Story Time a Hit at Pelham Elementary
by Lynne Ober
There’s always something fun going on at Pelham Elementary School. On Saturday night it was Story Time Fun Night. The event was a dream of a couple of mothers, supported by staff and administration and funded by the PTA, who also provided many of the chaperones.
Kids started arriving at 4:30 p.m. dressed in their pajamas and slippers and carrying their favorite blankets, pillows, or sleeping bags. Chaperones and staff were already there, and all of them were also dressed in pajamas, robes, and slippers.
Once students were checked in, given a name tag and waved goodbye to their parents, they went to the gym where each one “camped out” on the gym floor. It wasn’t long before the gym floor was covered with bright blankets and pillows.
Leaving the gym they went into the cafeteria where pizza and drinks were served. With nearly 200 first and second graders in the cafeteria, chatter filled the air. Volunteers, dressed in pajamas and slippers, served pizza and drinks. Students ate and laughed.
The final course of the meal was a cupcake, served by staff and volunteers.
After eating, everyone gathered back in the gym. Although it took a few minutes to get friends organized so that they were sitting with friends, it was soon time for a story and Principal Alicia LaFrance, dressed as Pinocchio, showed up to read to them.
The gym grew quiet as children listened intently to the story of the little puppet who longed to be a real boy.
Following the story, the lights were dimmed; many stretched out on their blankets, and everyone got to watch the “Pinocchio” movie. By the time that the movie ended, a few were snoozing, but everyone agreed that they wanted to do this again.
Pelham Selectmen Hear Hunting Request
by Lynne Ober
It was standing room only at a recent Pelham Selectmen’s meeting as people interested in hunting came to hear a presentation by New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officer Mike Matson.
Matson began by reviewing the town ordinance that prohibited hunting in the three parks. He urged selectmen to consider modifying this ordinance. Matson told them about “hunting safety zones” and how to post for such zones. According to Matson, these are zones that are off-limits to hunters because of safety concerns. “My department will provide signage for such zones,” he said.
Matson talked about the positive effects that would come from allowing hunting in the parks, including population control for fisher cats and coyotes, which have been a recent topic of concern on Pelham’s Message Board. “Selective hunting will help keep down rabies, and over-population.” Matson pointed out that some animals, specifically coyotes, can adapt to living with humans when they become over-populated and begin to move into inhabited areas.
“Fisher cats will encroach on inhabited areas and will kill pets for food if their population is left unchecked,” Matson told selectmen. “We get calls about lost pets now.”
“An over abundance of any species will lead to diseases,” said Matson.
His proposal would only allow bow and arrow and muzzle hunting in the parks. Matson pointed out that both techniques have limitations that increase safety for other people also using the parks. “I’ve never heard of another person in New Hampshire being shot by a bow-and-arrow hunter.
When Selectman Tom Domenico asked about hunting with rifles, Matson replied that in populated counties, such as Hillsborough, that rifle hunting was prohibited because of safety issues. He said that a rifle bullet could go two miles if it missed its original target, but with both muzzle loaders and bows and arrows, the distance is much shorter that either an arrow or shot from the muzzle loader can go. According to Matson, the distance for bow hunters is a maximum of 45 yards and for muzzle loaders the maximum distance is 200 yards.
Selectmen, trying to find a balance between users of the parks, indicated that Matson’s proposal for hunter safety zones and limited hunting was worth more research. “I’m intrigued by your proposal,” said Selectman Hal Lynde.
Selectmen and Matson discussed possible hunting zones in the parks and needed safety zones. One concern voiced by Lynde was the use of Raymond Park by the Boy Scouts, who not only use the lodge, but also camp in the woods and have activities in the woods.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Victor Danevich concurred and noted that now that the junkyard issues had been resolved at Raymond Park the town was looking to expand facilities in that park. “Our concern, as always, will be how to prevent accidents from happening.”
Selectman Ed Gleason told the board that although no formal proposal had yet come to the board, he knew that Pelham Little League was developing a proposal to fund and build more ball fields at Muldoon Park.
Selectman Jean Guy Bergeron reported that he had voted for the two hunting bans, but stated he was interested in having Fish and Game personnel walk the parks and see if a safe hunting and trapping zone could be developed.
Matson offered to walk the parks and work on that determination.
Danevich also pointed out that the majority of town property is not posted “no hunting” and said that this property, including the 150 acres off Musquash Road could be hunted now.
When Domenico asked about licenses, Matson said that hunters were required to carry their license and show it to anyone who asked to see it.
However, the matter may be complicated by restrictions set on deeds at the time that the property was deeded to the town.
According to life-long Pelham resident, William “Spike” Hayes, in 1936 or 1937, the Pelham Town Meeting created the Martina Gage Property Committee and charged it with the responsibility of finding and selling all of the property bequeathed to the town of Pelham by Martina Gage upon her death in 1935. At the time of her death, Gage owned more than ten percent of all of the land in Pelham. And, upon her death, everyone’s taxes went up ten percent. The depression-era farmers of Pelham had plenty of land of their own. Martina Gage’s thoughtfulness and accompanying tax increases were not appreciated.
The warrant article mandating the creation of the Martina Gage Property Committee was amended from the floor. The committee was directed to locate and sell every Gage parcel, except two. One parcel was set aside to serve as “a campground and park for the Boys Scouts and 4-H groups of Pelham and other Pelham youth groups with adequate adult supervision.“
Hayes, an attorney, wrote many of the deeds for people donating land. The deeds to all of the other parcels at the North Pelham Park Complex list, by way of deed restriction, what the parcels can be used for and none of them list hunting as an appropriate activity.
In the late 1980s, the Pelham town meeting created the Raymond Park Advisory Board “to consult with and advise the Board of Selectmen concerning the uses to be made of the park.” By Town Meeting vote, more than a dozen youth groups are entitled to appoint a representative to this advisory board. The NRA was not given the right to appoint a member to the Advisory Board. It is clear from the reading of every warrant article ever written concerning the park that the park was to be a safe haven for the youth of Pelham.”
Hayes suggested that three courses of action be followed before a final decision is reached on hunting in the parks:
Although no vote was taken, selectmen agreed to post a public hearing so that they could hear from interested parties.
New Technology Director Proves an Asset to Pelham Schools
by Karen Plumley
Whether on the computer or at the softball field, Adam Steel feels at home in both settings. Steel, who was hired as the technology director of the Pelham School District on July 1, is already highly regarded by the superintendent and students alike.
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Steel worked for three years in Litchfield and was able to network their new high school with the existing middle and elementary schools. “He brought with him an interest and commitment to technology,” explained Cathy Hamblett, School Superintendent in Litchfield. “He created long-range planning for our technology, and gave us a replacement cycle for our equipment. He also authored and submitted his technology plan to the Department of Education. His enthusiasm for technology and devotion to the kids was terrific,” enthused Hamblett.
It seems that Steel has brought his expertise and enthusiasm to Pelham. He has already identified several key technical areas that he will be focusing on, including connecting the network systems of all three schools so they can talk with each other. As part of this effort, he will be adding more capabilities to the system including the Parent Portal, NWEA testing tools, and an upgrade to the outdated and disparate operating systems. “Of course when you are working in a school, you need to make compromises and keep costs low,” explained Steel. One of the ways he plans to do this is by decreasing the number of servers that are needed and have them share functions.
Technology is not Steel’s only talent. In Litchfield, Steel was a junior varsity softball coach. He will maintain his involvement with the kids here in Pelham by coaching the high school varsity softball team. In addition to the job and the coaching, Steel has a three year old and a newborn baby at home. Yet, somehow he continues to exude the high energy and skillful confidence required by his new position. According to Superintendent Elaine Cutler, “He is proving to be a wonderful asset to the Pelham schools in the short time that he has been with us.”
Residents to Cast Ballots for High School’s Name, Mascot and Colors
by Lynn McNamara
Windham’s School Board announced last week the nominations for the name of the new high school. Residents had been invited to submit their choices, and the top four choices will be voted on during Monday’s town vote. A total of 19 names were submitted, ranging from the expected, Windham High School, to the historical and the political. Along with Windham High School, residents will be able to choose from Windham Academy, Searles Academy, and Castle High School.
Other contributions included Ronald Reagan High School, JFK Memorial, Wentworth High School, Governor Dinsmore High School, Cobbetts Preparatory Academy, James Flynn High School, and Mary B. Titcomb Memorial High School. School Board Member Beth Valentine noted that the 15 suggestions that will not be on the ballot should be kept on file for future incorporation into areas of the new high school.
The board clarified that casting a ballot is voluntary and not part of the town vote on the two warrant articles. While the adults will be voting on the name, students in grades transition through ninth will be holding mock elections for the colors and the mascot.
Capital Projects Discussed
by Lynne Ober
According to Board of Selectmen Chairman Victor Danevich, selectmen held a working session to formulate possibilities for proceeding with a 20 million dollar bond for capital projects. Three of the selectmen attended and a spreadsheet was created that would aid selectmen in determining if they should proceed and if they had enough back-up to proceed. One of the columns on the spreadsheet identified the percentage certainty that selectmen had with each associated cost estimate.
Selectman TomDomenico briefly reviewed projects on the spreadsheet:
Selectmen discussed this innovative approach to capital funding. The goal would be to commit the town to these projects for the next 15 years. “This will help everyone know what they will pay in tax dollars and will stabilize the rate,” said Domenico.
Domenico pointed out that by committing to this funding tax payers would not continue to be hit by the spiraling increases in construction costs. An example of those is the nearly triple amount that will be required to build the fire sub-station now. In less than three years, those construction costs have tripled while Fire Chief Fisher continually scales back the size of the project.
One of the tax savings that would be realized would come through the collection of impact fees. With the projects in the pipeline with committed funding, impact fees could be set at an appropriate dollar amount and would be used to offset overall construction costs.
Selectman Jean-Guy Bergeron expressed concern about using this approach. He felt that everything should be on an individual warrant article.
Selectmen agreed to continue to work on the projects; to get better cost estimates where needed and to examine backup before making a final decision on their approach.
Exploring Causes of the Parking Crunch at Griffin Park
by Lynn McNamara
On Monday, Windham residents will have the opportunity to accept or reject a donation of 1.68 acres of land for the construction of a parking lot. The purpose of the plan is to alleviate the overflow parking at Griffin Park.
Proponents of the plan state that the existing parking problem is a by-product of the enormous success of the Griffin Park project and that the plan on the table is the best solution. Opponents, however, stress that no other solutions have been explored by the town and that the proposed plan is fraught with safety hazards. Before the town moves forward with the solution, many residents believe the problem itself should be more clearly defined. When is parking a problem? What events precipitate the unsafe parking along Range Road? An examination of the causes of the parking overload yields some interesting facts and alternate solutions.
Although this issue was not on the selectmen’s agenda this week, it was briefly discussed in relation to the town’s field use policy. Charlie McMahon, president of the Windham Baseball/Softball League addressed the board stating, "just the basic use of Griffin park (by residents) requires the additional spaces (across the street.)" He added that this was due to Windham being a "one-person, one-car town." McMahon reminded the board that the original design of the park called for an additional 50 parking spaces that were not built, so the proposed plan (for 101 spaces) "is only a net of 50 spaces."
Since the plan was brought to the town, however, it has also been offered that the additional parking is not required for everyday use of the park, but only for major events that draw many people. This is supported by the fact that there is not significant parking along Range Road during the week, and parking along 111 is normally limited to weekend mornings during soccer and baseball seasons. Selectman Bruce Breton has noted that the town could decide to gate off the additional parking lot and open it only during such major events. This could be combined with a police detail, he proposed, to ensure safe crossing across Range Road. According to Breton, once the donation is accepted, the town can implement any safety and usage guidelines it deems appropriate.
If the additional parking is needed, however, to support the basic use of the park, gating it off may not be a viable option and any additional safety measures would be required on a daily basis.
The success of the new playground has been cited as contributing to the parking problem. Last spring, when the proposal for the playground was presented to the board, selectmen inquired about parking. They were informed by the Griffin Park Playground Group that they expected no significant impact on parking due to the playground. It was explained to the board that the residents coming to the park for the sole purpose of using the playground would be doing so primarily during the week, when the park was not very crowded and parking was not an issue. People using the playground on the weekends, it was poited, would be those people who were at the park anyway for a baseball or soccer game.
Currently the Windham Soccer Association and the Windham Baseball/Softball League are the major users of the fields. Baseball has priority in field use from opening day through August 30, while soccer has priority for the soccer fields from August 1 through November 15. Both leagues have been asked whether it is possible to adjust their scheduling to take into account the available parking, thereby alleviating the parking problem without adding the lot across Range Road.
According to Ross McLeod, who has acted as the scheduler for the Soccer Association for the past four years, there are several simple changes that would alleviate the soccer-generated parking crunch at Griffin Park. While he notes that the Windham Soccer Association has not taken a position on this issue, he is personally opposed to it and believes that the need for additional off-site parking with respect to soccer is not there. "I have serious concerns with placing young children in a hazardous situation when there is no need to do so," he added.
McLeod explained that soccer games and practices were moved to Griffin Park several years ago in order to highlight the newly completed fields and allow the soccer players the chance to benefit from the $40,000 soccer had donated to the town for the turf. Prior to this, games and practices had been spread out among O’Hare, Hebert, Rogers, Searles and Upper Golden Brook fields.
"The heaviest use of the Griffin Park frontage is for 6 x 6 soccer (six players per team) and since that is a “portable” situation (plastic pipe goals that are not secured to the turf)" McLeod stated, Iit can be relocated to play cross-wise on Nashua Road, or as an overlay on Searles, or simply as a use of Rogers (Field)." He offers that the seven U6 (Pee Wee) division games can be moved back to Upper Golden Brook, and two U8 games returned to Rogers Field, where they had been held up until a few years ago. This would leave only five U10 games to be played at Griffin Park on Saturdays, which could easily be staggered to ensure adequate available parking.
"Once these moves are made," McLeod notes, "the frontage of Griffin Park would be freed up to be paved and used as an extension of the current parking lot. There would be less field use and more parking, with no attendant safety hazards associated with crossing Range Road, or incremental building maintenance issues."
In terms of weekday practices, he believes that while there is not a serious parking issue due to most parents dropping players off for practice instead of staying to watch soccer could increase their weekday use of Searles, Nashua, and Rogers fields. He adds that soccer also does not have a need for the meeting space the existing house across the street would provide.
The Windham Baseball/Soccer Association was contacted with the same questions regarding scheduling alternatives, representatives did not respond to emails.
Windham Woman’s Club Coat Drive
Selectmen Discuss Potential Expansion of Municipal Building
by Lynne Ober
When Pelham’s municipal building was opened, one wing was not touched. Selectmen have been discussing possible uses for that wing. Among the space issues are:
Several weeks ago, selectmen asked Castagna Consulting Group to evaluate the space and produce a possible design for the space.
At a recent meeting Michael Castagna presented the findings from the study phase to selectmen. At the beginning of his presentation, he said that his purpose was to alleviate some of the issues that had occurred with the first phase of the project. He wanted to ensure that everyone knew exactly what they were getting and what it would cost.
Castagna then reviewed the work done on design development, including a thorough code and life safety issue study and ensuring that the work would make the area complete ADA compliant.
The construction estimate was $629,714 which included $60,250 to completely finish the storage space behind the police station. Included in that estimate was work on the building structure, including the replacement of windows and encapsulation of asbestos found in some areas.
When Selectman Tom Domenico asked if the proposed windows would match in size and style the windows that had been installed on the other side of the municipal complex, Castagna said that was the intent.
Selectmen also questioned the age and efficiency of the existing boilers. Castagna said that he had consulted with the plumbing company maintaining the building, and they had assured him that the boilers were well maintained and have quite a bit of life left in them.
A draft floor plan was presented. Selectman Hal Lynde asked questions about the dimensions of the public meeting room as well as the PTV broadcast studio. Selectmen and Castagna worked on possible revisions of the floor plan, including incorporating what Castagna called “bonus rooms” into the public meeting area and into the Parks and Recreation existing space.
Although Board of Selectmen Victor Danevich said that he knew that construction costs had been increasing, he thought that the number for the proposed expansion would be about half the costs currently being discussed. Danevich also pointed out that two warrant articles for much less money had failed last March.
Castagna felt that he had presented a “no frills” approach. He said that construction costs were $500,000, and the remaining amount was for design and architectural cost. Castagna’s fees were included in the $30,000 design cost. Castagna did discuss areas, such as not finishing the storage area, where costs could be cut.
When Selectman Jean-Guy Bergeron asked if this would be a design build project, Castagna recommended that it not be done that way. He suggested that he act as town consultant to develop a detailed RFP and bid the project, which could then be awarded to the lowest bidder. However, he did feel that some elements, such as electrical and mechanical, could be sent out as a design build to save some money.
Before Castagna left Domenico mentioned having him do the same study for Sherburne Hall so that the hall could be brought up to some level of usability. Right now only town meetings are held in the space due to code violations. This has had a negative impact on some town functions such as the productions produced by Pelham Theatre Group, who had to scramble to find alternative space when selectmen decided that no one could use the hall until code deficiencies were remediated.
Sherburne Hall Committee members have a two-year-old guesstimate of $300,000 to complete the hall. Domenico said that they were still raising funds, but that with rising construction costs, they were “chasing their goal up hill” with costs rising faster than funds could be raised.
Domenico offered to meet with the Sherburne Hall Committee to see if they were interested in getting a study done with a better cost estimate. Selectmen accepted his offer.
No decision was made at the time. If selectmen proceed with the 20 million dollar bond issue, this expansion could be one piece of that bond.
Sherburne Hall Committee Struggles to Raise Funds
by Karen Plumley
Imagine a beautiful auditorium with modern sound and lighting equipment where a family can go and watch a holiday play or a music concert. Imagine being able to bring young children to a magic show or circus act right here in town. Picture yourself attending a seminar on an interest you may have but have been unable to follow up on because the nearest available seminar on the subject is too far away.
Well, the Sherburne Hall Committee has imagined these possibilities and much more, and has been meeting for almost two years to come up with a renovation plan for the hall. The committee has also been struggling for two years to generate local interest and raise funds in order to get their plans in motion without burdening the taxpayer. A plan was laid out initially, but without any funds to back it up, it has since become outdated. It has been a long, uphill battle. “Maybe people are just tapped out with Katrina, and the Tsunami, and other donations, and of course the high cost of gas and oil,” theorized Charlene Takesian, chairman of the Sherburne Hall Committee.
They have raised approximately $40,000 in the two years that they have been together, and are hoping to add to this figure with their current raffle effort. The raffle was on everyone’s mind at Monday night’s committee meeting, and so far $2,300 has been raised. Even Senator Chuck Morse is contributing to this cause, having sold $500 worth of raffle tickets for the committee. The raffle boasts five prizes, including a pellet wood stove, a handmade quilt donated by Glennie Edwards and a one-week stay at Pollard Brook resort.
In addition to discussions about the raffle, Takesian presented to the committee that selectmen will more than likely set aside a portion of a proposed $20 million bond in order to bring the hall up to code. Assuming the warrant article passes, this was great news for the committee.
Then members of the committee voted to hire Castagna, a building design engineer, to draw up a plan for the hall. Romeo Croteau, member of the committee, explained that it would make sense to hire Castagna because he is highly regarded by selectmen and has already done the designs for the rest of the enhancements to the municipal building. Castagna quoted a price of $3,500 for his design, which will need to be paid for by the committee. Members agreed that they would like to continue with their vision for an elegant auditorium, but may need to also present a “move-in vision,” which includes only the basic necessities such as heating, fire safety, electricity, and lighting. “Once we get people using the space, it may generate interest and more donations so that continued enhancements can be made,” explained Takesian.
The Sherburne Hall Committee was formed in May 2003, shortly after the Municipal Building was opened. “The town left Sherburne Hall unfinished to save money, and then the selectmen asked for volunteers to form a committee which would take on the project. Bill McDevitt was the one who got us started,” said Takesian. For more information on the committee, fundraising efforts, and the raffle, visit their website at www.sherburnehall.org. More tickets can be obtained online or on Saturday, November 12 from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at the Hannaford Plaza near Jose’s Hot Dog stand. The raffle will be held on Tuesday, November 15 at the selectmen’s meeting.