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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8


July 24, 2011

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee; Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee; Vice Chairman of the State Parks Advisory Council; and member of the  Capital Budget Committee.

Senate District 8 towns: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

The state’s new two year budget is less than a month old and there are already problems. Last week, the federal government determined that the state owes a repayment of $35 million in Medicaid funds. This is no surprise to key legislators who have been waiting for this shoe to drop. But, there is no provision in the new budget to handle an expenditure of this magnitude.

New Hampshire has used our Medicaid enhancement tax … a tax on hospital patient services … that we then matched with an equal amount of federal Medicaid money for a net gain each year of around $100 million. That money went directly into our general fund to pay for state operations.

The issue is how a related $100 million was sent back to the hospitals that paid the tax in the form of money for uncompensated care. The federal government has said in 2004 we violated guidelines on how the money was distributed to the hospitals.

This is a complicated but critical issue. The $35 million is about five percent of the Department of Health and Humans Services general fund budget and any reductions in spending at the department would come on top of tens of millions in cuts in the current budget.

That is one problem the legislature will have to deal with. Another will be the result of the battles in Washington over deficit reduction. Any spending reductions, I believe, will have to impact money that flows from Washington to the states.

In fiscal year 2010, the state received $2.6 billion from Washington or about half our total revenue. Any cuts … five percent, ten percent, whatever amount, will be a major hit to state finances.

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Local historical societies are an important part of the cultural and historical landscape of New Hampshire. I am on the mailing list of several in my state senate district and, when time is available, I enjoy attending the societies’ programs.

We have a first class New Hampshire Historical Society which does good work preserving our state history and making its resources available to educate and inform school children, scholars and average citizens on our past. Our local historical societies replicate that effort at town, city and county levels.

I attended the July meeting of the Newport Historical Society to hear a presentation by Terry Dorr on the history of the Dorr Woolen Company. It was not just Terry’s presentation which included stories he had learned from his father but also the interaction with some in the audience who had worked at the mill that made the evening so interesting. One attendee, for example, had worked there for 43 years.

The story of the Dorr Woolen Company can be traced back generations to the first mills in Newport in the early 19th century. The physical plant that would become the Dorr mill was built in 1867 just after the Civil War ended. It became a Dorr company when Terry’ grandfather bought out his partner, George Fairbanks, in 1918.

Terry’s father, George Dorr, carried on the mill’s legacy through many changes and adaptations as the market for woolen products changed. He wrote a brief history of the Dorr Woolen Company that tells how the mill in Newport was impacted by industry changes.

George Dorr wrote of one, "In January, 1952, I went to Detroit to meet our sales agent and visit the vice-president for fabric purchases of the Ford Motor Company. As I was leaving Ford’s purchasing office, I met an old friend, the head interior designer of Ford who invited me to visit a display of mockups of the new models. Approval had just been made for production, and these were to be on the production line in eighteen months.

"It was a rare privilege for me to be able to see them before production had started. A basic change had been made in the interior design which completely eliminated the use of woolen type cloth and would also eliminate Dorr’s automobile business. Shortly, other auto manufacturers made the same decision. Thus, in eighteen months, ninety percent of the mill’s production was phased out."

New product lines were created that sustained the mill through its purchase by Pendleton Woolen Mills in 1981. It was closed a few years later.

And so story went throughout the Dorr mill’s history. Entrepreneurship, investment in new technology, adaption to unionization and adjustments to meet the ever changing marketplace were part of the business lives of local industrial leaders like Terry Dorr’s father and grandfather. It is a story worth telling and learning.

Newport, like a number of other New Hampshire towns, is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year.

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As I went into the club house at the Newport Golf Club, there were four upcoming charity golf tournaments listed on the announcement board. That is one indicator of how popular charity golf tournaments are for local not-for-profits.

The tournament on Saturday was the 5th annual Race to the Cure, a fund-raising effort with much local support benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Like other tournaments, low handicap golfers along with duffers join together and play in a scramble format that equalizes players’ skills and keeps the game moving along.

The result is that funds are raised for the battle against cancer and players have fun on the golf course. Congratulations to the organizers for another successful event.

Bob Odell
State Senator
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951

Telephone:  603-271-6733
Email:  rpojr@aol.com

 

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