Nansen Ski Jump Friends set FIS competition as its 2018-19 goal

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun

BERLIN — The Friends of the Nansen Ski Jump and Director Ben Wilson of the state Bureau of Historic Sites have set an ambitious goal: to raise approximately $300,000 to bring the local historic ski jump up to today’s safety and other standards so that world-class Fédération Internationale de Ski competition can begin in 2018-2019.

“This is a huge opportunity,” Wilson said at Wednesday’s Friends meeting at the Northland Dairy Bar.

Built in 1937, the structure was used for the 1938 Olympic Trials and four national championships, plus local and regional competitions. Although no longer used after 1985, steps were taken over the past two years to make it an historic attraction, to preserve its integrity, and — ultimately — to allow an American ski jumping star to be filmed flying off it.

On Saturday March 4, U.S. ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson, a World Cup winner on the mend from serious injury, took a single thrilling jump at “Big Nansen, thanks to the combined efforts of the state, a major Red Bull sponsorship, local volunteers and regional businesses. Red Bull’s documentary footage of her soaring some 55 feet off the landmark jump will soon be aired on TV by advertisers NBC and Visa in order to whet American appetites for the 2018 Winter Olympics, set to begin on Feb. 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The extensive TV and newspaper coverage given Hendrickson’s jump, described as “a flying return to glory” by Red Bull’s coverage team, sparked lots of excitement and national attention.

In the nine months since then, Sport Development Director Jed Hinkley at USA Nordic Sport of Park City, Utah, personally visited the Route 16 site and endorsed plans to make Nansen ready for world-class competition.

Two experts — Ken Barker, president of the Salisbury, Conn., Winter Sports Association, and Dan Warner of Hanover, Maine, near Rumford — who are both very knowledgeable about today’s “nuts and bolts” of modern international ski jumping, volunteered to help with Nansen’s rebirth. They visited the site on Nov. 4 and took extensive jump and hill measurements and asked lots of questions. Friends president Shawn Costello of Berlin happily reported by email, “Both Ken and Dan believe that the Big Nansen can be brought back to being a viable part of the ski jumping world.”

Warner, a Rumford, Maine, native, was a ski jumper, cross-country racer and alpine skier who devoted much of his life to ski jumping at his home Chisholm Ski Club and is an official at the highest levels, from Lake Placid, N.Y., to Norway, Finland and Japan. His generous offer of providing guidance to the friends was accepted, and he was on hand at Wednesday’s meeting along with Costello, Wilson, Jay Poulin, Dona Larsen, Scott and Brett Halvorson and Scott Nichols of Lyme.

The estimated cost of bringing the facility up to competitive readiness is $300,000, far less than anticipated because of the amount of work already done plus the remarkably fine condition of the 80-year-old steel and wood structure, as professionally determined.

Safety for ski jumpers, spectators, coaches, judges and volunteers — everyone on the hill — is now the most important consideration, Warner explained. Smooth 2-foot-high deflection boards must be placed on both sides of the 6-foot-wide track and the landing, designed to contain jumpers and their skis in case of a fall. Posts must be installed so a tightly woven fabric fence can be put up to enclose the whole outrun area, separating skiers and spectators during competitions.

Very specific changes must also be made to the pitch of certain sections of Big Nansen and 15 start locations marked, bringing it into conformity with FIS rules. A large fabric windscreen held up by posts and controlled by pulleys could be installed atop the tower and more stairs added. The group consensus was that the work should be “high quality but low tech and low cost.”

None of these changes would represent permanent change, however. Wilson does not believe that they would hurt the jump’s chances of qualifying for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, an application to which the state bureau has committed itself.

Electric power and river water must also be brought to the ski jump, and a new judge’s stand built. Likely the existing one would become a flat-roofed coaches stand with some Plexiglas added.

The Friends, in addition to raising money to make the Nansen Ski Jump competitive, are committed to building a 28-meter hill, making it possible for ski jumping to be offered once again locally as an interscholastic N.H. high school sport.
Ski jump enthusiasts are already talking about developing an Eastern Four Hills Tournament: Lake Placid, Salisbury, Brattleboro, Vt., and Nansen.

Ski jumping originated in the 18th century, back when farmers in the Norwegian province of Telemark used small hills on alpine slopes for short jumps. Today it is a popular winter sport. Fans around the world gather to watch athletes soar through the air at competitions, with some 20 countries participating on the World Cup level. Men’s ski jumping was added to the Winter Olympics in 1924, and women’s 90 years later in 2014 at Sochi in Russia. Three men’s events for 65 male athletes and one women’s event for 35 female athletes are scheduled to take place between Feb. 10 and 19.


State prison provides training on use of medications to treat addiction

BERLIN — The N.H. Department of Corrections is collaborating with Northern New Hampshire medical providers and organizations to better train them on the use of medication-assisted treatment for individuals released from custody.

Clinical, security and case management staff at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility hosted training with the Coos Family Health Center medical providers and the Regional Director Kirt Hyles for Alkermes, the manufacturer of Vivitrol, a medication for the treatment of alcohol and opioid dependence.

Participants of the training were provided education and resources on the use of this medication to treat alcohol and opioid addiction. The department uses this non-narcotic medication with a comprehensive management program that includes behavioral health support, medical monitoring and other life-skills interventions.

Since 2015, the department has used medication-assisted treatment for those with addiction issues.

The focus has been two-fold, in the modified therapeutic community, referred to as the Focus Unit, to treat drug addiction and also for those who are re-entering in the community. Individuals are screened by behavioral and medical staff for any contraindications per treatment guidelines, educated about medication as part of overall treatment, and engaged in regular individual and group therapies. The department continues to advance treatment practices within the correctional environment, including the prisons, as well as when a person is released on parole.

“This treatment reinforces using a multi-disciplinary approach to treating people, improves the outcomes for those with substance use disorders and focuses on recovery and being engaged in continuing their treatment upon re-entry into the community,” said Commissioner Helen Hanks.


Sununu wants to opt out of FirstNet first responder network, Executive Councilor Kenney disagrees

By Barbara Tetreault

TWIN MOUNTAIN – Gov. Chris Sununu announced that the state will opt out of the FirstNet plan wireless nationwide public safety communications network. The state is the first to decide against contracting with the first responder network presented by AT&T.

Instead, Sununu said New Hampshire will go with an alternative high-speed wireless broadband network to be built and operated by Rivada Networks LLC.

In making the announcement Thursday morning at the N.H. State Police Troop F barracks, Sununu cited the unanimous recommendation of a committee set up study the issue. He also included statements of support from N.H. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and Commissioner of Safety John Barthelmes.

But Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney, (R-Wakefield), who represents the northern third of the state, criticized the decision and said he will not vote to approve a contract with Rivada, when it comes before the executive council early next year. Kenney called Rivada an inexperienced start-up that has never built a wireless network.

States have until Dec. 28 to decide to join the FirstNet network and 35 states and territories have signed on so far.

Sununu said the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee voted 15-0 that going with Rivada was “Far and away our best option.” The governor also reviewed a due diligence report from the FirstNet Opt-Out Review Committee.

“After reviewing the report from the FirstNet Opt-Out Review Committee, it is clear that while an opt-out decision comes with regulatory and financial risks, those risks can be mitigated through the safeguards and contractual provisions that the Committee has recommended,” Sununu said.

The governor said the plan put forward by Rivada has the potential to provide immense value to the state and the possibility of a greater level of control.

But Kenney argued the state should not gamble with public safety, noting FirstNet/AT&T guaranteed 99 percent wireless coverage for the state.

“Rivada’s plan is untested, unproven and will not work. I cannot support this decision, nor support a contract with Rivada, which would mean giving up on enhanced rural coverage for my district and improving public safety,” Kenney said.

Gov. Sununu visits the North Country

Sununu visits North CountryStyephen Capone, owner of Capone Iron North Woods, gave Gov. Chris Sununu a tour of his plant on Thursday morning. Joining the tour were (from left) Northern Community Investment Corp. President John Freeman, Berlin Councilor Diana Nelson and Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier. (BARBARA TETREAULT PHOTO)

By Barbara Tetreault and Martha Creegan

BERLIN-GORHAM — Making his first public swing through the North Country as governor, Chris Sununu had breakfast with local community leaders at Welch’s Restaurant in Gorham and toured the Capone Iron North Woods plant Thursday morning.

Donning a hard hat, Gov. Sununu listened as Capone President Stephen Capone outlined how his company purchased the former Hexaport building from White Mountains Community College in 2015 and put a 16,000 square foot addition to the 31,559 square foot main building. A steel fabrication company headquartered in Rowley, Mass., Capone said he expanded to Berlin because there was an available work force. The Berlin operation currently employs 23 people and plans to hire two more by the end of the month.

Sununu said he expects the Trump administration to grant his request for a federal disaster declaration for the Oct. 29-30 storm that caused over $800,000 of damage in the Berlin-Gorham area.

The state has requested $6 million assistance for five counties heavily damaged by the storm, including Coos County. While the state has not heard back on the request, Sununu said he has no reason to believe the state’s request will be held up. He said the state has responded to a number of natural disasters in recent years and has developed an excellent statewide emergency plan.

The governor displayed a passion for education in an interview with The Berlin Sun, noting that his wife was a special education teacher. He called for the state to revisit how it funds education, arguing that sinking more money into the system does not increase the quality.

“Why can’t we change the system?“ Sununu asked. “What we need is more efficient dollars for more effective outcomes.
He said cities and towns need the flexibility to create what works for their community in the long term. And teachers need to have more input in the education process.

He pointed to the amount of money that is currently available for each classroom. At an average of $17, 649 per pupil, according to a January state Department of Education publication, a classroom of 20 students has about $353,000 to spend. That is a lot of money, and too much of it is being spent on responding to bureaucratic demands, said Sununu.

Providing more flexibility for the teachers to innovate is the path to better outcomes he said. He noted that the current Common Core testing is taking up too much class time.

“There is nothing educational about practicing for a test,” he said.

While he agrees that standards can be useful, he said the problem is how we assess them.

“We need to cut the regulations and release more money to the teachers in the classroom,” he said. “It’s all about the kids and the teachers,” he said.

Sununu discussed N.H. Senate Bill 193, which would establish education savings accounts for students whose family income is 300 percent or less of the federal poverty amount, or about $73,800. The state would put aside a certain amount of money for a child and the parent must sign a contract guaranteeing the money will be spent on educating their child. The decision on how that money is spent is up to the family, and it could cover things like online education, private schooling, tutoring, or another educational opportunity. That money would then be deducted from the state’s contribution to that school district’s funding.

If the child attends a school other than the school in his or her district, or is home schooled, the district school wins according to Sununu. They lose the state’s contribution for educating that child, but they retain the community’s allocation.

The problem for the community is that if the child remains in his or her local school system — for example if the money is spent on tutoring, the local system loses the amount of money the state has put aside, but still bears the full cost of educating that child. Sununu stressed that only the money the state contributes to educating that child will be lost. The community will retain its entire allocated amount.

Although the bill allowing Keno as a means of funding full-day kindergarten throughout the state was not his idea, Sununu said he supported it because he believes early child education is important. The bill guarantees communities with full-day kindergarten an additional $1,100 per kindergarten student.

The money generated by Keno is shared with all communities in the state, even those that vote not to allow the lottery game. Sununu said he believes eventually the vast majority of communities will vote to allow Keno.

He noted Berlin already has full-day kindergarten and said he was aware of the work being done in Coos County on early childhood development.

While he supports the proposed Republican tax cut making its way through Congress, Sununu said he wants to see the deduction restored for teachers who spend their own money on school supplies, as well as the graduate student tuition waiver, the student loan interest deduction, the child tax credit, and the adoption tax credit. When the final bill is signed into law, Sununu said he believes it will be a net benefit for Middle America.

On another issue, when asked about the current allocation of the rooms and meals tax, he said he is open to revisit this, but that he is not directly involved initially. He said that process has to start with the Legislature.

The current allocation is based on population rather than dollar amount contributed. As Coos County is in the process of rebuilding its economy after losing thousands of jobs to the closing of paper mills, tourism is playing a bigger role, but the county’s population is not increasing proportionately. The county contributes quite a bit more to the rooms and meals tax purse than it receives. A larger share coming back to the North Country could help relieve the tax burden for one of the state’s poorer counties.

Overall, Sununu said his goal as governor is to leave the state better than he found it. He said he has used his team-building skills and a bipartisan approach that has allowed the state to separate itself from the negativity that dominates national politics and get things done. With plans to run for re-election, Sununu listed economic development, a long-term energy plan and battling the opioid crisis as things he continues to tackle.

When asked how he and his family have adapted to being back in the limelight, as the son of a former governor and White House Chief of staff and the brother of a former U.S. Senator, Sununu said he understands the toll politics takes on a politician’s family. He said he works hard to maintain quality family time and keep life as normal as possible for his three young children.