Grim Reaper, Med Flight Pay a Visit to Pelham High School
by Karen Plumley
An invaluable youth program that began on Thursday with a visit to Pelham High School by the Grim Reaper and ended on Friday with a dramatic enactment of a mock car accident set the stage for students who plan on attending this year’s high school prom. The message was loud and clear: “Enjoy the season, the prom, and the graduation parties, but THINK before you drink”. School Resource Officer Anne T. Perriello introduced the assembly of students to the hazards associated with underage drinking and driving. She then presented a heart-wrenching video compiled by the friends and family of Sean Wellington and Betsie Hughes, two innocent teens that were murdered in 1999 by 30-year-old habitual drunk driver Irving Chapman in the town of Groton, Massachusetts. The tragic subject matter of the award-winning program is described from the viewpoint of the victims’ teenage friends, therefore giving it the distinctive ability to reach its young audience. After watching the video, students had the opportunity to meet Betsie’s mother, Dodie Hughes, in person. Mrs. Hughes proceeded to give an eloquent and emotional speech on the dangers of drunk driving, poignantly stating “When you put the keys of a car into the hands of someone who is intoxicated, it is like giving him a gun”. Clearly struggling to hold back her tears, Mrs. Hughes continued unabated to speak about her devastating loss. She has been giving this presentation for years to teenagers around the area as part of the program, which is known as “Sean & Betsie: A Story of Friendship and Loss”. “I have faith that the students will listen. If they didn’t listen I wouldn’t do it. My daughter’s accident is just too painful to recount in vain”, said Dodie.
Other representatives of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) were in attendance, including Lydia Valliere, President and Victim Advocate. “Looking at all of the drunk driving victims on our website is similar to experiencing the Vietnam Wall Memorial. There are just so many, so much needless tragedy”, said Ms. Valliere. Also present was Eileen Guilfoy of Nashua, who lost her only child, Stephen, in a drunk driving accident in 2003. Mrs. Guilfoy said that it is something that one simply cannot ever get over. “You continue to have guilty feelings, and wonder if there was anything you could have done to prevent it”. But as Dodie Hughes highlighted in her speech, there comes a time in the lives of young people when they must assume responsibility for their own choices.
At the end of the presentations, the assembly was led outside where the mock accident would be performed. Several high school students were recruited to play the accident victims, and one young lady acted out the role of drunk driver. Police Sgt. D. Gary Fisher administered a field sobriety test and placed her in handcuffs while ambulance medics and fire rescue personnel attended to the fake accident victims, even going so far as to employ the “Jaws of Life” to help one of the trapped victims escape from the wreckage. When Boston Med Flight arrived, the already impressed crowd became awestruck. “This is really serious! What a great effort by the police and fire departments!” exclaimed one spectator. The stunning experience successfully conveyed to everyone in attendance its succinct and profound message: all it takes to ruin the rest of your life and the innocent lives of countless others is merely one bad decision to get behind the wheel.
Grand Opening Held at Pelham Conservation Area
by Lynne Ober
Little Island Pond Conservation Area was the scene of a festive grand opening last Saturday as residents and dignitaries joined together to commemorate and celebrate. The area will now be open to the public on a daily basis.
Deb Waters, Chairman of the Land Stewardship Committee [formerly the Open Space Committee] was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the unique event. She and the other speakers wove the story of how this beautiful property was saved for current and future generations.
“Today is the culmination of a long project,” began Waters with a wide smile. “We are here to celebrate together.”
Little Island Pond Conservation Area covers approximately 23 acres. It was funded by a combination of sources – state, local, and volunteer.
The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program [LCHIP] awarded a $60,000 grant to the Conservation Commission. Rachel Rouillard, LCHIP Executive Director, attended the opening and recalled when the LCHIP Board reviewed the application for the grant. “We saw that there had been very little conservation work done in Pelham and we thought that if we made this award it might kick-start a more intensive conservation effort and it did.” Rouillard joined other speakers in praising the efforts of everyone who worked to preserve this beautiful property. “It also has an important value as a protected watershed. It helps ensure clean water for generations of Pelham residents.”
Conservation Committee Member Paul Gagnon talked about the beginning of the project. “Mr. Picard bought and maintained this property as a wood lot. When he was going to retire, he sold it to a developer,” recalled Gagnon, who remembers that the NIMBYs [Not in my Back Yard] contacted Selectmen about the sale and then decided to do something. “We were all abutters and we were worried about having a clean water supply and about preserving the land.”
“With reduced budgets there is a greater responsibility that falls on all of us in protecting this and other resources. When you ask ‘Why don’t they do something about it,” you need to remember that you are the only they,” Gagnon told the audience.
With that realization, the Little Island Pond Watershed Association [LIPWA] was born. Through their efforts over two hundred Pelham residents donated $50,000 in privately raised funds toward the acquisition of the property. “The donations ranged from $25 to $10,000” said Waters. LIPWA spearheaded a number of fundraising efforts and has also donated money for the stewardship of the property.
Gagnon urged people to look around. “Only 13 acres were developed. Six houses were built. Twenty-three acres were preserved. Eight houses were not built. It was a pretty good compromise.” Gagnon praised the team effort that made this happen and said, “LCHIP was the glue that made this work. They closed the gap.”
In addition to the $60,000 grant from LCHIP and the $50,000 raised by LIPWA, an additional $140,000 came from the Town Conservation Fund.
Conservation Commission Chairman Bob Yarmo said, “This is an important day for the Town of Pelham. This was truly a group effort.” He thanked the members of LIPWA. “Without your funding we wouldn’t be standing here today,” he grinned. He also thanked Selectmen and voters who have voted to fund conservation projects. “This property connects our wildlife corridor. We will use it for passive recreation and we have preserved clean water for all of us in Pelham.”
To date the Conservation Commission has preserved a total of 273 acres in Pelham. “That land would have otherwise been houses,” said Yarmo.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Victor Danevich recalled that he was the Chairman of the Planning Board when this project first became a gleam on the horizon. “With this project we’ve made a change from people complaining to people taking a stand and taking positive action. It’s all about acting to make things happen,” Danevich stated.
State Senator Chuck Morse spoke and praised the efforts of everyone. “This project had such an incredible outcome. I’m pleased to congratulate you. Opening this to the public would not have been possible without the work of everyone.”
Pelham resident Justin Steel who works in Governor Lynch’s office read and presented a commendation from the Governor.
When the ribbon was cut, everyone had an opportunity to stroll through the property. “Twelve volunteers have been working weekends to ready the property for public use by clearing trails, installing signage and building a footbridge,” said Waters. “Now we can all enjoy it.”
After walking through the property, everyone gathered to enjoy a barbeque lunch, cooked by Bob Lamorureaux.
Pelham Revaluation Update
Vice Chairman Hal Lynde read a memo from Guy Petell of the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA). Petell indicated he had discussed Pelham’s revaluation situation with at least four companies that could, indeed, complete a revaluation in 2006.
Petell’s memo urged Selectmen to hold a Special Town Meeting in the near future and to try to gain appropriate funding for the revaluation.
With Selectmen Victor Danevich (business travel) and Jean-Guy Bergeron (educational funding meeting) absent, the other three Selectmen discussed holding a Special Town Meeting.
Town Administrator Tom Gaydos reported that Assistant Assessor Susan Snide was gathering information about the latest date they could start and still be done before the second mailing of the 2006 property tax bills and would have information soon.
Selectman Ed Gleason noted that it was imperative to begin educating voters so they would understand the options and how much more it would cost if DRA ran the revaluation. Gleason also noted that a drop dead date needed to be defined, but also told Gaydos that he should begin to take the necessary action to plan for a special election and to gather the information that Selectmen would need to make that determination.
Selectman Tom Domenico cautioned that he was concerned about the “burn rate” of some departments. Domenico wanted to be sure to address public safety concerns as well as the revaluation at a special meeting.
Although no formal vote was taken, the three Selectmen present were in favor of scheduling a special meeting in early September. They will make a final decision after they get additional data.