Second Annual Cabin Fever Day
by Sue LaRoche
The Hudson Recreation Department sponsored the second annual Cabin Fever Day on Saturday February 23 and it proved to be a huge success again this year. There were many wide eyed children with bright smiles and bags full of treasures that were won at a variety of carnival type games, including ring toss, knock down the cans, strongman, mini golf, and the duck pool.
Two large bounce houses were constantly busy throughout the day as they were filled with happy and active kids. More than once, “this is so much fun,” could be heard throughout the Hudson Community Center. Ben Desrochers, 7, of Hudson was all smiles as he was able to ring the bell on the strongman station, “last year I couldn’t hit the bell but this year I got it!” Ben’s mom described how enthusiastic he was about returning to Cabin Fever Day again this year.
With the assistance of several high school students, Recreation Committee members and Girls Scout volunteers, there were ample chaperones to guide and encourage the kids as they made their way around the Community Center. Water, lemonade, juice, popcorn, and cookies were served by Heather, Troop 236, Christina, Troop 2634, and Megan, a volunteer from Hudson Memorial School. Market Basket and Hannafords donated cookies, juice, and cakes for the afternoons’ festivities.
Recreation Director Dave Yates estimated that 300 folks attended the day’s events. “It is a fun, cheap family event that brings out a different group of kids,” stated Yates. Seeing six to eight kids in line for each game makes it a “worthwhile event” he added.
The kids were treated to balloons, a clown-around session with Cracker Jacks the Clown which, included making balloon animals, strolling musicians, hula hoop contests, the cake walk, face painting and raffles. Hailey, 3, loved having her face painted with a butterfly and a cat. “She came last year and loved it,” said her enthused mom. Strolling though the crowd, were musicians, Phil and Sue known as Sunburst, playing many lively kids’ favorites on the guitar, fiddle and banjo. It was a fun-filled, active afternoon putting smiles on many faces of Hudson residents.
HCTV’s Bright Horizons
by Maureen Gillum
Hudson cable TV has come along way since its inception in the early 1990s. Originally under the direction of Coleman Kelly, the Board of Selectmen’s (BOS) first appointed Chairman of the Hudson Cable Advisory Committee in 1994, a new generation of live local programming became available via cable distribution. With the implementation of a fiber optics link, initially wired from Town Hall to the cable facilities in Londonderry, Hudson was given three of their own “PEG” television channels: 20, 21, and 22, respectively for Public, Education and Government use.
While Kelly’s early focus was to improve quality, capture, amplify and distribute a good signal, his overall mission echoed HCTV’s current key objective more than a dozen years later: to help Hudson residents be informed and connected. Public, Educational and Government Access TV, is a valuable service to effectively share information, promote community awareness and involvement, and offer learning opportunities to residents.
Acting as the Town’s franchising authority, the Hudson BOS formalized the structure of Hudson’s cable television in late 1994. They created the Hudson Cable Utility Committee (CUC) to manage the three PEG channels operating as Hudson Community Television (HCTV). Originally, CUC consisted of seven voting members, including one selectman and one school board appointee. As of December, 2005, two more slots were added to the CUC and now include:
“The primary purpose of HCTV is to facilitate a free exchange of ideas, encourage community dialogue, and provide a means of artistic expression for the citizens of Hudson,” explained Mike O’Keefe, CUC Chairman and a HCTV principal for a dozen years. Fortunately for Hudson and HCTV, O’Keefe brings with him years of professional broadcast experience as a former engineering technician for WHDH-TV Channel 7 Boston.
While O’Keefe estimated he “typically only volunteers about 20 hours a month for HCTV,” his wife, Rhonda, and many others, know that’s a major understatement. In fact, HCTV typically becomes an O’Keefe family affair - son, Michael, an Alvirne junior; and daughter Meaghan, a seventh grader at Hudson Memorial; are often found operating a HCTV camera or soundboard.
O’Keefe also gives full credit to an “excellent volunteer HCTV team” and “key community partnerships,” such as Alvirne’s Jan Moynihan-Cooney and her media literacy and video production students, on the progress HCTV has made recently. Another “major force” is HCTV’s facilitator, Jim McIntosh, who was appointed in 2005. “As the only paid (part-time) HCTV employee, Jim runs the critical day-to-day operations,” cited O’Keefe, “which has greatly shaped the overall growth and direction of HCTV.”
Under the current leadership and a larger team of volunteers, HCTV has greatly expanded its programming content, and vastly improved its format. It now typically covers and broadcasts Hudson Board of Selectman (BOS), Planning Board, Zoning Board, School Board, Budget Committee, Hills Memorial Library Trustees, and assorted coverage of town events including the town and school deliberative sessions, elections, church events, and Alvirne (sports, competition, drama, etc.) and other activities. Many key events are re-broadcasted throughout the week for viewer’s convenience. In addition, the old blue scroll board has given way to a much more dynamic and readable format, rich with community-based content and news.
Truly, HCTV has become a staple resource for community information. Just check the HCTV scrolls on channels 20, 21 and 22 for town news, meetings, announcements, and community events. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on HCTV’s expanded coverage and new format recently,” humbly admitted O’Keefe.
CUC’s Selectman representative, Kathleen MacLean, had much praise for HCTV at this year’s deliberative sessions in February. “Jimmy McIntosh and Mike O’Keefe are both top-notch professionals that have brought so much to HCTV and our town.” She also cited both have “major television network experience” and “excellent leadership.”
Prior to HCTV, many town board and committee meetings were conducted in a relative vacuum, with little public audience or input. “HCTV is one of the best things that ever happened to us – as a committee and town,” shared Budget Committee (BC), Chairman, Howard Dilworth, Jr., “We (BC) went from being the town bad guys, to a committee that people know really does something and works hard for Hudson.”
On the horizon, the CUC Chairman noted several HCTV short and long-term goals. “First, we’d like to encourage more locally produced programming and get more volunteers involved in creating content,” shared O’Keefe. He mentioned high quality video equipment is now available to many, and HCTV equipment is also available for trained residents to use to create programming.
Currently operating out of “HCTV’s mobile unit” (an old converted ambulance), and wherever the equipment fits around town hall, long-term, O’Keefe dreams of “someday establishing a true access center - our own building, complete with a studio, editing room and program facility open to the public, like many towns have.” He cites Londonderry built a 4,000 square foot public access TV center in 2002 and has more than 100 volunteers who produce content ranging from talk shows, cooking shows, profiles of town government, and far more.
Given HCTV’s continued public support, funding and team dedication, O’Keefe is confident, “Hudson can do all that too, someday.” He detailed funding for Hudson’s cable TV operations comes from a cut (three percent) of the town’s cable fees, which brings in about $150,000 annually. O’Keefe also stated he was “very thankful to the selectmen and citizens” for dedicating these fees to the Cable Utility Committee. He also noted the CUC has “approximately $325,000 in its capital improvement fund” to put toward long-range objectives.
On the horizon, O’Keefe believes HCTV’s future promises even brighter developments and improvements to further benefit the Hudson community. It will be an “exciting transformation” as “HCTV keeps getting bigger and better,” concluded the CUC Chairman.
Scouts Design and Sew Quilts
Hudson Girl Scouts from Troops 279, 547 and 1279 display quilts they designed and sewed. The quilts will be donated to Project Linus, an organization which provides love, security and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need by giving them gifts of handmade blankets or quilts. While working on the quilts, the girls visited a quilt store to choose fabrics and to view lots of quilts and quilting supplies.
A Trail of Events Fuel Anger Between Departments
by Lynne Ober
Would any of this have happened if Adelphia hadn’t gone into bankruptcy? That’s the question surrounding this bizarre trail of semi-related events.
Everything began when Comcast e-mailed all of their e-mail accounts and told them to convert their e-mails to Comcast, and away from Adelphia. It was time for the winter holiday season, and most subscribers began the conversion while shopping for Christmas gifts or Thanksgiving turkey.
Litchfield Fire Chief Tom Schofield also began the conversion of the accounts. He signed up for an Adelphia account for cable modem access and e-mail for Litchfield Fire Department, as soon as he had been elected Fire Chief. “At that time I asked Tim Hebert, who was working for the Litchfield Fire Department, to set up the accounts for us because he was the most computer literate. I trusted him and never checked his work.” Hebert is now a full time firefighter with the Derry Fire Department.
Schofield admits that trust came back to haunt him. During the conversion, Schofield found one active e-mail account that he didn’t know existed. He suspended it, rather than converted it while he investigated. During that investigation, he learned that it was an account that Hebert had set up for himself, but Hebert had left the Litchfield Fire Department, and the account should not have been actively used.
Not only had the account been used, but its use was, at best, questionable. Schofield turned it over to Litchfield Police Chief Joe O’Brion, who opened a criminal investigation. When asked about the status of that investigation, Schofield replied, “I cannot speak about an open criminal investigation.”
As the months passed, both Schofield and O’Brion, had their share of non-public meetings with selectmen. Reportedly, Hebert was brought into the police department and questioned, but no charges were brought, nor was the investigation dropped.
O’Brion confirmed that this is still an open investigation, and said he couldn’t comment on any on-going investigation.
Hebert signed up to run for Litchfield Fire Chief, opposing the re-election of current Fire Chief Tom Schofield.
During Litchfield Town Deliberative Session, held at Campbell High School, political flyers supporting Hebert’s election were placed on cars in the high school parking lot. The Telegraph quoted Hebert as saying that a student, supposedly working on a sophomore project, put those political flyers supporting Hebert on cars parked in the high school parking lot. However, both School Superintendent Cathy Hamblett and School Board Chairman Cindy Couture, deny that could be the case.
“Non-acceptable school projects include a number of things, including specifically working on a candidate’s election campaign,” noted Couture, who said the entire listing of unacceptable projects is clearly listed on the school’s Website.
Additionally, Hamblett said, “I was not aware that political flyers were distributed. We have a School Board policy that prohibits the distribution of campaign literature. I’ve copied (on this e-mail) Mike Parent, Principal of Campbell High School, as he is away for the vacation week, so that he will be aware of the issue upon his return.”
Two days after the Deliberative Session at the Selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Jack Pinciaro thanked the Litchfield Fire Department for picking up the “trash” that had been thrown into the parking lot. He was referring to the Hebert political flyers that were being thrown on the ground by people leaving the Deliberative Session.
That sparked a different reaction from Police Chief Joe O’Brion, and unlike the Hebert use of Litchfield Fire Department e-mail resources situation, it didn’t take months to resolve. He signed a complaint against Fire Chief Tom Schofield for election tampering with the Attorney General’s office. Schofield found out that O’Brion was the person who complained when the AG interviewed him. “I asked if I could know who accused me,” Schofield said, “and they told me. I asked if I had the right to know my accuser and was told yes.”
O’Brion also sent an e-mail to Schofield from a hotmail account, asking that all materials in the Hebert investigation be turned over to him.
Schofield admits that e-mail set him on edge. “Anyone can set up a hotmail account saying they are anything. How did I know that came from him? After months, wouldn’t you think he would use police protocol and more formal channels, so that an evidence chain could be established? I fired off a semi-scolding message, and told him to ask through appropriate channels and not through a hotmail e-mail account.”
On Sunday, February 18, Litchfield Police Officer Gary Gott, called the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Department at 4:24 a.m. to report an open door at the Litchfield Fire Station, and that he was investigating an open door. A second officer, Russ Hartley, joined Gott and called in at 4:26 a.m. They were inside the fire station for approximately 30 minutes. Both entries are entered into the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Log of activity.
Schofield said that no one contacted him about an open door. “In the past we have been contacted. I believe police protocol is to contact the business owner if a door if found open. We have a lot of equipment in there.” However, Schofield questioned whether the fire department left the door unlocked, and he based that on the report of the officers who had to exit in an abnormal manner.
When fire department members arrived at the fire station on Sunday, they found that it had been vandalized. Fire department members described the vandalism as, consisting of derogatory notes about the department and chief, left in the station, and snacks ground into the carpeting.
Schofield reported that when a police office came to make a report on the vandalism, he refused to open a criminal investigation, saying that he would only make an “informational report.” In hindsight, Schofield wonders if the investigating officer already knew that his brothers in uniform had performed the vandalism.
Even after the officers allegedly told O’Brion that they had vandalized the fire department, O’Brion did not call Schofield, nor did he place his officer on leave. Asked if he called selectmen, O’Brion said no.
On Thursday Schofield was interviewed by the AG’s office about the election tampering. At Schofield’s request, Board of Selectmen Chairman Cecil Williams sat in on the interrogation.
It was at this meeting, that Schofield discovered that O’Brion had signed the complaint against him. “Tim Hebert had called me before the AG arrived, and told me that he didn’t file a complaint,” said Schofield. “I just wanted to know who accused me.”
During his interview with the AG, Schofield offered to take a lie detector test, and said that he thought that the surveillance cameras at Campbell High School should be checked, because they would not show him in the parking lot. “I was inside the building. So was O’Brion. We could both see each other. This charge was bogus from the beginning. I don’t understand what made him do it.”
In addition, the two firefighters who did pick up the discarded flyers came to the fire station and asked to speak to the AG. According to Schofield, both of them admitted picking up discarded flyers and disposing of them. “They didn’t have to come in, but they did because it was the right thing to do.”
Several days after the interview, the Hudson~Litchfield News asked O’Brion if he was aware of the school board policy against distribution of political flyers, and he responded that he couldn’t comment on an open investigation.
Thursday night, selectmen held a long non-public meeting with their attorney. O’Brion was called into the meeting twice. As a result, O’Brion was ordered to place his officer on Administrative Leave pending an investigation by the Attorney General.
Friday morning O’Brion was interviewed by the Attorney General’s office. Hartley and Gott were also reportedly interviewed.
On Saturday, Selectmen again met in non-public session. Board of Selectmen Chairman Cecil Williams said he finally ran out of battery in his cell phone from all the calls surrounding the multiple incidents.
At the outcome of Saturday’s non-public meeting, both officers were suspended pending an investigation by Selectmen. “This was a unanimous vote by selectmen. We need to take careful and prudent steps, but we need to keep our community safe.”
On Monday O’Brion said that he was “disappointed in the officers’ behavior,” and that an “internal investigation was being conducted to see if the officers violated any police policies or procedures.” Asked if the department had a specific policy against vandalism, O’Brion said, “What do you mean? This is a personnel issue. I have no comment.”
“I just want to take my town back and make it safe,” stated Selectman Ray Peeples. “People in Litchfield need to feel safe.”
Selectmen are individually receiving many communications from many people in town. Even people who agree that both chiefs do a good job, are upset at the situation and the way it is being handled.
Williams, referring to the incident of 18 months ago, said, “Selectmen are treading a careful and prudent path. We don’t want this to end up the way it did several months ago. The personnel matter is in the hands of Police Chief Joe O’Brion. Selectmen are not micro-managing him. We are continuing to monitor, and to meet with our attorney to ensure that the proper process is being followed, and that the people of Litchfield are protected.”
Letter from Chief O’Brion to Chief Schofield
Chief Thomas Schofield February 27, 2007
Litchfield Fire Department
Dear Chief Schofield,
First and foremost I would like to extend my sincerest apology for the actions of my personnel at your fire department on February 18th, 2007. I can assure you that the intent of the officers was not of malice or disrespect of your agency or employees. This incident was intended a good-natured prank that was in the spirit of the competitive rivalry between police and fire departments throughout the United States.
The repercussions of their acts have resonated through this small community like none have ever seen before. The officers involved are truly remorseful.
I have anguished over the past several days over this incident and observed the demonization in the newspapers about the Litchfield Police Department. The accusations that have been made in reference to a “break-in”, and “vandalism”, these words are inflammatory and have a connotation that a criminal act took place. This is simply untrue. I was initially upset that this complaint was taken to the Office of the Attorney General because felt that the police would show retribution to you or your family.
I was disappointed that you felt that you could not talk to me and have this resolved in a professional manner. I know in the past we have not always agreed, but I have never seen an incident that when on a call for service we did not act professionally or in the best interest of public safety.
We as leaders in this community must move forward in a positive way. The residents of Litchfield are counting on both agencies to overcome our differences and work together.
On a personal note I am making myself available to meet with you at any time to make our relationship solid.
Joseph O’Brion, Jr.
Chief of Police
Complete Speech of Dave Cady
The following speech was read into the record during Litchfield Selectmen Meeting Monday 2-26-07. Firefighter Cady was the last Litchfield Firefighter to be at the Fire Station prior to the incident on the 2-18-07.
Good evening, my name is David Cady. I am a firefighter and resident in the town of Litchfield. I live at 15 Brickyard Drive with my wife and two children. Unfortunately, I was the one who discovered, and cleaned up, the vandalism at the station early Sunday morning.
When I left the station Saturday night, the door was locked. The officers said they had to exit the building through the overhead door because they could not open the entry door from the inside. That would only happen if the door locks were engaged.
We need everyone to understand that this is like a second home for most of us. To walk in and find our house in this condition, not knowing who was responsible, was infuriating to say the least. We’ve all donated countless hours of our own time away from our wives and our children, to make the fire station a nice place to work.
When we found out days later that two “on duty” police officers were responsible for the damages … we were at a loss for words. We are supposed to work together as a team. I do realize that not all the Litchfield police officers are to blame; however, I do believe the ones involved should be held accountable for their actions.
As firefighters, we entrust these officers to protect us while we do our jobs, but how can we trust someone whose vision is so clouded, that they would allow themselves to commit such acts, especially while on duty.
As a taxpayer, I am outraged to learn that the police department would have such problems with their leadership, that these acts would go unpunished.
As of this morning, that was the end of my speech, however, after today’s events, I’m adding a little extra to it. This morning I received a phone call from Fire Chief Schofield telling me that he received a phone call from the police chief asking me to meet for an interview about the break-in. I told Fire Chief Schofield I would be more than willing to meet with the police department, as long as it was at the fire station, and I could have a witness present during the interview. I then asked Fire Chief Schofield if he would be my witness. He then contacted Chief O’Brion to let him know what I had said. All parties agreed and the interview was set for 11 a.m. this morning. Ten minutes before the interview, I was informed that Chief O’Brion would not allow me to have any witnesses present for the questioning, not even a lawyer. This did not seem right to me, so I declined the interview. I felt, without a witness present, my words could get twisted or misquoted. I don’t understand how you, as our town’s selectmen, could allow the police department to investigate themselves. Talk about the Fox Guarding the Henhouse.
Police Chief O’Brion was quoted in today’s Union Leader as saying, “there was no criminal intent; if the officers sprayed soda on the wall that could be construed as criminal mischief.” Why is it Criminal Mischief to spray soda on the wall, and a childish prank to spray it on the floor? In my opinion, there is no difference between the two.
In closing, I leave you with one question, would I still be a firefighter for the town of Litchfield if I broke into the police station and did the same things?
Heated Selectmen’s Meeting
by Lynne Ober
There’s a brotherhood behind the badge. Men and women who wear a badge, belong to an extended family joined together in service, in honor and in trust. Those of us, who don’t wear a badge, know about the brotherhood, know it is like a family, and know that it is close-knit. Police officers who go into dark alleys after gunshots are fired instead of fleeing like the average citizen, and firefighters who enter burning buildings to rescue those who cannot rescue themselves, are bonded into the brotherhood, and are respected for what they do.
But in Litchfield, a series of events has torn a rift between the brothers behind the badge, and at Monday night’s Selectmen’s meeting, the two chiefs exchanged heated words from opposite sides of the room, after residents and firefighters had expressed their opinions.
The firefighters are outraged and feel disrespected. They talked about derogatory remarks, soda spilled on the floor and carpet, and snacks ground into the carpet.
The police want to characterize what happened at the fire station as a “prank.”
This is clearly a situation from which no winner can ever emerge. The best that can be hoped is that people will feel empathy for both sides of the brotherhood, and will provide space for a resolution to be crafted.
Nearly every Litchfield firefighter attended the meeting. The room was standing room only, and cars were parked along both sides of the street because the lot was full. Not everyone could get into the selectmen’s room, and the crowd spilled into the lobby. People were, for the most part, quiet and respectful.
Selectmen started nearly an hour late, because they were again meeting with their attorney on this issue. After selectmen filed into the room, the firefighters respectfully and silently filed into the room, lined up behind selectmen and along the wall. Their blue uniforms and badges were worn with pride. At the appropriate time, each firefighter stated his name and left the room.
A number of firefighters read quiet statements, but the theme was the same. They expressed outrage and a deep concern that a week after the incident, no apology had been received. In their eyes, if this had been a prank, an apology should have been forthcoming.
Among questions that firefighters put on the floor was this question, “Would I still be a firefighter in Litchfield, if I had done the same thing in the police department?”
Finally Chief Schofield spoke. He said that he was outraged at the letter from the Attorney General’s office that stated no crime had been committed. He asked the AG to think it over and reconsider. Schofield said, “Our foundation has been rocked, but we are still responding in a solid manner to calls, and we will continue to do so.”
A number of citizens spoke to selectmen. Several mothers expressed concern about how to talk to their own children about such an incident involving an on-duty police officer.
Others pointed out that they liked both chiefs and were saddened by the turn of events. Eric Gibbon, a business owner in Litchfield, urged calm, and asked people not to rush to judgment. He reminded people that the AG had not found that a crime had occurred. He said that he had a working relationship with both departments. “My concern is that this doesn’t turn into a witch hunt.”
Others did not think that giving the two officers what they called “a paid vacation” was punishment.
One citizen said that anyone who destroyed property of his supervisor could expect to be fired.
Tom Levesque, both a former Litchfield Fire Chief and Litchfield Selectman, called the situation “beyond reason,” and expressed concern for the children and spouses of firefighters.
Finally one resident asked selectmen why the police chief was not in the room, and Board of Selectmen Chairman Cecil Williams responded that selectmen had asked him to be present.
O’Brion, who had been behind a locked door in the police station watching the proceedings on television, did come into the room after the question was broached, and that’s when hot words were exchanged between the two chiefs.
After Williams intervened and told them to settle down or to take it outside to the street, one firefighter asked if he could ask Chief O’Brion one calm, polite question. When Williams said yes, the question was why an apology hadn’t been issued to the fire department.
When O’Brion said he had no comment, the firefighter’s response was “That says it all. Let’s go,” and the firefighters left the room.
Williams then addressed the media and residents, and told them that selectmen were carefully consulting with their attorneys on the legal process. He reminded them of the incident 18 to 24 months ago, when selectmen had acted hastily and O’Brion had sued in court. “This is now a personnel matter. We are leaving it up to Chief O’Brion to deal with. We are not micro-managing him. We are following the process to the letter of the law. If you don’t like the law, change it. Go to your State Representatives and make a difference.”
At the end of the meeting, Williams asked for a roll-call to return to non-public session, with attorneys to continue to work on a personnel matter.
On Tuesday O’Brion sent a formal letter of apology to Schofield, who remarked that the letter was “a step in the right direction. I just don’t know if he means it, or if the pressure made him do this.”