By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu nominated three lawyers to be Circuit Court judges on Wednesday, his first judicial picks since last summer when his choice for chief justice of the state Supreme Court, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, was voted down on a 3-2 vote along party lines.
At Wednesday’s regular council meeting, Sununu nominated Kimberly Chabot of Henniker, John Curran of Londonderry and Thomas F. Reid II of Epsom to be Circuit Court judges, with terms that end at age 70. It will be up to the Executive Council to decide whether to confirm Sununu’s nominations.
Reid graduated from the former Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1996 and is a private practice attorney in Concord. He is a former Deputy Rockingham County Attorney. Curran is a litigation attorney in Nashua who graduated from Suffolk Law School in Boston. Chabot is presently a per-diem justice in the Circuit Court and graduated from Franklin Pierce in 1990.
A hearing before the Executive Council on the three nominations will be held March 11 at 1:15 p.m. in the Executive Council chambers at the State House.
The state has not done enough to hire an adequate number of child caseworkers, leaving millions of dollars appropriated for new hires on the table, some Executive Councilors complained at the meeting.
Democratic Councilors Debora Pignatelli of Nashua, and Andru Volinsky of Concord, a candidate for governor, questioned officials of the Department of Health and Human Services about a transfer request for about $3.4 million from a salary line within the Division for Children, Youth and Families that was unspent between July and December 2019.
The council approved the transfer, however, which will be used instead for child provider services such as foster home care and residential housing.
But the issues of caseloads and inadequate staffing to meet the needs of children in the state remain, said Volinsky.
The new commissioner of the department, Lori Shibinette, told councilors that there is progress being made to fill vacancies and the average caseload of a worker has gone from 90 children to about 30. Still, she conceded, that is more than the national average.
The $3.4 million is part of an $11 million request to capture funds that would otherwise lapse. There are more than 3,000 employees in the department.
Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, congratulated Shibinette’s department for hiring 113 new people, but Volinsky said there is still work to be done.
Volinsky said Shibinette is not at fault as she just started the job last month.
She asked for the money to be retained in the department to pay many care providers that need to be paid.
“We want that money to support kids,” Shibinette said.
Pignatelli said: “So do I.”
The same request first went before the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee last Friday for a vote and received a narrow passage, with longtime chairman Rep. Mary Jane Wallner telling Pignatelli that the request was confusing.
Sununu said that Wallner has lots of experience and should have been able to understand the concept of transferring unspent wages that would otherwise lapse.
Volinsky said it was not fair of the governor to make the assertion about Wallner and agreed the request was very confusing.
What was clear, Volinsky said, is that the “state is not doing its job,” to help children.
New Insurance Commissioner
The council unanimously confirmed Christopher R. Nicolopoulos of Bow as the state insurance commissioner, succeeding John L. Elias of Henniker.
Nicolopoulos will be paid $118,707 annually and the term ends in June 2023.
Scarlett Lewis, whose son, Jesse Lewis, 6, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a gunman, stood with educators and members of law enforcement from across the state as the governor proclaimed February 2020 “Choose Love Social and Emotional Learning Month.”
Lewis said there have been 424 schools in New Hampshire that have embraced the Choose Love effort that seeks to reduce bullying, improve the mental health of young children and take actions that will help to heal young lives.
Lewis said New Hampshire has done an outstanding job embracing the concept and working to help children and adults heal from the sorts of tragic school shootings that took her beloved son, a first-grader.
Girl Scout Cookies
Members of the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains will be knocking on doors and taking orders for Girl Scout cookies this weekend and hope to sell as many as 1.3 million boxes.
Sununu proclaimed this weekend Girl Scout Cookie Weekend which will raise funds for community service projects and for the benefit of the various troops. This is the 103rd year of selling cookies for the Girl Scouts.
They gave the governor and council a number of boxes of cookies, which were quickly consumed with Sununu stacking up a number of them on the desk and enjoying them during the meeting.
Water on the Table
The council discussed whether it should have plastic bottles of water on the table during the meeting with Pignatelli arguing that there were reports that residual chemicals are found at the bottom of the bottles and it is a waste of plastic.
The governor responded that he tends to not drink the statehouse water. He said he used to pour a pitcher of water from the bathroom sink and bring it into his office but he found after a day as it sat there, there would be a bit of sediment at the bottom, which he referred to as “guck.”
He attributed it to old pipes. But he said it seems to not be as bad anymore since the pipes were replaced.
Charles Arlinghaus, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, said he would have the water tested. They did not vote on whether to have bottled water on the table.
In other business, the council approved $619,086 to help babies and moms impacted by the opioid epidemic.
The grant will go to Elliot Health System to develop a maternal opioid misuse model. Another grant was approved to hire a full-time temporary position toward that end.
The governor also nominated Dr. Horace Henriques of Lyme to
the Adult Parole Board, succeeding Henry F. Spaloss of Nashua who resigned and
reappointed John S. Brandte, a Concord attorney, to the Adult Parole Board.
The council also:
– Authorized the Division of Forests and Lands to
accept the donation of approximately 4 acres of undeveloped forestland abutting
Temple Mountain Reservation in the Town of Peterborough worth an assessed value
of $20,500 from John R. Taggart.
– Authorized the Department of Transportation Bureau of Construction to enter into a contract with Evroks Corporation for bridge preservation on the 5-span US 302 bridge over I-93 at Exit 42 in Littleton, on the basis of a low bid of $1,267,669.
– Authorized a
contract with E.D. Swett Inc. for bridge preservation work in Boscawen on the
basis of a low bid of $1,647,611.
– Agreed to lease a 13,438 square foot parcel of highway land at Interstate 93, Exit 12 interchange in Concord Capital Hotel Company VI LLC, for $11,250 per year for parking.
– Approved a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to the town of Wolfeboro to support G.A.L.A. Community Center’s marketspace and incubator project for the property situated at 23 Bay St.
– Authorized the Division of Agricultural Development to enter into a $20,250 grant agreement with the Kearsarge Food Hub to establish a statewide food hub network for New Hampshire growers, processors, aggregators, and distributors, and enhance sales, consumption, and access of locally grown specialty crop products.
– Authorized the Division of Agricultural Development to enter into a grant agreement with the University of NH Cooperative Extension in the amount of $42,990 to conduct research to evaluate the suitability of hydrangea cultivars for production in NH’s climate and development as a cut flower crop.