A Little Snow Creates a Lot of Fun
Youngsters all bundled up for a fun morning of snow play, gathered at Pelham Public Library on Wednesday morning, February 28. They were invited by Children’s Librarian Miss Debbie to decorate the lawn with their creative snow sculptures and enjoy some “snow soup” - hot chocolate with marshmallows, peppermint candy, and kisses - after an hour of hard, but rewarding labor.
Young artists never had more fun creating their masterpieces. The snow was the right consistency for building. Giggles filled the air as the young artists demonstrated their skills.
Wilkins’ Spaghetti Supper a Yearly Tradition
by Karen Plumley
Pelham residents of all ages gathered together on the evening of Wednesday, February 21, to support the well-known and well-loved Wilkins family. Ray Wilkins now resides in Chelmsford, but was born and raised in Pelham, and works as the assistant maintenance director for the Pelham School District. Ray and his wife Lisa had triplet sons, Kyle, Patrick, and Matthew, whom at the age of 5 were diagnosed with an inherited disease known as Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy. People with this debilitating disorder experience muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass, and deformity that progresses over a period of time. Due to the nature of this disease, it can affect any muscle in the body including the heart and lungs, and is therefore life-threatening.
The family is all too familiar with the tragic consequences of this disease. Late last November, Matthew died from complications of pneumonia. He was 15. Although confined to wheelchairs at this point, Kyle and Patrick are doing well and will be celebrating their 16th birthdays in March.
The combination spaghetti supper and lip sync contest, is always well attended and lively. It is organized by representatives of the student government, as well as students looking to fulfill their community service requirements. Every year, many local business people generously donate food. Chunky’s Cinema owner Jim Nagel, Chef David Terry from Joseph’s Pasta in Haverhill, Joe Slattery of Pepperidge Farm, and Market Basket Regional Manager Tom Trainer all contributed their specialties this year to the event.
The get together has become an annual tradition at Pelham High School, although no one present could give the exact number of times it has been done. “We’ve been hosting the spaghetti supper and lip sync contest now for several years, but have had some kind of fundraiser every year since the triplets were diagnosed. The first year we held a Halloween Dance fundraiser,” described PHS Math Dean John Costa.
After the delicious dinner, attendees made their way from the high school cafeteria to the gymnasium, where music equipment was set up and ready for a fun and entertaining lip sync contest. Judging the competition this year were English Teachers Jen Nugent and Patti Morin, Social Studies Teacher Elizabeth Zemetres, and Substitute Teacher Ron Santagati. “It is a lot of fun to see kids step up and perform who don’t normally do so. Their bravery shines through,” commented Nugent. Zemetres added, “It’s nice to see them outside of the classroom.”
Final figures are not in yet, but usually funds raised by the event approach $3,000. The funds are used by the family to help cover the cost of in-home care, and equipment necessary for the boys to accomplish what many of us take for granted. “We appreciate what everyone has done for our family,” stated Ray Wilkins. For more information, or to make a donation to the KPM Trust Fund, contact the main office at Pelham High School at 635-2115.
Candidates Night Educates Pelham Voters
by Karen Plumley
A newly formed nonprofit organization called the Voters Information Society (VIS) organized a recent live question forum to introduce Pelham voters to candidates running for local offices. It was standing room only in the Pelham Elementary School Library, as candidates both familiar and new, were in attendance to answer questions, and present their platforms to viewers. The event was also televised on PTV. Mary Collins, Co-President of the Pelham Elementary PTA, and a member of the former League of Women’s Voters, established the VIS in January 2007, with the sole purpose of encouraging all Pelham voters to educate themselves about the candidates before heading for the polls. According to Collins, after the League disbanded last June, she wanted to fill the gap with something. “We really want to get this information out to the public. Right now we are too small a group to do anything but candidates night,” she stated. Nevertheless the organization of the forum was a huge undertaking, which everyone appreciated. Many candidates thanked the VIS for an opportunity to speak frankly to voters, and many viewers were keenly interested in learning more about their candidates’ beliefs, values, and what they are standing for.
Candidates running for open positions on the School Board, Planning Board, Budget Committee, and Board of Selectmen, took questions from the live audience, as well as those that were phoned in by viewers at home.
Planning Board Candidates Talk About Growth/Traffic
Currently there are six open seats on the planning board. Running for re-election are Patrick “Paddy” L. Culbert, who has served on the board for 17 years, and Peter McNamara, who is currently the Vice Chairman. Both were present at the meeting, and expressed a similar sentiment that they felt obliged to run again since so many seats were open this year, and many of the other members of the planning board are not seeking re-election. Both also stated that their goal is to successfully control growth in Pelham, but felt that growth was never going to stop completely. Culbert and McNamara are running unopposed, for the two open 3-year terms.
There are three candidates running for the two, two-year terms: Timothy J. Doherty, Roger Montbleau, and Jas Moorjani. These candidates were not present on Monday evening.
The other planning board candidates present at the forum were: Jason Croteau, Paul L. Dadak, and Joseph Passamonte.
Jason Croteau was the youngest, at 23, but was born and raised in Pelham, and works in town at a family business owned by his father. He stated that younger people should get involved with town politics.
Dadak is currently an alternate on the board, has consulted for the board in the past, and is a 25 year resident of Pelham. He is also a member of the conservation commission, and would like to maintain the rural nature of the town.
Passamonte is relatively new to the town, having lived in Pelham with his wife and four children for three years. All three are vying for the two one-year term seats that are available this year.
They fielded a question about how they would approach the traffic problems in the center of town to which Dadak responded that there are traffic issues throughout the town and he would like to see “mental speed bumps,” somewhere, that people would naturally slow down and look around, but is averse to installing lights in the center.
Passamonte answered that he is open to suggestions, and Croteau responded that he would like to see something done in a “classy manner” to alleviate the traffic issue.
In response to a question about how to handle the growth in Pelham that has taxed resources, including the schools, Croteau expressed his interest to open up Route 38 to commercial use and try to entice larger businesses, such as chain restaurants, to help relieve the tax burden. Dadak suggested that the board look at how other towns are handling their growth burdens, and to efficiently use impact fees.
All candidates answered yes to the question that they are committed to working long hours for Pelham; all answered no, to having ties to the construction business.
Candidates for Budget Committee Question Proposal for High School Addition
All five candidates running for the three open seats on the Budget Committee were present at Candidates Night.
Ken Dunne, School District Moderator for Pelham, has lived in the town with his wife and son for nine years. He also announced at the meeting that his family would be having twins this year. He would like to see the Budget Committee become what he phrased “more proactive” instead of “reactive” when dealing with the other boards.
George “Joe” Puddister IV, currently a Budget Committee member seeking re-election, is a sophomore at Merrimack College, and went through the Pelham school system. He graduated high school in 2005, as the class valedictorian. He claims that youth is his biggest asset, despite the fact that he has sometimes been criticized for being too young. He feels he is one of many examples that it is possible to receive a great education in Pelham.
The only female running for a position on the board, Pamela McCarthy has been living in Pelham for 12 years, serves on the board at St. Patrick’s School, and also coaches. She owns her own independent sales agency, and claims that she will be hard-working, open minded, and diligent, and will prepare for each meeting ahead of time.
Greg Farris is currently the Chairman of the Budget Committee. He also served on the Board of Selectmen for two terms. Farris stated that Pelham can have a tax rate that is stabilized, but cannot promise that taxes will not go up, or that they will decrease. He wants to focus on the skyrocketing costs of health insurance for district employees, and also echoed Puddister’s sentiment that a good education is possible in Pelham.
Larry Hall has been an active member of Pelham, having served on the Pelham School Board in the past, and has also served on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the last four years. He works in the insurance industry and feels he can offer solutions to the increasing costs of health care. He also stated that capital improvements in the town have been stagnant.
When asked whether or not they supported a high school addition, Farris stated he did not support the proposal last year because it was what he called “an eleventh hour proposal.” He felt it was not really feasible and that the plans were not professionally done. He wants to see a plan, which will address the entire school system. These sentiments were echoed by many of the other candidates.
Dunne stated he felt there was not enough information to support the addition.
Puddister commented that he would be supporting Warrant Article 5, which asks voters for $350,000 to fund plans for a long-term solution for the school district.
Hall stated that he would support any plan, an addition or a new school, that had the appropriate data to back it up. Many of the other candidates agreed that if an addition to the high school would meet the needs of the entire school system, and was proven to be the best solution, they would support it.
The candidates were also asked if they supported the current teacher contract proposal. Dunne said he would support it. Puddister and Farris had concerns about health care costs, which they claim are increasing 20 percent per year. Puddister stated that although teachers agreed to increase their contributions by 5 percent, “it doesn’t even put a dent” into the cost increases. McCarthy stated that she felt teaching is one of the most underpaid careers and that she generally supports teachers.
Both Puddister and McCarthy support the construction of a new fire station. Dunne and Hall also felt they would support it. Farris wanted to see substations, and is unsure which way he will vote when he gets to the polls, but stated emphatically that he does support the fire department.
Selectmen Candidates Do Not See Disconnect Between Older Residents and “Newbies”
Four of the five men running for the two three-year selectmen terms were in attendance on Monday night at the forum. Only current Selectman Hal V. Lynde did not make it, due to a dislocated shoulder.
Aaron Fox is a young Pelham resident who is currently studying for his MBA in Business from Bentley College. He grew up in Pelham, whet through the school system, and feels that it is part of the duties every young resident to get involved with the town.
Bob Haverty, 34, lives in Pelham with his wife and children and is interested in becoming a selectman to help balance the long term needs of the town.
Doug Viger, a 30-year resident of Pelham who is currently serving on the Budget Committee has hopes for a town-wide long-term plan for spending.
The fourth candidate present at the forum was Alfio Torrisi, who is interested in broadening the tax base to finance Pelham’s infrastructure.
Candidates were asked to comment on the self-funding of the Parks and Recreation Department, and they unanimously complimented the department and Parks and Recreation Director Darren McCarthy. Viger said that Parks and Recreation has come a long way over the last few years. Torrisi commented that supporting endeavors of the Parks and Recreation Department is a worthy cause. Haverty added that the department adds value to the town and raises property values.
One question from a viewer brought forth the perceived gap between the younger, newer residents of the town and the long time residents. Viger stated he has not really noticed this gap, but feels that everyone who can get involved with activities and politics in town should do so. Torrisi stated that the long time residents express pride in the town that they have lived in for so long, but that newer residents don’t necessarily lack this pride. He suggests, similar to Viger, that people acclimate themselves by getting involved with activities. Fox stated that the town has good values and that it is a great town to live in, and he also echoed that people should get involved. Haverty commented that he felt only those who want to be divided, see a gap.
Policy for Events Approved
by Lynne Ober
Pelham Selectmen have adopted a policy and procedure for getting events approved in Pelham.
“I thought that we should have something so that the procedure is consistent from one board to another,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Victor Danevich, who did an intensive minutes review, to find out what things had occurred when an organization wanted to use one of Pelham’s public spaces to hold an event. From that intensive review, Danevich put together a detailed procedure.
There’s an on-line form at www.pelhamweb.com/forms/event_usage_request2.htm.
One of the important caveats of this procedure is found near the bottom of the first page and states, “The Town does not permit usage of its building facilities for private resident events.” When Selectman Hal Lynde questioned that, and pointed out that a person might want to hold a wedding on the village green, Danevich said that was one of the allowable exceptions to the policy/procedure.
“This policy is not intended to encourage or discourage public space usage, but instead, to define a process to ensure consistency in how events are reviewed for permitting. The Town reserves the right to approve or deny any permit for any reason; if denied, a written response will be provided upon request.”
Danevich noted that this policy applied only to town property. If someone wishes to use the school district facilities, they must talk to the school district and not the town.
The Board of Selectmen office will serve as a single contact point for any organization wishing to hold an event on town property. That office will coordinate with other town departments in gaining the permission or denial of the event. However, that office does not maintain a master list of facilities or a calendar of all scheduled activities.
The policy notes that “your event may be cancelled, even if previously approved, in the rare event a more pressing official Town event arises. This will be determined and approved by the Board of Selectmen by majority vote.”
Organizations granted permits are expected to leave facilities in the same condition as they find them. “This is a carry in, carry out policy,” said Danevich.
Organizations are expected to incur any expenses related to events, including by not limited to:
The policy/procedure also covers special considerations surrounding the use of Sherburne Hall.
Once the application is received, the police department, fire department, planning department, public television department, highway agent, and town administrator will review it before forwarding it to the Board of Selectmen.
Selectman Hal Lynde said that he hoped that it wouldn’t become onerous for a group, or be too bureaucratic, but Selectman Ed Gleason said that the reviews needed to be done, and could be routed through channels without involving the organization itself.
Selectman unanimously approved the policy and procedure and thanked Danevich for his work.