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Michael Moore / Sentinel Staff 

Michael Moore / Sentinel Staff

Before getting married later in the day, rock climber Jake Nero of Troy ascends a cliff wall along the rail trail off Route 12 in Troy Saturday morning. He is assisted by Luke Crory of New Ipswich, on belay, as Sean Struzik of Jaffrey watches at left.

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Yang returns to more-fervent following in Keene

Long removed from the days of being accompanied by a single staffer, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang returned to the Elm City Monday to a jubilant crowd that filled the flag room at Keene State College.

Of the campaign’s count of roughly 120 voters in attendance, many of them were sporting Yang campaign merchandise. Items included “MATH” hats — a popular $25 donation item — to stickers and even a T-shirt with a cartoon version of the tech entrepreneur’s face.

Yang’s campaigning has become more sophisticated since launching his campaign almost two years ago, with Monday marking his third trip to Keene.

While the 44-year-old has been running largely on the same central platform of warning the public about the perils of automation and assuaging economic anxiety through his proposal for a universal basic income — giving each American adult $1,000 a month to spend as they see fit by imposing a value-added tax on tech company transactions — his oratory has evolved.

Instead of listing statistics, studies and observations about the modern economy, he leaned more heavily Monday evening into call-and-response tactics. Yang would ask the crowd to raise their hands or shout out whether certain things applied to them, such as starting their own business, or if they remembered where they were on election night in 2016.

“He was very engaging with the audience,” Tobin Fay, a 20-year-old Keene State sophomore, said of Yang’s call-and-response technique. “The fact that he didn’t really walk around questions — he kind of addressed the person and really answered what they were asking.”

Yang also wove more humor and specifics into his stump speech, forming a cohesive narrative that struck some voters as refreshing and authentic compared to career politicians.

“This campaign has a bunch of deep ideas as to what’s really going on in American society,” Yang said afterward when asked about the evolution of his oratory. “And so any time I have a chance to address people, I want to give them a breakdown as to what the real problems are. So this is the form it ended up taking.

“It is true that it’s not a traditional politician stump speech where there aren’t a ton of applause lines, and it’s not a lot of rah-rah,” Yang added. “But one of the reasons I think we’re doing so well is that we’re being true to who we are, and I’m being true to who I am as a candidate, and, you know, I think explaining problems to people comes very naturally to me.”

A recent Fox News poll has the New Yorker in fifth place in the Democratic primary. And he was one of the first of only 10 candidates to qualify for the next round of debates in September by accumulating enough individual donors and consistent polling at 2 percent or better.

Yang was also joined Monday by campaign adviser Steve Marchand, a former mayor of Portsmouth and a two-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

When Yang last came to Keene in February, he was considered a long-shot, single-issue candidate with minimal name recognition. But as he promised that month on the premiere of The Sentinel’s politics podcast, Pod Free or Die, things were only getting started.

Just over a week later, Yang appeared on the popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience — the episode’s YouTube video alone has more than 3.8 million views — and began cultivating a fervent following known as the #YangGang.

At his rally Monday night, supporters explained why they’re fully supporting him in the primary already after seeing him in person and researching him online.

Tobin Fay was joined by Michael Varno, 21, of Keene, who said he discovered Yang online after the first debates in late June and were drawn to his platform. Upon hearing him speak in the flag room Monday, they were both sold.

“He didn’t have any notes in front of him or anything, so the statistics were what really got me,” Varno, a rising senior at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., said. “He was able to just pull things right out of his head. So I know that he’s done the research, and I know he believes in what he’s saying.”

Perhaps the most pointed question Yang faced from the audience was one that cut to the core of his message when a man asked if his $12,000 per-year “Freedom Dividend” would just be consigning Americans to near poverty despite being intended to help those displaced by the rise of automation.

“So according to McKinsey [Global Management Consulting], Bain [Capital], VCG [Consulting Group] and the Obama White House, we’re looking at automating away between 20 and 44 percent of American jobs in the next 10 to 25 years,” Yang said, before arguing that in the meantime, $1,000 a month could help Americans save money, invest in a new business venture, pursue other interests and better insulate themselves for the turbulent transition whenever automation hits their professional sector.

“You have to look at the second-order impact of people getting a thousand bucks a month, not just that household, because you’re right,” Yang said. “A thousand bucks is not a job replacement, nor is it intended to be. What it does is help us move towards an economy that has more opportunities in the sort of work that we want to do.”

When Yang asked if that money coming into Keene would boost entrepreneurship, the arts and caregiving, he was met with nodding heads and a chorus of yeses.

Throughout his speech and well into the Q&A period, several voters would turn to their neighbor, raising their eyebrows and nodding in agreement.

“That’s what I like about seeing a candidate in person,” Varno said, “because anyone can type anything and post it on their website, but when you see them actually talk about it in person, you can see that passion.”

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Klobuchar dives into rural policies at Stonewall Farm

Injecting humor throughout her stump speech and demonstrating her depth of knowledge on rural policy issues, Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar connected with voters in Keene Monday morning during a three-hour visit to Stonewall Farm.

After touring the farm and conducting a roundtable discussion on her policy priorities — many of which she has laid out in her rural America and first 100 days plans — the U.S. senator from Minnesota, 59, gave her remarks and answered questions.

The campaign had the crowd at just over 70, according to a sign-in sheet.

Local leaders in attendance included state Sen. Jay V. Kahn, D-Keene, and his predecessor, former gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly of Harrisville, neither of whom have formally endorsed a presidential hopeful yet.

However, Kahn, who introduced Klobuchar, said the Minnesotan is on his shortlist of candidates in the Democratic primary.

“I think she’s gaining — her voice is growing stronger,” Kahn said of Klobuchar after the event. “She’s broadened her ability to speak to global economic and political issues, and bring them back to domestic issues in this country. And I think that’s important.”

A top issue in Klobuchar’s wheelhouse on Monday was climate change.

That same morning, just ahead of Klobuchar’s speech, news broke that President Donald Trump had missed a meeting at the G7 Summit in France where world leaders agreed to a $20 million aid package to help put out fires in the Amazon rainforest and conserve land.

The Amazon is known as “the lungs of the Earth” for its trees’ ability to take carbon out of the atmosphere.

“We have a lot of tribes in Minnesota, and there’s this old Ojibwa saying that great leaders make decisions not just for this generation, but seven generations from now,” Klobuchar told The Sentinel before heading to a house party in Bedford. “And [Trump] can’t even make decisions for seven minutes from now.”

Beyond rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, Klobuchar has proposed a price on carbon that she says would direct revenue toward renewable energy and give cash back to Americans in the form of a dividend to help offset the short-term increase in fuel.

The key to mitigating the effects of climate change, she said, is keeping Americans invested in the lifestyle changes by ensuring economic benefits are always in tow.

“I think we’ve learned from all of the efforts [to combat climate change] going on around the world, and one thing we know is that we’re going to have to invest in communities where they’re going to see transitions,” Klobuchar said. “It’s not just going to be green energy you invest in there. It’s also manufacturing and other kinds of jobs, so you make sure that you are making sure that people are continuing to support their families and other things.”

Klobuchar also commended the Elm City for its renewable energy resolution passed in January, which aims to rid Keene of fossil fuels from electricity use by 2030 and from thermal and transportation use by 2050.

“The market is making some of these changes anyway, because renewable energy is getting less and less expensive as we get better grids and it gets out there more,” Klobuchar added. “I’m talking about wind and solar and hydro ... And then look at the oil companies, man. You want some money? They’ve gotten like — how much? — $10, $20 billion, they’ve gotten all over time endless subsidies. So you take those away, and that will help us transition.”

On the rural-urban divide, Klobuchar elaborated further from her first visit to the Monadnock Region in April on how housing can revitalize rural communities facing workforce shortages.

“So I actually see this incredible political possibility with the rural housing issue and the metro-urban housing issues to get the political clout to get that done — assisted living, making it easier to get long-term care insurance, thinking ahead to the doubling of the senior population,” Klobuchar said. “... And at the same time you’re doing all of that — I believe you can do this if you have a vision for this country — making it easier for young people to live. And that’s why I bring up the senior housing issue, because it’s all interrelated; coffee shops, services, Internet.”

Tax incentives for more diverse land use beyond larger family homes, coupled with leveraging the cost of living, Klobuchar said, can catalyze young people to consider living somewhere other than a big city.

“We as a country should want young families and young people to live in rural areas,” she said. “It’s less expensive, it’s gonna make it easier for them to think and start up and do things that are better for our economy than everyone being in one concentrated area.”

At the end of her speech, Klobuchar recalled the energy of the January 2017 Women’s March, and compared Trump’s first term in office to a rain delay in baseball.

She called on voters in the room to continue to be vigilant for the next year, and encouraged them that they all have a role in bringing the country together and forging progress.

“I’m just asking you, it’s just another year of this rain delay, right?” Klobuchar said. “And I’m asking you to continue that march, because you are the welders that have shortened the arc.”

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Dispute over pay for Hillside Village Keene work prompts lawsuit

A subcontractor that says it worked on a retirement community that recently opened in Keene is suing the complex’s owner and the construction company for $342,000.

Wallace Building Products Corp. of Danbury is suing The Prospect-Woodward Home, which is operating as Hillside Village Keene, according to a complaint filed in Cheshire County Superior Court July 20. The suit also names The MacMillin Co. and DEW Construction & Associates, two companies that merged in 2012 but still exist as separate entities.

Most of the facilities within Hillside Village Keene, a massive retirement community on Wyman Road, opened over the summer.

Prospect-Woodward entered into a contract for construction management with MacMillin/DEW in April 2017, according to court documents. Wallace wrote in its complaint that it signed a contract with MacMillin/DEW about four months later.

Wallace completed its work March 29 of this year, the complaint says, but has not received payment in full from MacMillin and DEW because “they have represented that they have not been paid” by Prospect-Woodward.

Chris Tremblay, Wallace’s vice president and chief operating officer, sent a letter to Prospect-Woodward May 7, stating that DEW had not paid in full for its services and announcing the company’s intent to employ a mechanic’s lien.

In court documents, however, Prospect-Woodward objected to the lien “on procedural and substantive grounds” and requested a hearing.

In addition to a couple of technicalities that they argue invalidate the notice of the lien, the lawyers for Prospect-Woodward assert that the existence of a $56 million payment bond removes the need for any lien.

Common in the construction industry, payment bonds are three-way contracts between the property owner, the contractor and the surety (the company authorized to write the bond). The contractor, in this case MacMillin, promises to execute the contract according to specific terms, and the surety agrees to pay damages to all demanding parties if the contractor cannot make its payments.

Typically, a payment bond covers subcontractors, laborers and material suppliers.

Included in the court documents is a payment bond executed between MacMillin, Prospect-Woodward, and Fidelity and Deposit Co. of Maryland on June 16, 2017, for $56,488,241, the same amount as the construction contract.

The retirement community’s lawyers argue that this is more than enough money to cover Wallace’s complaint.

A footnote in Prospect-Woodward’s objection says the payment bond might be a better route than a mechanic’s lien, which is valid only if the general contractor is owed money.

“Here, [Prospect-Woodward] contends that it does not (and may not at any time in the future) owe the general contractor, MacMillin/DEW, any money,” the lawyers wrote, “since the cost to complete MacMillin’s incomplete work, and to repair [its] defective work, exceeds the outstanding contract balance owed to MacMillin.”

This point is not elaborated in the court documents.

Representatives for Prospect-Woodward did not return requests for comment Friday or Monday, and Wallace Building Products declined to comment Monday.

But DEW President and Principal Don Wells said Friday that he wasn’t surprised to receive a call from a reporter.

“There are other lawsuits/liens that will be filed, including one by … MacMillin that will cover all the [subcontractors],” he said.

MacMillin plans to file for its own mechanic’s lien on the property, he explained, and he disputed the allegations in the footnote of the court document. There are some minor issues that need to be resolved, he said, but MacMillin is owed “more than 20 times the work that needs to be completed.”

Wells continued: “We are in negotiations. We expect to have this resolved in the very near future. … Two months from now, everybody will be paid.”

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Woman to stand trial in crash that killed Brattleboro residents

BRATTLEBORO — A woman accused of causing a crash that killed a young Brattleboro couple last year is scheduled to stand trial in January.

Sarah M. Loos, 27, of Winhall, Vt., faces two charges of grossly negligent operation resulting in death. A trial has been set for the week of Jan. 13 in Vermont Superior Court’s Windham Criminal Division in Brattleboro, according to court records.

Robert J. Lind, 32, and Mandi M. Gamache, 26, died as a result of the crash that occurred the afternoon of June 8, 2018, in Newfane, Vt., according to police. Lind was pronounced dead at the scene, while Gamache died from her injuries a day later at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

The two were engaged, according to Matthew Gamache, Mandi’s father.

On the day of the crash, Lind was driving south on Route 30 with Gamache in the passenger seat when Loos’ Toyota SUV, coming from the opposite direction, crossed the center line and slammed into Lind’s Subaru station wagon, according to police affidavits filed in court.

In one of the affidavits, Vermont State Police Sgt. Robert Zink estimated that Loos was driving around the 50-mile-per-hour speed limit, while Lind slowed from about 40 to about 15 miles per hour in the moments before the crash, likely after he saw the oncoming SUV.

According to Zink’s affidavit, Loos’ vehicle traveled in the wrong lane for more than 200 feet before impact. Lind had less than four seconds to react, Zink calculated.

Meanwhile, according to Zink, vehicle data showed that Loos maintained a speed of close to 50 miles per hour in the seconds before the crash.

“During this crash Loos did not attempt to avoid the collision through braking or steering input,” Zink wrote.

Though police initially cited Loos on a charge of driving under the influence of drugs, in addition to the charges of grossly negligent operation, prosecutors have not pursued the DUI charge, according to court documents.

According to an affidavit written by Vermont State Trooper Max Trenosky, Loos submitted to a preliminary breath test, which did not register any alcohol. Trenosky wrote that Loos told a state trooper she had used marijuana a day earlier, and on the day of the crash had taken an antibiotic and an antiviral medication.

Loos said she had also taken Vicodin, a prescription opioid, and Klonopin, generally used for seizures and panic attacks, but did not remember whether she’d used those medications on the day of the crash, according to the affidavit.

A blood sample taken from Loos later tested positive for morphine, fentanyl and THC, the active compound in marijuana, according to the affidavit.

Someone can test positive for morphine after consuming codeine, morphine or heroin, or after eating poppy seeds on a muffin or bagel, Dr. Robert B. Swotinsky, a Massachusetts-based occupational-medicine consultant and expert in workplace drug testing, told The Sentinel in an interview Monday afternoon.

In general, the presence of morphine and fentanyl could indicate that someone has used heroin laced with fentanyl, he said.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times as potent as morphine and far more deadly, is often mixed into heroin or used instead of it. Fentanyl is involved in the vast majority of fatal drug overdoses in New Hampshire.

Trenosky’s affidavit does not say whether Loos was intoxicated as a result of opioids at the time of the crash. The charges brought by prosecutors do not mention intoxication, claiming only that Loos drove in a “grossly negligent manner.”

Deputy Windham County State’s Attorney Steven Brown declined to comment on whether intoxication factors into the charges, saying it would be improper to talk about the evidence before trial.

Loos’ attorney, Evan Chadwick, declined to comment.

Lind and Gamache worked at the Brattleboro Retreat, according to Gamache’s father. Gamache, a 2010 graduate of Keene High School, had previously worked at the Girls Club of Greenfield (Mass.), according to an obituary.

Lind was an avid runner with strong finishes at the DeMar Marathon in Keene and other local races. He had been training for the 2018 DeMar before his death.

His former high school teammate Timothy Ritchie ran and won the race in Lind’s honor.