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.

Ways To Connect

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  UNH Manchester is planning on selling its main building in the millyard to the company run by the inventor of the Segway. The university is looking to expand into a larger space—the millyard’s Pandora building.

For more than twenty years, UNH Manchester has been located at 400 Commercial street, next door to Dean Kamen’s company DEKA’s headquarters. Now, the school wants to consolidate itself in a nearby larger mill building where it already leases the first two floors from Kamen. The swap would mean Kamen can expand his corporate headquarters.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

For the first time, New Hampshire’s Hindu community hosted a week-long religious festival in Concord called the Srimad Bhagavata Maha Purana (or just Purana for short). It’s a ceremony where participants gather from across the region to pray for global peace, emotional wellbeing and spiritual enlightenment. 

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Manchester police say that while efforts to reduce property crimes in Manchester have shown some success, the total number of crimes since January is virtually identical to last year. The information was presented during a downtown community meeting hosted by the Manchester police department Tuesday night.

Officer Matt Barter, the department’s crime analyst, says some of the numbers between January and June are looking good. 

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Every summer, people flock from all over the region to participate in a traditional Native American powwow in Warner. This marks its fifteenth year.  

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Saturday marked the beginning of the annual intertribal powwow in Warner.

On the field next to the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, craft vendor tents, participants and visiting families surround a wide meeting circle at the field’s center. Lynn Clark is the Executive Director of the museum.

“It’s our 15th anniversary powwow. It’s one of the larger powwows in New Hampshire and it’s a very family oriented event and it’s a great social event—as you hear everybody reconnecting. There’s people that I sometimes see just once a year at the pow wow. It’s great fun.”

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce is expanding its summer Lunch in the Park series this year. Veterans Park is at the center of an effort to clean up the image of downtown area parks.

The hope is that every Thursday to the end of the summer people will venture out of their offices and homes to eat lunch in the city’s Veterans Park. Last year, Lunch in the Park events happened three times. This time it’s up to eight. Mike Skelton, the chamber of commerce president, says the events were first conceived when business owners complained about how the parks were being used.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  The Pelham Fire Chief is renewing his call for a ban on a type of controversial fireworks called reloadable mortars. That follows a second accident in his town over the holiday weekend.

Pelham Fire Chief James Midgley remembers seeing what he describes as a mushroom cloud coming from behind a residence where thirteen people were injured two years ago. Then, on July 4th this year, just around the corner, another fireworks accident injured two people. And the common thread, says Midgley, is reloadable mortars.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Though forecasts for the day mean you probably won’t be enjoying fireworks until perhaps tomorrow, consumer fireworks are legal in New Hampshire—though at least 18 towns ban them.

NHPR's Ryan Lessard sits down with Rick Ganley to talk about the state's fireworks regulations.

RG: So Ryan, not all types fireworks are legal in New Hampshire. Which ones can we find on the shelves and which ones are still banned?

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

At the first public meeting since it was announced the New Hampshire Institute of Art was engaged in merger discussions with Southern New Hampshire University, faculty, staff and students voiced their concerns.

In the NHIA auditorium, filled with about fifty people, reactions to the prospect of a merger with SNHU ranged from cautiously optimistic to skeptical. Like faculty member Sean Beavers.

“I just have a lot of concerns and I see no benefit.”

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Backyard pyrotechnics are a favorite—and legal—way for Granite Staters to celebrate the 4th of July.  And the fireworks lobby—yes, there really is a lobby for everything—has been fighting to not only keep them legal, but to deregulate them.

Two years ago this week in Pelham, a homeowner piled up nearly 350 mortar shells on his deck. And when sparks from a stray spinner landed on them, they exploded and more than a dozen people were injured. In 2011, the legislature had legalized those two types of fireworks.

Ryan Lessard / NHPr

The widening of I-93 is without doubt a massive public works project. It’s also been a massive political issue. But its full build-out may end up being blocked by a tiny brook.

Driving south on I-93 in Windham, you won’t miss the fifty-foot wall of granite dwarfing the backhoes that chip away at it.

But what you won’t see from the road is a small stream known as Dinsmore Brook. Concerns over its water quality have been threatening to reduce the width of the road from four lanes to three.

istock photo

  The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services held a public info session in Manchester Tuesday night to demystify the state’s new Expanded Medicaid plan.

About 15 people, mostly care providers, attended the Manchester session. Questions ranged from how one qualifies for the program and ‘are refugees included?’ (they are), to the application process itself.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Governor Maggie Hassan signed into law a bill enabling abortion clinics to create a buffer zone that would keep protesters clear of the entrance.

After a prolonged legislative debate in the house, the final language in the bill gives reproductive health clinics the flexibility to make clearly marked buffer zones “up to” 25 feet in radius.

Jennifer Frizzell with Planned Parenthood says the buffer zones will ensure the privacy, dignity and safety of patients while protecting first amendment rights.

Courtesy of Gabriel Wani

  The BBC reported Saturday that the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy, Meriam Ibrahim, will be released in the coming days. The report was based on a statement made by a high-ranking Sudanese foreign minister who reportedly said Ibrahim would be released from prison in a few days’ time. I caught up with the Ibrahim’s brother-in-law Gabriel Wani of Manchester.

Sitting in his living room, Gabriel Wani anxiously phones his brother Daniel, Ibrahim’s husband, to see if she will be released.

New Hampshire’s Senators say Veterans Affairs Secretary Erik Shinseki’s decision to step down was the right one.

Senator Kelly Ayotte says that more needs to be done to address the waitlist problems in VA medical centers but Shinseki’s resignation is a positive first step.

“We need to make sure that those who have committed the falsifying of records and misleading people should be fully pursued and prosecuted.”

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, or NOAA, announced Wednesday that New Hampshire’s groundfishery will receive more than $2 million in federal disaster funds.

Josh Wiersma, the head of New Hampshire’s groundfish coop, says local ground fishermen, who expected less direct aid, breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  A Memorial Day observance was held in front of the Manchester V.A. Medical Center this Monday morning.

Tammy Krueger, the Director of the Medical Center, told a seated crowd of veterans and the families of deceased soldiers that more than one million servicemen and women have died in America’s wars.

“We owe a lasting tribute to those courageous men and women who stepped forward when their country called, and made it possible for us to be here today.”

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  Republican candidate for Governor, Walt Havenstein, toured the factory floor of an aluminum casting company Wednesday. The visit marks the start of a series of similar tours as part of his Republican primary campaign.


Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Nearly 2,000 police officers from around the state and their region paid their respects to fallen Brentwood Officer Steve Arkell and his family Tuesday night.


Ryan Lessard / NHPR

On a newly built bridge near interstate 93, Governor Maggie Hassan signed into law the first increase in the state’s gas tax in more than two decades.


Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Members of law enforcement from across the state gathered in Concord Monday to observe the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony. The name of Officer Steve Arkell, who was killed a week ago, was on everyone’s minds, but he will be formally added to the memorial next year. 


Sara Plourde / NHPR

  The New Hampshire House passed a bill (162, 100) to create a marked buffer zone around abortion clinic entrances to keep protesters 25 feet back.


Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce met with the leadership of the Manchester Police Department Thursday to discuss safety and quality-of-life concerns in the city.


Ryan Lessard / NHPR

During a vigil for fallen Brentwood police Officer Steve Arkell was held Tuesday night, hundreds of Brentwood residents and members of surrounding towns gathered, candles in hand, to mourn and celebrate the life of a man who served the community he grew up in.


  The week started with the news of Southern New Hampshire University’s new $10,000 bachelor’s degree program. Recent undergraduate enrollment numbers show the small, Manchester school is now equal in size to UNH in Durham, with a vast majority of its students online. 

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

At a recent cookout behind the red-brick mill building that houses UNH Manchester, senior Derek Burkhardt describes what’s been an eight-year run to get his bachelor’s.

“I actually attended UNH Manchester right out of high school,” says Burkhardt. “But I took some time off in between school to save up some money to be able to afford school, but also to join AmeriCorps. So once I was done with that I came back to continue my education.”

Like many students here Burkhardt says he chose UNH Manchester because that’s where he lives.

Some of the troubles plaguing higher education are hitting institutions a lot harder in New Hampshire. High public tuition? We have the highest. State aid to public universities? We have among the lowest. For many students, that means they're facing huge debts which will be difficult to repay. That reality is causing students and institutions to reevaluate.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  About 80% of the people behind bars in New Hampshire have substance abuse issues. It’s a growing problem and one way the justice system is trying to address the problem is with drug courts—where nonviolent offenders have their sentences suspended if they take part in treatment. Five counties now operate drug courts and efforts are underway to start two more in Manchester and Nashua. The program could help reduce recidivism rates.


It’s important to note, firstly, that the cost of incarcerating someone in state prison is about $32k and in county jails about $35k. Experts say that ideally, drug courts operate on a budget that has a per capita cost of about $8-12k. Any less than that and participants may not be getting enough supervision or critical aid in education, transportation, medication etc. Any more than that and it’s probably time to bring more participants into the program. The challenge many drug courts face is funding.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

  The House Judiciary committee considered a bill Tuesday that would create a 25 foot buffer zone to keep anti-abortion activists clear of abortion clinic entrances. While it’s expected to become law, it may face legal challenges when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a similar law in Massachusetts.


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