Seacoast news in brief


News from around the NH and southern Maine Seacoast


PS21 hosts affordable housing workshops

Interested in shaping the future of affordable housing in Portsmouth? PS21 (Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century) is hosting a series of community workshops and vision sessions on Jan. 28-29. Planner and smart-growth expert Jennifer Hurley will lead the discussions.

“There are a lot of groups that are interested in this topic and hoping to fill a need” in the city, says Doug Roberts, one of PS21’s founders.

According to Roberts, Hurley has a background in affordable housing policy, urban planning, and conflict resolution.

“She has a very organized and thorough way of looking at this,” he says. “Her approach is to get everyone to agree on some things and move forward.

The first session takes place on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at 3S Artspace, located at 319 Vaughan St. There, Hurley will facilitate a community discussion on developing a vision for affordable housing in the city and present options for developing and preserving affordable housing.

Roberts says the first workshop is aimed at the public and people who are not familiar with affordable housing policy and development. “It’s about values and what the community wants — who should affordable housing be for, where should it be located, what it might look like, and what type of housing would it be,” he says.

On Friday, Jan. 29 at noon at the Portsmouth Public Library, 175 Parrot Ave., working groups will discuss the ideas generated on Thursday night and create a list of community assets and ways to maintain and create affordable housing.

Roberts hopes the workshops will eventually influence housing policy in the city. “There will not just be discussion there, but we hope people will continue working on the particular approaches they decide will work best in Portsmouth,” he says.

Both sessions are free and open to the public. Registration is required; register at — Larry Clow


County hosts budget hearing

Strafford County residents can have a say on the county’s proposed 2016 budget at a public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Strafford County Justice and Administration Building, located at 259 County Farm Road in Dover.

County commissioners have proposed a $60 million operating budget and expect $29.9 million in revenue. The county is looking to raise $30 million in taxes, an increase of 1.47 percent over the 2015 budget.

In a statement, commissioners said the budget “stays within the best estimated tax caps for the cities of Strafford County.” The commissioners attributed part of the increase to agreements with employee unions and said “market-based adjustments were necessary to attract and retain qualified staff” at the county jail and Riverside Rest Home.

The budget also includes additional funding for the county’s Drug Task Force and expanding employee hours and beginning a Narcan program for the county’s transitional housing program.

Copies of the budget are available at the county commissioners’ website ( and physical copies are available at the county commissioners’ office and at town and city halls in the county. — LC

Berwick, Maine

Town adopts new slogan

With efforts underway to clean up and potentially redevelop the former Prime Tanning building, Berwick is in the midst of giving itself something of a makeover. The latest change? A new town slogan, chosen by residents and approved by selectmen earlier this month.

The new slogan is, “Where tradition meets tomorrow.” The volunteer group Envision Berwick organized a campaign last fall for residents to pitch ideas for a new slogan. Residents then voted for their favorite slogan. The winning slogan was suggested by resident Rachel Pozzeti, according to James Bellissimo, co-chair of Envision Berwick.

“The new slogan is the start of defining what Berwick is, and is a piece of how we establish the Berwick brand. A big part of what we do includes helping to change our belief of what Berwick can be, and a huge part of this is actually seeing things happen,” Bellissimo says. “We feel a beautiful new sign with a slogan that represents our community is going to serve as one more indicator that something good is happening.”

The new slogan replaces the town’s previous motto, “Maine’s 9th oldest town.” Bellissimo says design work is being done on a new welcome sign to be located between Somersworth and Berwick. There are plans for additional signs and Bellissimo says the slogan will be incorporated into “our town branding.”

“We hope to have the sign in the ground in the spring. … This should coincide with the beginning of some work being done on the Prime (Tanning) site as well,” he says. — LC

At the Statehouse

On Thursday, Jan. 21, the use of solitary confinement in prisons in the state will be the topic of the day for the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. They’ll hear testimony on three bills: HB 1311, HB 1506, and HB 1507, all of which propose to set limits on how and when solitary confinement can be used as a punishment and which establish a legislative committee to study the effectiveness of solitary confinement.

Rep. Elizabeth Edwards (D-Manchester) is the primary sponsor of HB 1506 and HB 1507.  “My chief interest when I decided to run for office was reducing human suffering,” says Edwards, who is in her first term in the House. “I’d say people in prisons, and particularly people in solitary confinement, are experiencing some of the most easily preventable suffering in the United States.”

According to Edwards, solitary confinement does little to reduce recidivism and exacerbates mental illness. She’s optimistic that legislators will approve a study committee.

“Study committees are less controversial than bills that are actually changing the status quo,” she says. “We don’t have a lot of data about how … solitary confinement is used in New Hampshire specifically.”

Also on Jan. 21, the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee will hear testimony on HB 1368, which would require firearm owners to carry liability insurance. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Deanna Rollo (D-Rollinsford).

Also that day, the House Finance Committee will hold a work session on HB 1686, sponsored by Rep. Keith Ammon (R-New Boston), which would repeal the state’s Land Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and send money meant for the program to the state’s general fund.

The Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee will hold hearings on four bills about the state’s medical marijuana program. Committee members will hear testimony on HB 1373, which would increase the number of medical marijuana treatment centers in the state from four to six; HB 1501, which amends language in the state’s medical marijuana law; and HB 1453 and 1309, which add ulcerative colitis and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that can be treated with pot.

On Jan. 26, the Ways and Means Committee will hear testimony on four bills — HB 1258, 1422, 1572, and 1254 — that would lower the state’s business profits tax