By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
SALEM – The state is shifting its COVID-19 vaccine media focus and spokesmen away from political figures like Gov. Chris Sununu to citizens who have received the benefits of receiving the shots, the Executive Council was told on Wednesday.
At Salem High School, the council voted to amend an existing COVID-19 vaccine promotion contract with GYK Antler of Manchester by $844,142 from $434,490 to $1,278,632 and by extending the completion date from August 31, 2021, to December 31, 2021.
Voting to oppose the contract was Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, a Concord Democrat representing District 2.
The entire amount will be paid for with federal funds.
Warmington said she was concerned with the information she has received that the message with political figures is a turnoff to some and in some cases has been labeled as political content by Facebook on social media.
Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, said the initial focus on the vaccine rollout this winter was to get everyone in the state to get the shots and the most identifiable figures on the crisis were Sununu, herself, and Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, who held weekly televised media press conferences.
Now, with still almost 40 percent of the eligible population not vaccinated, the focus will be more on neighbors and friends who may be more influential at this point, she said. The Executive Council continued its summer roadshow Wednesday at Salem High School Performing Arts Center, where the five-member council and governor honored many, took on a series of contracts and issues.
The council confirmed Kevin Rauseo, 51, of Hudson to the state Circuit Court system. He was praised for his legal expertise at a public hearing Tuesday in Concord. Rauseo has extensive trial court experience.
It also confirmed Christine Casa of Portsmouth for a vacant position as a Circuit Court judge.
District 3 Executive Councilor Janet Stevens of Rye recused herself from the vote on Casa citing a potential conflict of interest.
Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, praised the governor on both nominations.
Sununu also nominated Ellen Christo of Hampton Falls, Mark Zaino of Hampton, and Todd Prevett of Mont Vernon as justices for the New Hampshire Circuit Court.
Public hearings on those nominations will be held before the council votes on their nominations.
Sununu said the council’s summer roadshow, is “really to engage with the public.”
This was the third. The first was at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, the second was in Keene and the fourth will be in two weeks at St. Anselm College.
Stevens, who represents 31 communities in the Southeast, was hostess for the day. The meetings on the road offer an opportunity to praise the good works of citizens.
She acknowledged Brentwood Girls Scouts Abby Herrick, Sophia Morrow, and Lillian Kelley who raised thousands of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds. The girls led the pledge of allegiance.
Sununu, a major fan of Girl Scout Cookies, was excited to see the girls bring up to the stage a bag of cookies and thanked them for that as well as their fundraising efforts.
T.J. Wheeler performed a few songs on his guitar including an original song written 50 years ago, with the Spaulding Youth Services students about the Old Man of the Mountain. Sununu commended Martha Stone for her 17 years working at the homeless shelter Crossroads House on the Seacoast.
Stone, executive director, thanked the governor for creating a new housing stability board and noted while she is ending her time with the shelter she will continue work in New Hampshire to find homes for those without them.
The Pease Greeters were also honored for their middle-of-the-night help for servicemen and women who land at Pease.
Former House Speaker Donna Sytek was also honored for her long-time service to the state.
Sununu also honored first responders and vaccine volunteers who went above and beyond in Salem.
The council accepted the resignation of Susan Kelly of Manchester who resigned from the New Hampshire Juvenile Parole Board citing in her letter changes over her five-year term, some for the better and many, she said, “for the worse.”
She said legislative decisions and those by the Division for Children, Youth and Families have been made with “little knowledge or care of the actual juveniles they are affecting…and simply as a means of cutting costs.”
She said the decision to close in 2023 the Sununu Youth Services in Manchester was made without input from the parole board “and a flagrant disregard for its expertise. I find myself morally unable to continue working for these groups. The juveniles of the state deserve better.”
Also resigning was Fred Bird from the state’s Fish and Game Commission who cited potential residency issues in Strafford County related to COVID-19 and how the Oyster River School District may or may not handle the pandemic this fall.
In addition to concern for where his children may be educated, he cited other COVID-19 work-related issues which “will not allow me to give the 137,000 plus citizens of Strafford County the dedication this seat requires.”
Sununu nominated a replacement, Albert Derosa of New Durham as a replacement, as was recommended by Bird. The council will likely vote on that nomination in two weeks.
Michele Johnson of NAMI NH was given an opportunity to discuss a youth mental health initiative called the Magnify Voices Expressive Arts Contest and introduced Erin Murphy who produced a video related to suicide prevention.
In addition to the two newly confirmed justices, the council confirmed Mark Sanborn of Laconia as Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services. The Laconia man will earn a salary of just over $108,000 a year.
The governor nominated Mark C. Armaganian as director of the division of enforcement and licensing for the State Liquor Commission with a salary of over $109,000 a year.
Through the Business Finance Authority, two public hearings were held related to the issuance of an $11.5 million bond for the Portsmouth Christian Academy in Dover and one for the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
The issuance for the school will be within the definition of a “commercial facility,” and the establishment and operation of the facility will create and preserve employment.
It also held a similar hearing for the City of Manchester for an unconditional State Guarantee of up to $13,505,000 to create or persevere employment.
James Key-Wallace of the BFA explained that his agency would be taking the bond, and lend it to the airport in Manchester where they are constructing an apron or, essentially a parking lot for planes as part of the airport agreement with Aeroterm.
Both cite the opportunity to create or persevere employment.
The conduit bond will lower the costs of bonds they hold to work on the roof, improve the internet, and possibly acquire an adjacent parcel of land. A public hearing was held, during the meeting and Joe Haas of Gilmanton spoke to both matters.