Local & Regional Briefs for Thursday, August 28, 2014

N.H. Committee Working to Address Synthetic Marijuana Concerns

Concord (Concord Monitor) — A recent spike in overdoses across the state has heightened the urgency of the task before a committee charged with addressing synthetic marijuana, said state Sen. Molly Kelly, of Keene, who worked this spring to create the committee, which met for the first time Wednesday.

The committee was formed months before Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency Aug. 14 following a spike in “serious medical reactions” and hospitalizations related to synthetic cannabinoids.

Kelly drafted the bill to establish the committee in response to concerns that local officials brought to her attention about the substances last year. It passed in May and became effective July 11.

The committee will likely meet weekly until it can come up with a plan to address the issue, Kelly said, probably through legislation, education, outreach to agencies who work in this area or a combination of several approaches.

A general “lack of understanding of what the substance is, and being able to identify and control the substance” makes tackling the problem particularly challenging, she said.

Kelly said the goal of the first meeting was to thoroughly understand the scope of the problem: How is synthetic marijuana made, how is it sold, how is it affecting communities in New Hampshire, and how can communities keep up with changes to the substance’s makeup?

Those present at the first meeting included Attorney General Joe Foster, Forensic Laboratory Director at the Department of Safety Tim Pifer, New Futures Advocacy Director Tricia Lucas and others, Kelly said.

The public is welcome to attend future meetings, Kelly said, and the next one is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 4 at the State House in Concord.

Unions Deliver Another Proposal To FairPoint

Nashua, n.h. — Unions representing more than 1,700 FairPoint Communications workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have delivered another contract proposal to the company in hopes of ending a stalemate.

Pete McLaughlin from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Maine said the proposal submitted Wednesday aimed to reduce operation costs while meeting union members’ needs.

The previous proposal submitted on Aug. 14 was rejected by the company.

FairPoint has struggled since buying Verizon’s landline telephone operations in northern New England seven years ago and wants to cut labor, health care and pension costs. Union workers, who’ve authorized a strike, are working under terms of the contract that expired Aug. 3 while negotiations continue.

Three Years Post-Irene, New Office Complex Rising

Waterbury, Vt. — Three years after flooding from Tropical Storm Irene made most of the Vermont state office complex in Waterbury unusable, construction is underway on a replacement complex.

The $125 million office complex is the largest state building project in Vermont history.

The project includes a new 86,000-square-foot office building, a 20,000-square-foot central plant and the renovation of 13 buildings that were on the site before the flood.

The new buildings are being constructed above the flood zone and the basements of the old buildings that are being renovated are being filled in so they won’t flood in the future.

Project Manager Mike Stevens says the project is on time and on budget. It’s due to be finished by late 2015.

— Wire reports