster told NHPR’s Laura Knoy that she considered herself one of the President Obama’s biggest supporters. Thursday night, in a public conversation with Knoy, she cited areas when she disagreed with the president.

She also defended her vote on the farm bill which cut food stamps by more than $8 million.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Arizona Senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain was out campaigning for gubernatorial hopeful Walt Havenstein Sunday.

  McCain and Havenstein greeted people as they dined at the Puritan Backroom restaurant in Manchester, shaking hands and posing for pictures. McCain says he came to lend Havenstein support in what he calls his ‘second favorite state’ because of Havenstein’s business background.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  With robberies in Manchester on the rise in recent years, police are now training convenience store workers on how to prevent robberies and what to do when one occurs.

Crime Prevention Officer Paul Rondeau told store clerks today that real life robberies are nothing like the movies. Hey says they’re typically brief and those robbing the stores are often desperate addicts.

David Lane / Union Leader

First congressional district candidates Frank Guinta and Carol Shea-Porter met Tuesday night on NH1’s TV debate. Both candidates took aim at the other’s voting record in Washington.

Scroll down for audio of the full debate.

These candidates know each other well. This is the third time they’ve run against each other. And this debate often focused on refighting old battles.

Democrat Carol Shea-Porter was quick to blame Guinta and Republicans for the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  About 60 9th grade students in Manchester High School West are participating in a new science-focused magnet program called STEAM Ahead, this year. The partnership between the school district and several local tech companies also involves state colleges. It aims to boost the local workforce and retain youth and talent.

It’s morning in biology teacher Christine Aspinwall’s class. The students are scrambling to fill beakers with pureed food.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  With no meetings scheduled between Fairpoint and union heads, there appears to be no movement to resolve the strike that began last week.

Workers at the Manchester office have been picketing in front of the building around the clock since the strike began Friday. Roughly 250 Manchester employees are among the more than 1,700 workers on strike in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

Kelly Torosian is an IBEW union member and Fairpoint employee who joined the picketers.

  The ride-sharing service known as Uber will launch in Manchester Friday.

Uber users and drivers find each other using a smartphone app.

Manchester users will be able to get five free rides up to $25 until the end of the month.

Billy Guernier is the General Manager of Regional Expansion for Uber.

He says the average ride is roughly ten percent cheaper than a taxi in Manchester.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Governor Maggie Hassan touted her economic credentials at a campaign stop at a Manchester marketing company Tuesday. She also fired a few shots at her opponent, Walt Havenstein.

Hassan argued she’s better equipped to help small businesses than rival Walt Havenstein. Internet marketing company Commonplaces was a beneficiary of job training grants. Hassan championed that program and what she terms bipartisan successes like increasing higher ed funding, raising the gas tax and expanding Medicaid.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

 A newly-formed group of independent video game developers in Manchester looks poised to open a game developers’ incubator in the city’s Millyard by the end of the year.

Local game developer David Carrigg is one of the founders of the state chapter of the International Game Developers Association, which is leading the creation of the incubator called Game Assembly.

Courtesy of MPD

  Lawmakers and law enforcement are still struggling to craft a policy that would control synthetic drugs in New Hampshire.

Lawmakers, the New Hampshire Department of Justice, health officials and law enforcement have been meeting for months in the hopes of coming up with language for a bill that could better protect communities from synthetic drugs like spice and bath salts.

Senator Molly Kelly of Keene, who chairs the special committee, says they are getting close.

Courtesy of S.E.A.

The State Employees Association, the state’s largest public union, has elected a new president.

  Rich Gulla who works for the State Liquor Commission unseated incumbent Diana Lacey by a difference of just four votes during Sunday’s convention.

Gulla says he’s excited about representing the interests of SEA members who he says are overworked and underpaid.

“Because now you’ve got one person perhaps doing the job of two or three because of cut-backs.”

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

The Executive Council confirmed the appointments of three new judges Wednesday, including two to the Superior Court.

The council unanimously confirmed New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission Chairman Amy Ignatius as one of the new additions to the Superior Court bench.

The council also confirmed two other judicial appointments: Manchester attorney Andrew Schulman to the Superior Court and Senior Assistant Attorney General Suzanne Gorman to the Circuit Court.

Governor Maggie Hassan says she’s pleased with the confirmations.

  Southern New Hampshire University has been awarded a $3.9 million “First in the World” innovation grant from the Federal Department of Education.

SNHU was among two dozen colleges and universities nationwide selected for the program meant to improve access to higher education for non-traditional students.

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