Albuquerque Avenue Open
by Lynne Ober
The spring floods washed away a large chunk of Litchfield’s Albuquerque Avenue causing residents to take a long detour.
Selectmen immediately began looking at repairs and those repairs are now complete. “I’m glad, but I don’t know what I will do with my time,” grinned Board of Selectmen Chairman Cecil Williams, who had been spending hours every day at the site.
Everyone is glad that the road is open, but Selectman Pat Jewett who is also a School Board member said that she was delighted that buses would not have to take a long detour. “With the price of gasoline, we need to keep our bus routes efficient.”
There’s still work to be done. Final bills have not been received and then a claim with FEMA must be made. FEMA will pay no more than 75 percent of expended costs, but can decide to pay a lesser percentage. “We still have our work cut out for us,” stated Williams.
School Board Assesses Substance Abuse and Use of K-9 Police Dogs at Alvirne
by Maureen Gillum
During the July 17 Hudson School Board meeting, Chairman David Alukonis began initial discussions on the use of K-9 police dog units for drug detection and deterrence at Alvirne High School (AHS), which dominated the first half of the nearly two-hour meeting. While never mentioned, it is believed the issue arose in response to an editorial printed in The Nashua Telegraph a few weeks earlier by a concerned Hudson parent. After discovering drugs in her son’s room, Joann Auclair said she was told by her teenager that drugs were readily available at AHS.
In his introduction, SAU 81 Superintendent Randy Bell said he found use of drug sniffing dogs at his previous district “useful and effective.” He added “While all evidence indicates that we are not engaged in an overwhelming (drug) problem, anything we can do to provide a message of apprehension and prevention is good.” Bell then welcomed Captain Don Breault, Alvirne’s Student Resource Officer, Jason Downey and AHS Principal, Bryan Lane to address the board.
Captain Don Breault, Operations Commander of the Hudson Police Department, explained, “If we ever do bring a dog into the school, we must follow professional guidelines,” explained the 18 year veteran, “We would always need probable cause to conduct any searches and maintain civil liberties.” Breault also detailed that his canine unit has been used by other districts, but, to date, has not been requested in Hudson. He also said that “one dog was insufficient” to use at a large schools; typically multiple dogs (6 - 12) are brought into a school to search without students in the building.
Captain Breault detailed that the K-9 unit’s dogs are “drug, search and attack-trained” and the “dog is an extension of the Hudson Police Department.” While the program typically “disrupts the school day” somewhat and “impacts liberties,” he said a primary benefit is “it puts the parents and staff more at ease.”
The Captain also assured the board that the Hudson Police Department would not be opposed to use their K-9 unit in the Hudson high school and middle school, one to four times per year, according to whatever policy the school board set. “We’ve already participated in other school searches,” stated Breault, “we haven’t in Hudson yet simply because we’ve never been asked.” Last he encouraged, “If parents know that their kids have a substance issue at school, it’s important they tell the administration or their SRO.” Jason Downey is the SRO or Student Resource Officer at Alvirne, while Bill Emmons servers as Hudson Memorial’s SRO.
With continued input and response from Captain Breault, SRO Jason Downey, and Principal Bryan Lane, the school board discussed the issue at length. Topics covered included current procedures; the logistics of canine unit use; legalities of search and seizure, probable vs. reasonable cause, and impact to liberties; success of Hudson’s fifth grade Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program; and assemblies and demonstrations to best introduce the program. Debate followed regarding the impact of using K-9 units in schools regarding its effectiveness – it was deemed more as a deterrent versus a preventative measure -- as well as the actual “need of a policy.” The board also agreed that such a program’s focus and intent would stress drug and substance abuse prevention, rather than prosecution.
School Board member Rich Nolan argued the use of dogs were not an effective preventative measure. He then queried issues of greater concern -- just how serious is the (substance abuse) problem in Hudson schools? As a school board, how do we best work on a solution to this problem?
Principal Bryan Lane responded candidly, “I’d say anywhere from 15 – 25 percent of our students are using some sort of illegal substance, not including alcohol, on a weekly to bi-weekly basis.” In clarification he added, “The problem exists in Hudson, as the police know, as it does in most communities,” but “how much actually comes into the building (he believes not a lot) is another story.” Noting a trend of more worry, Lane stated, “Those using illegal substances are using them more intensely than they used to.” He estimated, “ten percent (of AHS students) are heavy users.”
While Mr. Lane’s conjectures regarding AHS substance abuse may sound high, they may be low in comparison with the New Hampshire Department of Education’s latest analysis. The 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed 44 percent of students reported they had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more of the past 30 days; and almost 27 percent of students admitted to using marijuana one of more times within the last 30 days (see related side bar on page X).
Principal Lane also shared, while he “was not interested in creating a police state,” he voiced his support of a school board decision “if they chose to use the dogs once or twice a year” at Alvirne and Hudson Memorial School. While he didn’t think drug dogs would actually prevent substance abuse in the community, he believed the use of the K-9 unit would be “a deterrent, at least to the intelligent students,” as they would “think twice about actually bringing drugs into school.”
Alvirne’s Student Resource Officer, Jason Downey also voiced support for the K-program as it would be another helpful tool. Downey admitted, “I watch them, but it’s a big school with 1,555 kids and I’m pulled in many directions.” He also explained, “My hands are sometimes tied as I’m held to a higher standard regarding the need to have probable cause.” Valid reasons included a teacher’s suspicion of a student being under the influence or the smell of marijuana on a kid or in school.
“The kids we suspect know we are looking and watching,” added Mr. Lane, “and I tell them, and their parents, that we are.” The principal also said he was proud of his staff and administration keeping watchful eyes and ears, especially during passing times and in the café, where most information is picked up. Lane estimated about 40 percent of reporting issues come from his pro-active teaching staff. At that point, the administration talks to the kids and further checks them out or even does a search, if warranted.
In asking the board’s response, Superintendent Bell concluded, “I’m supportive of using dogs appropriately in the school as one piece in the entire process” and “would be happy to develop a policy to further that process.”
Hudson Police Chief, Richard Gendron reiterated, “we’ve always made the dog available as a resource to the school,” in a recent Nashua Telegraph article (7/23/06; page B-1), but emphasized that police needed to be asked by the administration (with school board’s approval) and required a specific reason to search the school. Concerned about the violation of rights, Gendron said, “We cannot line up everybody in the school gym and tell them to empty their pockets.”
While a draft of the K-9 use policy was not discussed, or expected, at the July 24 school board meeting -- where SAU 81’s Strategic Plan was re-addressed after a six to eight week hiatus -- it is forthcoming.
Regarding other issues, Mr. Bell also indicated that progress was being made in finding qualified candidates for open district positions, including two Assistant Principals (part of SPED’s reorganization); an Interim Director for Alvirne’s Vocational Education Center (board awaits the overdue $26,000 Voc Ed study results); and numerous teachers and paraprofessionals. No doubt, the board will be very busy putting many people and policies into place by their targeted first day of school, Tuesday, August 29.
Creative Idea Proposed
by Lynne Ober
One normally thinks of creative ideas as coming from artists, but in this case it came from Litchfield Fire Chief Tom Schofield.
Schofield has developed a prototype for an addition to the cable utility building that can be used as cold storage by the fire department until such time as a new fire station can be built. His idea will resolve a serious ADA violation, provide more space in the future for the cable committee, and allow them to finally have working bathrooms in the cable building.
“It’s a very positive win - win solution,” grinned Selectman Ray Peeples, who noted that he had already discussed the proposal with Litchfield’s Cable Committee Chairman and had gotten very enthusiastic support.
“Space needs at the current fire station has reached a critical and dangerous point,” Schofield told Selectmen. “As Chief I have done everything within my powers to relieve the situation. Tonight I’m here to present a plan that will provide temporary, short term solution for the fire department and a long term benefit to the entire community.”
Most importantly for Litchfield residents, the plan will not use tax dollars, but will rather use impact fees already paid by developers who have developed property in Litchfield.
The current situation with the Cable Building was originally built as a cold storage facility with no water within the facility. As a result there are no bathrooms in the building.
“The current TV studio is located on the second floor and has only one means of egress and no access for people with handicaps, as required under federal law,” stated Schofield.
Peeples agreed that this was an on-going issue that Selectmen were aware of, but had not been able to resolve with default budgets.
Schofield proposes an old-fashioned barn raising with the whole community involved. He thinks the addition can be built in a weekend and wants to have everyone pitch in. “We’ll even flip burgers and hot dogs for the workers,” he said.
The proposed addition would require building two additional walls plus a front wall that would primarily consist of two large bay doors suitable for use by large fire apparatus.
“We have lots of capable people in the fire department and we are all excited about this idea,” said Schofield.
In the future when the fire department moved out, the cable committee could have the studio on the ground floor which would meet ADA federal laws.
“We’d put in pipes and bathrooms could be added later,” noted Schofield, who said he was already working with the Cable Committee on placement of pipes and the potential addition. “They are very supportive of this idea.”
Dennis Ryder, a friend of Ray Peeples, had drawn conceptual outside drawings of the proposed addition that Schofield showed Selectmen.
There are approximately $20,000 in fire department impact fees that could be used for materials and some services. Since the building is primarily going to be used a cold storage, not a lot of finish work will be required.
As Schofield pointed out, if he put the addition on the Cable Building, it was a long term investment for the town because that addition would continue to be used after the new fire station is built, but Schofield is also aware that the town needs a new school and is thinking about delaying his request for a new fire station one more year in deference to the school district and the taxpayers. “Taxpayers can only pay so much at any one time,” he noted. “We need to be a player and not just be demanding.”
Selectman Pat Jewett asked about the budget and chastised Schofield because he was already over his operational budget.
Schofield pointed out that he was on a default budget and that the costs of helping with spring flooding had been high.
“You also have to factor in the cost of gasoline. We are using a budget from two years ago and gas prices have gone up considerably,” said Schofield.
When Board of Selectmen Chairman Cecil Williams, asked Schofield if he had refused to go on any call, Jewett responded, “He better not.”
“Well, that’s the point. The fire department goes on every call. Calls have risen dramatically with the growth in town and then we had the flooding. It is unreasonable to think that the Chief can hold to a budget that is two years old,” said Williams.
Schofield assured selectmen that he planned to stick to his construction budget and had every reason to believe that he had enough money to do the job.
Selectmen unanimously approved his proposal with the ever frugal Jewett still grumbling about the overage in the operational budget.
Schofield hopes to hold his barn-raising in September. He hopes and wants to have the entire community involved.
Fire Chief Chooses Not to Accept Lowest Price for New Ambulance
by Doug Robinson
Fire Chief, Shawn Murray, chose to do business with Demers Ambulance of Bloeil Quebec, when selecting a replacement Ambulance. “The total cost including the option of a trade in of $8,000 for the 1998 Ford Ambulance and the LED emergency lighting package at a cost of $1,000 is $120,000. This is the authorized expenditure approved by the voters of the Warrant Article” stated the Chief to the Hudson Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night.
In selecting Demers, Murray did not choose to purchase the ambulance from Professional Vehicle Corp, who had the lowest bid of $118,559, after discounts.
While Demers offered the lowest price with the requested options, Demers also offered the highest trade-in allowance for the 1998 Ambulance. In fact, Demers offered the Town of Hudson $3,000 more in trade in allowance than Sugarloaf Rescue Vehicles. Demers trade-in offer allowed the purchase of this ambulance to come in at the authorized Warrant Article (of March 14, 2006) amount of $120,000.
According to the bids received, four companies submitted proposals to the Town of Hudson.
The Town of Hudson request for bid specified a proposal for a 2007 Ford E-450 Type III Ambulance. However, only three of the four bids were for a year 2007. Demers were the only bidder who did not follow the instructions of the bid and based their bid upon the chassis of a 2006 model Ford E-450 Type III Ambulance. Chief Murray stated he could not accept the bids for Sugarloaf, Autotronics, and Professional Vehicle Corp, as their prices were “estimated” even though they were based on 2007 specifications.
In speaking with Kevin Duhamel, Demers Ambulance, he stated that “he could only estimate the price of a 2007 chassis, and according to the Chief, it was ok to do an exception on the bid and submit a proposal for a 2006 chassis.” Demers also stated that the cost of a 2007 chassis would have added approximately $3,000 to the cost of the bid. Demers also stated that he “did not want to eat the difference if the actual price of the 2007 chassis was 5,000 versus $3,000,” so he asked the chief to allow an exception to the bid.
In speaking with Bill Gates, Professional Vehicle Corp, the Hudson~Litchfield News was informed that the fire department called Professional Vehicle Corp. after the bid process, and requested a price difference for a 2006 chassis and a 2007 chassis. According to Professional Vehicle, the difference submitted to the fire department was $1,000. If Professional Vehicle Corp. were to bid the 2006 chassis, their bid would have been approximate $117,559.
Also, according to Professional Vehicle, the evaluation of the 1998 trade in ambulance could not be done as it was “at a dealership in Massachusetts. We were conservative with the assessment as we could not view the vehicle. It could have gone higher.”
Ron Morin, from Sugarloaf Ambulance, told the Hudson~Litchfield News that he provided the Town of Hudson with two bids for the new ambulance. One bid was for a “streamlined” ambulance while the second bid was the “custom” bid as requested by the request for bid.
However, in reviewing the bids as posted by Chief Murray, only one bid is reflected on the recap of bids. “It appears as though there were post negotiations,” stated Morin.
Murray also stated that “we have chosen to go with the 2006 chassis to accelerate build time and delivery” even though the bid requirements did not specify a required or a desired time of delivery.
When questioned by the Selectmen, Murray also stated that he did not look at any other vendor than Ford by stating “all the ambulances have been Ford and we have done well.”
Chief Murray was unavailable for comment on Wednesday. The Hudson Board of Selectmen unanimously accepted the bid requested by Chief Murray.
Forecast: Partly Cloudy …
with an Abundance of Local Meteorologists
by Maureen Gillum
Something intriguing emerged recently. In addition to the many ‘wanna-be home weather dudes’ that awake daily to the Weather Channel, “there are an uncanny number of professional meteorologists in this area,” cites Hudson meteorologist, Dr. Mike Adams. One reason may be that tracking local weather isn’t boring; with a region of four seasons and many extremes, it’s often said, ‘if you don’t like the New England weather, just wait a minute.’
Meteorology is a highly specialized area of study and work. Tapping into a tight network, there are dozens of prominent ‘weather geeks’ in the area, like Adams (Hudson); Litchfield’s married ‘mets’ (Dennis and Dawn Miller); University of Massachusetts - Lowell’s Dr. Frank Colby; and WMY-TV’s Al Kaprielian (Derry). Other professional local meteorologists include Jim Menard, Todd Crawford, Joe Meli, Bob Conant, Mike Kapel, John Pino, Robert Carolan, Henry Chary, George Carass, Ken Campbell, and Jimmie Smith. Even the pioneering co-founder of the Weather Channel and WSI Intellicast’s former Chief Meteorologist, Joe D’Aleo, calls Hudson home. So just what attracts so many pro weather watchers to the area?
There are many reasons and sites. “In addition to being a nice place to live near the Coast and Boston,” Dr. Mike Adams, retired Air Force Weather Officer who now works for General Dynamics and sports a “WxDoc” (Weather Doc) license plate, hypothesizes, “we also have the Federal Aviation Agency’s Boston center (Nashua); U-Mass Lowell’s Meteorology department; Hanscom Air Force Base’s Research Lab and Electronics Systems Command; several major weather firms and many media companies, all within a 20-mile radius.”
Major local weather interests include WSI (Andover, Massachusetts), DTN/Meteorlogix (www.dtn.com; formerly Weather Services Corp., Lexington, Massachusetts) and NOAA’s National Weather Service (Taunton, Massachusetts site; www.nws.noaa.gov). Weather Services International (WSI, www.wsi.com) alone, best known for its Intellicast services tailored for aviation and energy, has “24 x 7 operations where 40 percent of its 220 employees are degreed meteorologists.”
Beyond major area weather firms, several specialized local weather companies exist as well. Hometown Forecast Services, Inc. (www.hometownforecastservice.com) provides weather forecasting to “sound like we live in your town.” Started in 2001 by Robert Carolan, the Nashua-based company claims to be “the fastest growing private sector weather company in the country,” providing service to over 160 U.S. and Caribbean radio stations.
Commanders’ Weather Corporation (www.commandersweather.com) specifically targets marine weather. “We0 started in Nashua about ten years ago,” cites George Carass, Co-owner, “99 percent of our work is in marine forecasting, split between world-wide racing and cruising.” CWC race clients include international winners like Ellen MacArthur, Cheyenne crew, Team Adventure, and America’s Cup teams. “We prepare sailing or cruising forecasts for specific yachts and routes with custom support to avoid inclement weather and take advantage of favorable weather, wind angles, and seas,” explains Co-owner, Ken Campbell.
Weather can also bring people together. Litchfield residents, Dennis and Dawn Miller, met and married in 1989 during their 18 year careers as meteorologists at WSI. State University of New York (SUNY) graduate, Dawn, quips, “We were a forecasted match.” The Millers also recently made some major career transitions: he to computer programming at Tybrin; she to coordinate Shear Class hair salon. Still, weather is typically “like a born addiction,” laughs Dawn. Pennsylvania State grad, Dennis, agrees smiling, “we both still seriously track weather, but now it’s our hobby.”
Of all the regional ‘weather geeks,’ Hudson’s Joe D’Aleo is perhaps the most well-known and respected. After earning degrees in meteorology from University of Wisconsin (B.S., M.S.) and New York University (ABD), Joe taught meteorology at Vermont’s Lyndon State College for six years. “Those years were the most fun and rewarding part of my entire career,” reflects Joe fondly, “being able to work with and influence so many fine young minds and see them later excel in their careers.” One such undergrad, Mike Adams, considers Joe his “personal mentor” and “an enormous asset” to the field.
D’Aleo went on to pioneer the Weather Channel as co-founder in 1982 and served as their first director of meteorology for seven years. The 24-hour weather network, the Weather Channel today boasts an amazing 87 million U.S. cable viewers and 20 million monthly hits (www.weather.com). A CCM and an AMS Fellow, Joe also worked for many years at Weather Services International (WSI) as its Intellicast’s Chief Meteorologist, under the pseudonym "Dr. Dewpoint."
In 2004, D’Aleo became a partner in a private firm, Hudson Seven Limited, with former Governor John Sununu and son. The company trades commodities (e.g., agricultural and energy products) using short, medium and long-term weather and climate forecasts. Joe also continues his work in climate change and biometeorology, the impact of weather on health, performance, and behavior.
D’Aleo remains a frequent contributor to trade press; a Science Round Table member at TCS Daily (www.tcsdaily.com); and a popular speaker at industry conferences. Last month, as the NEDRIX conference’s keynote speaker, Joe addressed the increased risk of land-falling hurricanes and major snowstorms in the northeast due to natural cyclical changes in the Atlantic. He also spoke at the 33rd Annual ALEC conference in San Francisco last week, in response to Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” (See the accompanying side-bar, D’Aleo Doubts).
D’Aleo’s colleagues give him due credit. New York meteorologist Herb Stevens recently cited Joe’s “depth of knowledge,” “expansive research” and “open-mindedness.” “Long-range seasonal forecasting has vastly improved in the past 10 - 15 years,” wrote the ‘Skiing Weatherman,’ “and a large percentage of the increase in accuracy should be attributed to Joe D'Aleo.” On a personal note, “Joe is an awesome, funny man; a great Dad and husband,” WSI’s Dawn Miller shares, “he’s one of the best and most down to earth guys I ever worked with.” Dennis adds, “Joe is also one of the smartest men you’ll ever come across.”
Certainly, weather impacts all and fascinates many. An increasing amount of time, money, and interest are invested in short and long-term weather and climate shifts from many. Fortunately, there are many professional meteorologists in our region to keep watch. For more on the weather, visit some of the web sites listed below.
The Weather Doc’s Favorite Weather Web Sites:
Various Weather information (Boston National Weather Site): www.erh.noaa.gov/er/box/
Weather products: www.wunderground.com
Current conditions: www.rap.ucar.edu/weather/surface/java_metars/index.php?appletsize=large
Weather Models: weather.unisys.com/
Hillsborough County Provides Free Labor and a Fresh Coat of Paint
by Doug Robinson
Inmates from the Hillsborough County New Hampshire Department of Corrections recently painted exterior and interior portions of the fire station.
Approximately ten inmates were supervised during the painting. While the cost of supplies was the responsibility of the Town of Hudson, the labor provided by the inmates was free to the tax payers of Hudson.
The “Hillsborough County New Hampshire Department of Corrections is the State of New Hampshire's largest county correctional facility,” states their website. “Our commitment to public safety requires us to securely and safely detain all lawfully committed offenders. Quality training of our most precious resource, our staff, continues to allow us to meet the expectations set by the citizens of the county,” states Superintendent James O’Mara.
Community service programs, sponsored by the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections, provide towns, schools, and communities with alternatives when it comes to projects which need to be done.
Those inmates who are not involved with the community service programs at Hillsborough County Department of Corrections spend their time within the confines of the prison kitchen. “Community service gets us out of jail. It is something to do. It is good to help out where we can” states an inmate, whose name has been with-held at the request of the prison supervisory.
In the past, inmates from the Correctional facility have worked in the neighboring towns of Weare, Francistown, and Bedford. The crews have painted plows, repaired tombstones in cemeteries, built a Frisbee golf course, as well as assisted the various highway departments with the cleaning of streets and highways.
The community service program is so popular with the various towns, that their schedule has been booked for the next year. Towns wishing to use their talents must now wait until 2007.
“It is great to have them help us out” comments Deputy Fire Chief, Gary Rodgers. “Their services really help the town with the budget and they help save the taxpayers a lot of money.”
Proposal for Darrah Pond Park Being Developed
by Lynne Ober
If the Litchfield Recreation Committee gets its wishes, there will be some new features at Darrah Pond Park.
Horace Seymour, Chairman of the Recreation Committee, gave Selectmen a preview of what will be coming and discussed damage from the recent rain storms.
The rope course has been so damaged from a lightning strike that it is no longer usable. A tall tree that held several cables for the ropes course was hit by lightning during the recent rains. The lightning traveled down the cables and severely damaged the ropes course.
Seymour said that the ropes course designer was going to look at the course and give a damage estimate that can go to the insurance company.
“In the meantime, the summer Adventure program had to move to Londonderry. We hope to have the course repaired in time for use by the school programs in the fall,” he noted.
The damaged tree may fall down, but Seymour said it was still up so that the insurance adjustor could see it. “I’ve taken photos and that may be enough,” he stated.
On the positive side, Seymour talked about cutting some trees in order to open up space for another much needed softball field and space to enlarge the soccer field to regulation size. “Both of these would be great for our youth sports programs.”
As part of the proposal the existing skate park, which is closed, will be dismantled. Seymour said that he will call other towns and see if they want the equipment that is not damaged. “We don’t have money to repair the existing equipment that was damaged.”
The existing skate park, formerly tennis courts, will be turned into basketball courts and a new low ropes course will be added to the park.
When Seymour said at some point in the future another skate park might be established, Selectman Pat Jewett pointed out that she couldn’t support a skate park that did not have full time supervision. “Otherwise we’ll be right back where we are now.”
Seymour said a formal proposal would be coming to Selectmen in the near future.