This Week in N.H. News: JFCs, PFOA and Other Important Acronyms to Know

May 27, 2016

Before you head out for the long weekend, catch up on the headlines you might've missed this week. And don't forget to sign up for our Friday news email, The Rundown, to get this delivered right to your inbox. Here's the link.

Above The Fold

Skirmish Between Dartmouth-Hitchcock, N.H. Hospital Staff

As NHPR’s Jack Rodolico reports, the conflict centers on a contract dispute, but it has much broader implications for the state’s overall mental health system, which has been especially fragile in recent years.

Until this year, Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine oversaw the staff at the state psychiatric hospital, but Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center stepped in to grab the contract this year — the state hospital’s clinical team wasn’t happy, and many of them have backed out of their positions. That leaves, potentially, a big hole to fill at what is basically the “backstop” of an already backlogged mental health system.

At the same time, some of the state’s most prominent public figures — from both sides of the aisle — are rallying around an effort to “change direction” on mental illness in other ways, first by speaking out to reduce stigma.

Credit Sara Plourde, NHPR

Ayotte, Hassan Down with JFCs

When it comes to fundraising, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan — who’s challenging the Republican incumbent for her current Senate seat — are hardly limiting their sights to the Granite State. This week. NHPR’s Josh Rogers and Dan Barrick took a look at how both are using Joint Fundraising Committees, or JFCs, to pick up cash from as far away as Florida, Texas and California. 

PFOA Contamination Goes to Court

A few months after contaminants were first detected around the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant in Merrimack, the company’s facing two class action lawsuits from people who live nearby. The lawsuits allege, among other things, that the company should have known that PFOA was dangerous and that its release “willfull” and “wanton.”

Elsewhere, Gov. Maggie Hassan has pledged to make more blood testing available to people potentially affected by a similar family of chemicals near Pease International Tradeport, as reported by Seacoast Online.  

And Then There Were Eight…

Departing New Hampshire state senators, that is. Hampton Republican Nancy Stiles announced this week that she’s planning to retire instead of running for re-election, making her seat the eighth up for grabs in the 24-person chamber. Of those eight incumbent senators not running again, five are retiring, while three are moving onto other positions in state government— or aiming to, at least. 

Guilty Plea in High-Profile Kidnapping Case

The case against Nathaniel Kibby — charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a Conway teen in 2014, holding her for nearly 10 months — came to an abrupt close Thursdayafternoon. Kibby struck a plea deal with prosecutor and was sentenced to 45 to 90 years in prison, plus participation in a sex offender treatment program. This all comes just a month before jury trial was set to begin in the trial against him.

In Other News

Here We Go Again…

Get ready for yet another first-in-the-nation feud, New Hampshire. The New York Times reported this week that the Republican party is weighing another shakeup in its presidential primary calendar. One of the possible options floated? Combining the Massachusetts & New Hampshire primaries on the same day. (Yes, really.) 

Credit Weekend Update

Before you get too worked up, keep in mind that we’ve been here many times before. But, as pollster Steve Koczela argues over at WBUR, combining the Bay and Granite State primaries might not be such a bad thing.

Threatening Robocalls Rile N.H. Schools

Schools in KeenePortsmouthBerlinLondonderry and Nashua were on the receiving end of a string of bomb threats — which, in the end, turned out to be fake. The same day, according to the Associated Press, schools in Colorado, Utah, Delaware, Minnesota and Wisconsin received similar robocalls phoning in threats.

In Berlin, at least, the fake bomb threat ended up proving to be somewhat timely: It came just a day before a bomb threat exercise at the high school. “It certainly made this exercise very relevant,” said the school official who was leading the drill. (Berlin Daily Sun)

Also Worth A Click

  • A very important resource, given this week’s rising temps: Ice cream shops of the Seacoast. (The Sound)
  • For a guide to ice cream shops around the state, there's a map for that.Did you know there was an American Legion Post inside the New Hampshire State Prison? This week, its members held a dedication in honor of a fallen soldier from Jefferson. (Concord Monitor)
  • A Conway resident, Keene State College alumnus, recounts his treacherous trek up Everest. (Keene Sentinel)
  • Sign wars in Derry: One Clinton supporter had her candidate’s sign proudly displayed in the front yard, until someone swiped it and replaced it with a Trump placard. Needless to say, the latter has since been removed. (Union Leader)
  • A $1,722 sandwich run for the Chris Christie campaign at a Manchester Subway restaurant made a list of “weird ways presidential campaigns spent their money.” (InsideGov)
  •  A New Hampshire native described as a “long-haired, bearded country crooner” recently scored runner-up on The Voice. (New School)
  •  Someone stole a “Black Lives Matter” banner that had been hanging outside of a church in Peterborough. (Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)
  •  Seven businesses in the Monadnock Region are pledging to pay their employees a “living wage,” $15 an hour. (Keene Sentinel)
  •  A roadkill disposal site is causing a stink in Manchester. (NH1 News)
  •  Lax bros lend a hand for the sake of romance: A group of Litchfield players helped their coach score a wedding proposal (and a “yes” from his now-fiance) after scoring a victory on the field earlier this week. (WMUR)
  •  If you’re heading to a beach this weekend, one environmental group has a request: Please, don’t take any seal selfies. (Associated Press)

In Case You Missed It

What’s the state of the Granite State’s economy these days? This week, The Exchange caught up with a panel of experts to make sense of the latest on inflation, business formation and more.

What's a dystopian novel about hope sound like? The Fireman, by author Joe Hill, who joined Virginia Prescott for the latest edition of Writers on a New England Stage, presented by NHPR's Word of Mouth and The Music Hall in Portsmouth.

Poison ivy. You probably already know you're not supposed to touch it. Leaves of three, let it be, and all that. So why don't we hear much about it come spring? Something Wild remedies that situation with the what and how of the poisonous plant. Take a listen.

Granite Scene: Photo of the Week

You’ve probably heard of Rails to Trails — but along one stretch in Wolfeboro, rails and trails sit side-by-side. NHPR’s Sean Hurley took a visit to the path maintained by the Cotton Valley Rail Trail Club to see how hikers, bikers and a railcars share the road.

Credit Sean Hurley, NHPR