Tree Lighting Ceremony Loaded With Good Will and Good Cheer
by Karen Plumley
Anyone driving by Windham Town Hall and Commons on Saturday afternoon surely must have been tempted to stop in and have a peek at the merriment.
A large crowd was at hand to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, festive holiday music, pictures with Santa, face painting by Santa’s elves, and an impressive bonfire kept ablaze by Boy Scout Troop 266. Young children were thrilled to have stars, candy canes, and other holiday art painted on their cheeks while waiting to tell Santa their Christmas wishes. Older children were outside playing in the new snow, having snowball fights, and warming themselves by the fire.
Just inside a heated tent, the Windham Community Band played the theme song to How the Grinch Stole Christmas while Girl Scout Troop 65 sold cookies and other baked goods to earn money for a trip later next year. They were also accepting donations for needy families; the girls welcomed any winter attire donations to be placed on a mitten tree that was on display near their bake sale table.
At approximately 4:00 p.m., Santa and his elves exited the town hall building and walked in parade format across to the Commons, where the trees, gazebo, and picket fence would soon be aglow with elegant white lights. The crowd quickly followed to enjoy the moment. Santa and the elves gathered in the gazebo and began singing carols as the sunset provided a spectacular backdrop for the lighting.
After the ceremony, many participants headed straight for the warmth of the “Church on the Common” for a delicious spaghetti supper (see related article). The event, hosted by Recreation Director Cheryl Haas and the Windham Recreation Department, was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with family and friends.
Large Bundled Bond Divides Pelham Board
by Lynne Ober
Innovative ideas do not always gain ready acceptance, and that’s the case with a large bundled bond warrant article proposed for Pelham.
When Bill Scanzani, Chairman of the Capital Improvements Committee, made a presentation on this year’s CIP report, he suggested bundling needed town-wide improvements into one large bond warrant article for the March election. He pointed out the growing cost of construction and what it costs taxpayers to push projects back year by year. He also suggested putting all the items the town would need for the next 15 years onto the bond. With the passage of such a warrant article, the tax rate would show more stability and, in the long run, taxpayers would save money.
Since that time, selectmen have discussed the idea and pondered whether they would have the backup they would need for the Budget Committee. As the time to review warrant articles approached, selectmen asked Town Administrator Tom Gaydos to work with department heads on needed backup.
At the same time Selectman Tom Domenico produced a spreadsheet that listed the projects, the status of the quotes and the certainty that the dollar amount in the quotes was still good and could be used in a warrant article.
Ultimately, it was decided that there were not good enough figures to include all of the proposed projects, and one project, the cemetery garage, is being submitted as a separate warrant article by Cemetery Trustees. What started out as a $20 million bond has been cut to its current level of slightly more than $15 million.
Although selectmen thoroughly discussed the projects and which should be included, new information received after they voted on this warrant article may or may not lead to yet another change. Gaydos informed selectmen after the vote on the proposed bond warrant article, that Town Counsel had confirmed that selectmen could expend impact fees for the procurement of detailed specs.
Included in the bond is $45,000 for detailed specs for an expanded Senior Center. With the receipt of the information that selectmen can expend impact fees for a project like this, that one item could be removed from the bond if enough impact fees exist to fund it.
Should articles be bundled together or left separate? If bundled together, should people make one vote or be able to vote on individual items within the warrant? Discussion between selectmen ranged both for and against the two sides of these questions.
With individual selectmen having differing opinions on the proposed projects that would be included, it was obvious that a majority consensus would be used because no unanimous consensus would be reached. Some of the items were more volatile than others.
Selectmen seemed to agree that $300,000 for the renovation of Sherburne Hall was needed. Selectman Ed Gleason characterized the current condition of the hall as an abomination. “I’m ashamed to have people come in here.” He also pointed out that the town would lose impact fees if something wasn’t done soon.
There was also consensus on the $2.5 million proposed for maintenance of Pelham roads although discussion surrounding whether this was a complete and comprehensive list did not reach unanimous support. Board of Selectmen Chairman Victor Danevich pointed out that his road had recently been paved and was once again on the list.
The proposed highway garage at $655,000 also garnered support because the highway department is parking expensive equipment outside. With a garage, not only would equipment be parked inside and start quicker in the winter, but there would be a place to perform routine maintenance on the equipment. Currently maintenance has to be sent out because there is no garage.
Gleason supported the garage project and stated, “It is frivolous to buy millions of dollars of heavy equipment and then park the equipment outside.”
While selectmen agree that the Municipal Complex needs to be finished, they questioned the original quote for the work. They did include $575,000 in the bond for this project. This project would provide additional and needed storage, increased recreational department space, meeting rooms and space for PTV. It has always been the plan to move PTV into the complex and since opening day it has been known that the recreation department is squeezed into space that is too small.
The smallest item in the proposed bond warrant article is the $45,000 for design specs for an expanded Senior Center. Selectmen agreed that this was a necessary project, but Danevich questioned whether it should be included in the bond. Danevich pointed out that if the bond failed, then no work could be done, under current state law, for a year. As previously mentioned, selectmen discovered they could expend impact fees after they had voted on the inclusion of this.
There was no consensus on building a new central fire station. Selectman Jean Guy Bergeron remains firmly against this expenditure and stated that he felt that this could be put off. He described the current fire station as functioning and said, “We need to look out for people in town who can only afford what they can afford. It [the central fire station] is working very good.”
On the other side of this discussion, Gaydos and Fire Chief Dave Fisher have repeatedly stated that the fire department has more than $300,000 worth of equipment sitting outside the central fire station because there is no indoor parking space available and no space on the available lot to build more garage space.
Domenico has strongly supported the work of the fire station study committee – work that has been on-going for two years. He urged moving forward with this proposal despite the hefty price tag of $7 million. Pointing out that the committee had garnered square footage costs from around the region and across the nation, he felt that the proposed cost could be supported at the Budget Committee.
There was more agreement among selectmen to support a fire sub-station at a cost of $2.5 million. This project has been cited as an example of why construction should not be put off. When proposed two years ago, the sub-station was a two-story building that would cost nearly $1 million. Now it has shrunken to one story at a cost of $2.5 million. “We will get less and pay more,” Scanzani pointed out during his original presentation on a bundled bond warrant article.
Bergeron has also been an opponent of bundling projects together and would prefer to offer voters a plethora of choices via the use of single warrant articles.
Selectman Hal Lynde wanted to include several proposed projects at Veteran’s Memorial Park – new restrooms, new life guard building, and new camp facilities. After discussion selectmen agreed to include $1.4 million for these projects.
Finally Danevich asked if they were ready to vote on the warrant article.
Lynde moved one bundled bond warrant article with a single vote and Domenico seconded. The vote was 3 – 2 with Bergeron and Danevich voting no. Bergeron would not support the new central fire station, and Danevich is worried that everyone will fail if bundled into one article with one vote.
With the help of Gaydos, selectmen calculated the bond costs and the length of the bond, which was described as not less than 12 years nor more than 15.
According to Gleason, the Board will review the bond warrant article at its next meeting. Warrant articles, until finally posted, are draft works in progress. Even after a Budget Committee review, the governing body can continue to refine and ask for another review by the Budget Committee.
Youngsters Make Sock Snowmen at Nesmith Library
by Lynne Ober
Following a timeless tradition of making Christmas decorations, every year the Friends of the Library at Windham (FLOW) offer a series of craft sessions for children of all ages.
This past Saturday it was time to make and decorate sock snowmen. Youngsters, aged two to three, and their parents met in the multi-purpose room at Nesmith Library to learn how to do this.
Mindy, the leader of the craft session, carefully told each child how to make their snowman. The kids listened intently, opened their craft kits, and with looks of concentration dug in.
“I can do it myself,” proudly said two year-old Hailey as she stuffed her stocking while her mother held it open for her.
Once stuffed, the snowmen got faces glued on, hats, and mufflers added.
Windham Fifth Graders Decorate Their Own Homes for Christmas
by Lynne Ober
Instead of dreaming of a White Christmas, every fifth grader at Windham Center School got to make a Christmas house and put it into a winter setting.
The base of every house was a piece of a milk carton, donated by Crowley Food in Concord, New Hampshire. The house base was affixed to a cardboard square that would serve as the little home’s winter yard.
“This year we have eight fifth grade classrooms and 187 fifth grade students,” said Fifth Grade Team Leader Sherry Dufour. “This is a fun activity for the kids and they get to work with their friends from other classrooms. We’ve been doing this for over 10 years.”
After the house’s base is ready, students use graham crackers to design the shape of their house and its roof.
Once the basic house is built, it’s time to creatively decorate the house. Thanks to fifth grade mom, Amy Wagoner, who did the shopping for the project, there were lots of building supplies.
“This project is paid for by fifth grade fundraisers,” said Ms. Dufour. “The kids just love doing this.”
Gum drops in various colors, Necco wafers, graham crackers, pretzels, M & Ms, candy canes, and coconut flakes are used to decorate the houses.
“I made my front door out of M & Ms,” said Lindsey Arnold, 10. “I think my house is awesome.”
Some houses had chimneys made of graham crackers and others had them made from gum drops.
Coconut flakes were secured with white frosting to provide a snowy landscape. Fences were made out of gum drops, and some students built trees from green gum drops. Candy canes were used for bright decorations. Necco wafers could be broken into pieces to make paths and roofing shingles.
“This is my dream house,” said Kelly Martin, 10.
“I’ll probably eat my house on Christmas morning or Christmas Eve,” said Haley Enos, 11, who made an elf’s workshop out of gum drops on the roof of her house.”
Once the houses were complete, each one was securely placed in a lidded box for safe travel home.
Progress in Pelham Schools
by Dr. Elaine Cutler, Superintendent of Schools
The holiday season is a time to share with the community. All of our schools are having wonderful musical events this month. Pelham High School’s concert was held on December 15. Pelham Memorial School will celebrate on December 20 at 7:00 p.m. and Pelham Elementary School will be performing on December 21 at 6:30 p.m. Join our students and our families who have worked so diligently to provide a showcase of the joys of the season. The winter holidays begin on December 23 and continue through January. School resumes on January 3.
The Pelham School Board has been working diligently on the annual budget and the development of warrant articles. A new service to the citizens will be a Voter’s Guide that will be published before the March meeting. It is imperative that the community understands the needs of the schools and how the Pelham School Board decided on priority items for the warrant. We believe that additional information will assist the community in making informed decisions.
Last year the school district implemented an electronic system called Power School that takes attendance, records grades, and performs other required data functions.
We are pleased to announce that an additional service called the Parent Portal will open at the beginning of second semester for parents of Pelham Memorial and Pelham High School students. This service will allow parents to view their child’s grades, attendance, homework, and important school messages from a computer at home or in their office. Parents simply need to register a username and receive a password to access the system.
Parent training for the Parent Portal will be offered on January 23. Parents should look for more information regarding available times after the winter holidays. We are excited about the opportunities for increased communication for teachers and parents. Phone calls and face-to-face conferences will continue to be the option for in-depth discussions and decisions about a student’s growth and progress.
Many parents ask how snow days are determined. Many factors are included in the decision-making process. The first consideration is the time and the intensity of the anticipated storm. Can school open safely and on time? Would a delayed opening allow road crews sufficient time to provide for safer driving conditions? Will the storm start after the school day starts, and thus risk the safety of our transportation system in the afternoon?
The critical factor is safety. In addition to reviewing multiple weather forecasts, the bus company is contacted, the Pelham Police Department is contacted, and the Pelham Road Agent is contacted. The information provided by all these sources is considered in the final decision. Because the buses and the drivers start their workday very early in the morning, a decision must be made by 5:15 a.m. This decision is based on the best information that is available at that time.
We have had one snow day this year. The decision was made before the snow started to fall. I am hopeful that all decisions will be as accurate as this first day, but we all know that New Hampshire weather is often unpredictable. Know that every decision is made with the safety of children as the foremost factor.
Take the opportunity this holiday season to spend time reading, playing, talking, baking, or whatever is important to you and your family. As adults, we are making memories for children every day. The teachers and staff look forward to the New Year to continue the joy of learning in our classrooms.
The Pelham School Board welcomes comments and opinions from the community. Contact information is available at www.pelhamweb.com or the SAU #28 office at 425-1976.