Sara Willa Ernst

News Fellow

Sara is NHPR's Couch Fellow for Innovation, working in the newsroom and on NHPR's Creative Production Unit.

NHPR is Sara's fourth public radio newsroom. She previously interned at NPR, Nashville Public Radio and WBUR Boston. She graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

KRISTIAN BJORNARD; FLICKR cc

  

New Hampshire is forming a new committee to study recycling streams and solid waste management. The legislature is taking on this issue as some communities have struggled to keep their recycling programs going.

The committee will have three representatives from the House and one from the Senate. Members of the committee will study the issue and propose legislation based on their findings.

ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing / Flickr/CC

A new report from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority says the affordable housing market has gotten even tighter this year. The survey polled owners and managers of more than 23,000 market rate rentals across the state, earlier this year. 

The results revealed that rent prices are rising and less housing is available.

  • The median rental price for a two bedroom unit increased 4% since 2018
  • The statewide vacancy rate decreased from 2% to less than 1%.

 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill Thursday to protect children from discrimination in New Hampshire public schools.

 

The new anti-discrimination law offers equal protection to all students regardless of age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, color, marital status, familial status, disability, religion or national origin.

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded grants to support bringing more local food into school cafeterias in New Hampshire.

The 2019 Farm to School grants will go to the North Country Farmers’ Cooperative and the Nashua School District.

New Hampshire received two out of 126 grants across 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Over $9 million in federal funding was awarded. 

Sara Ernst / NHPR

Senator Maggie Hassan visited Strafford County on Monday to learn how officials there dealt with a June cyberattack. Hassan, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, says she's looking for ways federal legislation can help local governments deal with cybercrime. 

Echoing the input she heard from local officials, Hassan said there needs to be a structure in place to help large and small organizations collaborate in combating cybercrime.

Ruin Raider via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/8uzPPU

New research from the University of New Hampshire recommends that the state should invest in thicker asphalt roads. The state's roads are likely to see more damage due to rising temperatures and sea levels.

When asphalt is exposed to hotter springs and summers, it's more likely to crack under the weight of vehicles and create rougher surfaces. Damaged roads can lead to reduced fuel efficiency, more safety hazards and more traffic due to construction and road closures.

Sara Ernst / NHPR

The sale of St. Joseph’s Church in Laconia has been called off, after prospective buyers withdrew from the deal. 

The Diocese of Manchester, the Catholic Church in New Hampshire, announced a new plan to preserve the church Monday. The plan is to divide the campus into three parcels: the John W. Busiel House, the old Holy Trinity School and St. Joseph’s church. The Diocese will then keep the church and sell the other two buildings. 

  

Pasja1000 via Pixabay / https://pixabay.com/images/id-3336451/

New Hampshire passed a law last week forming a commission to advocate for the needs of its aging population. The Granite State has the second oldest population in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Sean Hurley for NHPR

The seven bikers killed in a June car crash will be memorialized in a motorcycle ride from Laconia to Randolph on Saturday. 

 

More than 1,000 motorcyclists from all over New England are estimated to participate in the ride and pay their respects to what bikers are dubbing “the Fallen 7.”

Emily Corwin for NHPR

The computer system for  Strafford County’s government is close to getting fully back online, after a cyberattack led the county to shut down some of its servers. 

 

Early Friday, the Strafford County IT Department started to receive reports of problems with a few computers at the county jail. They detected a virus and decided the safest approach was to temporarily shut down the system.  

 

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The Balsams Resort, a historic grand hotel in Dixville Notch, is for sale. The developers working to restore the hotel have been struggling to find funding, and estimate that phase one of the redevelopment project will cost 173 million dollars.

For the past few years, the team has been seeking funding through public bonds and traditional bank financing.

Scott Tranchemontagne is a spokesperson for The Balsams project. He says the developers, including lead developer Les Otten, are now selling equity as a way to find additional investors willing to support their vision. 

Via AirBnB

People who rent out space in their homes through AirBnB may face new rules in Laconia. Last night the Laconia City Council approved short-term rental regulations for Airbnb and other home-sharing sites.

The rules would require hosts to submit an application to the city, perform safety inspections, and provide on-site parking, among other changes.

Councilor David Bownes said this is just the first step in a long process.

Sara Ernst / NHPR

The Executive Council Chamber fell quiet when Rev. Robert Thompson started singing the black folk song ‘Oh Freedom.’

The attendees came to witness the Governor sign a bill recognizing Juneteenth as an an official New Hampshire holiday.

Juneteenth, often considered African American Independence Day, commemorates the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas in 1865. They learned that they were free two years after the emancipation proclamation was declared.

Many people consider June 19th the real anniversary of abolition.

Sara Ernst / NHPR

Presidential candidate Seth Moulton echoed the sentiments of local leaders gathered at Merrimack Town Hall: Increase access to PFAS testing and strengthen enforcement on the federal level.

 

Officials from Merrimack invited Moulton, as well as all the presidential hopefuls, to participate in a community discussion Monday to learn more about PFAS contamination in New Hampshire.

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Community members formally appealed the decision by the Diocese of Manchester to demolish St. Joseph’s Church in Laconia. This is a last ditch effort to save the building after church officials filed for a demolition permit.

 

The appeal was submitted by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Preservation Society, a nonprofit created by a handful of impassioned community members last week.

 

NH Department of Education

The free summer meals program started in Manchester on Friday, the first day of summer vacation. The program offers free breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner for any child 18 years old and under when school’s out. Other communities, including Berlin and Nashua, will begin the program when their school years end.

 

Valerie Carignan, the Food and Nutrition Director at Southern New Hampshire Services, a non-profit running some of the sites, says the program abides by USDA standards to guarantee kids get a nutritious meal.

 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar joined a New Hampshire tradition, Politics & Eggs, hosted Monday at St. Anselm College.

 

The U.S. Senator from Minnesota told the crowd of voters that investing in infrastructure is a priority in a time of economic stability after bouncing back from the 2008 housing crisis.

Southern New Hampshire University is working with Walmart to offer employees a pathway to debt-free college. On Tuesday, the company announced its expansion of Live Better U. The program, which launched one year ago, now include degrees in computer science, cybersecurity and IT.

 

Farmers Mkt Produce
USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently published a census report on New Hampshire’s farming industry. The data shows that New Hampshire farms are becoming smaller and more profitable.

 

The USDA report, which is done every five years, shares numbers from 2017.

 

Some key findings:

NHPR

  Nearly 300 Dartmouth College alumni, students and professors are demanding the college drop its opposition to the use of pseudonyms by women suing the school for allegedly mishandling sexual abuse complaints.

 

The statement was also signed by Congresswoman Annie Kuster and state Senator Martha Hennessey, both of whom say they were assaulted when they were undergraduate students at Dartmouth.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Democrats in the state Senate passed three bills Thursday they contend will reduce gun violence in New Hampshire.

 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Supporters of abortion rights rallied outside the New Hampshire State House Tuesday as part of a nationwide movement called "Stop the Bans."

 

Sara Ernst

The Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University is featuring an exhibit on the history of Grand Hotels in New Hampshire.

These luxury resorts soared in popularity at the turn of the 20th century. Today, there are only four hotels of their kind left in the state.

Sara Ernst

Nashua Drug Court held a ceremony on Thursday for four new graduates of its program to help those struggling with addiction. The program aims to reduce recidivism and harsh jail time with the alternative of rigorous drug rehabilitation.

Sara Ernst for NHPR

The Manchester City School District held a Q&A forum with superintendent candidates in their search for new school leadership on Wednesday. Parents, teachers, principals, board members and students showed up to the event, which took place at Memorial High School.

The search has been whittled down to three candidates: the two interim co-superintendents Jennifer Gillis and Amy Allen, as well as John Goldhardt, an educator from Salt Lake City.

NHPR Staff

Dartmouth College is challenging the anonymity of plaintiffs in a $70 million class-action lawsuit that claims the school mishandled sexual abuse complaints for years.

Dartmouth argues the use of pseudonyms for two recently added plaintiffs will make it unfairly difficult for the college to defend itself.

The lawsuit, filed last fall, centers around three former members of the school’s neuroscience faculty. Plaintiffs argue Dartmouth administrators failed to properly protect students from harassment and assault by the men.

Sara Ernst

New England College celebrated its largest graduating class at the school’s 77th commencement on Saturday. 950 undergraduate, graduate and online students received their degrees.

The private liberal arts school is the most diverse university in New Hampshire. Graduates this year hailed from 47 states and 16 countries.

Although it was a day of celebration, some students did have some mixed feelings on graduation day.

NH Fish and Game

  The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has closed the state’s ocean coastline and Hampton Seabrook Harbor to shellfish harvesting. The agency came to this decision after finding high levels of a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning in mussel samples taken yesterday. The toxin comes from what’s known as red tide.

 

Chris Nash is the Shellfish Program Manager at the department and he says the toxin is produced by algae.

The University of New Hampshire will join a new consortium of research institutions to explore three billion acres of U.S. ocean. The research at UNH will focus primarily on ocean mapping and data visualization.

“What I think people don’t realize is how little of the ocean is known,” said Larry Mayer, principal investigator for UNH on the project. “Only about 6-10 percent of the ocean has ever been mapped. So that leaves 90% that is totally unknown.”