Hudson’s New U.S. Citizens – the Kapels!
by Maureen Gillum
Most people come by their citizenship the easy way: they’re simply born into a country. But three Honduran-born Hudson residents, who have painstakingly earned their U.S. citizenship over nearly a decade, illustrate what it takes to become a legal citizen today, including desire and perseverance. The Kapels also serve as living examples of the founding principles of our country, including the American work ethic, the importance of family, and the rights and responsibilities of being U.S. citizens.
The Kapel family: American Dad, Michael; Honduran-born Mom, Azucena; and kids, Joanna and Manuel moved to Kimball Hill Road three years ago. “Being a military family, we moved every few years, from Ohio, Virginia and Mississippi,” said energetic 44 year-old Azucena in her lilting Central American accent. Now that Dad -- a retired major in the U.S. Air Force is back contracting as a meteorologist at Hanscom Air Force Base -- Hudson is the place they can finally call “home.”
Assessing their “collective family journey” becoming U.S. citizens since 1996, none of them expected the process would be so difficult or time-consuming. Yet, all are “very pleased and proud” to have finally achieved citizenship – the last of the three, Manuel, just last month on December 14. “They worked hard and too long to earn their U.S. citizenships,” commented Esther McGraw proudly, their neighbor and adopted “abuela” (grandmother).
Born near Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Central America in 1962, Azucena “Nina” Alvarado Llanes was a middle child of six and daughter of a carpenter. She met Michael 21 years ago, when he was stationed in Honduras with the Air Force. “Nina worked as a Spanish-English translator at the base,” recalled Michael grinning. “We also volunteered together at the local chapel orphanage.” They married soon after and all came to Ohio in 1996 when Michael was reassigned.
Once in America, Michael encouraged his new wife to become a U.S. citizen. Azucena also wanted to “give my children the full benefits and protection of being U.S. citizens.” Her first hurdle, Nina’s initial application, and paperwork were “misplaced by the U.S. government for three years,” reported Michael, “but eventually the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) people in D.C. helped a lot.”
Despite taking almost eight years to achieve her U.S. citizenship on April 16, 2004 – applications, letters, Visas, interviews, Green Cards, a six-week course in citizenship, certificate and being ‘sworn in’ – Nina’s “very proud.” “I finally voted in my first U.S. elections (11/04)!” Nina exclaimed enthusiastically, “I wanted to raise my voice and stand up for what I believe; if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain!” She’s even more thrilled her daughter and son followed suit. “Too many people (naturalized citizens) take citizenship for granted,” explained Azucena passionately, “but it means a lot and to achieve U.S. citizenship as an immigrant; it’s something you really have to want and work hard for.”
Nina also credits Liz Cadova, a retired history teacher who taught a six-week citizenship class in Nashua, as a key support. “Liz taught us a lot about U.S. history and government, which prepared us for INS’ 100-questions for U.S. citizenship,” recollects Nina. Among the questions: name the 13 original colonies; number of constitutional amendments; three branches and functions of the U.S. government; presidential eligibility requirements; 49th state; and the current Supreme Court Chief Justice. Nina passed with flying colors and got her certificate shortly after. However, because her process took so long, Johanna, now past 18, was forced to apply solo; she still chides Manuel for “coat-tailing” on Mom’s citizenship.
Talking around their cozy kitchen table, it’s clear the Kapels are close. “This is my whole world,” Nina emphasizes. Daughter, Johanna Mejia, 20, was a 2004 Alvirne High School honors graduate and now works as a Citizens Bank teller, as does Mom. A striking woman with a quick wit and warm smile, Johanna is studying psychology at UNH Manchester. More reserved, 18-year-old Manuel or “Nino” Mejia is an Alvirne Senior and yearbook editor who also works at Burger King. Though not on any teams, handsome Nino, dressed in jeans and black sweatshirt, is a basketball player and all-around jock. The family enjoys being together -- going to the movies, out to eat or walking in Greeley Park. They also support each other’s gifts; Dad is a talented photographer and woodcrafter; Mom does all kinds of crafts.
When the family came to the U.S. from Comayagua, Honduras, the kids were just 10 and 8. “When we first came,” Johanna explained in perfect English, “my parents hung sticky notes on everything to help teach us English.” Without an ESL program and limited tutoring in Ohio, Dad claimed, “They were well-served by their forced total immersion; within a year, both were fluent in English.” A decade later, both are now truly bi-lingual, complete with accompanying accents in Spanish and English.
In comparing homelands, Nina groans, “Oh, I miss all my wonderful food … and my family.” Prioritizing family and heritage, the Kapels travel to Honduras every few years. Johanna shares, “the education here is much better.” Besides pizza and Esther’s breakfasts, Nino cherishes “the whole feeling” of the U.S. Aspiring toward business law or management at UNH, Nino surmises, “I love America because there are so many opportunities to be something different and become something better.”
For more information on U.S. immigration, contact US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly known as the INS, at www.uscis.gov, or visit www.insexperts.com (408 517-4219), www.usimmigrationsupport.org/, or www.uscitizenship.info.
The ‘Poop’ on the Litchfield Pedestrian/Bikeway Path
by Doug Robinson
Originally proposed in 1996 as part of the town of Litchfield’s master plan, the nine-mile pedestrian/bikeway path continues to generate battles between the poopers, the peddlers, and the pedestrians.
“Pedestrians always have the right of way. Bike path or not, it is a recreational path for all people. As a matter of fact, in some towns in New Hampshire, bikes are not allowed on sidewalks, rather they belong in the street, or they are issued a summons. Hit a child with your bike on the bike path and you will be at fault,” commented one caller into the “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down” column in the Hudson~Litchfield News.
Another caller to the column stated, “Thumbs down to the comment about the bike path; that is just a name for the sidewalk. It is for pedestrians with dogs and kids. If I knew who you were I would push you off your bike when you went by me … maybe into some horse poop.”
“The purpose and benefits of (this) project,” as written in a memo to the Nashua Regional Planning Commission May 2002, state “The pedestrian /bikeway (will give) access to schools/parks/and neighborhoods ... (It will) link Campbell High School/Edward Roy Park/Town Offices and Forest … (it will) enhance safety on north, south alternate to arterial to New Hampshire 3A.”
The report continued that the pedestrian/bikeway path “provides important link in non-vehicular transportation system, decreases dependence on motorized transportation, links neighborhoods, schools, recreation and town facilities, and (is) an approved project in Nashua Regional Planning Commission’s (NRPC) long-range transportation plan.”
The pathway has been built in segments by area developers and has been an ongoing project since 1997. The eight-foot-wide pathway is plowed by the town of Litchfield in the winter so that pedestrians and peddlers may continue to use it. Major funding for this pathway has been acquired from federal monies acquired from the “Transportation and Enhancement” fund.
When completed, the pathway will run parallel to Albuquerque, stretching from its beginnings at the corner of Page Road and Albuquerque Avenue, crossing Talent Road, Pinecrest Road, Hillcrest Road, Century Lane, and ending at 3A and Albuquerque.
According to Litchfield Building Inspector Roland Bergeron, one of the original intents of the pedestrian/bike pathway was for it to be incorporated in the Circumferential Highway plans. The proposed bridge, which was to cross the Merrimack River between the towns of Litchfield and Merrimack, New Hampshire, would “provide a link in non-vehicular transportation” to travel between towns of Litchfield and Merrimack.“
Currently, the “town of Litchfield does not have any law on the books preventing horses from being on the walkway,” stated Litchfield Police Chief Joe O’Brion.
According Litchfield Board of Selectman, Chairman Cecil Williams, the Board of Selectmen will be reviewing a proposed ordinance to prohibit horses from being on the pathway at their next meeting. “While signs are posted stating no motor vehicles and bike route begin, there are no signs stating horses are not allowed on the pathway.” Williams said that the pathway is “really for walkers and bikers … and has been ever since its conception, and that the issues with horse droppings are a recent issue. In fact, while I know Selectman Pat Jewett has received some calls about the droppings, I have never received a call.”
One caller to the “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down” phone line summed up the poop versus pedestrian and peddler’s problem:“ to comment insisting that horse poop on the path is okay because the litter problem is worse. Both are litter and do not belong on the path. We have nothing against horses; all we’re asking for is a little common courtesy.”
Hudson Police Issue Fraud Warning Regarding Internet
The Hudson Police Department has issued a fraud warning based on a January 16 incident.
On January 16, a Hudson citizen reported to police that he or she had received an e-mail from a subject via the Internet identifying themselves as American soldiers fighting in Iraq. The e-mail states that a sergeant and his fellow troops are looking for a partner in the United States to take control of a shipment of cash taken from the family of Saddam Hussein. The money would be sent confidentially and would not be accessed U.S. Customs agents due to its diplomatic immunity
This is an Internet scam. These people are not U.S. soldiers and preying on the patriotism of citizens in an attempt to access bank codes, social security numbers, and dates of births. Once these private numbers are obtained, these scam artists have access to people’s identities.
The police urge all citizens to use care in responding to any e-mails that request cash, checks or personal information. Never give out personal information over the telephone or Internet. For more information of scams and frauds visit the Hudson Police Department website at www.hudsonpd.com.
Anyone who receives a false or suspects and Internet scam, contact Detective Sergeant Charles Dyac in the Hudson Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at 886-6011, ext. 241.
School District Public Hearing Wraps Up Budget and Warrant Articles
by Maureen Gillum
Editor’s note: As a follow-up from last week’s “Proposed 2007 Hudson School Budget Breakdowns,” (Hudson~Litchfield News, page 1 and page 11), this article ties up the final SAU 81 budget meeting reviews and recommended warrant articles. The Budget Committee final collective bargaining review (1/2/06) and much of the school budget wrap-up (1/5/06), focused on the district’s salary negotiations and the resulting budget impact and recommendations. Of note, the Hudson~Litchfield News stands corrected that the immediate re-instatement of Shawn Jasper on January 2 was not a unanimous vote.
On the night of January 12, there was a brief 12-minute meeting, prior to the lightly attended 50-minute school district public hearing at the Hudson Community Center. At that time, Budget Committee Chairman Howard Dilworth, Jr. announced the Hudson School Board took a “different position on Warrant Article G” -- essentially a reduction from the original $200,000 to $100,000 for the Expendable Trust Fund for unanticipated energy costs.
David Alukonis, School Board Chairman, confirmed the new school board’s recommendation on this warrant article and updated operating and default budget numbers in his memo to the Budget Committee, based on the latest school board meeting on January 9. With the adjusted amount, the committee voted 6 - 4 to recommend Warrant Article G, reversing its previous January 5th 5 - 5 tie vote or failure to recommend. Therefore, all school-related warrant articles move to the March 14 town ballot with the unified support of both the Hudson School Board and Budget Committee.
At the Public Hearing opening on January 12, Chairman Dilworth noted, “This ends the long school district budget review process” and provided a brief introduction to the purpose, process and members of the Budget Committee. “Hudson is one of 90 towns in the state of New Hampshire that have over the years adopted the provisions of the Municipal Budget Act.” Citing pertinent New Hampshire court cases, Dilworth outlined the budget process and the Budget Committee’s purpose to “assist the voters in the prudent appropriation of public funds” and act as “arbiter” to “maintain the tax load with manageable proportions.”
Dilworth also introduced the Budget Committee, including nine “at-large” members who are elected in staggered three-year terms, who have diligently worked on the school budget reviews, which began last summer. Theses include: Howard Dilworth, Jr. (Chairman, 2008), Ted Luszey (Vice Chairman, 2008), Joyce Goodwin (Clerk, 2007), John Beike (2006), Leo Bernard (2006), Robert Haefner (2006), Shawn Jasper (2007/2006), Raymond Rowell (2008), and Charlotte “Charlie” Schweiss (2007). In addition, there is the Budget Committee Selectman’s Representative, Ken Massey (Alternate Terry Stewart) and School Board Representative, David Alukonis (Alternate Richard Nolan).
Highlights from the Budget Committee’s collective bargaining review on January 2, school wrap-up meeting on January 5, as well as the final Public Hearing and final votes on the school district budget on January 12, followed by warrant articles:
Warrant Article A: Set SAU 81 Total Final Budget at $37,489,301: Approved 10-0.
The district operating budget was last tabled on December 29 at $37,519,158. After several budget adjustments were made, including the elimination of a $22,000 child-care salary (federally funded, mistakenly double-counted initially) and cost of power-sweeping school parking lots (which Hudson Highway Department will take over), the new total school budget was set and approved in a 10 - 0 vote at $37,489,301. This represents an increase of $1,263,271 or 3.39 percent, including warrant articles, over last year’s total SAU 81 budget. The default budget adopted by the School Board is $37,202,849.
Warrant Article B: 2006 - 2009 Hudson Teacher Contracts ($2,125,000): Supported 10 - 0.
Among collective bargaining, the four-year Hudson Federation of Teachers (HFT Local 2263) contract with the Hudson School Board was introduced as “the big apple.” Budget Committee School Board Alternate Rich Nolan (who spoke and voted in Chairman Alukonis’s place as he’s married to a district employee), began, “We have two 800-pound gorillas: our disparity in teacher salaries and no teacher contracts.” Largely due to these facts, he continued, “in the past three years, excluding retirees, 30 percent of the teachers have left the district. The majority of teachers have told us in letters or exit interviews, they left Hudson because of (low) salaries.” Nolan justified the teacher contracts as he believes it achieves or addresses three primary SAU 81 objectives to help, “close the pay-scale gap within our New Hampshire region; rebalance health care costs; and remain fiscally responsible to Hudson taxpayers.”
Overall, the new teacher contracts will cost Hudson taxpayers a total of $2,125,000 over the four years, with estimated salary and benefit increases of 0 percent in 2006, 6.8 percent in 2007 and 2008; and 5.5 percent in 2009. Given Hudson teachers have had no contracts in the past three years and with contract shift of health care costs falling more toward staff, the average net salary increase will more likely be in the 3 percent range for most teachers. Even with proposed wage boosts, Superintendent Randy Bell admitted, “Our salaries will still be substantially below the average for this area,” but hopes this will “make substantial progress” toward Hudson teacher salaries being more competitive and retaining good staff.
Of note, this was the only warrant article which drew any public input at the brief Public Hearing on January 12, which was lightly attended, primarily by district employees. “It’s taken a long time to reach this compromise and I hope that our friends and neighbors will now support it,” commented Phyllis Appler, Alvirne High School teacher. “While we still aren’t quite competitive, we’ll be in a little better position than we were.”
Warrant Article C: 5-year 4 - 5% Custodian/Electrician Contract: Okayed 9 - 1.
The collective bargaining agreement between the Hudson School Board and district custodians and electricians (Teamsters Local 633) calls for an estimated wage (salary and benefits) increases of 4 percent (2007 - 2009) and 5 percent (2010 and 2011), to cost the district $85,289 for the 2006 - 2007 fiscal year. The article passed 7 - 4 (1/2/06 vote) and 9 - 1 in the final vote for Budget Committee recommendation.
Warrant Article D & E: Secretaries and PSRP Contracts: Both Approved 8 - 2.
The six-year contracts of the District Secretaries (NHFT Local 6260) and the PSRP’s (NHFT Local 6245) calls for an collective estimated salary and benefits increases of up to 6 percent or $38,781 in the first year (2007). Both passed in 8 - 2 votes, earning the Budget Committee’s recommendation.
Warrant Article F: Non-Bargaining Salary Pool Increases of 3.1%. Passed 10 - 0.
Next on the BC docket was the 10 - 0 approval of $26,435 to cover a 3.1 percent salary pool increase for the district’s non-union staff including the SAU Central Office staff and computer technicians.
Warrant Article G: Expendable Trust Fund (up to $100,000) for Energy Cost: Passes 6 - 4.
Citing expected 2007 utility increases of up 25 percent, and warnings of up to 60 percent from some Electric Co-ops, School Board Chairman Alukonis backed the original article to establish a fund of up to $200,000 (from fund balances) as a pro-active “mechanism to deal with catastrophic and unanticipated increases of energy costs.” After debate, it failed in a tie 5 - 5 Budget Committee vote on January 5. However, with an amended amount ($100,000) approved by the school board at their January 9 meeting, the committee reversed its recommendation and narrowly passed the warrant article in a final 6 - 4 vote on January 12.
Warrant Articles H (School Renovation Capital Reserve Fund of up to $100,000) and I (setting Non-Property Tax Revenue at $10,116,520): respectively passed in 9 - 1 and 10 - 0 votes.
In the January 5 wrap-up session, several line items were called to question by the Budget Committee. For example, committee member Charlie Schweiss made a motion, which was approved 8 - 2, to more evenly reallocate library book replacement funds for each school. The net result was to decrease the four elementary school library book replacement budgets from $18 to $14 per student; and increase the same funds for Hudson Memorial School and Alvirne High School up to $9 per student, up respectively from $4.56 and $8.01.
With the arduous school board’s developmental 2007 budget complete and Budget Committee’s thorough review and recommendations made, its now time for Hudson citizens to exercise their rights and responsibilities. The proposed Hudson School Budget and nine related warrant articles, all of which are recommended by both the school board and Budget Committee, moves on to the people of Hudson for the School Deliberative Session (Saturday, 2/11/06, 9:00 a.m. at Hudson Community Center) and finally to the ballot vote on Tuesday, March 14. At almost $37.5 million, the proposed 2007 Hudson school budget represents the lion’s share of local property taxes (as it does for most districts) and exceeds the town budget (police, fire, water, public works, etc.) by almost 40 percent. There is much at stake -- the investment made to our schools, staff, and students – nothing short of the future of the community. Hudson citizens, please get engaged, stay informed, and vote.
Local Family Battles Cancer and Faces Escalating Medical Bills
by Doug Robinson
Fear of the unknown combined with the fear of losing their home is foremost in the minds of Joe and Melissa Gaudet, formerly of Hudson.
Melissa Gaudet recently learned that she has breast cancer and on January 17, Melissa entered Southern Regional Medical center to have her second surgical procedure done within a two-month period on her cancerous breast. This time the breast was removed, hopefully giving Melissa, as she states, “a fighting chance.” However, the Gaudet’s fighting chance could be knocked out by impending hospital bills, doctor bills, and future medical needs as they do not have any health insurance, other than Medicaid.
Melissa’s battle with breast cancer was first noticed when she gave herself a self breast exam. Like most women, when she noticed a lump in her breast, she went to her doctor who then suggested that she have a mammogram. The mammogram detected a suspicious lump in the breast which required follow up.
“I exercise all the time and I am usually very healthy,” commented Melissa. “There isn’t any history of breast cancer in my family and I am very careful of what I eat. I do not smoke or drink. I never thought I would get breast cancer.
“What scares me the most is that I will not be around for my kids. It is the fear of the unknown and the fear of what is going to happen next. I took my doctor’s recommendation and had the wide incision done. They told me I had Stage 2 cancer and that the margins were not good. I was then told by the oncologist that I should consider having a mastectomy.”
“All I could think about is to get it out. I want it all out of my body and if I need to do a mastectomy, so be it. My breast did not matter. I want to be there for my kids.”
Melissa was working part time for UPS when she learned the news about her health condition. Upon the recommendation of her doctors, Melissa took a leave from UPS so that she could concentrate on her health. Joe Gaudet currently works as a project manager for PM McKay Corp. With the cost of health insurance so high, Joe was unable to afford the insurance offered as every cent earned has been devoted and spent to raise their five children, ages 6 to 18.
“Medicaid has a $2,800 deductible every month” states Melissa. “That means we have to come up with $2,800 before Medicaid will pay anything. Medicaid will only cover me and Joe. Doctor visits, surgeons, hospital fees are paid at 60 percent. Any overnight stay in a hospital is not covered. Medicaid goes by income level and this is what I am told we qualify for.”
Close friend and neighbor, Deb Haggett, Hudson, has arranged a fundraising benefit for Melissa Gaudet to be held at Nan King’s Court, Route 111, Hudson, on Saturday, January 28, from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. Proceeds from this benefit will be applied directly against the medical costs which are rising quickly.
The event will include appetizers, multiple raffles received as donations, dancing, karaoke, and music by the donated services of DJ Nancy Lee. Joe Gaudet’s company, PM McKay Group, has volunteered to help the family by becoming the sponsor of this event.
Other contributors are Capri Pizza, Nashua house of Pizza, Pizza Man, Icks Roast Beef, Rolanda House of Pizza, Kingsley House of Pizza, Nashua Athletic Club, Best fitness, Nashua Hyundai, Motor cycle painting, Pro Shop at Passaway Country Club, Timeless Design Services, Dartmouth Gas Light, and Continental Academy.
“It’s a waiting game” stated Joe. “I am so thankful to PM McKay for their help and understanding. I am also thankful to everyone who is helping us in our time of trouble.”
Tickets for the event may be purchased from Deb Haggett at 889-9859.