This past Wednesday, Aug. 23, Keene State College welcomed more than just first years to its campus; it also said hello to New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and the Executive Council.
There were a few meetings held on campus that Governor and the Executive Council attended. The first was a breakfast meeting held in the Technology, Design & Safety Center (TDS). The University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees member Jamie Burnett was one of the attendees of the day’s meetings.
Burnett said that during the breakfast meeting, information was presented on the Sustainable Product Design & Innovation (SPDI) program at KSC.
“If we’re not teaching what they need in terms of skills, they’re not going to be able to get into the workforce that they want,” Burnett said in an interview with The Equinox. “Students aren’t going to want to come here. There won’t be jobs here so we just need to continue to do that. I think that there’s a large recognition that that’s important and I think that that work is happening now and has been ongoing but we just need to continue to do that.”
New Hampshire District Two’s councilor Andru Volinsky, who was also in attendance at the breakfast, said, “In this day and age, we’re trying to find opportunities to create better paying jobs for hardworking people and advanced manufacturing is one area that’s promising. And so to have a program like that at Keene State is a real plus.”
On the same day, there was also a Governor and Executive Council meeting held in the Student Center’s Mabel Brown room at 10:00 a.m.. Four of five of the executive councilors were present at the meeting, including Volinsky.
Volinsky was the individual who selected KSC as the meeting’s location.
“I’ve been interested in for actually quite a while the economic development issues in places like Keene,” Volinsky said to The Equinox during an interview.. “…I thought particularly with the SPDI program, we could emphasizes the connectivity of the school to business in the Keene region and I wanted to encourage that.”
There were 106 items on the Regular Agenda, each falling under a specific department or office. While some items were passed with a simple vote, others were discussed before making a decision.
One of the discussions was focused on items under the “Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services” section. In an interview with The Equinox following the meeting, Sununu said, “I doubled the alcohol funds in New Hampshire which is really the flexible funds that we have in the state dollars to address the opioid crisis….This opioid crisis is unlike anything we’ve ever seen so you got to be able to push the envelope a little bit, try new things, and I think in New Hampshire we’ve had the opportunity to do that.”
According to Volinsky, five percent of NH’s gross liquor sale profits, about 20 million in two years, is suppose to go to the state’s Drug and Alcohol fund. However, “the legislature only dedicated about half of that,” Volinsky said. “That missing 10 million, if you want to think of it that way, went to fund indiscriminate business tax decreases…that meant that money wasn’t available to fully fund the Drug and Alcohol fund even though we’re in the midst of the worst opioid crisis in our history.”
The Governor and the Executive Council also discussed a topic revolving around the Department of Corrections. Following a lawsuit filed in 2012, the state began construction of a new women’s prison in Concord, NH, according to an article in The Union Leader. Although the prison will be completed in the fall, it will not open then. Volinsky said the corrections department was never given the authorization to start recruiting staff.
“There’s a six month lead time to train and certify new correctional officers,” Volinsky said. “If the prison’s going to open in September, you don’t authorize recruitment to begin two months earlier. …They’re not going to open the women’s prison until, if they’re lucky, springtime, probably next summer. Its inexcusable. We’ve spent the money to build the place. The legislature should fund the staffing.”
A total of three items were tabled by the conclusion of the meeting.
The next Governor and Executive Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 13, according to the State of New Hampshire Executive Council website. However, the meeting place is still to be determined.
Alexandria Saurman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org