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

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.

Michael Flanagan/Flickr CC

The Bureau of Justice Administration has approved funding for a new drug court in Nashua, but has rejected a grant for the same program in Manchester.

Hillsborough County Superior Court had applied for two three-year, $325,000 grants.

Each would have funded drug courts in the state’s two largest cities, but, earlier this month, only Nashua’s was approved.

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Ken Brown says while he’s disappointed, the Manchester court did receive funding for a similar program called Project HOPE.

NHRS Data

  The New Hampshire Retirement System saw more than $900 million in investment returns added to its trust fund in the last fiscal year. That’s a return of 17.6%.

The state retirement system was holding $7.3 billion at the close of the 2014 fiscal year. That’s up from $6.5 billion in FY-2013.

Retirement system spokesman Marty Karlon says it’s exceeding its annual goals but the unfunded liability isn’t expected to be resolved until 2039.

Centers for Disease Control

  One of the people infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis in New Hampshire this year has died from the disease. The 51 year old woman spent nearly a month in the hospital before succumbing to the illness.

According to the online obituary of a Rhode Island Funeral Home, Diane Humphreys of Conway passed away in a hospice home in Maine on September eighteenth.

Humphreys was the first confirmed human case of triple E in the state back in August.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

A 21-year-old New Hampshire man charged in connection with a lockdown at his former high school in Manchester is heading to court.

Damian Johnson of Manchester will be arraigned Friday on a felony count of falsifying physical evidence and misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass, violation of probation and disrupting school in session.

Police say Manchester High School West was on lockdown for 90 minutes Thursday, after a student reported seeing Johnson with a gun tucked into his waistband. He was found in a small, occupied classroom and was arrested without incident.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Genetic engineering of plants has come a long way in recent years. It was first used to make more robust crops, then more nutritious and efficient crops. Now, scientists at the University of New Hampshire are tweaking tea plants to create an un-caffeinated variety.

Camellia sinensis is the plant from which virtually all caffeinated teas derive. UNH neuroscience major Laura Van Beaver has been working to flip one particular gene like a switch, which changes the plant in a significant way.

Courtesy of MPD

Manchester Police say they’ve arrested nine alleged drug dealers and seized more than $90,000 worth of Oxycodone tablets.

The drugs seized over the course of 13 searches on August 27th came by way of New York and Lawrence Massachusetts according to authorities. The individuals arrested were affiliated with what they are calling a “high level” Drug Trafficking Organization. Three of the individuals behind bars were operating at the top of the chain.

Sgt. Brian O’Keefe says the multi-agency investigation began nearly a year ago and is still ongoing.

Courtesy of MPD

 Manchester Police have reported the seizure of more 11 pounds of synthetic marijuana known commonly as spice from a Manchester tattoo parlor. The drugs sold as incense had a retail value of more than $25,000.

The search warrant was executed at two Spider Bite locations two weeks ago as part of a months-long, multi-agency investigation that began well before a spate of overdoses that occurred in the middle of August.

Sgt. Brian O’Keefe says the department kept the seizures close to the chest since the investigation is still ongoing.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Former BAE Systems CEO Walt Havenstein is the Republican nominee governor.

Walt Havenstein didn’t always run strong in this race but he won by nearly 20 points over Andrew Hemingway. He said voters in the general election will have a clear choice.

“The choice is going to be about the future of our state and whether or not we’re gonna maintain and stay in this economic stagnation or if we’re actually gonna take a bold course to change our economic outcome for the future prosperity of our state.”

Sara Plourde / NHPR

  Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Walt Havenstein and Andrew Hemingway held their last debate Friday. They differed on how they say they would lead and improve the state’s business climate.

Political activist and serial entrepreneur Andrew Hemingway, when asked how his business experience would inform his style of governance, said New Hampshire is a small-business state.

New Hampshire lawmakers say they’re thinking outside the criminal code when it comes to the designer drug known as Spice and may consider consumer protection laws such as labeling requirements.

A study committee met for the second time Thursday to look into ways to create a statewide approach to banning the substance, which has proven to be a challenge through conventional legislation.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  As former President of BAE Systems, Walt Havenstein led one of New Hampshire’s largest employers. That’s one reason top Republicans encouraged the millionaire business-man to get into the governor’s race. Havenstein has vastly outspent his Republican opponent but this race remains tight.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

At 32 years old, Republican Andrew Hemingway would be the youngest governor in the history of New Hampshire.

That, coupled with his being known primarily as a political activist, makes his candidacy a bit of a long shot. But Hemingway is banking on his traditional conservative values coupled with his tech savvy.

Courtesy image/Manchester PD

  A newly formed committee to study ways to regulate and control the designer drug known as Spice held its first meeting Wednesday.

The committee was created by legislation signed in the last session. Senator Molly Kelly of Keene was the legislation’s author and is now the Chair of the study committee.

“There’ll be different components than just looking at the criminal law. We can look at even our consumer protection law on labeling.”

Carol Robidoux / Manchester Ink Link

  Some Manchester aldermen are pushing back on a decision by Mayor Ted Gatsas to close a park to the public during school hours.

The decision to erect signs at Bronstein Park warning the public that the park is off limits during school hours came a week after a spike in spice-related overdoses, some of which occurred at the park. Gatsas argues the park is city property meant for use by Central High School. But some aldermen, like Garth Corriveau, say the unilateral decision may have unforeseen consequences.

Ella Nilsen / NHPR

Nearly 1,500 Market Basket workers have applied for unemployment benefits since the company stopped giving hours to part-time employees earlier this month.

New Hampshire Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis says claims are still coming in as the department figures out which employees are eligible.

“Over the weekend things have pretty much leveled off. We were at 1,445 on Friday and we’ve only picked up 20 since then.”

Sara Plourde for NHPR

  Republican candidates for Governor, Walt Havenstein and Andrew Hemingway, squared off Wednesday morning on WGIR. Their debate was heated and, at times, personal.

While this race remains tough to call, in this debate, Andrew Hemingway acted the part of underdog. He went after Walt Havenstein repeatedly, hoping to turn what Havenstein says is his strength—his experience leading billion dollar defense companies—into an example of how moneyed interests use campaign contributions to get their way at tax payers’ expense.

Courtesy image/Manchester PD

  The three Manchester stores that were closed last week in the wake of the synthetic marijuana overdoses have been allowed to reopen. The stores have agreed not to sell any brand of so-called spice.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  The New Hampshire Institute of Art has dropped a September 1st deadline for deciding whether to merge with Southern New Hampshire University. 

During a packed town hall meeting Monday in the institute’s auditorium, NHIA board chair Joe Reilly and SNHU President Paul LeBlanc did their best to persuade a largely skeptical crowd that this was not a hostile takeover.

They said if most students and stakeholders ultimately don’t want this deal, it won’t happen.

Courtesy image/Manchester PD

Governor Maggie Hassan has declared a state of emergency in the wake of more than 40 synthetic marijuana overdose cases since Monday.

Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as spice, has been linked to a jump in overdoses in Manchester and Concord. The powers of Governor Hassan’s executive order to seize the drug sold ostensibly as incense in corner stores, applies only to the bubblegum-flavored variety of a brand called ‘Smacked!.’ Health Commissioner Nick Toumpas says other brands called ‘Green Giant’ and ‘Crazy Monkey’ may also be dangerous.

Union workers at FairPoint picketed outside locations in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont Tuesday morning. This comes as contract negotiations with the company are set to resume Wednesday.

The two sides have been at the bargaining table since April and through the expiration of the workers’ last six-year contract on August second.

New Hampshire union negotiator Glenn Brackett says the company plans to increase health care costs, freeze the pension fund and hire out-of-state contractors without union permission.

Hassan campaign

Governor Maggie Hassan has returned another $9,000-worth of campaign contributions from organized labor. Hassan has now returned $33,000 of improper donations from union political action committees.

The problem with the initial donations – $25,000 from the Electrical Workers PAC and $10,000 from the Plumbers and Steamfitters PAC, was when they were received – after Hassan’s candidacy was official.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Manchester city officials have approved the sale of UNH Manchester’s main millyard building to Segway inventor Dean Kamen’s company.

The deal includes a long-term lease agreement with Dean Kamen’s company which owns the much larger Pandora building. UNH Manchester’s Interim Dean Mike Hickey says construction will begin Monday and they hope to complete the move to Pandora by next Spring break.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Former Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney has endorsed New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein.

In a statement, the former Massachusetts governor praised Havenstein’s leadership abilities, pointing to his tenure as the CEO of BAE Systems.

Havenstein is running against Republican activist Andrew Hemingway, who led Tea Party protests against Romney in the last election.

The two will face off in a September 9th primary.

The winner will face Governor Maggie Hassan in the November general election.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein says lowering the state’s business profits tax is part of his plan to create 25,000 new jobs by August 2017.

Walt Havenstein says under his plan, reducing the tax from 8.5% to 7.4% would take place over two budget cycles.

The former BAE CEO acknowledged it would cost the state $50 million in revenue in the first biennium, but says no spending cuts would be needed.

“Even at our meager, meager anemic growth rate, our growth rate will offset that particular reduction.”

Dirty Bunny via Flickr/CreativeCommons

The state saw fewer healthcare-associated infections last year.

According to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services, New Hampshire’s 33 hospitals reported a total of 183 in 2013. That’s down from 198 in 2012.

Beth Daly, the chief of infectious disease surveillance at DHHS, says the numbers are largely positive.

“Forgunately, in this year’s report, we see that most hospitals have a similar number of infections as predicted based on national data or fewer infections than expected.”

Courtesy of Gabriel Wani

  The Sudanese woman sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith has arrived with her children and husband to New Hampshire.

Meriam Ibrahim, her husband Daniel Wani and their two children arrived in the airport in Manchester Thursday night.

Ibrahim was released in June after being held in captivity with her young son in a Sudanese prison. She gave birth to her daughter there while shackled to the floor.

Daniel Wani, in a recorded statement, thanked everyone who helped secure his family’s release.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie visited New Hampshire for the second time in as many months Thursday night to aid Republican candidate for governor Walt Havenstein with his campaign.

Chris Christie, who’s Chair of the Republican Governors Association is again signaling establishment support for former defense contractor Walt Havenstein.

Christie said when Havenstein took over BAE Systems in 2000, the company had a budget three times the size of the state.

From MainStreetConcord.com

The Concord City Council is meeting tonight to vote on whether to spend more than $10 million revitalizing its Main Street corridor.

For nearly two decades, Concord has debated the pros and cons of redesigning and rebuilding nine blocks of Main Street.

Pedestrian friendly and aesthetically pleasing plans to revamp downtown are up for a vote in the City Council. At-Large Councilman Mark Coen supports the project. And says Concord is the latest in a long list of communities to explore such changes.

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