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Sununu lends an ear to community's needs during visit to Littleton



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Gov. Chris Sununu at Lakeway Elementary with Crystal Martin. (Photo by Justin Roshak) (click for larger version)
January 23, 2019
LITTLETON—Gov. Chris Sununu toured through town last Wednesday, including visits to Bethlehem's Friendship House and Lakeway Elementary School.

At Ammonoosuc Community Health Services' Littleton dental clinic, CEO Ed Shanshala said that oral health impacted other areas of life, including employ-ability and diet. He told the governor that a financially feasible Medicaid benefit for dentistry would help ACHS serve a greater range of patients.

He added that ACHS plays a significant role as a teaching location, but that retention of skilled workers was a priority and a challenge.

Sununu said that for patients with methamphetamine addiction, oral health was "the number one thing that keeps them from being employed."

Speaking to the ACHS leadership team, Sununu said that housing was a key challenge. He avoided using charged terms like "affordable" and "workforce" housing (which often spark concerns among relatively wealthier citizens that low-quality, mass-produced units will erode their own property values). However, Sununu added that housing had to serve all types, including young workers, young couples, and young families.

"There's good jobs, there's good pay. It's a booming economy, it's really great. But if you can't have the workers..." he trailed off, meaningfully, before he added, "Workers will decide where they're going to go very much based on the quality of housing that they're going to have."

He said it was important to consider generational preferences of Millennials, who form a critical and important part of the state's workforce.

"God help me if I can understand what they're thinking," he said, but added, "That's a very important piece to this whole puzzle, is making sure we're designing products for them, and housing is such a big part of that."

At Lakeway Elementary School, Sununu was curious about district leadership's plans for a new Elementary School. Principal Crystal Martin showed him some of the building's shortcomings, including mold stains on the ceilings, and described what she called the "dangerous" situation out front, where buses and students meet the highway at arrival and departure time. The governor was willing to conjecture about possible costs "if we did something with state building aid," but did not give further hints about his estimation of the political likelihood. Representative Erin Hennessy, who accompanied

The Governor told district leadership that there was "a giant pot of special ed money sitting at the state," and urged them to "Go get it."

"A huge portion of our Special Ed funds were not taken," he said. "We need people to go get it, because otherwise, we won't be able to draw that kind of money down again from the Federal government."

Martin said that Littleton had just about used up its allocation down to the penny, and district leaders expressed enthusiasm for pursuing additional funds in the second round.

Sununu also observed that socio-emotional learning, such as that which district leadership has aimed to implement in the past year, is gaining traction nationwide, especially when brought together with anti-bullying and mental health awareness efforts.

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