Home for Christmas – Part Six
by R. Rodgers
We met the Grenier Family six years ago at Christmas when the triplets were just babies. Katrina and Steve went through very scary and uncertain time in 2000 when all three children were born prematurely and Katrina was battling for her own life with HELLP Syndrome a rare but very serious blood disorder. Through the struggle of that first year they found themselves all home and healthy for the Holiday. Over the years we have visited with them each Christmas to check in and follow the amazing little family to share their joys and sorrows with the community.
Now five and a half the children are beginning to tell us their own stories and we again share them with you.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a safe and happy season --“Home for the Holiday!”
Grenier Triplets Are Healthy, Happy and Hearty in 2005
by K. Rodgers
They can all write their names now. Olivia, Nicholas, and Madaline – the only Grenier triplet named after a family member – have all mastered this skill. Each name looks very different in handwriting, just as their different personalities have continued to emerge.
The dynamics of the trio are about the same, Nicholas busily keeping the conversation alive and protecting his sisters; Olivia watching, taking it all in and making sure her brother and sister are in sight and safe; and Madaline writing, drawing, coloring and singing. While there are similarities in the children to when they were four, it is obvious that the three have grown a lot physically and mentally in the past year.
The Hudson family who underwent a tumultuous year 2000 is happy and healthy in 2005, save for a slight cold in the family, and has had a rather relaxing year. Without any broken bones to report, the two loving parents and their beautiful, polite, and happy children have finished another year with plenty to tell.
People get nervous when they see three five-year-old children walk into a public place, and are then pleasantly surprised by the Grenier triplets’ behavior. This makes it fun and easy to bring the three along on family outings and vacations. The family finally got to go on a trip to Sanabel Island in Florida that they missed last year due to Katrina’s injury. All were well and enjoyed their trip, especially to the Bubble Room, a special restaurant on the island. This happens to be one of the occasions on which the Greniers were complimented on their impeccable behavior. Another trip the family took was to a family cottage on Lake Winnisquam which Olivia noted was her favorite memory of the year.
Olivia and Madaline have continued to love dance while Nicholas has branched into karate as a favorite pastime where he has already earned a yellow belt. Also, they continue to thrive in school and recently took part in their class Christmas play at St. Patrick’s in Pelham. Each of the children had lines to memorize and was cheered by their own personal fan section for their accomplishments. In other holiday memory-making, Katrina and Steve -- or shall we say the “Evil Queen” and the “Speed Racer” -- took “Tinkerbelle” (Olivia), “Snow White” (Madaline), and “Peter Pan” out trick-or-treating for Halloween this year.
Katrina and Steve celebrated their ten-year anniversary with a trip to San Diego where they had planned to visit Katrina’s brother, except that her brother moved to Las Vegas in the meantime. Therefore, not only did Katrina go to San Diego with Steve for their anniversary, but she visited her brother at his new home in Las Vegas with her mother as well.
The only negative occurrence during 2005 was a scary bout with Mammy, Katrina’s grandmother, who Madaline was named after. Mammy became paralyzed after a fluke sneeze and it looked pretty bad. Five hours after surgery, however, the extremely strong-willed woman was already much better and was off her walker in only a month, long before the doctors thought possible! Thus, the only tragedy ended up positively just as it usually, and thankfully, seems to happen for this gorgeous family.
Merry, Merry -- Local Retailers Sell 4,000 Real Christmas Trees!
by Maureen Gillum
Between 25 - 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States every year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (www.christmastree.org).
After the busiest mid-December weekends, the Hudson~Litchfield News tried to get a sense how many real trees are being sold locally and by whom. Nine local retailers, which sell the bulk of Hudson – Litchfield’s $20 to $55 tree market, were interviewed. They ranged from family-run cut-your-own tree farms, a Boy Scout Troop, and seasonal no-frills jobbers to full-service garden centers and traditional farms.
By Christmas Eve, local tree vendors collectively expect to sell more than 4,000 trees this year, mostly to local customers. “Fragrant Balsam Firs are the most popular trees,” appraised Countrybrook Farms’ Jay Shattuck, “followed by Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir, and Scotch Pines, which tend to retain needles longer.”
With close to 9,500 households in Hudson and another 2,600 in Litchfield, that means about 35 percent of area homeowners opt for real local trees. Let’s figure another thousand or two get trees from Nashua or beyond and guesstimate a third of locals have artificial trees (10 million were sold worldwide in 2003, by NCTA estimates). To this reporter’s dismay, even a Scotch Pine-forever older sister gave up real and bought a $169 pre-lit fake tree at BJ’s this year. The remainder of local families either don’t celebrate Christmas (Happy Hanukah, Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice all!) or simply opt out of a tree. “We still haven’t decided if we’ll get a Christmas tree this year,” lamented one homeowner, “sometimes it feels like business hype, and we may donate our (would-be) tree money to the Nashua Soup Kitchen or another charity in the real spirit of Christmas.”
Mega big box stores across the river have also delved into the tree market in last decade, which impact smaller local players. “There aren’t as many roadside or parking lot ‘gypsies,’ like the guys at Alexander’s lot (Weir Tree Farms at Hudson’s 102 Plaza),” commented Hudson farmer, Tom Smith. “Our competition has changed in the past five to ten years,” agreed ‘Berk’ Swinerton of Scott’s Sales (Lowell Road, 930-9800), “Home Depot is trying to capture 80 percent of the real tree market, and it’s hurting all of us.” With an uncanny resemblance to Old Saint Nick, Berk says he “used to easily sell 1,000+ trees a year,” but admits their annual volume is now about “350-400.”
In response, Ron Cloutier, Home Depot’s Garden Center Supervisor, spoke about their $24.99 blow-out balsam tree sale. He shared “convenience and price” were his big customer draws. Cloutier also estimated his North Nashua store does about 400 trees a year; while the larger South Nashua Home Depot sells up to 4,000 trees a year.
While it’s getting tougher for the little tree guys to survive, the key is to carve out a niche and build customers. Thanks to the generosity of Ron Maynard, who has allowed BSA Troop 21 the use of his high-traffic Hudson lot on Lowell Road for more than a decade, local Scouts attract a loyal and growing clientele for about three weeks each year. “A good portion of customers are BSA supporters or former Scouts,” states Peter Morris (886-3458), Troop 21 Tree Chair. He estimates his troop will sell about 290 trees in total, up from about 220 last year. “The nights get pretty cold,” one Troop 21 Scout says, but he “doesn’t mind” because “it’s fun” and the fundraiser helps to keep his troop going all year.
Countrybrook Farms Garden Center and Nursery (175 Lowell Road, 886-5200) holds a quaint appeal with eight acres surrounding a beautiful 150 year old barn and a tail-wagging golden retriever, Daisy, as greeter. Owners, Jay and Michelle Shattuck, who began Countrybrook nine years ago, report “business is thriving and we’re drawing customers from further away each year.” They expect to sell “about 1,000 trees retail this year and another 500 wholesale.” The Shattucks pride themselves on their quintessential “country atmosphere and top-notch personal service.” An employee of six years, Aaron McCarthy, helped a Nashua couple (Nilza and Ramon), find “a small, nice tree for their three small children.” He carefully provided a fresh one-inch trim off the tree base, netted the tree, and tied it onto the customer’s car. Nilza liked the “country feel” and “good service you don’t easily find anymore.”
A smaller Hudson country farm for decades is Smith Farm (131 Kimball Hill Road, 881-8210). “We’re a 200-tree-a-year farm dealer and since we live right here, we’ll sell in dribs and drabs right up to Christmas Eve,” shared proprietor, Tom Smith. Litchfield’s recently upgraded Rodonis Gardens, formerly Rodonis Farms since 1947 (882-1793, Route 3A), is another popular country spot to buy a tree, wreath, roping, and all the fixings. Joe Rodonis, owner of the legendary Rodonis Farms for decades and who sold the farm to his daughter (Donna Kehoe) last year, said, “We enjoy the Christmas rush” and sell “about 650 trees, mostly to the same neighbors and local folks each year.”
Thankfully, there are also a few Cut-Your-Own tree farms, which carefully plant and care for their trees typically seven to 10 years before harvesting. The largest is Noel’s Tree Farm (Route 3A, Litchfield, 759-2264) and two smaller family-run operations in Hudson are Okey Dokey (149 Wason Road, 889-7761) and Ouellet’s (108 Mushsquash Road, 889-4920). “Selecting and chopping your own tree is a special family Christmas event,” says Noel’s owner, Paul Lemire who has “already sold 1,000 trees this season, split evenly between pre-cuts and cut-your-own.” Paul added, “One family last Sunday sang Christmas carols and tail-gated with hot cocoa after cutting their tree here.” Okey Dokey’s Dick Frost (no lie) agrees that Cut-Your-Own farms come with “a lot of cameras and kids.” Contrary to popular belief, Frost cited, “We’ve only sold 100 trees this year -- the foot of snow we got on our biggest weekend made it hard to walk our woods.” Ouellet’s grandson Derrick Landry helped Sharon Egan of Dracut get her second tree. “I found my perfect little tree here yesterday” an excited Egan shared “and I came back today to get my Mom one too!” Owner Celine Ouellet offered, “It’s best thing to come in November to select and tag your tree and come back two to three weeks before Christmas to cut it fresh.”
Hudson’s Gift of Lights also Benefits C.H.I.P.S.
by Maureen Gillum
It’s become an annual Hudson Christmas extravaganza of lights, animated caricatures, and synchronized music at the Mousseau and Roy home. “It began as a hobby and it’s gotten bigger every year,” explained Marc Mousseau, Hudson homeowner. “This is our fourth major year; it takes us about three weeks to set up and we topped 140,000 lights this year” – almost double what they did just two years ago. “I guess it’s kind of taken on a life of its own,” Mousseau laughed.
The impressive show at 75 Pelham Road in Hudson goes on most every night (except in the rain) from dusk until 10:00 p.m., from Thanksgiving through Christmas, to the delight of many. “Lots of people slow down or stop by every night and they really seem to enjoy it,” Marc’s father-in-law, Paul Roy, shared with a twinkle in his eye. “That’s what keeps us going.” Since moving back from California several years ago, Roy has made it his quest to find a lot of the unique holiday pieces from as far away as Tennessee, Montana, and Florida. He also revealed, “Folks frequently offer us money to help defray our light bill, but we never take it.”
As a compromise, they came up with a charitable contribution idea that seems to make everyone happy. “This year, we’ve put out a collection box to accept donations for C.H.I.P.S. (Children of Hudson Interacting with Police Services), which helps build relations between Hudson kids and the Hudson Police Department,” stated Mousseau. He also commented that the Hudson Police Department (www.hudsonpd.com) has been great to work with on this. “It’s double indemnity for us,” Mousseau added with a wry smile, “We largely do the lights for the local kids to enjoy and then collecting for C.H.I.P.S. helps our Hudson kids again.” Visit their official web site at www.hudsonchristmas.com, for complete details, photos, and directions.
On behalf of the Hudson community, the Hudson-Litchfield News wishes to thank the Mousseau and Roy families for their enlightening gift to everyone and supporting the Hudson Police Department’s C.H.I.P.S. program to help local kids. For those who haven’t already, drive by 75 Pelham Road soon, the home of Marc and Gail Mousseau and Paul and Claudette Roy. It’s easy to find -- just follow the glow in the night sky.
Hudson Detectives Identify Skeletal Remains
by Doug Robinson
The skeletal remains of a body found in the woods off Kienia Road, Hudson, on November 15, has been identified and “confirmed,” according to the Hudson Police Department. The Hudson Police Department will not be releasing any further information to any media service until the next of kin has been notified. At that time, a formal press release will be sent.
The bones were discovered by a hunter while exiting the woods during a hunting trip. The hunter, who had stumbled across the bones, called the Hudson Police to notify the police of his find.
According to Lieutenant David Bianchi, Hudson Police Department, the remains belong to a 67-year-old, white male. He had been in the woods for 2 1/2 years. After a diligent, month-long investigation with the cooperation of the State Police Labs, and with the use of today’s technology of dental records, the Hudson Police were able to establish the correct identification for this male. “There are no signs of foul play,” according to Lieutenant Bianchi.
Hudson police also commented that this individual has not been previously reported missing.
The detectives for the Hudson Police Department were able to connect the threads of an abandoned car which had been left approximately one mile from the location of the remains in their efforts to solve this incident.
Presently, the Hudson Police Department is actively pursing the notification of next of kin. Further details will be released by the Hudson Police Department as they arise.
Editor’s note: This article focuses on the “big picture” of the overall school budget and the straw vote results of the warrant articles from the December 12 and 14 budget committee meetings. A follow-up article will feature the subsequent five budget review meetings by school (12/15 through 12/29) and the collective bargaining session slated for January 2.
Hudson’s Proposed School Budget Tops $37.5 Million, Up Just 3.5%
by Maureen Gillum
Starting last week, the Hudson Budget Committee turned its attention from the town budget to the school budget in their seventh, eighth and ninth meetings (about ten hours) of two dozen in all. This is all being done in preparation of the public hearings (town 1/11/06; school 1/12/06) and deliberative sessions (town 2/4/06; school 2/11/06). The Budget Committee assessed the Hudson School Board’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 of $37.53 million, an increase of nearly $329,000 over the current adjusted 2005/2006 budget of almost $37.20 million.
Budget Committee Chairman, Howard Dilworth, Jr., launched the introduction to the school budget session on December 12 with an interesting relative comparison. “Merrimack, New Hampshire, a district with about 400 more students than Hudson, recently approved a school budget of $58 million,” reported Dilworth, citing a recent lead story from the Merrimack News Connection. “While it’s expensive to run schools,” admitted Howard, “it’s beyond me how a district with just 400 (or 9.5 percent) more students, could spend $20 million (or roughly 50 percent) more than SAU 81’s proposed budget.”
School Board Chairman David Alukonis began by citing SAU 81’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 (7/1/06-6/30/07) as $37,527,548, up almost $329,000, from $37,198,575 for the current fiscal year 2006. “We essentially held the line on the district’s low operational budget (a mere 0.88 percent rise), hoping to absorb our total proposed school budget, including all warrant articles, for the town ballots in March,” announced Chairman Alukonis.
The eight proposed A - H warrant articles, half which address the hard-won collective bargaining agreements reached between the Hudson School Board and four major staff unions, regarding salary and benefits increases, adds about 2.44 percent to the total school budget, if all articles are ratified. Alukonis also noted the budget documents were “a work in progress” and asked for the “continued support and understanding with their new experimental format,” as part of the district’s goal to make the budget “easier to understand.” Eventually the budget “may be best viewed on the internet at both the global level and drill down to the dollars and cents of each line item,” he added. (To see Hudson School District’s preliminary 2007 development budget, visit SAU 81’s web site at: www.hudsonnhschools.org/html/SB/sbBudget06.html).
“We’ve worked within an inflation-rate budget for the past five years,” highlighted SAU 81 Superintendent Randy Bell’s in his opening remarks. “Our primary goal was to keep our operating budget as close to the bone as possible and still deliver quality service to our students.” Bell stated that historically the total increases in school budget, including the operating budget and warrant articles, have remained remarkably low -- between 3.4 percent (2003 and 2004) and 4.1 percent (2006) with proposed increases for this upcoming fiscal year 2007 to be less than 3.5 percent. A default school operating budget of $37,202,849 was also adopted.
In the “big picture,” Bell further outlined the “gains and losses” in the proposed school budget, citing a net increase in the overall operating budget of less than 1 percent. While Bell cited SAU 81 “caught a financial break” in its “loss of 38 teachers leaving the district last year,” (resulting in an overall salary decrease of $197,500), he was also clear this was “not an educational gain” for Hudson.
As Hudson’s bond payments continue to decrease, the district’s principal and interest decreased almost $73,000. Bell also cited incoming revenues were up a bit (to $86,000), and schools have worked hard to collectively shave off about $170,000 in equipment (supplies, text books, furniture) and sought “only what they desperately needed.” Bell again noted this was to “keep our eye on the prize, which is to have contracts to recruit and retain quality people in all of union positions.”
Off-setting budget decreases, Bell also noted several areas of significant increase in the proposed school budget. These included projected increases for utilities (25 percent; electricity and gas), health care benefits (5.8 percent) and transportation (almost 5 percent). Special Education also has a projected increase of 2.9 percent closing in on $5 million.
Budget Vice Chairman Ted Luszey, also questioned Bell about Hudson’s “educational loss” and if he thought staff hemorrhaging would continue even with new contract levels. Bell acknowledged, “Our salaries will still be substantially below the average for this area, but I think over the next three years we’ll make substantial progress.” Bell also noted that “many who left Hudson didn’t want to leave” and with Hudson’s “current class sizes and facilities,” he believed we have “good working conditions.” “With any kind of reasonable salary schedule, we’ll be able to keep the people we have and retain the people we want,” concluded Bell.
Last, but not least, the Budge Committee also reviewed some key district stats and a quick straw vote on three of the eight warrant articles for schools. For example, Hudson’s overall student enrollments is expected to be flat in 2006-2007 (4,175 students), with some schools, such as Hills Garrison, projecting a slight decrease in total projected enrollment for the first time ever.
Chairman Dilworth led the Budget Committee, in a 9 - 0 vote in favor of Warrant Article A, adopting the proposed 2007 budget of $37,527,548 with an estimated total impact to the Hudson tax rate of 12 cents (for school operating budget increases) and 36 cents (for proposed warrant articles, if all are amended). Collectively, the total projected tax increase of 48 cents, brings Hudson tax rates for schools to $10.86 per thousand of assessed evaluation ($8.08 local tax rate; $2.78 for state tax rate), using the standard evaluation of Hudson. Given these projected rates, the town would appropriate nearly 64 percent of the total school budget (about $23.9 million), derived from local tax collection, with the remainder of revenues coming from state, federal and other revenue sources.
Given the collective bargaining session slated for January 2, Warrant articles B (teachers’ union contract), C (custodian and electrician’s union contract), D (Secretaries’ union contract), and E (food service and part-time paraprofessionals’ union contract) were deferred. Warrant Article F, representing 3.1 percent non-union salary and benefits increase for SAU staff and computer technicians, was “likely to be recommended” with a vote of 6 (favor), 2 (opposed) and 1 (abstention). Despite threats of selected electric co-operatives quoting rate increases of up to 60 percent for next year, Warrant Article G, to establish an expendable trust fund of up to $200,000 for unanticipated energy costs, failed in the straw vote (0 in favor, 8 not inclined to support and 1 abstention). Article H, adding up to $100,000 to the School Renovation Capital Reserve Fund, was deemed most likely to be recommended with a 5 (favor), 3 (opposed) and 1 (abstention) vote.
While the Hudson~Litchfield News will continue to track the school budget process, all Hudson citizens are encouraged to attend (7:00 p.m. Selectman’s Room, Town Hall) or watch (HCTV, Channel 22) the remaining Budget Committee meetings regarding SAU 81 including: school reviews (Hudson Memorial, 12/28; Alvirne High School, 12/29), collective bargaining (1/2), and school wrap-up (1/5). In addition, the public hearing meetings (1/12 and 1/15; 7:00 p.m.) and the School District Deliberative Session (Saturday, 2/11, 9:00 a.m.) will be held at the Hudson Community Center. (Of note, the Town Deliberative Session will be start 9:00 a.m. on 2/4 at HCC). Last, a sincere thanks goes to the many individuals within the district, school board, and Budget Committee who have given countless personal hours over many recent meetings on budget review cycle.
New Contracts and School Buses to Roll into Hudson
by Maureen Gillum
The wheels of Hudson’s school buses went awry this week with management and contract changes. Just before last week’s contract termination, many First Student drivers were disturbed by the abrupt firing of their well-liked manager.
“We were told that Lorraine (Lussier) was fired in an ugly scene by First Student ‘big guys’ and no one has told us why,” confided a Hudson bus driver. “We’re all horrified and very upset!” Many suspect Lussier became First Student’s scapegoat when SAU 81 terminated their contract.
While First Student has served Hudson as both regular and special education transport provider since 1990, SAU 81 awarded separate contracts to two new school bus companies, starting fiscal year 2007 (7/1/06). Normand Sanborn, Business Administrator, explained to the Hudson School Board (12/5/05), “We’ll do better, in both service levels and cost efficiencies, in going with two separate bus companies.”
Upon Sanborn’s recommendations, the five-year $1.4 million Special Education bus contract went to Provider Enterprises of Fremont New Hampshire; while the five-year almost $1.02 million regular education transportation agreement was awarded to Goffstown Truck Center, part of the national transport company, Student Transportation of America.
“My primary objectives were to increase service at no additional cost to the district,” reported Sanborn -- a remarkable quest considering diesel fuel tops $2.50 a gallon (some fuel taxes are waived for public school buses) and most school buses get a meager 4 - 8 mpg. He also sought “very good, safe, reliable service that would be responsive not only to us (SAU), but also to our students and parents.” In particular, Sanborn noted that “special education transportation is unique and very different from regular education transport,” especially in handling the variety of individual education plans and students with special needs.
The District received four bids for Special Education transportation. The first two (Provider Enterprises and S.P. and R. Transportation), met all bid requirements to include all costs, including fuel. The latter two (Special Transit Services and Goffstown Truck Center) had unacceptable fuel clauses. Provider’s bid was almost $38,000 lower in the first year and roughly $230,000 lower over the contract. Upon Sanborn’s recommendation, the Hudson School Board authorized the district to award the Fremont-based Provider Enterprises’ a five year contract (7/1/06 – 6/30/11) to provide SPED transportation services to SAU 81 for a projected $1,401,690. Sanborn later elucidated, Provider’s larger network and focus on SPED transport, will give Hudson significant savings and improved service. “Instead of running a bus with just a few students, we’re able to buy seats on a bus, as needed, which will save the district about $80,000 each year,” he anticipated.
For regular education transport, the district got three bids from: First Student, Goffstown Truck and Laidlaw Transit. “The two lowest bids were very close,” stated Sanborn. “Although Goffstown Truck Center’s bid was about $20,000 more than First Student, Goffstown’s bid was for all new and more fuel efficient buses, versus a mixed fleet of buses proposed by First Student.” Again, based on Sanborn’s recommendation, the school board approved SAU 81 grant Goffstown Truck a five-year contract (7/1/06 – 6/30/11) for regular education transportation services to SAU 81 at a projected cost of $1,017,891. Within provisions of the bid document, Goffstown must locate and sign a contract for terminal within 30 days; and implement improved communications with the SAU (common radio frequency for emergencies, direct communication), something Hudson lacks at present.
While the misperception exists that yellow 18-wheelers pull up to the bus stop, President Mike Kennedy affirms that Goffstown Truck Center ranks among School Bus Fleet's "Top Fifty U.S. Contractors," since its 1999 acquisition by Student Transportation of America (STA). The Goffstown-based company, which started in 1968, also got “nothing but praise,” according to Sanborn, from its current district customers, including Londonderry, Goffstown, Hooksett and Bedford. “We’re confident that Goffstown Truck can meet all our requirements and the transitions (7/1/06) will be smooth and transparent for all,” concluded Sanborn.
“We took over Hudson’s bus contracts from Bruce Transportation 15 years ago,” recalled First Student’s Pat Bailey. “We maintain a strong New Hampshire presence with contracts in Nashua, Milford, and the lakes region and a national presence through our parent, First Group America.” Percy Abbott, First Student’s Region 11 VP responded, "First Student was privileged to serve the Community of Hudson and we wish the District and the new contractor the best.” Since it costs about $750 to train a new bus driver and recruits are limited, it’s likely Goffstown will also encourage current bus drivers to remain. “I’ve driven a Hudson school bus for 23 years and I’ve gone through five companies so far.” quipped one driver. “Driving 80+ kids isn’t always easy, but it’s become my calling.”
Imagine Your Most Stressful Day Over and Over Again (Part 2)
by Doug Robinson
Fire and police dispatchers really are number one.
Fire Chief Shawn Murray sums it up best: ”The dispatchers are the first person a person with an emergency talks to … They are highly trained in getting the information, obtaining the location, identifying the problem, and then creating a chain of events which will solve the callers problems and concerns. They play a critical role, being able to visualize and dispatch, remaining indifferent and calm, while realizing that time is critical and they are there to help.”
The dispatchers for the Town of Hudson are not just a voice at the other end of the line when you dial that three digit number, 911. They are the first-line responders to any and all crises. Our highly trained dispatchers are qualified to give medical advice and authorized to dispatch any piece of emergency equipment within the town of Hudson. Both Chief Gendron and Chief Murray state that “The dispatcher is our first line of defense. They have our backs.”
Between May 17 through November 16, the Hudson Fire Department recorded 1,882 incidents. The towns of Hudson and Litchfield recorded 941 EMS Incidents while the recorded fire incidents were 670 calls for Hudson and 211 for Litchfield. This number does not include fire permit requests.
The Hudson Police Department, between January 1 and September 2, recorded 7,525 motor vehicle stops. This number only reflects motor vehicle stops. This number does not include emergency calls from 911, animal control issues, motor vehicle accident calls, emergency calls for police intervention due to domestic violence, suicide, medical, or “I want to talk to the chief” phone calls.
Deputy Charlie Chalk emphasized that “every call must follow specific protocols for us to serve the public. Without these protocols, there would be chaos. While the caller may feel that we are asking unnecessary questions, what the caller does not realize is that the dispatcher has already begun to dispatch equipment, alert the medical team, and communicate with the officers in charge, while they are conversing with the caller.”
Chalk continued by saying that they Hudson Fire Department requires their dispatchers to achieve the National Standard for Excellence as governed by the Association of Public - Safety Communications Officials - International, Inc., commonly known as APCO. APCO International is the world's oldest and largest not-for-profit professional organization dedicated to the enhancement of public safety communications. At their website APCO states, “With more than 16,000 members around the world, APCO International exists to serve the people who manage, operate, maintain, and supply the communications systems used to safeguard the lives and property of citizens everywhere.” “All dispatchers in the town of Hudson are required to achieve this level of training.
“Our dispatchers are required to continue their education as an on-going process,” said Chalk. “Technology changes, equipment changes from push buttons to digital touch screens. Our dispatchers must be prepared for any emergency. It is not unusual to receive different addresses for the same emergency. Today, many calls come in by cell phone, and the callers do not know where they are located. It is very important for the caller to know the street name. If the caller does not know the street name, we try to get information about house numbers, colors of houses, buildings, and anything which might help us locate the accident or person in need.”
The job description states that the fire dispatcher, “Receives requests for Fire Department assistance, ascertains nature of request and dispatches service units in accordance with established procedure … determines urgency of call and elicits necessary information from caller.” The description continues to state that the dispatcher must “Exercise tact and judgment in dealing with emergency situations. Relays and receives further instructions from fire department personnel at the scene of an emergency.”
According to the job description, a fire dispatcher “maintains records of all incoming calls and dispatches through various logs and reports. The dispatcher handles or refers incident activity, telephone, radio communications, and contacts with the public occurring during his or her shift. Knowledge of the street system and geography of the town, as well as the ability to speak clearly and concisely, think and act quickly, and respond accurately in emergency situations are all included with the job definition.
Captain Don Breault, Hudson Police Department, stressed that the role of the dispatcher is a “service-orientated” position. The dispatchers are thoroughly trained, spending in excess of eight weeks, 40 hours per week, learning the protocols, disciplines, and procedures to properly handle fatal accidents, domestic violence issues, bank robberies, hostage situations, and every other police situation one could imagine.
“Most of the public’s only contact with the police department is with dispatch,” commented Captain Breault. “Whether that contact is at the window, people count on our dispatchers. Perception is reality with the public and our dispatchers are highly trained professionals who are capable of saving lives, while following established protocols and specific department procedures.”
Both police and fire dispatchers have established written goals for which they must achiever. Dispatchers are expected to “ professionalize radio communication by the use of department assigned codes and department response codes when dispatching patrol officers to calls for service … enforce the security and integrity of the facility by monitoring and ensuring that all entrances and exits … are secured at all times. To dispatch all calls for services that come in at shift change in a timely manner so that the response times coincide with the response times of all other calls throughout the shift ... to share all information with other dispatchers so that all information will be ready for release to all … officers and detectives without delay … to assist all other divisions, (patrol, detectives, legal, services, and records).
John Moss, Assessor for the recent CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) stated during his review of the town of Hudson Police that they are “compassionate, handle people as a partnership, and demonstrate the true ideal standards of quality services to the public.” He continues by stating that they are “excelling, not normal … better than normal.”
During a recent snow storm, three accidents occurred in the town of Hudson within a 15-minute time frame. Two accidents took place on Derry Road between True Value and Ferry Street, while the third accident occurred on Lowell Road. In speaking with dispatch, the police department had received more than 100 phone calls during a 15-minute period from citizens who were concerned about the accidents and who wished to contact the police department as they drove past the accidents.
The Hudson Police Department conducts annual surveys to validate the public’s perception of the Hudson Police Department. The goal of the survey is to provide a vehicle for the citizens of Hudson to voice to the Hudson Police Department their concerns, complaints, comments and questions.
Results of this survey, conducted from January to June 2005, reflected that 85.9 percent of the public felt as though the dispatchers for the Hudson Police Department conducted themselves in a professional and “courteous” manner, giving the dispatchers a rating of 4 or 5, with 5 being the highest. Dispatchers are very sensitive to the calls that are received. According to dispatcher Amy Cocoran, “The toughest part of the job is the respect from the community.”
Police Lieutenant Bob Tousignant believes that “90 percent of the police officers could not do the job of the dispatcher. Their stress is totally different from the police officer.” Chief Richard Gendron expressed the same sentiments, “I could not do that job.”
In asking Angela Allen, a Hudson Police Dispatcher for four years, “Why do you do this job?” Her answer is simple: “I like helping people … even though you don’t hear the thank yous. I know I made a difference. You can take a bad situation and make it turn out a little better. When everyone goes home safe, you know you have done everything correct.”
Getting everyone home safe is the objective of every dispatcher. Kudos to the dispatchers, both fire and police, for the town of Hudson. Thanks for what they do every minute of every hour of every day. They save lives.